Brendan O'Connor: Mid-life Crisis: Longing for authentic life never takes root
There is a general rule in my house, that even the children get at this stage, which is that dada shouldn't really be allowed out on his own unless it is to go to a structured environment like work. Otherwise three things can happen. One is that I come home drunk, which is the least worst option. Second is that I come home with my head full of some new crazy notions from whomever I meet when I am out. And last, and worst is a combination of both – hopped up on both booze and some new crazy notion that I got from some clown I met on my travels.
Showcase in the RDS must have seemed harmless enough. I was going from a work perspective, it was a daytime outing and I'm not really drinking at the moment anyway due to weight-loss considerations (lest anyone think I am the kind of dry-drunk type who has to give it up for January to prove I can live without it). What could possibly go wrong?
Boy, did they regret that one.
If they had thought it through they would have realised that I should be left nowhere near a bunch of craft and design types. I am so easily seduced by creative people. I envy them, I admire them and I kind of want to be them. I am in awe of furniture makers and their deep connection with the wood and thus the land. I swoon over weavers with five generations of family heritage behind them.
So I came back having cut a deal on some bits of furniture for a house we do not, as of yet, live in, and with my head full of authenticity. I could see the child looking at her mother in that, "Oh God, Dad has decided we need to live a more authentic life again," way.
As I connected with the land by frying some of the father-in-law's potatoes from the island on the Aga, I held forth about connectedness and how we all need more reality in our lives. I pondered how he had dug these out of the earth, and how his daughter had boiled them the day before and now here I was frying them for his grandchildren to eat. This is reality, I thought, echoing down the generations. This was a real experience, like we had as kids – I have reinvented my own childhood as a kind of hunter-gatherer experience where we were closer to the soil because my father was a microbiologist who brought home milk from work sometimes, and because we used to go to our cousin's farms in the summer and then long to be at home where the food was less real, the bacon less hairy and the spuds mashed. The Aga was practically an open fire. I was a caveman digging deep back into my duchas, accessing the primal power of the ancestors.
They know to leave me at it. They nod and smile along, knowing eventually I will wander off and they can get back to their iPads. They know there is as much chance of me becoming in any way sustainable as there is of me growing a beard and starting to listen to Mumford and Sons – the urban middle-aged hipster's quiet revolution and rejection of the material world in favour of imaginary woodland values.
Sure enough I wandered off and sat by the fire (firelog I hasten to add. I wasn't rubbing sticks here) and read the paper. By coincidence, I happened to be listening to trad supergroup The Gloaming. If you haven't heard their album, you should check it out. It owes as much to Radiohead as it does to diddly-eye.
It just so happened that the family all arrived in the room as a particularly diddly-eye bit came on. I can see how it didn't look good. All they could see was a slightly mad man, sitting by the fire and listening to traditional music. No doubt they are all expecting a pipe and some facial hair next.