So we are walking and we are walking, my tail-wagging hounds and I. Towards the sea and away from happiness.
Long, black, sponge-pawed Lily out front, and Bella’s dainty black and white paw-steps padding perfect pace a metre behind.
My two huskies are moving to my silent “Mush”, as I control the two leads with one hand, getting good at this, tangling and untangling swiftly as they sniff across each other every now and again.
We walk and we walk, up, up the Skerries Road rise to Loughshinny Cross, across and down, down the sea road until we step out onto the picture-book harbour of delight.
On and up the wooden steps for the cliff walk around past the Martello Tower, visible on the far side from Rush’s North Beach.
We stop for a break near the cliff edge, on a deep patch of emerald grass as lush and deep as the stuff you see in the Pampas. There is a perfect sitting spot splayed by previous trekkers.
The dogs’ tongues are working over-time, their little chests beating with the effort, and glad of the rest. Lily, lovely affectionate Lily, her shiny, warm torso pressed against my left thigh. Bella just behind my back.
This is some trek and I have a lot to think about.
After a moment I reach back to draw my tousled terrier Bella to me … only she isn’t there.
I look behind me and there is only the line of her lead stretching up and over the cliff top … over the top, over the edge.
Up like I have heard a gunshot and I scramble to the edge.
“Bella … Bella?”
The thick grass lines the face of the cliff all the way down to the beach thirty feet below … and way down there, scrambling through a large tuft I can just see Bella’s little black ears and the top of her spiky head.
She is okay. But now to get her back up?
Bella is great climber I know as on many the walk she has skipped up hillocks and up and down rock faces with the dexterity of a mountain goat.
This cliff face is fairly sheer though, but I call out to her, summoning her.
And sure enough, she hops and she heaves, and she darts and she strives, and soon that tiny grizzled face, like a Jim Henson Muppet character, appears over the cliff edge.
Back from the brink.
Like I so badly want to be. Which no amount of talking can achieve, without my own resolve and efforts to change.
See this is more than a walk along the beach and up around a cliff face, it is a journey into my very way of being. A voyage of exploration and regeneration.
No way back from it until I have plotted and established a new direction.
I had left the house that afternoon after a previous evening of rancour, confrontation, and shouting that had thoroughly shattered an already shaky family equilibrium.
I have to couch what I say carefully to not break any confidentialities, but also to focus on my central part in the evening’s conflagration.
I was angry … not angry … I was raging … and I need time now to look long and hard at that anger … to finally stop focusing on the justness of my fury, and seek out newer outlets … gathering fuel for this immolating fire within.
It has to stop.
What has me on that cliff edge anyway, and made me finally go over the top … without knowing or caring whether the cliff face down to the swirling foam was lined with the softest pampas grass, or jagged, lacerating rock? Too far gone to care.
Here’s a few precipitating factors.
One, I was tired … physically tired from doing things that would not tire a younger man so much.
And older dad with teenage kids, up first thing every morning to take care of the dogs … last to bed every night after sorting said hounds.
And so much in between … working, blogging, linky corresponding and reciprocating, writing, cooking, cleaning, hoovering, dealing with the kids …. arguing with our strong-willed daughter a fair bit.
I work evening shifts in the newspaper, often home after midnight … just tired, so tired.
Then there was the rejection letter from the Irish Blogging Awards for 2018 I had entered. At the behest of someone else, initially, but then gung-ho as I entered under the Best Post category.
Was long-listed … then shortlisted. Delighted, and happy to add the Shortlisted logo to my blog Home page.
I had had some gorgeous feedback about the post, You’ve got to take the rough with the smoothie, and comments, and was actually very proud of it.
You know when you read something you wrote after a while, and you are reading it like a reader. And you think, “Yay, this is really good, actually!” Such an exalted feeling.
Then the email. Informing me I had not made it through to the next round, ie the finalists.
And the line: “We encourage you to support your peers and to not take this as a defeat as the overall standard this year was extremely high”
What, support the people they are telling me had reached a higher standard than me!
I was annoyed with myself for being so disappointed. And I was angry at these faceless judges, who were telling me how good, but not that good, my piece was? The bastards, you patronising bastards, I thought, you are so wrong … that post was really good, I am so proud of it, and now you are telling me …
And all the while thinking, yeah, they were right, what was I thinking, believing I would have made the finalists list, even? … It was crap, I’m crap … crap, just crap.
And this was there, simmering away, as I got on to my son about his football a couple of mornings ago. I believed I was framing it positively, but still, as 13-year-old O saw it, I was accusing him of shirking, and not putting in everything he had into his football, to make the most of what is a very real talent.
Thing is his team are really struggling in their league, certain to be relegated, and this has affected O’s football. He has shown great character, but the struggling team has brought them all down.
He is no longer being chosen for his league representative squad either, the Dublin District Schoolboy League (DDSL), and does not want to talk about it.
He’s like that you see, we have to dig deep to find out what’s really going on in that beautiful blond head of his.
I feel the league team have not picked him because he has been playing too conservatively, afraid of making mistakes, rather than putting himself out there and imposing himself, with all that ability and sheer guts that he has.
But it’s not easy as this is a thing more enlightened coaches are trying to fight in Irish underage football, finally taking on this ingrained emphasis on winning and trophies, to the detriment of skills and proper development.
So it doesn’t take Freud to work out that my anger at being dropped by the DDSL … I mean the Irish Blogging Awards squad … had impacted on my reaction to O’s footballing travails. I might be rejected, but no way will my son be …
Only it came out all wrong, and he went bananas, swore at me, and called me a retard …
So I got really annoyed and shouted at him. Looked to my wife for support, to tackle this undermining of my parental authority … this swearing and the word “retard”! And she was annoyed at me for being so annoyed, shouting. So I shouted even more, and louder.
That was row number one.
Still simmering and no rapprochement made, the next morning O and his Mom drove to his game, and big, mature Dad, stropped at home. Itching to have been there.
Then that evening, there was the family dinner … which we struggle to get our daughter to sit down to usually, or to stay the courses.
Dad and son go at it again, and this time, it is screaming and shouting … and me, the adult, the parent, the dad, is screaming and shouting loudest.
It is horrendous, and it even gets physical … which is all I will say …
So we are walking and we are walking, my tail-wagging hounds and I. Me the one with my tail between my legs.
On the cliff face, staring out to sea and considering going over the top, over the edge, or stepping back. Climbing down.
Being a man, not an angry caricature.
The man my kids and my wife need me to be.
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