This morning, the ten year old played Edelweiss on his out of tune violin for an hour, all the time wearing a gum shield. The eldest teenager lay vomiting in bed, whilst the other one banged her head against the fridge in protest at the lack of sandwich fillings. “Why can’t this fridge should look like the one in Subway?” she groaned. The only child not moaning, sick or playing somber music had burnt the toast.
This was half past eight in the morning and the first tea of the day had not even been made. I sat on a chair with a dog on each knee, my eyes closed and breathing deeply because sometimes when you feel that you are about to go into overload, that’s the best thing to do. I’ve seen the Buddhist monks do it and you never see a stressed Buddhist. The phone went.
“I need you to take me to hospital”. It was Phil in a panic. “Why?” “I’ve got to see an expert about something urgent, are you around?” I looked up at the chaos in the kitchen. I told Phil to be ready at 9.15 and promised to get him to the clinic by 10.30. I filled the kettle, hit the switch and got in the shower and out again in record speed with my own personal violinist accompanying me in the background.
With no time to drink tea, I reached into the press for ‘the gift’. A concerned friend brought it back from the States. She worries because when I go out in the car I take a mug of tea with me. Just a normal everyday ceramic mug because I don’t like the plastic travel kind. She’s always telling me that it’s dangerous and I might burn myself. I respond by telling her that in twenty years I’ve never spilt a drop.
She came round last summer with what looked like a handle-less green plastic bucket with a white lid on it. “It’s an American travel cup!” she said with glee, showing me how to put in place and twist on and off the chunky lid. I held it in both hands because my hands are small and it was impossible to hold with one alone. I thanked her, secretly believing that never, in a million years, would I need to drink two litres of tea. I put it away thinking that one day it might make a nice plant pot.
Today, with a longish journey ahead of me, I reached in the press for ‘the gift’ it would be ideal. I read the label, KEEPS COFFEE HOT FOR FOUR HOURS. American’s don’t really ‘do’ tea but I do and filled it to the top with Barry’s Gold Blend. I’d have enough of the milky stuff for the journey there and back. I made a note to myself to genuinely thank my concerned friend, grateful that I’d been too disorganized to plant bulbs in it.
The kids got into the car. I followed slowly behind with my arms around the green American travel mug. The lid was twisted safely on. Still, that amount of hot liquid commanded respect. “Where are you going to put it?” asked the violinist. The problem with America is that everything is so BIG. Big bagels, big skyscrapers, big coffee travel mugs and big cars with big travel mug holders in them. It was almost as big as a wheel on my Citroen C4.
“I’ll hold it!” The violinist took it and cross-eyed, stared at it without blinking once all the way to school. Once they had all got out, I put the beast on the front seat and strapped it in with a seatbelt and headed to Phil’s house. “WHAT THE ****” is that?” Phil said as he opened the door. “Barry’s Gold”. “I don’t drink ******** tea”. “It’s not for you. It’s for me”. “What’s with the shoes?” I asked him looking down at his feet.
“New shoes. Penny’s in Newbridge, €8. Brought them for the appointment”. If I am going to see the gynecologist I’ll buy new knickers. Phil was going to see an eye specialist and bought blue suede shoes. He also wore blue socks and matching blue trousers. I unfastened the bucket, he got in and I balanced it between our seats and drove off up the N7.
“Your car is filthy.” Phil is always direct. I love him for that. “You should supply hand gel and one of those white zip through body suits for your passengers” he went on. “I’m going write to RTE and get a film crew to make a TV show about the state of it”. We got to the Red Cow when it dawned on me that neither of us knew exactly where the specialist clinic was.
“Where now?” I asked, breathing deeply like the Buddhists but this time with eyes open. “I don’t know!” Phil replied, tapping at his phone furiously. “I thought you might have Sat Nav,” he snapped. “I do but I can’t find it”, “WELL IT’S A SURPRISE YOU CAN EVEN FIND THE ****** IGNITION WITH THE MESS IN THIS CAR”. He was now very agitated. This was a serious clinic appointment. I pulled over, putting my foot down and braking a little too heavily.
With a thud, the American travel cup dropped forward, the lid fell off and two litres of tea went over Phil’s blue suede shoes. Like sponges they soaked up most of the warm liquid. What they didn’t soak up, his socks did. If you had the window open this morning you might have heard his screams. He walked into the clinic, half an hour late leaving milky wet footprints behind him.
“I’m getting a ******* taxi next time” he told me when he got back in the passenger seat. “The hairs on your legs grow faster than you drive and I’ve probably picked up a disease from this car”. I’ve just washed out the American travel mug. The hyacinths will looks gorgeous in it next month.