Filed under: America, Dublin, Ireland in General, Literature, Writing | Tags: Dublin writers, Peter Sheridan
I used to take very long, solitary road trips when I lived in the States. I never minded being on my own or driving for days – it was a bit cathartic, really – except for one particular time, when I drove from Indianapolis to Baltimore and back for a friend’s wedding. Many calamities befell me on that trip, from having my car break down on the highway, to a bout of seasonal hay fever that drove me to insanity, to spending my 25th birthday alone, and on top of it all, a terrible aching for Frank. I was in a pretty miserable state of mind – he lived in Ireland, I lived in the USA, we’d been apart for five months, and there was no end in sight. I was feeling very sorry for myself, to say the least.
However, even in the dark moments of that trip, there were pinpricks of beautiful light, and one of the best was when I stumbled across a used book store in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was the kind of place that was packed end-to-end with stacks and shelves and piles of dusty books, into little rooms and closets, up a rickety staircase, and haphazardly thrown into some sort of organised chaos. Often in places like that, you don’t go looking for particular titles, because you’ll get lost and frustrated. Instead, you explore, and you let a book find you.
On that humid May afternoon, Mr. Peter Sheridan, and his memoir “44: Dublin Made Me” found me. The book ended up in my hand, then on the seat of my car, and all the way home to my bookshelf in Indianapolis. I didn’t actually read it until some time later, but I can truly say that it, and its author, left a permanent and growing imprint on my life, particularly since I set up housekeeping in Ireland. In the years after discovering this treasure, I’ve found Peter’s other books as well, and, funnily enough, mostly in used bookstores – “47 Roses,” “Big Fat Love” and “Break A Leg.” They’ve joined an elite pile of literature I am loath to part with – except for “Big Fat Love,” which was too good to keep to myself, so I had to share it with my best friend for her last birthday.
It goes without saying that, in the present climate, small business owners in Ireland deserve a standing ovation. It also follows, then, that people opening new businesses must either be bonkers or really passionate. Or both.
I’ve lost count of how many shops and restaurants in town have closed since Christmas. It doesn’t seem to hit one particular kind of institution, but is a disease that has finished candy shops, butchers, restaurants, dress shops (like my favourite, Rouge Boutique ), shoe stores, and even pound shops! For me, still a recent transplant, it’s been a little heartbreaking to see doors closing all over the place. I can’t imagine how it feels to the owners themselves, after all the time, money, and heart they’ve invested.
On a slightly separate note, it’s frustrating, as a consumer, to know where to eat, shop, etc. when your favourite places have gone under. When you’re on limited means, as we are, going out for a meal is a special treat, and we’ve been burned a few times this year going to cafes that presented us really low quality fare. That’s why I want to mention three really stellar Drogheda restaurants that have opened in the last 12 months or so – I have such respect for the chutzpah of their owners in their uphill battle to start something new when even the old can’t cut it. And I really really want these places to succeed.
Wm Cairnes & Son Gastropub, Tower Winebar & Grill, and Relish Cafe.
Yesterday was my son’s 1 month birthday! And Sunday was his due date. Confused? What a story, one I want to try and remember before I completely forget.
Though I had a pretty healthy pregnancy with few ill effects, sometime during the last week of February I caught a whopper of a cold. It did the rounds of our family and even knocked poor Evelyn out for a full week. Since I was pregnant, I could only take paracetamol, but I managed OK. I took a few days off work, then went back, then a few days more. Pretty soon I hadn’t been at work for over a week and my coughs were shaking me silly. Every day, Evey would come to the side of my bed and say, “Mommy, you not feel well?” And every day, I tearfully had to answer that no, I still did not feel well. My doctor prescribed me some penicillin for a respiratory infection, but nothing seemed to shake it. Then, on March 13th, I was feeling just the tiniest bit better. I even thought about getting dressed for work. And then the pains started.
This is going to sound ludicrous to many of you, but I really miss the fuss we Americans make over Valentine’s Day.
In Ireland, this holiday is barely worth a mention. Last year they ran a little piece in the local paper asking the locals what they thought of it and it was overwhelmingly dissed. Most people, it seems, view it as a cheeky “Hallmark Holiday,” a forced attempt by retailers to make people declare their love when they really should be doing that every day of the year.
I do not disagree with these comments, but I think I fortunately have a broader view of Valentine’s Day because it was so much fun celebrating it as a kid. What about parties with your friends and loads of little Valentine cards shared between you? What about the heart-shaped candies with the funny sentiments and the minty, chalky flavours? What about a little heart-shaped candy box covered in cheap satin next to your cereal bowl in the morning as a special surprise from your parents? What about an extra $5 and a hug from your grandma?
Life is full of disappointments, we are told.
Politicians can be disappointing. Governments can be disappointing. Heroes can be disappointing. Even movies, books, vacations or meals can be disappointing, especially if you’ve been anticipating them for a long time.
I think the worst disappointments, though, are the ones involving the people we love. It’s such a helpless, sad feeling – disappointment. It leaves you feeling deaf and mute, weak and blank and paralysed. It’s not even about you, really, but you somehow feel lost in a maze of someone else’s misfortunes.
I’m on one of these paths right now, and I have to say, I can’t figure it out. I keep moving forward because I have to, going to work, spending time with Frank and Evey, tidying the house, watching TV. But it’s always there, in my head, in my heart — this awful deep ache that I’m feeling for loved ones as they question everything they know.
Everything else seems so petty in comparison.
However, it is a small comfort to know that I can still bake a good batch of cookies (which I did tonight, and muffins, too). Listening to Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” on the radio is a gentle salve to my soul. I delight a bit to think of the snow we had earlier this week and I find solace in the steady, warm burn of the fire before me now. And I am again thankful for the friends I can write to or call, and the firm, solid presence of my husband and daughter sitting beside me. They say even petting a dog releases endorphins (for both you and the dog!), so Georgie is getting a lot of rubs this week.
I’m not trying to avoid my feelings. I just wish I could help. I wish I could make cookies and a fire for you. I wish you could stroke my dog’s silky coat. But for now, I’ll just say it again, even though you know it – I love you, and I’m sorry.
Filed under: America, Ireland in General, Weather | Tags: hot drinks, ice skating, rain, skiing, snow, snowboarding, winter
Many Irish folks I know are obsessed with the weather. Funny, perhaps, since the weather (in my view) doesn’t seem to change all that much around here. Rain, drizzle, downpour, bit of sun, drizzle, rain, drizzle, fog.
Still, I have conversations about it on a daily basis with the people around me. Seems they watch the forecast religiously, and quote their knowledge to friends and family on the streets. ”It’s meant to lash by Wednesday.” ”Ah sure, but they’re saying it’ll turn mild by the weekend.” ”Well it’s very warm today, so it is – the cheeks are flying off of me.”
And so forth.
The last few days have been full of horrendous weather, truly awful, miserable and bleak fare. The wind has blown terribly hard for days, bringing bucket-loads of rain and littering the town with a trail of broken umbrellas across every street and footpath. Last night, the wind was so bad, it even blew the pebbledash right off the side of our house.
I have to say, winters here are still strange to me. I’ll never quite get used to the lack of snow or the way the grass glows its most truly emerald hues between November and March. I love coming home to a roaring coal fire, but I miss the smell of burning pine. And, even after growing up in a sub-zero climate, I don’t think I will ever adapt to the bone-chilling dampness of a truly dark winter’s day in this part of the world. No amount of fire or tea or blankets or sweaters can make a difference when one of those chilly Dickensian days decides to hit. No wonder everyone here died of consumption a century ago, and no wonder people still struggle to fight off colds and flu now. No wonder we all count down the days until Spring!
Winter was quite the opposite in Montana, where I grew up. We couldn’t wait for winter to begin!
A haven for winter sports and piles upon piles of glistening snow, Bozeman, Montana, was a destination of sorts for many. Skiers and snowboarders started saying their prayers early that they’d be able to have their first run by Thanksgiving (late November) and, equally, hoped their last wouldn’t come until Easter.
I’ve loved snowy winters for as long as I can remember. Two of the public parks within walking distance of our house were flooded every winter so people could go ice skating for free. We took lessons sometimes, but mostly, we’d just walk down to the park on a whim, skates tied together by their laces and carried over a shoulder. We’d change in the warm-up hut, where the smell of wet wooly mittens and snow boots still lingers today. Mom might have sent us over with a thermos of hot cocoa, which would be safely stowed under a bench for later. We’d skate around and around until the arches of our feet hurt and our fingers were frozen.
Filed under: America, Arts and Crafts, Entertainment, Family, Food and Drink, Ireland in General, Literature, Music, Parenting
As ever, Christmas has gone by in a flash. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and before you know it we’ll all be back at work. For us, we’re enjoying the last few evenings spent by the fire with the tree still decorated, finishing off those last buttery cookies and smidge of Alaskan smoked salmon while starting to make our plans for 2013.
To be totally honest, I’m sort of glad the holidays are coming to a close. This year has been tough for us, and the last month even moreso. It will be nice to start with a clean slate. The baby kicking in my belly is a constant reminder that things are again about to change, and the 3 year-old running around my house half-naked (we’re potty training ) is evidence that nothing has stayed the same for long, anyway.
In honour of the changing times, here’s a little recap some of my favourite moments and successes of the last 12 months.