After a long wet summer in Ireland I can confirm that the only cure for homesickness is a trip home. Setting off from Abu Dhabi, the rose tinted glasses in hand, one looks at the summer with brimming enthusiasm looking forward to all the jovial family get-togethers, adventurous family days out in activity parks and centres around Ireland and overdue catch-ups with friends. The reality of summer in Ireland is vastly different but just as enjoyable. Family get togethers are like crazy melees as children, nieces, nephews, opinionated yanks and infirm grandparents must all be accommodated around the same table, each one fighting to get their voice heard but somehow the monotonous drone of the “I’m 40 years gone from Ireland” yank winning out, every time.
Day trips around Ireland with three kids, a tight budget , changeable weather conditions and petrol at one seventy a litre, even now I’m wondering why I ever thought this was feasible. In an effort to avoid the 45euro fast food bill, the only option is to resort to bringing ham sandwiches, taytos and a bottle of diluted orange and teach your children how to stand in the correct position at the open boot of the car so as to avoid the sheets of rain and piecing winds and show them the enjoyment in spending an afternoon doing same, difficult to do as your face hurts with cold and you yourself are longing for a long latte in warm surroundings. Entrance fees are unavoidable but can be reduced to almost nothing if you keep an eye on Groupon and don’t mind driving to Donegal, spending five hundred euro on petrol just to enjoy the 15euro saving on admission.
Catch up with friends happen but somehow get overshadowed and stifled either by time constraints (you might think it impossible to get stuck for time when you have all summer but try pleasing everyone all the time) or financial constraints. With more than every second person in Ireland either directly or indirectly significantly affected by unemployment the most affordable option for meeting up is a night in. To say that staying -in is the new going-out in Ireland at the moment is a gross understatement, with more cheap bottles of Pinot Grigio being bought in the weekly grocery shop than boxes of cereal, and the price of alcohol on the rise in pubs it looks like the best option is to avoid the taxi, babysitter and bar bill and stay home. Which is exactly the wagon I decided to hitch my cart to, a win-wine situation if ever there was one.
Quick to catch on to a notion, I decided to take the initiative and invite some of our old friends around, I would do the staying in thing, a perfect chance to catch up with the friends, use up the half full bottles of spirits brought home from the Canaries five years ago and show off my culinary ease by buying a selection of two for one Indian meals in the local supermarket. The night went off great and ended with a reciprocal invitation. Two Friday nights later, I entered what I thought was my friends kitchen, but was somehow it was transformed into the live set of Masterchef. Individuals bowls of ingredients, marinating, tiny terrines of foie gras lined up ready to be served and a leg of lamb which could have been plastic it looked so perfect. Six bottles of the same wine stood expectantly at the side, half chilled to precision the other half a comfortable 19 degrees, ( so I was told!). Seems that everyone is flat out watching Come Dine with Me, including me, but I seem to be the only one looking at the social interaction and not the food. Dining-in has been taken to a whole new level in Ireland , a level way past pre-packed lasagna and ready-made garlic bread. I looked back on my Indian delights with horror and embarrassment flooded in, luckily nonchalance came quickly after and I was able to enjoy the night and the fine and refined feast.
So as my time in Ireland closes in, I say goodbye to the rain, goodbye to wet mornings drinking coffee with Jeremy Kyle, goodbye to angsty family meets and soggy ham sandwiches, ,my particular speciality.