21 December 2009

Tell ya what: I do like Mondays

Monday is much maligned. It gets a bad name for creeping up on you. No sooner has Friday evening delivered you safely into the bosom of the weekend high, than Sunday night churns out its forlorn presentation of Monday's looming low (whether or not you have a herd of cattle to fodder of a cold winter's morning).

Today was a Monday which happened to have the honour of being the shortest day of this year. A day of frost, a cold blue sky, and a golden yellow sun. The day which turned the year - started us back again on the road to light, leaving dark, in the eternal cycle of nature's balance of contrast.

It was for that reason, no doubt, amongst a few others of note, that today was a beautiful Monday. So much so, in fact, that I have, on reflection, completely revised my view of Mondays. From this day I will hold the view that Monday is a lovely day. It will even compete with the beloved Saturday of my youth.

Here's the first thing (coexisting harmoniously as the last thing): Monday night. Here I am, writing, philosophising, whatever. And it's usually Monday night that makes this pleasure possible. Yes, there is the fact that the freedom of the weekend may bring to mind most of the material for the philosophy, but it is usually loyal Monday night, untainted by appointment or worldly need, which gives its time to you, and you alone. Invaluable thinking time.

On top of that tonight, with the sun set on the shortest day, and simply just to grace and honour the passing of the longest night, this Monday produced a twenty-five precent waxing crescent moon, in a clear black sky, as beautiful and as crisp as any ever presented over Galway.

Here's a second thing: If Sunday night has a problem with the view of Monday morning looming large, like a spoilsport to end the weekend's fun, then Sunday is the day to blame for that really. Monday is our safe landing from the weekend's festivities (perhaps excesses), life-giving though they are.

On top of that this morning, white frost entertained us no end, as it playfully slid several cars back down the hill outside our window. How the kids laughed, kneeling on the sitting room couch in their pyjamas, to see such sport. And how late we all were for school and work as a result.

And a third thing: At work on Mondays there is a work camaraderie like no other day. The shared stories of the weekend wonders. The talk about the songs. About the excesses. And a shaking of heads in surrender to the week, making like 'right-so ... lets-get-down-to-it-again'. Then greeting Monday lunch time like the arrival of a true friend.

On top of that this lunch time, I phoned my sister back (after six missed calls from her) to learn that she had got engaged: proposed to on bended knee by the Dane she loves ... while perched on the old horse-drawn mowing machine ... in the haggard at the back of grandad's old house ... where it's been since as long as we can remember ... waiting patiently for another day of glory ... like this short, sweet day ... this Monday.

On top of all that this evening: coming home. A Christmas coming. Jelly being made in funny-shaped, colourdy containers. Dinner - a casserole, all-in-one-pot, made from a special extra tasty, herby recipe. Time to share before the time to think. Family time. Stories. Plans for Christmas. Made on Monday, for Friday.

A woman used to cycle past my granny's house every Thursday on the way to Ballintober to get a few groceries. Every Thursday she also bought granny a Herald, and called in to her on the way home and they'd have tea. She had her own philosophies. One she brought up every Thursday was: 'When Tuesday comes the week is gone, Eileen ... is there seven in it at all?'

I've often adopted her philosophy - it has a definite place in project management. But it's only now I'm starting to realise its larger meaning - like the importance of Monday to the week, and the esteem in which it should be held.

Nature shows us that contrast is everything. Just as the day with most darkness shows us most light, so there cannot be contempt without respect.

In the months ahead, over an odd late night pint, I will consult with other men-about-forty as to whether this new philosophy has anything to do with a being-at-ease-with-the-world that possibly comes at this time of life. More importantly, though, every Monday morning I will celebrate the rounded pleasure of stepping out the front door, placing my feet squarely on the brick, and breathing in the fresh morning air.

13 December 2009

Fish - Night and Day

There's a little girl here who's good at rhyming things. Making a rhyme makes her grin. Coz she's a little bit proud, but mostly just pleased with the little quirk of beauty she's made up.

Last week she was home a day, sick. She was looking at auntie Niamh's blog. (ManAboutForty's failed to interest her beyond the pictures of a few letters, but Various was cool.) Approval was being voiced...
- What a cool idea [
International "Put Your Poem In A Shop Month"]! Imagine – you put your poems in shops for people to read!

Then I had an idea.
- It is cool. You could put your poem in a shop.
- Which poem?
- You know the one you wrote for mom's fish night?

This was a poem she had written for a night her mom had friends in for a cookery night. The theme food for the night was fish. The poem was called Fish Night. She had it up in the porch to welcome the friends in.

She thought about it.
- But we'd have to change it. You couldn't say 'Have the best night yet' for the one in the shop... And you'd have to call it Fish Day instead of Fish Night, coz the shop wouldn't be open at night...
- But that wouldn't matter, you could...

I just stopped myself in time. I was getting 'the look'. And she was right, of course. Okay... So we'd have to do a little re-write. But not a problem. A bit of excitement, in fact.

She set about it.

Qualification rules state that you've got to secretly stow your few lines away behind the milk (or other grocery item), then take a photo. Fine. By yesterday (with the 'home sick' days passed) we were all gung ho for the mission. We set out for Galway Bay Seafoods. Me with the camera. She with the page.

Only thing is, there's really no where to hide in this fish shop. It's just a room where they sell fish. And we hadn't bargained on the nice lady being so efficient getting through the other few customers that were there ahead of us. Our covert 'where's-best-place-to-hide-this-page-and-take-secret-photo-of-it' operation was cut short when we found ourselves top of the queue...

- Can I get you anything?

- Errm... Well... Some fresh crab claws and... errm...

The girl with the page buts in...
- And we have this poem we want to put in your shop...

So I had to come clean.

There was a hint in the experienced fish-lady's eyes of, 'so you're using a poor innocent child as emotional blackmail to fulfill your put-a-poem-in-a-shop fetish ... now that's really low'. But she played the part. She t
ook the poem, praised the effort appropriately in her Galway-Claddagh accent, then planted it standing in the ice behind the fish centre-piece.
- There – take yer photo 'way – no probl'm, 'grá.

You could sense a slight shifting of feet amongst the customers who had gathered to follow our progress. They had been amused, but at the same time some of them must have been planning on buying those particular fish that were coming in contact with crayon.

I offered that it would be fine on the glass on top. That wasn't a problem either.
- Wherever you like, 'grá – anywhere at all. Take as many as you want.

Out of politeness, but kinda knowing the answer, I also offered her a chance of immortality...
- Would you like to be in it yourself?

- Indeed I would not, 'grá ... the crabclaws are over there in the fridge.

Fish Day

Millions of fish swim in the sea.
They wriggle alot, and they are not like me.
These ones were caught, so we will have them for tea.
Try them. You will like them. Trust me. You'll see.

11 December 2009

I spy ... A Merry Christmas!

Before bedtime last night we sat around the Christmas Tree and played “I spy” with the eldest two. It had to be something on the tree.

Everything was covered, from the angel at the top to the stand that the tree stood on. But there was still one more. One last one.

Himself pipes up.
- I spy, with my little eye, something of the letter S.

We begin.
- Star … ?

- No – not S … M … Ispywimylileye sum-hn of the letter M. M, I meant to say!

- M. Okay … Is it … ? Hmmm … M.
- What could there be with M?
- Man?

- No

- M. M, M, M. I don’t see any M.

- There is an M…
Himself is starting to get giddy. He looks up at the tree. Up at his secret M— thing.

We’re out of ideas. Then I try a no-hoper…
- Maisiúcháin?

They all look at me
- What’s “moshucawn”?!
- It’s Irish for decorations…

Himself is unimpressed with my show of knowledge.
- Well that’s not it.

He’s dancing from foot to foot now. Hard to know whether it’s better fun if we give up. (Like we did when Herself came up with “stand”.)

Then I see it. Glittering in all its Newbridge Silver glory. One of those we got in Treasure Chest last year. Pretty things. Stamped out of metal and assembled and soldered together. There was an old gramophone, a Cinderalla carriage, a “world”, a windmill, a baby buggy we got as a present after the 2008 arrival … and this. This was HIS one. Because he loved them in the towns all over France the last few summers. Would spend the whole day on them.


He jumps in the air.
- YES!
He extends a full arm, pointing congratulatorily at the one who got it.
- YES! MERRY-GO-ROUND! You got it! You got it!

And he positively dances circles of joy, slapping his leg as he goes. He has left the room. Is he in Vannes, or L’Orient or Orléans, or somewhere? All of those places, and further. He is a champion jockey, on the way to another certain victory.

Our money’s on him. We look on and celebrate.