The Foggy Ruins of Time


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By Aubrey Malone

ISBN: 978-1-84991-752-0
Published: 2013
Pages: 387
Key Themes: Memoir, Mental Health, Biography, Alcoholism, Stress, Family, Depression


Aubrey Malone is the youngest of nine children born to Hugh Dillon-Malone, a solicitor from Ballina, a town in the West of Ireland, in 1953.

In this detailed memoir he documents his father’s problems with alcohol, many of which were transmitted to himself, causing feelings of depression, lack of self-esteem, and on one notable occasion, a night in jail after a drink-induced car accident.

He became a teacher after graduating from college but suffered much stress and ill-health during this time. Afterwards he turned to a life of writing and this too he documents in a book which also acts as a valentine to a lost world of innocence, both in himself and an Ireland he looks back on with a mixture of nostalgia and regret.

Book Extract

It’s a night in the spring of long ago and I’m lying in bed waiting for sleep to come. The lights of the cinema glint from across the street. In the town hall I hear the sound of a band playing out of tune at the local hop. There are voices raised every now and again as people pass the door, the sounds of laughter and tears, violence and camaraderie. The cacophony blends into the music like a counterpoint, rising to a crescendo and then drifting away again until the street is as quiet as a tomb.

It’s the time of the night when phone numbers are taken, when hopes are raised and lies embellished to hide the embarrassment of commitments made in the heat of the moment. I listen to the words of an Everly Brothers song coming through the window like some long-forgotten memory. They’re singing about weekend passes, about ebony eyes, about a woman who died on Flight 1203. My eyes water with sadness for someone I never knew and never will know.

I look at the posters of Elvis Presley on my wall. Outside is the cold grey light of the moon. The wind is blowing softly, the rain making a sound like the crushing of plastic on the roof of the garage next door.

Now and again I hear the siren of an ambulance puncturing the night and I wonder if it’s for my father. I think the same if I hear a police car or even a bottle breaking outside. He’s drinking again after a long time being off it. I thought he’d grown out of his dependency but I also know this is the way it goes, the feverish abstention followed by the equally feverish indulgences. He has to do everything by extremes, sweating the poison out of his system and then loading it back in again just when you thought he was going to be your father again and not this stranger who falls in the door after midnight, abusing everybody within earshot.

It must be the middle of the night when the call comes. Even before my mother picks up the receiver I know who it’s going to be. It’s always the same call at the same time, with the same message from a hotel manager to ask if we could arrange to have him picked up because he’s causing a disturbance.

‘Yes,’ my mother says in a strained voice, ‘I’ll send someone now. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.’ But she knows it will, as I do, again and again and again as long as he has life in his body.

I drift in and out of sleep. The next thing I’m aware of is a taxi-man depositing him at the door, being over-polite to my mother as he leads him into the hall. ‘Thank you, you can go now,’ she’s saying. Afterwards I hear my father coming to life, raising his voice to her about some slight he feels he’s suffered at her hands, real or imaginary.

She says it’s anger at himself that makes him do this, anger and frustration that life hasn’t worked out for him as he would have liked it to. He’s always contrite afterwards as if it was someone else who said the cruel words so everyone forgives him. My mother calls it a sickness, a sickness that makes people lose control of their lives.

I come down the stairs and wipe the tiredness from my eyes. In the kitchen my mother is smoking a cigarette, her one vice in life. My father looks up at me from his chair. He’s wearing his Trinity College jacket and the same trousers he wears seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, having two sets of each for when they need to be cleaned. He calls me over to him and I sit on his lap. He gives me a wet kiss that I wipe away. The smell of drink coming from him is so strong it takes my breath away when I inhale.


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