Monday 21 May 2012

Moments of Transition (Year)


Today's the first, and this morning I was woken by a nightmare in which Joseph Goebbels was a teacher at my school. It was terrifying. He kept putting me in detention because I have brown hair and brown eyes and chose to learn French instead of Spanish. I can't remember what happened in those detentions, but it wasn't nice. None of the other teachers changed their behaviour, but they treated the methods of Mr. Goebbels as perfectly normal. And there were horrible rumours going around about Mr. Goebbels too, but you could never be sure if they were true or not, because everyone was afraid. When I woke up this morning I was terrified that I'd go into school thinking everything was normal until I had Mr. Goebbels first thing, so I said to myself 'OK Eleanor, let's sort out if Goebbels actually teaches you or not.' I promptly fell asleep and was woken again by my mother.

What does it mean when you dream of a Nazi?



I'm about to open an envelope. This envelope contains my Junior Certificate results. Everyone else has crowded around each other outside, it's a lovely day, but I ran off behind a wall. This is private, it's mine. For now, at least.

I try to take care as much as I can with the seal. I thought it would be an A4 sheet, not something this small. But where did I get that idea?

And the very first result listed -

English. D.

Ah, shit.

I knew on the day that I wasn't going to get a great result. I completely lost my head, but it's a matter of pride still. It's the first D I've ever gotten for English, because even with poetry, which I'm shit at, I can usually articulate something. I've still passed, but...

I've never really liked 'school English', whatever that is, but I only realised then how much I had let it become a label. Eleanor's Good At English. Which means she's one of the Creative Ones, which must mean she's bad at Maths, because that's how it works, isn't it? If you're creative and good at art/writing, it means you have to be bad at maths or business or science. But I'm not good at English in school. The only thing I can really do is the drama bit, because that's the bit that makes the most sense to me. But that doesn't mean I'm hopeless. Most of the content on my CV is stuff I've written.

Just because I didn't get the mark I had hoped for, but the mark I knew I would get when I finished Paper One, doesn't mean I'm suddenly incompetent. I'm still good at this. I am a semi-competent writer! I got that award, didn't I? That was just one day. Jesus Eleanor, calm down. You've still got ten other results! You haven't looked at them yet!

I scan down the page. There aren't any other Ds. I've got two As, three Cs, and the rest are Bs, including French and History, which I was really worried about. Excellent! Time to join the others and squeal a bit. Lovely.

Although it would be cool to get a C or something for the Leaving. Just to satisfy my own useless pride. And for the points, of course.



God, I'd forgotten how much swearing was in this play.

My Adult For The Evening, my cousin Eimear, is fidgeting in her seat beside me. She's twenty four, a primary school teacher, and she's my Cool Older Cousin, so I thought she'd be best to bring along to this night-time event in a pub.

But then I remember how I've always been her Baby Cousin Eleanor. And that I'm still only fifteen. And these people in the room, a lot of whom I seem to know quite well, are all older than me, and drinking, and some of them are shifting the face of each other on the projector. And my mother and her mother are waiting for us back home, and they'll want to know everything. And the dancing girl sitting with her friends at the front, the drunk one in the play, is getting a bit louder and a bit louder all the time. And apparently she's my friend.

And I come to appreciate a little bit more how trusting my mother and father must be.

Seems I'd also forgotten how much sex is discussed, and all that business with the condoms and everything.

The drive home is going to be very awkward.



I have known John Kennedy for one year and two months.

It is a very strange moment when, at Fishamble's Young People's Tiny Plays For Ireland reading, I am introduced to him for the first time. We're both from Kilkenny!

'Actually we do sort of know each other already...'

'Oh really? How?'

And, for some reason, we're standing there nodding and grinning inanely at each other. And I don't know why I'm not saying anything like 'Well, John here wrote a play called Shifting for the Devious Theatre Company back in Kilkenny, and it was completely sold out over it's six night run and received rave reviews, because it really was a brilliant play you know, and it was directed by that man over there in the blue hoodie, John Morton, beside the lady with the long brown wavy hair, no, below that row, and I was assistant director. And that's how we know each other.' That covers it. But we're not saying anything. It's very strange. Why aren't we telling him?

But eventually we say, at the same time, 'We worked on a play together...' Which is also the truth. And it'll do for today, because, and it seems strange, but we don't need Shifting today.

And the well-meaning person who introduced us but whose identity I have forgotten says 'Oh!' and escapes, leaving us to stand nodding and grinning inanely at each other.



It's the last day of school before the Christmas holidays. Everyone's exchanging cards, and all of a sudden she hands me a wrapped present.

I don't have anything to give her. Just a Christmas card with some song lyrics paraphrased inside, and what good is that if I've done it wrong and she can't understand it? And then she goes and gives me beautiful chocolates.

And they're Lindt chocolates. Everyone loves Lindt chocolates. I'm not the only one who's received them of course, but I can't remember the last time I got a Christmas present from someone that wasn't a relative.

A friend?



Today is World Book Day, and so a group of us have been entertaining some children in one of the local bookshops. We've dressed up as characters from Where's Wally for the occasion, and it's been loads of fun. Now we're walking down town to get lunch in our madcap gear. (Our madcap gear consists of red/white striped tops, blue jeans, hearts on our faces, and assorted accessories.)

I'm in a group of five and I'm doing my usual conversation thing where I stay on the edge and dodge the kerb and stone benches and listen to the others talk, and one of the girls is fiddling with her super-cute pigtails self-consciously. This girl is one of the kindest, most sincere girls I know, and I don't like seeing her uncomfortable with herself. So I try to tell her to relax.

In my classic, Eleanor Roscuro empathetic fashion.

It doesn't really work, because I haven't mastered empathy and all that stuff, so it's just me telling her that she's fine and she doesn't have to care about what other people think, all that easier said than done stuff, until eventually, a little voice in my head says 'You know what you should try? Paraphrasing that Henry Ford quote that Bill Cullen likes. That'll work!'

'If you think you're ugly or not ugly, you're right.'

'Really? You think that?'

And, oblivious to her body language or the tone in her voice, I do what I always do: concentrate on the words and plough right through.

'Yeah. I do think that.'

Suddenly, we all draw to a stop. There are boys ahead. They've just come out of the nearest boy's school. We go to a girl's school, so we don't know them... We take a breath, brace ourselves, and then carry on, our eyes raking each uniform for a familiar face. There's got to be about fifty, and I don't know any of them. Dammit.

She starts fiddling with her pigtails again, worse than ever, and I tell her to leave it, but she doesn't, and we've stopped talking. This is ridiculous! It's not the Charge of the Light Brigade for God's sake! Yet their attitude is infectious, and I can't help but expect... something.

Eventually our paths meet.

This is what I was wearing that day -

Note - awesome mask. Happy (unaware of camera) face.

I love this mask, and I'm enjoying walking around the street in it. Until it was assumed by a subset of the boys in uniform that since I am wearing a mask, I must be extremely unattractive. Hideous, even.

It could have been so much worse. I know that. But I wasn't expecting it all the same. And it doesn't make me feel good.  I don't know if I was supposed to hear, but it was quite loud, and it doesn't make me feel good. But when I'm older, maybe this will be a part of life. I don't want it to be, but that's not up to me, is it?

And she's still worrying about her pigtails, and she was passed by unscathed, and the one who didn't care was marked down, how's that for irony? And the moment to say something back has passed. And then it dawns on me that I may have called her ugly, in a backwards way. And I feel awful, because I've hurt the feelings of the nicest girl in the year. And I feel awful, because some strangers have hurt my feelings.

And when I tell them half an hour later what they said, when I get sick of the bloody pigtails, no one says anything. We change the subject. When we're older, in college maybe, and it gets worse, we probably won't know how to handle it.



I'm on a night out!

Well, technically. It could be said. I'm in Kilkenny, at night, and I'm with adults, but nice ones who invited me here, and there is alcohol present, but not in my hand or my gut.

Yeah, I'm on a night out.

I'm upstairs in the Watergate Theatre, at the launch of the new Devious Theatre production. They're going to remake Night of the Living Dead in July. I'd been aware of it since work experience in November, but it only registered tonight. The night is starting to draw to a close. I'm standing beside my older-super-cool friend Alex at the bar. John's leaning over the other side to us, like we're smugglers in one of those taverns three hundred years ago where you'd be sure to find all the criminals singing drinking songs, plotting, and drinking. But instead of planning our next robbery, John is telling us about getting into drama courses, something that seems just as foolhardy and dangerous. Well, it's all for Alex's benefit, she's the one applying this year. I just arrived in the middle of the conversation and quietly slotted myself in. We're both nodding solemnly as John gestures and points his fingers on the bar for emphasis.

The Mid-Term Ball is on Monday. I've no real interest in going - I've had my fill of monster discos since the Junior Cert Results. I've having a great night here. Everyone is so nice. I know most of them already, which is good, and I've even mentioned Gormenghast, and people have listened! And my pretty dress has been admired. That's always good. And there's buns and cake, and they have nice orange juice. And I was invited  and everything!

Apparently they don't look at your Leaving Cert marks in the colleges, not really. Just at what you show them at auditions. Wow.

There's a little voice in the back of my head saying 'It'd be nice to get the points anyway...' and I have a small memory of staring at a page behind a wall. Oh, the Junior Cert English thing. I'd kind of forgotten about that. It isn't such a stab to my pride as it felt like at the time. Hmm. That's good.



Today is a great day.

I'm in McDonalds on Grafton Street, finishing up my meal with my friends. We've come up to Dublin with the rest of the year to Trinity College. My older-super-cool friend Helena is studying Business and French there, and she was able to point me in the direction of the Drama and Theatre Studies talk that had started as we got off the bus, so after sneaking away from the group (!!!), I made it for the last five minutes. Then I met another older-super-cool friend Ruth who was at the talk and we had a lovely chat. Then I was able to discreetly insert myself into the group, go around the different stands, and then we went for lunch. Now we've got back onto Grafton Street and I'm turning right to go back to Trinity, but the others go left.

'Hey, where are you going?'

'Shopping. We've seen everything there.'

'Oh, okay. I'm going back to Trinity, I'll meet you later so - '

I wasn't expecting them to look that horrified or gasp that loudly. Or to chorus:

'You can't go back there on your own!'

I start to feel a little irritated. Up until last September all I did at school was go around on my own! I'm not desperate for human contact, but I really like their company, and I'm fine going around Trinity on my own. It's fun, and I'm meeting so many people I know, and I could look at the things I find interesting while they do their shopping. It's just thirty seconds up the street. I don't see what's wrong.

'No, really, I'm fine - '

'No, you can't go back there on your own... You can come with us if you like!'

'But... I don't know when I'll get there again, and I've been to Grafton Street before, and I'll be seeing it again at some stage. It's just up the street... I can look after myself!'

I know I shouldn't have said that as soon as it's out of my mouth. I've done it again. I don't know whether to turn and leave, or listen to what they've got to say next. Whilst I'm deciding, one of the group steps forward, not one I'm particularly friendly with. She sighs.

'Lads, it's alright, I'll go back with her...'


Because I don't want to be 'her', someone that has to be babied and minded, someone that's always getting in the way of everyone's fun! And I'm not, and I wouldn't be, if only they would let me go! But what am I supposed to say? I don't know what to say. I'm stuck now. The others don't look happy about the prospect either, and we all say:

'No, you don't have to, it's fine!'

But she's coming with me now. The other girls look as downcast as I feel. 'Well, if you're sure... We'll see you later so.' And they turn and walk off. We walk silently back to Trinity.

I feel bad about giving her the slip when we get there, but I do it anyway.



'Anna, why don't we ever do anything Irish?'

We've just filled out our evaluation forms about the last Kilkenny Youth Theatre year. This was something that had occurred to me when I was remarking on how I enjoyed the fact that with Gormenghast, we weren't confused by British slang or place names that we knew nothing about. Instead, we referenced places like the Hall of the Bright Carvings, or the Tower of Flints. Most of the youth theatre plays we read are by British playwrights.

'You mean a play?'

She goes on to explain that:
  1. She really would like to do something Irish, but:
  2. There are very few Irish plays written for a teenage production.
  3. Those that do exist either don't have an ensemble cast or a cast large enough to accommodate sixteen-ish people, or are not very good. Or both.
Which is a shame, because I had been hoping for some to read, but I know Anna spent most of her career working with children and teenagers in theatre, and would know best out of all the people I could ask. I've been reading some of the British ones in the school library whenever there are no seats for me in the canteen, and there are some I love, and some I hate. But I'm Irish. I want to see something Irish.

It just makes me more determined. (Determined to do what? says the stupid voice.)



It's the last day of Transition Year. It's glorious outside, so we're sitting outside in the grass. We're making daisy chains, and writing on each other, and eating, and chatting lazily.

This is the day I have been waiting for all winter, all spring. It's brilliant. It's heaven.



I've come to a sudden stop outside the Butler Gallery. There are tourists, couples walking around the park. One passes me, and we smile. The weather's beautiful for a November morning, warm, with a soft breeze, the sort of day I like. And you wouldn't expect to find these many people in the park today, but they're here.

Today is the first day of my work experience with the Watergate Theatre and everyone's been so nice and I've got leaflets of a ballet, Scherezade, to drop into local businesses around Kilkenny and I've been doing that and last week I did work experience with Devious Theatre which was wonderful and I'm so lucky to have gotten what I wanted.

Today is my sixteenth birthday and the weather is beautiful and I'm not in school I'm on my work experience and I know that this year, this year is going to be brilliant.


1 comment:

Minnie said...

Oh, Eleanor. That story with the uniform-wearing boys. I want to say something about it, but there's obviously not a whole lot I can tell you that you don't already know. If you like your own face, that's obviously the most important thing, since beauty is so incredibly relative. But you know that.

Other than that, I can tell you that, even though I'm in a coeducational college, I'd still consider those boys mean and thoughtless, and so would my friends. So it's not like you're overreacting. Quite the opposite, I'd say. I'd be deeply hurt and outraged, especially if they ruined my mask-wearing fun.

As for pigtail girl, I've had similar painful experiences where I've tried to comfort someone I liked and may have ended up hurting them instead. But I, for one, would totally have understood what you were saying with that quote. Furthermore, maybe it's a bit silly of us to assume that OTHER people lack the empathy to realize that we were trying to comfort them; and if were were trying to comfort them, we must consider them beautiful or nice or cool or something; and if we like them that much, we must not have meant to hurt them. . . Maybe I shouldn't speak for 'us' though. Sorry if that was presumptuous, but anyway -

The rest of your year sounded fairly splendid. Looking forward to more posts. =)