Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others by Aingeala Flannery



Kenny Rogers is the best singer in the world. Better than Kris Kristofferson and Glen Campbell put together. There’s a cassette player in our Ford Cortina and this is the stuff we listen to on our summer holiday, driving up the west coast from Kerry to Donegal. My mother chain-smokes Carroll’s and threatens to kill us if we don’t stop tormenting each other on the back seat. My little sister can’t sit in the middle in case she gets sick, and my big brother can’t sit there either because Daddy won’t be able to see over his head. The road is a patchwork of potholes, tractors hide behind hairpin bends, and every time we go over a humpback bridge an acidic swell of chips and ice-cream rises in my throat. ‘Stop!’ my sister screams. We pull in and my mother reefs her out the back of the car to vomit into a ditch of blazing orange montbretia. We take off again and my tailbone hurts from bouncing up and down on the middle hump – an injustice I’ll endure so long as I’m in charge of the music. ‘Put on Charley Pride,’ my mother says to my father. She can’t drive and won’t touch anything on the dashboard for fear the car will swerve off the road. ‘He’s a beautiful singer,’ she says. I slip the tape out of its case and hide it under her seat. Daddy catches my eye in the rear-view mirror, and says nothing. We both know Charley Pride is cat.


We’ve moved to Dublin and Daddy is after buying a ‘music centre’. It has a twin tape deck, a radio, and a turntable. Down the road from our house, there’s a newsagents called Tuthill’s that sells records, comics and the music magazine Smash Hits. I own two 7-inch singles: ‘Heart of Glass’ by Blondie and ‘Kids in America’ by Kim Wilde. On Sunday afternoons, I take the kitchen radio upstairs to listen and sing along to Jimmy Greeley’s Top 30 show. My mother, sick of the racket, tells me she’s heard farts that are better at holding a tune. I record

myself singing ‘Wonderful Tonight’ and realise that she’s right. I’m brutal. No one can ever know how brutal. I rewind the cassette and tape over the evidence. How ordinary my life is going to be. I will never represent Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest. Or travel the world with a suitcase of spangly jumpsuits and stilettos. As the counter on the cassette recorder ticks over, I remember how two years earlier, I won a talent show in the town we used to live in. I stood on the community centre stage and sang an Elvis song, and a man, possibly a priest, presented me with a box of Black Magic chocolates. I thought I’d hit the big time. Now I know they just took pity on me, I feel ashamed.


I join a disco dancing troupe that makes it into the finals of the Poparama National Disco Dancing Competition. Our leotards are blue. Our leg warmers are pink. Around our necks and waists we wear streamers that our mothers made from spools of ribbon and sequins they bought at Joan’s fabric shop in Clondalkin village. To the synthesised drum beat of Anita Ward’s disco anthem, ‘Ring My Bell’, we perform a routine that’s a cross between ‘The Siege of Ennis’ and a military two-step, hopping in and out of formation like demented

marionettes. We come second and there is no prize, but we get to meet Radio 2 deejays Ruth Buchanan and Barry Lang. At the end of the year, we’re asked to perform our routine in a concert that’ll also feature boys from St Joseph’s National School. I’ve already outgrown my leotard. I have breasts and a camel-toe. I turn the wrong way during the routine and when I realise my mistake I run into the wings and hide behind a curtain, where I encounter a curly-headed boy with a million freckles. He’s holding a tin whistle. ‘I can’t do it,’ he says, crying.

I tell him I’ve made an absolute show of myself. For a few minutes, we stand in silence, staring uselessly at the audience of teachers and parents. The boy’s name is Michael Christopher. A few years later, we’re in the same gang that traipses up the Monastery Road to a field on the Naas dual carriageway, where we lie in the long grass, roll cigarettes, and talk about music. Later again, when he’s a famous singer, he falls and suffers a fatal brain injury. They bury him in Newlands Cross Cemetery, in a grave opposite the one where we bury my

father in the same year. Dad is dead at fifty-four. Mic Christopher at thirty-two.


From You Spin Me Round: Essays on Music
Edited by Adrian Duncan, Niamh Dunphy, Nathan O’Donnell
Published by PVA

Buy a copy from the Heavenly Recordings Bandcamp store.