Monday, January 25, 2010

The devil may wear Prada, but the vicar wears a Leinster shirt

The vicar called round unexpectedly last Thursday afternoon. The vicar was never going to call round expectedly to this house, since we're not in the habit of expecting vicars here. And anyway, in uber-Catholic Ireland, a protestant minister at the door is only slightly less unlikely than a vampire at the door (and that's only because we all know vampires come in through the windows. D'oh).

Anyway, imagine the scene. The vicar rings the doorbell. A man answers the door.

"Is this the Franklin household?" asks the vicar.

"Yes", says the man, clearly at home here. "I'm not a Franklin, though. Sarah's upstairs showering"

Sarah (why yes, I am in third person this evening; does my bum look big in it?) isn't quite in the shower yet, so she belts down the stairs to see who's in the hallway. She is dishevelled (OK, even more than usual) and panting, her hair plastered becomingly to her cheeks with a winning mixture of sweat and rain.

(I'd been out running, OK? And our neighbour friend was watching the kids as part of our weekly swap. Honestly).

"Hello, vicar," she says, trying to look as if this sort of thing happens every day.

" ..... "

This would be the point where a normal person would offer the vicar a cup of tea and a selection of nice homemade biscuits, but we don't need to tell you that that didn't happen, do we? Nah, thought not.


So yeah, the vicar is sitting in our rocking chair, cup-of-tea-less, chatting brightly with me as he, essentially, vetted our godliness in order to assess whether or not to award Jonah a place in the local school. The kids, all three of them (Jonah's BFF Finn was here too) kept barreling in to see the exciting new person in the front room. Lucas, who at 2 is a mixture of Cartman and Father Jack , was particularly taken by this new audience to admire his sofa-diving technique.

After I'd rescued Lucas from his third landing (upside down jammed behind the baking hot radiator) whilst simultaneously trying to focus on nodding in a suitably pious-looking manner, I suggested to Lucas that he go and read a book with Jonah, Finn, and the longsuffering neighbour friend.

Lucas had a better idea. He disappeared for a couple of moments. We heard some middle-distance thuds, as if blunt objects were falling off high shelves. (They were). Then he reappeared, triumphant, bearing his bodyweight in Hairy McClary and I Love You, Little Monkey tomes.

"Mama read book me" he beamed.

"Yes, darling. I'll read to you after I've finished talking to the nice man"

Lucas didn't hesitate (maybe I'm selling him short in that description above. He has a decent whack of Jason Bourne in there too).

"NO!" he corrected me, dropping the books and whipping, ninja-like, to the vicar's side. "BAD man!" And then, should the vicar be in any doubt as to the toddler's opinion, he whirled his leg back and kicked him as viciously as he could manage.

We're all going straight to hell.


There was one tiny, beautifully ironic, redeeming part of the whole visit. Jonah happened to be wearing his Irish rugby top (for matters of laundry rather than team affiliation). The vicar, delighted, confided to me that he was going to be missing church on Sunday because he was off to Twickenham to watch his team, Leinster, play London Irish. So Jonah and the deliquent vicar bonded over rugby. One soul, at least, may be saved.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Radio Gaga

I had a post in my head which requires wrestling to the ground in the right words to be remotely worth telling, but I'm too keen to go and watch Gavin and Stacey (can't link to it yet for fear of giving away the ending to myself, but it's glorious). So whilst I'm off adoring the Welsh, here are my three favourite moments from Irish radio, or, more specifically, from RTE Radio 1 (which is the equivalent of NPR or BBC Radio 4 for those of you playing along at home):

1. The interview with the medium who helped the police with their inquiries. The medium was pretty average as these things go: full of beautifully vague claims such as, "I'm sensing a your past" (y'think?). She was neither aided nor remotely abetted by the presenter: when, aiming to set a mystic mood over the airwaves, she asked him, "Doesn't it feel colder in the studio suddenly? That must be a presence from The Other Side". The presenter entirely missed the cue and said, "No, but I'm wearing one extra sweater than you".
The reason I love this one so much, though, is in the first line. Here it is again, slowly:


Do what now? I have spent many an hour pondering how this would work, but that's another post for another day.

2. The 15-minute segment on Morning Ireland, the flagship morning show, about the possibility of Ireland's motorways being finished in the next two years and the form the resulting service stations (rest stops) might take. Presumably somewhere else in the world, something was actually happening (oh, you know; international financial collapse; humanitarian crises; Obama's election). All that could wait, however. Now was the time for a lengthy discussion of hypothetical service stations on a hypothetical motorway. Several experts were called upon to give florid descriptions of rest stops they'd known and loved elsewhere in the world. Sadly, they they missed the opportunity to call in the medium for an estimated completion date).

3. The breathless (and endless) coverage of the National Ploughing Championships. I feel like I must have talked about these before, because they're just so glorious. The coverage is broadcast with much the same awed anticipation as the Oscars, and you get to hear from such stars as the breeder of last year's Finest Filly. A bit like talking to Keira Knightley's mum, but with more of a brogue and discussion of fattening up.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Road trips, snow, and Kurt Cobain

All this snow has got me thinking about Kurt Cobain again.

Back in the misty days of 2003, Dave and I took a road trip to Santa Barbara to meet up with my favourite cousin and his family. Andrew had promised to come and see us in the US when we moved to Seattle, and true to his word (as he always is), he did. Trouble is, Andrew and I have both inherited our clan's optimistic streak, so he flew into LA, since Seattle seemed "a bit rainy", and I was sure that it'd be no trouble to meet them "somewhere in the middle". Yeah, right. A 2,500 mile round-trip "middle"

Anyway, it was worth it to see the Forest contingent, even if we only had two nights with them before turning round to head the 3 days back. We stopped off to celebrate New Year's Eve in a hot tub in wine country before banging up the I5 motorway all the way home (note to self: I5 or motorway? Pick one). Well, that was the theory.

Because we were total newbies, in the US only eight months, we hadn't paid any attention to the sporadic radio reports warning of "heavy snow" on the border between California and Oregon. We were in an all-wheel drive SUV (hey, this was America) and travelling on the motorway. What possible concern could we have?

Um, yeah. That's right, we're idiots. We got snowed off the road not once, but twice. The first time was just before the mountain pass in the incredibly inaptly-named Yreka (or maybe that's the point: it really ISN'T a Eureka moment, it's a Why?reka moment). At this point, I was still caught up in the romance of the road trip (you'd have thought 1,500 miles in a car would've solved this particular sentimental nonsense, pero no). "Hooray" I thought (and maybe even said, at which point Dave should have just pushed me into the nearest snow drift and legged it). "We can do the proper road trip thing & eat nasty take-out in a dodgy motel".

We were on our way the next morning, my ThingsToDoInAmerica list one item shorter, and despite the quickly-acquired snow chains battering the living crap out of the car, we made it through the mountain. In a blizzard. At 30 miles an hour. With nothing in sight (not even other cars; Christ knows where they went). In reality, I don't think it was *actually* dangerous, bar our extreme stupidity. We had no spare blankets, no flares, no *spade*; our Seattle-area mobile phones didn't get coverage in that region; we had nothing, really, to help us out of a problem. We did, however, have our bodyweight in books and some Ghiradelli chocolate, so I suppose we'd have been well-fed and well-read, if moronic.

Later that day, we came off the road at a freeway onramp in our haste to leave a rest stop manned by over-excited Christians (burgers and bibles. Another thing off my list, then). We stood there examining our car, listing in the snow with a burst tyre, and decided that the only thing to do was to convince the Christians that God's Will was to mend our car. Fortunately they were quite sturdy Christians, appropriately dressed in snow gear (did we have our snow gear in the car, despite having gone snowboarding a week previously? Did we bollocks) and got us on the road in good time. We were a bit late for the next stop, but no matter - we'd just do a big day the next day and get home already.

Except, no! Driving merrily through a picturesque bit of lower Washington state, Oregon gladly behind us at this point (no offence Oregon), bam - more blizzards. Let me tell you, snow falling on cedars might make for an evocative book title but it's a bastard to drive in. These were little forest roads with no sign of either gritters or Christians, so there was nothing for it but to stay in the nearest town, the call-it-like-you-see-it South Bend (and yes, there's a North Bend. Dunno about East or West though).

By this stage the whole quaintness of motels and Friends reruns was wearing a bit thin. We made it out the next day by the judicious move of following the gritter through the forest, and followed the road to the most depressing small town we'd seen yet, which was saying something. And then we saw the sign for it. Aberdeen. The hometown, as anyone living in Seattle is civically required to know, to Kurt Cobain.

"Jesus" said Dave, who'd been pretty stoic until then. "No wonder the poor bastard topped himself.

Anyway, any time we see decent snow here, I think of our first, idiotic road trip, and Kurt Cobain. I'm sure he'd be horrified to be linked with snowballs and mayhem, but he'd certainly get why being snowed into South Bend was such a hideous prospect.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Next she'll have her own YouTube channel

Comments from my 82-year-old grandmother:

"Sarah, are you on Facebook? Because C (cousin living abroad) has just been in touch with J (cousin living elsewhere abroad) about meeting up next year and they want to know when you're home."

(to my techie husband): "oh good, I've been waiting for you. I need you to set up my DS. I got playing DS at Christmas and so I went online and found one for myself."


The Christmas season was great to us this year. I hesitate to post such a straightforwardly pleased sentence because I fear what Dan Savage calls the "irony graph". If I'm happy about something, something awful will happen to counterbalance it. "Just as Sarah was praising herself for a wonderful Christmas, the Santa decoration fell from the chimney and crushed her to death". That kind of thing.

Still, it was all kinds of fun. Small children, large gifts, far more wine than whining and belly laughs as well as laughably full bellies. And one of my favourite memories is my Nan, arriving for supper with her pink DS carefully packed in a ziploc bag, harrassing Dave to set it up so that she could beat the crap out of us all at Brain Training. Here's hoping I've got those genes...