‘Round the House and Mind the Dresser

I’m at home in my parents’ kitchen. My mother is sitting on the couch reading the newspaper, Dad at the kitchen table reading a book. The radio on in the corner. RTE Radio 1 or Radio na Gaeltachta. I’m curled up in an armchair, sipping my tea and eating a scone with jam my mother made that morning.

A polka comes on. Slowly, gradually my mother’s foot picks up the beat and starts tapping a light staccato on the slate tiles. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, one and two  and one and two and-. The tempo and the tapping begin to amplify and I become gradually aware of both. A grin spreads across my mother’s face and suddenly she’s up, standing in front of me, hands out, “Up you get!”. I grin back and around we go, flinging each other around the kitchen like mad eejits. We spin and tap and spin and tap, raucous laughter filling the room. The tempo picks up, my hair is flying. My father looks on, bemused. Round and round and round we go, my mother whirling me around the kitchen floor. Faster and faster and faster the beat picks up as we dance and dance and dance until my face is red and my chest is about to burst. “Around the house and mind the dresser!”, she shouts. On and on and on and on and stop! Breathless and laughing, hugging and coughing, we break. Dad smiles to himself and goes back to his reading.

Not the first time, not the last.

When I heard of the great Brian Friel’s passing this afternoon, my mind immediately took me to the little house in the fictional town of Ballybeg and the five Mundy sisters. The slow tapping, the infection of the beat, the unbridled, almost primal letting loose of an Irish set dance. This, in turn, took me back to that house in Co. Limerick, to my mother bursting into life in a madcap tour of the kitchen, taking me along with her. Surging up on the memory of a tide of pure joy, I am hit by a certain sadness that I am not at home to jig and reel and polka my way around the tiles with her right now and celebrate the memory of Ireland’s greatest contemporary wordsmiths.

Brian Friel, ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

No joke, I have had the Christmas song, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year stuck in my head all morning. I don’t know why I’m more excited this year than any other year since I left home, but I am definitely going to celebrate this evening! Last year I spent it at the Ambassador’s reception, which is a privilege of course, but this year there will be craic, ceol agus beagáinín ól!

I miss home today (mostly because they have the day off) but I will raise a glass, sing a song and bain taitneamh as.

Have a great one, wherever or whomever you may be!

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A Single Summer Memory

I was sitting in a rocking chair in the kitchen. It was a Summer’s day. I was wearing a cream peasant top and a long denim skirt. My feet were bare and slid across the tiles as I rocked back and forth. I was eating an apple and reading The Virgin Suicides. I must have been fourteen or fifteen. The air outside buzzed gently with the sound of bees, the haze adding to the weight of it. Sunlight filtered through the cherry blossom in the front garden onto the kitchen floor.

I remember feeling very grown-up, reading something like The Virgin Suicides. I don’t even know where I got it from. I must have bought it myself, or maybe Aoife gave it to me. The apple core sat between my thumb and my forefinger, turning brown as the Lisbon sisters were turning the neighbourhood boys’ heads.

My mother must have had a day off. She came in to ask me to put out some washing. The sheets were cool and wet on my arms. I went out the back door to the patio and crossed the paving stones, barefoot, to the grass where the washing line was.

My mind wandered back to the Lisbon sisters: teenage girls with long blonde hair who were determined to die. When I think back on it now, it’s obvious to see where my fascination stemmed from. My teenage girl with her long blonde hair and that air of mystery, elation and sadness she had. It would be six more years before Alana went through with it, but even at fifteen the signs were there. The manic highs, the quiet lows, the cutting.

Sometimes a Summer memory is just that: a memory. Other times it’s an unbidden reminder of what’s gone. Youth, innocence, that denim skirt.

My best friend.

Haaaaappy New Year!

I’ll be honest, I haven’t a feckin clue what I’m at. Is it 2015? How did that happen? The last thing I remember was drinking Feuerzangebowle and singing in front of a restaurant of people in the Austrian Alps with some Germans and Irish nutters, the next thing I know I’m hurtling towards 30 with alarming speed and a more alarming lack of alacrity.

Yes, 2015 is the year it all goes south. The general plan was to hide under my duvet with a bottle of wine, some supplies and the director’s cut of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and wait it out. Unfortunately, powers greater than I (or friends, as such) decree that it shall be otherwise. I won’t go into detail (because I don’t have any yet) but suffice it to say, I will not go gentle into that good night and shall rage, rage against the dying of the light/ my twenties.

Oh god, it’s actually happening. I really am turning 30. I think I took it for granted that I would be in my twenties forever. I have three months left. Three! Entering a new year is tough enough without the added stress of what a friend of mine likes to call “our advancing decrepitude”.

It’s like taking a sled down a mountain path, entering a brand new year. There are bumps you don’t see, even when you’re looking straight at them. There are people suddenly in your way, there are twists and bends. There are crashes. Sometimes there is a disturbing and exhilarating lack of control. The thing about sledding down a mountain is you always make it to the bottom. Sometimes you get there on a stretcher, but you still get there. It makes the ride more memorable, certainly, but you’re coming out of it with bruises and cuts.

But enough of that dramatic nonsense. 2015 is the year I get to Rome for some 6 Nations action, head back to Africa for some adventure time, attend the Rugby World Cup and get a new nephew (he’s up first, woo!). There’s a lot happening in the coming twelve months: weddings to attend, rugby to watch, photos of elephants to take, the opening scene from The Lion King to recreate in the Namibian desert. My friend I’m travelling with doesn’t remember that scene (I know: what?!) but I made him promise we’d do it anyway.

So, 2015 won’t be so bad. At least it will be better than 2014. I mean, it already is and it’s only five days in. Yes, 2014 was a bollox but 2014 is over. What did 2014 have? Some good stuff, admittedly. New jobs, new friends, some travel and some new people, but quite a bit I am happy to leave there.

I am not one for New Year’s resolutions. I find I disappoint myself enough in a general way, I’d rather not get too specific about listing my failures. This year, however, I have made a pact with myself: I will let go more. I can be a little bit of a control freak when it comes to… my… emotions? Maybe it’s more situational. I tend to rationalise things. This year, I will be more open to thing and people and… stuff.

I’m working on it.

Here’s to 2015 – may it kick 2014 up the hole!


A photo I took in Imst on January 1st 2015. Gwan the 2015!

P.S. 1995 was twenty years ago?? REALLY?! Back under the duvet I go.

Liebster Award

Right so, I’ve been pretty awful considering the lovely Brian over at Ginger Blog Man challenged me to a Liebster Award well over a year and a half ago.

This involves the following:

  • Each person must post 11 things about themselves
  • Answer 11 questions the person giving the award has set for you
  • Create 11 questions for the people you will be giving the award to (Warning: I may take the piss)
  • Choose 11 people to give the award to and send them a link to your post. Go to their page and tell them
  • No tag backs

11 things about me… Eh. Hmm.
1. I once met Don Conroy at the National Ploughing Championships (or one of those things) and he helped me draw a barn owl. Don Conroy remains a personal hero of mine. To this day I have never drawn a better picture of a barn owl. Or anything else. I was 9ish.
2. I once ran away from home (ok, maybe not just once). I got as far as the patch of grass at the end of our road and decided I wouldn’t have enough sandwiches to make it on my own. I can’t remember what age I was. Pretty small, I think.
3. I wrote a book (could technically be classified as a short story…) when I was in primary school about my best friend moving away. She did, and I haven’t written on the subject since for fear of my ability to influence the future.
4. I used to play the trombone. I have stopped miming that in loud, crowded rooms. Awkward.
5. I do not believe in a god, Christian or otherwise.
6. I do believe in people.
7. As a child, I refused treatment from my mother for a cut on the sole of my foot caused by standing on an upright rusty nail. She is a highly qualified and highly competent nurse. I am highly qualified idiot. She forced me to wash it in the end.
8. I like lists
9. I talk to the TV
10. My eyes change colour depending on the light and my mood. Today they are predominantly green.
11. I am terrible at board games but also insufferably competitive when I play them. This is not a pleasant combination.

Sooooooooo, here are the questions Brian has set me, with the requisite answers:

  1. What is your preferred method of birth control? (for example own face, coke douche?): 
    Eeehhh, thanks for this one, B. My preferred method of birth control, at the moment, is celibacy. There you have it.
  2. If you could have any super power what would it be and why? It’s an oft-asked question but one I always find difficult to answer. Hmmm… I think I’d have to go with flight. Saves time, saves money, would save me from death if I fell off a high building.
  3. What is your favourite music album of all time? My favourite music album of all time? I really love No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom. Gonna have to go with that one, amongst many, many others. It reminds me of my twin brother. We both love that album.
  4. Do redheads have souls? Based on Question 1, no.
  5. If you were on death-row (I’m sorry about this) what would you order as your last meal? What have you heard?! Filet mignon, baby potatoes with onions sautéed in Irish salted butter with carmelised carrots with pepper sauce. This would be topped off by a chocolate pudding with melty chocolate gooey goodness on the inside. Boring but soooooo satisfying…
  6. PC or Mac? Abacus. So retro. 
  7. Who is the most influential person in your life and why?  For a question such as this, I automatically say my mother (her and my dad are pretty kick-ass)
  8. What is your favourite cartoon as an adult? I love the triumvirate of characters from The Land Before Time: Little Foot, Ducky and Petrie. I loved them in 1989, I love them still. Yep, yep, yep! 
  9. Do you have any regrets? Nope.
  10. Would you like to own a monkey butler (assuming no animal rights were violated, leave me be PETA)? … Yes.
  11. How do you feel right now? I’m on my way to Barcelona, so pretty feckin happy!

I’ll have to do my own now, I presume, and send them out to eleven bloggers. I feel like I’m back in university! We used to get these email chains all the time. I’m not even sure I know eleven bloggers… I’ll figure it out. After I get back from the 26C Catalonian heat :-D

Just Wrong

I got on the S9 on Wednesday at Stadelhofen to go to Eoin’s. He was cooking dinner. I was going directly from a photography exhibition that I had gone to after work. It had been a long day and I wasn’t feeling particularly attractive, but a bit tired and wilted.

I sat on the upper deck, as usual. A man got on and sat down across from me at HB. I was reading something on my phone and I didn’t pay him much attention. He was probably in his early 40s, wearing a grey t-shirt and jeans. I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye and instinctively glanced over. His hand was on his jeans and I could see a pretty distinctive shape beneath. I looked away quickly, thinking he could have been, I don’t know, readjusting maybe. I looked back at my phone and noticed another movement. When I looked up again, he was staring directly at my face and his hand was moving over and back across the bulge. No mistaking it this time. It was as of he wanted me to know what he was doing. I stood up immediately, muttered “Well fuck this”, and moved to a different seat at the back. He got off at Hardbrücke (no pun intended). I met Claire off the train and she also felt sick at the thought of it, so at least I didn’t feel like I was overreacting.

I made a joke out of it when I got to Eoin’s. Both he and Brian restored my faith with their reaction of complete disgust.

It couldn’t have been more than three minutes between HB and Hardbrücke but that man managed to make me feel really…disgusting, as if I had somehow done something wrong, and I can’t pinpoint why.

When I’ve mentioned the incident to other female friends, many of them have similar stories in Zürich. One friend was running in Enge one evening and saw a man whose hand she thought was in his pocket. She noticed, as she got closer, that it wasn’t the pocket it was in and there were some distinctive movements happening at the same time. She said he stared at her as she ran past and she heard him make noises. This was on a busy street at 18:00 with children around. Another was walking home through a quiet park one evening and was confronted by a man who blocked her path and started masturbating in front of her. She turned and ran.

It’s hard to explain how this makes us feel, and I know guys who think we’re overwrought or overly sensitive about it, but it really feels like being violated. It’s as if these men have reduced us to something less than human, that doesn’t warrant engagement, that’s just there to serve some weird sexual thrill fulfilment. And no, it is in no way flattering, it’s horrible.

I’m very aware that this is not the behaviour of a well-adjusted person but I’m at a loss to know what to do if it happens again. And it will happen again. I know in Ireland it would constitute a sexual offence but I have no idea about Switzerland. And would it just be a waste of time anyway? Would the police even bother with it? So then are we just suppose to put up with it?

I genuinely don’t know and I still feel pretty gross.

Growing Up

Growing up, my career ambitions fluctuated between three different things: drummer in a rock band, large animal vet, and scientist. I can’t remember which came first. I think it was drummer.

My drumming idol was Animal from the Muppets. You can’t deny it, he has flair. Tomorrow’s World (a simultaneously fascinating and boring TV show) formed the basis of my lab-coat obsession, satiated somewhat when I got one for Home Economics. I wanted to be a vet because I did, and still do, love animals.

Drumming was almost literally knocked out of me when I was in my primary school brass band. Dara O’Sullivan, the drummer, sat beside the trombone section and my head was always conveniently placed under the cymbal. I can still feel the gradual and slightly deafening build up to We Are Sailing ringing in my ears.

As I got older, my interest in science waned as my accident-prone tendencies in the school’s Biology labs waxed. Two broken beakers, one exploding ceramic dish and an unfortunate incident involving a Bunsen burner and the ceiling later, and my scientific career was effectively over. So too were all science experiments for my class at school. Sorry, cailíní.

This is a terrible thing to admit, but, when I was doing my Leaving Cert., points for Veterinary were something like 550 points. An Arts degree, on the other hand, had been hovering around the 320 points mark for a few years. 550 points would have meant straight As in my chosen subjects. These included two modern European languages, Biology (erm, that was never going to be an A) and History. An Arts degree meant coasting along and making sure I passed Maths (not a given, by any stretch. I only ever passed two Maths exams. I’m just lucky they were the State exams).

So where am I now? I’m in Switzerland working in procurement, which I thoroughly enjoy. Would four year old, drumming-obsessed Róisín recognise herself? What about the girl who wanted to use microscopes and Petri dishes? Or the animal lover? Sometimes it’s difficult to reconcile myself to the child I was. I know she’s me and I am her but it’s almost like looking at a movie and vaguely recognising the main character.

I suppose it’s just a case of growing up and maturing… But I don’t want to grow up, not fully. I want to make stupid jokes, jump in puddles, giggle when people fart, laugh when I fall over (if I didn’t, I’d spend a lot of time in tears, let me tell you) and watch cartoons. I miss Saturday mornings in the sitting room with my twin brother, making forts out of the couch cushions and our blankets, eating Cocopops and watching Transformers, ThunderCats or Batman (actually, I’m home for a week in November. This needs to happen).

I like paying my own bills, having my own place and being responsible for myself and my actions (even when they blow up in my face) but I always want to be that little girl who had red wellies and a blue bike, who loved The Little Mermaid and Irish fairy stories and who never thought twice about rolling around in the mud. My wellies are black, my Little Mermaid obsession continues and I’ve definitely rolled in some mud at least once in the past 12 months so maybe she’s not so far removed after all.

And I definitely still laugh at farts.


I am writing this on my way back from Milan, on a journey through the mountains to the south. Train lines gash the valley floors and the silhouettes of the mountains loom close. The colours are muted in the October fog, but their beauty is somehow softened and heightened at the same time. Cloud vapours hang between recesses on the mountain faces and serve to highlight their scale. The train leans to the left and seems to hang in the air before righting itself back to cling closer to the trees on the Western side of the valley.

It seems less and less likely that I will go home. Political mess and economic faltering have made it if not impossible then deeply unattractive. I’ve changed. I’m not sure I can go back now. Of course I miss everyone. It hurts, when I think about it, but I have to make a decision now. Do I live life as if I’m taking a sabbatical or do I live it so that I can commit to it where I am?

It’s such a beautiful country, Switzerland. People here are so diverse, open, and challenging. There’s very little I can say against it, except that it isn’t home. But maybe I can make it home.