(Written last week. I am too traumatised by the trip home to come up with a new post.)
Yes yes yes, I know. It has been WEEKS. Sorry. One word: December. December is
hideous manic, is it not? Especially if you have small, wild children,
who break up from school on the ELEVENTH OF DECEMBER. (Technically it was the 12th,
however that “school day” comprised my taking them to the church for their
nativity thingy, sitting there trying not to nod off (the Baby has been
sick; also, these things are always
about 45 minutes too long), then scooping them home again in time for
Elevenses.) AND you also have not one, but THREE work projects to get done, are
spending a week in Ireland for Christmas, and then, on your return, have 10
days to pack up your life – and that of four others’. (Added to this, every so often I am hit with
the fact that the small wild things will not start in their new school until the
27th of January, which means – OhGodAlmighty – I have them UNDERMYFEET
for... well, you do the math. It is my
own personal Evil Cradling.)
Anyway. It is Christmas. Joy! We are in Ireland, which is just the best place in the world. (Apart from the weather. And the days that flicker into light at 9am, then flicker off again at about 230pm.) It was not, alas, the best place to get to, as the wind and lashing sleet which are thrashing the country are also thrashing the surrounding seas with venom. Our ferry was cancelled – the nice fast one, which would have had us here in time for
tea and soda bread lunch – and we
were packed into the big, slow behemoth, which got us here in time for late tea
and soda bread dinner. It was fairly
awful (the ship, not the dinner) slick with sick (mainly, I suspect, regurgitated
tea and soda-bread), in which – ohGod – people were slipping. We shall talk no
more of it (and pray that the winds die down by Friday*).
I had a list of Good and Bad things that have been happening, but they’ve gone from my head. Everything is going from my head these days. I suspect something malevolent – early-onset-Alzheimer’s perhaps? – but as a friend told me, while that is possible, it is perhaps more likely that I’ve just had alot on my plate (c.f. first para above). Whatever it is, it is responsible for crunching the car THREE TIMES in the past couple of weeks. Which is three times more than it has ever been crunched before. And one week before we are due to sell it. So that’s nice. (Note to anyone planning on telling their spouses that they have just reversed into a large, obvious pillar: don’t do it a few minutes after you have been joking about you crashing the car again. Because there is little more draining than having to persuade someone that you HAVE CRASHED THE FUCKING CAR THIS IS NOT A JOKE).
The good things have been this:
Home-made mince-pie filling! (Home-made by me, in case you’re wondering. (I could not possibly be expected to make mince-pie pilling and wipe down the surface)). As I was stirring in the half litre of brandy I had a cocktail epiphany, threw in some Cointreau and lemon juice also, and ta-da! The world’s first SIDECAR MINCEPIE! Is it a cocktail or is it a ridiculous English / Irish Christmas edible? Who knows. It is GOOD however. (I will get my STAFF to post a recipe in time next year.)
Even better than boozey one-bite pies is this:
My baby sister’s baby! (Very little as strange as one’s baby sibling having a baby themselves. She is only 9 years’ old for heaven’s sakes.) So teeny that you could in fact wrap him in a teeny square of pastry and mistake him for a teeny tiny pie. He is DIVINE. (Even if my sister’s description of the birth has scarred me (as well as her – literally) for life.) Actually, when I say “baby”, I mean “kitten”: he sleeps curled up in a ball, then stretches out, meows, and laps up some milk. Then back to sleep, occasionally licking his (very large) hands. Every time I look at him I feel things which I must assume are maternal stirrings – is that what all you people have been on about all these years? Ah. I get it now.
Speaking of which, my own offspring have been particularly feral since we got here. (I blame the fresh air and the tea and soda bread). I brought them for a run around a local shopping centre on Saturday (honestly, the weather is so dire that this is what I’ve come to. Mind you, in a few weeks the weather will no doubt have us spending all of our time in shopping malls (well, them plus the STAFF. I will be sipping gin by the pool)). While I was trying to steady wobbling mannequins and fork out for stolen sweets, I spied a Santa’s Grotto. Better still, I spied the word “Free” outside of the Santa’s Grotto, and only two other people - a mother and sweet little daughter - waiting outside. So I herded them over, and we all stood waiting in the lashing rain (it was in the uncovered part of the centre – clever, no?) After 7 seconds of this they got bored and started to bang on Santa’s window – who knew Santa’s elf-helper could get so cross? – so I sent them to play WHERE I CAN SEE YOU. Unfortunately the only sheltered part in my line of vision comprised a trolley-escalator thingy – basically a slanted conveyer belt – and so they amused themselves ENORMOUSLY by running up and down this thing notwithstanding the constant stream of trolley-traffic, and old people with zimmer-frames, and angry security guards.
Santa, meanwhile, was taking his sweet time in the grotto, so I was just standing there, behind the woman and little girl, who looked beautiful in her fancy coat and matching hat, musing on how different my life would be if I had well-behaved children, when suddenly an older woman appeared by my side.
“Beautiful girl you have there” she said.
I looked over to where my wildlings were lying, facedown and helpless with laughter, on the moving escalator.
“Gorgeous little coat, ah the little dote.”
This is the thing I love most about being in Ireland. People will come and talk to you about anything, in any situation. It is why we generally think the English are stand-offish. Because YOU’RE NOT BONKERS.
“Ah! Right. Actually, she’s not mine. I own those itinerants over there” – I nodded towards the bottom of the escalator where a mild altercation was taking place between the kids (on a heap on the ground) and a security guard (upright). The Boy was arguing his position and – it seemed – winning. She looked over and looked a bit... shocked, but quickly composed herself.
“Oh! Good for ye. Is it a charity thing?”
“Aren’t ye very good to be looking after itinerant children. Can I give ye some money?”
“Um...” She actually thought they were actually tinkers. OhGod.
“No, it’s fine. Thanks.”
“Well God bless you and have a happy Christmas. “
From her (mad) mouth, to all of your ears.
(*UPDATE: They did not die down. In fact they escalated, enormously. More about that, and the other traumas, anon.)