Friday, 2 January 2015

Oh no! I've become an Angelus person!


The Snapper’s working late tonight, so I revert to type and eat my dinner early. That way I can be all fed and washed up before the BBC and RTE news programmes.

Herself is not a fan of spinach, so I take advantage of her absence by cooking an old Charlie fave: lamp chops with three veg in 15 minutes. I preheat the oven to 200c, and in a small roasting tin place each of the three little cutlets over a clove of garlic and a sprig of my homegrown rosemary, then whack ‘em in the oven with a tiny bit of oil and put the carrots on to boil. Add the green beans five minutes later, then the spinach in the steamer on top.

Little bit of gravy and mmMMmm, bloomin’ lovely! Lady Dog eats her dinner while I wash up, and the whole shaboodle is cooked, consumed, and cleared away within 25 minutes.


Now into the living room to create the evening space. When you work at home it’s very important to designate different areas for work and play. I write in the office/spare room and edit in the kitchen, but never work in the living room, so I now feel my spirits rising as my brain muscle relaxes.

The heating has been on and the air in here is a bit stuffy, so I open the windows a little. Everyone gives out about Winter but there are many aspects of it I like, one of which is that you can have an electric light on with a window open, without attracting a midge invasion.

When I lived in north Mayo I once fell asleep on the sofa to find my entire hallway had turned midge black. It was painted a pristine white, but now, well, suffice to say my neighbours might have thought the English lad had gone bananas. Sure, he must’ve cracked altogether. Wasn’t he hoovering the ceiling at half three in the feckin’ morning?

No midges in Winter, just clean sweet air, while the colours of these early sunsets are brutal and striking. A gash of crimson stretches along the top edge of pitch black menacing clouds, lurking low on the near horizon.

Such a peace comes with Winter dusk: no power tools; no sound at all.

Yes, it’s incredibly difficult getting out of bed on these dark mornings, but I’d really miss the seasons if we didn’t have them. My sister would love to live in LA, where it’s 22ºc and sunny, 11 months of the year.

No thanks. That would send me doolally.
What’s that? You reckon I lost the plot long ago? Fair enough.


Although I’m a lover of fresh air, it gets cold pretty quickly with those windows open, so it’s time to light the fire. First thing every morning, before tea or anything, I empty the grate and build a fire, ready to flare up with one match at any time. Even though I’m a born and bred Londoner, there must’ve been a country lad hiding in my soul.

Of all of the day’s rituals, making the fire feels the most important, while lighting it makes my day. Our fireplace is huge, clearly built for burning timber. Trouble is, I’m not to be trusted heading off to the woods with a chainsaw, so instead I bought some firebricks and filled it up, so it's just the right size for turf briquettes. Clean and compostable, they keep us warm and cosy, but there’s more to a fire than heat.

Fire is the single thing that sets our species apart. All fire clichés prove true. A good servant and a bad master, fire truly makes my house a home. The electricity might get cut off as storms blow in off the Atlantic; the heating oil might run out; but while we have the fire, we’ll be okay.


Now’s the time to straighten the cover on the sofa, climb aboard and let go. Lady Dog has been waiting for this moment, and she scampers from the hearth rug to her bed at the base of the sofa. With one hand stroking our Labradollie (or is she a Collador? We can never decide!) I reach for the remote control and put on the TV.


Being a news junkie, I have a set way of dealing with 6 o’clock. Although the BBC news is set to tape, I still watch the headlines there live, until Sophie says:

“Also tonight...” when we are smitten by the headlines from Northern Ireland. That’s the moment I switch over to watch RTE’s 6.1 news, just as it starts.

Ashamed to admit, I can only bear to watch 30 minutes of the Irish news. To be fair, RTE’s international coverage is far better than their English counterpart’s, but I have to confess that quite often I find Irish news just plain boring.

Once old Brian’s hangdog face is telling me that “... a car overturned today in Offaly...” I’m on to the digibox to watch the recorded BBC news.

After their weather forecast it’s back over to catch the Irish sports news, then the RTE weather (sunshine and showers) and we’re done.

Except tonight, when I put the tele on, I’m ahead of the game.

There’s that woman staring out of her office window, listening to the bells of the Angelus. Then I realise - oh no! - I’ve just been living through my own little Angelus moment.

As I enter my 23rd year in Ireland, I’ve become one of those Angelus people who do ritualistic gently benign things during the six ‘bongs’.

Lighting the fire, patting the dog, breathing the air, eating my dinner, all of it perfect fodder for one of RTE’s contemplative mini-minute-films.

Have I become that most obnoxious of beasts: the immigrant who out-Irishes the Irish?

When I relate this rare marriage of feeling and moment to my friend Solder Boy, he reacts with concerned verbal violence.

“Jeeze! Did you pour petrol on yourself, Cha?”

©Charlie Adley

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