Sunday 16 December 2018

Isn’t it funny how, when you look back on things, everything seems to be linked in some small way?

Midlife

Bairbre Power. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Bairbre Power. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

I've had one of those weeks where I've taken a meandering walk down memory lane. It all started with a trip to my Mum's home county of Cork, scene of many childhood holidays.

Having not visited for ages, I found myself doing two trips there in five days. The first was to attend a screening of my son's movie at the Indie Fest. Crowley cousins, who I hadn't seen together in aeons, came along and later we dined on pizza and memories

I didn't go home empty-handed, obviously, making sure to stock up on items you can only find in the independent republic.

Top of my list was Tanora. The first sip of this tangerine-tasting mineral instantly brought back memories of childhood Christmas mornings when the bottles my Gran brought up on the train with her had to be rationed.

Then I sought out the man in the English market selling buttered eggs where the shells are rubbed with butter while still warm from the hen. My ridiculously sweet tooth wouldn't allow me leave without a quick search for a Battenberg, a jewel in the crown from the old Thompson's bakery. That was another culinary refugee which made an appearance at Christmas, wrapped in a copy of the Holly Bough, a seasonal Cork institution.

I always thought this apricot-coated triangular masterpiece left Dublin's Gur cake in the ha-penny place.

Returning to Cork days later, I rocked up to RTE's Today studio where Maura and Daithi wanted to ask about my previous Midlife columns, namely why this fifty-something doesn't want to be called 'Granny'.

"So what do you want to be called?" Daithi enquired. I trotted out a few options that grandmothers nowadays like, and Daithi was rather taken with 'Gigi'.

But I've settled on Nana Bob. 'Bob' has been my nickname ever since an English PR, clearly baffled by my Irish name, took a phonetic approach to 'Bairbre Power'. The envelope simply read: "Bob O'Parr."

Anyway, on my second Cork trip, instead of food shopping, Nana Bob took herself off mooching around the bookshops where I bought a copy of Simon Sebag Montefiore's The Romanovs, very timely what with the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution days away.

People are so often invested in a certain period of history and for me, it's always been the Russian revolution ever since I saw the epic movie, Nicholas And Alexandra, as a teenager.

I promptly dived into Robert K Massie's tome of the same name and scoped out anything I could find about the four Duchess daughters murdered by the Bolsheviks.

My cheeks redden today when I think of those teenage 'poser' days, prancing around with a half-read copy of Joyce's Ulysses and from that, I segued into Solzhenitsyn.

I might have had notions, but in my defence, I did manage to finish Ivan Denisovich.

Last Saturday, when the impossibly small print in The Romanovs got to me, I purged my dog owner's guilt and brought Romy for a walk.

On we pressed in the driving rain, past the Eagle House pub in Terenure where Joyce's mother, May Murray, grew up and the Brighton Square house where James Joyce was born.

It was raining cats and dogs, so instead of coffee, we took refuge in the green-domed Rathmines church where my parents were married at the utterly unimaginable time of 6am.

The bulbous copper dome of the church has always intrigued me, so that day I finally nailed down the facts - how the dome was destined for a Russian Orthadox church but when the revolution happened, it was brought to Dublin after a church fire in 1920.

What I wasn't expecting to find out was that James Joyce's parents also married in the church which I can't stop photographing because of its mesmerising dome.

The final, sparkling piece of synchronicity came when I read how Lenin, leader of the revolution, spoke English with... wait for it... a Rathmines accent, all thanks to his Dublin tutor in London.

And isn't it funny how, when you look back on things, everything seems to be linked in some small way?

As the saying goes, life only makes sense when you look backwards, but you gotta live it forwards.

All this delving into the past actually makes me excited for the future.

I've stepped off the merry-go-round and I'm trusting my emotions more.

As for my Russian , this weekend it moves from literature to a foodie stage.

Borscht, anyone?

Irish Independent

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