Family Life Personal

Big Jack … The Messiah Who Never Came To Leitrim

Stop all the clocks at USA 1994 ... when we died and went to Ireland heaven

Struggling to find the value in things …

Locked-down, shut-down, scattered, shattered, jaded and faded  …

Stop all the clocks at USA 1994 when we died and went to Ireland heaven as Ray Houghton flummoxed the Italian keeper, and we roared out afterwards into those honking and delirious streets …

Power is money, money is power, the bores you dodged in school and college are running everything, ruining everything …

And now Jack Charlton is dead …

houghton goal Italy
In glorious technicolor … Ray Houghton’s shot on it’s way to the back of the Italian net

Stop all the clocks at USA 1994 when we died and went to Ireland heaven as Ray Houghton flummoxed the Italian keeper, and we roared out afterwards into those honking and delirious streets …

So much written about Big Geordie Jack, as Ireland soccer manager, and those giddy times when we qualified for our first European Championships (1988), and then two World Cups (1990 and 1994), but nearly the daftest, sweetest, most Irish thing I heard was a short anecdote from radio producer Paddy McKenna, buried in a Twitter link.

They waited and they waited in the village square … for hours …  and Big Jack never showed …

Paddy is from Leitrim, and that is a story in itself … the most neglected and unremarkable county in all of Ireland … so neglected they are sort of used to it. But even they caught Big Jack And The Boys In Green Fever …

Paddy was a kid at the time, and word got out that Jack was to visit Manorhamilton, in north Leitrim, this particular day …

Off the McKenna family went, squashed into the family car, on a pilgrimage to Jack, as Paddy remembered it.

save leitrim
Lovely but uncelebrated Leitrim

They waited and they waited in the village square … for hours …  and Big Jack never showed …

Maybe he was never coming …

The gods make their own importance, as Patrick Kavanagh knew, and sure didn’t Beckett do well out of another wait for a dude that never shows up …

As Paddy McKenna remembered it, nobody seemed to mind Jack not showing up. They still loved him anyway. Faith. Ireland. Leitrim …

The little daily things that make your world can lose their pungency and flavour when the big things aren’t right.

Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Birds might twitter, songs might be sung, poems written and recited, but no joy in it …

Yes, I’m still reeling from the death of my dear, dear friend …

And the re-knowing that no-one gets out of here alive, as Jim Morrison said.

Oh, I know Marianne would have given anything to be alive to dismiss these musings …

I’m just trying to build it up again … trying hard to heed the little things …

Trying, trying to make them matter … stick with them until they begin to hum and vibrate again 

Even the weather is against me … the promise of a sultry May dashed on a desultory July of clouds, rain and melancholy.

I’m trying …

I sit at the kitchen table, and look out on a soft day and the garden is visibly expanding and breathing … pulsating …

A dog is barking faintly in the distance … our teenagers are still asleep upstairs …

Brown-eyed Lily looks at me and beats her tail against the corner of the couch …

I sit beside her and she snuggles up beside me, warm and glad …

She licks and licks my fingers and then curls tighter against my side, warm silky head on my thigh …

Herself has gone off to work, looking lovely in a flowing summer dress, that beautiful girl’s smile when I say how nice she looks …

‘Does this cardigan look okay with it?’

Why always the question?

But maybe the answer is simpler than I always think …  it’s not always about self-doubt or needing the validation of others    we are merely in the moment where a garment can be ironed or changed … maybe another cardigan will just work better …

‘It’s lovely …’

She goes upstairs to change it …

And off she goes …

The postman knocks not long after, a large cardboard box addressed to O …

I assume it is the school sports gear we ordered, and start to open it, before the Amazon label tells me it cannot be that … it’s a belated birthday gift, most likely.

I take it upstairs, and touch the arm of my dear near-waking youth, and my heart skips to behold the slow sleepy smile as his gaze assembles to take in the box in my arms …

That soft smile makes him look like when he was a little boy … and I swell with joy and pleasure just looking at him …

A lawnmower sounds in the distance … a reminder it is still summer after all… there is warmth in the air, there is growth all around … I go into our sitting room and I light candles on ledges, mantlepiece and above the television … it feels like a ceremony … a ceremony of light.

The shutters are still closed and the room is a … womb.

For a while the tension of these past days dissipates … tensions of constant bickering with my teenage daughter … the horrible realisation when the hostilities abate that I’m not like one of those horrible, grumpy dads I dread,  … I am that horrible, grumpy dad 

Regardless of her part in it all, how sad is it that I am only this to her … I am sad for me, but sad too for her if that’s all she is getting from her father …

I can’t dissociate properly like other people … I must feel everything I feel, until, somehow, it dissipates, passes … suddenly it’s not how I feel anymore …

I just hope this story won’t stay frozen forever in a fug of discontent, even as summer seeps in through these shutters 

I pray this narrative will suddenly come unstuck and we might move forward again …

Why am I thinking of that horrible lagging thing my computer has been doing when I’m working from home?

There I am, editing a story at peak time, against a deadline, and everything slows down, stops even, or the cursor swings out into the furthest margins… and I have to remain calm as I wait for computer and cursor to catch up on each other …

I have had to learn to trust the system will sort itself out, if I give it time to unlag, and not do the opposite and leap in and try to hurry it up, fix it 

And so what if I even have to cut out, reboot, and go back to where I was when I last hit save?

The luminosity of the colours … it must have been what it was like to see the Mona Lisa, or Van Gogh’s sunflowers for the first time. Well, for those who understood them anyway.

It has worked out evening after work evening for four months now …

I don’t know if a full reboot is possible with K, but maybe dad and daughter will catch up on each other … one day.

And we can hit the save button.

Later, I am out with the dogs for their last evacuation of the day …

All is calm, and soft, as the street lights and the shadows work their magic of late-night reverie.

The beam of a street lamp is reflected in the left fender of a little blue Toyota hatchback ahead of me … and the gleaming, sheer blueness of it in the light is … actually thrilling, mesmeric even.

Brings to mind the first time I saw a painting done with poster paints, back when I was a small boy in school.

We had been brought up on wishy-washy water paints … baked and cracking little curled up rectangles you gouged and gouged your flimsy little brush into, after flooding their arid infecundity, to eventually produce a puny lather of low-fi, see-through colour.

This you daubed onto the squiggles on the page, more damp than decorous.

And in the end your opus would soon be neglected and unremarkable.

Like Leitrim before Big Jack …

For school, Des Byrne had painted this picture of Santa Claus on a chimney, with a couple of his reindeer. And a bulging sack of presents. Done with what he cooly told us were poster paints.

Van Gogh Sunflowers (1)
Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

The luminosity of the colours … it must have been what it was like to see the Mona Lisa, or Van Gogh’s sunflowers for the first time. Well, for those who understood them anyway.

The dense red of Santa’s jacket, so deep and dimensional, the gleaming yellow of the stars, the navyness of the navy sky, even the blackness of Santa’s belt … we … I …  didn’t think it was possible for paints to be so strong, so vibrant … they had lifted Des’s picture — and us — to new levels of possibility … as Big Jack and the soccer lads had …

Things would never be the same …

Ah, the little things are starting to hum and vibrate again.

Thanks, Big Jack … thanks, life.

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37 comments on “Big Jack … The Messiah Who Never Came To Leitrim

  1. Michael Andrew Morris

    Excellent, Enda.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A fascinating visit to your shifting thoughts and emotions. This essay feels very real.

    Neil Scheinin

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A lovely piece, Enda. I hope things work out for you and K.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Before I moved house last year I used to live in the town where Jack Charlton was born, Ashington! He was a legend.
    Great writing x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A kaleidoscope of thoughts! Lovely read!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The death of Jack Charlton was really sad news, I guess it doesn’t help when you are already grieving your friend Marianne, your sadness is apparent. Your words full of emotion. And amidst it all there is bickering with your daughter. Understandable, maybe? When you feel in a better a place I’m sure you find a way to work it out. Teenagers are never easy, but never doubt your parenting abilities, you care, so you’ll work it out. Take it easy on yourself Enda.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember sitting in car in the Yorkshire Dales putting on boots when my walking pal pointed to a nearby Range Rover and said “Do you recognise that guy?” It was big Jack. He liked the countryside.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Grief is like a kaleidoscope of ever-shifting emotions and your post really does take us through so many of those shifting emotions. It does make you aware that we are all mortal, and make you want to hold on to the little things and appreciate them. Sad news about Jack Charlton. I hope that your relationship with K will shift in the right direction at some stage. The dad-daughter dynamic can be a tricky one in the teenage years and it’s clear from your words how much you care. Hope the coming week will be a gentle one. #WotW


  9. Karen Dennis

    Jack Charlton was a legend who will be missed#kcacols@_karendennis

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lovely existentialist-expressionist piece – who would have thought that some soccer guy (sorry, no good at armchair sports…) would bring about such profound thoughts 🙂 #dreamteamlinky


  11. I appreciate what Pradeep said, “A kaleidoscope of thoughts” (wish I’d said that). A great job of Processing Prose. I love your writing, it must be read with a clear head, skimming does not work! Beyond that, I have long had a theory that there is a reason that every computer comes equipped with a cursor! Blessings, Michele

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I love that, it must be read with a clear head … does not mean, you should not read my stuff when you are drunk!!! Yeah, I can’t work without cursors! Thank you, as always, for your great observations, Michele

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Enda – this pandemic and all it brought with it has definitely impacted on us in a myriad of ways. I can particularly relate to your family stories and I know my husband struggled with being the grumpy dad of a teenage daughter – it’s taken many years for the two of them to find a comfortable footing again – I think it’s par for the course if you want to set boundaries and raise a decent human being (hope that’s some consolation) #MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Enda, if it’s any consolation, rocky relationships between teenagers and parents means you’re doing it right. They’re pushing their boundaries and you’re enforcing the rules. Plus … hormones! Say no more! My relationship with my dad only improved once I had my own kids and I could appreciate what he’d given his family. It will improve, regards Christina

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Christina, when all else is failing, I do try and imagine a future where these transient battles gave been fought through and the real stuff begins. Thanks for your thoughtful comment


  14. Hi Enda, your words had me whooshing along with your thoughts and although I can understand the distress you are feeling your words have a beautiful resonance to them. Thank you for sharing and I wish you well. #mlstl

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Through the reports we saw the huge turn out and tributes for Jack Charlton – such sad news. Something to make us reflect on our own times, achievements and feelings. I’m sure the dad-daughter stance will change and shift with time. Things usually do, and sometimes we don’t even notice how. Thank you for sharing your writing with the #DreamTeamLinky

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jack really was a major figure in Ireland, Annette … appreciated even more after he was gone as Ireland manager. A great character and a wonderful gravelly Geordie delivery. Thanks for commenting … always insightful, always encouraging

      Liked by 1 person

  16. loopyloulaura

    With our increasing longevity, the greats fall into the quiet shadows until we are shocked by news of their demise. It can make us re-evaluate our own lives and relationships. Thanks for linking up with #dreamteamlinky

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Your writing is so thought-provoking xx #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Grief can be so consuming but time does help. Lovely writing as always. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Another lovely post, Enda. I love your writing. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time

    Liked by 1 person

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