HE was no great shakes in the kitchen, my Dad, but he made a decent cup of tea.
Lyons Gold Blend. Strong and thick. A drop of milk. And two and a quarter spoons of sugar.
Always in a proper cup and saucer. He never used a mug. It was a porcelain cup, incongruous in his big weather beaten hands, or nothing.
When he and Mam would come back from the shops, it was his job to make the tea. He’d put away the heavy stuff first – the potatoes, the cylinder of gas for the Super Ser – while Mam sorted out the bread and the milk and then he’d get on to the real business of the day – the tea.
He always warmed the pot first, swirling the hot water around intently, like a science experiment. Three teabags between the two of them, boiling water, not even a second off the boil, and then a good stir with a teaspoon to bring it all together.
And then he’d wait. You always had to wait, you see. The tea had to draw. A good five minutes at least.
Look at that! A decent Jaysisin’ cup of tea, that’s what that is. The last cup for your mother, she likes it strong. Only a tiny drop of milk for her. No sugar. After 40 years he knew how Mam liked her tea. He made it for her every day after all and every day she agreed it was the best cup of tea she’d ever had. She’d sigh and say ‘God I needed that’ after the first sip. And he’d fold his arms and sit back and nod contentedly. Grand job.
He was always so proud. Making the tea after the shops was his job. Making the tea when there were visitors was his job. They all knew about the tea. They all knew Joe was the tea maker, the tea lover, in the house. The tea provider.
He was so proud.
I noticed it about four months after he died. Just suddenly one day, in my house.
Mam was making her own cup of tea. Weaker. With a large splash of milk. The tea paler than I’d ever seen it.
Then I noticed it again and again as the months and now years passed. Slightly weaker tea. More milk. The first cup out of the pot, not the last.
I thought it was grief. I thought it pained her to drink the tea the way Dad used to make it. That she couldn’t cope with the memory of it, the scent of it, the taste of it.
I was wrong.
It wasn’t grief. It was love.
This is how she likes her tea. This is how she has always liked her tea. Slightly weaker, with a slightly bigger splash of milk. The first cup out of the pot if possible. Maybe the second. But not the last.
She never told him. All those years of the tea and the sit down and the grand job. She never told him that it was good but it wasn’t quite right.
For nearly 50 years she drank her not quite perfect cup of tea and assured the love of her life that it was all she could hope for.
Hers is an Irish love story, soaked through with commitment and love and loyalty and tea.
Just like Dad used to make.
I REMEMBER waking up on the morning of my wedding feeling like I was going to throw up and die of excitement all at the same time.
We had been planning our big day for well over a year and had poured money, time and energy into making it the perfect day to celebrate with our friends and family.
We were (and still are) so in love and we wanted to shout it from the roof tops. We had the big day with the pouffy dress and the fancy hotel and the vintage car. I even wore a tiara, for God’s sake. Looking back at 2011 me, I still roll my eyes at that bit. I did lose the run of myself.
But the point is, it was our special day and we wanted to celebrate it our way, so we did. We had 130 guests, we fed and watered them and spent the night dancing the feet off ourselves on the dance floor. True story that, I still have bloody stumps where my toes should be.
When Yer Man got down on one knee at the top of the Eiffel Tower, I had no hesitation in saying yes – in fact I quite literally jumped up and down with joy and almost deafened him by bellowing my acceptance. And I practically danced up the aisle.
I said yes then and I’m writing this today because I believe in marriage.
I believe in love. I believe in fidelity. I believe in promises. I believe in joy. And I believe, more than anything else, that marriage should be open to all who choose it.
Currently in Ireland marriage is only open to opposite sex couples. LGBT people are not allowed to marry, they are excluded simply by virtue of their sexuality.
And I believe that this is wrong.
On May 22 Ireland will hold a referendum asking the Irish public to widen the definition of civil marriage in our Constitution, to allow same-sex couples to marry.
It’s going to be a simple Yes or No question – you either agree with it or you don’t. I agree with it and here’s why I think you should too:
- Marriage isn’t a delicate flower, available only to the chosen few. It is a strong and robust institution, one that gives so many such happiness and joy. And just as importantly, one that confers legal rights and security on the two people involved and their families. Why should a whole section of our society be excluded from that?
- Allowing LGBT people to marry won’t damage marriage, it will only strengthen it. It will only enhance it. After May 22 if the referendum is passed, I – and all other currently married couples – will still be married. Nothing will have changed. My marriage will still be legally recognised by law and all the current legal security I and my husband and my son enjoy will be maintained. This is fact. All that will happen after May 22 is that more people will be given the right to marry if they choose to do so. That’s all. Marriage equality will not take anything from my marriage, it will only add to it.
- Telling people they should be happy with civil partnership is like telling them to sit at the back of the bus. Currently there are 160 legal differences between civil partnership and marriage – it’s not fair and it’s not good enough. It’s second best. I wouldn’t choose it for myself, so why should I impose it on others?
- No campaigners talk about ‘redefining marriage’ as if it’s a bad thing. In my eyes, it’s not and frankly, marriage has been redefined about a bajillion times before. In days of yore marriage meant that your husband owned you. You were literally his property. Marriage used to mean that if you worked in the civil service you had to give up your job once you walked down the aisle. It used to mean that your husband could rape you, and nothing could be done about it. Thankfully, marriage doesn’t mean those things anymore because – you’ve guessed it – it was redefined. The meaning of marriage, the laws behind marriage have all grown and changed and evolved as society has evolved. And this latest move, to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples is another chapter in that evolution. If voting Yes on May 22 means that marriage gets redefined to be more inclusive, then fuck it, redefine it.
- Allowing same-sex couples to marry will mean more security for children. Currently the children of LGBT parents live with a lot of uncertainty. There are questions over guardianship and succession rights that don’t arise for the children of opposite sex married couples. These very real children exist today in limbo and they deserve to be catered for.
- It’s the only fair way to vote. If you vote No you’re saying that you think LGBT people don’t deserve the right to marry. You’re saying that they’re not equal to you. You’re saying that they’re second class citizens. You’re saying that you don’t care about them and their welfare. And when it comes down to the bare bones of it, you’re saying you don’t care about marriage. Marriage will only continue to thrive and to grow and to sustain if it is open to everybody. The more sectors of society we cut off from marriage, the weaker it will get.
I’m not a lawyer or a human rights expert, I’m just an ordinary woman with a blog, so perhaps I’ve oversimplified above or made mistakes, perhaps I haven’t grasped the legal situation correctly, but here’s the thing – I don’t care. No doubt there’s a No campaigner waiting in the wings to tell me how wrong I am, but I’m not interested.
When it comes down to it, this referendum is simply about extending civil marriage to same-sex couples. It’s about love and fairness and equality. Everything else is just noise.
Vote for love. Vote Yes on May 22.
For more information visit Yes Equality, the Campaign for Civil Marriage Equality
IT was our fourth wedding anniversary yesterday and we went out for the whole day. By ourselves. AT NIGHT.
I did look around in the cinema for the lift to carry the buggy before realising that I had no buggy with me, and I did lean over and cut my husband’s steak up into bite sized pieces at dinner, but apart from that I behaved normally.
We thrun The Beast into his Nana’s and skipped off into town for a wander around the shops, an afternoon at the flicks (Insurgent, was good) and then dinner in a very adult restaurant.
There were no buggies here let me tell you, no high chairs either and the only noise was the buzz of the blender as the barman made cocktails for the table next to us. It. Was. Fucking. Bliss.
After dinner then we hopped on the Luas and went to the Point for a gig. Sting and Paul Simon were playing and as Yer Man is a huge fan it was the perfect way to end the day.
Laughing, we jostled and bumped our way onto the tram and stood closely together, delighted with ourselves. Young, free and in love, what could go wrong?
“I can’t wait for this now,” sez Yer Man. “Last time I saw Paul Simon I was only 19 and the rest of the audience were oul lads. Probably 40!”
I could almost see the thought process churning behind his eyes before he arrived, skidding, to the conclusion.
“Oh Jesus,” he gasped, horrified. “Now WE’RE forty!”
He was right. Not quite forty, but not far off.
Nervously we looked around the tram. There were some people there older than us, in their 50s and 60s, but quite a lot younger than us. Like, DECADES younger than us.
We’re no longer the youngest people at anything. We certainly weren’t the youngest at this concert. They were all there, with their hipster beards and their iPhones; drinking copiously and enjoying themselves.
When did that happen? When did I stop being a young wan and start being middle-aged? I know it’s all about how you feel, I know that, but seriously, to the young ones on the tram yesterday, I was middle-aged. Past it. I mean, I still type www into the address bar for God’s sake. It’s true, I’m getting old.
HOW did that happen?
Once the realisation hit me I couldn’t relax. Even though rationally I knew that being close to 40 is not old at all, I could almost physically feel myself ageing as I sat there.
Jealously I looked at the couple in front of me, barely in their twenties, cuddling and enjoying themselves. Bet she doesn’t know what it feels like to pee every time you sneeze, I thought bitterly.
I’ll bet that lad over there doesn’t obsess over keeping the grass cut and making sure the house insurance is up to date, I mused, hysterically.
Shake it off, I told myself, relax. Think about Yer Man. He’s a bit younger than you and he has a really young-looking face. A baby face actually, nobody could think he was middle-aged.
I looked over and took in his unlined smiling cherub face, his sparkling eyes, his full head of hair and felt my blood pressure start to drop.
Then I looked again.
He was Dad dancing.
That’s right, up on his feet awkwardly shaking his hips and clapping along to the music, like a drunk Dad at a wedding.
Ah Jaysis! In a way there’s a part of me that doesn’t mind getting, and certainly looking, older but I comforted myself with the knowledge that at least I have a young husband.
Not any more, apparently. At least he was enjoying himself though; shuffling away, raising his hands above his head and whooping along with the young fellas.
After the concert we slunk off home for a mug of Horlicks, before putting on our nightcaps and sliding into our separate twin beds. Well, not really. But we did go home cos we were wrecked and couldn’t face trying to beat our way to the bar in a crowded pub.
So it’s pretty official now. I’m a young wan no longer. But I suppose at least I have an oul fella to keep me company. Still crazy (about him) after all these years.
“IS it the same as you remembered?” the kindly dress shop lady asked me, ushering me into the changing room where my wedding dress hung in the corner.
I gulped and risked a glance.
Yup, that was it alright.
Only, I was sure it was bigger than that.
In my dreams it was a big tent like dress.
Sure it was boned and corseted, no need to diet, it’s a massive dress, it’ll definitely fit.
But there it was on the hanger, glowing in the early afternoon sunlight.
With seams, and buttons and fasteners, that suddenly looked awfully tight.
I stripped down to my M&S sucky-in knickers and strapless bra, both crackling with newness, and held my breath as the dress was slipped over my head.
The kindly shop lady spun me around to the mirror and briskly started lacing me up, ignoring the fact that I had my eyes squeezed tightly shut.
“You can look now,” she said with a smile in her voice and, I’m sure, a mental roll of her eyes.
The bloody thing fit.
I let my breath out in a rush and couldn’t stop a huge grin creeping slowly across my face.
The Dress was every bit as beautiful as I remembered. The material even more luxurious and soft, the fit even more perfect.
I felt like Jessica Rabbit, although I’m easily ten sizes bigger than her and two foot shorter. But I went in and out at the right places.
I snapped suddenly to attention feeling a pair of hands moving expertly over my bosom.
“This won’t do at all,” the kindly shop lady said, her mouth full of pins.
“Look at this,” she said “it’s far too big at the bust. It needs to be taken in a good two inches on either side and under the arms here too.”
“IT NEEDS TO BE TAKEN IN! TAKEN BLOODY IN!” I screamed over the changing room curtain to my sister and mother sitting waiting outside.
“Jaysus,” the kindly shop lady said, taking a step back and holding her ears in agony “give me a bit of warning next time, will ya?”
Bosom pinned into submission, to be properly altered later, I swept out of the changing room to gasps of admiration from my family.
“Amn’t I gorgeous,” I beamed at them, admiring myself in the mirror, turning slowly this way and that, basking in my own beauty. To hell with modesty, I’m a BRIDE now.
I marched up and down the shop, pausing now and again to look at myself in any reflective surface, grinning like a loon.
Just when I thought I was about to burst with happiness, the kindly shop lady tilted her head to one side and zeroed in on a seam at my hip.
I felt the day darken.
“That seam there,” she started slowly, approaching me like one would approach a mad dog “that seam there at the hip might sit the tiniest bit better if I just…let…it…out.”
She said the last three words gently, pleading with me not to lose the head, walking towards me with her hand held out placatingly.
“Let it out?” I gulped feeling my earlier bubble burst.
“Just a tiny bit, the tiniest bit,” she assured me, legging it over with her measuring tape while the going was good. “Lookit, just a quarter of an inch, that’s all. It’ll sit better, I promise.”
I breathed in through my nose trying to see the positive. IN at the bust but OUT at the hip. I guess you win some, you lose some, eh? And at least I can say it’s a custom-made dress, made especially for my measurements. My big hipped measurements.
After twirling around some more in the dress, and admiring myself about 800 more times, I reluctantly trailed back to the changing room to take it off so the alterations could be done.
Before I took it off for good, the kindly shop lady showed my sister how to lace it up at the back properly, so I’d get the same Jessica Rabbit shape on the Big Day.
“Do you think you’ll be able to do it ok,” I asked my sister fearfully as she paid close attention.
Her eyes met mine in the mirror.
“Don’t worry,” she said, patting my shoulder “I’ll put my back into it.”
IT costs €150 to register your intent to marry in the Republic of Ireland.
You give an official in the HSE your birth cert and passport, a few details, a cheque for €150 and they issue you with a Marriage Registration Form which you and your witnesses then sign on the day of your marriage. This serves as the basis for your marriage licence and notifies the State that you intend to marry Mr or Ms X on such a date, in such a place.
If you choose to have a church ceremony it’s usual to make a donation to your church and to your priest. If you opt to have a civil ceremony you’ll have to pay your solemiser a set fee, it can be anything from about €200 to €500.
All in all so it costs just a few hundred euro to get married in Ireland. In either a church or civil ceremony, the vows are pretty much the same, all about loving and honouring each other (though very few are obeying these days), in sickness and in health, just a few short sentences, and Bob’s your grandmother’s cousin.
It’s actually shockingly easy to get married here. Once you give three months notice, stomp up the couple of hundred euro and strong arm some friends into signing their names on your marriage cert, it’s all done in about 15 minutes.
I’m a reasonable, sane adult. I don’t go in for flights of fancy, I know the value of money, so why, instead of spending a few hundred on getting married, am I planning to drop about €18,000 on just one day?
I think I just may be legally insane.
Just think what we could do with that €18,000 – just take a minute and think.
We could buy a car. A good one. And tax and insure it. And still have money left over.
We could go on a round the world trip. Maybe not first class all the way, but not youth-hostel either.
We could build an extension or conservatory onto our house.
We could go on 18 shopping sprees worth €1,000 each OR 36 shopping sprees worth €500 each.
We could make one charity very happy indeed or 18 charities happy enough.
We could buy our nieces and nephews’ affections and make all our brothers and sisters sick.
We could knock a few years off our mortgage or even bump up our pension funds.
But instead of doing any of those things, we’re buying dinner for 179 of our closest friends and family, not forgetting the 15 children on the list too.
Well, the answer is, because we want to. It may sound crazy, it may make no sense whatsoever, it may seem like the maddest thing in the world to want to do, but it’s what we want.
We recently completed a pre-marriage course with Accord, a requirement if you want to get married in the Catholic Church. One of the sections in the booklet they gave out was about understanding why you wanted to get married and you had to tick the sentiments that you agreed with. There were choices such as ‘because we’re in love’ or ‘because we want to make it legal’ or ‘because we want our children to have the same surname’ and others in the same vein but there was one box, right down at the bottom of the list, which read:
‘Because we want to have a big party’
We looked at each other, hesitating, neither wanting to be the first one to lower the pen and make the mark on the paper. I cracked first, ticking the box with relish. Of course, I love Yer Man, I want to make the commitment, I want a legal partnership, I agreed with almost all of the boxes on the sheet. But along with all of that, quite frankly, I want a big ol’ party.
I can’t wait to walk up the aisle in my beautiful ivory taffeta designer gown. It’s only gorgeous so it is. I want to wear a veil and a tiara, even though I’m neither a member of the royal family nor a child of eight.
I want a man with a video camera to capture all of the important bits of the ceremony, I want our guests to ooh and ahh over the fancy hotel we’ve chosen. I want people to refer to me as The Bride.
I want our guests to marvel at the room decorations, gorge on the delicious food, get drunk on the crisp white wine that we’re providing. I want to dance to a live four-piece band and shake my stuff later on to a fab DJ.
I want to stay in a bridal suite. Just once.
I want to buy gifts for our family and friends, twee things with ‘For our Bridesmaid’ printed on them. I want to stand beside a three-tier perfectly iced cake and grin widely while our guests, inexplicably, take pictures of it. I want to rush off to the airport with my new husband and tell anyone who looks sideways at us that we’re newlyweds.
All of the clichés, all of the mad traditions, all of the over the top, done to death stuff – I want it all. I may sound shallow or selfish and perhaps I am, in fact I know I am, but for once, I don’t care.
For once, this day is going to be about us. The next day we’ll go back to being tiny fish in a very big pond, but on that day, our big day, it’s going to be all about us.
And as for the swans? Well, you gotta have swans, right?