The Kitchen Table

That table, with its shabby chrome legs and scarred Formica top, was the centre of our kitchen. With knocks and kicks, enamel paint chipped off and rust settled in. The cover, with its once pretty flowers faded now through excessive scouring, held deep cuts from loaves sliced for hasty, tasty, sandwiches without board or care.

In its crevices lay remnants of our lives. While food was devoured there on a daily basis, it was also where big news was broken. Clustered around we learnt of many a relation’s passing. And it was here we were singled out for individual news. I must have been no more than three when I sat on a stool, elbows resting up on the table with legs, too short to reach the ground, swinging back and forth. In soft spoken voices, my parents performed a duet of scripted words of how they were not my real parents but minding me for another. And in turn, we all made this journey, sat at the table and tried desperately to absorb that same news which went way above our young heads.

When we saw the material, sewing box and our mother’s mouth full of pins, we’d balk and pray frantically it wasn’t our turn. Like so many women in the 1970s, she made most of our clothes and so often we endured the tedium of standing on the table as hems of dresses, skirts or trousers were pinned up for completion.

That table played host to family conferences where relations arrived and debates began. What would they do with the old house? The family grave? The old Retainer? Pots of tea plonked on the Formica surrounded by the good china with plates of cake and sandwiches presented frequently for consumption. And when the serious business was over, talk would turn to memory sharing and football rivalry. Squashed at the table were the sounds of chat, laughter and sometimes tears – of many people now no longer with us.

If the kitchen is the heart of a home then this table was its very soul.

Eh…no…

Driving into an underground car park and I realise I spoke to the attendant with my darkest sunglasses still on. I remark to my daughter that I feel like a right eejit.

Her response?

“It’s okay, Mum. He might think you’re blind.”
“Eh…I hope not.”
“Why?”
“Really?!? I’m driving the car…!”

Feeling loss

June 2011 –  I’m at the garage getting petrol and I meet one of my dearest pals. We hug. We laugh. We joke. She looks like she always does.

I know she was back at the Doctor.  I want to ask but I don’t want to know. It hangs between us. She stands there looking as if nothing is remotely wrong. She’s out and about. Everything is normal.

It’s not good news. There’s no way back. How long? “Soon,” she replies. My heart breaks. I hug her again. I tell her how much I love her. She pushes me back telling me not to leave red lipstick on her cheek – as she always do!

We’ll see each other soon. We do. A couple of weeks later. In the Hospice. ‘Soon’ is too soon. In a matter of weeks, she’s gone. My heart breaks.

Seven years later, it’s still broken. I miss her so. xx

2018

Malaga, 2014

Day One…

After an early and quite delicious breakfast, we head to the sun terrace expecting to queue like Germans until it opens but instead are lucky to get the last two loungers. Twisting and turning as we toast ourselves in the glorious, and much needed, heat. Listening to church bells ring and looking at the city views from this wonderful, roof top, location. Two doses of hay fever drives us inside eventually. This is after the Après Teen finds that a dying bird has taken up residence in her flip flop and an American seeks to educate us all that they have Italians in America too (narrowly stop myself saying ‘Yep, we’ve all seen the Godfather…’)

 

Day Two…

Plans to go to the beach are averted by nothing other than sheer laziness. Lounger on the sun terrace beside the fab bar – couldn’t be bothered moving. Tanning like the red head I am – I pop freckles at a ferocious rate and tan in the unenviable pattern of a dalmatian. Walk to the commercial centre where the Après Teen picks up some fab shoes and I buy a stunning 50th birthday present for a pal. Lovely meal. Cold beers. Great chat. Perfect company. Life is good.

 

Day Three…

…and it’s time for culture!

We toy with the idea of Seville, Granada, Gibraltar but instead settle on the Red Bus tour because tapas-sized culture is all we are up to. As the bus is packed, we resist taking up our usual spot, sitting at the front pretending to drive the bus, adding in the vroom-vroom sounds and doing our tuneless rendition of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ that we have sung in all major cities to date.

We go up to Picasso’s place to have a look at his etchings. 285 pieces of art and a guest exhibition of Lissitzky later and I’m cultured out of it.

Chilling under a tree in one of the many beautiful squares while the Après Teen heads off – with my credit card – to sample the cultural delights of Pull and Bear, Springfield and whatever other shops pop up on her route. As long as I’m not there to witness the carnage, we should be okay.

 

Day Four…

Starts with me getting tangled in my swimsuit and the Après Teen having to unravel me. Next I put on my clothes back to front. I really am not ageing well.

Eventually – and surprisingly – we make it out of the hotel and to the beach where we lie under a parasol, minding ourselves from the rain. It is all so dull, as if the world is monochrome but we and our fellow Celts continue to battle the elements. The Après Teen makes me quit despite my repeated plea of “But Google Weather says…”

So we sit at a beachside café – bliss – or so we think until the rain starts again, bucketing down through the old canvas that limply covers the space. The coffee is delicious though – even with the rain plop, plopping, into it.

We wander from the seafront through this beautiful city, from the new through the old. Back at the hotel, and while herself hides out in the bedroom, I brave the elements on the sun terrace. It is so cloudy but ever so warm. When I see two muppets turning their sunbeds towards the invisible sun, however, I know it is time to quit.

Here’s hoping that, in the immortal words of my fellow red head, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow…”

 

Day Five…

As Google Weather tells us the day will be cloudy and dull, we gear ourselves for a repeat of yesterday. I brave the sun terrace again, burn to a crisp and am now basted like a turkey in After Sun for the umpteenth time today. Maybe the Après Teen is right about that weather forecast not being too reliable…

This evening, we go to the Arabic Baths. I have to admit the entrance scared the bejaysus out of me. It looked a bit rough and ready. If the Après Teen hadn’t urged me through those doors, I would have run away – run very fast – and at my size, that would be some sight indeed! Even with her by my side, I remained apprehensive.

We go through the door and wow, wow, wow! It is like Doctor Who’s Tardis – enter by a small shop front and be led through a series of corridors into an amazing, purpose-built, enormous, complex. Stunning.

The experience? Wow, wow, wow. We enjoy an hour and a half of sheer bliss – warm, hot and cold water pools plus hot stones to lie on and a steam room. And on top of that, a wonderful massage too.

Regrets? That I didn’t brave this earlier! I could have enjoyed this every second evening. What a loss.

Dinner? I pass on the Apres Teen’s suggestion of a Vegan restaurant when I notice it also doubles as a Steak House! We end up in another restaurant – lovely food but the staff let the kitchen down – such a bunch of rude and disinterested people (yep, that’s the polite version).

The evening ends with me reading and drinking beer while my face continues to sizzle. Celts and sun will never be a good mix!

 

Day Six…

And we are back to cloudy weather. The Apres Teen insists on a return to the beach. So there we are alternating between hot sun and wrapping ourselves in towels to keep warm. A man beside us sings constantly – in no key we have ever heard and hazard a guess has yet to be discovered. Out of tune plus all the wrong words. The Way We were is belted out until it miraculously turns into ABBA’s Fernando. Excruciating doesn’t even begin to describe it.

I insist on getting a taxi down and am stunned by the driver. He is the happiest person I think I have ever met. Keeping his mobile on a stand on the dashboard, it is easy to see the texts that come in quick succession: ‘Where are you?’ the texts asks again and again and again… When he clicks on the screen to open the messages to reply, the root of his happiness is there for all to see – a selfie of a naked lady, legs apart, leaving *nothing* (and I mean NOTHING) to the imagination. He barely stops the car to let us out before he tears off again!

Our neighbouring chanteur on the beach gets a bit frisky too. Sitting beside his partner, who is sunbathing topless, he has a rub of her breasts but gets a swift slap when he goes in for a nipple suck (yep, extra dark sunglasses are pretty handy when people watching in earnest). When he tries to apply a clip to her nipple, I can watch no more…

The weather is switched up from gloomy to fab and lovingly lasts the whole day. The taxi back costs far less – due to the fact we have to walk a big chunk of the way after the poor driver’s gear box goes – in the middle of traffic. His day ends with a bang but obviously not as much fun as the one his colleague got earlier…

 

Day Seven…

So the tale of ‘One woman, four cardigans and the Apres Teen go to Malaga’ ends today. And a very pleasant week it was too. Lovely city, lovely people and great food – we will return.

The journey home is somewhat uneventful. We have an extra bag to transport the unplanned purchases which looks large enough, and heavy enough, to be carrying a small child. We are stunned to get it through under the category of ‘Hand Luggage’.

The flight home is also uneventful – that is, until the mother beside me lets her toddler have a good jump around the aisle – in a stinky nappy.

A-R-O-M-A-T-I-C

And when the plane lands, they clap and the Ryanair trumpet music blares. Revenge for my comments against clapping on the journey out methinks…

 

I miss my tribe

Heading to the Southside for the second time in a week. It seems like the start of a defection!

My fellow commuters this evening are an eclectic bunch. In my carriage sit two glorious ZZ Top lookalikes, enjoying the scenery as they stroke their long beards. Behind them sits the customary bunch of summer munchers with their Beshoff and Burdocks snack boxes. The girl now sitting in front of me has applied a full face of make-up *and* tonged her entire head of hair into neat little ringlets, moisturised her hands and chatted on the phone the whole time. And over these sights can be heard the informative conversation of some 13+ year old lads discussing their sexual leanings and an older teen (a 14+ year old girl) saying she has to move away from them in case anyone mistakes her for “a paedophile”…

I so miss commuting on a daily basis. I so miss my tribe!

My car’s better than your car…

So I’m listening to these two on the train. Truthfully, it’s only one as the other cannot get a word in edgeways. The first woman is lamenting that her beloved soft top has to be stored for the winter months.

“I know it’s only a 03, and you probably drive a 04 or 05, but I really will miss it.”

Sharp intake of breath and the other one replies…

“I drive a 162 – actually…”

“Oh”, winces the other. Her car driving status painfully ripped from underneath her like a Bandaid off a 6 year old’s knee!

[2016]

Why ask a woman…?

Pulled up tonight at the self-service petrol station. Stopped the car. Credit card into the machine. Choose option. Enter PIN. Fill car. Simples.

Young fella pulls up on the other side of where I’m filling my car. New to the system, he loses his cool as he cannot understand the system. Starts roaring at his female companion that it’s a wonder the country’s in a mess as no f-ing American tourist could work this out.

Fine. Everyone has a meltdown now and again. What makes me laugh is, that rather than ask the woman next to him (that is, me!), he strides forcefully across the entire forecourt to the car at the furthest pump to ask a man how to work the pump.

During the meantime, his girlfriend has asked me for instructions. He returns, refuses to listen to her, throws another tantrum, gets into his car and drives off!

What a charmer!

Majorca 2012

Every exchange I have with people on this holiday makes me feel like I am on holiday in The Twilight Zone. A few examples?

Reporting my bag stolen at the police station and the rather delicious looking cop tells me – in Spanish – that he doesn’t speak English. Fine. In Spanish, he outlines the procedures for making the report and then repeats the exact same words slowly (in Spanish) as if proffering a translation…

Then I asked at Reception for directions to the nearest Western Union outlet. The response was “You know where it is?” I stop myself from giving a sarcastic answer…

At the Western Union outlet, the man tells me – in English – he does not speak English but the guy beside him will translate. He then says – in English – “I must go to the bank and get this money. I will be back in 15 minutes.” Guy beside him looks puzzled but eventually says – in English – “He says he must go to the bank to get the money. He then comes back here [gestures with fingers to show he means this place] in 15 minutes.” He finishes off his slowly delivered ‘translation’ by illustrating 15 minutes with his hands…

 

When you can’t keep pace…

Well, that was a fun trip. Some a**holes set fire to the tracks which delayed the train. Fine. Had enough time to get home, pick up my car and drive to the dentist. Nope. Because of the delay, Irish Rail decide to terminate the train at Howth Junction. Instead of waiting for the next train, I decide to walk as I’ll miss my appointment otherwise. So I traipse down the steps and out on to road – in heels – followed by three young fellas comparing notes on techniques used by their girlfriends in giving…eh…hand relief. I arrive at my destination with aching feet, a sweat drenched face and none the wiser about the three lads’ experiences as I couldn’t keep up the pace to glean any tips (asking for a friend).

Ah, the little darlings…

Yesterday’s commute saw a deluge of pre-teens bounce onto the train. While the young gents hung from the loops and swung back and forth, back and forth, the little ladies surrounded me. Intimidating at first, I soon realised it wasn’t me who was holding their fascination. Instead it was my Kindle. One told her entourage that it was like a book while the others looked in awe. Then one exclaimed “Yeah! I know! Me nanny has one of doz.” It was at that moment that my youthful façade vanished and I realised that, damn, I was old enough to be her grandmother.

August 2018