“An Early Childhood by Paddy Flanagan” is a mock, surreal autobiography by a fictitious Irish television and radio personality. It parodies misery memoirs (such as Angela’s Ashes by the late great Frank McCourt) and cannibalises from various sources.
Please check out the first part of the first chapter here.
The first part of Chapter 2 is here.The second part of Chapter 2 is here.
The first part of Chapter Three is here.
The continuation of Chapter Three is below.
CHAPTER THREE: MY MOTHER AND MY FATHER, A GENERAL ROUND-UP OF BEFORE THEY DID DIE
This next account will prove to you, if not already proven with incidental anecdotes, the fierceness of Father’s temper. Cousin Barney had been serving in a tedious war in South Africa, only at this stage, when I was about five, he had done so well for himself in the army that he had been promoted to Colonel Cousin Barney. Thus, through much saving, and investment in the Dutch East India Company, he had managed to scrape together enough collateral to send home to the family a biscuit by gourrier service.
Now, we didn’t have biscuits in Ireland at this stage, and the amount of excitement in Main Square with the rumours floating around that there was a biscuit arriving was startling. The gourrier arrived to the door and Father opened it and solemnly took the package from him, neglecting to give him a tip (the gourrier was, after all, a member of the Itinerary, and to give money to a Tinkerman for work that he’d actually performed was not considered at the time to be culturally honourable).
So Father closed the door behind him after spitting in his face, and he turned to the family with a twinkly eye, and had we caught his face on camera, I’m sure we would have won awards for the photo from the Royal Dental Hygiene Association to have Father’s teeth fixed. He was, of course, delighted that the much anticipated biscuit had arrived from Sith Ifrica, and he removed the brown parcel wrap as we all looked on vicariously, while Mother moved around the room wiping the drool from the furniture and the carpet. She’d save it, to be sure, in order to make the gravy later in the week.
“Go and put on the kittle,” Father instructed, and off with Mother to her proper place in the kitchen, and Father pulled open the box, and lo and behold was that digestive biscuit the best thing we’d ever seen in our lives, sitting there in the box like a king on its velvet cushion, and all of us oohed and aahed like we’d never seen a biscuit before in our lives, as it glittered and shone in the light from the fire. And Father withdrew the biscuit from the box and held it up before us with both hands, and – at the same time, as a coincidence, in a kind of sacrilegious serendipitous and felicitous mockery, as it were – the local church bells tolled to inform us that the Angeles was taking place, and we wept for the love of God Himself, we wept as if it were pure gold, that biscuit, even though it looked more like silver; a big, shiny, silver coin. It looked bigger than a sovereign, and with its own intrinsic richness of grainy fibre.
And then Father peeled off the tinfoil, and I have to say, we were a little bit disappointed.
But we started re-drooling once he wolfed into that biscuit, and his eyes opened wide almost in fear at the enjoyment he received when that thing touched his tongue, and he broke wind in delight, and each and every one of his children, all seventeen of us, broke wind in response, as if undergoing a ritualistic rite of passage with our Father. Father made sure to save half of it for the dunking in his tea, and when that jar of tea arrived freshly brewed with a quite recently used decade-old tea-bag, the family gathered around in awe as Father dipped the remaining half of the biscuit into the warm drink and we watched the milky brew soak up into the structure of that digestive. As Father lifted the sweet out of his drink, there was too much weight in it, agus, A Thiarcais! most of the remaining cookie plopped back into the jar. Father let a shriek out of him like a wounded but quite effeminate animal, and he picked the ornamental scimitar off the hook on the wall and deheaded one child before becapitating another was the anger so fierce inside of him like a big healthy lump into the tylet. He turned to face me, raised the sword, and I could see in his eyes that he wanted to take action against me, to end my mortal existence just as sure as he’d just ended two of my siblings’. I closed my eyes in anticipation of the mortal blow, knowing full well it was coming. But he paused, and as I opened my eyes and looked into his, I saw that he realised that I was the only child he had who was yet earning money, and he couldn’t kill me, working as I was at the time in Veracci’s Garage and sustaining the rest of the family.
And as he ended indulging his murderous instincts because of my employment status, and the pent-up rage inside of him caused fire to shoot from his eyes and ears for two days and two nights straight, during which time the locals made the most of it by holding a makeshift barbecue powered by the fire until the conflagration ended. Father survived his apoplexy. But we got a nice stew out of the two babies.
And as Mother always said to us when Father finally did pass on:
“Childer, childer, never speak ill of the dead.”
But she wasn’t talking about Father; on the contrary, he survived for many more years. He moved to the North of England for the work. He got the benefit of the gout, which was a pension he received after winning a long-standing legal action against St James’s Fence, and he couldn’t resist not letting Mother having that money, so he took off for Lancashire, and then finally to Newcastle, before eventually going to London where he was employed as a child-replacer during the Blitz. He was a hundred and seven years old at that stage, and the only bad thing about his employment, he told me years later, was that he had to wear nappies that he would’ve been wearing an’ annyway, nor so he claimed.
But Mother, she wasn’t a saint, I have to stress. It’s like this, is the way I see it: A virgin among the chaste is not that big of a deal, but a virgin surroundered by whores is a very different story entirely, and before my Mother was even married, she’d already given birth by immaculate conception seven and a half times (to not omit Larry) so morally calibrated she was. So she just looked good in comparison to the more iniquitous nephron abusing reprobates in our particular parish, with their drinking and carousing. And it was without doubt Mother who was the most formative influence on my early childhood. These days, of course, it’s the television which acts as the didactic tool for the kids, what with their Power Ranger Mutant Turtles and their Telepokemons and what not and so forth. But my Mother did all of that off her own bat.
She did the puppet shows for us and everything, watched by all the children. She had whittled a number of puppets out of polyester and nylon, sometimes even years before those particular fabrics had been invented. And she had stock puppets (meaning pretty conventional ones) and sock puppets (meaning ones made out of her stockings), and string puppets, and puppet dictators that the United States took an interest in and brought to power provided they were of an extremely right-wing bent.
And it was great, she’d do the rounds of all the Protestant community’s houses, “stealing and robbing” whenever she could and getting paid for her puppetry into the bargain. And it was a long time before she realised her puppet show could have been world famous, but sure, aren’t I making it famous now, just as Keats immortalised the Grecian Urn and like when Shakespeare wrote the kinds of sonnets that did much the same as what I’m doing now with Mother’s puppet show? She would have been proud of me were she still alive today, of course, not knowing how successful I am because she’s gone to Hivin. And they say that Hivin is like being a fly that has pupated from some pond inhabitatitating maggot. But Father Rorty elucidated that point, and I’ll explain it to you all in a later account.
Read Chapter Four: My First Holies and the Bubonics here.
Read Chapter Four: My First Holies and the Bubonics here.