This time last week I was sat outside in a sea-food restaurant in Mullaghmore*. It was 25° and felt like Magaluf, with about the same number of crimson faced Irish people. Today, I have taken to my bed, having been beset by a severe head-cold, while rain thunders against the window. The sky is a sodden grey and is almost as heavy and oppressive as my mood. Very doleful am I, and I’m feeling very cross at myself for daring to think last week that it might have been ‘too hot.’ I decide to compound my misery by thinking back to my holidays when it wasn’t pissing out of the heavens and I was indulging all my seafood cravings in Galway.
‘Oh wow, they’re so cute! I can’t believe your kids eat sushi!’
We are sitting in Tomo Dachi, an airy sushi restaurant we’ve found on the corner of Shop Street in Galway. The kids are wielding their chopsticks like pros, since a dinky Japanese waitress wearing a skater skirt and red DMs has brought them each a pair with a rubber panda at the top, making them easier for little hands to manage.
Looking on in awe is a six foot blond girl, from Holland. ‘Our nieces would NEVER eat that, would they?’ she asks her husband and he shakes his head. He is from Kerry. His nieces eat sausages and chips and oddly, he adds, beetroot.
Our pair are oblivious to the stir they are causing, hoovering up salmon nigiri and cucumber maki, and the Older One is even having a go at my pork gyoza. I reluctantly hand over a piece of California roll with mango, asparagus and avocado. They are so busy eating they can barely speak. When they aren’t speaking, they’re not complaining, which is bliss. There has been a lot of complaining so far today, from the inevitable ‘Are we there yet?’ (No, we’re still on the M1) to ‘I’m too hot!’ (It’s called summer) ‘Do we HAVE to walk?’(It’s round the FRIGGING CORNER!) and ‘She called me POO FACE!’ (Ah fuck it, I have nothing left to give).
It is very hard, when you’ve driven all the way from Belfast to Galway and stopped off in the world’s worst town (yes Mullingar, that title belongs to you, and digging up the centre didn’t help), NOT to tell your children to shut the eff up, but nice middle class parents don’t do that apparently. There has been much gritting of teeth and fantasising about chilled bottles of sauvignon blanc, rendering this moment in the restaurant when a stunner from Holland tells you your kids are brilliant, a pleasing one indeed.
Yes, my children do eat sushi. It’s expensive, and they are fans of quite a lot of expensive things, (like their mother, sighs LSB ruefully). But you have heard me lament many times about the nightmare that is feeding them. I keep them alive on pizza and chicken nuggets and chips and bowl upon bowl of pasta with ketchup. It is a source of great shame to me, that hey are such dreadful eaters. The bribing and the shouting and the pleading that has to go on, just to get them to eat a vegetable. I’ve been known to down a gin and tonic faster than Shane Magowan just to get through the ordeal that is dinner.
But tonight they are gastronomic trailblazers, from the North, with their cosmopolitan habits. Will I disabuse the Dutch girl of the notion that my kids are marvellous? I decide not. ‘They’re just great,’ I say, and she gives them a Milky Bar Wafer from her handbag.
LSB is three pints down and offering our new friends slices of Beef Teriaki off his plate. ‘Never mind her: the blond beside you will eat the beef Teriaki!’ I hiss under my breath, since the kids have demolished half of my daily special. ‘Just trying to be friendly,’ he says. He’s a laugh, my LSB.
The staff come along and take a picture of the kids with a polaroid which they put on the wall, and give them each a lolly. ‘They are soooo cute,’ they gush, to which they smile beatifically and say ‘thank you’ without being prompted.
I come to the conclusion that my children can really be quite agreeable, provided that they’re getting exactly what they want, when they want it. Bit like myself, when I think about it.
*The restaurant is called Eithne’s Place and it has rave reviews on Trip Advisor. However, who in the name of all that is good can afford to pay 60€ for a lobster? Thankfully there were other options available for those of us who aren’t minted, and they catered well for the children. They also served gorgeous wine by the glass which was just as well as the service was appalling and we aged about three years waiting for our order, while wilting in the heat like a plate of boiled spinach. I said to girl, ‘I expect this is the busiest day you’ve had all year,’ to which she replied, ‘No, it’s always like this in the summer.’ It perhaps wouldn’t be an outrageous suggestion to hire some extra staff, I thought to myself, but resisted saying to her. She had enough to do, without listening to an irate SWB.