Tag Archives: Dublin

“Few things alienate friendship than a want of punctuality” William Hazlitt

Boxing Day, Kildare, Ireland. Our frosty breath is visible in the cold as Lisa parks the car and we walk towards Murphy’s Lounge, the pub where we’re meeting her friend for lunch. As we approach we see that it’s closed.

Lisa: Oh bugger. We’re going to have a wait ahead of us. Niamh’s a late person.
Me (nodding in understanding): Ah. Right. What time does she think we’re meeting?
Lisa: Well I knew we’d –and I mean you and me – would want to meet at 1:00, so I told her 12:30.

I look at my watch. It’s 12:50. Lisa and I have a few friends who are “late people” and we’ve put in place systems to make it a little easier to manage them. We tell them we’re meeting half an hour earlier than the actual meeting time, knowing they’ll arrive around half an hour late. We also meet at a place where we can sit indoors. Before our system we’d accumulated many hours standing uncomfortably in the searing heat, or the biting cold. Though it’s often requested, we never arrange to meet standing outside a shop; that’s a guaranteed recipe for physical discomfort and a school-boy error. Unfortunately today the closed pub has thwarted us.

Without speaking we turn and walk back to the car where we can sit and be spared the glacial wind. Ireland’s a tough place in the winter.

We put the radio on and chat when Lisa’s phone beeps with a text. It’s 1:10pm. We both laugh.

Lisa (rolling her eyes and smiling): Here we go. I’m guessing it’ll say “Sorry, running late! Be there soon!”
Me: No, I’m going with “Running late. On my way!”

We read it. “Sorry, running 10 minutes late. On my way!”

Yep. We’ve read a lot of these messages over the years and they’re always minor variations on the same theme.

Lisa replies “No problem, see you soon”. Our replies are also minor variations on the same theme: “We’re perfectly happy to spend our time waiting for you because we didn’t have anything we needed to do before heading out to meet you – your time is obviously more valuable than ours, so don’t you go rushing yourself on our account …”

At 1:25 we see Niamh pull up, park her car and walk towards the pub. We exit our car, greet her and Lisa introduces me.

Niamh: I’m so sorry I’m late, it’s impossible to be on time when you have children!
Lisa (smiling warmly): Yeah, it’s hard. There’s always something they need at the last minute.

I don’t have to look at her to know what she’s thinking. She’d risen an hour earlier this morning to make sure she’d clothed, fed and organised her two young children so we’d be here on time. Niamh clearly hadn’t made equal arrangements and doesn’t recognise the inconsistency.

With the pub being closed we walk to a nearby café for lunch. Niamh’s lovely and we enjoy chatting about her Christmas family celebrations – complete with venting niggles that go hand-in-hand with family get-togethers. After an hour Niamh and Lisa exchange gifts. Lisa opens her present and I make sure I keep my eyes glued on the item rather than Niamh or Lisa. My face will give away my amusement and I’m also in danger of giggling inappropriately; Niamh’s gift to Lisa is a watch.

Afterword

Back at Lisa’s house we chuckled about Niamh’s ironic gift. Lisa reminded me of the Billy Joel concert we attended in 2006 (yes, Billy Joel – I’ve never claimed to be cool) at Croke Park, Dublin. The concert had commenced when some people arrived very late. As they shuffled leisurely to their seats, disrupting the audience around them, Billy Joel stopped speaking. Smiling and good-naturedly pulling up his sleeve, he looked at his watch, making a joke of the situation “Nice of you to join us … we’ll just wait for you to get comfortable and we’ll continue”. The pause in the concert while thousands of people all watched the latecomers was only made bearable by the collective laughter.

The rudeness of tardiness clearly bothers people from all walks of life and when it comes to punctuality I sit firmly in Billy Joel’s camp; timeliness is next to godliness.

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I will not be found dead in my flat with cats eating my face

Sunday night, my freezing and tiny flat, West London.  I switch on my laptop to watch a movie before going to bed: a fairly regular routine for me to welcome the working week.  Netflix announces a specific “recommendation for you, Simone” and I glimpse at it without too much thought. I take these recommendations with a pinch of salt.  They’re usually popular movies and often not worth a second glance, but today I’ve been recommended a documentary which is rare.  I decide to click on the information button to find out more.  I read the summary with shock and a slight sinking feeling. “Dreams of a life” tells the “strange story of Joyce Vincent, a 38 year-old woman whose body was found in her tiny flat three years after she died.”  I am 35.  If I died now, my body could be that of a 38-year-old woman found in her tiny flat in three years*.  With slight discomfort and anxiety, I press play.

I expect an American story so I’m startled by the opening close-up of a map of my area.  I know every street staring at me.   The map is replaced by shot-after-shot of Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherd’s Bush.  I’d been there just two hours ago.   Ugh, this is making me feel very uncomfortable.  But I’m sure that Joyce Vincent is an outcast or a misfit, she’ll have been weird and dysfunctional … not “normal” and nothing like me, that’s for sure.   I keep watching.

Joyce Vincent was well-spoken, middle-class, very attractive, friendly, had a good career, people liked her.  I cringe.  Joyce Vincent was far better than me.  Her death, and the reason she wasn’t discovered is a mystery.  How she went from an engaging and social human being to an undiscovered missing person is inexplicable.  Her skeleton was found on her sofa and the TV was still on after three years (I look guiltily at my TV glowing in the corner …).  No one knows how she died and her family hasn’t commented on why they weren’t in contact.

I feel the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is staring me in the face.

My friends and family are aware of my hermit tendencies.  My workplace shuts down over the festive period and a few Christmases ago, when it came time to return to work in the New Year, I realised that I’d not seen or spoken to a real-life person in thirteen days.  It hadn’t even dawned on me that I’d not interacted with a flesh-and-blood human until I arrived at work.  When I enter my cave I can be reluctant to emerge unless absolutely necessary.

This year I have a choice to make for Christmas; I can stay on my own in my flat, or I can visit my friend and her family in Ireland.  For weeks I’ve been stalling on a decision, but the moment has come.  I close netflix.com and open aerlingus.com.  Ten minutes later my flights to Dublin are booked.  I will NOT be Joyce Vincent.

And Netflix, you can keep your judgemental recommendations to yourself!

Afterword

I really didn’t appreciate one woman in the programme vehemently saying “It’s bad enough reaching 40, let alone being forty and alone.  Awful. Shocking.” Not all of us are lucky enough to be happily paired up and that doesn’t make us depressed lepers, thanks very much.

*I realise that I’d be a 35-year-old body in three years rather than 38, but you get my point.