My delusions of principle put me in the psychiatric hospital. In this short story, I wish to explore what it is like to have instability and turmoil combined with a veneer of easy-goingness and friendliness while homelessness bites.
What you hear back is perhaps what opinion I respond to most. Michael the motor mechanic said a nice thing the other day. I recall. Robert, he said, is easy-going isn’t he. I changed my name for the purpose of this Outburst.
I was crossing the street in Manor to go to Rooney’s and I met a chap who said he was stuck. What do you need? I asked. A lift out a few miles from town. He replied. I did not think about it, so I replied. Sure, I am parked under the shop. I will get the van, and I can do the run while herself is doing the grocery shopping.
So off I went, got the van, and drove up the ramp. I missed himself the first time, so I went around the block, and be-dad he was there. He sat in. He asked me to stop by the laundrette. He had an errand, in take away, and then he approached the van, and I pulled the door handle for him. He was heading out the Bundoran road. Meenagh it sounded like, I was not sure where it was but he could direct me. I handed him my card, fresh from the VistaPrint cache in my wallet. That’s me I said. I am from up near Kiltyclogher, staying. You will have to show me the way. The second errand he requested a stop for was in the grounds of the court house. Here he went to the side of the derelict building. I was a bit apprehensive. All was well when I saw him retrieve a new blue yard brush and a bushman saw blade. He asked where to stow it, and I took the brush handle into the cabin and set it in down in his footwell. We were on our way. The next left was the Bundoran road. Do you do welding, he asked. I have on the home place, we have welding kit there, but I have not done welding in a while. Do you like it here in Leitrim? he asked. I said, I loved it. It was quiet, and you only had to live with yourself, and if that was fine, then it was grand. It was cold last night, there being a frost. Do you keep a few sheep? Yes, he replied. Sean Dolan runs a few sheep, I volunteered, on the place we are at near Kilty. 23 lambs and 23 ewes arrived in about a fortnight back. I am a botanist and writer, so my card says. Do you do things. He was insistent. I said that not really, I was freelancing at the moment. So today, this gentleman has me back writing a Francis MacManus story. And being a botanist, I watched the trees by the road on the way out to his place, birch, willow, ash, hawthorn, nothing particularly unusual except for there was at one place a long leaved willow, I recall now. I talked more that he did, or I volunteered more perhaps. I asked if he had people looking out for him. He said he did. We passed the church, and he did a sign of the cross, as we passed. We met a tractor on the road, an International Harvester, it looked like a 574, with a smiling neighbour on it. He asked me to turn in up right. We drove up the lane to his house and I reversed into the place where one could turn a car. There was a car off the lane with straw on it and no number plates. He was slow to let himself out, so I did not hurry him at all, letting the conversation happen in its own time. He said would you be back. And this is your number. Yes. It is herself, the number on the card. Sure, maybe I could do an errand at some stage, but I would be starting from outside Kilty. So we left it at that. I had asked how he was finding the lockdown. Was it difficult? He said sort of. He had said it was quiet. Apart from that, he seemed fine. I found my way back down the roads into Manor. I came to a junction, not noticing the church, and I took it, and headed down this road which I felt would get me to the main road. Soon I was at the roundabout into Manor. I got back to Rooney’s, headed down the ramp, parked and went up in the lift to the shop, to find herself.
I met Jan and herself talking with a vegetable free trolley in the dog food aisle. Where have you been? Oh, sorry for being late, I was just doing an errand, I had to give a chap, who was stuck, a lift out of town. I selected a quarter pound of butter and some sliced cheese. When it came to do the till, I said it was like a shop not in Leitrim but rather from East Coast North America, Maine, like in a Stephen King novel, with the gherkins first on the conveyor getting confused with the previous person’s shop. He was not a vegetarian, beer drinker with long black hair, looking for all like the eyebrows of Colm Smith. I cannot handle anything else going wrong.
The repercussions came later. You had me worried. On the way back to Kilty, she wanted to know if he had had Covid, and would she be safe. I said I did not know. Who was he? I said I did not know. What age was he. I said in his late 60s. Was he washed. I said he was washed today. He said he knew Sean Dolan and that was good enough for me.
Her mother was in hospital, and we were heading south tomorrow, for a long spin, that would bring the van up to half a million klicks on the way. The amber light came on, informing me that I would need to get fuel in Blacklion, on the way. In my defence, I said that I knew where he was from, and I could get the track and trace done if needs be.
The pressure comes on when you are homeless in many different ways. The instability of it is something I cannot take for granted. When will I feel unstable? When will things get overwhelming. The Starlings probably lost a nest today in the sandblasting of the stone of this cottage. The boss is a boss and sometimes it is hard to know if we will be put out onto the street. If we do nothing, that is certain. We have been in refuge in North Leitrim, provided safe sanctuary away from and after my exodus from psychiatric hospital.
I struggled keeping down a job, while homeless, for a year and a half. August 2018 was when it started. The first few months in Tullamore, I was a guest in a wonderful building occupied by like-minded folk. After a breakdown in January 2019, my employer’s human resources chief went on the warpath. I could not hack the stress. For most of 2019 I was inside. When I came out, I went to a good friend’s house in North Leitrim, God be good to her. Sustainable relationships are essential, and now I am a Botanist and Writer. Eventually with Covid and remote working in the summer 2020, things at work became impossible. They threatened, then acted on it, and I struggled battling on every day until the date they were to let me go after Christmas 2020 arrived. From the 1st January I was on the dole, waiting until 11 February for the first instalment to come through. Thank goodness for Ireland’s civility. I am now better at budgeting, and not going anywhere. So enough about me. You, our poor reader is probably in no better boat. Ireland our home is been fleeced from under us. At least we have the wit to write, and let our story be heard. The Curlew was sounding on the Upper Lough Mac Nean shores tonight. Biodiversity extinction. The starlings, and a nest of a goldcrest is in the line of fire tomorrow. I have work for 2021 thanks to the Heritage Council on the botany of ancient woods. Linked In profile fine. Satellite Broadband since 8th April. Wonderful.
Too late for a submittable tale for the Francis MacManus, so it goes unheralded to lichenfoxie. It takes about 5 hours to work up a 2000-word story. 1500-words is enough on homelessness. The newspaper headline says the ministers today do not believe in the Homelessness crisis. Here lay I before you. A runaway in the refuges of Leitrim. Like the Phoenix from the ashes, I will arise and go now, from Corracloona.
Facing the music tomorrow of a negotiation with home, for a home, the prodigal son that I am. Renting is over, long live renting. Homelessness is real, yes, Minister.
8 v 2021