Saturday 16 July 2016

My Journey Home

This one is almost 10 years old!  It’s hard to believe really.  It was written for a local newsletter and I was reminded of its existence having read Ode to My Town posts by Kate Takes Five  and Where Wishes Come From.   Here it is in all its unedited (un)glory.   A kind of ode to my hometown – Athy, Co. Kildare.

Mine was the usual rite of passage spent in Dublin.  It started later than most and I think, as a result, I was determined to get the most out of it.  I was on a mission to make up for lost time. 

Once I secured a job, I got on the train bound for Heuston and never looked back.  I can still remember the train gathering speed as it left Athy, labouring past the old cinema, covered in graffiti, which has since been replaced with the German Supermarket, Lidl. 

Ahead of me was a new life promising freedom, independence, and a great night life.  I was the proud owner of a common mindset concerning my hometown.  One of scorn, derision and slight contempt.   

Goodbye Athy!  See you whenever. 

And so I took to life in Dublin like a duck to water.  It was great!  So great that often five or six weeks would pass before I went home again.  This was the life.  Every so often my housemates and I would have a night in with a take away from our local Chinese, Indian or Italian.  And the obligatory bottle of plonk from the off licence.  Sometimes, we’d even book a table at one of these restaurants and do it properly.  The novelty was huge. 

Every so often we would visit the swimming pool, splash around half heartedly at the bar for ten minutes before deciding to head to a proper bar for a drink.  This only happened once, mind you.  We never made the mistake of going to the pool again.  Cutting out the middle man as it were. 

There was never a Christmas, a wedding, a birth, a family event that didn’t see me with a detailed shopping list for an item or items that just could not be gotten for love nor money in Athy.

Fast forward a few years and my husband and I were the first of our gang to leave the Big City.  Part of me was filled with a strong sense of nostalgia at leaving all of this variety behind. 

What had we done?  Athy hadn’t even heard of the cappuccino, never mind early Sunday morning fry-ups and lazy early bird evening meals when you just couldn’t be bothered cooking after a hard days toil.  I won’t even mention the wonderfully indulgent beer gardens we used to frequent all too frequently.  Would we ever enjoy a Tikka Misala or a Rogan Josh again?  Were we destined for a life of spice burgers and kebabs after the pub?  The same pub for the rest of our lives with just a juke box hammered to the wall for entertainment?  

Fast forward yet another couple of years again.  I’m not sure if it’s my age or state of mind but I’m suddenly noticing Athy in a different light.  I’ve got kids now and all of them were enrolled in the Gaelscoil when they were just weeks old.  I love my food and am delighted with the culinary, nay gourmet choices, that can be availed of in this town of many delights.

Another sign of my age maybe, or at least an interest in my longevity now that I have my family to think about, is my health.  Athy always had beautiful canal walkways but now a brand new, state of the art leisure centre is enticing people through its doors. 

We are environmentally conscious as a family and have never availed of a refuse collection.   I for one am delighted that this money saving benefit can continue thanks to the excellent recycling facilities that are available in the town. 

And here’s the recession bit.  Very recently we enjoyed a wonderful Saturday at the Tri-Athy event.     It was that very weekend when we were feeling the pinch, and I was amazed and delighted at the number of ways we were able to entertain our young brood in Athy without spending too much.  The lads enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in Emily Square followed by a look at the new Art Gallery across the road.   A few ice-creams were the order of the morning after that and imagine their delight when the swimming in the River Barrow started. 

Another thing I’ve noticed of late is that I don’t appear to be the only prodigal daughter returning to my hometown.  Up until a few years ago, I was always guaranteed a school reunion of sorts in my local on Christmas Eve.  (Yeah, yeah, the one with the juke box hammered to the wall.  RIP Brendan) There has been a bit of a drought in there lately as it seems my classmates have started families of their own and are bringing them back home. 

Home to Athy.

 You might have to look slightly harder to find what you’re looking for in Athy, but the beauty of that search is the surprising treasures you will find on the way. 

Oh, and the others are all “home” from Dublin too!

Ten years will, naturally, see some changes.   Since this piece was written, TriAthy celebrated their 10th year on 4th June this year.       Lidl supermarket was razed to the ground two years ago and rebuilt as a pilot proto-type.  The Art Gallery mentioned was a pop-up shop and that site is now Deelish cafe.   The recession is over.   Or so we are led to believe.  There is a fabulous new hotel in the town, The Clanard Court.   The pub with the jukebox nailed to the wall is, alas, no more.  It still stands proud but empty with a FOR SALE SIGN outside.   And I regularly have mini reunions at the school gate as now our kids are attending.      

Wednesday 13 July 2016

SO we will be celebrating a birthday next week.  A lovely birthday.    A birthday for a boy and a milestone for mother.  I got him through another year.   Onwards and upwards.   A little further towards independence.  

   It will be a family celebration only as this child already had his birthday party before they all broke up for the summer holidays.

But I’ve run into a problem.  A cake problem, to be precise.

Read on.   It’s too complicated to explain. 

Him:  Will you make me a cake for my birthday?

Me:   Of course I will.  Which cake would you like?  How about chocolate?

Him:  Yes.   Chocolate is good.

Me:  Chocolate sponge with cream and jam or a little bit of……………..

Him:   Wait! No!  I don’t like sponge.

Me:  Oh-khay.  What kind of cake would you like then?

Him:  I want a Sam cake.

Me:  A Sam cake.   What’s a Sam cake?

Him:   Sam.  From Jacksepticeye.

Me:  From a what-now?

Him:  Jack. Septic. Eye.  But you say it all together.  Jacksepticeye.    Sam from jacksepticeye.

Me:   ………………………………A Sam cake.”

Quick sprint to the google machine.

Very pleased to find all Sam is, is a big eye ball (black and blue) against a green background.   Rolls of ready-made icing are go!  I’ve got this.  But what do I put the icing on?

Me: So what kind of cake would you like me to put the eyeball on?

Him: I don’t know!   I don’t know any ingredients, do I?

Patience, mother.  Patience.

Me:  Ok, so think about what kind of cake you like to eat?

Him:  I. Don’t. Like. Cakes.  I just want a Jacksepticeye cake.

His fists were beginning to clench in frustration and I was fantasising about the wine in the fridge.  How much was left, exactly?   

Me:  OK.   Listen to me for a minute.   See, I can make the eyeball, no problem.  That’s the easy part.   But I need to be able to glue it onto something.

Him:  GLUE???????

Me:   No.  Not real glue. But I have to be able to stick the eyeball onto some kind of cake.  And I need you to tell me what kind of cake you like.

Him:   I want a plain white cake.

Me:   You mean sponge?

Him:  No!  I don’t like sponge.  You’re not listening to me!

Me:  I am.   I promise I am.   (Jeeeeeeeeeesus)   

Him:   The SpongeBob cake from the last party!   That’s a plain white cake.

Me:    That’s a sponge cake.    They are all sponge cakes.

Then he walked off.  Disgusted with me.

Friday 8 July 2016

That Friday Feeling

Friday has a delicious, fizzy feeling to it.   There is a tingling sense of anticipation, a realisation that finally, it’s kick back time, the end of the week has arrived.    There is something about that Friday feeling that’s addictive.   Even my kids, when they wake up and I say “happy Friday” feel it; I get their “yay!” response.

Where does it start?   Remembering back to my own childhood, Friday in our house was comic day.  Bunty, Mandy and Nikki were purchased, from Winkles Newsagents, and I would rush to read them.   Fridays meant a bag of chips from the chippers, with extra vinegar to be sucked from the brown paper as my mother finished her shopping in the supermarket next door.  (DKL Supermarket and Marini’s chippers in case you’re wondering)

Friday’s in Primary School meant no homework if you were lucky and the nun was feeling generous. 

There was such a “summer holiday” feeling to Friday.

As I got older Friday meant finishing school at 1pm and a big pile of homework and study to get through.   It meant Emelina’s night club that night in Kilkea Castle where a few bottles of West Coast Cooler and the odd Black Russian were had.

Those night club Friday nights of my late teens and early twenties never saw enough alcohol taken to have Saturday ruined with a hangover.

 That was for later on in life.  

Friday night was the start of a weekend and a lot hung on it.  If it was a quiet and boring Friday night, generally the remainder of the weekend would be the same.  But at least the homework would be done and not left till I heard the theme tune from Glenroe at 8.30pm on Sunday.

Even when parenthood came along, Friday didn’t lose its heady promise.   Yes, it was just another day as there was parenting and adulting to be done but Friday still felt fizzy for me.   I remember anticipating the help I would have over the weekend with the babies.   We could go into town and have coffee somewhere, maybe stroll around the shops.   Yes, it was different to the weekends BC (Before Childer) but still the same.   Kind of. Sort of.

I think the Friday feeling begins from a young age and, like most things, probably stems from our parents.   I think it is a day where the first of traditions are born.  And so it has come to pass that some of the Friday traditions from my youth have been carried on and into my boys’ childhood.

We have chips albeit those of the oven variety with a few chicken nuggets thrown in.   Friday is Treat Friday where I take the boys’ “orders” in the morning and buy for them, in the same newsagents my mother bought my comics three decades ago, their sweets.  But instead of the three comics of yesteryear, today there is one -  The Beano.  I have graduated from Mandy, Bunty and Judy to Irish Country Magazine, Image and Tatler to help me relax and unwind.

I often see the Beano comic left on the table.  Abandoned, or so it seems to me.

But no.  

“I keep it to read at bedtime,” he tells me.

So he savours it.

Just like I savoured my Mandy, Bunty and Nikki comics.