The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS -

On the last day in the life of our old kitchen, The Hus­band un­screwed the boxy shelv­ing unit that lined the end wall and to­gether, we prised its sorry car­cass off the floor onto which it had been stuck with var­nish for more than a decade. Be­hind it, I knew we would find a flat­ter­ing pho­to­graph of me, taken by Barry McCall at last year’s IFTAs, which had spent a whole day on top of the shelves be­fore slid­ing down into obliv­ion al­most two years ago (to be hon­est, the re­cov­ery of that photo was more or less the only rea­son I agreed to the whole New Kitchen Ca­per in the first place). And I sup­pose we weren’t too sur­prised to find, along­side the pre­cious photo, some lost birth­day cards and a mod­est hand­ful of home­made Hal­lowe’en dec­o­ra­tions - clearly, crepe pa­per and pa­per plates don’t stick as well at the end of Oc­to­ber as they do at Christ­mas.

But none of us ex­pected the un­der­pants. They were so mat­ted with saw­dust – the re­sult of sev­eral sand­ings of the wooden floor – that at first I couldn’t tell what they were. But I lifted them up gin­gerly, this lit­tle red mat­ted rag, and when I shook off the dust, they re­vealed them­selves to be a pair of pants, aged 3 to 4, as once mod­elled on th­ese very premises by a cer­tain Boy.

We can’t say for sure how they came to be be­hind the shelves, but I re­call the Boy at that age be­ing given over to reck­less dashes of ex­u­ber­ant stu­pid­ity, and al­though I was not wit­ness to it, I am will­ing to stake the new kitchen on his sim­ply hav­ing re­moved his un­der­pants and thrown them down the back of the shelves. It was the kind of crazy thing he did back in those days. It is the kind of crazy thing he would still do now, if only his un­der­pants would still fit down the back of shelv­ing units.

I have never been sen­ti­men­tal about my chil­dren’s un­der­wear. A much loved dress, a well worn jumper, an in­fu­ri­at­ingly barely worn pair of boots that are now too small – all of th­ese can tear at my heart­strings, es­pe­cially at this time of year, when the sum­mer clothes are con­fined to the top of the wardrobe or to the char­ity bag. But pants come and pants go in the bin,

‘A much loved dress, a well worn jumper, a barely worn pair of boots, now too small – all of th­ese can tear at

my heart­strings’

and I can’t ever re­call any sort of fond farewell to a sin­gle pair of them. And then, on the very last day of the room in which I reared my chil­dren, a tiny pair of red un­der­pants un­ex­pect­edly shows up and I am so over­whelmed with nos­tal­gia that I have to sit down and take deep breaths.

So the red pants went in with the last wash I did be­fore the kitchen was sealed up with a sheet of ply­wood where the door used to be. That was two weeks ago. Since then, while the builders make odd and oc­ca­sion­ally ex­cru­ci­at­ing noises on their side of the bar­ri­cade, we have been liv­ing, eat­ing, laugh­ing, play­ing, work­ing, study­ing and gen­er­ally act­ing the lin­net in a small liv­ing room that, in my mind at least, is now just slightly big­ger than your av­er­age match­box. From this time for­ward, ev­ery time I hear any­thing about peo­ple liv­ing 20 to a room in ten­e­ment Dublin, I shall mar­vel at how the pop­u­la­tion sur­vived at all.

The Boy is liv­ing on Pot Noo­dle. But then, if I am to be to­tally hon­est, The Boy has been liv­ing on Pot Noo­dle for the best part of a year now. The oth­ers are sur­viv­ing on mi­crowave meals, which, to my epic dis­ap­point­ment, are go­ing down a treat and seem to be more en­thu­si­as­ti­cally an­tic­i­pated than any­thing I’ve ever cooked for them. The Hus­band has started tak­ing the dirty dishes into the shower with him, which sounds gross and, I sup­pose, prob­a­bly is.

The Youngest re­sents hav­ing to com­mute to a dif­fer­ent room just to use the fridge. The Teenager spends most of her free time in her room any­way, so she doesn’t seem hugely con­cerned. The Boy misses not be­ing able to ex­tend him­self full-length on the cramped sofa. The Hus­band misses park­ing in our drive­way, and The Dog has gone into a com­plete de­cline. For my part, I miss my tea-pot. But on the plus side, the noises be­hind the ply­wood sound more like build­ing than de­mol­ish­ing now. And I do have a lovely photo to look at on the shelf of our un­be­liev­ably clut­tered lit­tle liv­ing room. And in a drawer up­stairs, a most un­ex­pected and very wel­come pair of pants.

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