Thursday 14 October 2010

The Strange Case of the Anti-Smug House.

Sunday midday, and I’m daring to feel just the slightest bit happy.
If I was bold I might even say smug. 

Life has been hectic and fairly horrible for the last few weeks, but now there is a chance of a breather. 

The Snapper is off at work until 6. 
The lemon, garlic and thyme have been crushed into butter and smeared all over and inside the chicken. 
The spuds, parsnips and onions are prepped and ready for roasting. 
Dalooney is coming over later, when the three of us will sit down and feast and drink wine and do what Sunday does best.

But right now I have a few hours of calm, peace, solitude and boy, do I need it.

Stepping outside, I stroll idly along the garden wall where the sweet peas are tall and tattered in their autumnal decline. For some reason I take pride in coaxing every last blast of flowers out of them, so I tweak and push and nurture them for a while, loving the fact that the only sound I can hear is my own breathing. 

Time for a peeper, so I head back into the house, but - what? 

The back door will not open.
I try it again, and again, again, rattle bang kick and swear out loud. 
Try it again and again kick kick shake it curse and swear curse and swear Lord Kildare and kick it again.

There are times in all our lives when we are guilty of locking ourselves out of our own homes. We close a door that has a Yale lock behind us, and then stamp our feet and wail and berate ourselves for our stupidity.

But this is different. 
I have not locked myself out of my own house. 
My house has contrived to lock me out. 

The back door has a Chubb lock and a heavy old sliding bolt, so there was never any thought of caution in my head when I earlier closed the door behind me, to keep the warmth inside. Yet for some reason (which, despite the inanimate nature of the building in question, I can only assume is malicious), the house decided that it would move its sliding bolt across its back door frame and leave it resting in its locking slot on the wall.

Sunday midday, and I was daring to feel just the slightest bit happy. 
If I was bold I might even have said smug. Now I’m knocked back, tipped off the top of my little mountain of joy, plummeting groundwards, back into the black hole of despair.

Get a grip Adley. 
Breathe, count.

I’m stuck outside my own house, on a cold cloudy grey morning, with no mobile phone, no money and no key. 

Oh, and I’m in my slippers. Hoo - beedin’-ray.

Over the years I’ve noticed that sometimes, at those rare and splendid moments when I dare to raise the good flag ‘Happy’ and display it to the universe, it can act like a magnet for shite. Before I’m able to declare ‘Life is pretty good at the moment’ the love leeches and sympathy slugs come rushing over the horizon, looking to feast and gorge themselves on my new-found joy and strength.

But this time I was only nibbling a taste of calm. I was barely out of my own personal mire, when my house, my own home of many years, decides to lock me out. 

My afternoon of calm is gone. The anticipated quiet hours of reflection and self-indulgence have been washed down the plug hole of fate, but of course there is a silver lining to this despondent cloud. 

In The Body I have a great friend, and once I have walked disconsolate in my slippers up and down the Prom, trying to find a friend awake who might lend me the use of a phone or a bus fare, himself responds and drives me into town, where I can pick up a key from the Snapper.

Mind you, there is still one more cringing moment I have to endure. After I explain my situation to herself, she heads off to the staff room to get her key, announcing that her poor husband has locked himself out of the house and is standing in the shop right now in his slippers, at which signal, quite naturally, all of her colleagues rush out to take a look at my sad tatty grubby self, and have a good laugh.

While I adamantly refuse to believe that one cannot declare oneself happy without incurring attack from legions of Joy Suckers, I have my doubts about my house. Despite enjoying many good times living here, I suspect the building cannot abide me feeling smug, that minefield which lurks at the edge of happy, on the borders of pride and arrogance.

And then again, maybe I’m going mental and it’s just a house; a pile of stone and wood which happened to rattle the wrong way. 

No, that’s just plain silly. I know when my house locks me out, and that’s what it did.


Paz said...

I wouldn't advise reading Stephen King at the moment

Charlie Adley said...

Funny, Paz. Slightly ashamed but have to admit, way back in the day, before his books were made into movies, I actually read Carrie and The Shining and was well-impressed - both excellent books.

Then he started writing novels like screenplays - all downhill after that.

I know this house loves me, it was just life havin' a laugh at my expense.

Paz said...

I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and Fries. Stephen King.
Houses can be mischievous fecker's like that all right, I know mine keeps moving my keys around when I am not looking!

Charlie Adley said...

Now that could be the little people messin' widjye - or dare I suggest, the impact of a well-spent youth?

Or it could be that our houses are indeed out to get us.

What it certainly is not is a paranoid scribbler and an absent-minded photographer, eh?

Paz said...

just remember even if you are paranoid, it does not mean that they are not all out to get you.
flattered that you suggest I am a photographer, but I think that my house is female and jealous that I spend more time in hotel rooms than with her!

Charlie Adley said...

Of course you're photographer - unless it's your house taking those great pictures.

How do you know the gender of your house?

Paz said...

Once a month it gets in a mood decides not to let me in when I get home at the weekend,
Then theres the whole jealousy thing with me staying in other beds all week, all my stuff goes missing on a monday when I am leaving ;D

Charlie Adley said...

Aha, I understand completely.

Just when you want to chill out in peace and quiet it bursts a pipe or the chimney catches fire, and when you expect it to pull a stunt on you nothing happens, but when you least expect it all the lightbulbs blow up at the same time.....?

She it is. Absolutely.

Ciaran said...


I understand this post completely, but in my case I thought it was 'Catholic' guilt! Any time in my life I feel I'm really happy, I get worried, because I'm sure the fall has to be around the corner. Life just can't be perfect, can it?
It has happened to me at least twice this year. In Thailand, doing the Divemaster course and living on a tropical island, I decided I was as happy as I've ever been in my whole life. Within a day or two, my lovely Irish bank had cancelled my credit card and wouldn't send me a replacement ... ! Thanks BOI.
Here in Nicaragua last week, I pretty much had the same feeling. Life had never been better, my work had never been so fulfilling. Then I went on a trek up a hill and my old flat feet came back to haunt me, I was in acute pain and virtually couldn't walk for three days!
What's the solution? Never, ever let yourself think you are as happy as you could be?!!

Charlie Adley said...

Sorry to hear about your painful feet Ciaran - nothing more miserable than being unwell a long way from home comforts.

I'm not aspiring for permanent happiness, any more than I'm a believer in 'Happy Ever After', because life is not one long journey but a succession of short trips.

Along the way there are moments of abject pure happiness, and it's our duty to spot them and appreciate them. I simply refuse to adopt the idea that if I'm happy something terrible is going to happen, even if it is!

Thanks for the input. That Catholic guilt has a lot to answer for!