Pantisocracy - Episode 5 - The Panti Monologue 5

Sep 12, 2016, 12:51 PM

Panti Bliss's Introductory Monologue to Episode 5 of Pantisocracy - That’s How the Light Gets In’ - Airing Tuesday 20th September 10pm on RTE Radio 1 - more info at

"When I was in primary school I was in the Ballinrobe school marching band. And I was good. My glockenspiel and I were as one, and only the coldest of hearts could remain unmoved by my lyrical flourishes and precision marching on A Nation Once Again. Sister Frances wasn’t supposed to have favourites in her band, but everyone knew i was her favourite.

Our nemesis was the Claremorris marching band. Fifteen miles and light years away across the bog, their band was older and bigger than our’s, and although we would never admit it, their uniforms were nicer and fancier than ours too. (They also had a train station and a swimming pool and thought they were better than us, but everyone knew you could never get parking in Claremorris so they could feck off with their ideas above their train station)

Claremorris was the bog standard by which Ballinrobe judged itself, so in a spirit of competition that would have touched the cold heart of the brand new British Prime Minister Thatcher, beating the fancy-costumed Claremorris band was our carrot, while Sr Frances’s stern displeasure was our stick. (Not mine of course. I was her favourite)

So when we qualified for the All Ireland School’s Marching Band Finals in Killarney, it wasn’t the thought of lifting the trophy after a spectacular performance of Amhrain na bhFiann that spurred us on through hours of practice, but rather the thought of the Claremorris band’s crumpled faces as they stood (hopefully in the rain) and watched us lift it. Before they got the train home.

I don’t remember now which saint Sr Frances had decided was concerned with the outcome of School’s Marching Band competitions rather than the sick and destitute, but whoever it was, we obviously prayed hard enough and often enough, because when we were clambering back onto our coach to return home from Killarney, Sister Frances proudly clutching the All Ireland School’s Marching Band Winner’s Trophy, everything was perfect with the world and train stations and swimming pools and fancy uniforms seemed but trivial things.

When the coach stopped on the side of the road for a pee break not long into the long journey everything was still perfect with the world. And when Sr Frances took me and my two sisters aside and walked us a little away from the rest of the victorious peeing band, everything was still perfect with the world.

And then she told us that Granny had died.

Granny Hoban was a formidable woman who’d raised five kids on her own on a Guinness’s secretary’s wage. She used to just come and visit us on the train or we’d go to Dublin to visit her, but for the last while she’d been living in our back bedroom which hummed constantly with the sound of her ventilator. Sister Frances said she was up in heaven now, and I’d say God was already regretting letting cancer get her because she could be quite stern when she wasn’t pleased with you and I’d say she was giving him a proper bollocking.

I knew what death was - after all we’d buried a whole cemetery worth of various pets in the garden - dogs, cats, budgies, hedgehogs, rabbits, sheep - but I never knew a person who died before. and I knew this was going to be a much bigger deal. We wouldn’t be burying Granny Hoban at the bottom of the garden. And while the bus bumped its way back to Ballinrobe and my sisters cried I cried too. I cried because I wouldn’t see Granny Hoban again, but I cried too because I wasn’t sure what not seeing Granny Hoban again would actually be like. But mostly I cried because I was sure Mammy would be crying and Mammy crying was a rare and awful thing. I dreaded arriving home. Sr Frances said there’d be a lot of people in the house when we got there and I imagined my Mammy coming to the door to meet us, crying ...