IMG_7869It’s becoming a bit of a habit. Maybe that’s why I do it. Write. At least now I know. Another invitation to a celebration in town, courtesy of a little story. A tiny parcel has been sent out into the world. Met with approval. Packaged into an anthology. I’m on my way to the book launch and I’m not at all sure how I feel about it. Grateful, excited, nervous. Is this a new beginning? If so, am I up for it? Maybe this is it. A once off. A highlight to be remembered on the death-bed. If so, I’d better get my head in gear. The best is now here.

It is to kick off at 6.30 so I leave the house before 5. The plan is to hook up with him, meander around Grafton Street, nab a coffee or, let’s face it, a gin and tonic, saunter in to the hotel, meet and greet, relax, listen, imbibe, enjoy. The jeans have been shed and swapped for some writerly garb befitting of a book launch. A new black knit polo-neck and a checkered skirt. Black suede casual boots. The kids are being minded at this oddly early hour by my mother and sister. All I have to do is get there. Other writers are travelling for it. Jetting in from the States and from Europe. From different parts of this Isle to. It adds to the excitement brewing. Yes, I’m pretty sure the excitement is now brewing.

The every 8 minute 46A has forgotten its schedule. Four in a row fly past me in the wrong direction. The traffic, to my horror, builds up around me. I had factored in neither of these obstacles as I pulled on my tights and chatted to my sister about how the red checkered short skirt might’ve been a bit too young and punky for the evening which is why the blue and beige, marginally above the knee, had won out. Half an hour of waiting with darkness enveloping me and my silly new clothes and I’m feeling pretty sure now that I will not make it. Maybe he can just go on in for me instead.

The bus snails along as the Polish men behind me open up tin-foil encased food and munch and chat loudly and then swig at something that smells suspiciously strong. The bus driver is a novice, carefully stopping, painfully stopping, every few seconds at every bus stop even though we are FULL, have you not NOTICED, and risking not an orange light, barely a green as the other buses over-take and fly their happy passengers all the way to their Friday night fun filled destinations. I’m about to ask my Polish friends for a swig of whatever it is they are having when a text message beeps.
‘Where are you?’
‘Eh Stillorgan I think’ I text as I rub the condensation from the window and yes, even though it’s been about an hour I’m a few minutes, as the crow flies, from home.
‘Oh, ok, I’m in Neary’s. Don’t worry. We’ll make it’.
I vibe the stupid careful driver, telepathically through the floor, to hurry the hell up. Perhaps I should jump off and nab one of the flying buses instead. This must be his maiden voyage into town. The blood is well and truly simmering away in me. Until.
‘Just so you know’ the next text message reads ‘l came off a bike. I’m ok really. Just a bit shaken. A little scratched. I’m having a hot whiskey’.
It’s like a switch has been flicked. All of the frustration seeps out instantly. The mode has been changed to utterly thankful, just like that. He is ok. He may not have been ok. All the rest of it is nonsense. Little epiphanies.

He had been worried that he might be late for me. That the traffic along the quays could hold him up. Instead of risking that he thought it best to jump on a Dublin bike. To cycle along the traffic-free Luas line. Which worked a treat until the wheel got stuck in the track, flinging him free of the bike. He didn’t want to tell me. Not really. He didn’t want it to taint the night. But then he knew I’d spot the bandages and the slight limp, acute observer that I am. So taint the night it did, in a good way. A great way. What did it matter if we were late? We’d get there. Any residual nerves would be long gone. We’d have a ball. Which is exactly what we did.

IMG_7846Cheers to all the contributors, great to be snuggled in print with you, and many thanks to all involved in the competition, publication and launch. Thanks also to the Dubliners around Smithfield who came swiftly to his aid. He was swamped in kindness, the true heart of Dublin offering itself to someone in need. To the two elderly men at the bar in Neary’s who chatted and laughed with him while he waited, and then told me on my arrival to write a story about it, quick – cheers.



IMG_7761It’s the smell of the place that they love the best. They cannot describe it but there’s a smell that lingers after we’re back in Dublin as they wear the clothes brought back from the West. They inhale. They smile. They wish they were back there revelling and rollicking.

So it’s with a spoonful of trepidation that we make our merry way across for the bank holiday weekend. The place has been let in the mean-time. A long-term let to keep the bank happy-ish. Now that the pension plan for the self-employed has fallen flat. Sunk far beneath anything any of us could’ve imagined. We’re hanging on by our finger-nails. Hoping to claw our way back up out of negative equity. I know, I know, ‘mustn’t grumble’ as my dear old Grandma used to say, with a chuckle and a twinkle. There are many, many worse things. And yet.

We’re not sure of the key even. It’s been a while. But the one we suspect slides in and the door is opened and a sharp intake of breath resounds around. They’ve painted the hall a dark, dark brown. Almost black. In a gesture of good role modelling to the kids I do not scream. There’s more to be seen after all. In the living room they’ve painted an end wall to chime in with the hall. Say nothing, nothing at all I tell myself. But then it’s no longer possible. Not when I see the hound’s paw marks pattered all across the carpet. Down on my knees I scrape with my nails. It is paint. The hound that they kept here illegally has stepped in some of their paint and padded around. Perhaps a little scream slips out. They signed a lease. A lease which specified no pets. None whatsoever. There’s no garden – it’s classified as an apartment – so it is entirely unsuitable for a dog. The place is smothered with grey hound fur. There is shit out on the balcony. Mustn’t grumble.

We move on up the stairs. The two bedrooms have been painted pink. There are butterfly stencils on the walls. Mustn’t grumble. We had said they could paint downstairs in neutral colours. The bedrooms were to be left alone. Yes they said. No mad colours, we promise, they said. Black-brown and pink are mad colours in my book.

The attic room has been left alone. Small mercies. There’s an urge to exorcise them from the place. Exorcise them, and with them their deceit. The couple moved in. Then they imported their parents. Sisters. Dog. Painted and altered the place to their liking. Fell pregnant. Grumbled about the fridge being too small. We replaced it with measurements that they sent us. They mis-measured. The new fridge is half the size of the old one. We can’t fit a pizza in it. There’s a gap of useless dead space where the right fitting fridge should be. Mustn’t grumble.

We get to Lidl. We buy lots and lots of scented candles. Apple and cinnamon. Orange and clove. Detergents, cloths, sprays.
‘Let’s go’ he says to me a couple of hours later. I’m standing, rubber gloved hands in the air, hair streaming across my eyes, peering at him as if he is deranged. How can we go anywhere when there is this exorcism to carry out?

‘We’re wrecked and we need to eat, nab a pint at least. We could be at this all night, but after the delay with the car and the long journey we just need a break’.
Yes I’d almost forgotten. We nearly didn’t make it. I’m wondering if we’d have been better off. All packed up, in the car in Dublin, he turns the key in the ignition. Dead. As a dodo. A phone call to our intimately known friends in the AA. An hour of a delay. A battery recharged. Sorted. We’re off. Hooray!

It’s dark out as we meander, dumb-struck, across to the bar. We sit by the fire. Kids menus and pints arrive. I don’t think I’m hungry at all until the pint hits some cells and I begin to relax. To hell with them I think, ordering the beer battered cod and chips. To hell with them and their smoking and their dog and their lies. When they failed to pay the last month’s rent we got onto the agent. She got onto them. They told her they’d no idea why the direct debit didn’t go out of the bank. That they’d get on to them to find out about it. All lies. They moved out, using the deposit as the last month, knowing full well they wouldn’t be getting it back on inspection. All of this seems a little easier to handle as the cod and chips slip down into the empty belly. As the musicians move past us and say hi to the kids. They know them from all the joining in they do. There’s a merry thrum. It’s been a horse selling day in the town and local folk are celebrating their good fortune. It rubs off. We feel we are celebrating too.

Walking back we spot the near full moon, dark clouds dancing across it. We stop for a moment and we stare. We are restored. Even as we know we have all the bedding to do. We can do it. They are gone. Thank god. We step back inside.
‘It’s the smell that I miss the most’ marque 3 pipes up.
‘That holiday smell isn’t here anymore’ he says. I inhale. Stale cigarettes. Dog. Cooking oil. Not olive oil. Chip oil. Grease. Mustn’t grumble.
We light the scented candles all around. We dress the beds with newness. We hoover and bleach and scrub. We throw the heaters on. The lamps. It’s morphing back to us.
We are on Mannin Bay the next day and the exorcism is complete. The wind blows them all out of us. The soft drizzle washes them away. The kids run and jump and scramble the long empty beach. A shell of the day is spotted by eagle-eyed marque 4 and he runs and runs until he has it. Running back, holding it up to us, a perfect white clawed specimen. Could’ve been an ashtray for our bold tenants if we were to give them another thought. Which we won’t. The Atlantic wind has gusted them, far, far away. I will not try to find them to settle some scores. I promise.