Thursday, July 24, 2008

Because if someone had done this to me last year, it would have made my day bright like a shiny, shiny star

I was out meandering with the kids last week. We'd just made it up past the first (of seven) castles and second (of Christ only knows how many) churches in the village when a woman hailed us from across the street. We waited, and she approached us with kids that looked much the same ages as Jonah and Lucas, although girl-flavoured. 

It turns out she'd bought the same pushchair as us (the Phil&Teds e-3, pop pickers) and had a question about folding it. Because I am an idiot, I got halfway to demonstrating how to manipulate the damn thing ("and then you twizzle the little knobs and ta-da! the seat hinges and collapses on top of the other seat") when I remembered that I had two small boys occupying said seat(s).  Brightest button in the box award going to me today, for sure. 

Anyway, during the course of the conversation it emerged that this woman and her family moved here 2 days ago from overseas. We said goodbye, I pointed in the vague direction of our house in case she had any future pushchair-related problems and sauntered off with the wee ones towards the greengrocer to irritate the Maeve-Binchy-novel-made-real ladies of the village as we jammed the behemoth that is the Phil&Teds into the ankle-width aisle. 

As we shopped, I was struck with a remembrance of last year, when we moved here from the US. We didn't know a soul, and Jonah and I were both quite quickly in urgent need of company beside each other. It rained the entire sodding summer, putting the kibosh on our "it's easier to move in summer because you get to meet people out and about" plan, and in fact most plans, really. I made an awful lot of horribly bold-feeling overtures to friendly-seeming mothers at library story times, playgrounds, and, yup, outside the greengrocer. 

Making friends as an adult is in no way less cringe-inducing and nerve-wracking than as a teenager, except you don't have the self-handicap of the bad fashion mistakes and the bubble perm. What spurred me on, what was worse than rejection, was the idea of spending the next god-knows-how-many years with no social contact. 

A year on, my  "I am new - please be my friend" neon sign has faded somewhat. Life is liable to be too busy these days rather than too quiet and a few of those cold-call type approaches have morphed, bit by bit, into solid, funny, cool, happy friendships.  Still, somewhere between the bananas and the grapes, it occurred to me way too late that I could have/should have given P&T Woman my number. Being the one always having to make the effort can be an exhausting part of a relocation and, God knows, a relocation is exhausting to begin with. But of course, at this point, she was nowhere in sight (and if she HAD popped out in between the Chiquitas and the White Seedless, I'd have thought she was an absolute nutter and second-guessed the number-giving, doubtless). 

We finished up our various errands (messages, as the Irish call them) and were trundling our way to the local indie coffee shop. Jonah, like the good Seattle-born kid he is, had requested a coffee stop and who am I to deny him? As we rounded the corner towards Mugs, we saw P&T Woman again. So we stopped, and, reminding myself that I was aiming for Friendly Neighbour mode rather than Random Stalker, I suggested that we swap numbers. 

There's no Hollywood ending to this. Neither she nor I called the next day, discovered that we had more in common than if we were identical twins separated at birth, and have spent every moment since exclaiming that we don't know how we got on in life without the other. This is one of those stories that doesn't round off neatly with a "and then they all lived happily ever after". But, y'know, that wasn't really the point anyway. I dunno, so many people have been genuinely, without prompting, just plain nice to us over the last few years (and the last few moves) that I couldn't see any harm in overcoming the Great English Reserve (bloody English, huh) and offering the contact. And it made me happy for a good while, too, so there's that. And that, my friends, will have to be enough. 

Monday, July 21, 2008

Not ready for the poker circuit just yet, then

Jonah: Mummy Mummy, Lucas sad!

Me: Is he, darling?

Jonah (nodding vigorously): Ya. It crying.

Me: Poor Lucas - what's up with him?

Jonah: I hit it. I push it ohh-ver.

Well, I suppose we want him to be honest...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Any minute now, I'll be complaining that the policemen look so young, and then I'll just totter off to Cliche Corner

We went up to Belfast last month to a ball* with Abs and Jamie. Abs and I have known each other pretty much half our lives at this point and reckon the last time we went to a ball together must have been back at college, in 1991**. As we were "admiring" our pouffy taffeta ballgowns and pouffy hair in the photos that Abs, inexplicably, hadn't burned, it occurred to us to ask the babysitter what age she would have been in 1991. 

"Oh, I wasn't born yet"

O-kay then. Next stop, demanding that the neighbour kids turn down that damn music...

* unlike the balls of our past, this one didn't, as our friend Ilona so succinctly put it, involve pints of vodka and random snogging of random blokes in random corners of marquees. 

** I feel obliged somehow to make the point that I haven't exactly been whooping
it up in marquees 
in between, either. 
Just in case you were suddenly imagining me with a rack of gowns. 
Yeah, right.
(what is it about the word "rack" that always makes me want to snigger?
Apparently I am actually a 14-year-old boy...))

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Knickers to it

Hmmm. Now the baby is sleeping "through the night" (as long as your definition of "night" means "until the first glimmer of dawn"), all excuses for avoiding exercise and counting chocolate as a core food group are officially void. Bugger. Continuing my personal quest to ensure that the soundtrack of my life is World's Cheesiest Songs, my current default tune is a line from Paul Simon's "You can call me Al" - 

"Why am I so soft in the middle when the rest of my life is so hard?"

Not that my life is hard, per se - it's just full. But hey.  

Anyway. I was beginning to bore myself with the excuses for not actually doing something about it, but somehow fitting in a run even twice a week just doesn't compute when you're a quarter of a family of four. Partly because I just really like hanging out with the boys, big and little, and am loathe to give up weekend time. And as a chronic insomniac, running in the evenings is pretty much out - it'd be like knocking back a triple espresso at midnight then wondering why I couldn't sleep.

 So I hit upon the idea of getting up at 6am every other morning (Dave and I alternate getting up with the kids and so this would be my "off" morning) and going for a run then. In theory this would make me instantly glamorous, fit, and chirpy. Actually, I suspect I'd need a frontal lobotomy and a total personality transplant to become instantly glamorous, but I probably need those anyway for contemplating sunrise runs. 

In practice, here's how it played out:

Day 1, 6am: Dave and I wake up after a (for us) colossal 8-hour sleep to the gentle chirruping of the boys in their respective bedrooms. Grin, yawn, cuddle. I remember I've left my running gear in Lucas' room and clearly it would be a heinous crime to disturb him. Run foiled.

Day 2, 5:45am: Lucas wakes us up burbling to himself. I leap out of bed and selflessly (hmm) offer to get up with him so that Dave (who has been doing morning wake-ups for 8 months at this stage whilst I did nights) can sleep in. What this actually means for me is that I can snuggle with a dozy baby rather than having to face any exercise, but still feel virtuous about it. Yay. 

I had a blinding realisation halfway through the morning that thinking about going running wasn't actually the same as having gone running.  Genius, that's me. The rest of my life is not actually so hard, but my middle? Still soft.  
However, there's a solution: Support knickers.

Sexy, huh? And do you know just how much of a cliche you feel running into Marks and Sparks after work to buy control knickers before legging it to nursery to collect your two small children? Ooh, that would be a HUGE one. 

The control knickers worked like a Walk of Shame, though - the very sight of them was enough to make me determined to bloody run already lest I have to wear the damn things. So...

Day 3: 5:45am: Lucas awakens. The baby monitor springs into life, as does Dave. I lie in a pleasantly dazed state until BAM, into my head pops the picture of the evil support knickers. Enough! cries my conscience. Alright, alright. I'm getting up, just stop threatening me with those monstrosities. 

So I stumble into my running gear and fall out of the door. And once I'm out, it's fab. Well, the run itself wasn't exactly my finest moment in a pair of trainers. 
I was wheezing like a charlady on 80 a day, 

my boobs were giving me two black eyes, and the whole circuit was an exercise in internal plea bargaining ("run just five more minutes and you can eat all of Jonah's Maltesers for breakfast").

But - and here's the thing, and this is what I remembered from running and what will get me back out the door when the threat of the Support Knickers fades. It was just so cool to be out there in the waking-up day. Barely anyone else about, save a few other early-morning masochists and their dogs. And the run took me past the Martello Tower that serves as a James Joyce museum:

and along the coast. The sun was just rising. The ships were leaving Dublin and heading off to new lands (well, pretty well-known lands, but bear with me).  The day just seemed full of possibility. 

And then I arrived back home and found Dave and the little boys all cosied up on the sofa with their milks and "cuppateas", as Jonah calls it. Gorgeous. So even if it's a heinous idea tomorrow, I'm going to remember the good points and get back out there. Support knickers, I may avoid you yet.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Nun better

After secular Seattle, it's funny being in a culture where religion is so all-pervasive. Sometimes, too, it seeps through in ways that crack me up. Like this, on a radio phone-in:

Local Dublin kid, praising a nun for free tuition ("grinds") which got her through her exams:

"Big up Sister Margaret - she's a bleedin' hero"

Somewhere out there there has to be a nun giggling into her habit...