Monday, November 21, 2016

Pubs, Parks, Penumbra

Trees whispering, whiskey gurgling, shadows protecting sore eyes from daylight, sheer silence, long sleeves, warm laptops used as heaters, the smell of stout paired with the creamiest of textures, goosebumps galore, empty bottles and broken hearts, broken bottles and empty hearts.

Friday, November 11, 2016


It's the end of the world. Trump is president, all the Brexit Beasts are out of the closet, our beloved Leonard Cohen joined Bowie and Prince in death. Fuckin' ISIS. Fathers carrying the remains of their children in plastic bags after another bombing session in Gaza. The destruction of Aleppo. Tinder generation ruining romance and real life spontaneous interaction. White supremacists and no fucks given about how black lives matter. The last of Rabbs' fringe-limbed tree frog has died (oh hello, Sixth Mass Extinction!). I wonder where can I find the ultimate escape to outpower this dystopian reality.

Romanticising Autumn/Winter doesn't make me feel less miserable. The prospect of running out of Vitamin D and energy, waking up in the dark and coming back home in the dark, having people turning down invitations for pints because it's too cold outside... It almost makes me miss Summer. Soon enough my socks will get so soggy they might grow mouldy. A cloak of dense clouds numb my senses. I'm suddenly a slothy cheetah with a sullen snout. What's the point of even stepping outside?

The days of dancing Fleetwood Mac on those overcrowded dancefloors are gone for now. I sit at my desk, seeking comfort in words, slurping pomegranate-flavoured white tea as the wind wildly howls. Joni Mitchell's Blue makes me forget about the world outside, the sad world beyond this sad bedroom. Curry leftovers pile up in the kitchen while I bury my head in a bunch of pillows and dream of tea parties where we drink rhubarb tart craft beers and eat Port Salut and everything is nice, sugar and spice and rainbows and dandy dancing dodos and unicorn popcorn.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Book Review: The Blocks by Karl Parkinson

Few books made me feel like this one did. I absorbed every word, every moment, every chapter of this unflinchingly, violently visceral journey. I smiled, laughed, cried and found myself re-reading the same paragraph over and over again in awe, immersed in the slangy dialogues I could almost hear in my head.

Karl Parkinson/Kenny Thompson is the storyteller we gradually get to know, taking us on a guided urban tour around O'Devaney Gardens (and a few more locations I won't disclose), just down the road from my place, where he spent his bleak yet imaginative childhood and teenage years, somehow managing to escape a dreary fate and inspiring us all to step forward and never look back. You see, I too grew up in the blocks, only in Portugal instead. No goals, no future, no dreams, no hope (which this book restored). I recognised a few voices from this realm of lost souls and doomed shadows, some characters were strangely familiar.

With raw and intimate honesty, this harsh odissey shakes one to the core (I speak for myself). This book is a memorable urban fable embellished with lyrical wit; a tragicomedy written in Northside Dub dialect, an inspiring inner-city banshee tale, gloriously gutwrenching and bittersweetly heartbreaking, where a very tormented truth triumphs through love, friendship, family, freedom and survival. Stories of self-destruction, doom and gloom, addiction, death, misery, unemployment and loss collide with love letters to music, poetry, Literature, Dublin and life itself - there's a very distinct Trainspotting-esque "Choose Life" message at some point. Anti-heroes coexist with unreal creatures in this trippy battle of contrasts. The narrative incorporates a memory lane-worthy soundtrack, including Liam and Noel Gallagher's voice and lyrics as the gospel of a generation, Bob Marley as a music God of the blocks, Michael Jackson and Madonna before a night out, The Pogues and UB40's while drinking tea and getting high on whatever was available.

Reading this book was a ravishing sensorial experience, a one-way ticket to Kenny's universe. I could smell the cheap batter burgers, the greasy fry ups, the stale beer, the smoke, the sweat. Petrichor and prostitute's perfume. I could listen to Britpop tunes and Garda sirens and loud slagging. The atmospheric portrayal of The Blocks haunts the reader and the author's peculiar turn of phrase steals the show.

Karl Parkinson, you neo-Beat poet from the Blocks, thanks for letting us readers enter your elegiac galaxy and witness your epic antics. Your words will live forever in places we pass by - Drumalee, Infirmary Road, Parkgate Street, Fatima, Phoenix Park. This book has stayed with me - the words, the sounds, the voices of the blocks will forever echo with the demolishing power of an anthem for the working class, the unheard, the misunderstood and the unprivileged. Not every dead end means game over.
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