The Town that Doesn’t Exist

With all the mania since I’ve been back from Africa, I never got around to posting this piece, on my time in Kibera, which appeared as a four-page spread in the Sunday Business Post.  Incidentally, there’s a Viewfinder feature on the people mentioned in this piece on Storyful right now. Go check it out.
Sunday Business Post, November 7, 2010

In the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, up to a million people live in a place that doesn’t exist. It does not appear on any government maps. It receives the bare minimum of services.

Officially, this city within a city is an uninhabited ‘forest’.

But the residents of the Kibera slum are no longer happy to be anonymous. Using free social media technology such as YouTube, they’re doing what no one else will: putting themselves on the map. Continue reading “The Town that Doesn’t Exist”

Sir Bob, Mint Tea & Deerskin Jeans

Tea is a global panacea. A good portion of earth’s inhabitants believe that for any and all stressful situations, a nice brew will pull you back from the edge. The gurgle of the kettle, the burble of tea from spout and the gentle glug of milk (if you take it) is the normal Irish ritual, along with a trowelful of sugar. Other countries take their tea green, minty or spiced.

Little girls start early, dragging their older brothers to imaginary tea parties with teddy bears and Barbie dolls, sitting in the middle of the garden.
The most interesting tea party I ever attended was made up of six grown men sitting on the side of the road. One of those men was wearing home-made deerskin pants. We were in Africa.

Asleep at the Table

If your taxi driver had  been awake for the guts of 57 hours, would you be happy to let him drive you home? No?

What about if your doctor had been awake for 57 hours – would you let them take out your appendix?

Didn’t think so.

Sunday Business Post, August 07, 2005

Working around the clock, grabbing a snooze when there’s a lull in the action, going without meals and pepping themselves up with caffeine – how long can Ireland’s over-worked junior doctors keep going under these conditions? ‘You wouldn’t want your mother or father on that operating table,” says the junior doctor, yawning down the phone. Continue reading “Asleep at the Table”

John Cuts Himself

Every now and then you do a piece that catches you in the throat. This piece stemmed from an interview with a blogger who was tackling some intensely personal stuff on his blog about his own self-harm, which he has now ditched as he has stopped harming. Result.

Sunday Business Post – Jan 26, 2006

John cuts himself. He takes a razor blade, draws its edge slowly across his upper arm until it parts the skin and glides smoothly, steely into the soft flesh beneath. He says that when he sees the blood, it feels good; it feels like the sting of sunburn and a release of pressure. Continue reading “John Cuts Himself”

Sister Sister

Ah, the wireless. Sure where would you be of an aul winter evening without the magic box in the corner?

I’d spent a long time looking for this old radio documentary I cobbled together for a college project when, finally, it appeared in an old clippings folder.

It’s an interview with my dad’s aunt Peggy, a Loreto sister who spent 43 years in Kenya with the order as a teacher. She crossed paths with Mother Teresa and taught a child,Wangari Maathai, who ended up winning a Nobel peace prize. Not a bad lifetime’s work.

I’ve started doing some podcasts for another website, and thought I’d throw this one up here for the record. Enjoy.

‘Normality to Richard Pryor in four short years’

 

This was one of the hardest articles I ever chose to write. My mum had a short but intense battle with MS in her mid-forties, which she ultimately lost. I paired up with Damien Mulley, who had been diagnosed recently, to write about our experiences of the condition. It’s heavy.

I wrote this six months after my father died, and some people remarked that it was an article I could never have written while he was alive, given the situation it describes. It doesn’t attach any blame to him for his response, but it would have been….awkward. And as for the motives behind it – I don’t know. Therapy, I guess. It’s still hard to re-read, and seeing it in print was much harder than the process of writing it, which I undertook pretty much on autopilot. I picked up a copy of the paper and went into a coffee shop to read it that day, and nearly collapsed when I saw the pictures of my mother in the paper. Anyway, here it is:

Sunday Business Post, September 07, 2008

MS, which attacks a person’s nervous system, directly affects more than 6,000 people in Ireland. Diagnosis often prompts a frenzy of research, as the new patient scrambles to arm themselves with as much information as they can. Often, the first stop is someone whose life has already been affected by MS.

For Cork-based journalist Damien Mulley, diagnosed this January, his first port of call was a fellow journalist, Markham Nolan, whose mother died in 2004 after an unusually brief time with the illness. Here, they share their very different perspectives on a condition that is a familiar presence in thousands of Irish homes. Continue reading “‘Normality to Richard Pryor in four short years’”