How to have an awesome Irish summer holiday



1. Don’t check the weather

About two days before you’re due to go on your holiday, the sun will be splitting the rocks at your chosen destination. Your friends/colleagues/Airbnb host will say these very words and congratulate you on how you’ve picked “the right week” and you’ll feel all smug and self-satisfied, as though you hold the secret to cheating the Irish weather system. Listen to me: you don’t and you never will. Check the weather for the next week all you like, it doesn’t mean shit. The only thing that you can predict with any certainty is that the weather will be the weather-iest. Accept this fact and that when you arrive at your holiday house (in July), you’ll have to put the heating on, “just to take the dampness out of the air.”

2. Pack all the things 

Forget all those articles about being minimalist and packing just a carry-on. You are not going on a Ryanair flight to guaranteed-heat Spain. You need to pack for all eventualities, especially the eventuality of rain. Sure, you’ll feel silly packing shorts and vest tops and jeans and jumpers and boots and flip flops but you will wear all of them, possibly all on the same day. If you choose to ignore this advice and pack only light, summer-y things then know that this can only end in one way: socks and sandals. 


Boone, wearing all my clothes, and me, wearing none

3. Be sceptical about opening hours for local attractions

There’ll be one day when it rains so hard and so relentlessly that a) you’ll regret having ever thought it was a good idea to have your summer holidays in Ireland and b) you’ll think that it’s the perfect time to go visit the one local attraction you had designated as the rainy day option. This one local attraction will be closed. To compensate, you’ll go on a long scenic drive and stop at beautiful scenic lookout points, except you won’t be able to see any of the beauty because, rain. So, sit in the car and read the Sunday papers and eat flabby sandwiches instead, then head back to the holiday house and relish the afternoon of DVDs that follows.


4. Support local businesses

Whenever you get a bit peckish, you can always go to the local shop, which is a lot like stepping into Ireland circa 1962. Remember, its charm lies in the very specificity of its local shop-ness. There will be that local shop smell: gone off milk, the plastic wrappers on rashers, stinginess. It will be poorly stocked with faded tat and melt-y looking chocolate bars and it will be manned by its owner who’s nice but a tiny bit surly and also possibly bitter. The only music playing will be the humming of cranky old fridges. And, it’ll be quite dark. Charm. It’s good for not entirely frozen ice-pops and 99s, if you’re brave.

If you want to get all fancy, you’ll do as the locals do and drive over to the next village where there will be a proper chain supermarket, where you can buy everything you need and nice things, too, in bright, clean surroundings and you’ll wonder how the local shop has survived.

For evening entertainment, there are the two village pubs. One of them is a den of inequity. The other is family-friendly and has decent-ish food. Have fun figuring out which one is which.

5. Go to the beach

If the weather’s good, go to the beach. If the weather’s bad, go to the beach. Either way, go for a swim of six strokes in lung-busting cold. The invigoration really is worth it.



6. Put on sunscreen

Just when you get really sick of the wind and the rain, the sun will come out and you’ll say that life is so good! and I’m so lucky! and I feel like I’m in a different country! That’s because you are in a different country – it’s called Ireland in the sunshine and it’s a rare and beautiful thing. You’ll be fooled into thinking that the normal rules of sun protection don’t apply but they do. While you diligently cover every inch of your never-seen-the-light-of-day Irish skin with factor 50 when you’re on a proper sun holiday, in Ireland, you reluctantly put a bit of factor 20 on your face (aging) and your shoulders (“they burn easily”) but nothing on your legs (“they never burn!”). Then you’ll go and sit cross-legged on the beach, lost in a bliss of sunshine and a book for hours on end. Eventually, you’ll think to put some sunscreen on but it’s too late, the searing strips of sunburn have already started to tingle. Your mind will go into its usual deluded hope that it’ll  turn into a tan. It won’t. Ever. Trust me, you’re not jinxing the weather by applying sunscreen everywhere, every day, especially on your legs, as they will never, ever tan. Ever.


Ready for searing

7. Lower your expectations

Maybe lower them a bit more. There! It’s going to be awesome.


Made me laugh


















Mother’s Day

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Boone and me, we’re on first name terms these days, have been for a while. It’s hard to pinpoint when he started doing this but whenever it was, it was overnight. I’ve a feeling it was around the same time in his development when he started saying things like “Oh, don’t worry, it’s fiiiiiine,” and “Trust me, I know everything.” All I know is that one day he called me Mama (so sweet, so Southern) or, when he was feeling lazy, Ma (so mother of a mobster), and the next it was the name I’ve always had, the name my parents gave me, the name everyone else knows me by.

Growing up, I only knew of one family where the children called their parents by first name and even then I think it was only their father that they called Billy, a name that’s inherently diminutive and affectionate. The next time I’d come across this naming practice was watching Dharma and Greg in the late nineties. Remember Dharma? Her parents were old hippies who she called Abbey and Larry and to this day I remember Dharma’s impassioned speech about being homeschooled and how she learned about science and geography by going on a hot air balloon ride. The things I remember. Anyway, I thought that calling your parents by their first names, to their face, not behind their backs in a teenager-y tongue-in-cheek sort of way, was unusual, a bit strange.

Then one day, Boone started calling us Joseph and Siobhán, as though he’d never called us anything else. If I, out of habit, happened to refer to Joseph as “Daddy,” Boone would give me a very serious look and correct me: “Joseph.” It reminded me of when the euro first came in and the cashiers looked at you as if you were the stupidest person on earth if you slipped up and said pounds or pence, even though that was exactly how you had referred to your national currency your entire life until just last week.

 “Well,” says Leah, on hearing Boone’s new nomenclature for us, “that’s . . . progressive.”

At first I was bemused because it sounded funny but this soon got mixed in with sadness as I’d really liked being called Mama. I felt unrelated. I began to panic. Will he ever call me Mama again? Tell me I have videos of him calling me Mama! I wanted to tell everyone, the general public, his teachers that say “righteo” when I tell them we’re on first name terms now, “No, no, no, you don’t understand, this wasn’t my idea!” (Although, I have to admit, it does seem like an idea I might have.)

When I tell people about this, they either look a bit heartcrushed for me, or else they jump in with an assured “it’s a phase.” Every once in a while, I’ll sense a whiff of “you’d want to nip that one in the bud,” as though it were a sign of disrespect, or permissive parenting, or both. Nobody seems to see it as a good thing.

But I like it. I like that Boone’s teachers now have to refer to me as “Siobhán,” not the universal, faceless “Mum.” I like how it makes me feel more like an integrated self, less divided between the two lives of before and after Boone. I like that by using my first name, Boone sounds self-assured, his questions more like questions than whingeing demands. I like that, if he continues this into adolescence and beyond, there won’t be a pet name to keep me static in my maternal place, that our roles might evolve to that of adult to adult more easily. I probably like it for all the same reasons as Abbey and Larry in Dharma and Greg.

Besides, it doesn’t change a thing. I’m still his mother, he’s still my son. Of course, I have to remind him of these facts from time to time and reiterate that no, he doesn’t know everything, that I am his mother and everything I do and ask of him is in the interests of his safety. Knowing Boone, I’ve a feeling I’d have to remind him of these things whether he called me Mama or not.

On Friday, I went to a “special mother’s day surprise” at Boone’s playschool. There were little chocolate cakes and heart-shaped biscuits and questionnaires the children had completed about us. Apparently, I’m five years old, my favourite food is porridge, and my favourite drink is tea. Since only one of those things is true, I decided to ask Boone the questions myself when we got home. When I got to the question “how much do you love me?,” Boone answered:

“Five euros.”

“Five euros?!”

“Yes, that’s how much it costs.”

It may not seem like a lot but five is Boone’s favourite number and in his mind, five is the most, the best. I think that’s why whenever we play shops, everything Boone sells costs five euro.

I sigh and say, “Oh, Boone, I just love being your mama.” He giggles and so do I.



“Oh, you look adoooorable!” he says.

Take the decision out: social media

I’ve been working on self-care based around the idea of making fewer decisions or making better-quality decisions or setting boundaries to avoid the conundrum of having to make decisions because I really have a hard time making decisions. First up, I tackle my overly intense relationship with my phone.

My phone

At the beginning of this year I was asked, in a somewhat serious situation, if I had any addictions, to which I answered (in all seriousness): “my phone.” “Fortunately,” I went on, “it died the other day and I don’t have my charger, so I’ve been forced to keep my New Year’s resolution of not checking it first thing in the morning on the very day I’d decided I wasn’t going to check it first thing in the morning anymore.” “And?,” the other person asked. “And,” I said.

This resolution coincided with the one where we cut out Boone’s morning telly watching. I was really dreading that one but we had to do something. The telly watching, which had seemed so convenient, was turning into a problem and a very inconvenient one at that, one where Boone kicks and screams and launches into a never ending chorus of I DON’T WANNA.

My phone, on the other hand, wasn’t a problem. I was just reading. Sure, Joseph would complain about it every once in a while and I knew that time tended to disappear because of it but that was about it. I guffawed at all those posts on social media about “unplugging” because was the irony not lost on anyone in the whole wide Internet that people were using social media to talk about unplugging from it while I was there reading it all and very much plugged into it? Also, since I was just reading, I didn’t see how it was so different from reading, say, a book, and no one has ever said reading a book was bad, have they? At the same time, those tips to not check your phone first thing or to avoid social media until lunchtime sounded like good, even innocuous, ideas, somewhere in the vein of good-for-you notions like drinking eight glasses of water a day or getting eight hours of sleep a night. In other words, totally doable. Besides, my phone checking wasn’t really a problem so it wasn’t going to be difficult to give it up, was it?

So no phone/no telly day rolled around—a Monday, no less. Boone complained a little but then went about eating his cereal peaceably enough. I found that I still wanted to read something so I took down a Joan Didion essay I’d printed out ages ago and read it and enjoyed it and wanted to live in it, in all its New York-ness and its words like “rancidity.” Isn’t this quiet, I said, isn’t this peaceful?

That was Monday, which was before Wednesday happened. It all started with me wanting to go to the toilet by myself (I know, I’m so unreasonable) and devolved into very high-pitched requests from Boone to MAKE THE RAISINS BE CRANBERRIES! MAKE IT STOP RAINING!! MAKE IT BE CHRISTMAS AGAIN!!! My head started pounding and I wanted to do nothing more than turn the telly on, switch Boone off, reach for my phone and scroll through images of other people’s (better) lives.

I completely understand what it’s like to fall in love with your phone.

That was the first thought I had after watching Her last year. My phone and Scarlett Johansson may not have much in common and I definitely can’t have simulated sex with it but it is an escape, a tuning out, my primary numbing activity.

It started when Boone was a baby, when I got my first smartphone. I had already really been into the Internet but now I had it in my hands and could get into it even more. It didn’t take long for the habit to form, what with all the sitting down, breastfeeding. The pretty pictures, the blogs, the endless stream of it all made everything so much more bearable.

I honed the checking-my-phone habit over the next couple of years. When Boone was two, that first smartphone died and I nearly cried. The guy in the phone shop referred to it as “old,” which offended me. It’s only as old as Boone, I wanted to say. He opened it up and in a very straightforward, non-judgemental tone of voice said that there was some “liquid” inside it. This liquid was some brown matter of an unspeakably disgusting nature. I was ashamed. How could I have been so careless with my love? I bought a replacement and it’s the crappest thing I’ve ever owned. I tell it to die, you piece of shit, die, but it refuses, of course, because it’s that crap. However, its inherent crapness is not enough to stop me from checking it very, very frequently.

On that Wednesday, the one where Boone wanted me to make it be Christmas again, I stuck it out. It was tough but we got through it intact, more or less. I’m fairly sure that it was harder for me to not check my phone than it was for Boone, who’s three and not great with the old emotion regulation, not to watch telly. The realisation of this gave me pause for thought.

I ask Joseph what it’s like for him when I check my phone. He says it’s like I’ve invited a whole party of other people into the room.

I don’t need to ask Boone what it’s like for him because he’s already shown me in various ways, the most memorable being the time he poured a cup of water over the gas fire. The fire wasn’t on at the time but the smell of gas seeped out from under our door, out into the hallway, and down the stairs of our apartment block. “I’ll just go through the emergency procedures with you,” are not words you want to hear of a Tuesday afternoon or any afternoon, for that matter.

“But I was just checking my phone,” I want to say.

And then I thought about what it’s like for me when I check my phone and find that I’ve never thought about it before. Then I get defensive and I feel bitter and deprived and accuse Joseph of wanting me to give my phone up for his own selfish reasons. Oh! Hi there some ugly and true signs of addiction.

In O magazine (aka the best magazine ever and also the least suited to my current socioeconomic status), I read that it’s a good idea to think about your bad habits in terms of what problems they are solving. I decide that the problem I was trying to solve was the morning, that is, the very morning-ness of morning. What had started as a comfort, a way to ease myself into the day, had really become the very opposite. As it turns out, avoiding discomfort leads to more discomfort and ultimately, chaos, as there’s nothing like the pain of not attending to your own needs.

The Internet is not the problem—the drug never is—in fact, I think the Internet is great, but it can wait. When I wake in the mornings now, I sit. Literally, I sit. I do nothing. I try to accept the fact that I’m having a hard time, that I’m dealing with a lot, that I’m tired, that I need some quiet. I rarely get quiet, of course, as I live with other people, one of whom wakes up in full conversation/messing mode, but I sit anyway. It’s really, really hard. Later, when I’m up, I sometimes sit with Boone, too, and he rocks his big bone-y bum on my lap and it’s hilarious.

As for my Internet curtailing, I’ve managed to curtail it a lot. The perfectionist in me wants to be able to say that I’ve quit everything, no problem whatsoever, that I’ve filled my life up with soul-satisfying things like yoga and meditation and calm pictures of nature, that mornings are serene. But that’s not how it goes. All the yoga in the world wouldn’t stop Boone from weeing on Joseph’s slippers, for instance, because and I quote, we never got him the brown furry boots (yes, those would be Uggs) he wanted. (Argh! Get us out of southside Dublin now!)

Not reaching for my phone automatically has been a difficult habit to undo but here are is what I’ve managed so far:

Facebook, I’ve finally quit you! But we’re still friends, sort of. I’ve been considering giving up Facebook for years but I always came up against the excuse that it’s so “handy” (the group emails, the links to useful information, all the baaaaaabies). I even thought that it would be mean of me not to be there, “keeping in touch” with people by liking their links and statuses. On top of that, there were the usual fears of FOMO and YOLO and the fact that I could be LMAO but honestly, I haven’t really enjoyed it since 2008. And there are other ways to keep in touch with people. I deleted the app off my phone a few weeks ago and haven’t missed it at all. Well, maybe just a tiny bit. (Can you send me pictures of your babies, please?) I’m still too chicken to break it off entirely, so I’ve told Facebook to email me if there’s anything important I’ve missed. Naturally, Facebook and I differ on what we consider “important” but it’s better than me checking it all the time.

I’ve also deleted Pinterest. Instead, I take pretty-picture breaks when I’m doing computer work. I may or may not be moving the distraction/procrastination around a bit but it’s a lot less convenient to check something on the computer than it is my phone. I consider it a win.

Instagram is still my favourite (because, Humans of New York), so I’m keeping that one. I try to only check it and my newly edited list of blogs during Boone telly time in the afternoon. We also have free-for-all Saturday mornings when all the electronic devices are on. It feels nice and indulgent, like a treat.


I slip up on these rules all the time. I get sneaky. But one of the other resolutions I made this year was to be a friend to me. A lot of the time, I’m left swinging on a perch with all of this. When you give up a habit, even if it’s bad for you, there’s a time when you miss it because all your usual ways of coping are gone and you have to develop new, better habits, which take time, or else you have to do the really hard thing, the only thing you can do, which is to sit. And so, I sit.

A few things that have helped:

Some mindful internet reading here

I borrowed the term numbing activity from Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly

 An appropriate song for the morning

Halloween twenty-fourteen



“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”


“I’m not perky.”


“Do you really think this is a good idea?”


Mr. Bump, The Man in Black, Wednesday

It involved:

Skip diving/minor petty theft

Not seen but it did happen: papier maché

Joseph saying things like “crafting is in my DNA”

Eyeliner for lipstick

Trick and/or treating

Sugar crashes



Ma hairdresser


I’ve always wanted those hairdresser’s scissors. For years, I stared at them in Boots, admiring their specific hairdresser-y shape and that hook thing they have on the top, but I never bought them because I had no need for them, even though I sort of did because for a while there, I had a fringe. I never dared trim it, though, much to my hairdresser’s admiration.

Then there was Boone and the need to cut his hair. We knew that we would never have the luck of that first haircut. It just wasn’t possible that Johnny Sexton would be there to warm the seat for us, or that the coolest hairdresser in the world would be available, or that Boone would sit that still ever again. So, I thought I’d give Kiddie Kuts a try. I did, a few times, and paid €15 for five minutes of torture each time. The second the scissors touched his hair, Boone would wail and then there was the chaos of tears and snot and spit and falling snippets of hair getting stuck to all of it. Grant it, they were fast, these kiddie kutters, and things did turn around once he got his lollipop but it was painful.

Months go by, Boone needs a haircut again and then I remember—the scissors! I tell Joseph I’m going to get them. This makes Joseph very nervous.  ‘But, do you know how to cut hair?’ he asks, nervously. ‘No,’ I say, ‘but I’m getting those scissors.’

I half-watch a couple of Youtube tutorials about cutting kids’ hair, try to understand the instructions in this post but they confuse me because they use words like ‘perpendicular.’ I sit Boone in front of the computer with a towel around his shoulders and, miraculously, he goes along with this unqualified Ma hairdresser set up. No tears, just a bit of sweat on my part. When I finish 40 minutes later, he thanks me. Poor kid, he wasn’t to know that he looked a bit like Eamon de Valera circa 1922.

I’ve gained a few more skills since then but still, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I try to ape the actions of all the hairdressers I’ve seen throughout the years, but since I usually close my eyes whenever I sit in a hairdreser’s chair, only to open them again when the hairdryer’s been put back in place, I’m not sure that I’ve picked up all that much. It’s probably why I’ll never figure out how they manage to hold the hair and the scissors and the comb all at the same time. Seriously, how do they do it?








Despite not knowing what I’m doing it, I enjoy it. Actually, I think I enjoy it all the more because I don’t know what I’m doing. It feels a little rebellious, like I should really be leaving this to the professionals. A bit like parenting, now that I think of it.

Why do I get the feeling that my hairdressing days are numbered?


That lollipop is from the sugar free health food shop, by the way.



DSC06061So, I had intended to get some nice pictures of me wearing the cardigan I had spent over a year making. These very nice pictures would have been taken outside, amid trees and fallen leaves, during a time of day when the light is golden autumnal and super flattering to my well-rested and made up face. But this is not my life. My life is more grit and mess and blinding light than that, thanks mostly to a three-year-old who has gotten his hands on the camera again and has switched the flash to his favourite setting, on. It’s just like a renegade Marc Jacobs ad campaign around here.
The story of this cardigan, like a lot of things, started back when I was pregnant. For the first time in my life, I was struck by the urge to knit. The last time I had knit (or knitted? or knitteded?), I was in primary school and I hated it. For one, I had the hands of an eight year old that cooperated with neither needles nor yarn, but mostly I hated it because while we, little housewives in the making that we were, stayed inside, knittin’ and sewin’, the boys in our class got to go outside to play hurlin’ and football. Thankfully, by the time I was in sixth class, a bit of enlightenment had crept in and we all had to do both knittin’ and sewin’ and hurlin’ and football but I’m fairly sure the sports won out, and that’s what we ended up doing for the rest of the year. I never knit again.

Almost thirty years later, though, as my belly got bigger, my hands got itchier to knit something, anything. Well, I say anything but I mean booties, whatever they’re for these days since don’t most babies wear babygros? Anyway, I bought a book called Vintage Knits for Modern Babies (pixie hats! booties! baby bunny rabbits!), a lovely book that sat looking lovely on my bookshelf for about a year and a half until the day it occurred to me that I really was a housewife now and maybe I should really be a stereotypical housewife and take up knitting. So, I signed up to for a class. I think I was half hoping that I wouldn’t like it that much, that I’d just take these few classes and then drop it because the whole idea was really only based on cultural conditioning and silly hormones. Wasn’t it?

As it turns out, not only could I knit but I loved it, too. There was the occupation of my hands, the following of a pattern, the checking of YouTube tutorials, the keen level of concentration. None of it was relaxing, and I could never understand when other people in the class said that it was. I knew that what they were referring to was the cosy image of the granny with her beatific smile sitting in her rocking chair, a pot of tea by her side, maybe a few cats as well, her needles click clacking away. My reality, however, was very different; I found it stressful, the skin on my fingers became dry, sometimes to the point of bleedy, carpel tunnel was always a threat. But in time, the act of knitting did become therapeutic, the oddly automatic working of my hands tempering the spinning in my mind.

This left room for me to get really ambitious. (And watch telly at the same time!) After knitting Boone a hat (pixie, of course), a stripey jumper and a few other baby things, I got really, really ambitious and decided to knit something for an adult, that adult being me. After a few awkward attempts, I eventually landed on the designer Kim Hargreaves and ‘Bud,’ the boyfriend cardigan in these pictures.

Now that it’s finished, I can see this past year knit into it—all those hours of anger, loss, love, and grief. I can also see other things, too, like the odd strand of hair, a possible flake of snot, as well as Home and Away, Coronation Street, Strictly Come Dancing, Downton Abbey, X-Factor. And ok, ok, I’ll admit it, Xtra Factor. Hours.
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It’s strange but after all that time and effort, I almost don’t really care how it looks. When Doireann first saw it, she said, aaah did you make that yourself? Delighted, I responded yes! Then she said something about it being ‘Topshoppy.’ I know what she’s talking about—those big, borderline dowdy cardigans that only the very young can pull off because they’re contrasting it with cropped tops or shorts and knee-high socks and their youth. So, on me, there’s probably no borderline when it comes to the dowdiness but I’ve always had a granny mushy side so there’s that. At any rate, I love it and I feel wrapped in love whenever I wear it. I look down on the sleeve and think I made that, I knit those stitches that made the fabric that I sewed up together to make this piece of clothing for myself. The pattern may be off in several places, the collar may be wonky, not to mention the seaming, but it just adds to the wabi-sabi charm of it all and makes me love it even more.

Besides, the fact that I have something to wear is really just a bonus. The real joy was in the making of it and the things I learned along the way. I couldn’t knit a cardigan and not learn a few things, now could I? And I’m not just talking about knitting but the creative process that is life itself. So, here is a list of advice, addressed to you but the you is really me because what is advice really for but the person giving it?

Knitting and drinking don’t mix.

You will have to restart a project at least four times, especially if you attempt the above.

The first row is always the hardest.

You’ll look at patterns and think, pah! I’ll have that done in no time. You’re wrong. It will take loads of time and possibly several months more than that.

Related: you’ll look at knitwear in shops and think, pah! I could knit that. You can’t. I mean, it’s possible, but life is short.

You will get stuck on one little thing and the whole project will have to be set aside for an indeterminate amount of time. Sometimes, it’s good to start something else and then go back to it later.

You’ll never get the yarn you’re looking for in one outing.

Throughout a project, you’ll oscillate between I love it/I hate it in a maddening way for quite some time.

You will knit all of the pieces and then leave them in the bag for weeks, possibly months, because you just can’t face sewing them up. Remember that you come from a line of tailors and that you get a terrific sense of rightness whenever you are sewing up.

Whenever you get the idea to knit a scarf, don’t. It’s beyond boring, like reading a book with no chapters.

If you push or force it, you will mess up.

Just one more row is never just one more row.

If you do knit one more row, know that one day you’ll do yoga and feel all fine and well-oiled and then two days later something in your left shoulder will go grrrrik and you won’t be able to turn your head. Then later on in the day, something in your other shoulder will also go grriik and you’ll be in such pain that you won’t be able to do anything, least of all knitting, for over a week.

When it’s finished, you’ll find a way to wear it every day.

You’ll get good simply from the doing.

You will forget everything you’ve learned and will have to reiterate this advice to yourself again and again.


Self-portrait, flash on

En grève

DSC05747A couple of years ago, I bought a pair of sandals from a shoemaker in Nice. These sandals, they’re two pieces of leather nailed together and, while ideal for strolling through charming, ancient streets, they are truly terrible for running through recently renovated airports. The motion of flat sandals hitting flat concrete is painful, as it turns out. I wasn’t aware of this until a few weeks ago when I had to run through an airport. We had made a good guess at when we should have left the house in order to get there on time, but then we left about half an hour later than that. We ended up dealing with two agents because of course we had to redistribute the contents of our luggage as we were all of a kilo over the allowance. One of the agents, while handing us our boarding passes, said “ah, yeah, so you might, ah, just want to keep an eye on the boards because the French air traffic controllers might strike,” while the other one said something really useful like “uh, you’d want to get a move on, your gate’s closing in like ten minutes,” as though we could do anything about the fact of Time. We ran to the security gate, only to realise we’d left one of our boarding passes behind. Back I ran to the desk and then back again to security, my sandals slap, slap, slapping all the while. My bladder began to feel sloshy.

We ran the whole long way to the gate and got there with a few minutes to spare.

“I have to go to the loo,” I say to Joseph.

“Hold onto it!” he says.

“I’m bursting,” I say.


I get to the toilet but I’m not really bursting. I just have one of those lacklustre nervous wees. Not as relieved as I’d hoped, I re-join Joseph and Boone, just in time to hear the announcement that our flight has been cancelled. No explanation, just a flat instruction to reclaim our baggage and go back to the departures hall. I want to do what Boone does, which is cry and wail “but I want to go to Nice noooooow! The pebbly beach! Whaaaaaaa.” But instead, I have to swallow back the tears and anger and try not to take it personally or let thoughts like the following break me down: every time we try to get away and do something nice for ourselves, it ends up like this. We have no choice but to follow the crowd that’s going backwards through the airport.

Later, Boone would tell people that during this situation “Mama was disappointed and Daddy was disappointed but I was happy because it was an emergency.” We had described the chaos of hundreds of people trying to grapple for some sense of control as an emergency, not knowing just how much magic this word held for Boone. From his perspective, waiting for hours on end wasn’t boring or frustrating. How could it be? This was a real life emergency, the stuff of his Fireman Sam dreams.

We started hearing snippets of news: the air strike was affecting not only those travelling to France but everyone flying over France to Spain and Portugal; this was the second time this year “the French” had done this; all of this was nothing to do with Ryanair, oh no, this was all down to an “unnecessary” strike. While I did curse the French and their penchant for strikes, I wouldn’t go so far as to call any strike unnecessary. Joseph had said that we were a union, too, and I thought yes, and we’re being used for leverage. None of the other airlines cancelled.

Once we got to the desk to rebook our flights, the agent started listing out dates, one of them being the third of July—my Dad’s birthday. I noted it, but that was all. Just another day. We got flights for a few days later, on Saturday morning, with a return flight a week later on the fifth.

DSC05766It worked out all right in the end. Our accommodation in Nice was available for most of the following week; we just had to book a hotel for the last night. We had originally planned on a week in Nice and then a week of relaxation in Dublin, now we just had to switch the order around. (Except our week in Dublin wasn’t entirely relaxing as we were waiting on news of the strike every day.) It was strange to go back to our own apartment on the same day as we’d left it, back to a cleaned out fridge, stripped beds, and an empty laundry basket (there was nary a pair of knickers to sully it.) We went out for dinner to commiserate, drank, took a lovely and elaborate trip to Greystones so that we could get coffee and vegan desserts.

The strike was called off, we got on the plane and somewhere in the middle of a fluffy white cloud, grief settled in, pressing on my chest, wrapping itself around my throat. We’d gotten off the island and away from the everyday but in so doing, the floodgates that I usually try to hold against depression and anxiety flung open. I was supposed to be having a nice time. I was supposed to be getting a  break from it all. I was supposed to find the sunshine and turquoise sea beautiful. I was supposed to be happy. Instead, the darkness seeped in, making me hate my skin, my bones, my brain. Being surrounded by uniformly tanned and air-conditioned looking French girls did not help.

But yet, everything was better on the beach. I went into the silence of the sea, the salty water leached the sadness from my bones. I found that if I tried to swim, I ended up expending a lot of energy getting absolutely nowhere, but if I lay on my back, motionless, the salt and the waves carried me along the length of the beach. I think this might be a life lesson.

As Boone stacked pebbles and we got into our on-the-beach-trance of thinking and not thinking, people watching and not watching people, Boone sighed and said “I love this.”

DSC05875DSC05881DSC05843Every day at noon in Nice, a canon goes off in the park on the hill. On Thursday, my Dad’s birthday, we climbed the hill in search of it. We almost found the cannon but at noon, it found us. Boom! The shock of the sound, even though I had been expecting it, exploded through my chest, making me jump and cry out. And once that one cry had let out, I couldn’t stop the rest of the crying. My Dad should have been 62, not dead.

The last day, after a morning of dark skies and downpours, we got to go to the beach one last time. The sea was rougher than usual. All the hottie lifeguards were on high alert. I came out of the sea grateful and shaky and especially glad that we’d bought those dorky beach shoes.

“The cure for anything is salt water—tears, sweat, or the sea.”—Isak Dinesen, Seven Gothic Tales