Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

The Couples, Tattoos, and "The King of Ireland"

The cover of The Couples shows the remains of what looks like a fairly hectic dinner party. Lauren Mackenzie’s debut novel, set in the 1990s, as the title implies, deals with a number of couples; three to be exact. It’s so true to life that the reader could be forgiven for thinking that it’s not fiction.

Eva and Shay met, in their twenties, on an Eco-farm in Leitrim. Shay is now a Landscape gardener and Eva is a school teacher. Conor was a well-respected GP while his wife Bea doesn’t need to work. Frank and Lizzie were both actors, though Lizzie is now “ between jobs,” They used to be risk-takers and by the time Frank was 48 his finances weren’t good and he was broke and despondent. One or more of the other five decided to organise a birthday bash for Frank’s 48th birthday. The six of them booked into Hardwood House, a not very salubrious establishment, in County Laois, for the weekend. All saw it as an excuse to relive their younger days.

In the middle of the night Frank makes a suggestion which the other five go along with. The result led to a situation that some of them couldn’t remember and others wanted to forget.

It’s at this point in the story that as a reader I asked myself how did the author, who grew up in Sydney and spent her formative years there, get successfully into the heads of a half dozen residents of Dublin 8.

She says, “The first book I remember reading, by myself, was a pretty, white leather bible given to me by a neighbour, Mrs. Bevan, a church-going Methodist, who thought my very modern, secular parents were letting me down. I was six. My parents who were born on the eve of the Second World War, tried to give us the carefree childhood they wished they had and were also, in many ways, trying to recreate it for themselves. Freedom was everything. I was living in Dublin with my Irish husband and our two young sons when my mother told me what was really going on among her friends at their parties. Mrs. Bevan might have had a point though; my very modern parents provided me with the premise for my first novel, The Couples.

Lauren MacKenzie

The Couples is a good read with plenty of mystery with not all that much deceit. It takes you through the lives of six people until they got back to normal living. Or did they?

I hope that the influence of her parents and that of Mrs. Bevan continue to work on this author. We could do with more novels like The Couples.

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There is a growing trend around the world for people to have the ashes of their cremated loved ones mixed with tattoo ink and used and it will probably soon reach this green and misty island. A spokesperson for Mr. Inkwells in California told me, “We have done many cremation ashes tattoos. It’s a great way to commemorate a loved one, and it’s a fairly simple process. Tattoos are one of the rare 'rituals' that we still have, plus they require not only money, but pain. This makes them more meaningful, and combining this with the ashes of loved ones is a powerful way to say ‘I love you’."

I contacted a number of Tattooists here in Ireland, but so far it would appear that it hasn’t caught on in this country. If you are thinking about incorporating ashes into your tattoo, the first step is to contact a tattoo shop and let the artist know that you want to incorporate ashes into your tattoo. Once your appointment is set, you bring the ashes in, and then a small amount of them are mixed with the tattoo ink. Once thoroughly mixed, you are ready to be tattooed.

You may be wondering if being tattooed with ashes is safe, but don’t worry. Because the cremation process happens at such high temperatures the ashes should be sterile and safe as long as they are not contaminated in transit. The best part of any tattoo, including a tattoo mixed with ashes, is deciding what tattoo you are going to get. Initials and names are very popular, as well as portraits. But, you can get whatever reminds you of your loved one the most.

According to Alice Nicholls, specialist tattoo artist and owner of The Fine Art of Tattoo studio in Colchester, “Memorial tattoos have been around for quite a long time, but – thanks to social media and tattoos in general becoming more mainstream – more people know about them and want to get one."

Memorial tattoos were traditionally a standard design celebrating a loved one, but today they include tattoos where a tiny amount of ashes is mixed into the ink. You may also have heard them called cremation tattoos or cremation ink.

* * * * *

A County Meath man who describes himself as the Sovereign King of Ireland has asked a judge for orders against Bus Eireann after a driver refused to let him get on a bus with his dog and also against a Garda who was responsible for him being issued speeding ticket.

James Carey, who called himself “his Majesty” the king, told Judge Martin Nolan in the Circuit Civil Court in Dublin that the driver of a bus had no jurisdiction to refuse him. Mr. Carey, from, Stamullen, Co Meath, also asked Judge Nolan to direct that the Garda, who had issued him with the speeding ticket for breaking the limit by 5km on “one of his privately owned highways,” had no lawful right to do so.

Mr Carey told the court that after his car had broken down he had attempted to board a bus with his dog and had been told by the driver he could not do so.

He said he was the rightful head of state and his country’s department of security took a very dim view of “the man in the Phoenix Park.”

Judge Nolan, who gave the case a full hearing and told Mr. Carey there was no king of Ireland, that his proceedings disclosed no proper cause of action, only to be told by Mr. Carey that such an order would amount to an act of treason.

“I own Ireland, I rule Ireland and I am your legal employer,” he told the judge.

See you in September.

Click on the author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
This issue appears in the ezine at www.pencilstubs.com and also in the blog www.pencilstubs.net with the capability of adding comments at the latter.


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