Sophie’s Song

The ten-year-old autistic girl sits at the piano for the first time in her life. She stretches her fingers, and takes a deliberate breath, precisely copying the preparation she has probably seen in a Youtube video.

And then she plays, with feeling, and without fault, her fingers falling on the keys, with such ease, like raindrops. And, as if that weren’t enough, the girl who struggles to speak, who will not hold a conversation, suddenly sings, and holds every note, perfectly. And from Bach to Bacharach there has rarely been a more beautiful melody. And the words she cannot say are finally flowing. And the eyes that will not look at you are brimming with joy.

At first relatives and friends come to see, and eventually she ends up on one of those TV talent shows, and Simon Cowell says, “It’s a big yes from me.” And everyone in the world marvels at this miracle.

That’s the movie version, anyway. The one that reinforces the well-worn trope that autism comes with a gift bag, usually some marvellous, mathematical ability. (After all, fundamentally, music is just maths.) Continue reading

1982: The Big Snow

All you have to do is say “1982” to an Irish person over the age of 40, like me, and their eyes will immediately roll in their head, their facial muscles will twitch with paroxysms of glee, and they will orgasm, hard, multiple times, at the thought of The Big Snow, just as I am doing nooooowwwwrgghhhh…

I remember every minute of it. It started to snow at the stroke of midnight, New Year’s Eve, and continued for 365 days. This was not the pathetic day-long dribbles we get now. This was proper snow. We didn’t speak in inches, we talked of leagues. It snowed so much, I was able to open my bedroom window on the first floor and dive right in, like Scrooge Mc Duck, swimming in his money.

I was five years old, and my folks would lob me out in the mornings in nothing but my 1980’s paisley pyjamas. But, I can count on one hand all the times I felt cold, because I was happy, and also because I only have one finger now. Continue reading

Pasta and Meat

“Breakfast,” I said to Sophie. “Pasta and Meat,” she said. Normally I would say no, but it was Saturday morning, and my parenting principles are a little weaker on the weekends. I found myself saying one of those sentences I never thought I would say before I became Sophie’s dad: “First Rice Krispies, then Pasta and Meat.”

Martha and I have tried to get her to say, “Spaghetti Bolognese,” or “Spag Bol,” but Sophie is not one for synonyms – or else she has something against the Italians. I’m pretty sure she’s not racist: I suspect she just thinks about words-for-things the same way that most sensible human beings think of the Trump Presidency: she doesn’t see any need for a second term.

Continue reading

Bagpipe Control

This is a controversial opinion, but I think that people should be allowed to own bagpipes. I know that some would rather see a total ban but I think in the right venue, with the right amount of training, they can be played safely.

It is obvious, though, that we need far more stringent bagpipe background checks, because the difference between someone who is a responsible bagpipe owner and someone who is mentally unwell is often very, very difficult to discern.

Everytime anyone calls for sensible bagpipe laws, though, they are blocked by politicians, who coincidentally also happen to be well-funded by the NBA (the National Bagpipe Association, of course.) They don’t even want to talk about it, but, as much as it pains me to say it, we need to talk about bagpipes. Continue reading


Majella and Tom are in the pokey office canteen when I walk in. They’re good friends, and Tom‘s in the middle of a cracking anecdote.

As I make a cup of tea, Majella laughs so hard at Tom‘s punchline that she farts. There’s an audible arse-parp. She can’t deny it.

‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph,’ she says, ‘I’m sorry.’

Tom and I laugh … but that was in the good times, before the smell hit us, and we forgot what it was like to feel joy.

Continue reading

Sing it for her

If he said, ‘I don’t like The Cranberries,’
you wouldn’t shift him.
Not even a little bit.
(Or maybe you did shift him, but I bet it was shit.)

Born in the 70s, dragged up in the 80s,
but the 90s! The 90s were the fucking business.
And as far as you were concerned,
The Cranberries were it!
With that world-straddling Limerick Lilt.
Your first song, your first love, your first gig.

The songs would still bring you back,
The dodgy haircuts, the even dodgier slacks.
Bringing the wrong boys back to your flat.

‘Oh my life is changing everyday
In every possible way.’
That’s how you felt!
All those years ago
Discovering yourself,
Getting your heart broken
When the only thing that helped
Was screaming along to Zombie
Until you had no voice left

Today, Dolores died,
Far, far too young
So much of her life,
Left unsung.
So, tonight,
Put those old CDs on,

And sing it for her.


To Be Continued…

America’s number one villain, GunCrime, had struck. Again.

“We need a hero,” said Most of America: “This sounds like a job for GunControl.”

“I’m ready to go whenever you are,” said GunControl, very sensibly.

“Actually, we have a better idea,” said The Politicians.

Instead, they despatched their number one GunCrime-fighting duo: Thoughts & Prayers.

“Fear not, citizens, I am going to think about this,” said Thoughts
“I, too, am going to think about this,” said Prayers, “but in my own very special way.”

However, despite the best efforts of Thoughts & Prayers, GunCrime managed to escape. Again. (I know, it’s hard to believe.)

“I am very sad,” said Thoughts.
“I, too, am sad,” said Prayers.

“There’s nothing more you could have done. You’ll get him next time,” said The Politicians.

“Er…maybe I could have a go next time?” suggested GunControl, helpfully.

“Shhhh, now is not the time to talk about that, can’t you see that people are sad,” said The Politicians.

“Are you for real?” said Most of America, and The Rest of The World.

Apparently, they were.