With some pretty ferocious winds a-blowing last night my husband and I headed out on a very rare date night thanks to my mum, who came out for the weekend (thanks Mum!). We headed out across the field in front of our house, under the highway (we have the use of an old cattle crossing, which makes getting into town and home again wonderfully easy), past our children’s school and into town.
Removing the rural details from that picture, it was very like my life a little over twenty years ago when I lived in Dublin for several months and shared a house with two friends in the same neighbourhood as the Guinness Brewery. I generally had to walk to get anywhere, the distances were comparable, and it was almost always grey with a chill (at least that’s how I remember it) in the air as I was there from October through February.
Dublin was an amazing place to be as a young person when I was there. At the time, roughly half the population was under 25 and the city was just wall-to-wall with music. I feel like I spent half my time in the pub and in little places with live music. I’ve never been a big drinker, but I developed a taste for Guinness and drank my fair share of it. Evenings were noisy and convivial and always ended very late with a long walk home down the South Circular Road.
It was sensible to arrive home with a warm glow from the evening out, because the house we shared was an old Victorian terraced house, unheated and not terribly well insulated. Sliding into bed was like sliding into a refrigerator. A hot water bottle helped a little until my own body heat gradually warmed up the icy sheets. Getting out of bed was equally unpleasant and I’d rush downstairs to turn on the house’s sole space heater and shiver in front of it while the water heated up for the shower.
One evening not long before Christmas, I realized that I wouldn’t enjoy the holiday away from my family and home without a tree. I must have consulted with my roommates, but somehow it ended up just being me when I picked up the tree, a six or seven foot specimen found at a corner shop on the South Circular. Without any other options to even consider, I proceeded to drag it home, all the way along that road, which cut across south Dublin. It was a long, slow walk, and it’s amazing to me now that the tree was intact when I finally made it to the house. We decorated that tree and had a pretty special Christmas complete with a turkey (named Tom, for some reason which now eludes me). We even enjoyed a pint or two just around the corner at a really neat little pub that we didn’t normally go to.
Now here I am all these years later in small-town eastern Ontario and we’re fortunate to have a great little hole in the wall on our main street that serves delicious meals made with locally-sourced food and that offers live music on weekend evenings. It’s run by a couple who, like ourselves, have children in a local school and who are trying their best to make a living doing something they love. They are doing a fantastic job of it, and we’re grateful to have their place to head to when we get an evening to ourselves.
Last night it was a Steve Earle cover band (they were really, really good), a three-course meal with a ‘whisky and bourbon’ theme to match the music (dessert was a spectacular sticky toffee pudding with a bourbon-laced sauce), and – for me – a couple of glasses of wine followed by coffee. No, I didn’t have a beer, never mind a Guinness, as times do change. The evening was noisy, convivial and ended with a long, chilly walk home. And on our way my husband stopped for a moment to pick this up from the sidewalk:
I think it had fallen out of one of the decorative Christmas baskets still ensconced on the front of many shopfronts on the main street, but it was a funny echo of that Christmas walk that’s been on my mind a lot recently.