KITCHEN SINK DRAMA

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FIONA LOONEY - FIONA LOONEY

Iam rarely in a hurry to open a let­ter with a harp on it, so this one sits on top of the bread bin for two days be­fore I get round to it. When I’d picked it up in the porch, I’d thought ‘VAT re­turn’ — wrong time of year for a tax de­mand — and had thrown it into the hall be­cause there was a bike be­tween my knees and a busy day ahead. But it did vaguely oc­cur to me, on that bike, that VAT re­turns are done on­line now, and so it would be un­likely for the Rev­enue to sud­denly send me a pa­per re­turn.

It’s not a VAT re­turn. ‘Dear Mrs Looney,’ it be­gins, even though that is my mother and not me, ‘I re­fer to your child ben­e­fit claim. Ac­cord­ing to our records, child ben­e­fit for your child, de­tailed be­low, ends in June 2013.’ It goes on with a kind of­fer of an ex­ten­sion if she con­tin­ues in full-time ed­u­ca­tion — which we will, of course, get stamped by the school and re­turn post-haste — but in the mean­time, it hits me like a speed­ing train. A let­ter from the State that ba­si­cally says, ‘You know that baby you brought into the world on what feels like yes­ter­day, the one that changed your life for­ever? Well, that’s over now. She’s grown up. Get over it.’

She’s de­lighted with the let­ter, of course. More am­mu­ni­tion for her ‘I’m not a child’ arse­nal. If only they’d sent her a polling card along with it, then her day would truly have been made. Be­cause right now, The Teenager is all about chang­ing the world. With the fresh air of Tran­si­tion Year in her sails and an Amnesty mem­ber­ship card in her locker, she has spent the past few months not­ing in­jus­tice all around her and dream­ing up ways to right it. She has be­come an an­gry firebrand with the zeal of so­cial jus­tice burn­ing in her heart. All of which is, of course, as it should be. I look at her across the kitchen ta­ble, and lis­ten to her rant­ing about the inequal­i­ties of this wretched world, and I see my­self at the same age, ev­ery bit as an­gry and as fired up. In my day, of course, we were all livid over nu­clear power — a cause that con­sumed us far more ef­fi­ciently than the en­ergy it­self ever could have — and the Brits. But there is a cru­cial dif­fer­ence be­tween The Teenager’s cru­sades and my own. While pretty much ev­ery­thing

It seems I’m los­ing a child but gain­ing a mil­i­tant so­cial­ist anx­ious to stick it to The Man... It also seems I’m The Man

that was wrong with my world was the fault of the Brits, I seem to be re­spon­si­ble, sin­gle­hand­edly, for all that is wrong with hers.

We have daily ex­am­i­na­tions of con­science now. She lands in at five past one for her lunch, and I am al­ready on ten­ter­hooks. The sand­wich that I have made for her is eaten with­out ac­knowl­edge­ment, while she lis­tens to the news on the ra­dio, her ac­cus­ing eyes never leav­ing my guilty face. And then it be­gins. ‘Three women held cap­tive for 10 years? How can that even hap­pen? How could no­body know?’ And I find my­self apol­o­gis­ing for not be­ing more vig­i­lant about check­ing out the sub­urbs of Cleve­land.

‘Why do they just as­sume it’s Mus­lims?’ she asks about the Bos­ton bombers, be­fore peo­ple dis­cover it’s Mus­lims, and I apol­o­gise for that as well. ‘How can you not al­low that poor woman the right to as­sisted sui­cide?’ is an ac­tual ques­tion, with me splut­ter­ing an ac­tual an­swer about le­gal prece­dent and ethics while she shoves tuna into her mouth with her j’ac­cuse fin­gers. ‘Why are you not more wor­ried about North Korea, when we’re clearly all go­ing to die?’ was an­other lunchtime spe­cial. She’s like a diminu­tive JFK, ask­ing not what the world can do for her, but how on earth her mother has al­lowed the world to get into such a screwed-up state in the first place.

So it seems I am los­ing a child but gain­ing a mil­i­tant so­cial­ist, anx­ious to stick it to The Man. All of this, I sup­pose I ex­pected, though I never imag­ined that I would be The Man. I still have my ‘nein danke’ badge some­where, for God’s sake.

Still, I ad­mire her ide­al­ism and wish her godspeed in her ef­forts to change the world. And when I wan­der into the kitchen and catch her watch­ing The Smurfs on YouTube, I can be qui­etly thrilled. Okay, so it’s The Com­mu­nist Smurfs, a polemic on how those lit­tle blue folk have so­ci­ety and the col­lec­tive good sorted. But right now, I’ll take any­thing that re­minds me of the child — the lit­tle girl that this bro­ken state tells me has now of­fi­cially grown up.

Don’t miss Fiona Looney’s bril­liant col­umn, with her unique take on mod­ern Ire­land, only in the Ir­ish Daily Mail ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

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