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Thursday, 31 December 2015

Christmas on a Tuesday...in November

I moved out of the share house with the girls as we each went to move on with our respective partners. I'm still smiling at my having to live in the big house with no furniture for two weeks when the other two had moved on and taken everything with them.

Now three months into moving in with Neilee and he's surviving the "mantrap" as he calls it. My efforts to gain the "Domestic Goddess" title were slightly strained after only Day 3 when I had already run out of healthy options to cook that he might eat! The struggle is real!! How do people do it?? This title has since been put on hold for when I am less stressed and have more time...

St. Kilda is the place to be in the summer and once you look past the syringes and human faeces outside our door in the lane way, it's great! Lovely neighbours who presented us with some muffins when we moved in and another who told us the "trick" about living in peace was to be nice to the drug addicts and homeless alcoholics and they would leave you alone... Noted.

We had a house-warming two months in, the day after my Christmas party, which was a struggle in itself. Please bear in mind that I had fallen in the door at 6am with tinsel wrapped round my neck, no bag, heels or pretty much ANY belongings (phone was with one mate, makeup with another and shoes with another!) just as Neilee was going out the door to work. I consistently make him so proud, I’m sure of it.


And so, after a three hour sleep, I was up and prepping the apartment for the house-party; whilst still wearing my sunglasses indoors, as it was “too bright”. Cut to a few hours later and we have a DJ at the apartment, the bath full to the brim with bottles of beer and it has the makings of another messy night ahead.

This one ended at 6am again, with my having to “cut the night short” as Neilee was asleep standing up against a pole in a less-than-classy establishment on Fitzroy street! Again, a few hours of sleep was squeezed in before we got up for the McGregor v Aldo UFC match that we had ordered on FOXTEL, and invited a few more people round to drink the remaining bottles of beer.



Neil was a shadow of his former self, left mute on the sofa whilst the rest of us got ready for the most anticipated 13 seconds in UFC history. We all barely had time to sit up on the sofa and pay attention before it was over.  McGregor shouting “IRELAND BABY WE DID IT!” was what resonated with me after the short-but-sweet fight. This 27-year-old guy from Crumlin had just become the UFC Featherweight Champion of the world by the fastest championship victory in UFC history and he was sharing it with his country and all of us who were Irish. In the frenzy of winning and the chaos of the minutes just after knocking Jose Aldo out, he thought of his nation when asked about his win. He was, in that moment, a King, with an army of millions behind him. The screams of the Irish were heard for miles – Maire had come around afterwards and told us of how the Irish Pub she had been in had turned into a mosh pit, with drinks being thrown around the place and people jumping on tables. We may be a small country and don’t have very many world-class athletes; but one thing is for sure – if you are up there amongst the best, you’ll have the backing of pretty much every Irish person at every single step of the way. And of course, we’ll celebrate if you win and act as though we’ve each individually won the lotto.

Ireland lost to Argentina in the Rugby World Cup, which wasn’t ideal considering the Head of Platform is an Argentinian and a huge rugby fan (fully equipped with cauliflower ears). If that didn’t end my career, him telling the Global Head of Fertiliser that a work colleague and I were calling said Senior Manager “Fabio” because he “looked like a Fabio” probably put the nail in the coffin. Especially since he announced it on a Global call; naming me in person. I might as well start updating my Linked In…


Bhany and my niece Izzy come down to visit Luke, who has been stationed in Victoria for a bit, for a weekend in July and Neilee and I went to spend Christmas with them. They are moving back to Ireland next year and it’s beginning to dawn on me how much this will impact on me now. I know she’s a three-hour plane ride away, but even having my sister on the same time-zone (give or take an hour at Daylight Savings time) makes things easier. Being the only one left in Australia will change things I’m sure. 

Finally, I’m not able to go into details about why yet, but I had to fly home at short notice to attend a hearing. The stay at home was short and sweet, making the 24 hour journey for only a week, but I was determined to turn it into a positive experience and enjoy my time there once that was out of the way; especially seeing as though the whole thing was unexpected.
 
Bhány and I headed together, surprised Kev with Bhany’s turning up at the airport and then headed home to do the same to Mam and Dad; both of whom didn’t know we were coming. It happened to also be Mam’s 60th birthday that week, so the timing was good. We left 34 degrees to arrive at minus 2 and froze ourselves for the week. Upon arrival at the house, we decided the plan would be to run around the back, go in the back door and sit on the couch in the kitchen so that we could surprise Mam when she came in. Mam and Dad were always in the front room at this time and we were sure this was a fool-proof plan. It would have been if Dad hadn’t decided to go into the kitchen about five times whilst we froze our a*ses off outside the door, waiting for the opportunity to come indoors. In the end, Dad turned on the outside light, so we scarpered around to the front of the house for fear of giving him an actual heart attack should he come out and see us outside. We rang the doorbell and Dad answered, a confused and slightly annoyed look on his face.

We signalled at him to not say anything, so when Mam asked who it was he said “It’s not for it, it’s for next door” and went to close the door on us in a panic! We managed to grapple with him to get in, and then I sent Bhány in ahead of me. Kev was filming as Bhány said “Well, are you going to swing the kettle or not?!” to Mam who looked up at her for a split second before screaming “JESUS!” when she realised there was something not quite right with this picture. Poor Dad copped it with “you little sh*t” as she thought he was in on it and there were tears and laughter before she had to sit down with the fright. I have to say that the 24 hours of hell on a plane was worth it for only that reaction. The wine came out, Facebook was updated and the phone-calls started coming for Mam.

We headed to Gorey with the family for the weekend and Bhány and I headed to meet Ita’s family and visit her grave in Rosegreen, Cashel on the way home. It was surreal to be standing over a grave and think of it as being Ita. I didn’t quite know how to deal with it as I hadn’t been a part of any of it; so the mind took a while to process. It was only upon meeting her beautiful family that it sunk in, but I held it together only wavering slightly when I met her father. What a strong and amazing family – I really think they are a testament to Ita and after meeting them it’s no wonder she couldn’t have been anything but a beautiful person with such a nice and welcoming family. We chatted for a couple of hours before hitting the road again for the trip home. I missed her mother with one of her sisters, but promised to return on my next trip home; whenever that would be.

I was having a bit of a clear-out while I was at home, when my brother came across this photo… I don’t even think there are suitable words in the English language to describe this; but it had my family in stitches, Facebook loved it as did my staff members and other colleagues when they got their hands on it! Some comments were “you’ve come a long way” and “You have improved…a lot” – both of which are nice ways of saying “OMFG you were UUUUUGGGGGLLLLLLY!”. All I can say it thank God for makeup. And braces. And hair dye, fake tan, false eyelashes and in fact anything at all which means that I don’t have to look like my actual self! If you can't make it, fake it is my motto - now all I need to do is earn enough money to employ the nutritionist, makeup artist, hairdresser etc on a full time basis...!
Finding this photo then started hours’ worth of conversation threads on Whatsapp with some friends who dug up their own old photos of us all and kindly shared them. To think we were allowed out in public like that is terrifying and down-right bad parenting in my opinion. They should have known better – clearly my friends couldn’t see straight enough seeing as though they themselves were equally as bad!! The fact that I even had friends in that state is a miracle in itself; probably best not to push it!

The rest of the week was spent trekking around Ireland trying to get in all the relations and also having visitors over to the house who came to say hi and goodbye at the same time before we took the 26 hour trip home. The rush of emotions getting on the plane back to Melbourne this time was so different. Seeing my best friends and family and given that it was FREEZING made it all very Christmassy and I was genuinely sad to be leaving what I would always call home. Saying "When are you coming home?" is probably the worst thing you can ask someone living on the other side of the world. The guilt of being away, the inability to describe what it's like to someone who is still in Ireland and even the not-knowing the answer to the question is enough to hurt. With Bhany returning home, I knew the focus was on her and Izzy, but I was still asked about six or seven different times in the 7 days at home. When would I be going home? Or would I even ever go home? I find it best not to think about these tough decisions and see how things pan out for fear of having to answer the question. Plenty of time, I kid myself.

It was lovely to have the unexpected Christmas for this year, even if it was a month early. To the Aussies who don't understand when we say their December 25th isn't Christmassy: Christmas to me is a time and a feeling. It’s about friends and family and cold winter nights. It's that feeling you get when everyone is together, it's the sitting beside the fire to keep warm, the silly Christmas Carols in the background, it's the Die Hard and Home Alone on the TV and watching them for the 50th time together. It's “The Late Late Toy Show” on TV, the boxes and boxes of chocolates, the big dinners followed by dessert as a treat. It's a time to appreciate what you have and who you have with you to share it with. December 25th in Australia is the same as any other day in Summer for me; hot, spent drinking beers on the beach or having a BBQ. It couldn't actually be any further from my family and many of my friends if it tried and this distant “second life” I have keeps me in a bubble that doesn't allow me to share it with those at home in Eireann nor does it allow me to fully appreciate what I have either.

Saying this, Christmas also has the power to be the loneliest time of the year, or the saddest. A time when others who are alone are made more aware of it, or those who have lost someone in their lives are left with that empty seat at the table; the one dinner less to make, fewer gifts to buy. I thought of how hard it would be for Ita’s husband Francis and her beautiful family and friends without her. How it would hurt each time they took family photos and she wasn’t there and how they would see something in the shops that she would love, but they had nobody to buy it for anymore. I took a moment to drink in the scene at home, with my family all in the festive spirit and together again; acknowledging that I am more fortunate than others and making sure I was appreciative of that fact.

And so, we took the opportunity to have a full-spread Christmas dinner at home because the whole family was together again – what a treat to have since I had written off having a Christmas this year! Michael Buble playing in the background, the heating on to counter the  outside sub-zero temperatures, the “good cutlery” being used, Mam stressing over the turkey being “too dry” when it was always perfect, the Christmas hat ripping on Dad’s head as it was too small, being so full that you feel like you are ready to burst (yet you still manage to eat half a tin of Roses) – now THIS is Christmas!!


If any of the neighbours had come in to see us eating turkey and ham, wearing silly hats and Christmas jumpers and pulling Christmas crackers on a random Tuesday in November they would have thought we were insane...although looking at the photo below I would probably have problems trying to defend ourselves against that judgment...


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! 

What a year! 2015 has been and gone and I don’t even know how.
I have changed jobs, moved apartments, watched my little sister get married in Thailand and spent time working in Singapore. I have been home, have had some good injuries and witnessed my country step forward and lead the way in Marriage Equality.
And how it flew by – a year gone in what feels like a moment! Looking back on it, this year taught me that I should cherish the moments you have with each other and make the most of everything that you do. I can make the trivial New Years’ Resolutions we all make, but I should remember to live, laugh, love and learn from the mistakes that I am inevitably bound to make. But I know at times I will forget; I'll complain about things, I'll bitch and moan about my bad day and I'll wish the weeks away as I look forward to a particular date in time. But sure if I didn't, then I'd have nothing to write about...?! :)


Next stop; 2016…



Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Let them eat cake!

The first months after Ita's passing were a bit of a blur to be honest; a lot of guilt-ridden days of not being able to go home for her. There are now days that I forget and then I go through the emotions of it all again when I remember; topped with the guilt of forgetting in the first place. It's difficult to describe long distance grief to someone who doesn't live away. I’ve said this before, but your life is so separate from everyone's at home that it's like you have two lives. You forget that things at home change, that kids grow up, that friends have babies and that some people die. You feel like everything will be exactly as it was when you left, waiting to continue upon your return. And then, when someone does pass away, and you’re now so used to not seeing them every day anyway, your mind cons you into thinking that they are just at home; especially after all the emotions of shock settle.
I think of her when I put on my boots in the morning as they're the ones she sneakily bought after seeing them on me. I think of her when I see the gift she bought me when I left for Oz, hanging on the wall in the sitting room. I have twice accidentally hit her number on FaceTime in my "Favourites" when I went to call someone and the sense of panic it instilled in me made me feel sick. Earlier this month, as I sat on the tram to go to work, I was left frozen to the spot - the hairs on the back of my neck standing up - as a lady got on and sat across me that could have been her twin. Equipped with gorgeous clothes and Ita's same glasses, I was stuck between being unable to stop half-smiling and staring at the poor girl whilst feeling nauseous at the thought of the trick I knew my eyes were playing with my mind.

My friend Maire tried to cheer me up after Ita's passing and so said she was taking me out to see "The Blues Brothers" musical. It was only the day before when she looked at the tickets that she realised it was actually "BLOOD Brothers"; a story which ends in death. I had to laugh at how much she failed on that one, poor thing! We went to see the play and then out for "a drink" afterwards. Somehow “a drink” lead to us rolling in the door at 6am, her wrapped in a blanket and my holding a bottle of vodka after walking down one of the main Melbourne roads. This wasn't before having to drag her away from a conversation with the men doing road-works on the main road outside our house when the cops drove by, and her pretending to be Batman with the blanket as her cloak outside the petrol station. A much needed release.

And so we continue with our lives.

I managed to get an even more stressful position within the Louis Dreyfus group, working longer hours and gaining nothing but more stress-weight and grey hair. The doctor pulled me in to get a handle on my thyroid meds after a 10kg weight gain in 4 months finally convinced them of my trying to tell them they were not working was actually the case. Why couldn't I be one of those people who lost weight with stress?? Imagine?! I'd be the skinniest person around with the amount of things I stress about!! :) First world problems, eh?? It didn’t help that they messed up when they took my bloods and then text me a week later to say all way fine. 8 weeks after this I contacted the GP to ask for a repeat prescription, only to have them tell me that I have to come in and see them as my results were way off. My response to the receptionist when she asked if I would like an appointment that day? “Trust me, you don’t want me to come in today”. It takes 6 weeks in between blood tests to see if the meds are working and they have just stalled me another 8 weeks. I was NOT a happy fat girl.

I now had to find an Endocrinologist seeing as though the doctors can’t get the world-class-fat-creating thyroid gland under control…although I’m hoping I won’t have died from obesity by then. Speaking of which, I was feeling so low about my having gained an extra person in weight in the last 6-months, that I was sitting there comparing myself to the man who died on Christmas Day and who had weighed in at over 450kgs no longer being able to wash himself.
It was a bad day.

An attempt at dressing up as Cindy Lauper for an 80s birthday party left me with permanently pink hair, despite the fact that it's meant to be a ONE-WASH-OUT product. 200 washes and $240 later I've still got tinges of orange and pink in my hair; which people love to draw my attention to, obviously thinking that perhaps I mightn't have picked up on the fact. Yvonne, I'm waiting for the final total spent before invoicing you for it all! :)

One night in July, after finishing work at 9pm, I was walking the usual 2km home, catching up on all the texts and Whatsapps as I made my way. This was my usual routine, most of the time meaning that I'd get home and not remember the journey as it was spent with my head in my phone and blind-walking the route home. This time, as I walk along the busy Punt Road in the dark texting Doireann from home, my ankle twists over where a tree is planted at the edge of the pavement. The path stops and dips and the tree is there just waiting to attack some unsuspecting creature like myself. I scream as I fall into the evil tree, grabbing hold of it to stop myself falling into traffic; branches tangling into my hair. The pain shot through my foot, but my concern was more if anyone saw me (obviously), so I leapt up and fixed myself, looking left and right to see if there were any witnesses. Lucky me - nobody about apart from the traffic whizzing by! So, I hobbled home, immediately returning to my phone to text Doireann what happened; clearly not having learned my lesson. I got home and put my foot up, sure of having twisted my ankle, informing Una of my plight. I was still picking leaves out of my hair the next morning.

Three weeks later my foot was still sore and walking on it hurt a lot, so I took myself to the Sports Health Clinic; only to leave 2 hours later, $500 lighter and fully equipped with a 6-week Moon Boot and a telling off by the doctor for my troubles. "Exactly how blonde are you?" I believe was what she asked me, before informing me that I had been walking around on a broken foot and torn ligaments for the past few weeks. Oops. I’ll take her rather harsh rhetorical question to be out of concern then.

The first weekend I was able to walk normally without limping in the huge contraption that had by then become a part of me; I got the heels out and headed to The Caulfield Cup Races. I lasted about an hour before taking them off.
Great day, although it wasn't a late one. We smuggled alcohol into the Race Grounds, putting Malibu into some pineapple juice cartons. Una and I were left to shame when another couple with us got the scalpel out, sliced the side of the cartons, poured out half the juice and poured in the alcohol, sealing the hole with a glue gun once they were finished, keeping the carton seal intact....
That's CSI material right there!

Luckily our "rookie" efforts weren't checked at the entrance and we had some refreshing "juice" to drink during the day! It was my first time at the Races and I had no idea what I was doing when betting, therefore deciding the best way was to bet on the names of the horses that I liked. Neilee - equipped with betting book - was horrified, but I managed to come out even!

Without going into detail about work, the old team environment wasn’t great and I was continually trying to improve it and up morale. One of the first things that was suggested was for newbie Katie and I to make a cake. Now, before I begin with this damning account of my “cooking skills” or lack thereof, let me first say that I can neither cook nor bake and have never eluded to the fact that I can, so don’t ask me why this came about as a suggestion.
Katie had just moved from WA and so had no friends yet (cue me) and no utensils for cooking, so we decided it best if we just buy a cake mixer and make things easier. So, fully equipped with me, said mixer, all the ingredients needed and two bottles of wine (to help the cooks of course), we headed to her apartment. We’re chatting away to each other as Katie instructs me what to do and how I can help (as the only thing I was currently helping with was drinking the wine). Katie tells me I can break up the biscuits and do the base of the cake. We had no utensil to break them up with, so I just put them in two plastic bags and used the – now empty – bottle of wine to smash them into pieces. Quite happy with my stroke of ingenuity, I’m still smiling when she hands me a piece of wrapping from the butter. I kindly put in the bin for her, all the while thinking she was a bit lazy to have handed it to me when she was standing right next to the bin. After taking all the day’s anger out on the biscuits, Katie goes to tell me how to put them in the tin but stops mid-sentence. “Why isn’t this greased? What did you do with the paper I gave you?
Oops.
Apparently everyone knows that you grease the tin with the paper from the butter when it’s handed to you?! This is when she discovers that I’m serious when I say I can’t bake and her instructions immediately become a lot more specific as if speaking to a child…

When the preparation was all done (and the two bottles of wine inhaled), the oven was turned on and we had to wait an hour for the cheesecake to bake. It was already late, at 11:30pm, but I didn’t mind sitting and chatting for a bit longer. The two of us sat on the sofa talking until her alarm went off on her phone to remind her to take the cake out. Katie gets up, heads to the oven and stands in front of it – staring strangely through the glass. She must have been there about 20 seconds before she starts looking up and down and then opens the door of the oven again just staring into it. I said “What’s wrong? Is it burned?”, to which she replied “No….it’s not there!” Confused, I said “What do you mean it’s not there?!” “I can’t find the cake!!” she explained, as though it was the most normal sentence in the world.
Another 10 seconds before we realised that the cheesecake was still left on the table, right where we left it and directly in front of my line of vision for the last hour.
Double-oops.

It was almost 2am by the time the cheesecake came out of the oven and poor Katie had to set her alarm again at 3:30am to remember to put it in the fridge. At least the cake looked a lot fresher than we did when we brought it, and its story, into work the next day. Masterchefs in the making...