FIONA LOONEY

KITCHEN SINK DRAMA

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FRONT PAGE - Don’t miss Fiona Looney’s bril­liant col­umn, with her unique take on mod­ern Ire­land, only in the Ir­ish Daily Mail ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

On the ba­sis that there was 10 per cent off in the shop last week, we now have two brand-new school uni­forms hang­ing in the kids’ wardrobes. Well, when I say ‘hang­ing in the wardrobes’, ob­vi­ously what I re­ally mean is ‘still sit­ting in the bag in which they left the shop’, but at least they are in our pos­ses­sion and they cost us 10 per cent less than the sev­eral hun­dred euro they’d have set us back in Au­gust. And so, for the first time in their lives, the chil­dren are ready to go back to school even be­fore they’ve left.

I prob­a­bly wouldn’t have jumped so early — 10 per cent or no 10 per cent — if we hadn’t needed the two uni­forms. But The Boy is sec­ondary school-bound in Septem­ber and so needed the whole shoot ing gal lery — though ex­pe­ri­ence has taught me that there’s ab­so­lutely no need to shell out a small for­tune on reg­u­la­tion blue shirts and grey trousers when I can pick up a generic ver­sion of them in Dunnes for a tiny frac­tion of the cost.

And The Teenager, half­way through her sec­ondary school ca­reer, was due a new skirt (they cost a for­tune, but in fair­ness, she did get a full three years from her last one) and, more im­por­tantly, a se­nior jumper, which is a dif­fer­ent colour to the ju­nior model which her brother will be sport­ing come Septem­ber.

A se­nior jumper. I will ad­mit that while the rest of our 10-per-cent-off haul has sat, un­sorted and unloved, in its pa­per bag all week, I did take out the se­nior jumper, just to look at it. Be­cause, hon­estly, I can’t un­der­stand how that’s hap­pened at all. I don’t feel as though I qual­ify for a se­nior jumper, let alone my daugh­ter.

I met a woman the other night and she told me she re­mem­bers me writ­ing about be­ing preg­nant with the erst­while Small Girl. When I told her about the se­nior jumper, she wasn’t so much shocked as out­raged. And if she feels so strongly about the bru­tal pas­sage of time, imag­ine how it makes me feel.

Two weeks ago, in my head, I had three small chil­dren rid­ing lit­tle bikes round the kitchen ta­ble. In the real world, within a few more weeks, I will have two teenagers in the house — and one of them will have a se­nior jumper in her wardrobe (that may ac­tu­ally be wish­ful think­ing, but you know what I mean).

There are some ad­van­tages to all this in­de­cent

‘Two weeks ago, in

my head, I had three small chil­dren. In the real world, in a few weeks, I will have two teenagers’

haste, of course. The restora­tion of some de­gree of per­sonal free­dom is to be wel­comed — I no longer have to make child-mind­ing ar­range­ments ev­ery time I want to buy milk or walk The Dog — but I can’t be the first par­ent to re­alise that, hav­ing found the whole loss- of-free­dom thing al­most un­bear­able in the first place, I have now be­come so used to it that the loos­en­ing of the binds isn’t as lib­er­at­ing as I’d imag­ined. It turns out, af­ter all these years, that maybe go­ing out for the milk isn’t re­ally all it’s cracked up to be. Still, there is also — at least in prin­ci­ple — some­thing to be said for hav­ing a house­hold in which all bar one are more or less the same size. To be fair, this is work­ing out far bet­ter for The Teenager than for any of the rest of us. The other day, she left the house wear­ing my jeans, her fa­ther’s T-shirt and her brother’s jacket — and sur­pris­ingly, she didn’t look in­sane.

She is smaller than me — and, I sus­pect now, al­ways will be — but that’s okay be­cause while you can’t wear clothes that are too small for you, wear­ing slightly over­sized ones just makes you look vaguely funky.

Also, cru­cially, cru­elly, she takes a size five to my size six shoes. This means, of course, that while she glee­fully ri­fles through my shoes and boots, I can’t get next or near hers. The make-up rob­bing is en­tirely mu­tual though, which suits us both — or not, as the case may be — fine.

I would con­sider bor­row­ing her se­nior jumper but I don’t want to ap­pear older than my years. In my head, se­nior jumpers should only make an ap­pear­ance in a woman’s wardrobe when she finds her­self in­ex­pli­ca­bly drawn to elas­ti­cated waist­bands and has stopped tak­ing a keen in­ter­est in her daugh­ter’s cos­metic purse, at which point they can be pur­chased — per­haps by a kindly, still up­right rel­a­tive — on the first floor of Clerys.

In the mean­time, if you’ll ex­cuse me, I must con­tinue with my fu­tile ef­forts to stop all the clocks — even as they are so in­fu­ri­at­ingly, so re­lent­lessly, tick­ing along with­out me.

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