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Thursday, 31 December 2015

Christmas on a 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…

1 comment:

  1. Another great posting Ciara. I don't know how you get the time to do it.