Monthly Archives: November 2015

A windy day

We have a thinking mat at the front door, you might call it a metaphoric thinking mat since it was left outside the door recently and now it belongs to the dogs. On that thinking mat, you have to think of what you might need running out the door for the day ahead. It came about as I worried the children would inherit their mothers’ talent for misplacing things namingly, keys, wallet, glasses, hat. It is also a vain attempt to organize three young boys getting out the door in the morning.

Right, out the door, onto the thinking mat. Do you have lunch boxes, lunch bags, drinks, hats, coats? Yes, Mum. Right, straight into the car.

Opening the door you have to stand back this time of the year as in through the door comes a storm that has been building from somewhere mid Atlantic and blows full force in our front door. Windy you say? Grab the baby. We pay in Winter here in North Kerry for the summer’s day by the beach. In full.

On such a day, I carry or sometimes push each boy to the car. Go on, run. Tie yourself in. You too, go on, run. You can tie yourself in. Where’s your hat? Oh for Gods sake, what about the thinking mat? And where’s your lunch box, tie the baby in. Close the door, you’ll freeze. Hurry up and sit back so that I can tie you in, I’m catching my death here. Ok, tie yourself in and I’ll get the hat and what else? Oh yeah, lunchbox. Did you not brush your teeth? Didn’t I tell you to brush your teeth? Go on upstairs and brush them. You want a tissue? Code orange storm warning people. Okay, get in so and tie your belt and his. Zip up your jacket. Use your hanky. Where did you leave it? What will these boys come to if they can’t put a hat on their heads. Don’t have the time to worry about that now.

Right, Off we go? Whose bike is that in the drive? Didn’t I tell ye to park your bikes last night. I’ll go. At this point, there might be a little rain dance outside the car as the mother of the house ‘says a few prayers’. Calm restored, are ye all tied in? Ok so. Off we go. A rainy, windy, miserable day in a farmhouse in North Kerry. Thinking mat how are ya!



Still life

But for the humming of the fridge and the odd bellow outside, there is silence. The older boys are in school, the younger in a soft sleep. Through the window, winter gets on with it’s resting as grass slows down in growth and the fields take on a lighter green and in places yellow in it’s sleeping state. The tractor is parked, the parlour is empty, the cows are chewing on the mornings’ feed.

There is silence but for the humming fridge and the fingers tapping on the keyboard. At some point, the mind will up and at ’em at the washing up and the washing machine, the thoughts of lunch and dinner. For now, there is absolute quiet in the world. No ‘what happened?’ or ‘what will happen next?’, not for me the witty share in social media. Just this quiet, still moment painting the day clear.

From this place of quiet, there is less ambiguity. There is just good and bad. None of it in my control or yours I’m afraid.  I’ll be up soon and see the gate that was not painted, the Christmas list unfilled, the cupboard that needs cleaning, the little child that needs playing with. But I’m so happy to be here for this window of calm that colours the world lighter pastels for now. A door bangs, I hear the clock and stretch the creaky winter bones, glad of my rest with the winter day that lends me its quiet.


In an old Parisian zoo

We walked to a local market with our two young children in buggies. We were visiting the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris and needed a picnic. Knowing I wasn’t going to bring young boys into Parisian restaurants, I came prepared; plastic cups, cheese knife, napkins, healthy appetites. The Boulangerie along the way provided our breads and dessert. The market filling our picnic basket with a cake that was also cheese (but not a cheesecake) and fruit. I spied a delicatessen and left my farmer, or Dan as he is known off the farm, in the shade with the buggies to buy some cold meats.

In the tiny charcuterie, no bigger than a newsstand, locals were filing in to buy lunch. With two slices of pork terrine en croûte and some delicious cold meats, I saw the little shelf where the obligatory bottles of lunchtime red wines were held. Now I love my local butchers but he doesn’t sell wine, only in Paris I thought and it would be rude not to partake in the local customs, I placed the gorgeous bottle of red alongside my purchases. The owner seeing Dan with the two buggies in the shade, asked if we were picnicing. Then I’ll open the bottle for you he said. So matter of fact. So natural. So French.

We chased two little children around the oldest city zoo in the world, trying to catch butterflies in beautiful glasshouses and eventually settled ourselves down to our banquet fit for Marie Antoinette. It was August and we knew how to avoid the tourist trails, in years to come we thought, they would see the highlights. That day, they were young and hungry and blissfully unaware of the city around them. For their parents however, nothing was going to stop them enjoying their most favourite city, no tantrum or awkward buggy. The tastes, the pungent cheese, the baguette, the red wine, real grapes, we melted further into the day.

Later, as we walked ‘home’ along the Seine, we took full advantage of our afternoon nappers in their buggies and pulled into a cafe overlooking Notre Dame enjoying some coffee and crème brûlée.

We repeated that picnic under the Eiffel Tower and in the Jardin des Tuileries over our few days in Paris. Happily, we filled that holiday with nothing but family life, happy to be in Paris. I had learned years earlier, at nineteen, that Paris was more than a city and returned as often as my pockets would allow in the years to follow.  This morning, after these atrocities, I find it hard to describe what Paris is. I reach into my inkwell, seeking solace and know that Paris, to me, is just vitality, good living and truth. Values that I hoped on that sunny day in an old Parisian zoo, in the crust of their baguette, my sons would come to learn too.

Moi, je suis Paris et je suis tellement triste.

Enjoy them now

There’s always an older woman around when you need that crucial piece of advise. I’m sure I’m not being ageist or sexist when I say it, I assure you. Maybe it’s coincidence but I think not for there she is, the older lady with nuggets of wisdom to dispense at just the right moment. They are mothers, grandmothers who no doubt wait by phones for sons to call or wave grown up children off of a Sunday evening urging you to enjoy every second of your time with your young children. It is well meaning for that I have no doubt and comes from a place of empathy but happens within earshot of most young mothers normally at the end of their tether, far too frequently.  Allow me to illustrate.

Now, rest assured, the following incidents are purely fictional and thereby serving to illustrate my point. I mean at no point yesterday afternoon did I personally find myself at a local library with three young sons you understand. No, no son of mine was emptying the read-it-yourself shelves and upsetting the alphabetical order of things while his brother begged his mother to read another of the Mr Men series. Nor was I drawed upon, ahem, she drawed upon to find Wally at the same time. No, I’m sensible like that. No, this was an altogether different mother. All characters remember are fictional, all but the lady who appeared just when the poor mother at the library was about to throw a tantrum herself and pack three said boys into the people carrier, lo and behold, there from behind the cookbooks appeared the older lady like an appartition ‘Aw’, she said ‘enjoy them now, these years go by in a flash, You’ll miss them.’ The mother almost huddled in the corner trying to realphbetize a row of Horrid Henry‘s while simultaneously trying to hold a trying toddler, smiled and nodded, really appreciating that little nugget of wisdom. I’m sure it was the first time, even that day, she had heard it.

That same sorry mother an hour later in the supermarket encountered another angelic vision who might have popped out at her from the cereal aisle to whisper ‘oh, their problems only get bigger.’ as she cajoled her eldest along who had gotten his finger stuck in the trolley. Is that so? I better get home I thought, I mean she thought, before the third vision appeared telling her that she had her hands full and that indeed boys are a handful and then inevitably there would appear the ‘wouldn’t-it-be-worse-if-he-were-thrown-down-sick’ fairy who somehow finds the perfect time to deliver the most useful line with perfect timing. Is there nothing to be said for awkward silence anymore?

Then today, that same mother found herself watching her three boys tumbling down an outside slide in fits of giggles, watching them standing up in turn to blow her a kiss at the window where she watched on, knowing instinctively, that she will miss the days when they were young, full of fun, carefree and naughty. And funnily, no-one had to tell her that.