Wednesday 21 March 2018

'I've been enjoying a spell of good health and fear I have nothing to contribute, until the chat turns dental. As luck would have it, I have a dodgy tooth'

Saturday: I wake up to the pleasing sensation of dust coating the inside my mouth. That's because the builders are in, replacing our ancient banjoed roof.

The job had been deferred as long as possible, but it got to the point where, every time it rained, water poured in to several locations around the house. The reason Himself and myself had vigorously embraced denial for as long as we did, is that the replacement is a massive job -- the entire roof has been removed, the house is surrounded by scaffolding, and there's dust everywhere -- in the fridge, on my lip gloss and behind my eyeballs.

To be fair, these are nice builders, reliable and hardworking, not like the days of the Celtic Tiger when Scarlet Pimpernel Construction would come along, knock down half of your house and then hightail it for six months. But this has been going on now for nearly a month -- the unprecedented rain has hindered the work -- and the delight of opening my curtains every morning to find a startled roofer looking in at me is starting to pall. (I'm sure it's none too easy for him either ... )

Sunday I start the day by standing on my glasses and breaking them. Then, hurrying into the supermarket I stumble and actually fall -- morto! I hop back to my feet in jig-time and even though my knee took a right crack, I smile gamely to assure other shoppers that all is well. Next, I catch my fingers in the car door.

Back home, I'm starting to wonder what's up with my 'energy' even though I don't actually believe I have 'energy' when, in an entirely non-roof-being-replaced incident, I disable the plumbing. I am dangerous and Himself is anxious -- he has menfolk coming over to sit knee-high in dust, drink beer and watch the final day of the Premier League. It is a very important match, he is keen to emphasise, and he doesn't want me arriving with my toxic energy, and banjaxing the telly. So I spend most of the afternoon hiding, rooted to the spot, terrified of moving. Mercifully, it all passes without disaster. (Although Manchester United fans might disagree ... )


The builder torture finally breaks us. We have to run away and luckily we have somewhere to go -- Lahinch, Co Clare. My mammy is from Clare and myself and my brothers and sisters have been going to Lahinch on our holiers all our lives.

However, because I have recently developed a powerful, debilitating addiction to Twitter, I won't commit to going until I'm assured I'll have wifi. Never mind the beautiful wild Atlantic and the cliffs and the Burren and the toasted hang sandwiches, I can't go to a place that has no Twitter. But we establish that it does and off we go.

Bypasses, oh how I adore bypasses! There was a time when driving to Clare could take most of the day, but we reach Ennis in just over two hours. It dawns on me just how tiny this country of ours is -- it really is very, very small, isn't it? Then we hit the road to Ennistymon and memories of childhood come flooding back. Suddenly the landscape goes all wild -- rocky fields and dry-stone walls and little streams and tiny humpbacked bridges and strange, stunted trees, growing sideways because of the wind.

Our arrival in Lahinch is timed perfectly for the hail stones. Followed two minutes later by bright sunshine. Out on the beach a just-married couple are having their wedding photos taken -- the tide isn't long out and the strand is still wet and shiny -- it's like a Jack Vettriano painting. Mind you, the poor girl must be frozen, we agree and, as if on cue, she hoicks her beautiful dress over her arm to show that underneath she's wearing jeans and runners!


I spend a very happy hour perusing The Clare Champion, always the highlight of a trip to Lahinch. The small ads in particular, have me rivetted. There's a donkey for sale and the ad claims he's 'a top quality' donkey -- it has come as news to me that there's a grading system for donkeys. A man on Twitter -- @BazLyons -- says that under EU regulations, all donkeys are now graded on the Heehaw scale. (This may not be entirely true, but is still hilaire.) Also for sale are something called 'Rush Lickers' and I yearn to buy some, if only to find out what exactly they are -- in the wake of reading Fifty Shades of Grey, everything sounds 'dhuuuurthy' to me.


Usually, when I'm in Lahinch, I'm with several of my extended family and there's always a bit of a scrap about where we 'take' our evening meal. I'm a devotee of The Shamrock but if I'm with my brother, Tadhg, he makes an impassioned case for Kenny's. The Praguers, my brother Niall and his wife Ljiljana (although I should stop calling them that because they live in Dublin now), swear by Joe's cafe, whereas my sister Caitriona (she lives in New York and therefore has sophisticated tastes) favours Waves which is upstairs in O'Looney's.

As it is just Himself and myself, we can go wherever we like and we decide on RanDaddy's -- new and exciting! But it's closed. Well, feck it so. We go to The Cornerstone instead.


We go for a walk on Mullach Mor, a strange, swirly limestone hill, in the heart of the Burren, maybe the most beautiful place on earth. Reeds grow in silent glacier-blue lakes and rare wild flowers bloom in the splits in the limestone pavements. It's so bleak and alien it feels like being on another planet.

At first glance, I think that everything is a uniform grey, but the sun and clouds moving overhead keep the light changing and after a while I realise there are millions of colours -- greys and blues and greens. They're subtle and muted, but once I 'see' them, the picture explodes.

On the way home, we go on a thrilling detour to see Father Ted's house. (Swear to God. The actual one where they filmed it!) I insist on having my photo taken outside it.

A fancy tay this evening -- in Barrtra, 'out the road' from Lahinch. The food is great, the view is stunning and the price is very reasonable for such quality.


Back to Dublin for the society event of the year -- my nephew Oscar's second birthday party.

There are Rice Krispie buns, Hula Hoops, cake, running, shouting, wailing and face-smearing. Eventually, things settle and my brothers and sisters and I gather around the table and have a lengthy and animated discussion about our various ailments.

Between us, we can boast sinus infections, stomach problems and crippling tooth aches. I've been enjoying a spell of unprecedented good health and fear I have nothing to contribute, until the chat turns dental. As luck would have it, I have a dodgy tooth, which I try to persuade people to look at. (They're reluctant.) "If I lick it, my tongue sort of snags on it, you know?" Everyone nods. It's all extremely enjoyable -- truly we are a frail bunch, possibly the sickest family in all of Leinster.

For a while, the conversation seems in danger of flagging, so we commandeer my mother and force her to tell us about her arthritis and once again we're in business!


Our house still has no roof. We were too afraid to engage with the fact yesterday, but today, with the rain pouring into our bedroom, we've no choice. Basins, towels, squeezing, you know yourself ... But at least it has a telly. I'd be lost without my telly.

We lie on the couch and watch The Bridge and tell each other that roofs are overrated.

Follow Marian on twitter @Mariankeyes. 'The Mystery of Mercy Close' will be published in September 2012

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