Mary Agnes Hewson Quinn

In 2010 I wrote about  my Mother on the 10 year anniversary of her death. Today I’d like to mark 10 years since the death at 90 years old of another great woman in my life, my Granny, Mary Quinn. I lived with her, my Grandfather and my Mother in the same house for about 29 years pretty much from birth and she was the last of my immediate family to die when she passed away peacefully in Tallaght Hospital, June 4th 2004. I never met my father but I like to say I had two mothers instead.

I remember not feeling very sad on hearing of her death. That came later. Rather I felt ‘cast adrift’ or abandoned in some way now that all of my immediate family had gone. And even though I had a partner at the time, I felt properly alone for the first time ever when she died. Almost like I’d lost another part of me. She spent the last 7 or 8 years of her life in Sally Park nursing home, Firhouse, where she had been given a special place after suffering long term depression for years before hand. She like my mother made many attempts on her own life including one infamous occasion where she was just about stopped from jumping out a hospital window a few stories up. I was also there the day we visited her to tell her the news of my mothers death and she looked straight at me. Into me. With deep sympathy and worry. It must have been awful for her at that stage of her life after what she’d been through herself with depression to be told a second daughter had died before her but she seemed to take it well.

She found a little peace in her latter years in Sally park under their close supervision and I’m sorry I never got to visit her much there, especially after we moved to Leitrim. I found it very hard to visit her for all kinds of reasons that I don’t need to go into here, some silly and others important. Unfortunately, she was the only member of my immediate family that my wife ever got to meet and in granny’s customary style, she managed to insult her on our brief visit to the nursing home! It was a nasty habit she had.

I’ve heard it said from other family members that knew her longer than me that she was a very cold, hard woman and showed very little affection to her own children as they grew up. Whether that was a symptom of the times or just her way I don’t really know but I remember her being affectionate to me and being much fun on many occasions such as the time she let me and my cousin tie her up with scarves and tights! We had many nice holidays away especially in Tramore, just me, her and my mother. I’ve been told she had a soft spot for me. Maybe I was like the son she never had or something having had only 5 daughters. I also remember she was great at giving advice and snippets of wisdom as only most older people can. One in particular was that you should “go out and tend to the garden” whenever you feel down. It really works. She would never have had much time for depressed people. She’d be the type to not tolerate it around her and tell you to pull yourself together and like my mother, it was some surprise that she succumbed so spectacularly to the disease herself although it didn’t totally get the better of her in the end.

Like my mother and myself, my granny had a wicked sense of humor and a very dry wit that bordered on being insulting and annoying sometimes. She was a bit too honest too! I guess she handed down these traits to my mother and I. If there’s any wisdom or old fashioned values to be seen in me (and there are if my wife’s opinion of how I’m raising my kids is anything to go by!) then it’s my grandparents, in particular my granny that must get the ‘credit’.

It’s also because of my Granny that we were able to setup in Leitrim and buy a house here. Who would have thought that old dump of a house in Crumlin we all spent so many unhappy years festering in would have bought such a nice house in which to raise my own happy family?

As I wrote in your condolence book on the day of your funeral, “Thank you Granny”. For everything.

Leon

Mary Quinn

Croatia – Hvar Trip

Just a little recount for posterity of our first holiday abroad in 7 years!

The main reason for the visit to Croatia was to attend the wedding of my cousin Stephen who had proposed to his girlfriend Emma on the Croatian island of Hvar while watching the sunset one evening. They decided to go back to get married in a civil ceremony and avoid the usual church/hotel type affair. Good call guys! Long way to go for a wedding but we needed the break and nearly all of the extended family were going so I dipped into cash reserves and made it happen.

The plane flew from Dublin to Dubrovnik and traveled along the Croatian/Dalmatian coast for the last leg of the journey. That was our first clue that Croatia was no ordinary country. I’ve never seen anything like it personally. Looking out the plane window I seen miles and miles of rocky, limestone mountains and probably thousands of  islands. A very fractured and oddly shaped country but very beautiful and striking.

We landed and got off the plane directly onto the tarmac to feel our first proper sunshine in a long, long time! About 28 degrees it was. Unfortunately, the first experiences we had weren’t great, apart from the fabulous weather. Our coach driver for the journey to Hvar island got interrogated for about 30 mins at the airport then proceeded to bring us on a route he wasn’t supposed to, although it turned out to be probably the best way in the end. It took about 4 hours by road along the coast then a 1 hour ferry trip. We were convinced he was trying to screw us in some way and we would never get were we were going and indeed we came close enough to missing our ferry to the island because of him but it all worked out in the end.

Hvar island and town is a quaint little place with a lovely rustic, old fashioned feel. Crystal clear sea waters, cobbled streets and wild heather abound but it has a kind of upmarket feel to it too, probably why Prince Harry was there just before us! The food, buildings  and culture were distinctly Italian themed and I found most of the restaurant menus to be a bit short on choice and lacking real Croatian food (whatever that is) so I was reduced to eating pizza all week! Not much fish on menus either considering we were on an island. We did have a great Croatian, bbq meal in the ‘Blidinje’ rooftop restaurant in Dubrovnik harbour on our last night though.

The Adriatic sea seemed especially salty and buoyant – ideal for floating tan sessions! There were some incredibly expensive looking boats moored in the harbour and prices probably a little more expensive than Ireland although outside the resort in supermarkets etc, prices were much lower. We couldnt be arsed cooking though…

After much of the the usual lounging around, tanning, sea swimming, hotel pool invading, al fresco dining and beer drinking, it was time to get on with the main event, the wedding. The civil service was held in the gardens of St Mark’s church. Very hot but lovely venue and ceremony. The wedding party then walked cobbled streets to a lovely restaurant overlooking the sea for a champagne drinks reception followed by a lovely 4 course dinner in another open air, balconied restaurant close by. We rounded off the day with a few beers and some skinny dipping down on the beach…as you do!

I personally got back to my apartment at about 6am after guiding a very drunk bride and groom to their rooms then got up at 8am for an 8 hour ferry trip (on a battered old ship with no comforts) back to Dubrovnik for the plane home. Not wise!

A short but memorable trip and a highly recommended destination in Hvar but try fly to Split to avoid extensive road and sea travel…unless you want to see a lot of the scenery! Buy beach shoes too as there’s no sand, just stones and rocks. And don’t expect decent internet..I found it very hard to come across free or decent wifi spots, even in Dubrovnik. Croatia is a tad behind the times..

Here’s some pics!

Leon

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How I like to listen to Music

Most people like music yes? On the rare occasion I meet someone that doesn’t like music or doesn’t have a single cd, tape, mp3 or any of them old yokes I can’t remember the name of (joke!) or even any apparatus on which to play music, I tend to get very suspicious as to their mental stability. Lots of people listen to music casually while at work or while travelling and rarely ‘really’ listen to their music. For those of us music lovers, musicians, songwriters, etc for whom music is almost a religion or some kind of spirituality (me included), we tend to listen to music on a whole other level. Here’s what I like to do.

Go into a quiet room by myself late at night with no distraction or external stimulus. All senses except hearing should be shut off. I put on my favorite artist, Bob Dylan, The Doors….something timeless and brilliant and play it loud. Not loud enough to hurt or have the police around but loud enough to fill the room, drown all other stimuli and cause the merest of vibrations at least. Headphones aren’t the same. Many times I’ve been brought to tears just doing this simple thing – really listening to beautiful music. Not because it’s sad or nostalgic in some way, just because the melody, harmony, beat, tone and sentiment are great enough to overwhelm my senses and emotion. Tears of joy I suppose..

When I was in the band, we quite often deconstructed songs we wished to cover live. It might have been before Igot into computers because these days I’d just search for the tablature online but listening to a song over and over to try to get the lead guitar, bass or keyboard parts was a great education in how songs are written, built and recorded. I still listen to songs that way today and try to pick out each instrument and follow it along for the duration of the song. That’s why I say to people you could listen to a song 6 times in a row and have a completely new and great experience each time. Just listening to a great bassline can be hypnotic as can a cool drum beat. Listening to lead instruments can bring you on fantastic journeys and the whole thing together of course is just a symphony of color…even if it’s just a simple rock/pop song. Don’t even get me started on classical music!

The musical part of a song is always what stands out for me and what I listen to first. I could be years listening to some tracks before I totally cop the lyrics and meaning of a song and I’m quite often blown away when I finally figure out what a song is actually about! I’m also a fan of music biographies and have read many from Jim Morrison’s to Clapton, Hendrix, Dylan, Lynott and Bono and knowing a bit about the background of a band or artist can bring yet another dimension to the song.

If I could (and I have done in a past life..), I’d do noting else but listen to music forever..

Leon.

My Mother, 10 Years Gone Today

On this day, 25th June 2000, my mother Noeleen Quinn, 52 years old, sat down in front of a train at Sandymount Dart station, Dublin and ended her own life. It was a life that had become unbearable in the previous 2 years and was the last in a long string of suicide attempts in that time as she desperately tried to get off the planet and find peace. It was a life that had never really found true happiness and one which, at the end, no person could reasonably be expected to endure for too long and retain any kind of sanity.

My mother was a deep, thoughtful, intelligent, creative, artistic, well-travelled, nature-loving, strong-minded person with a quick wit and who didn’t take any shit from anyone. In many ways, the last person you would think who might commit suicide. In fact not long before she got depressed and while she and I were looking at a tv program about depression, she mentioned that she could never understand how anyone could kill themselves.

She had found some kind of normality in the years leading up to her final bout of depression, successfully gaining a Degree in English and the History of Art from UCD in 1998 as a mature student. A great achievment for an early school leaver especially as she was caring for my similarly mentally unwell grandmother during studies.

She graduated just months before a serious cancer scare which turned out to be the final straw that sucked the will to live from her. Despite successful surgery and getting the all clear, the post cancer treatment took its toll and she had a nervous breakdown. For the next 2 years she done everything she could to die, multiple drug overdoses, jumping in rivers, drinking and even burning. I also suspect based on marks I seen on her that during her stays at various different mental hospitals, she tried other common methods too.

I lived with my mother through these years, just the 2 of us in a 2 up 2 down in Dublin and I still don’t have words to describe how horrible it was to see a normally strong minded and strong willed person completely lose their mind and will to live. The pressure and stress in trying to keep my mother alive and deal with her attempts were the hardest thing I’ve ever or possibly will ever have to endure and I’m not sure how I made it through. It seemed that every time I woke up or came home there was some dreadful situation to deal with. I think the only thing that got me through that period and prevented me from becoming another sad suicide statistic myself was my ability to shut off mentally and pretend I was somewhere else.

They say that 2 of the hardest things to deal with in life are bereavement by suicide and the death of a child. My mother’s death was different. Strange as it sounds, the relief I felt when the guards came to the door on Sunday night June 25th 2000, was immense and still stays with me today. There comes a time when life becomes so hard that death seems like a better state and that’s how it was. Depression is a horrible living nightmare for all concerned and connected but none more so than for the person suffering it. You retain your intellect but are paralysed and weighed down by an unexplainable grief and apathy. The psychotic self-harming tendencies that can result from unsuccesfully treated and long term depression are very, very scary and nightmarish to deal with and I’ll never, ever forget what it was like to see my mother desperate to die and even begging me to kill her on occasions when she herself had failed. Killing yourself, as my mother found out is really not that easy.

I’d known long before she died that the mother I knew and loved and that raised me had gone for good and I was left with a hideous, evil creature, possessed by a devilish disease of the mind. It was obvious to me that after so many different treatments had failed to cure my mother and after any friends and family she had had been scared off, that it was only a matter of time before she died. She really had little to live for. The only shocking aspect was the manner in which it happened. She mirrored the death of my Aunt Helen, my mother’s closest sister who also took her life on a train track in the 70’s and I think, something which my mother never got over fully.

In the weeks and months that followed her death I had no option but to get on with my life. Bills had to be paid so I had to go out and get my first proper job and basically go out into the world and find/re-find myself. I had a little scare a year or 2 afterwards when I felt lonely and down and for a while I thought I was next in the family tradition to lose the plot but somehow, perhaps due to what I’d witnessed with my mother, I avoided that and managed my way eventually.

I am proud of my mother for what she achieved in life and perhaps controversially I am proud of her for being brave enough to end her own life. In some ways I see what she done as a kind of sacrifice for my benefit as well as her own. I knew that she knew how badly her behaviour was affecting me and how much I was at breaking point. Her death allowed me to live and I haven’t look back since. She of course was the biggest benefactor of her actions and in this case the so called selfishness of suicide was fully justified and allowable in my opinion.

I would like to take this opportunity ‘ma’, wherever you are, to thank you for all that you’ve done for me and for giving me the tools to succeed in life and to find the happiness you never did. I will keep you with me always and remember happier times and I will tell everyone who is interested, the many ways in which you were great. I will raise your beautiful grandchildren as you raised me, with an emphasis on learning, creativity, individuality, integrity, honesty, laughter and strength of character with a healthy dose of your cynicism thrown in too.

Love,
Your only Son and Child,

Leon (Nooney Moon)

Contact Aware for more info and support for Depression.

Some photos of my Mother, Noeleen:

Christmas and Religion

Dilemma!? Half of me hates going along with all the usual Christmas shite and letting myself get carried away on the cheesy and neverending marketing wave that usually results in me spending, eating and drinking needlessly. The other half (my inner child) harks back to when Christmas meant something and was magical and I just want to get decorations up, get carols on and be merry!

Another dilemma is that I’m so non-religious its unreal having been brought up atheist and un-christened. This link partly explains why, Christians, please don’t click! So my decision should really be made for me as to whether I celebrate it or not but what can you do, be a scrooge and be the only one in your extended family who doesn’t take part!? I wouldn’t be allowed.

Oh and someone please write some new Christmas tunes, maybe Radiohead should come up with a suitably morose tune for the times thats in it!

Leon.