Wednesday, July 13, 2005

let’s talk about the weather

I sit here, determined to write something but unsure where to begin.

My recent blogging has painted me into a corner in that I feel trapped by an artificial necessity to post one of the following

• a chapter from my autobiography
• the lyrics from a song I wrote years ago
• a snippet from Reuters’ Oddly Enough files accompanied by the result of some Image Search/Photoshop follies
• My latest take on the MakePovertyHistory campaign, which has been both my most important and at same time my most boring contributions of late. I’m even afraid that a passing-by browser’s glancing eye may notice those three particular words shoved together and go fumbling for the “next blog” button without a moment’s thought. I’d love to say that doesn’t bother me, but it does.

Despite this routine I have fallen into recently, I felt I needed something new to post about. Then, as I was typing that last paragraph, an incredibly simple notion surged forward and dived headlong into my pool of creativity, causing enough of a splash as to get my fingers freely tapping.

“Hey, buddy, what don’t you just blog about what has happened to you the past few days?”

Wow, this could be a first for Blogland!

Sunday was my grandmother’s 96th birthday. In order to resolve the conflict between her lifelong love for travelling and her limited mobility on account of her age, my fiancée Sandra and I had been planning for weeks to drive her up to a town called Carlingford, up near the border with Northern Ireland, to see where she lived as a child. Whenever I tell people that, they say, “Oh, I never knew she was Irish!”, a sentence which is meant to be small talk but is one that forces me to tell the story of how she was born near Boston Massachusetts, and was sent with her mother to Ireland in 1914 where she stayed with her grandmother to live until after WWI was over.

I stayed in Sandra’s Saturday night, partly because I knew my grandmother liked to have her own space when preparing for a long journey. Since I said we would pick her up at 12:30, no doubt she had been up since about 6 busying herself with getting ready. This over-preparation is not a symptom of her age; it’s more one of her character. In the past whenever our family would be ready to embark on long plane journeys it would be her bidding to book a room in a hotel by the airport the night before.

As we looked out the window Sunday morning, we thought it seemed to be a perfect day for travelling. For the first time this summer, the sun was splitting the skies, and the temperatures were soaring to what we in Ireland at least would call heat-wave levels. Little did we know that back at home, my grandmother had inadvertently knocked on the central heating and left it running for several hours.

Don’t worry; the house did not blow up or anything. Instead, when we arrived bang on 12:30, the house was like an oven, and my poor grandmother was sweltering from the heat she did not realize was artificial. And whatever way she had switched the system on, I spent half an hour trying every possible combination of buttons in an attempt to switch it off to no avail. Then I noticed it had a reset button much like my palm-pilot, which needed something like a pin to activate. Finally, almost an hour behind schedule, the radiators started to cool and we could hit the road.

The ride up was both quick and pleasant – there had been much work on the Dublin to Belfast route since I last travelled north and for once we were able to make the trip to our destination without being stuck in tiny villages waiting for flocks of sheep to cross the street as was normally the case. Thanks mostly to European Union funding, the Irish infrastructure has greatly improved over the years.

And so around 3pm, we arrived. The view in the above picture is pretty much the one we had on our approach. Again we were presented with proof the good weather wasn’t as much of a good thing as we first thought. Carlingford is located by the water and such a day affords breathtaking views of the surrounding hills, a fact not lost on the hundreds of fellow day-trippers that had their cars parked all over the place. We chose to travel to a bar that was located beside a marina and have some lunch to come up with a game-plan for the rest of the afternoon.

Sadly, once we had eaten, the only game-plan my grandmother was interested in was returning home to Dublin. We never had time to see the house where she had lived or the church where she received both her first Holy Communion and her Confirmation on the same day in June, 1919.

In spite of our brief stay, Grandma seemed to enjoy herself. The flaw in our plan was our attempt to do it in one day. Next time, all things going well, we will be able to stay over in a hotel the night before. At least now she has a new story to tell her assorted visitors that is different to the plot of a drama she has watched on TV.

The good weather continued through Monday and Tuesday, and things seem to be hopeful today. Yesterday I took myself down to a town south of me called Dun Laoghaire. For those who think that place name looks like a mouthful, it is actually quite easy to pronounce. Just imagine the comedian/actor Denis Leary having a brother called “Dun”, say his name and you’ll have it.

Dun Laoghaire is a harbour town which draws most of its business from the fact that the car ferries to Britain dock there. As well as the sea-going folk the harbour also boasts two long piers to which people from all over Dublin come to take a healthy stroll down and back. It really is quite an invigorating walk and should you ever travel to these shores and be blessed with the weather I strongly recommend it.

My walk yesterday afternoon inspired me to do something I have not done in a long time – write a new poem. I know I have been posting a lot of my old stuff here lately but if you look under each one you will see they were all written pre-2002. As I sat on a bench down the end of the pier on such a beautiful day listening to my favourite tunes, I could hardly but be moved to piece some carefully chosen words together; so much so that when the stunning view was spoiled by the garish, pointy, unsightly arrival in the harbour of the ferry itself, I could not get home fast enough to try and get them on paper.

Since it is about Dublin, I chose to post it on my separate blog for things exclusively Irish, should you wish to take a look.

Now, I must decide how to take advantage of yet another beautiful day, and set this long overdue rambling off into the Blogosphere. Thanks for letting me share it.


Buffalo said...

Well told, Jeff.

shandi said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I hope you plan on sharing more with us. I checked out the poem as well.... another great one!!!

Heidi said...

I enjoyed reading this post, JL. I think it was a lovely gesture to take your grandmother out for her birthday! I'm off to read your poem...

Mr. Middle America said...

Indeed! That's sad about her and the thermostat, though... Things could be worse, I am sure!