Archive for July, 2011
Have you ever met someone who looks totally normal, but really is the angel of death? Yeah, me too. Last night. John and I had a date night to go see the last Harry Potter movie, part 27 or whatever it is. It’s just come out, so we chose a weeknight hoping that the crowds would be smaller. The best theatre in Dublin in my opinion is at Dundrum Shopping Center, which is Ireland’s largest mall. That sounds really daunting, until you see it and realize that it’s about the size of Phipps in Atlanta or Manhattan Village in Manhattan Beach, CA. A couple of large department stores, most of the major chains and a small food court. Ireland is only about the size of West Virginia, so it puts it into perspective.
First we ate dinner at this sushi place on the bottom level. It is shaped like an oval and has a conveyor belt running around it, with color-coded plates of sushi on the belt that you just grab off. As you eat, you stack up the plates. At the end, the waitress counts the plates by color and calculates your bill. The good part is you can eat immediately and you can try different things without much commitment: each plate only holds two small pieces. The bad part is that you can really see what a glutton you are. I started to get self-conscious and spread the plates out a little bit, even pushing some over towards my neighbours, so it would look like maybe they ate them.
After the sushi smorgasbord, we headed to the movie theatre. Here in Ireland, they give you assigned seats in the movies. It can be great if you are running late for a popular movie and have already bought your tickets online. It can be fatal if you are stuck next to a nutburger, like I was last night. We sit down in our seats and we are right next to a nice-looking middle-aged women and her teenage daughter. She starts chatting a little bit and I feel immediately friendly to her, because she reminds me of a favourite babysitting client of mine from my youth. Our accents are a dead giveaway, so she asks where we are from. After I answer and she tells me she’s from South Africa, she says, “Why are you here?” When I tell her for John’s job, she says, “No. I understand that. But WHY are you coming HERE? NOW? Anyone of any quality is leaving this place!” and gestures to herself and her daughter. I sort of mumble and say some platitudes about the economy being bad, so of course people are leaving. “You won’t make any friends,” she responded with zero hesitation. I am so stunned and still unaware of how far off the tracks this conversation is going that I plow on with a strained laugh, “oh, no! Don’t say that.” “No, you won’t. I have lived here for 5 years and I don’t have a single friend. The experience of being here with your family will be fine. But you won’t have any friends. Don’t expect to have any friends.”
It was like someone had taken all of my irrational fears and made them incarnate in the body of a middle-aged white South African woman seeing Harry Potter. She goes on, despite my stunned silence…..”The people here are AW-FUL. Awful. They will envy you whatever you have and they only care about what you can do for them.” By the way, during this whole exchange John is in the restroom, having left right after the lady introduced herself. So I have no wingman with this looney tunes. I am looking straight ahead at this point and sort of making hmm-hmm noises in response to whatever she is saying. Then she asks what we are going to do with the kids while we work. I respond that the older kids will be in school for most of the day. She asks what school. When I tell her, she yelps “Oh, God, NO!” and clamps her hand over her mouth. Really??? Really???? I don’t say anything and she continues “They are crazy there. That place is terrible.” Finally her daughter leans up and says “she just has a chip on her shoulder about that place, because she saw two kids walking down the hall holding hands.” I am not even sure what this means, but at this moment John returns from the bathroom and the lights dim for the movie to start. Sweet relief.
Once the movie was over and we were well out of earshot from Crazy Bones, I told John everything that happened. He wasn’t in the least surprised. He just calmly says, “Yeah, I could tell she was crazy from the minute we sat down, so I just sat back in my seat after she introduced herself.” “Well, great. Then why did you leave me there defenceless while you went to the bathroom.” “You’re a big girl. You can handle yourself.” This is true. I can and I am a pretty good judge of character. But John is like a Jedi when it comes to immediately reading people. He has that sixth sense that comes from being moved around a lot as a kid. It’s like learning another language when you are very young. You can still learn it when you are older, but it’s never quite as fluent.
So all night, I kept thinking about what she said. I know it’s not true. But I am only human….sometimes it’s easier to believe the bad stuff. Here’s to hoping that she is dead wrong. Damn nutburger.
While this is not about the England trip, I wanted to address something that everyone seems fascinated with: how much food costs here compared to home. That is the one question I get asked more than any. So, here goes: it’s more. A lot more, not even taking into account the dollar to euro conversion, which also bites. Ireland is essentially a big island, so it’s like living in Hawaii in one way only: almost everything gets flown in. Other than beef, dairy, and bread, everything is more expensive. Fruit is really outrageous. A small contain of berries, let’s say ¼ pint, is about $4. Strawberries are about 4xs as much as at home and not as good. Other berries however, like the blueberries, are the best I have ever tasted. Super sweet! The selection of brands is very close to what we have at home. A big thing here is fresh pre-made food. They have great, freshly made food packaged to go practically everywhere.
Another thing that is strikingly different are the convenience stores. Most of them seem to be a local brand, SPAR. They carry the usual convenience store items….overpriced toilet paper and milk. But they also have freshly made sandwiches, soups and even hot food. I would never eat something “fresh” from the convenience stores back home. But here, it’s really nice. Sometimes, they even have little table and chairs on the sidewalk in front.
In my on-going quest to find my peeps, I crashed a Mommy and New Baby boot camp last week. I had headed up towards the water for a run. Once I got up to the beach area, I noticed a small group of women with buggies working out on the grass. I went up and found out that it was a formal boot camp. The teacher asked if I wanted to try it out. I said sure, so I had an hour of unexpected boot camp. It was great, except that I was reminded that I am a rickety clown. I plan to go back this week. And this time I’ll take baby Noah.
We had our first family trip last weekend, to the south of England. A friend of John’s from high school, Johan, lives there with his family. Even though they had not seen each other in 22 years, he kindly offered to put all of us up for five days, even our nanny. I kept asking John, “Are you sure he knows what he is getting into???”. Apparently, he did. They live in a very charming little village called Godalming, which I pronounced “Gold-ah-ming” for the first four days, until John exclaimed in an exasperated voice “You’re never going to get it right!”. That quickly prompted me to get it right and prove him wrong. It’s about a 30 minute train ride outside of London, in Surrey. The area is truly picturesque, with little cottages, blooming flowers trailing down every windowsill, and thatched roofs. One day, we even saw a roof getting repaired and the man’s truck said “Master Thatcher”. I am sure that this is a speciality.
John and Johan have not seen each other in 22 years not only due to the usual happening of life after high school, but also because their high school was located in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Needless to say, I have not met many of John’s high school friends. It’s not like there are reunions. So, I was really keen to meet Johan. He is Swedish and has a very dry wit, which I appreciated. His wife, Violeta, is from Madrid, so I subjected her to my rusty Castilian for a few days. She was a very good sport.
They have two children, Boris (13) and Christina (6). Both were utterly delightful and I am not one to just think anyone else kids are great, simply because I am not the one having to deal with them. Boris was smart and completely tolerant of John John and Lincoln, who of course worshiped him because he was older. He’s also one of those rare kids who feels just as comfortable with adults as he does kids. Christina is a total doll. Petite and beautiful, with the cutest British accent that reminded me of the show “Charlie and Lola”. Her parents claim that she is a devil in a pink dress, but for our visit she was completely charming.
The first full day there we took the train into London. It was very easy and dropped us right off in Waterloo Station. If you walk straight out of the station you almost run smack into the London Eye, a HUGE Ferris Wheel. It so big that the cars are about as large as our den and can easily fit about 15 people, with room to walk around and see the view from all around. It really was a spectacular view. From the first day we got to Dublin, Lincoln has asked daily to go to the Ferris wheel that is here. The problem is that it doesn’t ever seem to be moving. So, I thought he would be thrilled to get on the Eye. But once he laid eyes on the Eye, he started in, “I do NOT want to get on that. I do NOT want to go.” I just insisted and drug him on. Once we got a little bit up in the air, he looked at me with delight and said, ”Ok, Mommy. You were right. Lincoln was wrong. I DID want to come on this.” Totally worth it.
We had a full great day in London and had just settled onto the full train for the 30 minute ride back to Godalming. Lincoln asks me there is a potty on the train. I say no and he grabs himself. It’s an emergency. I am at a loss. Then I have the brilliant idea of getting one of Noah’s diapers, sticking it down the front of Lincoln’s pants and letting him pee on that. He thinks this is a great idea. I get the diaper out and he starts to pull open the front of his waistband so I can put the diaper in place. Unfortunately, it’s that phenomenon of when you really have to go and as you get close to the toilet, you can barely contain it. Well, Lincoln didn’t contain it. He just started peeing and loudly proclaimed, “I am peeing”. He peed mostly on himself, some on me, and some on the floor of the train. The best was the British woman sitting a foot away. She kept a stiff upper lip, never looking up from her book, and pretended like it was not happening. I am sure that she has told the story of the gross Americans from the train several times since!
The second day we drove to the coast to Brighton where we hit the pier. It is the British version of the Santa Monica pier, complete with carny rides. The kids were in hog heaven. Sophie screamed so loud on the rides that she lost her voice. I was amazed since the last roller coaster she rode was a baby one at Disneyworld and she didn’t forgive me for a week for making her get on. I knew John John would love the rides, because he is a secret daredevil. Rides and scary images on tv just don’t rock his boat. Kissing on tv, on the other hand, makes him cover his face with a pillow.
We had taken the ferry from Dublin to Hollyhead and then drove over. So going home, we had about a six hour drive to reach the ferry from Johan’s house. John drove almost the whole way, which was good, because otherwise, we would have missed the ferry. The GPS has a clock on the bottom that we set to tell you when you will arrive at your destination. Based on experience, we knew it to be scarily accurate. We needed to be at the ferry port NO LATER than 1:10. For a long while, the GPS grimly showed 1:25. John took over at one point with a mission, and we both obsessively watch the GPS……1:24, 1:23. Etc.
We rolled onto the ferry at exactly 1:10. Just in the nick of time.