It’s weird isn’t it, the things that can catch you unawares and upset your balance. Last week it was a surfeit of sausages which caught me off-guard. I’d been down seeing the writer Donal Ryan as part of the Out to Lunch Festival, at which one is treated to a light bite while enjoying literary stimulation. A fine raconteur is Donal Ryan, though I have yet to forgive him for penning ‘The Thing About December’ and the character Johnsey, a good and innocent sort of a cratur who remains lodged in my heart. I still get teary when I think about him despite reading the book some time ago.
Anyway, I spied a rake of sausages languishing in a tray at the end, and asked a kindly woman if I could take some home for the dog. She told me to take as many as I liked, so I wrapped some up in foil and told her the dog would be delighted.
And delighted she was too, with her tasty morsel, but the cats looked on in disgust, so I had to plate some up for them as well, in appropriate cat-sized chunks. Slovenly creature that I am though, I left them on the counter while I scarpered upstairs, having done a yoga class prior to the reading, and it, coupled with my heightened emotional state hearing about wee Johnsey again, that I needed a lie down.
MUM! I heard the Older Child yell, rousing me from my slumber.
Down I came to find her filled with opprobrium. ‘I came into the kitchen and stood on a sausage,’ she said indignantly, ‘and I was pulling it off my sock when the dog came in, and ATE IT.’
As she puffed out her cheeks in a show of wanting to vomit, I spied remnants of foil on the floor and surmised that an opportunistic cat had deemed her portion of sausage inadequate, and taken matters into her own paws by helping herself. Later we found more sausage under a chair, which suggested the cat had batted what was left around the floor. (We don’t usually just leave half-eaten pork products on the carpet. Honestly.)
This sausage business reminded me of sitting in ‘We Are Vertigo’ in November after the bastard transfer tests, chatting with other mums about the kids growing up so fast and how soft play areas would soon be a distant memory. ‘Phew,’ I said, ‘ghastly places.’
‘It’s the smell of sweat mingled with disinfectant that turns me,’ opined one mum, wrinkling her nose. (Cue vigorous nodding from the rest of us.) ‘And there’s always a child with half a chicken nugget stuck to their sock,’ said another. But then we went quiet, thinking how we’d miss seeing our children this way; faces red from the exertion of swinging and sliding and climbing out of the ball-pit before the kid who looks old enough to buy a carry-out lands on their head as he flies off the freefall.
And I thought again of this on Saturday, when the Older Child and I walked the dog. My quads were burning from a run, and I was clad in baggy track bottoms and a puffy jacket. It didn’t make for a flattering silhouette. Impatient, she strode ahead, legs long and lean in leggings, while I shuffled behind, tugging the dog as she stopped to sniff every flipping lamp-post.
And I know the Child’s only twelve, but the image seemed to echo the future and Heaney’s words from Follower popped into my head: ‘But today/It is my father who keeps stumbling/ Behind me, and will not go away.’
Never mind The Thing About December, January does it to me every time; the reality of life too keenly felt after the froufrou of Christmas, and I turn to introspection and self-scrutiny. And all this prompted by a sausage.