Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The best bit was the bonus night in London

Like the timing of childbirth, toilet training, children's vegetable consumption and the weather, volcanic ash is just another thing I have to accept I do not have any control over.

On my journey back from England last week, I had to take an unexpected detour via London and Brussels due to the volcanic ash that closed Manchester airport. I had visions of being stuck for days as Britain got shut off from Europe again. It was all very expensive and anxiety producing. But several long phone calls, train journeys, a bonus night in London, and a quick visit to Belgium later and I was eventually home - 24 hours later than planned.

Apart from the quick re-visit with Nicki to borrow her sofa for the night, it was mainly just tiring and inconvenient. After a few very lovely days away from my children, I did just want to get home to them...although I knew they were perfectly fine without me. (Aksel, on the other hand, was very ready for me to be back, so I was perhaps missed a little bit.)

Some things:
- I read an entire book in 24 hours. I haven't been able to do this for years.
- I don't even come close to understanding Belgian French or Dutch and I felt very, very foreign in Brussels.
- I sometimes get mistaken for being Irish, I suppose because of my red hair. This happened while waiting to get a seat on Eurostar. I was assured there would be a seat, but I was not allocated one until everyone else (presumably those that booked way ahead of ash-induced-travel-necessity) was seated. There were three of us in this situation for carriage eight, myself and two men. One of the men, who happened to be from Dublin, started to make polite volcanic-travel-detour conversation with me. All fine, if not a bit of a struggle at 7am in the morning while wearing the same clothes as the day before. I was stressing a little over the news that Rotterdam and Amsterdam airports were now also closed and had this horrible sense of urgency to just get going. And I was looking forward to some coffee and sleep on the train.

Then the train manager guy calls us over and allocates us seats - the carriage is not full and it is not a problem he says. And, seeing as we are both Irish, he can even sit us together! Oh god. I try to say something like no no that is alright, really you don't have to. But then there we are, sitting next to one another. And I see that the Irish guy is quite pleased. And now I will have to chat politely to him for the next 2 hours. I really, really don't want to, but I can't see how I can change the situation without being really rude. (I didn't think that I could whisper quietly or discreetly enough to the train manager: Look, I'm not Irish, I don't know that guy, I don't want to talk to him, please let me sit elsewhere....) And, honestly, even if I was Irish, it doesn't mean I want to chat to random strangers that just happen to come from the same country, does it?!

Luckily, as the train pulls away from St Pancras, I remember that I have a book and an iPod and I get up to get them from my case. Then I spot several empty seats a few rows down. I make a swift decision; mumble something to the Irish guy about preferring to sit facing the direction of travel and move seats before he can say anything. I hope he understood. I was very pleased with myself.

- I have never been so happy to see Copenhagen as when I eventually arrived at Kastrup. It was all so familiar. I understood the language and I knew where I was and where I was going.

So, perhaps I need to experience the true foreign-ness of a country that is neither England nor Denmark to really appreciate how at home I am in both countries.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


As I get older, it is even more important to stay in touch with the friends who knew me when I was young.

And I don't mean this in some shallow Facebook way, where some random woman "friend requests" me via Facebook and claims we used to go to school together 25 years ago. We didn't talk to each other or know anything about each other then, so why would we suddenly do that now? All that we have in common is that we shared the same biology teacher in 1984. This is hardly enough to even warrant a quick mention, let alone a lasting re-connection. (Although I have to admit, I am curious to see what you look like and it seems rude to Ignore the request, so I have accepted it....and it seems this is all you wanted to do too, because that is as far as the contact has gone.) (I am obviously too old to really get FB, but that is a different post entirely).

I feel very lucky that I have some very good real-life friends from school and that we have managed to stay in touch with each other (without the miracle of Facebook or even e-mail). These friendships have survived many years, despite differences in geography and life's other complications. We have shared weddings and baby announcements but we never used to see each other very much. Everyone was busy. We lived at opposite ends of the country (or in different countries). We had small children.

Then someone my sister went to school with died. Too young and very suddenly. And she went to the funeral and met up with friends she hadn't seen for years. And I thought "what a sad reason to get together with friends". I didn't want to wait until someone's funeral. And if you would make the effort for a funeral, you’d do it for a happier occasion, surely?

So last year I invited my friends to Copenhagen for no other reason than just to meet up. And obviously we had a good time and this weekend the five of us got together again - for the third time in a year.

They knew me when I was young(er). And they make me feel young. They remind me of who I was before I was a wife and a mother. They make brilliant cocktails and aren't afraid to dance to all the 80s songs. They take me on treasure hunts round the English countryside, will lend me money and, in an emergency, their sofa for the night. And they are brave enough to ride the Big Rollercoaster with me.

I'm already looking forward to GOT4.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Things I would be writing about...

I am 18,654 words, 59 pages, and 203 footnotes into a document and project that has taken up all my available time and then just a bit more time that I didn't actually have.

If I wasn't so busy, I would write about:
  • How stressed I get when I can't quite see how I am going to tackle a job. And I feel very anxious and overwhelmed by the deadline. Once I've made a start on it, it feels more manageable and I realise that I can do it. I sometimes even realise that I am actually quite good at my job. However, despite reminding myself of this fact, the initial doubt and crisis of confidence is always there.
  • Power shopping but not in a good way. In a I-have-to-collect-children -from-school -in-15-minutes-and-I-have-to-buy-new-shoes-or-else-people-will-think-I-am-homeless kind of a panic way.
  • The irony of loving to have new stuff but absolutely hating to shop for myself.
  • Our trip to the zoo, where Sam's most favourite animal experience was not the exotic tiger or polar bear or crocodile, it was not even the monkeys or the penguins. No, it was the cow.
  • GOT3 - volcanic ash be damned, I am flying to Manchester on Friday for the third meet-up with my girlfriends. I am also cramming in a lunch with my mum and dad who are taking a stupidly long and expensive train journey to spend a few hours with their youngest daughter. I Can't Wait.

So that's what I have been doing. And if anyone can tell me why my To Do list always has exactly the same things on it that just won't go away (right now, winter tyres, haircuts, weeding, Dr. appointments, WORK, laundry, cooking, cleaning the floor) despite the fact that I dutifully do these things regularly and yet husband's To Do list is full of things that can be satisfactorily ticked off once and forever (fix garden fence, fix lawn mower and gate, mend Anna's bike) I would be grateful.