On Love

I grew up in a large, cold house. In the winter, I would curl up beside the gas heater until I became dizzy from the fumes. We didn’t have anything fancy like instant hot water. If you wanted to have a shower, you had to plan at least 40 minutes in advance. Waiting for the water to heat up was an opportunity to work on my juvenilia, or to stare at people on the street below.

It was character-building, nineteenth-century-style.

It was the kind of cold that seeps through to your bones. Sometimes my father would suggest I dip my blue-white fingers into boiling soapy water to get the blood flowing again. Other times my mother would enter the kitchen in mid-summer and drape a gigantic coat over my shivering frame.

Like in all good Victorian novels, love shone through in actions, not words.

Earlier when I was wracking my brains about how to write about love in a way that was not insufferable, a memory – one of my earliest- popped into my head.

I was a small child, well below school-going age. The house was, you guessed it, cold and I was waiting virtuously outside the toilet. My mother emerged and lifted me onto the pea-green seat.

She had pre-warmed it, like a mother hen.

That was love.The Gift of Warmth

In my formative years, I continued to gravitate towards those providing warmth. I became enamoured by electric heater salesmen and canteen staff with large ladles of steaming hot soup.

Romantically too, I have favoured those offering to make me warmer. LSB’s shaggy hairstyle, spare coats and facial hair have proven to be a winning combination.

And I have to give it to him: LSB was quick to pick up on my requirements. Once in our early courtship, I was on a bus on the way to Crumlin. It was a dark and dreary night and we were going to a party. When I got off the bus, I found him waiting with a hot-water bottle.

That went down so well that on the New Year’s Eve just passed, he packed it again for our walk up Calton Hill.

A warm and fuzzy feeling, on demand.

Happy Valentine’s Day. This year, consider giving the gift of warmth.

On Love or “Ode to my LSB”

LSB and me

“The LSB has outdone himself”, was my dad’s verdict. “How wonderful a time he must have had planning it” was my mum’s astute observation.

It’s only right that you judge for yourselves. Here is how the day’s events have unfolded:

1.25 am
I am up late marking tests. The French engineers have grasped in main the location of the apostrophe ‘s’ and I am particularly bemused at some of the creative mistakes they make when turning countries into nationalities – my favourite Charlie Chaplinesque slip morphs the people of Germany into ‘Germanians.’

2.00 am
I check my e-mail before going to sleep and there’s a Valentine e-card in from my LSB! I think: “Aw, what a sweetie”. I open it up only to find a Fine Gael cartoon canvasser tell me that “Labour are red, Fine Gael are blue, we won’t raise your taxes like they want to do”. Then he winks and looks shiftily (seductively?) to the side. I send one to every member of my family signing it Eoghan Murphy xxx, the name of the Fine Gael candidate in my constituency who topped 98 fm’s “hottest election poster boy” poll.

7.40 am
I’m dashing into work. All around town, clean young men in suits are loitering on streetcorners, handing out Valentine’s Day cards in Irish. I’m accosted in Harcourt Street, on Grafton Street and finally again on O’Connell bridge. They are campaigning against Fine Gael’s proposal to drop Irish as a compulsary subject on the Leaving Certificate by asking people as Gaeilge whether they will be their Valentine. As I am being proposed to and handed card number three, I tell the young gentleman in Irish that I already have my Valentine, i sráid fhearchair. That makes him smile and he says slán leat like he really means it.

8.35 am
I’m waiting for a vacancy at the photocopier; musing. A Valentine’s card from Fine Gael and one to oppose their policies. A working day ahead – I have morning and evening classes to teach and no prospect of a romantic liason with my LSB, who is getting up around about now for a full-day slog in his bookshop. I text him a good morning and wish him a Happy Valentine’s Day. He doesn’t reply so I assume he is rushing about trying not to miss his bus.

10.50 am
The French engineers are describing their “ideal date” to each other. One of them wants to take his wife to eat snails under candlight. I grimace and when I remind him that I’m a vegatarian his eyes bulge and he says “mais zee snails are not zee animals… zay are the …how you say… insects”! He is one of my favourites, along with Mattieu, who has two cats and two rabbits and likes motorcycling.

French snail

It’s breaktime and I have a quick text from LSB, who is on his 15 minute break: “sorry I didn’t text earlier, I was dashing. Happy Valentine’s Day, Katzi! My lunch is at 2 so if you feel like a phone chat then let me know”

School’s out! I’m listening to Joe Duffy talking about homophobic attacks on my way down O’Connell Street. My phone rings and it’s LSB:
“How was work?” he asks
“Ah grand, I think”, I reply, “but I’d rather be hanging out with you.
He sighs “I know, Katzi, such a shame we can’t spend the day together..”
“How’s work going for you?”, I ask
“Ah, same old, same old”, he says, “it’s kinda dragging”

The next thing I know the phone goes dead and I’m attacked from behind. Bearing the most beautiful bunch of roses and lillies and wearing a red tie is my LSB, deceitful and delighted.

I am without words.

Over a delicious aubergine, pepper and celeriac pie in Cornucopia, I am still incredulous. What an absolute ledgecake I’ve landed myself with! “I never said I was working today”, he gloats, delighted and adds, “I hope you like the way I synchronised my texts according to a typical working day though”.

I’m conscious of the time because I have work later and have to get some preparation done. “Just one more stop, Katzi”, he says.
He takes me to Hodges Figgis where I fight him, in more than a whisper. “I don’t want a present”, I whine. I want to get YOU a present”.
He ignores me, swoops to the Stefan Zweig section and picks up “The Royal Game” and “Selected Stories”. “Which would you like, Katzi?”, he asks. Both are beautiful editions. “I want neither”, I hiss. “This is ridiculous!”
“Bit rude”, he remarks, picking them both up and rushing to the till.

Despite my ecstacy, I’m determined to end this madness or at least reciprocate in the most paltry of ways. “I’m buying you coffee”, I say, marching into Butler’s with my enormous bunch of flowers under my arm. I curse inwardly because I have no cash on me but I barge to the till and ask, “do you take laser?”. LSB swoops in, wielding a ten euro note and nods to the cashier; “don’t mind her”, he says. She smiles, and looking at me with faux sympathy says “I’m sorry our laser machine is broken”. I could have spat at her.

On the way out of the staffroom I beam at my colleagues and wish them a “Happy Valentine’s Day”. “Oh shut up”, says one, “some of us don’t do Valentine’s Day”. I walk home, beaming and insufferable.

I’ve just finished writing an uncharasteristically personal blog entry. All I had really wanted to say, 927 words ago was: LSB, if you’re reading this,thank you. For everything.