17 October 2011

Farewell ManAboutThirty

It's funny the way things work out; the places one ends up.

Tonight ManAboutForty sits up in bed, in a hotel room. Usually nothing remarkable in that for the Monday night life of a traveller. Except that tonight it's different.

I'm in room 213 of Buswell's Hotel on Molesworth Street, Dublin. Just outside the gates of Leinster House. (It gets darn quiet round here at night time, compared to the bustle and jostle of national newsworthy happenings during the day.)

Travelled here from Italy last night, leaving family 'out there'. Had some work business in Larne today. But also renewed my passport, just across the road in The Passport Office.

I got to keep the old one (so that I can return to Italy tomorrow). It was issued ten years ago (give or take the few days left to 06 Nov 2011). So, on the bedside locker, a youthful ManAboutThirty smiles out from behind the laminated back page

(Next to a shopping list for items we can't get in Italian supermarkets.)

Ten years ago, he drove urgently from Dublin Airport, having reaslised, at the Aer Lingus check-in desk of a business trip, that his passport was out of date. He ran in the rain to a Fuji Photo shop for that photo to be taken - the rain still visible in the green check shirt, and in the black hair. A smile for the camera nonetheless. And passort issued 'same day' so he could fly to Munich the next.

Exciting day, that. And an exciting few days in Munich. But soon, ManAboutThirty, we must part. We make our final trip back to Italy tomorrow. To our family. Then ManAboutForty travels on.

29 September 2011

Ten Things Found in a Fairy's Pocket

Coming home from work this evening, a little girl I know greeted me with a poem that she wrote in school today.

Ten Things Found in a Fairy's Pocket

A bright pair of wings,
A bag of licking lollipops that last forever,
An invisible cloak,
Staircases that change,
A snowman that melts in the winter,
A horse that has two legs,
A potion that turns you to dust,
A magic apple; if you take a bite you stay young always,
A bag of magic powder that turns you into a fairy,
A talking tree that tells you the right thing to do,
A suitcase the size of a car.

Eleven things, but all the better for it!

18 September 2011

Thunder Storm Toscana

I'm in Tuscany with my family. Been here just over a week. To live for three months, or six; depending on work and life and things.

It has been hot and sunny. Every day the same pattern. Cool only if you're out before seven, otherwise hot even as you try to convince a sceptical eight, and seven, and two year old that they need Weetabix for energy for the day. Then you stay in the shade as long as is possible before finally giving in to pleas to go in the pool.

(Yes, our pool. Just bottom of the garden. I used to see these houses from the plane coming in to land in Florence on recent business trips, and wonder. Now we get to live it for a while, and wonder, and let someone else look down at us.)

Then you eat late enough to minimise the sweating.

Then you go to bed and sweat anyway.

It's September. You think Indian summer. Then you think, just stop trying to compare with anything you ever experienced in Ireland, because you never did.

The grass is burned almost white on our podere. En route to the pool, you walk over baked clay, dead grass, dust, and last year's (or maybe even last number of years') dried oak leaves from the trees surrounding us (trees that give us our survival-shade ... and support our three hammocks).

Then suddenly, tonight, something familiar.


I went for a haircut yesterday in the village. A small, old, cloistered, antico castello. Sovicille. The barber had, of all things, a jig-saw framed on the wall, of a map of Europe. My son was with me. We followed our route from Ireland to Tuscany on the jig-saw while we waited.

Irlandesi, I explained when it was our turn, the only other customer having been processed through the grandiose paperwork process of paying his fourteen euro for a haircut.

Poco Italiano.

The barber was a nice man; welcoming us, and paying the due homage to my boy; suitably amused at his intent reading of the Italian men's magazines. Amazing how little vernacular gets you by when the context is fairly self-explanatory.

On paying, a book that he had on his desk caught my eye. An encyclopedia of mushrooms. Funghi. Another quirky adornment of his establishment. I commented. He opened up. He was clearly an aficionado. In glorious Italian he told me of several of the wonderful, famous varieties that were on my doorstep in the woods behind my new house. They were only waiting for rain, and it was not long more to wait. Sunday, even. Domenica sera. Certo. Domani.

We would be back to him with our specimens to see what we should eat.


So I'm sitting on a tiled porch tonight. Sunday night. After nine o'clock. This time with my eldest daughter - the other three asleep. We are musing as we watch something familiar fall from the darkness, as if it has been delivered directly from home. It has been long enough since we've seen it for the rain to be a bit of a novelty.

But there's more than just that novelty has us out in pyjamas with proverbial popcorn, and a real glass of vino roso. This rain has been delivered in the form of a very flashy, brash theatrical thunderstorm. Sheet lightning flashes follow each other even before their respective thunder claps roll out. The whole sky lights up, and silhouettes the mountain forests around us.

It's full on. A beautiful place to be - feeling safe but respectful. Sitting comfortably and confidently small while nature gives us a power-display.

We had stayed through one particularly violent crash which followed a particularly dazzling flash, with a cameo appearance of forked lightening. My daughter had abandoned my home-schooling physics lesson (counting the time between flash and crash) and had made a run for the indoors, but I had coaxed her out for more.

A second hay-maker put an end to our show, however. She was gone this time. Daddy's lap couldn't protect against Mother Nature any longer.

So we did the reassurances in the relatively safer zone of being under bed sheets. Where we can close our eyes, and the thunder isn't as loud.

Now she dreams a child's cartoon conclusion of how the sun makes electricity in the air by day, and it kind of turns back to bright flashes of sun again at night time.

I type. But aware, with every word, of a forest floor outside, brimming alive with funghi. Might be back to the barber tomorrow.