LSB and Kate Katharina Fail to Elope

LSB’s arrival scene had been playing on loop in my head for several weeks. I would stand at the dingy arrivals hall at Schonefeld looking radiant. LSB would get off the plane and fly into my arms. We would embrace. He would vow to abandon his studies in Edinburgh with immediate effect. We would elope. Publishers would flock to our door offering him a job. If that didn’t happen, I would pick up enough freelance shifts to hire him as my domestic servant.

But my dreams were thwarted by wintry showers. The trains on the way to the airport were cancelled. LSB’s flight was due in at 12.40. I was shivering at a train station at the time. The plane had the audacity to land punctually. At 12.45 LSB called me.

“Katzi! I can’t believe you’re trying to dodge me. After all this time!”

“Did you not get my text?” I cried. “I’ll be there soon, promise.”

“Four months!” he said, sighing.

The S45 condescended to arrive. When it pulled in at Schoenefeld, I dashed like there was no tomorrow. I arrived panting and with a pile of snowy slush heaped on each of my boots. LSB was standing there, looking maddeningly nonchalant. “Oh you turned up then?” he said.

LSB and Lego snowman

LSB and Lego snowman

I welcomed him with a punch.

LSB has aged gracefully since I last saw him in August. The highland air has been kind to his complexion and he even trimmed his beard in anticipation of our reunion. He still insists on wearing unsuitable canvas shoes in all weather and lists meeting Joe Duffy as the most momentous occasion of his life.

The highlight of LSB's life to date

The highlight of LSB’s life to date

The last few days have been idyllic. We have been streaming Seventh Heaven online and pressing pause at opportune times. Reverend Eric Camden’s expression of brave resilience has been etched, again and again in our memories. Last night we listened to the Adrian Kennedy phone-show.

Sometimes we interrupt our analysis of the Camdens with weighty conversations about our future. When we get tired of that we go to the Christmas market and buy a bag of five Quark balls, which we share in an equitable ratio of 4 to me and 1 to LSB.

Sometimes we use our infinite wisdom and experience of travel to cast wistful judgement on the country we’ve left behind. Ireland has become homogeneous and backward since we left.

We wonder how the Catholic Church can still have such a hold. And we wonder if the recession will ever end.

Then we smile when we think about cosy nights in the pub with friends, Tayto crisps and the way Grafton Street twinkles at Christmas time.2012-12-15 17.03.59 - Copy

We may have been temporarily evicted but it’s home, glorious home and the craic at Christmas will be almighty.

The Model Railway and The Emergency Haircut

“These wispy bits at the back of your head are borderline catastrophe,” she said, kindly.

I’d chosen her salon because there was a winter-themed model train set in the window. Tiny carriages chugged around and around a snowscape and up above, as if by magic, a hot air balloon carrying a family of dolls battled through the blizzard.

The night before the appointment I received counselling from LSB over Skype. “All things considered, Katzi, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

For the last few months I have been sporting what can only be described as a mullet. Those of you unfamiliar with the term (Dad?) might find it helpful to do a Google Image search. I had been carrying my mullet stoically, concealing the rat-like tufts in a heap at the back of my head or using hair slides to pin them to obscurity.

I had done all this in the belief that good things come to those who wait.

But when the thin, spindly tufts began to take over my subconscious I decided it was time to act. Having dreamt that I was given an impromptu haircut by a concerned friend, I, like all those suffering in silence, turned to the Internet.

There I found forums, videos and entire blogs dedicated to my predicament.

I, dear readers, was growing out a Pixie Cut. I like pixie cuts. I’ve had many in my day. Like the ideal babysitting charge, they are short and sweet and require no looking after. But like the model child, their development can take a nasty turn. In the case of the Pixie, everything you loved about the short front and slightly longer back turns into a straggly mess, leaving you looking like a 1980’s popstar.2012-12-09 15.04.48

After extensive research, which included perusing forums offering nuggets of wisdom like “trust me, you need a stylist to get you through this” I decided it was time to limit the damage so that I can grow my hair out with dignity.

“You know, not everybody can do this,” the hairdresser said, shampooing my hair. “They say it’s easy but it requires skill.”

“Oh, trust me I know!” I said. “I don’t have any skill at all. Whenever I try anything with my hair it’s a disaster.”

“Well, that’s why we’re here,” she said brightly.

She brought over some wonderfully old-fashioned books, featuring pictures of ladies with different hairstyles grinning manically. They beat Google-image search hands-down.

We looked at what could be done and she showed me some pictures of what my hair grown out could eventually look like as long as I remembered to come back for a “maintenance” cut every six to eight weeks.

She got chopping. I was startled by the sudden noise of an engine. The train had set off. I watched it go around and around and smiled because outside, in the real world, it was snowing too.

I now have a “bob,” which LSB calls “Robert.” When I told my hairdresser that I was in a long-distance relationship, she sighed and said “From the bottom of my heart I really wish you all the best with that.”

I told her it was really quite a serious thing. “Look,” she said. “At least you’ll have lovely hair when he comes to see you.”

Which is Thursday. It can’t come soon enough.

Let it snow, please let it snow.

It was morning, my least favourite time of day and I was tired. I’d worked until 2 am and was due back in at 10. I was still blurry eyed when I tore open the curtains and was half-way to my dresser-mirror, ready to contemplate the enormous bags that had inevitably festered themselves below my eyes, when I did a double take and let out a tiny squeal.

It was snowing.

I had not seen this coming. Granted, it’s been cold. But given that being cold is my default it would have been a leap to expect snow. I could have checked the weather forecast but with such foresight my life would be entirely without thrills.

I squealed again on the way to the train station and smiled stupidly at strangers, who looked irritated as they battled through the cold.

I sat at a computer beside a window and tried to sound hip as I translated a technology show, known apparently for its ironic tone and trendy catchphrases.

But all I could think about was snow.

Snow is the material which exempts me from adulthood. It is the compound which brings a rush through my body, makes my heart skip and causes me to squeal.

I spent every winter of my childhood in a continued state of daring hope followed by crushing disappointment. I remember vividly rushing into my parents’ bedroom at an ungodly hour to check if it had snowed overnight. I remember the familiar sadness that overcame me as soon as the green of the grass and the bleak black of the sycamore branches in the garden were revealed.

Grown-ups don’t like snow. They say it’s a pain. It causes traffic chaos and turns to sludge.

Two years ago, LSB took me to the Christmas markets in Nurnberg. It was possibly the best move he could have made in our relationship (which would you believe, celebrated its 5th birthday last week; he sent me a card with a crocodile wearing a party hat and blowing out a candle beneath the caption “5 Today”). The snow reached up to our knees and we spent three glorious days drinking mulled wine and hot chocolate laced with amaretto. For those of you nostalgic for my juvenilia, you can read about my experience with the Christmas markets in Regensburg here.

LSB and I at the Christmas markets in Nuernberg. That day the snow was not so deep..

LSB and me at the Christmas markets in Nuernberg. That day the snow was not so deep..

By the time I completed my last jazzy sentence for the technology show, the snow had disappeared but the feeling remained. I headed into town and spent the evening wandering around the Christmas markets at Alexander Platz. I treated myself to a little cardboard plate of rosemary potatoes. I even paid an extra 50 cent for Tzatziki. The texture was divine, the rosemary subtle but brilliant. But they were cold.

As I waiting for the underground home, I watched an old woman drinking beer. She was wearing Birkenstock sandals with socks. She had a wide face and a big forehead. She almost looked noble but I suspect in fact that she was very sad.