Category Archives: travel

Lagging

New Year’s Day
I feel vaguely as if I’m coming down with something but I think it’s probably just the jet lag, or the time displacement, or whatever you want to call it when you’ve had enough sleep but you’re five hours out of kilter. Yesterday we went to a kids’ New Year’s Eve party, which is a lovely tradition we seem to have become caught up in, and was just the ticket for us, because we got to count down and release the balloons and sing Auld Lang Syne at about 7:15, and we were home by 8:30. Whereupon three of us went swiftly to bed and one decided he was going to stay up and stick it out no matter what. Around 2am I heard noises downstairs and investigated to find a morose ten-year-old who had unaccountably been unable to keep his eyes open after 10:45 and had missed the whole thing. Since midnight here was 5am in Ireland, where we were until two days ago, I’m quite surprised he managed to stay up that long.

I have a 2000-piece jigsaw on the go and mostly I’d have liked to spend all day staring at it but instead we went out to a New Year’s Day party this afternoon, which was probably the best thing to do because there’s nothing like being in a room full of friends and watching your kids running around in a pack with all the other kids they know to remind you that it’s not so bad to live in a place you don’t come from, if the place you get to live in is this one.

There’s always that touch of the blues that comes with the return journey for me, that makes me wonder why we do it, why we leave what’s so right and familiar and is part of our bones and our souls – the sea and the sky and the stones and the trees – to come to this other place that has all our stuff but none of our history. Except it has all the history of our children’s childhoods now, and as our lives are entwined with theirs, so our futures and our pasts must be too.

Mabel just asked me why we can’t have someone deliver the pizza, instead of going out to get it. I made noises about it being quicker, and it being hotter that way, and because we can, but really it’s because if we got the pizza delivered, America would have won and stolen our souls. (Never mind the fact that people in Ireland also get pizza delivered.)

The day after
Today I feel properly woozy, as if I’m on a boat, or as if I just got off a boat and the world is still rocking. I keep having cups of tea and eating unhealthy things to make it stop, but so far only going back to bed for a while has actually helped. Now the boys have gone off to Rogue One and Mabel and I are watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with a large bowl of popcorn.

My jigsaw met an untimely end, for now – but the good thing about jigsaws is that even when they’re broken they’re not actually broken. I’ll take it out again some time when it’s not the last day before back to school and small tempers aren’t so frazzled.

I’m starting to crave properly healthy food like lemony broccoli and yogurty dressing, but all I could throw together without a trip to the supermarket was roasted sweet potato wedges and chickpeas, with halloumi draped over them. Not bad, but a little dry.

Tomorrow, back to school, back to fresh air and exercise and normality and reality and some writing. It’s going to be good. Here goes, 2017. Don’t fuck it up for us.

Mossy tree beside a small river.

A picture from our walk in Powerscourt three days ago and half a world ago.

Giving grace

Three figures on the beach

I spent the weekend mostly not looking at Facebook.

I spent the weekend a stone’s throw from the Atlantic.

I spent the weekend reading a book and going to bed early and listening to the ocean waves crash and recede.

I spent the weekend being thankful for American restaurants that cater to children who don’t eat anything but french fries with no seasoning on them, that provide word searches and mad libs and paper for games of x’s and o’s, and chocolate milk and lemonade and apple juice. And beer.

I spent the weekend adjudicating rows and acceding to demands and telling short people to stop kicking each other, because some things never change.

I spent the weekend sharing a queen-sized bed with an eight-year old.

I spent the weekend buying buckets and spades and ice-cream cones at the end of November.

I spent the weekend with my people, by the sea, and it was good.


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Presque – or maybe even Completement

Sometimes, all it takes is a road trip. Forced into a moving vehicle with no wi-fi access, in close proximity to your family members, on a sunny day… well, it’s either going to end well or really, really badly.

Our trip involved driving northwest for six hours for B to run a marathon, and then driving home. Our destination was exotic (no, it’s not) Erie, Pennsylvania. You may not have any preconceptions of what that would be like, but for me it was all quite a surprise (largely because I’d been busy with the book sale and recovering from the book sale and hadn’t given our trip a thought until about Thursday). Erie is in the top left-hand corner of the big rectangle that is Pennsylvania, and it’s on the coast of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes. (Here’s a helpful map.)

Map showing northern Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Thank you, Google Maps. We came from halfway between Baltimore and Washington, drove along the bottom of PA, and up past Pittsburgh all the way to Erie.

I’ve been to Chicago, but otherwise haven’t experienced any of the lakes, and I never think of lakes as having beaches, even if they’re really darn big lakes. Not proper beaches. The website, when I finally looked at one, seemed to call Erie a beach town, but I was unconvinced.

We lived in Pennsylvania for a couple of years before we were married, and I think of it as a state of rolling, tree-covered hills punctuated with big red barns and domed grain silos. Amish and Mennonite people. Scrapple. Placenames that make you giggle. (Intercourse, Blue Knob, and Blue Ball, to cite a few.)

On the way we stopped at Fallingwater, which is a very famous house designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s. It’s tucked away on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, which is somewhere we’re not usually passing, so this was a good opportunity. B and I visited it once before, in 2000, which was a long time ago. The thing about Fallingwater is it’s a perfect time capsule, this ahead-of-its-time architecture right on top of a waterfall, with all the original furniture and fittings still in place. We did the tour and the kids acquitted themselves really well, managing not to touch or break or leap upon anything that was not meant to be touched, broken or leapt upon.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater

Look familiar?

(It’s so famous it even has a Lego incarnation.)

Anyway. That’s proper Pennsylvania. When we got to Erie,
it suddenly didn’t feel like Pennsylvania any more at all. (Okay, it takes way too long to type Pennsylvania. I’m just going to say PA now.) Erie may be PA but it felt a lot more like TX to me. Or maybe SC. It’s a beach town. (I’d say it’s like Florida but I haven’t actually been to Florida.) We didn’t see the city proper, we only saw the slightly scrubby suburb near the peninsula where the marathon took place, but its wide streets and cheap motels and tattoo shops and warm wind felt like nothing so much as South Padre Island, that we lived near in Texas.

So that was the first surprise.

We arrived after dinner on Friday so there was no time to explore. On Saturday morning we headed out for breakfast and a drive around, and found ourselves on the peninsula that’s almost an island (that’s its name: Presque Isle) where the marathon would be the next day. It’s a little blob that sticks out into the lake – except everything’s much bigger than you think when you’re talking about a Great Lake, so it’s actually a 13-mile drive around the little blob.

Map showing Presque Isle and Erie, PA

Nearly an island

Going up the inland side, we stopped about halfway along and got out to take in the bay. It was overcast and very choppy, though still warm. The kids scrubbed around for stones to throw in the water, and there were a couple of fishermen. It was pleasant to be out in the wind, but not what you’d call glorious, though the sun was starting to come out.

Kids playing by grey, choppy water

Crappy phone photo

Then we got back in the car and drove down to the end, around the tip, and started up the other side. The kids were grumpy and didn’t want to get out of the car again, but I convinced them that we should stop and see if we could wave across at Canada. (Or maybe we just stopped the car and said “Deal with it.”)

We stopped at a deserted parking area and crossed the small dunes to see what we could see. The wind had died down. The sun was shining. The water was bright blue fading to almost tropical green at the edges. There wasn’t another person in sight, just a few gulls and some artistically scattered driftwood. I felt as if we’d walked through a portal to the Caribbean. (I’ve never been to the Caribbean, though, so my impressions may be off.)

B and the kids on a beach with calm blue water and clear blue sky.

This is a proper beach. It really is.

It was so unexpectedly lovely, this magical Other Side of the Island, that I just stood there with a big grin plastered to my face while everyone else started paddling and skimming more stones and writing in the sand with sticks. Everything was just generally delightful and it was worth the six hour drive each way and the crappy motel room with no wi-fi there and then.

We went back in the afternoon and found a different beach, with a lifeguard and swimming. So, totally without planning it, we managed to bring the children to the beach this summer after all. Juuust under the wire.

Kids playing in sand at beach

Classic game of bury-your-father

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Mothballed memories

I wasn’t blogging much ten years ago, what with the move and the baby – a glance at my archives shows one short (but lyrical) entry from early August, and nothing else until the following January. So I never did write down what that road trip was like. I wrote a big screed about the first one, two years earlier, in the other direction, with the television sitting in the laundry basket on the back seat, but I haven’t been able to find it. For some reason I didn’t put it on the blog. So here are my road-trip memories, pulled out of the mothballs of my mind.

I remember that the baby cried and cried on the long highway up from Brownsville to San Antonio and on to Houston, and I made B pull over so that I could give him (the baby, that is) some boob, because apparently he was hungry, and then we’d start driving again and he’d start crying again and I’d look at him in despair because I’ve just fed you so there can’t be anything wrong, and I can’t hold you because we’re in a car, and you’ll just have to fall asleep. Eventually, he would fall asleep, but it was stressful driving.

We gave ourselves five days to do the trip, so that there was plenty of time for pulling over, and so we weren’t imprisoning the poor child in his car seat for eight hours a day. We probably sang “Don’t Fence Me In” to him a lot, because that was his theme song.

I remember thinking that it should be interesting driving through the deep south, but that the Interstate looked like the Interstate pretty much wherever you were, especially when it had those big pinkish sound-muffling walls on either side, as it so often did. We didn’t see anything of the leftovers of Hurricane Katrina even though I’m sure the towns around Mobile, Alabama, where we spent an unmemorable night, were still very much in recovery.

We had a night in Jacksonville, Florida, and I’d never been to Florida so I looked out the window with interest, trying to take it in and see something special or different about it. It was only Jacksonville, which is one of those armpit places, I’m told, so there wasn’t really anything to see. I still feel that I’ve never really been to Florida.

Trees in a square

A Savannah square

We stopped in Savannah, Georgia, because it sounded romantic and like the sort of place we’d like to see. It was very pretty, with its dangling greenery and intricate wrought-iron-work. I remember an ambulance coming past us with its siren going, waking the baby and terrifying him, making me furious at its thoughtlessness. We stayed in a cool-looking retro motel where the person who’d checked out before us hadn’t bothered taking their stuff with them: the closets still held suits and jackets and shoes. We told reception and they took care of it, as if it was a perfectly normal occurrence, but I couldn’t help wondering what sort of person just wouldn’t bother packing before they left.

South Carolina had long sandy beaches, not very wonderful to our eyes as we’d just come from the environs of the similarly long sandy beaches of South Padre Island, Texas. We stopped near Myrtle Beach and got out to take a good look. There were wooden boardwalks out over the dunes, which were pleasantly novel. And it was very windy at the Atlantic. I thought the Atlantic should feel more like home than the Gulf of Mexico, but it’s all the same water really, and it was still the wrong side of the Atlantic from the one that would feel like home.

Beach houses and boardwalks on the dunes

South Carolina coast

We had been planning to head to somewhere like Newport News, Virginia, the sort of area where Dawson’s Creek was filmed, which would probably look nothing like the peaceful inlets and idyllic tiny docks of the show, but we were being tailed by a hurricane (Ernesto, it must have been), so we headed inland instead and stopped in some tiny place whose name escapes me instead. It turned out to have nothing but a very nice Holiday Inn with a restaurant where I ordered shrimp and grits and enjoyed them mightily. I was quite getting the hang of this southern eating.

When we finally got to Maryland, we stopped in a town called Waldorf to stay at a Super8 and eat at an Olive Garden, and I wondered what sort of place this was. When you’ve lived somewhere all your life, the very sound of a placename seems onomatopoeic: you can tell that it’s rough or posh or the back of beyond or the most Stepfordesque of suburbia just from the sound of the word. But all Waldorf said to me was salad. Apples and walnuts in the Home Ec book. I still don’t know what Waldorf is like, because we haven’t been down that end of the state since, but I know the motel wasn’t very upmarket.

We had to take shifts over our dinner that night, I remember, because the baby wasn’t in the mood to sit around and watch us eat. The waiter was very understanding and kept things warm as first one of us and then the other paced up and down outside with the tetchy four-month-old. You poor thing, I thought, whisked away from everywhere you’ve ever known and staying in a new place every night for a week, no wonder you’re grumpy.

But we’re still here. We’re your people, and we’re here. Isn’t that enough?

He was a baby. That was enough.

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Six-minute update (with very important information)

I need a blurb. That’s what’s at the foremost of my mind right now. The things that make people buy a book are the front cover and the description on the back – that’s called the blurb, honest to god, it is, even though it sounds like a pretend word that someone used because they couldn’t remember the technical term. It really is the technical term.

“Why do you need a blurb, Maud?” I hear you ask. Because I’m self-publishing this darned book, so I am. I got the last – very kind, very nice – rejection from the last person I’d sent it to, and now I just want to get it out of my headspace and into the world, where it deserves to be no matter what those other people say, so that I can concentrate on the next thing, which is halfway written but starting to meander dreadfully in search of some excitement.

I have to say it’s immensely satisfying to be able to take control and do something concrete and immediate with my work, after all this time of sending it off and waiting months for a response, amending things, sending it off again… Doing the work myself to get it uploaded to the system is so much better. (I’m not designing my own cover, I’ve asked someone, so I do have to wait for that, but it won’t be long.)

In other news, Dash got so much in the way of gift tokens and straight-up money for his birthday that he bought an iPad mini. This was sort of my idea, in that I suggested it, because I couldn’t imagine what else he could possibly spend all that on. Now, of course, I’m remembering all those reasons I had for why he shouldn’t have his own device yet, and thinking that maybe just buying 57 green light sabres instead mightn’t have been such a bad idea.

Mabel is disgusted, of course. She shouted for a while about how it wasn’t fair that he was born first so he gets to have big parties and lots of presents and he’s ten, and then somehow she made me say that we might get a fish. She is now set on a fish and I don’t know how to get out of this. I have no interest in a fish, but I suppose that’s not the point, is it?

Time’s up. Ding!

But I wasn’t finished… other things…

We went to Philadelphia, which I’d never really been to and it’s lovely, we should go back. We spent a lot of time in a very fancy hotel, not waiting for Justin Bieber like some of the other people there but attending a wedding which was lovely, and for which the children actually dressed up, which I consider a bigger achievement on my part than my elegant yet comfortable shoes or the fact that I really liked my dress. On the last day we walked around and the sun came out and the kids climbed on possibly the best statue in the world (so many animals!) and it was quite breathtaking.

And now my to-do list has nothing on it. Just “Hit publish”.

Oh, I know what I wanted to say. You want to buy my book, right? You know lots of middle-grade girls who like reading and have access to an e-reader? You love YA fiction yourself, actually, especially when it’s set slightly nostalgically in Ireland in the 80s, yes? But I don’t want to give up my anonymity – such as it is – here by linking to it directly. So here’s the deal: if you’re even a tiny bit interested in knowing more about it, drop me a line – yes, an actual email, it doesn’t have to say much at all, just what you’re looking for – to awfullychipper@gmail.com and I’ll open the door to the mysterious other side – that is, I’ll send you the link to the website I just made for the book, where you’ll find all the info on how to order it when it’s available. And you can share that, and the FB page that goes along with it, to your heart’s content.

In fact, I’d be awfully grateful if you would. You guys are my ground zero, you know. No, wait, you’re my Typhoid Mary. My… what’s a non disaster associated way to say that? You’re the inner circle, that’s it.

You know what you have to do.

Dash and Mabel at City Hall, Philly

Philadelphia in the rain

Mabel on the statue of a bear under blue skies

And in sunshine

Hurtling

Quiet airport sceneOn Wednesday afternoon, I went to the airport. On Sunday afternoon I was back there. In between, I hurtled through the skies in a metal tube, kept aloft by nothing but will power and loud noises, as far as I can tell, to a small country 3000 miles away; and then did it again in the other direction.

It’s a strange life we lead, in this twenty-first century, where people can do things like that.

The first time my dad visited the US, he came on a boat. It took five days. He’s not so old that they didn’t have flights back then, but it was probably much cheaper by sea. But I can imagine that doing it that way at least gives you a sense of distance. You use the time in between to come to terms with leaving one place and going to another: you’re not so surprised when you finally get there that you’re a long way away now.

But when I walk onto a plane, time stops. (This does not apply when travelling with children. Then time becomes infinite.) Then I walk off, and – inexplicably – my surroundings are more familiar than anything I left behind me. The air is damp, the streetlights are orange, daylight creeps into being, voices sound like home. I can navigate to the other side of the city without thinking too hard, just heading in the right direction. I know which way that is.

I spent three days seeing a very few family members and friends. I did some useful things. I threw away a lot of ancient pieces of paper. I brought away a small amount of memorabilia and another tranche of my teenaged bookshelf. I decided I will live the rest of my life quite happily without being in possession of my piano exam certificates, my secondary school homework notebooks, or even my terrible teenage poetry.

Back in the airport before I left I couldn’t shake the feeling that, even though I was returning to nothing but a delightful life with the people I love, Ireland was the right place. Ireland’s just better, in spite of no concrete evidence to support that fact in almost any direction beyond scones and jam, cheese and sausages, people in the service industry who are genuinely happy to help, not finding your presence at their counter a tedious imposition.

The feeling persisted on the other side, at least for a while: I felt displaced, even after all this time, not at home.

Home. Other home. Wrong home, right home, different. It doesn’t matter, really, does it? Here I am.

Harbour scene

 

 

New York weekend

In order to test the fortitude and strength of character of our children, we dragged them to New York for the weekend, forced them to travel the subway and switch trains like a billionty times, made them walk for miles and miles, kept them up way past their bedtimes two nights in a row, and brought them to restaurants where they didn’t like the food we bought them. It was a little trying, but we’re all better people for it.

New York night scene

Yellow Cab, by Mabel

However. There were some things that worked out well. There are always some.

Books in the car: When you take a road trip, don’t forget to put some books in the car. Picture books, fact books, books of maps, story books. Mabel did lots of reading on the way to New York. (Dash did not, but whatever.)

A scooter: I had a brainwave and put Mabel’s scooter in the car. When we got to New York, with its myriad train and subway changes, escalators, and requirements for walking, the demands for piggybacks were almost totally done away with. It was easy for an adult to pick up the scooter when we were on stairs, and Dash was always willing to have a go if Mabel just wanted to walk. Definitely a good idea. Also, having a child on a scooter instantly makes you look like a local instead of a tourist.

On the waterfront with the NY skyline in the background

Newport, NJ

New shoes: We arrived at our New Jersey hotel on Friday afternoon and went straight into the city to meet my cousin for dinner. Mabel announced that evening that her feet hurt. That, in fact, both pairs of shoes were too small and worn. The soles of her crocs, I discovered, were about a millimeter thick. (Well, I did get them at the thrift store last year.) So before we went anywhere the next morning, Mabel and I hit the handy mall and bought her the brightest pair of Sketchers you’ve ever seen. They are cushy inside and out and she was much happier. Is there nothing new shoes cannot fix?

Ellen’s Stardust Diner: So my cousin and her girls were booked into this uber-trendy hotel where they had free muffins for breakfast. I said “What you need is a proper New York diner breakfast.” A friend on her FB told her she should check out Ellen’s Stardust Diner, so we arranged to meet there on Sunday morning. I was vaguely mixing it up with Tom’s Restaurant of Seinfeld fame, which is a nice regular old-style diner. Sure, one diner’s much the same as another, I said, and this one was closer to her hotel, so, grand.

On Sunday morning we dragged the kids out of bed after their second late night in a row and once again took the PATH train and the subway to Times Square or thereabouts. Without even a free muffin to sustain us, I might add. We got a table straight away, which we discovered is pretty lucky – but as we sat in our booth we realised that the reason the version of Eternal Flame we were hearing was not the original was because it was being belted out karaoke-style by a member of the waitstaff.

I had not had anything to eat. I had not had any coffee. It was 10:30 am and I had already taken two children across a state line by public transport. Those children had not had breakfast either. Tempers were frayed. I had pretty much promised the fussy eater that he could get french fries (for breakfast. don’t judge me) because diners have All The Food. There were no fries on the breakfast menu and there was no other menu. He said he couldn’t eat toast because the orthodontist told him not to. (He has braces now. He is a rule-follower. Berating my child for being such a rule-follower is clearly a misguided avenue to go down, no matter how much I’d like to.) The music was so loud we had to shout in each other’s ears. It was like being in a nightclub, except it was breakfast time and I hadn’t had breakfast, and I wasn’t drunk, and none of us were 20 any more.

I was not happy. I was thisclose to walking out, except we’d already ordered drinks. The fussy eater complained that he couldn’t stir his chocolate milk and the syrup was all stuck at the bottom and it was too sweet anyway. My suggestions of stirring it with a straw or a knife were met with withering derision and some tears. I felt I would move heaven and earth to help my poor starving child; but ten seconds later I was out of patience because I was a horrible mother who hadn’t had any breakfast. I considered walking out again, only now we’d ordered food too.

Swirly lights photo

Groovy elevator lights

Our food came. The singing continued, but it somehow became less irritating and even a tiny bit charming. By the Abba medley I was singing along. There may have been some gesticulation. The fussy child was disgusted with me, but he’d stopped crying and I’d procured a long spoon, because anywhere with those sort of glasses clearly serves ice-cream sundaes in them at other times of day. The Les Mis “One More Day” ensemble piece brought the house down. There weren’t tears in my eyes, but there could almost have been. My waffles and bacon weren’t bad either, and there were free refills of coffee. Of course, because it’s a diner.

Our waiter was the best singer, because natch. In a moment of supreme timing, when it was his turn to sing he hammed it up and bent down to Mabel as if he was serenading only her. With utter indifference, she happened to take that moment to annouce loudly “I don’t like this!” She was talking about her pancakes, and I’m not sure he heard, but we found it hilarious.

It really honestly is a place where all the waitstaff want to be in showbiz, and make no bones about it. In fact, they make it the whole raison d’etre of the diner, and they do it well. They raked in the tips, and the scholarship bucket filled up too. I was still grumpy about the two hungry children we took back out of the diner after breakfast, and the nice relaxed conversational interlude that had been denied me, but I can’t deny it was a New York Experience.

Mabel's selfie in a Tiffany's mirror

Selfie in Tiffany’s

Now we’re home and the kids are still readjusting to civilized bedtimes. Send bagels, fortitude.

 

The problem with jet lag

The problem with jet lag, or time-zone adjustment, because I see them as two separate things, is that I can’t really take advantage of the kids going easily and early to bed, because I am also falling asleep by some ridiculously early hour of the evening.

The other problem is that Dash adjusts to new time zones in no time flat, much faster than I do.

The other other problem is that apparently I need more sleep than my six year old. Last night, for instance, Mabel fell asleep at 9pm. So did I. She woke up at 6am. I did not.

Luckily for me – thank all the Greek and Roman and Norse and Egyptian gods and goddesses – I married a man who is a natural early riser, and who needs only about six hours’ sleep a night. One of those high-achieving types. I, on the other hand, clearly will never amount to anything much, because people who need eight to nine hours’ sleep a night never do.

So I put Mabel to bed and myself to bed at the same time, and then B went to bed later and also got up at 6am with Mabel. If I had married someone else, I would either be dead of chronic exhaustion by now, or divorced. On the other hand, if I had married someone else, possibly my children wouldn’t need so little sleep to be the adorable little well-behaved munchkins they always are. Swings and roundabouts.

Mabel pretending to be a sleeping puppy.

Fast asleep. Not.

Back

Low tide. High tide. In and out, the coastline breathes slowly. When you live by the sea, the tides are a constant presence. You always know where the tide was when you went down to the water, even if you don’t remark on it. You might not know if it’s coming or going, but it’s part of the ever-changing-ness of the water, as much as the sun and the clouds and the wind are constantly changing it.

I forget about the tide, when I’m gone.

Mabel on rocks with Dun Laoghaire in the background

Low tide

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The trajectory of a holiday is mirrored by the trajectory of a single day of travel. You start out full of hope and goodwill, with useful things packed helpfully to hand and brightness all around. As time goes on the unusual becomes normal, living in another country or traversing airport concourses. And finally the downhill slope, you’re nearly there, nearly home, but everyone’s getting tired and cranky. You want your own things and you can’t find anything you need. You stuff it all in and drag the zip closed and you think about the bliss of your own bed.

—-

“Ireland is known for potatoes, rain, and cows,” says Mabel. She learned about the potatoes at school, but she added the others. We saw more of the countryside this trip than we have before – more fields with cows and horses and sheep – and the kids coped admirably with sleeping in a new place every night for eight nights, meeting new people, being whooshed off to play with new children while the grownups drank their interminable cups of tea and talked about boring grownup stuff. It helps that every family in Ireland appears to have a trampoline in the back garden, and that all our friends and family members are truly lovely people.

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The mountains of Kerry look like dark-green crushed velvet, light and shadow constantly moving over them from the scudding clouds, changing the scene moment by moment. They make you want to give up all your possessions, buy canvases and paint, and live there forever, trying and failing to capture the soft but breathtaking beauty of it all.

Kerry beach scene with mountains and clouds

This could be a painting, right?

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It’s much too hot here today for a cup of tea. So I’m having a cup of tea. Breathe in, breathe out. There.

Irish summer

As the weather here gets hotter – veering into hot, humid, thunderstorm, blech – I have to try to keep one section of my brain remembering what 60 F feels like. Or 70; but definitely no more than that. Because in a few weeks I’ll be packing for Ireland, where summer is usually around, let’s say, 18 C (that’s 65 F) on a good day.

But then, just in case we hit a real heatwave where the midlands reach the dizzying heights of 28 (82 F), or a cold snap, when it goes back down to 8 (46 F), we need to be prepared for all eventualities. And rain, of course. Always rain. Unless it’s a fine mist, or a drizzle, or a sprinkle, or spitting. I love that one, spitting. It’s never “spitting” in America. It’s mostly just either wet or dry, and mostly it’s dry. On a practical level, summer in Ireland just means that some days you don’t need a jacket over your jeans and long sleeves.

So I have to do a really good capsule wardrobe, obviously.

(Insert hysterical laughter and me falling off my chair. I try really hard to do a capsule wardrobe every time I pack, but it hasn’t worked yet.)

A capsule wardrobe for all four of us. Because even if we have a nice big baggage allowance and everyone’s big enough to pull their own case and nobody has to be pushed in a stroller any more, we still have to fit everything (and ourselves) into a smallish rental car. Or other people’s cars. Or trundle them to public transport after three hours sleep (if we’re lucky). In the rain, of course.

With this in mind, I’m going shopping tomorrow. I have written my self-allocated number of words this week and I am giving myself permission to take the morning off and go to the outlet mall (mmm, lovely outlet mall), where I will avert my eyes from flippy skirts and floaty sleeveless dresses and flappity sandals and I will look on the clearance racks for tops with 3/4 sleeves and a light jacket with a hood and light wash skinny jeans that are not capris. (And that somehow give my legs the gazelle treatment they’ve always lacked.)

Dressing for summer in Ireland, I realise in hindsight, is sort of the opposite of the way people in LA dress for winter even though the temperatures barely dip at all. They wear darker colours, and ankle boots with their booty shorts. They indicate through accessories and textures that the season has changed, even if the weather isn’t paying the slightest bit of attention.

So I have two lovely new summer scarves (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and of course I’m well equipped with cardigans of various weights and colours. I have a new pair of runners, but I could do with some other shoes that are nice like ballet flats but don’t fall off my feet. I’ll bring my sandals, but to be honest I might never wear them. I remember how buying sandals was in Ireland – I’d buy them and then I’d wear them for two weeks on holidays somewhere warm, and then by the next summer I’d hate them but they’d NEVER wear out so I’d be stuck with them forever.

At least here I get to wear through my sandals and get new ones.

No doubt in the fullness of time I’ll decide to blog my lovely perfect capsule wardrobe. I’ll keep you posted.