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Out there: How to cope with life in the emotional jungle


David Sedaris' 'Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls'

David Sedaris' 'Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls'

David Sedaris' 'Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls'

I'm back after a little break, and I have a lot to tell you. There have been some real highlights over the past two months, like the time I came home to Cork and got so mouldy that I ended up puking in my bed. A few days later my mother texted me to say, rather diplomatically to her credit, that she found an 'unpleasant surprise' in my laundry basket - namely a towel full of chunks. What can you say to that, except 'Mother, I'm sorry and if it makes it better I promise not to laugh out loud when you are old and need help wiping your bottom'?

Then there was the Ipswich incident.

A few months ago, I purchased tickets to see David Sedaris, my living literary idol in Ipswich. The first person I invited was the friend who gave me my first Sedaris book when I was leaving her house one night. I enjoyed the opening chapter so much I almost broke the cardinal rule of London Transport and elbowed the guy next to me to tell him about it. That friend has a kid now so a night in Ipswich was out of the question. The next victim had a work event and the next five or six people I asked said no for various reasons (Ipswich being high among them). Then, running out of friends I thought, 'I'll throw something else in to make the package more attractive' - like my body. This met with a more muted response than I had hoped. And so the Nos kept coming until I thought of a friend who loves books (and me) but rarely leaves the village where she is shacked up with her boyfriend. Surprisingly, she said yes and so we prepared for a night of literary LOLZ.

We agreed to meet at five, enough time to get slightly buzzy before Sedaris. My train got in at 4.30pm and I walked in the blazing sunshine to the hotel, a tarted-up Holiday Inn with a population of a depleted hen night and a few tired looking 'ladz' smoking outside. I ordered wine and waited, and waited. Then I received a message. "Train broken down in Essex. Stuck on tracks." To be continued...

For fork's sake, I'm turning into my mother

By Eleanor Goggin

Some friends and myself were discussing eating etiquette the other day, and given my mother's pedantic nature in this regard, I don't know how I have survived.

When I was small, we were lucky enough to go fairly regularly en famille to a nearby hotel for Sunday lunch after Mass.

My mother spent the entire meal watching the cutlery habits of others. "Jesus, Dick, look at the scribes". My father's name was Dick, and the scribes were the poor unfortunates who held their knives and forks like pens. "Jesus, Dick" was an abiding memory of my childhood. It preceded most conversations and was mainly about me. "Jesus, Dick, what are we going to do about her. Jesus, Dick, did you hear what time she came in at?"

But in the hotel the pressure was off me and onto the scribes. Folk who cut their soup roll or buttered their bread in the hand were also watched with a scathing air. Or woe betide if you failed to put a little butter on your side plate before you applied it to your bread. I could have brought home as a prospective husband the head of a drug-dealing criminal gang, but if he held his fork and knife properly, he would have been in. I did teach my kids table manners when they were small, but I hope I'm not obsessive about it.

They hold their knives and forks as their grandmother would have wanted, but after that, I don't really care. As long as they are not spitting food out and eating with their mouths open, that is.

My daughter challenged me the other day about my omission to tell her that salt, like butter, should be put on the side of the plate. Maybe she's more like my mother. Get over it, I told her.

After all, who made up the rules that we should tilt our soup bowls towards the middle of the table, never put our knives in our mouths, never put our elbows on the table? I think it might have been my mother. Jesus, Dick. I hope she's not looking down on me.

Odd nostalgia: missing things you didn't want

By Aine O'Connor

Although I operate the principle that we are all a little unhinged -  and indeed that the more normal a person appears to be, the greater the chance of them being a total fruitcake - I still wonder about myself, on occasion. Which I convince myself is healthy, obviously. We are, many of us, guilty of wanting what we don't have (and not wanting it any more when we get it). But what about missing things we wanted rid of anyway?

A friend was involved in what she readily agreed, even as it was going on, a relationship that was, at best, a road to nowhere, at worst, a road to somewhere bad. It ended before she was finished being in love with him; she pined quite severely and then it restarted. It ran to a more gradual, less traumatic, end - she got sick of him, basically -the lust mist lifted and pretty much everything she had found cute in the 'In Love' days started to bug her. It was the more natural end she had craved. And now she misses the time when she was mad about him, even though she didn't want to be mad about him.

Bananas, eh? But I have a hazy recollection of similar feelings from my own dating days, and when I thought about it I realised it has just morphed. For years, I wanted to be one of those people who "just didn't like sweet things." Now, thanks to all that hypnotism for weight loss, I am one. It's a huge liberation but on occasion it feels odd, like someone changed my eye colour or made me left-handed. Not often, but sometimes I have a slight feeling of nostalgia for my former ability to power eat slabs of chocolate.

It can be difficult to separate a thing, a habit or a person from how they make you feel. Or how you think they make you feel. I chalked up the weird nostalgia, it's definitely not a desire, for the ability to comfort-eat to classic wanting what you can't have. But then it's not the same, is it? It's not the same to want what you can't have as to want what you know is not good for you.

As I said, I still wonder about myself on occasion.

Sunday Indo Living