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

The shelves are wrong. This was sup­posed to be the It- IsAc­com­plished, All-Lived-Hap­pi­lyEver-Af­ter col­umn. This was to be the one in which I looked around our beau­ti­ful new kitchen and re­flected that the up­heaval of the past three — three! — months had all been worth­while. In­stead, from my van­tage point at the kitchen ta­ble, I am re­flect­ing on: two plug­boards, await­ing fur­ther and un­ac­cept­ably loud tools, a small col­lec­tion of rub­ble un­der the new units, a pile of breeze blocks out on the new pa­tio and, just my be­hind my left shoul­der, the wrong shelves.

In fair­ness to the wrong shelves, they are quite beau­ti­ful. And had we themed our kitchen on a weird, khaki sort of mil­i­tary look, they would be per­fect. But our kitchen is graphite (ap­par­ently, that’s now a colour) and white, and short of re­des­ig­nat­ing the corner of the room as a sort of ad hoc war memo­rial, there is no place for the wrong shelves. So now, as well as or­der­ing a new ra­di­a­tor to re­place the, er, new ra­di­a­tor, and get­ting The Man out to fix the, er, new fridge, we are ex­pect­ing new shelves too. In Jan­uary. When I re­marked, months ago, that I would be cooking Christ­mas din­ner for the builders, I was jok­ing. Now, I’m check­ing whether they pre­fer the white or brown meat.

All of this, need­less to say, has put some­thing of a strain on the do­mes­tic front. The other day, I no­ticed what ap­peared to be the neck of a gui­tar stick­ing out of the un­fin­ished man­hole on the pa­tio. ‘That’s Ray’s gui­tar project,’ The Hus­band ex­plained when I en­quired. ‘I’m help­ing him with it.’ Ray, I pre­sume I don’t need to point out, is not one of our chil­dren. So The Hus­band has de­vel­oped Stock­holm Syndrome. I, holed up in our tiny home of­fice help­ing one of our nat­u­ral-born chil­dren with their project on Colorado, sim­ply haven’t had the time.

At least the painter has fin­ished, which means that I am no longer sleep­ing in the hearth. Did I men­tion that dark night, when I came home from MCing a charity thing, feel­ing full of good­ness and mu­cus, and had to spend the night shiv­er­ing on a mattress on the liv­in­groom floor while the wind whis­tled down the chim­ney be­side me and turned my slight head

I once joked I’d be cooking Christ­mas

din­ner for the builders. Now I’m check­ing whether they pre­fer white or brown meat

cold into a full-blown ’flu? Oh yes, that was the long­est night.

Sur­pris­ingly, the only respite from all this has come from Christ­mas shop­ping. I’m not nor­mally a fan of shop­ping — least of all in its festive form — but hav­ing a le­git­i­mate ex­cuse for stay­ing away from the house has been a balm to my rub­bled soul. I even went to Dun­drum on my own, for the first time ever. I know that prob­a­bly sounds as­ton­ish­ing, given that Ire­land’s largest shop­ping em­po­rium has been half an hour away from my house for nigh on 10 years now, but I spent its first few years en­gaged in an ac­tive boy­cott of the place that only ended when I re­alised that its own­ers couldn’t give a thun­der­ing mon­key whether I ever dark­ened its doors and when my kids started, not un­rea­son­ably, ask­ing to go to the cin­ema oc­ca­sion­ally.

Still, I’d never been there alone in shop­ping mode be­fore. Given what was go­ing on at home, I have to con­cede it wasn’t nearly as trau­matic as I’d ex­pected. Of course, Hol­lis­ter — the only shop in the world that man­ages to make me feel si­mul­ta­ne­ously old, ugly and blind — was hor­ri­ble, and if I do ever brighten its doors again, I will need to bring a torch. And it was in Hol­lis­ter, ap­pro­pri­ately enough, that The Hus­band phoned to break the news about the wrong shelves. When I fi­nally got to the till, the im­pos­si­bly good-look­ing as­sis­tant en­quired, in spite of be­ing Ir­ish, how my day was go­ing. By way of re­sponse I con­sid­ered cry­ing, es­pe­cially since no­body could see my tears.

I came home to find the ar­chi­tect star­ing silently at the wrong shelves. Even he can’t quite be­lieve how long all this is tak­ing. I did think for a mo­ment he, too, might be cry­ing, but since my eyes were still ad­just­ing to nor­mal light, I can’t be sure. ‘Well,’ he fi­nally said, ‘you’ve just got your­selves some in­cred­i­bly ex­pen­sive shelves for your shed.’ The Hus­band, pre­sum­ably dream­ing of play­ing du­elling ban­jos with Ray, didn’t seem too put out by this. But I have been in our shed re­cently and I know for a fact that the wrong shelves won’t fit. Which means we’ll have to get a new shed. Af­ter all, we might as well be hung for a whole flock now.

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