I don’t know. Thursday definitely isn’t the cook’s most beloved day of the week. I assume he secretly calls it: “throw-all-leftovers-together-and-call-it-the-vegetarian-dish-day.” Today he went for: Vegetable tartlets with potatoes and vegetables. Uff. The vegetable itself was extremely watery and without any taste at all. Okay. We’re used to this. But the vegetable tartlets were worse. Their filling: carrots, goat cheese and their glorious highlight: pickled beans. Whoever puts pickled beans into a vegetable tartlet? I am not quite sure why pickled beans exist anyway. But I am just not getting it. Pickled beans. The tartlet itself: watery. Maybe the cook is lovesick and cries into the pots and pans? Who knows? The potatoes: let’s keep silent. They look like potatoes but were soft as butter. But after the pickled beans I am absolutely unable to wail about the common Irish tendency to cook the last inch of life out of vegetables. I mean: pickled beans. I always knew that surviving as a non-pork eater in Ireland would be a challenge but today was just a little bit too much. Pickled beans.
What? Vegetable tartlets with vegetable and potatoes.
Where? The Buttery, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
How much? 5 Euro
Survived? Well, I honestly can’t answer this.
Worrisome Dreams. 5 AM. Wobbly knees. Weird winter weather. The dog and I walk and walk and walk. Better: the dogs walks elegantly on his paws I waggle along. The dogs brings a massive wedge. I sigh. I don’t want to carry a massive piece of wood after him, when he doesn’t want it anymore. It is freezing cold. The bus is late. I wait and miss the train. I wait longer. I am not good at waiting. Not good at all. The man in opposite to me on the train eats Waldorf salad. It is not even 7 AM. I wish the train would have a wagon-lit. At least I have a window-seat. For terrible two minutes I am afraid that I forgot my wallet at home. Luckily I didn’t. I wriggle my half-frozen toes. Wistful I dream of a life in warmer spheres. I drink water. Ice- cold but not yet water- ice. I print out work-sheets. The whole morning I talk about war. Half of the afternoon belongs to warfare as well. I am always worried to offer them too less. I never see them excited about anything. Whatever I read with them, they are above everything. Always with the air of condescension they come and they leave. I don’t know what to do. But I am not a wise—woman and probably it’s all my fault. Only one student wears an ash-cross on the forehead. Ash Wednesday. In the previous years more than half of my students did. Is this the crisis of Western Christianity everybody’s wailing about? It rains. I am always happy to wear my wax-jacket. Weather-proof. I even wear it in August. It never get’s warm anyway. But I never bought a pair of Wellington’s. I have pride, too. The Irish election campaign again discusses the introduction of a wealth-tax. I wonder why the never seriously discuss social housing. I am a wee bit hungry, but I have no time to stop for a bite. That’s not too great but bad not enough for Weltschmerz either. Someone collects money for a wedding. Not again I think. I am always wondrous why people make such a public affair of their private decisions. I don’t have to be worried. No one will ever marry me. Weary. Too many worries. Reminder: I have to buy washing powder and Wensleydale cheese. Today is going to be long day. G. and I will do a mock-interview. She applies for a new work- place. I have to watch out, not to miss the last train- Finally I need to get my watch repaired. Weird enough, all the w-words? Oh, Read On you might wistfully say: What a word-salad. Well then, tomorrow is Thursday.
5 AM. All the same. The same dog, the same wind, the same rain and still the same, old me. The same run first to the bus than to the train but today at least no bins to forget. Same questions but new books. One thermos flask of chamomile tea. Live life to its fullest or so. A pear and a handful of grapes. More books. New doubts, old fears. The world all the same: Grey and cold. The feeling of drowning downwards like water in the bathtub. Spiraling slowly.Battering rain. In the news: Gangland criminals are shooting each other. Another downward spiral: the funeral of the man has been declared a high risk zone. Wherever one looks: new battlefields. Seminar preparation. Again astonished by Henry VIII’s language: the bluntness, the greed and the distinct knowledge: I will have it my way. It is all there. I am still unhinged. Lunch with B.: Vegetable ragout. Sometimes salt helps but not always. Definitely it doesn’t today.I listen to B. and I try really hard to keep on listening, but thirty seconds later I remember nothing more than him talking about a B’n’ B owner in Bantry, called Tosca. He chuckles. I try to remember how to smile. Two glasses of water. Half a Cadbury bar. “Call me back” writes my sister. Three exclamation marks!!! I call her back: “Why are you calling me?” More texts. Copying. Printing. The same questions. Half an avocado and the last piece of cheese in the dark kitchen. Eating in front of the fridge I assume, expels me forever form all the oh-look-how-great-my-food-looks- communities. I can’t help it and I still have to walk the dog. The old fears, the new doubts. On Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. No music in the moment. No music at all. The questions, the doubts and fears are loud enough.
5 AM. I think five o’clock rarely is a great time . But five o’clock on an ordinary February Monday morning with south- westerly gales blowing and rain is a category of its own. Silently the dog and I walk along. Today would have been my grandmother’s birthday. A cold fist is clutched around my heart. I wish she would be here. I need her advice so badly. “What should I do?”, I would ask her. I don’t know what she would say, but I know she would have an answer. At 6 AM the world doesn’t look much friendlier. But I have to hurry up. The cat wants food. The dog wants food. I eat a miserable pot of porridge and generously spill an awful lot of tea. I don’t get the idea of porridge. It tastes like concrete slightly warmed and refined a bit with milk. But the dog and the cat both are having it and the ol’ spinster I have obviously turned into has no time to sort out something else for herself. The clock is ticking and I run out of the house and run back, because I forgot to take the bins out. I ran faster to catch the bus, which brings me to the train. Then I pace up to catch the train that brings me into town. Sometimes I wonder if I have ever done something else then trying to catch something just to miss it in the last moment. Today I jump on the train and when I arrive in Dublin, the rain has arrived with me. For two hours I try to make my mind up about James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, who not unlike me always seemed to have missed the point. A group meeting. The group prepares for something that is labelled with “global leadership”. Nothing could be more wrong and I wonder if the embarrassment will ever leave me. Nothing could be more wrong to describe anything what I am trying to do. But obviously it’s a selling point. As usual for groups only one person is doing something. ( Guess who? ) But I have learnt a long while back not be sentimental about such things. At least they do not complain about what I did. ( This speaks for them, not for me. ) I read more and more and more. I have to decide between eating lunch and collecting books from the bookshop. I chose books and take with me: The trouble with sheep and goats . I listen to a lecture about female print culture in the seventeenth century and read after many years again: Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Mainfesto.” I still find it rather disappointing, not only because its lapse to the obscure but for its radicalism that is rather a bluff, a jack-in-the-box. Maybe I am not made for radicalism and certainly I do owe Voltaire so much more than any Science Fiction author. ( I confess: I never read a line and no I never even felt the lightest bit tempted. ) The world was always closer to me than a galaxy and I am still unable to be interested in world-saving heros flying around on a broomstick or whatever they use.) The idea to solve the dilemma of binary systems through cyborgs just produces a new dilemma. But for a text written in the 1980s its optimism is astonishing: technology so she argues could become the new feminist science. Today you can hear the Silicon Valley roaring of laughter. Nevertheless I like the Monday evening reading group sessions. Their different voices and again: nothing is more boring than to repeat what one believes anyway.
Outside it’s dark again and the rain, the never ending rain is still pouring down the windows as if it were never to stop again. Then I have to run for the train and faster I run to catch the bus, which stops at the village twice a day. I walk along the silent road and search for the keys. The dog barks. “Hey furry beast” I say and the dog brings the leash. The cat sleeps on the armchair and I switch on the light in the kitchen to not feel all alone. Then the dog and I walk out into the silence again. The iron fist is still there.
I sleep till 7. Then the dog wakes me up. 7 o’clock is not too bad. You are at least able to see the puddles and the dog walks only into every second one of them. You can’t say he is not learning though. When we get back to the village the light in the grocer’s shop is on. “You are up early Read On”, says the grocer’s wife. I yawn. “Fresh out off the oven” says the grocer’s wife, and points at the basket full of scones next to her. Two raspberry scones as usual?”, she asks. But her questions are always only rhetorical ones. I nod. The dog looks longingly at her. He gets a slightly burnt raisin scone and is instantly catapulted into heaven. The grocer’s wife scones are legend. “Where are you watching the game, Read On?”, she inquires. ( The game means the rugby.) “Not at all grocer’s wife” I say. “I am not at all into sports, you know. “Sweet Jesus”, says the grocer’s wife staring at me in disbelief. “Well, she says, we like you anyway.” “That’s very kind of you grocer’s wife “say I and wave her good-bye. The priest isn’t coming over for lunch today. He has to visit his sister, who lives over in Cavan. He sighed when he told me. “She is quite a hag”, he said and sighed even louder. “I am sorry” I say and I mean it. It is a strange Sunday Supper Club we form the priest and I, the Jew. But I am always looking forward for him coming over after he has locked the church doors after Sunday mass. The keys alone are impressive. He has always read something I might be interested in and I always am. We lend each other books. We disagree in the most agreeable way and he is an excellent chess partner though. Unfortunately today he drives past my window, waving good-bye. “See you next week, Read On.” “See you next week, priest.” Two hours later C. and K. arrive. They are the most polite guests ever. “May I give you a hand?, Read On?” “Would you mind me helping you, Read On.” I chuckle. They even laugh at my strange jokes ( You must be very polite indeed to share my strange sense of humour. ) We eat ( baked salmon with green salad and carrot-potato puree. ) We walk to the sea side and throw sticks the dog tries to catch. Afterwards we have pear tart. “You shouldn’t have made such efforts, Read On” they say. “Don’t you like the tart?, I say?” (You really have to like my sense of humour. ) “Ahem, says K., are you planning to watch the match?” “No way” say I, “but please feel free” I say and pass my laptop over to them. They look ashamed, relieved and quite happy at the same time. Half an hour later I lay on the sofa dozing away. When I wake up, K. and C, are shouting at the screen: “Come on Ireland!” I read the newspaper and then I happily follow the Rabbitte family through their small and big adventures in Barrytown. No one makes me laugh so hard as Roddy Doyle. His dialogues. The dark humour. The very Dubliness of it all. The realism. The sadness. You easily could meet all his protagonists on the bus and would have a great time just by listening to them. “Sweet Jesus”, as the grocer’s wife would put it. ( And there still is pear tart left ). When the guests leave I walk the dog again and later while the rain batters against the window I listen to Bach’s Cello Suites and close my eyes. Here at the margin of the world, all words are paper-thin, and the silence is burning and echoing louder than anywhere else.
I was very late today and the sweet canteen lady ( all of the canteen ladies are very sweet indeed ) had to shake her head. “No vegetarian dish left today”, she said. So I went for the non-porkish meat dish. Beef Keema. I shouldn’t have done, firstly I became homesick immediately, just while reading the name and secondly Mrs Rajasthani proud of the secrets of Indian cuisine would have stormed into the kitchen to give the dish the name it deserves. However, the rice was dry but not overcooked, beside of the beef the dish consisted of: overcooked potatoes, mushy peas and onions ( the Irish standard ). To my great surprise: no celery. What happened to the celery-is-a-must-policy if the cook? The main problem: the dish was spicy, but it did not taste of anything. No explosion of curry powder or the breath-taking smell of chili or the refined spice of garam masala. Just an indefinite spiciness that tasted of absolutely nothing. Very strange thing. Quite hard to do I assume.
What? Beef Keema with rice and pita bread
Where? The Buttery, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
How much? 5 Euro
Survived? Yes, but with a very strange feeling of nothingness.
“This oven drives me mad”, I said to the vet a few weeks ago. The vet sat on the couch and Queen Cat purred in his lap. The oven is a beast. It heats up and then just when you turn your back to it, it goes off again. So I am stuck head over in the oven to check if the broccoli is rather half burnt or still half raw. Ten more minutes I say and curse the oven again “Read On”, says the vet. I do need to ask you a favor. Go on, say I and continue to peel the kaki for the salad. You know I am going to this conference in the US, don’t you? I nod. San Diego, says the vet. Nice weather say I. Well, umm you know I don’t have anybody who might be able to look after my dog. Could you? The vegetable peeler fell clattering into the sink. No I said, don’t even think of it. I am fed up with Queen Cat, who resembles more a little dragon than a proper cat. Of course Queen Cat pretended she hasn’t heard a word and spreaded all across the sofa. Listen the vet said, I know but I asked everybody and nobody can take him. ( Him is a giant dog, a furry calf that resembles more a bog than a domesticated animal.) Did you ever wonder why?, I snapped back but the vet just as Queen Cat ignored my attempts to be the voice of reason. Just for ten days, he said. He is so sweet and so well-behaved, the vet muttered on. Really, I said this is exactly what L. said just before she left me with this disaster and shot a sharp glance to Queen Cat’s direction, who yesterday messed up my desk so badly that I thought I will never be able to bring order in my notes again. The door is now closed and will stay closed for along, long time. You know I said to the vet, when I have to get up? The vet nodded and looked as if he were about to cry. This is manipulation I said and nothing else. Ten days, said the vet, only for ten days. I sighed and took the stew out of the oven.
For ten days I get up at 5AM to walk the furry beast for an hour. It is wet and cold and the dog is not the cleverest. He walks into every single puddle and needs to be cleaned afterwards. He does not smell nice either. Not surprisingly He and Queen Cat don’t get on well and of course how could it be otherwise, the moment I am leaving the house the beast jumps on my bed and falls asleep. The kitchen is turned into a battlefield. Queen Cat insists on eating first, then angrily hides on top of the cupboard to hiss like a snake when the dog comes for food, before she jumps down trying to hinder the dog from eating. Queen Cat gets dismissed from the kitchen and scratches me so badly, that I am thinking of googling cat adoption websites. At the ninth day i sit down after another long walk in the evening.The dog chews on a bone ( a most irritating noice ), Queen Cat relaxes on the newspaper and I have a piece of carrot cake. Then the phone rings. It is the vet. Vet I say, how is your conference going?( It has something to do with cow diseases.) Listen says the vet I don’t know how to tell you but I just sprained my ankle and won’t be able to catch the flight. I try to breath in and out very, very slowly and the only thing I can ask before I explode is: how long? Dunno, is not a too reassuring answer. With the telephone still in my hand, I curse the universe, g*d, the cat and the furry beast, L. and the vet, the injustice of things and that’s always me, who gets smashed but most of all things I curse this damn oven, because if I only weren’t distracted by its tendency to burn things or to not work at all, I would have, never, ever said yes.