It’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.