Like it or not, we humans are creatures of habit. We fall into routines and learn to find comfort in them. Although my circumstances have changed a few times since I moved to Ireland 3+ years ago, I’ve still been gently coaxed into the daily routines of my neighbours in Drogheda. It’s just a natural progression.
We’re not early risers, for the most part. We probably start the day around 9 with tea and toast, or an occasional “morning fry,” the scent of which drifts up the street to our envious neighbours. We get dressed, might put a wash on or hang one out on the line. Tidy the kitchen and sitting room. Church bells outside signal 11 am Mass, so it’s time to get a move on.
Once we collect our purses, grocery bags, and (of course) umbrellas, we head out to get the messages. We stop to chat to people on our way – almost always about the weather, which has been dreadful this summer – and we take our time. The brisk push back uphill with our groceries awaits us later.
I’ve joined a fiercely loyal bunch – we find a butcher or grocer or fishmonger or baker we like, and we don’t stray much, even to look for better prices. We know what we like and we stick with it. I admire that kind of consistency – it’s not something I did much back in America. Even when Frank and I are in Dublin, we tend to return to the same haunts for coffee, lunch, or dinner.
Somewhere along the way, we stop for a coffee or tea, and usually some kind of light snack – a scone, a fruit bun, toast, a muffin. It’s not uncommon to order a big piece of cake in lieu of lunch. This is not take-away – we sit down, even if we’re by ourselves, and we take a proper moment to enjoy our break. But we’re usually not alone – at least I’m not – and it’s second nature to bring kids into cafes with you. I love that I can share coffee dates with Evelyn so freely around the town, and I think she looks forward to them, too. The cafe culture here is nearly a basic need – it’s not really considered an extravagance, but an essential moment in normal people’s daily lives. The prices, luckily, reflect this.
Once we’ve gotten the necessities and wandered as much as we can, we head up the hill towards home. Those of us pushing strollers or buggies loaded down with canned goods, milk, and small children, might be bent over in a right angle to make it there in one go.
Most people here have their evening meal, or Tea, ready for about 5:30 p.m., although I still drag it out until 6:30 most nights. It’s probably stew, sausages and mash, Shepherd’s Pie, fish ‘n’ chips, bacon and cabbage, something of that nature. Dishes done, we put the kettle on again and take a cuppa and a biscuit into the sitting room for an evening of telly or reading. On weekends we might go out for a pint. It starts to get dark now around 10 – 11 pm, and we head up to bed. Tomorrow, we start it all over again. Run the same errands, see the same people, walk the same paths – only the clothes on our backs and the packages in our arms deviate.
It’s a nice change from the go-go-go lifestyle I led back in the States, though I do still get antsy from time to time, wishing I was back in a career or “making something” of my life. Yet, if I really look at myself these days, I’m calmer, happier, maybe seeing things I never noticed before. Maybe I’m finding out more about the Me I never knew before.
I know I might not ever fit in completely with Irish culture, but I like to snatch up pieces of it as I go, and be thankful for the lessons. One thing is for sure – jumping into the middle of an Irish routine has made me literally stop and smell the roses. And today, the air was full of them.