The Big Smoke

I love a city break. Hold your horses, nothing that exciting. A twelve hour trip to my native home by the Lee, Cork. Home where my mammy minds the boys for a while as I run on borrowed time to do all things city in a supermarket sweep style of events. On yesterday’s sweep, I had willed the stylist to hurry up while she blow-dried the head, hair by hair. Are you going anywhere nice? Yes, the shops.

Keep in mind, that a trip to the shops in Kerry requires a half an hour round trip at the very least with small children. So the Big Smoke shopping sweep frenzy starts and as it’s an impromptu visit, little thought has been put into what needs to be purchased. There’s been a ‘Get something nice for yourself!’ salute from base camp and it sounds like a challenge.

Running through the shops, I see the items that would make my weekly existence easier. I wouldn’t have to run to the local shop for a card if I bought these birthday cards in bulk. In they go. Ah, vests, they need vests, in they go. He needs milking overalls, ah, in they go. Something nice, something nice, something nice.

Eventually, I stand stupefied in front of a beauty counter as an assistant who can smell a good unmoisturised-un-make-uped thing coming from a mile off, slinks over to me, grinning. How are you today she says in a way that is so kind, I almost believe her. I’m good, I’m good, I gush. This is followed by a two minute almost unhinged explanation of why I look as I do, unpolished, weary looking, not very clear skinned. I might also be wearing the day before’s mascara, not a good look. The speech was fresh in my mind and only needed a few minor adjustments from the soliloquy I had delivered to the hair stylist earlier. Small boys, farm, springtime, tear away at the knots, teething baby. You know yourself. Cringe.

Oh, I understand, she says though the lack of bags under her eyes say differently.  That or the stuff she’s pedaling really works! Do I need a concealer she asks? Concealer, concealer, sounds like I could hide something? Concealer, gone, cannot remember what it does. I know it’s hard to fathom, but as I was trying to remember what it was, shopping items were popping into my head. Nice olive oil from the market, that would be nice, a shirt for himself, Easter decorations. Oh yes, concealer, that I’m sure would be necessary. Do you need anything else? A sit down, a glass of champagne, a good nights sleep? In the way of beauty? That would be where the good nights sleep would come in handy. We’re short on humour today; there is a queue forming. City people aren’t big on small talk I find.

So, I take out the card as the lady wraps my concealer or miracle maker as she likes to call it and I remember, I’m under time pressure. No need for the bag, oh it’s going in a bag, or the tissue, it’s being wrapped in tissue. I look around to see if there is anything else I could buy here as she asks for my loyalty card. It would be loyal if you hurried up. Laid back all of a sudden these city folks. Not on my timecard lady. Free samples, yeah, yeah, yeah, fire them in. I hand her my card and oh, she says, the till roll is gone, I’ll have to call a manager.

Nooooooooooooo. Not the till roll. Ok, I’m in a rush, I blurt, mortified but on the verge of tears. I know it sounds sad, but I love my city, I really want to run to the market and go to my favourite cafe and watch the passers by but that’s not a luxury time wise that is afforded to me today. Can I shop while the manager fixes the till? But your card is inserted? You’re a meany lady, I think, and you wear too much makeup I seethe. Bitter, bitter, bitter, not very nice at all. You can take the girl of the city…

Two new till rolls later, I’m sent on my way, a little bit defeated until I feel the fresh air on my face outside. I hear the familiar sing-song of my native Corkonians, know the promise of the carpeted book shop that I love to thread upon and settle down a bit. A nice cake from the market for the farmer, some Easter decorations to adorn the kitchen, coffee beans for the mommy of the house. Oh flowers, yes, flowers, I hope they survive the journey home. Little luxuries from the Big Smoke that we can’t find easily within reach at home.

I leave my native streets reluctantly, especially all those lovely shops, coffee houses, market, familiar enough faces. They’re as hard to leave as my parents and sisters.

I’m home today in the country, decorating the kitchen with the bounty from my speedy shopping sweep, sipping my posh city coffee, hidden for a while under one very fancy concealer. Little messages sent from the Big Smoke to the Little. I’ll take it.

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