At home, abroad, on St Patrick’s.

I always say I can grow anywhere away from home, a little like a container plant. But where home is these days, I’m not really sure. But, having said that, I’m pretty sure I also haven’t yet found it. The world is too big, and I have more places to see, live in, and to write about.

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There are none so patriotic as the Irish abroad. We love to sit in Brooklyn or Birmingham, Bangkok or Brighton, and sing a rebel song whilst silently weeping into a pint. Re-runs of Father Ted and Mrs Brown’s Boys only get funnier with time, and we long for the sweet scent of the Oul’ Sod. The Fields of Athenry are sung with passion, and the free bird is allowed to fly at the big games.

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But, wait just a minute. How many of us know where the heck Athenry actually is?  (It’s Galway, lads, catch up) As for all the words – feck it, any of the words – to The Soldier’s Song, in English or as Gaeilge, I think not.But the 17th of March, now, that’s a different thing altogether. Everyone is Irish on St Paddy’s day.

It’s been 30 years since I spent St Paddy’s at ‘home’ in Ireland, and this year I looked forward to it.Well, I pondered it anyway, as I suffered a ride on the hard plastic seat  over to Dublin, complete with Zebedee behind me.

Childhood was green ribbons, mass, a Sunday-style  dinner, and the Big Parade. Trips home, later on and then with my husband,  were made up of a fortune spent in Kenny’s, Courtney’s and The Ball Alley, all local village watering holes. A blur of pints and laughs, smoke filled bars and quick wit, shirts lost at Cheltenham from the comfort of the pub, big breakfasts at my parent’s house – “to line your stomach “- and dinner kept warm and served with a thump – we were always late back.

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This year, I wandered down alone, stone cold sober, and stood for a bit under Carroll’s awning until the drizzle became a bit of a drip, then gave up and came home to watch the Dublin parade with Mother, where several dozen times we cleared up the facts that, yes, it was still Friday, and no, St Patrick’s is not a movable feast. Testing times? A bit. But, it’s okay, we’re alright.

The city centre parade was beset by horizontal rain, high winds and arctic temperatures. But, you know, everyone was smiling, enjoying it, and the Temple Street bar area held the riotous after party, if the Live Web Cam was anything to go by. We enjoyed it all, in our own way, from the safety of the sofa, and the furnace-like blast of the central heating.

It seems nothing stops us. We love a little adversity. And, I thought, no, I may not know where home really is, or what the future holds, but I’ll always, emphatically, be completely Irish!

Spanish Dreams? Reality Bites

“Are you mad?  Ah – go for it – lucky ba$tar*s.  Can we have your furniture?”

I admit most of our friends took the realistic approach when we shared the fact we were decamping from our very normal life to a leaking shack/money pit 1115 metres up a Spanish mountain.

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But, wait, stay right there.  This is not a “Hey look at us, didn’t we do well” lifestyle post.

It’s been, well, great – and almost 10 years on we are happy enough with our lot – although it has not always been easy.

Especially the cold and hard winters we have endured since we arrived with boxes of linen and cotton clothes, and a selection of flip-flops – our woolies and 15 tog quilts gaily abandoned in a Newport skip.

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©Carol Byrne

 

But –  this is the middle of summer.  Spanish summer.  The sun has got his sombrero on. Woop – right?

The expectation

Calls from home – wet and windy Ireland calling…

“You must have a great colour”

“How blue is the sky?” (This last one usually asked through gritted teeth, as in Ireland we wear the sky as a grey bobble hat)

“You’re off for dinner? Oh imagine, sitting OUT”

“Saw your area on A Place In The Sun – it looked FABULOUS.”   Er, no, you didn’t.  Just Christopher Columbus and us made it this far up a blasted mountain.  Maybe Mallory if he was lost.

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The reality

Actually no.  I’m a faded brown, sort of sludge colour.

Why? Well, since our day (note the singular) on the beach this year, when we overdid the idea of a day off and turned deep Gamba pink, we haven’t sunbathed.

I did buy a relaxer-lounger garden chair, but haven’t managed to sink my bum in it once.

Why?

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It’s too bloody hot.

So, envy-filled friends and family, imagine a different picture.

Closed shutters, drawn curtains.

The fan whirring and pushing hot air around.  Re-runs of A Place In The Sun on TV.

Flies.  Big flies.  Flies that might normally be indicative of a dead body in close proximity.

Little flies.  No-Sees.  They salsa through the mozzie nets, laughing at us, and with needle precision torment us all night.

We eat out – sure we do.  At 11 or 12 in the darkness when it’s cool enough, the mosquitoes have us for postre as we sit there sweating and heavy breathing.

Entertainment is mostly checking the dogs for ticks.  And then checking us for ticks. *Shudder*

So, dear friends and family, look fondly at that ‘soft weather’ – and be bloody grateful.

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Rest In Peace

A quick trip home to Dirty Dublin last weekend, in fact shiny and groomed it is, at least my picturesque village of old, a river runs through it, quaint thatched pubs and pretty coffee shops abound. There’s even a tapas bar. But even chocolate box scenes can be sinister.

A reason to go

A purposeful visit to see my mother, getting on in years now and recently an almost-victim when she experienced a couple of unwelcome wannabe visitors. Big cities equal crime, the capital is just a short ride in a getaway car and lonely widows make quick cashpoints.

So, a short holiday/visit for me and The Girl, who drew gasps and too many admiring glances for my liking, her lofty height and Dad’s DNA bringing attention. (Think Biro refill with hips) She enjoyed the family, the shopping, the festive fever and the overdose of One Direction memorabilia available. I managed a taste or twenty of the Black Stuff right here….

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Back in the real world

Meanwhile Stan and The Boy stayed home, they did the unthinkable and ventured to Iceland after Málaga airport, as in the land of processed shite, not the one of hot springs and geysers.

They also took in the Almería – Real Madrid match. I think the Scotch Eggs and Sausage Rolls brought more satisfaction!

A call to arms

Stan was summoned, another day, around to the Bodega, which is also the Carpintería, at least formerly. The current owners father was the village carpenter in days past.The neighbour wanted a hand hauling something and had rounded up a few locals. Work done, he showed them an old fireplace he had uncovered.

– I’ll make a few shelves for that, put some antiques up, what do you think?

The general consensus is that wood these days is expensive. Much sucking in of missing teeth and mumbling.

– No problem, says he, I have loads of wood.

– Where?…..

A final resting place

…..He waves his hand over to the corner. Eyes swivelled to where half a dozen coffins, circa civil war – were laid to rest. Well, a carpenter only had so much work in those days….

You can’t use those, exclaimed Stan! Laughing, he suggested that our friend might as well make a bed or two while he was at it…

– No, no …that would be disrespectful. Shelves it is.