From an early age, I have missed the point of things. I noticed this first when the entire class at school seemed to understand that Animal Farm was about something other than animals. I alone sat there believing otherwise. I simply couldn’t see who or what the book was about if not about farm animals. I had enjoyed it for that. Now, the teacher and every other boy seemed to think it was really about Stalin or Communism or something. I looked at it again, but I still couldn’t quite work it out. So, too, with a lot of poetry. I couldn’t see that things were like other things when they were not like them. Maybe they were slightly like them, or somewhat like them, but usually they were not like them at all.
When I was growing up in County Wexford the highest ambition you could have was to play hurling for your county. I remember being taken as a nine year old to watch my older brother play for Wexford in Croke Park in Dublin, which is the national stadium for Gaelic games. Even as I sat there watching my brother’s prowess, I knew that I would never match up to him, that I was a wimp and would always be one. Hurlers and players of Gaelic football were heroes; they were role models and figures of enormous moral authority and seriousness. They put their whole lives into sport without earning a penny. It was done for love, for duty, for patriotism; it was done for your club and county. They were towers of masculine strength. The hurlers especially were lithe and fit. To be a player of Gaelic games was to place you beyond sex; and this meant that they were straight, or were supposed to be.