Friday, June 26, 2009

A toast to the moon

On June 21st Clementine lit a fire in the front garden and festooned the escalonia hedge with nightlights. Then she wrapped potatoes in tinfoil, popped them into the fire, poured us out two glasses of wine, and with the firelight flickering on her face, she began to reminisce about Aunt Dee.
‘She was a wonderful lady,’ she said, after describing how Aunt Dee had lobbied a local councillor to prevent the post office down the road being closed.
‘I wish I’d known her better,’ I said, nibbling a charred potato.
‘She would have liked to have known you better too,' Clementine murmured softly.
'Really?'I said, feeling oddly flattered.
'Umhum - Let’s do an incantation,’ Clementine said, springing up abruptly from the rusting swinging seat and gazing wildly at the moon.
‘A what?’ I said faintly.
‘An incantation. Here – hold my hand. Now repeat after me: Oh mother moon . .’
Me: ‘Really?’
Clementine: ‘Well – not if you don’t want to. But don’t you feel it?’
Me: ‘Feel it?’
Clementine: ‘The all consuming, bright white energy springing up out of the soil. Just isten’
At first I heard nothing. Then after a few long moments there was a faint hissing, sound. It was the sound of things growing, I suddenly realised, the sound of leaves unfurling, of roots stretching out into the earth.
‘I do feel something’ I said finally.
‘That’s it’ said Clementine. ‘Now take my hand.’ So I did.
‘Oh mother moon,’ said Clementine.
‘Oh mother moon,’ I repeated a little self consciously.
‘Thank you for your light,’ continued Clementine. ‘Thank you for making the sea move in and out. Thank you for adding mystery to the night.’
Then we toasted the moon. 'To the longest year of my life,' said Clementine.
'To Aunt Dee,' I said, raising my glass.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A few stolen moments at the computer

Finally – a chance to get at the computer now Clementine’s gone to bed. For some reason I find it difficult to write with her staying here. I never thought I’d say it, but I believe I’d got used to being alone.
We only finished dinner two hours ago – slow cooked lentil casserole with chickpeas and tofu. Clementine insisted on cooking and afterwards we did the washing up together and she told me about her diet. Due to her growing concern over global warming she’s given up all fruit and vegetables imported from outside Europe.
She’s also decided, to avoid adding any further to the cocktail of chemicals already in her system, to use personal hygiene products made only from organic vegetable oil. In a bid to improve her 'emotional health' she’s cut out all white flour products, yeast products, dairy products and eggs.
She does allow herself, however, three or four gins a night, and cannot function unless she has had at least two mugs of extra strong freshly brewed coffee first thing in the morning, when she appears with her lips painted a startling shade of red that cannot possibly be derived from any natural ingredient.
Tomorrow she is treating me to lunch in the restaurant where she works part time. The lentil casserole is doing strange things to my stomach. I think I need to go to the loo.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gin Fizz

Yesterday evening was lazy and still. I sat in the back garden and listened to somebody somewhere playing tennis against a wall. In Dómhnall’s house next door a radio was turned on and down the road in the hotel, empty bottles were being clink clinked into crates.
I leant back in the wrought iron swing seat resurrected from Aunt Dee’s shed and closed my eyes. This was the life, I thought.

‘Do you know how to make a gin fizz?’ a voice behind me said.

I sprang up and span round.
Dómhnall’s mother was hovering nervously by the back door, a large carpet bag in one hand and a tray of lettuce seedlings in the other.
‘A what?’ I said hesitantly.
‘A gin fizz,’ Dómhnall’s mother said, frowning slightly. Her hair stuck out in odd clumps and she was wearing a bunch of multi-coloured cotton scarves, all wrapped around her neck like a fat serpent.
‘Are you alright?’ I asked. Her face crumpled.
‘No,’ she whispered. ‘That’s why I need a gin fizz.’
So we went into the kitchen and she showed me where Aunt Dee used to keep the silver cocktail shaker and glasses and then she showed me how to make a gin fizz.
Lemon, sparkling water, crushed ice, and gin.
And I have to say, there is possibly no nicer drink to sip on an early summer evening, sitting on a rusting swing-seat with an intriguing visitor you somehow suspect might just become a friend.
‘I’m Clementine,’ Dómhnall’s mother said as we started on our second gin fizz.
‘I’m Dee,’ I said.
‘After her,’ Clementine said simply.
I didn’t tell her what Dee was short for. I couldn’t. Not even my ex-husband knows that.
‘Can I stay here?’ Clementine said. I took a large gulp of gin fizz.
‘Certainly,’ I murmured, wondering what on earth I was saying, a strange burst of excitement blossoming in my chest. ‘A friend of Aunt Dee’s is a friend of mine. And besides, you know how to make gin fizzes.’
And Clementine murmured ‘thank you. Thank you so much.’

Monday, June 8, 2009

The wonders of windolene

Dómhnall’s mother dropped in with some organic slug pellets this evening
‘I thought you might need these – I was on my way next door,’ she said, handing me the bag.
‘You’re moving back in?’ I said brightly. The truth is Dómhnall’s dad is looking scruffier by the day, and Dómhnall now consumes at least half of my weekly food shop. She shook her head.
‘Just picking up a few things,’ she said faintly. She nodded at the bag of slug pellets in my hands.
‘They don’t work, by the way’ she murmured. ‘Nothing works. The tea-tree oil doesn’t keep away midges. The home-made soap smells awful and won’t work up a lather – and the lemon juice spray for cleaning glass is a joke. Sometimes,’ she said wistfully, a faraway look in her eye ‘. . . sometimes I think I’d kill for a drop of windolene.’
‘Oh,’ I said finally. ‘Well . . .I have some inside if you want it?’
‘You do?’ she said, suddenly alert.
‘I do,’ I replied.
I rummaged in the press under the sink while she waited eagerly by the table.
‘Here it is,’ I said, straightening up and handing her the dusty spray bottle. She held it as though it were a sacred chalice, her face alight with pleasure.
‘Isn’t that just fine,’ she said happily.
‘I suppose it is,’ I said finally.
I’d never really seen windolene in that light before.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

'A natural feckin phenomenon'

I didn’t exactly find a front page story – but I did manage to come up with a picture piece.
The seeds were sown on Sunday, when I went to check the vegetable garden. To my surprise (and quiet, creeping pride) it’s beginning to look good. Two types of lettuce, French beans, peas, broadbeans, cabbages, broccoli, radishes, turnips and carrots are now growing in Aunt Dee’s garden. The delicate scent of stock (Dómhnall’s mother gave me the plants) wafts towards the back door in the evening, and the broadbeans are decked with deep crimson flowers.
A couple of butterflies fluttered past and I thought ‘how nice.’
Another pair followed, then three or four more. I began to feel like I was in a Disney cartoon. Butterflies floated from the nettle patch in their dozens. They fluttered in the open back door.
I had a sudden vision of myself, frozen on the back step, decked in an impenetrable coat of butterflies.
They didn’t seem quite so charming anymore.
I retreated inside and consulted one of my (many many) library books.
The butterflies, according to the pictures, were Painted Ladies.

So I looked them up on the internet.
It turns out that due to record spring rainfall in the Atlas mountains, unparalleled numbers of painted lady butterflies hatched out this year. A combination of warm air currents and good weather lured huge flocks of them to the skies, all the way from Africa to the west coasts of England and Ireland.

It’s a natural phenomenon that may never again be witnessed in our lifetimes.
How incredible, I decided. And astonishing. This was going to be my story for the editor.
The editor, it turned out, was not quite so fascinated.
‘Butterflies?’ he spat at next morning’s news meeting.
‘Some people might find it interesting,’ I muttered nervously.
‘She’s right,’ Michael said mildly. ‘We’ve already had two emails into the letters page about it.’
‘Butterflies,’ the editor murmured. ‘Jesus. . . Right then. . . I suppose we may as well get Aidan out to take a few pictures of this natural feckin phenomenon. You-‘ He pointed at me –‘go with him. Then do up the story when you get back in and we’ll stick it somewhere inside.’
‘Right,’ I scurried out of the office, thanking god that a natural phenomenon had saved me from having to explain why I could not possibly pump the local garda for inside information.
‘For jesus sake,’ the photographer Aidan murmured as we pulled out of the carpark. ‘What ever happened to a decent feckin’ stabbing? Or a crash? Feckin’ butterflies . . . for feck’s sake.’