Madrid Memories

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Madrid is my soul city.

I haven’t been there in about nine months now, and I’m starting to feel that familiar ache that comes over me when I go too long without visiting. Half of my extended family live in the city, and I have been faithfully flying over at a rate of at least twice a year for the past thirty years. Three years ago, my last remaining grandparent – my Yayo – passed away, and I worried that this would change things. I worried I might not feel as welcome in Madrid now that I no longer had somewhere to stay. I worried that the connection I felt with my family and the city might loosen or come undone now that we no longer had La Comida del Domingo (Sunday lunch) to bring us together each week.

I needn’t have worried.

I still have a place to stay. In fact, now I have places, plural. My aunts welcome me with open arms and comfortable rooms. They feed me and fuss over me and keep me up to date on their lives as if nothing has changed. I visit cousins who are more like older siblings, and walk the streets searching for churros just like I’ve done since I was a child.

I miss the apartment I grew up in, though.

The loss of that apartment and the loss of my Yayo are completely enmeshed in my mind. When I think of him, I think of him sitting in his chair by the window, watching the world pass by. I think of him flipping through the leather-bound photo albums I’d taken down by precariously balancing on the armchair next to the bookshelves. I think of him napping in his armchair and then pretending he had actually been watching mass on the TV, even though we both knew it was untrue. I think of him teaching me to make Arroz Con Leche in the kitchen, with military precision and instructions that bordered on orders. I think of sitting on the leather Chesterfield in the study, watching him write poetry about his childhood or my Yaya. I think of him combing back his hair in front of the bathroom mirror before leaving the house. I think of him sitting at the head of the long dining table at Christmas, proudly watching over his family as we laughed and chattered over wine and homemade food.

Somebody else owns the apartment now. A young family bought it and, as far as I can tell, renovated it from end to end. They closed off the balconies and changed the windows. Even when viewed only from the outside, it looks different to the place I once crawled, then toddled, and later walked through during different stages of my life. I am a really sentimental person, and I feel a bone-deep sense of sadness at the reminder that things change, and people die, and we can’t always hold onto the things and people and places that make us happiest.

Then again, they say ‘Good things fall apart so that better things can come together,’ and while I throw that phrase a highly skeptical side-eye, it’s true that without the sale of the apartment, we would have struggled to save up a deposit for our own place. It’s true that at the moment, as I sit at my own dining table, I can reach behind me and touch onyx figurines that used to sit on Yayo’s sideboard, and now sit on my own. I have reminders of him and of that apartment dotted around me; the onyx elephants, the silver Mexican plates, the vintage glass sweet jars and the art deco cutlery set.

Some days, I wish I could sit down and write Yayo a letter like I used to, complete with drawings and addressed to YAYO! (block capitals as standard), telling him about my life and my worries and my thoughts. After he passed away we found all the letters I had sent over the years stacked neatly in the drawer of his desk under lock and key. He had kept my cards, my letters, my childhood drawings of the apartment (complete with a very questionable grasp of perspective), and anything else I had sent tucked neatly between his pages of poetry and his bank account statements.

I’m not sure why I’m in such a melancholy mood today. Perhaps it’s due to the sun having disappeared, or just because I feel exhausted, or because I have a low-level headache happening at the moment that I’m about to bomb out of existence with some industrial strength ibuprofen. Lia is currently snoring away on the floor at my feet, somehow managing not to wake herself despite sounding like a anthropomorphised jet engine with sleep apnea.

Or maybe I just have Madrid withdrawals.

There’s only one remedy I know for Madrid withdrawals…..

 

Thoughts On… Adulting Struggles

It is unseasonably warm in Ireland at the moment. In a freak occurence, the sun is actually visible, the clouds are wispy and barely-there, and the temperature has crept up to Irish-sunburn levels (which isn’t very high, but it’s high enough for people to wander the streets in singlets, puffing and red-faced, panting about how it’s “FAR too hot!”).

I am currently sitting at my table, with a cup of tea beside me to wash down my many supplements*, thinking of the many, many things on my To Do List. The thoughts of all these things that need to be done have come together to form a thick, grey, thundercloud of tasks, and every so often it sends forks of lightning formed from pure unadulterated panic down my spine.

This is Not Good.

I know myself well enough to know that I need to get a handle on this situation. I feel overwhelmed, but I know that all the items on my endlessly long To Do List are doable; it’s only when thinking of all of them, together and at the same time, that I start to sweat and wonder whether it might be a good idea to change my name to Carmen Sandiego and move to Raja Ampat to sell beaded bracelets on the side of the road.

I do love making beaded bracelets…

Adulting is hard sometimes. I have yet to master the life skill of organisation. I rarely make lists, and even when I do make lists I inevitably lose them, which usually leaves me worse off than I was before. I often lose track of time because I’m so focused on a single thing that I forget 1.) to eat, 2.) that time is passing and 3.) there are in fact other things that require my attention. The fact that this blog is still alive and updated is a minor miracle considering how abysmal my scheduling skills can be.

And yet…

I love the feeling of being productive. I love the days when I smash through the things on my To Do List with reckless abandon and reach nightfall exhausted but delighted by my progress. I love seeing things look the way I envisioned, or finishing something and knowing I don’t need to worry about it again for a while. I love escaping out from under the crushingly heavy Sisyphean boulder of responsibility that builds up every once in a while after a period of slacking (or, say, a particularly lazy holiday).

Considering that I LOATHE this feeling of having every chore ever invented hanging over my head, feel positively meh about actually doing them, and enjoy the feeling of having done them, you would think the obvious thing would be to get through them as quickly as possible. The adult, rational part of the brain would tell you that it is the only logical course of action. I know this.

So why am I still sitting here?

Wish me luck. If you have anything stronger than luck (bourbon?), send that too. If you have a way of tackling mammoth To Do Lists in a productive manner, let me know your secret. You can whisper it. You can even send it by smoke signal; I’ll keep one eye on the windows just in case.

I’ll be right here, tediously checking my way through a list as long as my arm.

 

*Seriously it’s getting out of control; I’m now taking iron because my iron stores are low, folic acid because a friend told me everyone should be taking it all the time, vitamin D because I rarely see the sun here, vitamin B12 for my skin and vitamin C and zinc to help absorb the iron. I was talking to a friend recently who said I should also be taking magnesium, but I really don’t think I can bring myself to take more than five tablets in a day unless there is a serious and pressing need…

Cooped Up in Cork, Ireland

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I’ve been living in Cork for the past few months.

I’m a Dublin girl, so I’d grown up hearing Corkonians talk about how Cork should be the capital city of Ireland, and how Dublin had robbed Cork of its rightful place as the nation’s most important city… It left me with a somewhat garbled idea of what Cork must be like. After hearing all this chatter, I imagined Cork to be a large, multicultural place on par with Dublin. You know, an actual, geographically alternative capital city.

… And then I moved here.

Cork city is tiny. If I walk so slowly I’m practically going backwards, I can walk from my apartment all the way through the city centre to the other side in twenty minutes. Not only that, but considering it’s the south-west corner of the island, I had always imagined Cork to be positively Mediterranean weather-wise. This is also not the case. In fact as I type this, I’m looking out the window at a flat, grey expanse of cloud that is so low it’s partially obscuring the rooftops of surrounding buildings. It has been raining since last night without pause, and this seems to be the usual way of things in Cork. I never realised Dublin could ever be described as “dry” until I lived here.

I realise all this may sound very negative, so let me assure you that Cork has its positives. The surrounding countryside and all of West Cork is truly beautiful, even with the constant, unrelenting rain. The pubs here are charming, the restaurants are wonderful, and the people here will happily talk your ear off if you stand still for longer than two minutes (the key is to keep moving and look busy).

It’s a city with incredible detail. You can walk down a bland, narrow passageway and look up to find beautiful stained glass, or climb up a raggedy-looking hill and come to a little castle, or drive down a bog-standard country road and find an old viaduct.

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When it comes to food and drink, Cork has you covered. For vegetarians, it has unbeatable options such as Cafe Paradiso – the only high-end vegetarian restaurant I’ve ever been to – and the Quay Co-op which has every possible vegetarian/vegan product you can imagine. For omnivores the arracy of choice is spectacular, from lunches at Orso to brunches at Liberty Grill to dinners and cocktails at Market Lane and Cask. There are coffee shops on every corner, and there are university students everywhere giving the city a young, slightly alternative vibe.

So on balance, I find Cork city… fine.

It’s fine. It’s okay. When we go out with friends it’s fun, and the rest of the time it’s raining and I’m stuck in the apartment, slowly being driven insane by whoever designed this place.

Really, the apartment is probably the crux of my issues with Cork city.

The place we’re renting here was clearly built with only optics in mind. The block was built before the recession, and is presumably now being rented out until house prices go back up and they can make their money back. Whoever designed it obviously gave a lot of thought as to how it would look in photos, but unfortunately nobody stopped to think about how it would feel to live in it.

When we first moved in, I spent valuable time and energy trying to figure out a way to make it more homely. Eventually I admitted defeat, because no amount of soft woollen throws can soften the angular white walls and black and chrome decor. The hard leather couch could probably just about accomodate half a person … as long as that half a person doesn’t mind sitting on something that gives about the same level of comfort as a window ledge. We don’t have a television, but if we did it would be smack in the centre of the room leaving no space for a dining area. The round table – that we have unceremoniously shunted into the corner – is a glass and chrome monstrosity that shows up every streak and stain on its surface. You never need to use coasters, which is nice, but there is something unsettling about seeing your legs every time you look down at your plate.

Basically, if you want to feel comfortable in this apartment, you need to feel like one of those people who isn’t home long enough to give their house a personality and so rents the furniture from a staging crew. You need half a friend, since that’s all that can be comfortably entertained at one time, and you need to be really into microwaveable meals (the microwave here is a space-age contraption the likes of which I’ve never seen before).

The apartment does come with rack space for 12 wine bottles though, so while apparently the ideal home owner will have no friends, they will have the storage space to accomodate a robust alcohol dependency.

I like my apartments to be cosy. I like the place I’m living to have lots of soft textures and warm colours and preferably a fireplace or a stove. Maybe some twinkly lights. Ideally a pet around the place to snuggle with. This apartment checks none of those boxes. It makes me sad. I hope I can shake off my discomfort for the last few weeks that I’m here and maybe venture out into the rain a bit more… I can’t have seen everything there is to see here!

Still, I doubt I’ll be too sad when it’s time to move back to Dublin.

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In other news, I numbered comments on the last post from 1 – 22 (I didn’t count double comments) and then used Google’s handy dandy random number generator to pick a number and it chose:

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… which if I’m right means Lost Astronomer is the winner of this giveaway. Astroboy, send me on your address (if you’re happy to) and I’ll send you on a little box of randomness!

I’m in a bit of a mood today which is seeping into everything I do so if you can read my grumpy thoughts crawling into this post I apologise. Poor Cork, getting the short end of the stick today! I think I’m going to go bake a cake or something to lift my spirits…..

Life Skills Unlocked: Reading for Enjoyment

“One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage thr.png

When I was a child, I would read books to teleport out of my life. One moment I would be lying in bed staring at the white ceiling, anxiety clawing at my throat, and the next I would be visiting prickly Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, or laughing at Dogmatix and his fondness for trees. My introduction to reading was a steady and consistent diet of Beatrix Potter, Goscinny and Uderzo, Hergé, Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss and Enid Blyton. I read compulsively, almost obsessively.

As soon as I was able to read by myself, it became a fixation; whether we were out for a walk or it was after dark, I would have a book in my hand. I became adept at reading while also watching where I was going. I would fall asleep with my cheek pressed against the page.

My mother made us members of the public library and each week she would drive there and let me check out seven books, since that was the most that was allowed at the time. I still remember carrying my wobbly pile to the counter and watching the lady methodically stamp each one before handing them back to me with a smile. If I close my eyes I can still smell the ink and paper.

For a time, Enid Blyton was my crack; Wikipedia tells me Enid Blyton published 762 books and I’d say I’ve read the vast majority. My addiction was so intense that my mother actually forbade me to borrow any more of them. There were multiple trips to the library where I would have to engage in serious subterfuge to get my fix. I would pick out my books, wait patiently for my mother to go out of the room, and then rush the counter in a blind panic to get them stamped before she returned. I would hide them under my jumper or tuck them into the waistband of my highly fashionable corduroy trousers. I could carefully conceal two Enid Blytons (three if I was wearing a jacket). Of course, to avoid suspicion, I would have to then borrow four or five books just for show. When my mother inevitably wondered why I hadn’t checked out the usual seven, I would have to pretend I couldn’t find anything else that interested me.

In hindsight, I wonder what the librarian made of us…

After Enid Blyton I got hooked on Nina Bawden, R.L. Stine, Bill Watterson, K.A. Applegate, Philip Pullman, J.K. Rowling, Garth Nix and eventually just a broad scope of authors from all different genres. As I grew up, I continued to see books as an escape route to other worlds. Anytime I was feeling too much stress or anxiety or discomfort or worry, I would open a book and disappear into it head-first. It was like a wormhole to another life; a sort of body-swap, if you will. I would slip into the shoes of the main character and do what they were doing, feel what they were feeling. I was Sabriel learning to ring the bells, I was Lyra leaving Pantalaimon on the shore. When I finished a book I always felt bereft, like I’d been kicked out of a temporary home.

I think that all of my time spent inside stories – looking through the eyes of different characters and experiencing their adventures, loves, heartbreaks, successes and betrayals – has made me a more empathetic person. I think it taught me so much more about life than what I could ever learn from my own experiences. I won’t say reading makes someone a better person but I do think it makes them a more rounded one. Books have taught me so much more about people than I could ever have learned otherwise. It gave and still gives me insight into lives completely different to my own, motivations I could never share, and realities I could never imagine. In a way, reading other people’s blogs is an extension of that. Reading other people’s blog posts lets me share in their feelings and inhabit their world for a minute or two.

I have a clear and vivid memory of sitting on the windowsill in my 4th class classroom, reading during lunch hour, when a friend saw me and said, “Quinn, when you grow up you’re probably going to marry a book!” At the time I was upset by the comment because I wasn’t an overly sociable child and my interests were pretty much restricted to hanging upside-down from trees and reading. Sometimes I combined the two and hung upside-down from trees while reading. I remember wondering if that would be my life as an adult; just me and my books. I wondered if I would die crushed under a tower of heavy hardbacks that had just been a little too precariously placed.

Now that I am an adult, I am in a much better place. I live a happier, less stressful life. I no longer feel the need to body-swap with fictional characters. These days I read because I enjoy it, not because I need it. I no longer desperately try to make out words by the light of the moon (terrible for your eyes, by the way), or escape into stories like I’m using them as a hiding place. I’m glad to say that now that I am a bona fide grown-up, it’s not just me and my books, and my heavy hardbacks are tidily stacked on a sturdy bookcase where they pose no danger to anyone.

[Just a quick note to say that (astonishingly) I am getting closer to 1000 readers and if I do reach that number I will be doing a weird but fun little giveaway! 

… Well. Even if I don’t ever reach that number I’ll probably do the giveaway. Basically, I am planning a giveaway and writing it here so I don’t forget because although I’m excellent at compiling things I always slack on actually going to the post office! I mean, I have three things that I’ve been meaning to post out for about a month now, so might as well add this to the list. It’s happening! Don’t let me forget!]

AH. Yum. Yum.

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You know that ad with the tagline, “You’re not you when you’re hungry”? It’s a Snickers ad, I think. They main character has been acting irrationally, but thanks to the healing power of chocolate they shapeshift back to themselves after a single bite of a Snickers. You know the one? I identify strongly with that ad, only for me it’s, “You’re not you when you’re tired.”

I am not me when I am tired.

I become something else entirely, something strongly resembling a mogwai who has been fed after midnight, put under a spotlight and doused with a fireman’s hose for good measure. I become a gremlin.

My face scrunches up in displeasure, a stubborn frown settles on my face, and I start plotting the imminent accidentally-on-purpose demise of anyone or anything making the fatal mistake of annoying me. This can include:

  • People with grating accents (specifically, rowdy hen/stag parties with grating accents; ie the hens and stags from Manchester – sorry Mancunians – that were on my flight to Dublin)
  • Crying babies
  • Anybody eating an egg sandwich in a public place
  • Anybody who stops in a doorway for no visible reason
  • People who block a footpath by walking at a glacial pace while you’re in a hurry
  • People who wait until all their items have been scanned at the till before patting their pockets for their wallet
  • When my laptop freezes
  • When I can’t find the end of the sellotape
  • Buffering
  • Sales assistants that descend on you the moment you enter the shop
  • Umbrellas (I don’t trust them. They’re spiky and sinister looking)

On a regular day, none of these things annoy me. None of these things could be described as anything more than mildly infuriating. On a normal day, if my laptop freezes I take the opportunity to go make myself another cup of tea. On a normal day I feel bad for crying babies, and when someone blocks the footpath I remind myself that I’m not in a rush, and sure what harm in slowing down myself?

But, mis amigos, on a tired day, each of these annoyances make my face crumple and scrunch until you can barely make out any facial features. If multiple annoyances attack me when I am tired I go beyond gremlin status and basically become an angry human scribble.

Today, I am so tired. I am so tired that I have run myself into the ground. My body put up no defence at all against the inevitable long-haul flight germs and now I am sick. I have had no time to nap and no time to wind down, and I am shattered into smithereens. I feel like a sliver of my usual self. I feel like Mr. Potatohead in Toy Story 3 when he becomes Mr. Tortillawraphead. I am wafting about with limited self control.

Luckily, there have been no annoyances in the last two days. The situation is not as dire as it could be. You can still – just about – see my eyes if you manage to look past the dark circles beneath them. I’m hoping to sleep myself practically comatose tonight, and be back to myself by Wednesday.

If I’m not better by then, can one of you come and put this Gremlin in a blender please?

Thanks in advance!

Plans and Pawprints

 

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Some people have detailed daydreams about their future wedding.

I am not one of those people.

Some people already know what they will name their future children.

I am also not one of those people.

I do have names picked out, however. Names that I speak out loud to see how they’ll sound shouted out loud in the park. I do have detailed daydreams that involve craft projects and colour schemes.

You see, my detailed daydreams are about future pets.

I have it all planned out. I will first get a cat – an indoor cat, since I will have to move at some point and don’t want to risk them getting lost or harmed in a new place – and then a few years later I will get a dog.

Maybe two dogs.

My cat will have time to become boss of the household before I bring in a puppy; in my experience this is necessary for the two of them to get along in the long-term. Although FutureCat will have to be a specific breed for personal reasons, the puppy will be a rescue. FutureCat will have an awesome cat tree beside the window, and a soft leather collar so that he feels like a true gentleman. SpaceDog will be spoiled, and I will feed him under the table even though I’m not supposed to.

Since this plan requires a few years, the first part of this ambitious pet plan starts this year. The FutureCat strategy is hopefully in the works. I have already, in a burst of extreme optimism, bought FutureCat a fancy cat bowl.

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FutureCat only needs one bowl (for his food) because he will have a little fountain for his water. He won’t even know how good he has it. FutureCat is going to be one fancy, formal, fashionable feline.

Typing this out makes me feel like I’m jinxing myself, and yet… I want to put it down here. FutureCat may have already been born. This daydream could be real!

I’m excited.

Just you wait. Six months from now I’ll be building a miniature yurt for FutureCat complete with fairylights and a kitty couch.

New and Unexpected Housemate

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I have a housemate called Lenny.

I don’t know when he moved in. He lives in the bathroom. I noticed him for the first time the other day. I opened the door, turned on the light, and there he was.

“Oh.” I said. “Hi.”

He froze, then ran for cover. He hid in the corner while I brushed my teeth. We watched each other warily. Well, I watched him warily. I can only assume he was watching me too. In reality, his eyes are far too small for me to know exactly where he was looking.

You see, Lenny is a silverfish*.

Since discovering him in my bathroom, I’ve done some investigating. Lenny appears to be a bachelor, and he’s fully grown which confuses me because I have never seen him before. Either he has always lived in my bathroom and I never knew, or he recently moved in without consulting me on the matter.

That first night, I spent an abnormal amount of time in bed staring at the ceiling and thinking about silverfish viewing apartments. I imagined Lenny strolling onto the tiled floor with an attractive silverfish realtor, listening to her as she explained the pros and cons.

“So this bathroom is frequented by two adult humans. I know you were probably hoping for more in terms of dandruff or hair, but then we’d really want to be looking at an elderly human’s bathroom and that would really strain your budget. I think this is a good compromise. Now, the only thing is that as you can see, they’ve recently installed a more powerful fan in the ceiling, which is going to cut down on humidity significantly. On the plus side this will make the price more negotiable. Also there is quite a lot of plaster to feast on and they sometimes leave books there on the countertop, so that is quite the perk….”

I googled silverfish to find out more about Lenny. Apparently almost everyone has a silverfish housemate. One or two are expected in rooms with high humidity. One website recommends overlooking their presence before adding, “If you have an infestation however, you may want to call pest control.”

…I think if I have an infestation I may want to move out, but that’s just me.

They’re very small and they eat plaster and book bindings and glue and hair. They don’t bite or spread disease, or even do much damage.

Oh, and they can live up to eight years.

EIGHT. YEARS.

According to the fountain of knowledge that is Wikipedia, the predecessors of silverfish are considered the earliest, most primitive insects. I can well believe this, since Lenny looks like he recently scuttled off a seabed from the Cambrian period. They can’t climb vertical surfaces. They are nocturnal. Also, as long as they have access to water they can live without food for more than a year.

What the hell, Lenny? What kind of a mutant fossil are you?

I don’t want to hurt Lenny. I don’t even really want to evict him. I will, however, be keeping a close eye on him. If he starts inviting over other silverfish to netflix and chill, or having silverfish parties until 5am, we may have to re-examine things. For the moment though, I’m happy to cohabitate.

As long as Lenny stays in his corner, we’ll be fine.

 

*Don’t google him, he’s not pretty.

Spilling The Tea

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If you ask anyone abroad what the national beverage of Ireland is, I would wager that they’re likely to say Guinness. After all, Guinness has been successfully plying their trade for years now – 258 years, to be exact – with Irishness as a large part of its brand persona. It has the harp, and the Irish music, and that ad at Christmas that shows Dublin looking perfect and makes you feel a tingle of excitement… I mean, Guinness really puts forward a good, solid argument for why it’s the natural choice for the nation’s official beverage.

Despite all of this however, Guinness just doesn’t get the job done. It doesn’t win that coveted spot in the hearts of Irish people everywhere. It’s not what Irish people ask their mammies to send them when they move abroad, to be drank with packets of Taytos and slices of brown bread with real butter.

Clearly, the national beverage of Ireland is tea.

… and not just any tea. You’re either a Lyons tea person, or a Barry’s tea person. There’s no room for other, lesser brands of tea. Get away out of here with your Lipton, Twinings or Tetley’s. Don’t waste your breath offering PG Tips. Lyons or Barry’s are the only acceptable brands of tea on this island. If you’ve ever watched Father Ted, the character of Mrs. Doyle is not so much a caricature as a slight exaggeration; when you visit someone’s home, often one of the first questions they’ll ask you is whether you’d like a cup of tea, and if you decline, you will be asked if you’re sure. If you decline again, you’ll be asked to reconsider, and the cycle will generally continue until you give in… so really you might as well accept the first offer, if only to save time.

I am actually an Irish anomaly; I held out on drinking tea for about 26 years. All my life, I drank only hot chocolate – preferably with many, many mini-marshmallows – until a fateful day four years ago when I finally surrendered and joined the tea-drinking masses. In the end, I was no match for the endless national browbeating. I now drink tea (Barry’s, obviously, since it’s undeniably the superior brand) and coffee (Nespresso Dulsão capusules are my favourite) and I don’t even sweeten it.

I know. Big strides.

It turns out tea is useful for every occasion. Sweet tea if you’re in shock, and iced tea if you’re too warm. Hot tea and biscuits for chats with friends, and hot tea and a book for evenings alone. Coca tea for altitude sickness, and chamomile tea for winding down. Tea cups if you’re feeling fancy, and mugs of tea if you mean business. I have fully come around. I now understand the wonders of tea. It is multipurpose, much like the pancake.

I do have a secret though. A terrible, shameful secret. Sometimes I crave something a little more… exotic. Sometimes the taste of Barry’s isn’t enough to get my juices flowing, and so, I have a confession to make. I hope you’re sitting down for this.

For the past few years I’ve been cheating on Barry’s tea.

About three years ago, somewhere in the state of Florida, I came across Tazo tea and fell deeply in love with the variety* available. There was zen tea, chai tea, pumpkin spice tea, and I piled boxes of the stuff into my Target shopping cart with the sort of frenzied excitement I usually reserve for a sporting event or a trip to the zoo. I arrived back in Ireland and stacked my Tazo tea collection in the bedroom, far away from the box of Barry’s so as not to feel guilt over this infideli-tea**.

Since then, every trip to America has involved stripping the aisles of Target of all boxes of Tazo tea. They are one of three American items that I insist on hoarding like I’m preparing for an impending apocalypse. The other two items are peanut butter M&Ms – which for some reason that is beyond human comprehension have yet to reach Irish shores – and the honey that comes in the bear-shaped container***.

I also compulsively raid hotel rooms for their individually packaged teabags, and now have a tea chest in the living room that houses an impressive number of truly bizarre tea flavours. Not only have I become a tea-drinker, but I have developed a natural curiosi-tea**** for all the different flavours out there and their effects. I have become a tea explorer. I try to drink tea wherever I go now, to see what’s out there that I haven’t yet discovered. As a late bloomer, I find myself trying to make up for lost (tea) time. Moroccan mint tea was a fast favourite. Matcha tea in Japan was also delicious.

Still though, I always seem to come back to Barry’s in the end.

My once-dormant Irish tea gene must be a dominant one.

*Varie-tea! It took enormous willpower not to insert that pun.

**I apologise.

***I cannot explain my love for the honey except to say that the bear-shaped bottle just cheers me up no end, although I did once make the mistake of microwaving one of them and you should know that it was a tragic mistake. The bear melted and shrank until he was a hideously deformed, stumpy version of his former self. It was quite depressing. He still had his eyes and they had changed shape just enough to look sort of accusatory and horrified. I tried to keep him for a while but every time I caught sight of him I felt like I was in The Tell-Tale Heart; Honeybear Edition, so I finally gave him a sad burial in the bin.

I feel like this anecdote makes me sound a little peculiar.

So… pretty accurate, really.

****Don’t judge me.

 

The Sugar Rush is Real

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So I meant to take a photo of my pancakes but then I got too excited and ate them too quickly and so instead you get a photo of an empty plate. 

Yesterday was Pancake Tuesday.

I’m not sure how widespread Pancake Tuesday is, but if it’s not a global holiday then it should be. If anything can unite us in this time of division and disharmony, it’s pancakes. I mean, talk about a food of the people. They can be adapted to suit everyone! If you don’t like the fluffy, thick American pancakes, you can go for paper-thin French crêpes. If you don’t like them sweet (YOU MONSTER), you can have them savoury.

Seriously, pancakes are multi-purpose. Who needs a penknife in their back pocket? Pack a pancake instead.

I ate a lot of pancakes yesterday. I had pancakes for breakfast. I had pancakes for dinner. I had pancakes for dessert. This morning I had another pancake, because I wasn’t ready to let go of my favourite maple syrup delivery system just yet. Truthfully, I still have some batter left so there’s a fairly decent chance I’ll be having a ham and cheese crêpe for lunch.

…And then I may have to actually join the gym because my body mass will be 85% pancake batter, and I’m sure that’s not recommended for general human-ing. If I were to have an accident right now (caused by my own clumisness, naturally), I suspect I would bleed maple syrup. I don’t feel like that’s a good thing. The emergency services probably don’t deal with that issue very often.

“What’s your blood type miss?”

“Well usually I’m O negative… but currently I’m maple syrup positive, if you know what I mean.”

“Now is not the time for jokes, miss. You could lose your leg.”

“That’s not a joke. I’m probably one pancake away from diabetes. TRANSFUSE ME!”

Anyway. I thought I’d share the recipe I use for crêpes (you can save it as an image) because it’s easy and then you can experience your own sugar-induced hyperactive zoomies. Or ham, cheese and egg goodness. I don’t judge.

Unless you put fruit on your pancake in which case…

Get out. Just get out.

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In hindsight, I realise that maybe I should have posted this on Friday. That may have made more sense. I wasn’t really in the full swing of pancake fever on Friday, though. Instead of seeing this as a pancake post that’s a day late, maybe see it as a pancake post that’s a year early. If you think about it, I’m just giving you a headstart so you can start practicing for next Pancake Tuesday

You will be SO READY.

*Except you know that song Cake By The Ocean? Does anyone else feel like there should definitely be a rule about that? I think it should be added to the signs at the beach; no dogs, no drinks, no cake. I keep thinking about the amount of sand that would get in the buttercream and how it would mix with the jam and stick to you everywhere and just… gritty cake sounds so deeply, deeply unpleasant that anytime that song comes on the radio my teeth clench in protest and now I’m off on a tangent again and oh my God how do I always end up here in the footnotes. Sorry. As you were.

Life Skill Unlocked: Millinery

needle

If you’ve never heard the word before, ‘millinery’ is the word for the art of making fancy hats and fascinators*.

I actually have never worn a fancy hat or fascinator. Not because I don’t like them – they can be pretty amazing – but because anything small and girlie makes me feel self-conscious and stupid, and anything wide-brimmed makes me look like a peculiarly flamboyant portobello mushroom.

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There I am on the left there

Still, as you know, I like to try my hand at new crafts, so when Emergency Sister invited me to join her for an afternoon of millinery at The Design House** on Dawson Street, I jumped at the opportunity.

I have not, in the past, had the best of luck with fabric-related crafts. As a general rule, unless there is a glue gun involved there is a chance that no two pieces will ever come together. The end result of my efforts is commonly a scrap pile of material marred with the sort of stitches you’d expect on Frankenstein’s monster, and bloody phalanges from repeatedly punching holes in my fingertips with the needle.

Essentially for this exercise I will need you to take the image you have in your mind’s eye of a Jane Austen lady quietly, delicately, elegantly sewing in the corner… and replace it with what you might expect to see after a rumpled, chaotic girl has spent hours attempting to remove her own fingerprints.

Thanks to my past experience with fabric, I went into the class with high excitement at the idea of learning a new skill and, at the same time, profoundly low expectations that I would actually leave with a finished piece. Thankfully, as soon as we arrived we were offered a glass of wine to encourage the creative process. In my opinion there is no situation wine cannot improve, and this was no exception. I definitely felt my confidence in my own abilities go up as steadily as the level of wine in my glass went down. There were five of us in the class, and after listening intently to our teacher Bebh, we all picked a colour and got to work.

Five hours, one steamed finger and countless needle-pricks later, I had a finished fascinator.

I even took a photo as proof.

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Proof.

So there you have it. Life skill unlocked! Perhaps not the most practical skill, but a skill nontheless. Now, thanks to the astonishing powers of Bebh and her excellent teaching, I can go forth and make many more fascinators in the future. Despite the fact that I probably stabbed my fingers more than I stabbed the sinamay, and it’s unlikely that I will ever wear my little creation, I had a really good time and would definitely recommend it. I didn’t use the glue gun once!

Also, as it turns out, I have the perfect (if slightly reluctant) model for my work:

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Don’t worry, she was paid for this modelling gig.

*If you have ever seen a woman at a wedding who you suspected had a startled bird perched precariously on the side of her head… She was probably wearing a fascinator.

*The Design House is located at 43 Dawson Street, Dublin and they teach a number of classes there. Not only that but you can also get clothes made from scratch, or buy any number of Irish crafts in their shop. Also there’s a cafe downstairs that makes delicious sandwiches (I tried them) and, apparently, heavenly cannolis (I have not yet tried them, but they’re on my list).