IF you wish to get married in the Catholic Church they tell you to do a Pre-Marriage Course, where you’re asked to reflect on the marriage you’re about to enter, not just the wedding.
Put thoughts of favours and cakes and cars and bridesmaids to the side for today, they say. Think about the marriage, the next 50 years, how you’re going to grow and develop as a couple.
A large part of the day is given over to talking about your feelings and learning how to say ‘I feel upset’ instead of ‘Why didn’t you do the bloody dishes?’
The emphasis is on how YOU feel, you see, not on how your partner MAKES you feel. Nobody can MAKE you feel anything, they tell you.
They also ask you to list the things that could test a marriage – infidelity, alcohol abuse, kids, money worries. All of these and more are thrown up and discussed on the day, but with one notable exception.
Or to be more accurate – bloody snow.
Oh Reader, how I abhor snow; swirling, grey, blanketer of the outside.
Apart from the obvious – that it’s cold and wet and slippery – it also, in one single fall, grinds the country to a halt meaning you’re stuck inside the house for days. With only your other half to look at. Every. Single. Day.
This, surely, tests more relationships than any pre-marriage touchy-feely nonsense can throw at you?
During the last Big Freeze early this year, Yer Man and I were stuck inside with each other for about two weeks straight, 24 hours a day and it was almost the undoing of us.
When the first flakes of snow fell close to midnight on December 31, 2009 we were, understandably, enchanted. New Year’s Eve! Snow! How wonderful!
We raced outside for a midnight snowball fight and for the next few days laughed and joked our way through the first part of the longest, most severe freeze in Irish history.
“We’ll be stuck here together for ever,” we marvelled, cuddling on the couch in front of the fire.
“Ahhh, fire, hot chocolate and each other, not a bad way to spend a weekend,” we gushed, never expecting to be still in front of the fire the following weekend.
But we were. Day after day, weekend after weekend it went on. Us. Together. Every day. Together. In a house which got smaller as each snow covered day passed.
One magical day, I escaped for work, overcoming my dislike of slipping and falling every 15 feet – and of work – simply because it meant I was out of the house. I had been working from home, but this one perfect day, the buses were actually running, so off I skipped.
I sat, childlike, on the bus, ignoring my throbbing knees and skinned palms, almost hopping out of my seat with excitement pressing my nose to the window.
Look! Outside! Trees! And cars! OTHER PEOPLE!
I skidded, arms flailing, across the carpark of The Square Shopping Centre, narrowly avoiding breaking my nose by hanging onto the back bumper of a car before my face made contact with the ice, and made it into the office.
I had a lovely long conversation with the girl behind the counter at the Spar next door where I bought a lovely frothy coffee and then had an equally long conversation with the receptionist at the office.
Settling in front of my computer, I got to work, more enthusiastically than I had for months, almost singing, BURSTING with the joy of being out of the house and away from Yer Man. I’d have something to tell him when I got home. We’d have something to talk about! Something NOT snow related! I could talk to him about work!
It was all going so well until just before lunch, when it began to snow again with real gusto. The temperature dropped almost instantly to well below zero once more and reports started filtering in of public transport operators pulling buses and trains out of service.
“Go home,” the boss said a mere three hours after I’d reached the office “it’s going to get worse and you don’t want to be stranded here now do you?”
Little did she know.
So, reluctantly, I piled on several layers of clothing and headed for the Luas going towards the city centre, hoping to pick up a bus back home. By the time I reached the city centre though the temperature had dropped even further and driving conditions were hazardous meaning all bus services were suspended.
Delighted with a little extra time away from the house, I made my way to the train station and managed to fight my way on to one of the last trains leaving the city centre.
“I’m stranded in town, just on the train, I won’t be home for HOURS,” I texted Yer Man delightedly, grinning around at my fellow train passengers. (I made such fierce eye-contact with one lady that she actually got up and moved further down the carriage away from me. A proud day.)
“How will you get from the train station to the house?” Yer Man texted back.
“Oh I’ll get a taxi or something, it’ll be grand,” I texted quickly, busily exchanging icy-pavement horror stories with the man opposite me. Even though he didn’t seem too interested.
“No. I’ll come and get you. Please. I could go early! Now! To the station. There might be somebody there to talk to!” Yer Man replied.
Ah. So it wasn’t just me then.
By the time the train inched its way to the platform, Yer Man had been there for about an hour and had backed an unfortunate Iarnrod Eireann employee into a corner, forcing him into a conversation. The man actually wiped sweat from his brow when we left. Again, a proud day.
We stuck the key into the lock of our snow prison – formerly known as our house – reluctantly and shot filthy looks at each other.
“Home sweet home, eh?” we growled.
All I can say is thank God for cable TV and the Internet, our saviours, as without them there wouldn’t be a wedding. Gradually though as the temperature rose and the thaw set in we managed to laugh about it, confident that our relationship had been tested and we had got through it and sure, when would it snow like that in Ireland again? It could be years! Decades!
Or about ten months.
Waking up on Saturday morning to a blanket of snow and sub-zero temperatures, bus diversions and road closures, I felt the icy hand of fear clutch at my throat.
It couldn’t be happening again. So soon. So desperately, terrifyingly soon.
But it appears it is.
The ‘cold snap’ as Jean Byrne and her Met Eireann colleagues keep cheerfully calling it is expected to last until next weekend at least, meaning we could be days inside this house. Together.
Being jobless adds another dimension – although the commute last year was painful and I’m glad I no longer have to do it, it also means I now have absolutely no reason to go outside.
As grey clouds, swollen with snow, roll in from the north and gather menacingly over my home, equally the clouds of a row gather inside.
And Reader, they are dark.