20140218-122606.jpg They watch as I craft and draft short stories.
‘Ssh’, I say. ‘I’m working’.
‘Are you getting paid for that work?’ one of them, and then another, echoing, asks.
‘Yes’ I say.
Payment in kind my sons, payment in kind. Your mother is semi-sane courtesy of the crafting and drafting.
‘How much?’ they enquire.
‘Enough’ I say and they can take that any way they please.
‘Now ssh’.

One of the stories was broadcast and that had me on a cultural capital high for a while. Economic capital is important too, it seems, and now that they’re all in school perhaps they have a point. I could be getting paid. I could set about making my big return. So I went ahead and applied for a job. A lecturing job. Except that there were 2 jobs, one senior and one, well junior I suppose. I had all the specified requirements for both. Except that I haven’t supervised other people’s PhDs for the senior one. So I went ahead and informally enquired, via email, from the head of the school about where I might pitch myself. Gave him a few details about my background. The jobs are in a different but related area to mine and he doesn’t know me as such. I received an email back immediately requesting to meet for a chat about this.
‘Wow’ was the expression coming from everyone I happened to mention it to. Wow in a good way.

I prepared as if for an interview. I bought a new bright accessory scarf and dangly fresh earrings. Toyed with the idea of a hair cut. Ditched that. Save it for the actual interview. I sauntered into the old institution and absorbed the vibe. Sat with the hip students for coffee and prepared some more. Imagined my own boys here in a few years and got excited for them. Got excited for myself bumping into them between lectures. As my Dad used to when I was a student. I marvelled at how little the place has changed in all these years. Just that the students sidle up beside you and plug in instead of queuing somewhere odd for a computer terminal.

I took a deep breath and knocked on the door for the ‘where do I pitch myself’ chat. The very nice man was, he says, very impressed with my details, particularly a fellowship detail. But then he wanted to know what I was currently doing. Did I currently hold an academic post. He was surprised that I didn’t. I told him I’ve been chiefly at home with kids the last few years, editing academic works for others, some ad hoc research pieces (didn’t mention the short stories, save that for a light hearted bit in the interview). Did his eyes glaze just a touch when I mentioned home and kids? A little disconnect perhaps? I switched to my ten years of super relevant work experience in a senior role in the job description area. Would this hurtle me towards applying for the senior post?

He sat back and laid it bare for me. The sub-text of everything he said seemed to be ‘but surely you already know this’. It is extremely difficult to break in from the outside. These jobs are gold dust for current academic staff let alone, well, (read: stay at home mother outsiders). Once someone completes their PhD they beaver away within the institution for years, (note to self: they do not run for the hills and procreate wildly and expect to pick up again when it suits them), publishing away and hitting certain markers that will stand them in good stead when a gold dust job crops up. Except that when one does crop up there are hundreds of applicants who are all qualified, all with PhDs, fulfilling all mandatory markers, within the system, and most of these will be left very upset until the next job is advertised…

Snowballs chance in hell came to mind. I think if I read studiously between the lines he was telling me, kindly (you poor deluded thing you) that I hadn’t a hope of either position.

It was aptly snowing as I left the old institution and stood amongst the lovely hip students waiting for a place on the bus. They didn’t grumble when the driver could only take one person and he pointed his finger into the crowd and called me forth. That cheered me up, until I realised he was probably selecting the oldest person there for priority treatment and not because he liked the pretty new scarf and earrings.
‘Are you a doctor in there?’ he asked, which was a bit odd, and a sore point even if he was referring to the medical type.
‘No’ I said. ‘I’m a mother, off home to my kids’.
‘Ah, there’s nothing like it for the kids, having a mother or father at home. Sure that’s what I blame all the problems with the teenagers an’ all on. No parents at home…’ and on he rambled as I played with a brand new idea for a short story in my head. The Displaced Person I thought I might well call it. I googled it as a title idea and found that American writer Flannery O’Connor beat me to it back in 1955. Now I’m going to go ahead and take that as a good sign…

Ellen Kelly

Drip feed

drip‘I’m not going to want to marry someone who’s into pink’ marque 2 declared on the drive home from school. It’s one of those announcements that a parent must run with. Probe a bit further. Even if the others are drumming up a prohibitive volume in the back.
‘What sort of person do you think you would like to marry then?’
‘Someone I can really talk to, who listens, who understands me, who is fun. I wouldn’t even mind if she’s not pretty. It’s her character that’s important. I’d be interested in her character’.
Something in my head goes score. He is ten years old. Let’s hope the tumultuous hormonal surge that’s on the way leaves him with similar values.

We are doing the sex talk thing on a drip feed, need to know basis, rather than the sit down all encompassing once off, phew, tick it off the list. It’s a risky business though. While eating our dinner recently, supposedly just the two of us, marque 1 arrived and sat on the couch. There was an ad break on TV. An ad dealing with one of those embarrassing situations came on. I thought it would go over his head, mumbo jumbo, time for bed, up you go now.

‘What’s premature ejaculation Dad?’ he piped up, crisp and clear. Again it was one of those things you just can’t ignore. I was more than a little pleased that it wasn’t directed at me. I cast my eyes at my plate, old school, and waited for the response. He is the proponent of this drip feed approach. I was eager to see how it was turning out. In fairness he didn’t miss a beat. He tripped off the words, as if to a peer, and managed not to choke on his king prawn masala. ‘Oh, ok, thanks’ marque one said and was only short of shaking his hand for his candour.

He is hired for the drip feed task X 5. Phew…

Ellen Kelly


School AssemblyIf they want to share their news in assembly it has to be in Irish. Marque 2 stayed up until midnight grilling marque 1 for the words. We’ve been attempting to down play the burglary to them. Turn their trauma button onto mute.
‘Sure we got off lightly’ we say. ‘Only a few things taken and nobody got hurt. Just the window to be fixed and sure that’s nothing, nothing at all…’ They don’t buy it. They were there after all.

The adrenalin pumped so fiercely in me that night that three generous glasses of wine refused to enter my bloodstream. The beef in black bean sauce was tasteless. The open fire threw off little comfort. It’s his face that plays over and over. He eyeballed me as he sauntered down the drive and past our car before he broke into a run. I have his steely grey eyes and his craggy marked cheeks for keeps. The kids have too. So they won’t have their emotional response dials tuned. They will process this in their own individual ways.

He stood up in assembly.
Bhi me burgled De Sathairn. Tar eis dineir amach, nuair a thanamar abhaile chonaic me dha fir ag rith amach as ar d’teach. Bhris siad an fuinneog agus ghuid siad dha phones agus jewellery a Mhamai… Rith mo Dhadai in aice leis ach bhi knife aige agus…
The principal’s face was, it seems, horror struck. ‘Stop’ she said. ‘In English now. Is everyone ok?’
Yes he said, and trotted out our minimizing lines as unconvincingly as he’s heard them from us.On Sunday night I urgently needed to find something in the filing cabinet. Marque 1 & 2 were rehearsing the Irish in another room. I rummaged, removed files, felt around for the elusive disc. I opened the door onto the landing to two white as ghost faces.
‘We thought they were back’ they said.

On Monday the two of us were in Starbucks catching up. We seemed to have lost the weekend altogether. One of us received a good news phone call there and then on a recent health scare front. The relief was enormous. There had been a six week wait. You see, we said to one another. This puts that whole burglary thing in context. Insignificant. This is the real stuff. But we spent the evening drawing up a photofit.

Ellen Kelly

Best Saturday Ever

They must’ve been sorely disappointed, the burglars, in our house this evening.
We dropped marque 5 to a party and seized the opportunity to get a few haircuts for the others in the market. It was an orange weather warning after all. There wasn’t much else to be doing. We try to do two heads at a time, but today it was three. Other punters came in, saw our lot and turned on their heels. Our barber loves our boys. Revels in them. Chops their hair a bit and tells them they look like rock stars. Gives them a euro each along with a hug and a kiss (a female barber for those raising an eyebrow). All this as a real fire burns in the hearth. Sure where else would you be?

Once they’re done we feel like celebrating. We’ll get three months out of these cuts. Off to Mc D’s for tea. Marque 5 , rescued from the party, is orbital. He selects random old ladies and performs tricks for them. We prise him away and drive to the sea to witness the storm waves crashing. This is, marque 3 exclaims, the best Saturday ever.

We reach home at 7.30 and are greeted by one and then two shifty males leaving our driveway. I picture them dropping junk mail in our door. The realistic parent decides they are burglars and gives chase. The kids, all 5, go to help him. I bellow for them to come to me as I dial the guards. The sitting room window is swinging open in the wind. I fumble for the key to open up. They’ve chained the inner door. Maybe you should just climb in the window marque 4 suggests. I desist. I will fumble until I open my own house and phone the guards at the same time. Multi tasking as usual to little avail. The sensible parent does not desist. He’s in unchaining while telling me he caught one of our visitors. The one that bore a knife.

Inside it is as I thought it would be. We’re not the neatest on the planet. Shouldn’t the place look completely different after a burglary? It’s true that they pulled all the clothes out of drawers, some files out of a cabinet, upended a TV. But it looked much as it always does. Organised chaos.

The guards arrived and tutted at the way the burglars had made such a mess of the place. Jesus Christ one said shaking his head looking into marque 1’s teenage bedroom. They’ve really gone to town here. They have indeed I said tutting along. The bastards. Marque 2’s drawers have been done. In them he had a gift for marque 4. Wrapped with a bow. Not that it’s his birthday or anything. He just wanted to give him an old iPhone of his to play on. They ripped the wrapping and took the phone.


I’ve often said to myself when I get back to the house after dropping the kids to school that I’d never know if we’d been burgled. The place is trashed so much of the time. I’ve often joked that they wouldn’t be bothered with our place anyway. They’d know just by looking at it that we’ve nothing to steal. But it’s different when they’ve been. When you see them emerging brazenly after rifling through your drawers and feeling under your mattress for that wad of cash. When they threaten a knife pull on your husband. It all feels very different then.

Ellen Kelly