Friday, January 16, 2009

July 2007

This was written in a bit of a rush, so I didn't have as much time to procrastinate. As a result, I think it's a lot better and my column is starting (finally) to feel a little more than a collection of unfocused ramblings.

- I'm not AA Gill yet, though (feel free to take that any which way you choose)

Model Citizen July

After a while of writing columns, you start finding yourself plundering your own life for material. It’s that, or go out and talk to people, and if in doubt, always take the road well signposted. With that in mind, I’ve decided to exploit my children for fun and profit.

Recently, I discovered that sitting down at desks and typing things into computers is not one of the most exciting ways to spend your time, nor does it inspire any great degree of awe. I watched Tom Crean in the Olympia and was forced to face my utter unpreparedness for Arctic exploration, exploding a central bubble of certainty in my life. Not only that, but Tom began to make me fear that not only was I not fulfilling my potential, not just as an intrepid explorer, but as a man. Normally things like that don’t trouble me. The Fight Club model of how to be all you can be reflects only the sort of nebbish who, in the absence of independent thought, views the acquisition of Brad Pitt’s abs as a life strategy, if not also a political movement. But something about the matter-of-factness of Tom Crean made me uneasy, as though sitting almost motionless for hours at a time might not actually be as beneficial to my parenting style as I’d previously thought. I went home, ready to instigate a new parenting style, designed both to inspire my kids and perhaps teach them some useful polar survival tips.

When the hangover faded later the next day, I realised that I needed more help than my dim memories of Mr. Crean could provide, so I did the only sensible thing: I turned to my not-at-all-thumbed copy of Ray Mears’s Essential Bushcraft. Visions of self-sufficient children being led into a glorious, tarpaulin-covered tomorrow by an ultra capable me swirled in my head, briefly dislodging the hangover. I considered the exciting times we would have, catching our own food, building our own boats in which we would paddle down the Grand Canal, thumbing our noses at all the wage slaves, perhaps knitting our own tents of an evening and scouting for bears in Meath. It wasn’t long before I got to pondering some of the wonders of modern civilization, like restaurants. Or houses. Or TV.

I came across a quote the other day by noted vocabularian, Will Self. “Having children is the point at which you have to be who you are. Up until then you can assume another name, change your group of friends or move to another part of town, but once you have children you can’t unwish yourself because that’s to unwish them. ” I knew I had to be who I was, even if the closest that person came to Antarctica was defrosting the freezer. It was a thought that struck me as my eldest and I stood watching a street performer swallow a sword, then juggle burning torches on a three metre unicycle, while blindfolded. There are some things that even I can’t kid myself that I can do. On the other hand, my son, who loudly cheered throughout, told me that he intends to go to circus school, so at least I can be confident that I’ve set him on the right road.

Eoin Cunningham

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Welcome to my blog. I'm a freelance writer/journalist/researcher/editor. I write about education and ideas I've had for the Irish Times. I also research, write and edit for writers, publications and websites. Here I put things that tend not to fit anywhere else. Enjoy.

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