Good day, my friends. I trust all is going well with you?
Last time we talked we’d laid our weary heads in a hostel in Singapore, a corporate apartment on the Quays and the extravagant Intercontinental. When we left there we had one more stop-off before shifting into our real house and it was our favourite so far.
And this is why. It was an apartment with plenty of character, and a sauna, but it was the location that was to die for. It was on Schoolhouse Lane (where the red drip is) and as you can see from the busy-ness of the map, it was the centre of everything.
That right there is central Dublin. Very central Dublin. From the apartment on Schoolhouse Lane we could step out the front door and be there.
The first apartment had been comfy but very corporate – everything was new and white and uniform. The Intercontinental had its finely-crafted grandeur. The third place, though, was homey. It was warm and cosy and had three bedrooms and two bathrooms and french doors leading to an outside area with potted flowers. It had bright colours. It was old and had absolutely no straight lines or square joinery. The bathroom was a marvel of odd angles. It was nice and liveable.
But the best part was that it was right in the middle of the most vibrant part of the city. It was surrounded by museums in old stone buildings, by cafés selling varieties of food that I’d never even imagined and by the endless hustle and bustle of my favourite inner-city location, Grafton Street.
Living there meant that we could find the day’s entertainment simply by stepping out the door. We didn’t have to walk for miles or catch the tram or take all day, we could just wander outside and be in the midst of all the people doing interesting things. There were two big parks with playgrounds just a minute or two’s walk away. There are always street entertainers on Grafton Street and they have hourly slots so you can stroll up and catch a few acts then have lunch and stroll back down and take in a few more. There’s a man who uses wet sand to make beautiful sculptures; the sleeping dog and the pig lying down with suckling piglets were favourites. There’s someone who lays out a big tray of bubble mixture and lets all the kids take turns using wands with string between them to make bubbles bigger than they are, which float away and usually pop against some unsuspecting pedestrian’s face. Great craic, I tell you. There are musicians of all flavours and people dressed up as Star Wars characters. There’s a man who can limbo under a knee-high stick.
The best we saw was a guy who rode a tall unicycle and juggled knives and fiery things but, as always, it was the patter that went with it that really made the act. We were all in hysterics the whole time. He was hilarious. At one point he needed a child from the audience and picked Noah who went into the middle of the circle of spectators and did as he was told and was in his element. Noah’s not shy at all and he has this sweet-little-boy look that people find endearing and he was unintentionally very funny himself. We liked the man so much that we were even moved to chuck some cash in his hat. Much like the tornado-shower thing at the swimming pool in Singapore I found that having a good half-hour of helpless laughter was cathartic and I was very much the better for it.
In the evenings when Josh was home I would find reasons to pop out to the supermarket so that I could be in the street with all the people again. It was dark and bracing – still winter – and exhilarating. I couldn’t get enough. It was never quiet, never still. I loved it.
All good things have to come to an end however and the time came when our rental house was ready with its new curtains and carpet on the stairs that still smells like sheep. (This is a good thing). Our shipping container was a month away and rental furniture was being provided. I had had no idea that this was a thing and frankly wasn’t too keen on sleeping on rental sheets and drying myself with rental towels. Had I known what a rare and elusive creature a hot shower would be, of course, I could have at least saved myself the bother on that score.
But oh, it was beautiful. The truck pulled up outside and three or four burly men emptied its contents into our house in a whirlwind of efficiency and well-choreographed bed-wielding. Let me explain something about Irish beds: they come in a lot more pieces. Almost every house has at least one bedroom, usually more, on the second storey (or third in some of the flasher Georgian piles) and they’re accessed by generally fairly narrow stairs with a bend or two in them. Single beds would probably be okay but anything bigger and the base just won’t be getting up the stairs no matter which way you tip it. So bed bases come in chunks which can easily be whipped up and down stairs by the burly men, probably even two or three at a time by the look of the muscles on them. Not that I was looking.
There was a brief flurry of activity and upstairs-downstairs conversation in a language I couldn’t understand (it might have been English of the rapid-fire Irish variety so impenetrable to me) (or it might not) and they drove off in their truck leaving us in a beautiful white Ikea oasis.
I knew they were bringing beds and bedding but it hadn’t occurred to me that part of their mandate would be to leave the beds not only made up but awash with throws and comforters and cushions and all styled like the cover photo on House and Garden. When I looked at the vision of beauty before me and thought of the burly ones who looked like they’d be fully at home on a construction site having so carefully arranged the pillows in complementary colours I had a bit of a ROFL moment. Luckily they’d gone by then.
We had that furniture for a few weeks and I fell in love with the concept of being in a big house with minimal anything else. We had everything we needed and nothing we didn’t. Each bedroom had a bed, a bedside table, a lamp and five million pillows and cushions. The lounge had two couches, a coffee table and a t.v., not that we could use it because Josh wasn’t there to make it go. The kitchen had a gorgeous table with chairs and a set of pots, utensils, crockery and cutlery. They gave us six of most things apart from mugs (four) and wine glasses (seven). Go figure. They also gave us towels, hand towels and face cloths. And do you know, that’s all we needed. The kitchen never got in a mess because there were so few dishes it was easy to whip through them in a moment. There was lots of empty space. All this uncluttered air in the cupboards. I loved it. I wished for our shipping container with its bunch of unnecessary old stuff to be delayed indefinitely.
My original vision of sleeping in manky grey sheets was way off the mark. Most of what they gave us was brand new still with the tags on. I fell in love with the duvet – it was like sleeping in a cloud – and had to restrain myself from wrapping it around myself on furniture-collection day and just refusing to hand it over. I still wonder what they do with it afterwards. If they buy it new each time (and we saw the invoice, paid by Amazon, thank goodness, and it was certainly enough to cover all new things) maybe they just chuck out the used stuff? In which case I should have gone with my instincts and suggested to them that it would save a lot of effort all round if we just kept it. Save them a trip to the dump, you know. Surely they on-sell it or donate it or something.
I say it was minimal but there was one exception – pillows. Each bed came with dozens. So did the couches. I had to move about fifty from my bed to get in on the first night. It was lucky I didn’t have anything to put in the cupboards because nothing else would fit with all the cushions I stashed in there. They came in handy though. It turns out that big empty rooms plus a million pillows plus a few empty cardboard boxes equals hours of entertainment. It was great.
I mentioned that Josh wasn’t here to work the t.v. No, for the convenience of all concerned he got on a plane the morning that the rest of us moved into our house and spent the next two weeks working in Seattle. Between leaving New Zealand and moving into this house the rest of us had four temporary homes; he had seven. By the time he arrived at the house for the first time he was even more glad to see the duvet of wondrousness and the rest of the home-making equipment than I had been. And that’s saying something.
Despite my secret hope that it would get lost at sea our shipping container arrived in due course, I said goodbye to the white minimalist Ikea look and spent the next few weeks unpacking boxes (by which I mean mostly poking through the top, deciding I couldn’t be bothered and sticking them in the attic).
And so, after laying our heads on many different pillows (particularly during the rental furniture phase, of course), we finally have a place to call home.