February 25th, 2009


Snow, Rat Shelves and False Light

Though much of my life is confined at this point to cutting down my second book to non-ridiculous and appalling size, I did recently have two brilliant sources of entertainment. To wit, guests from London.

First came my friend Ki, who is blonde and bubbly and one of the few people in the world who loves books and the theatre as much as I do. I did the usual thing with her, took her around Dublin and told her shocking lies like 'Dublin was named after a drink. The famous 'Black Pool' cocktail of the Vikings.'

Then we went happily into a Georgian house, restored to look as it would have done in those times. It also had a creepy old lady voice narrating the history of Georgian Dublin, presumably for laughs when the creepy old lady voice started up and certain people in the tour, for instance, screamed at the top of their voices and hid under their coat.

We were brought down to Ye Olde Pantry.

OLD LADY VOICE: And here the food was kept, on these shelves. Note also the big shelf hanging from the ceiling by a stout chain.
KI: Okay.
OLD LADY VOICE: This is called the rat shelf. As the room was below street level, the walls right here, which for example the screaming girl might be leaning against, would have been crawling with rats.
SARAH: screams more
OLD LADY VOICE: So to keep certain foods safe, they would be placed on the rat shelf, where the black squirming rats crawling all over the walls could not get to them.
SARAH: Ki. Ki. Ki!
KI: Yes, dear?
KI: Well I can't actually desecrate the historical home by boosting you up to a shelf that may not actually hold your weight...
OLD LADY VOICE: And now up the stairs we go, admire the fine period wainscoting!
SARAH: Rat shelf... I'll be safe there...
KI (some time later at a cafe): Are you still thinking about the-?
SARAH: Must build rat shelf in the Cherry Bomb. Rat shelf.

It's a concern. When the rats come for us all, do you have a rat shelf?

After Ki left, having read and talked with me of about one thousand million books, Penelope came to stay, she of the many cigarettes and unflappable cool. We went to see St Valentine's heart, where we were most sad to learn that it was kept in a box and we weren't allowed to see it, and the church attendants were most sad to learn that girls these days were so ghoulish and unladylike.

IRELAND: was bitterly, bitterly cold
PENELOPE: Is it always this cold in your vile country?
SARAH (wails): I feel like tiny ice leprechauns are crawling up my legs!
PENELOPE: ... It would be nice if sometimes you answered 'yes' and 'no' to questions.

IRELAND: is covered in snow
PLANES: refuse to take off
PENELOPE: Are the planes in this country made of sugar?
SARAH: Yes, it is very vexing. I am very vexed that I must keep you forever and ever for my entertainment. Come, let us go to the bakery around the corner, that I occasionally, rarely, every now and then frequent.
BAKERY LADY: Oh look, it's the Yellow Icing Maniac.
SARAH: ... They must be thinking of someone else.
PENELOPE: I don't know, you look like a yellow icing maniac to me.

While the snow was falling, I went down by the canal and tootled about, watching the awkward teenage swans sulk about in the water and getting snowflakes stuck in my eyelashes and watching the whole expanse of slanted city roofs and bare city trees turn cool and pale.

Then Penelope left, and of course things started to go terribly wrong. I was out at work and missed a package, and so went on a quest for our new neighbourhood post office.

Going on a quest when you have all the navigational skills of a confused parsnip, as Tolkien would have remarked if he'd thought of it, is a bad idea. It was snowing. I very quickly became bewildered. Then distraught. Then I ducked into a church for sanctuary.

DAD (on the phone): I was driving by your place at lunchtime, and thought I might drop off-
DAD: Okay, Sarah, I can't seem to find you. I can't see a church.
SARAH: It's an enormous church! People keep coming in and out of it! It must be a very, very popular and well-known place of worship!
DAD: ... Sarah, are you referring to the very popular and well-known lamp shop-
DAD: Which is located in a converted church.
SARAH: Maybe.
DAD: Sarah, did you not notice the big neon sign outside? It says 'Light Up Your Life.'
SARAH: ... I thought they were referring to the Light of the Lord, okay?