Friday, October 30, 2009


When you're drunk you're 'locked'. And when you go out 'on the piss' you're having a 'session'.

Wednesday night I was all of the above. It started out very innocently with a grown-up dinner at 8. A reasonable few glasses of wine sipped with the 3 course meal of mushroom and leek soup and sea bass with tomato salsa followed by Toblerone cheesecake. See, grown-up. Something happened to me between the cheesecake and the bill. A session switch clicked in my head and I was on my second wind.

We stayed in the restaurant until they asked us to go downstairs to the pub. We stayed in the pub until they asked us to go outside to the late night bar. And we stayed there until they turned on all the lights and they asked us to go home.

I have always wondered where the expression locked comes from and I think I've gotten to the bottom of it. We used to have lock-ins at the skating rink where we would stay all night skating and playing games like who can make the best mummy with a roll of toilet paper. And the church youth groups have lock-ins to raise money for charities or church trips. A very different kettle of fish.

When we were in the pub portion of our evening they locked the front doors. This was common practice back in the days when pubs were mostly for men and rules were easily bent. The doors were locked, the few remaining regulars ensconced inside drinking the early morning hours away. Locked.

To leave the pub we had to follow a circuitous path behind some men of a certain age through a tiny Alice in Wonderland door and into the makeshift outdoor bar. This area is usually part of the restaurant but there must be some elastic regulation regarding where people can drink until late (or early) so they've industriously come up with a plan. So really it's the opposite of a lock-in now.

One more expression solved. I am getting such an education. You're welcome.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Autumn is my favorite season in Ireland. You'd think that I would prefer the sunnier, longer days of summer but I just feel disappointed when it isn't as warm as 30+ years of Texas summers taught me it should be.

In the autumn it is windy and fresh and you can smell peat burning in fireplaces….a smell that is Ireland's own in its earthy smokiness. The leaves change and are blown off the trees in showers of yellow and wine by sudden gusts of fresh wind. Walking to school this past week we were pelted by nearly an entire tree's worth of leaves.

The wind makes everyone giddy, especially the kids. You can feel their energy go haywire as the wind whips them into a gleeful frenzy. Hair blows around heads in crazy swirls, eyes water and noses run, and giggles and screams compete with the whipping wind. It is a terrific feeling. I imagine they feel as though they could jump into a gust and fly to school. Or maybe that's just how I feel!

One of the strangest things about living so far above the equator is the huge variance in length of days. In spring and summer the days get gradually longer, peaking to more than 20 hours of sun on the summer solstice. The nights don't get fully pitch black until after 2am and the dawn begins to break by 5 in the morning. Of course it isn't full on bright sun at midnight, but it is twilight bright. When my stepdad Joe visited one summer he joked that he was getting a 2 for 1 vacation because the days lasted so long.

There are two sides to every story and this sunlight thing isn't an exception. As you would imagine fall and winter are on the opposite end of the sunlight spectrum. It starts gradually. The night starts to come sooner and before you know it what was a 7 o'clock dusk has become 5 o'clock. Then the time changes and it is dusk at four. Paul is always amazed at how low in the sky the sun is at its noontime peak. We went to Seattle once in October and were freaked out by this same thing never thinking that we would move here and come to love these early nights.

I love early darkness because it forces us to slow down and come inside. We have a proper sit down dinner together with the slow chat that's not possible in fast-paced summer when the kids are on the road riding bikes until after 7. I make things that take all day to cook but only a half hour to prepare and we drink red wine or Guinness and indulge in brown bread and proper butter. You cannot drink Guinness when it's warm outside, (warm being relative of course) unless you're on holiday and have been caught in a sudden shower and forced into the nearest pub.

Here I sit, warm in my fleece pullover and fuzzy socks, watching the wind bend the trees, and looking forward to a night in with the curtains drawn, all of us cozied up together.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The King

Elvis is alive and well. I pass him every morning on my way home from the school run. It's old Elvis and he spends the day at the coffee shop on the Main Street, smoking. He has lamb chop sideburns and wears big, gold, dark-tinted sunglasses. 

I'm sure his nights are spent sweating through sparklebilly jumpsuits and crooning his heart out. I have no idea where he performs but I'd love to know. He seems nice enough and offers up a grunty greeting as we pass one another. 

Sinead O'Connor used to live here and you'd see her playing with her kids in the park. She never spoke and seemed terribly shy. She moved because 'Bray is full of weirdos'.
Bono lived in the Martello tower. A true tower built in 1800s to protect the then British empire. A line of them were built along the Eastern coast of Ireland and Western coast of England and Wales. Some of them are still tourist attractions, others are privately owned and have been renovated into residences. He even wrote a song about Bray's promenade. He lives north of here now but you can still spot him in the local pub, always wearing his signature sunglasses. 

Booker prize winner, Anne Enright lives near the park. She is known for updating her kitchen with the winnings her book, The Gathering, earned her. 

And Jonathan Rhys-Myers was made to stay here during the filming of this last installment of The Tudors so he'd be close to the studio and allegedly not get into any trouble. I wonder if he ever spent an evening at The Koo, a dance club where propositions are very direct and to the point. 

Back to Elvis. He's the real celebrity here. He is out among the regular folk, walking around, saying hello, patronizing local business and spending his evenings entertaining.

Should I offer him a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich?

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Going through Passport Control at Dublin airport Tuesday night I headed to the Non-EU passports line with my blue US passport and my Garda identity card open and ready for stamps and viewing. The immigration officer on duty was smiling and chatty (they usually are which is nice) and asked how was my trip. "I'm glad to be home" was my immediate response. It took me by surprise because when I'm in Ireland I always think of Texas as 'home'.

It's strange to straddle home and away…one leg in Ireland and the other stretched way across the Atlantic and most of the States. It can make you feel unmoored and wonder, where is home really? It is also liberating. Being far away from what you are to others allows you to find out who you are for yourself.

Homesickness usually happens around holidays or when someone is sick or when you feel like an outsider all of a sudden. But worse than that is when you wonder if you even want to go back. I was thumbing through a magazine this week that highlighted Austin and felt weird when I realized that I didn't know either of the places mentioned. Now I'm an outsider in my own town.

You can miss a place, a restaurant, a town; but those things are transient. Seeing Abby and Kristin gave me a shot of happiness and reminded me that distance doesn't matter a bit. It's the people that matter and they will always be there.

Just after the "I'm glad to be home" came "I'm excited to see my family". People again. My people. The five of us are my home. Half of our things are in boxes in my mother's attic and the other half are in boxes here, behind the playroom sofa and under the stairs. This house is nice but it's not mine at all. It feels like a corporate let with its patterned sofas, ugly art, and nondescript paint colors. It is home solely because it is where we are.

With the move to France we are about to be even more upside down but we are the one sure thing. After this we'll see. Maybe the bricks and mortar will be in France. Or maybe we'll find our way back to the States. It doesn't really matter as long as we have each other.

I am glad to be home.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Paul, my Pillar

A flu by any other name would smell as bad. It isn't confirmed but the baby and I have been undercut by something suspiciously porcine. Or it could have been just the regular stomach flu. Who knows?! What isn't up for debate is that we were/are sick.

The timing is impeccable and I am very thankful that I will be brave enough to soldier on for my long weekend in Florence with Texas' best girlfriends, Kristin and Abby. At least that is the plan. Today isn't as horrible as yesterday and I have until Thursday morning to recover. Of course, my main concern now is who is going to pick up the pieces if (pray not) Paul is felled.

I will not be here to let him sit in the shower floor crying and shivering as scalding hot water rains down. I will not be here to let him lie in a puddle with the hot water bottle, covers tucked up to the neck and sleep for hours on end. I will not be here to dress, feed, make lunches, take to school, tend to Leo, pick up from school, do homework, feed, bathe, entertain and finally, blissfully put the kids to bed. What will happen? We don't have grandparents to come to the rescue. Luckily, we do have friends. He will have to ask for help and I will feel even more guilty as I swan around Florence free from all the above.

Please, please let Paul stay well. At least until I get home. Then it can all come unraveled and I will be able to handle it. He wouldn't entertain the idea of me not going because what would happen if I stayed and he didn't get sick? He would have to go around drinking from my teacups and powerade bottles to ensure it if I stayed. And that wouldn't be good for anyone. No, I can't cancel.

Not least of all for the fact that we had a crisis with the flight tickets for one of the Texans this morning. We all rallied and came up with a solution so we could be there together. I don't want to miss this trip. I feel like a 2 year-old stomping my foot and clenching my fists against anything ruining my fun. We've been planning for 5 months and we will all be there.

Clerical errors and pandemics be damned! I have a date with David.



Thursday, October 1, 2009

Small Stuff

Paul is at home. In Austin. And we are all four still here. In Ireland.

I am sad.

This morning I came downstairs to make my coffee and just wish that I had my Krups coffee maker set on a timer with the welcoming good morning sound of coffee brewing away. Instead I have to, in my sleepy stupor, do as I have done for 4 years now and:

  • fill up the electric kettle with fresh water
  • pop it on to make the boiling start
  • monitor its progress because this kettle is crap and always pops up before it's finished
  • fill the once quaint French press coffee maker with grounds—heaping tablespoons full
  • wait for it…..
  • pour boiling water over grounds, stir and press
  • finally enjoy a cup of coffee; but only two because that's all you can make at one time.
Don't sweat the small stuff, right? But you know what? It's always the small stuff that breaks you. It's the cumulative small stuff, stacked one on top of the other that finally tumble and AHHHH!!! I lose it!

Like John Travolta said in Pulp Fiction, 'it's the little differences'. Electric kettles, crappy dryers, no school bus, no school hot lunch, no drive-thru pharmacy or fast food or bank, needing a euro for a grocery cart, xenophobic neighbor, expensive marshmallows and no Velveeta!

Ok, the coffee has kicked in. I feel better. Paul is still in Austin but I guess he is sad like he says. It's his birthday tomorrow and he'll be alone, he has to sit in meetings all day, he's jetlagged. But, he does get to eat some Tex-Mex, go through the Wendy's drive thru if he likes, feel the warm fall air through the open car window and get his free birthday pitcher of beer at the Crown.