Four months on a pacific island aint all it’s cracked up to be. As the day of my return to the Emerald Isle drew near, I found myself becoming increasingly anxious that my Irish compatriots (theirs eyes weak and pale from the dark winter) might mistake me for a nomadic African tribesperson – albeit a very lost nomadic African tribesperson. For such is the colour of my face after four months under the ozone hole. And neither 100SPF sunscreen nor burkini could quell the melanin (you know, that brown stuff) – it seems I’m just destined to be a bronzed Greek goddess. Oh well.
Home was just like home. Or Cheers. Where everybody knows my name. And Dad’s jokes are still as lame. And they’re always glad you came….. until the novelty wears off…
The best thing about going home (apart from Dad jokes) was being able to swim at the beach. Doesn’t sound like much probably, to you accustomed beach swimmers, but in Ireland you’ve either got to be crazy or numb or Irish to go swimming at the beach. Or at least fully acclimatise yourself by sticking ice down your undies for a few months beforehand. Well I ain’t crazy (although they do say you can only be crazy if you don’t know it….I wonder if ‘they’ think ‘they’ are crazy) , I ain’t numb, I definitely ain’t sticking ice anywhere (you may also have noticed I ‘aint’ using the English language very good for reasons that elude me, possibly in one of my past lives I spoke with a Deep South hillbilly type accent) and although I do like to consider myself slightly Irish I seem to be missing the ‘immunity to feckin cold’ gene.
So after two years on dry land I took full advantage of the warmer currents, shocking my shrivelled biceps into picking up a surfboard again, frolicking in the waves and kayaking with the sharks…
I also utilized my renewed immersion into civilization by taking some yoga classes with actual real people. Stranded in Doolin I have the choice of doing yoga with either the donkeys, or the cows – neither of which pay much attention and that’s probably why they can’t get a lot of the poses. In NZ I get to do yoga with real live people. Perhaps it was due to my years of yogic isolation that I was particularly struck during one class by how ridiculous it really is to find yourself amid a group of flamingo yogis – twelve seemingly sane beings wobbling on one leg, arms stretched to the sky, hands clasped in prayer position, praying for….. composure? A sound mind? An extra leg perhaps? It was one of those sudden realizations one has during moments of God-like clarity when one wonders such things as why exactly men wear ties but never skirts, or how absurd one’s feet really are if one looks at them for long enough (in another past life I was obviously very Posh, and English, and only referred to oneself as ‘One’), or just what is the point of having a pocket in one’s pyjamas (Please note: it pays not to think about these things too long, or one risks turning time back on itself and dissolving into a black hole).
But there does seem to be something especially striking about actions enmasse that put a strange spin on things. In the way a man cooking in a kitchen doesn’t particularly stand out (one would hope not in this day and age), but get 20 men in a room wearing oven mitts and things start to look just a little freaky.
Next Stop: Airport Land
Ahhh now then, here we find ourselves once again in Airport Land. A curious place, a place between places really, full of people who would really rather not be here, but must visit if they ever want to get ‘there’. Airport land is obviously designed and decorated by the same people who are also responsible for Waiting Room Land and Educational Institution Land. Said people have an affinity and particular talent for uncomfortable seating and disorientating carpet patterns (don’t look directly at it or you’ll go blind).
Yes, if there’s one place a person is likely to snap, it is here in Airport Land. I almost got hysterical (and not the fun kind) on the travelator watching the uncouth youth in front of me flaunt his swishing untied shoelace in my face. He just narrowly missed having a serious accident – and only because I couldn’t quite stand on it, my co-ordination failure probably a direct result of my shocked circulation system finally having something to circulate after 25 hours squished into fetal position in an aeroplane seat. I tel you, travelators, shoelaces, and squished sleep deprived travellers are a dangerous cocktail.
My main aim in airports is not to get lost – or make an idiot of myself trying to drink from the soap dispenser. In respect of these things, Singapore’s Changi airport is high on my list of airports I feel confident in traversing successfully. For instance, I know by now after only two visits that there are two transit lounges. And that all I have to do if I get lost is turn around and go in the other direction (for there are only two directions in this magical airport). I know that the drinking fountains are motion sensored but the hand soap is not. The travelators are. The flush toilets are not. All very important things to know for to confuse them could lead to imminent embarrassment. If only all airports had the same technology in the same places, I would be a happy and mentally sound traveller.
And I know I’d be a happier traveller if I’d been fed properly on the plane. I can’t speak for the other meals but I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of special sauce in the vegetarian meals. How else can ravioli, curry, salad and omelette all taste the same? It’s got to be the special sauce. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I think it might be socks. The only thing that’s safe in my opinion is the ice-cream, and that’s probably because it’s pre-packaged so they can’t get the socks in without you knowing about it.
(Whoops, I just found out (surprise!) that the toilets in Singapore airport are auto-flushers. I stand corrected).
Get The Ice Ready, It’s Time to Acclimatise.
Ireland fools me with an illusion of warmth when I arrive… Ah yes, welcome home it says, look see? The sun is shining….
See this picture? See that there, Ireland? Well that’s photographic proof of the sleet on my window this morning. And it got there on the wind of an Artic devil, the very wind that howls and claws and rocks my caravan as I write. Get the picture? Its feckin cold. I’m just glad I knitted all those woolly hats last summer. Yes, you all mocked me then but look at me now, three hats on my head and still cold. Who’s laughing now?
In an attempt to keep warm I have begun to weave myself a cocoon. A hide-away woven of discarded woolly socks and November promises, of abandoned crochet squares of summer. I scurry like a spider – a confused spider who’s weaving a cocoon so more like a very fast caterpillar really – from one side of the caravan to another, securing a sock here, tugging at a dream there, tightening my cocoon. It won’t be long. Soon I need never leave.
Only a few days back and I’m having major TV withdrawals. It occurs to me that perhaps Ireland withholds the good programming now and again so as to enforce some good ol catholic suffering. Well the Sport channel, the Gaelic channel and the Painfully Bad Kids Movies channel (a two day sample = Bigfoot, Cybermutt and Getting Even with Dad) are definitely getting me in touch with my Catholic roots. There is always Gaelic Spongebob Squarepants for a laugh (hmmm I think Spongebob just did something funny, I wonder what it was….)
So go read a book, I hear the mothers in you say. But to read a book is to curl up and risk falling into a deep hibernation. I have to keep moving. If I stop and become dormant, I may never start again.
At least I can keep moving while I watch TV, work on a model train set, or perhaps build a satellite dish for the cocoon. And at least if I turn on the TV, and my laptop, cell phone, radio, basically everything electric I own and sit amongst them, then the radiation warms my internal organs.
Irish telly is good for something. On Saturday I was able to view a St Patrick’s Day parade on TV rather than stand in the rain and hail to wave at a couple of tractors. (See? The cocoon is self-contained; I need never leave the cocoon…..). The Irish blood in me is obviously completely overrun by the wimpy generic NZ genes (borne of pasty-legged warriors but brewed in the tropics and slowly weakened over four generations of pacific sun soakers) which have constant need to feed their radiation addiction. Actually the horns and engines down the road did eventually lull me out of hibernation and I braved the weather to go see a few of the local tractors in their steel flesh – even gots me a couple of runned-over lollypops for my troubles (the hillbilly likes lollypops).
Assimilation: The Beginning
So it’s been over a week now since I landed in the Cold Zone. My golden tan is nearly gone. It seems I am not destined to be a Greek goddess so much as one of those blind albino fish things that live deep under the sea and never see the light. The weather definitely seems milder, I find myself wearing only two hats, three scarves, one jacket, mittens, legwarmers, jandals, jeans and a t-shirt. And just yesterday I sat outside in the freak sunshine for 10 minutes and broke out in a severe rash. Ah yes, Irish assimilation is almost complete. All I need to do now is remember to exclaim loudly what lovely weather it is whenever it’s not quite raining, drink nothing but tea, and gets me one of them tractors (I’d prefer a car but the hillbilly wants a tractor).