Hairline Fractures and Flying Debris

The past three days have been eventful. On Saturday, my brother fell fifteen feet out of a tree and broke his back. Yesterday, a piece flew off the roof of my rented home and damaged a neighbour’s car. While storm Ophelia raged outside, my grandfather’s cousin passed away peacefully surrounded by his family.

Outside of my tiny sphere of experience, three people lost their lives because of Ophelia and many more people are assessing damage of property and vehicles and trees and roads and waiting for the electricity to come back on (it could take up to ten days for some).

In the wake of tragedy and deliberate evil, I often hear the question, “Where was God when…?” “Where was God when that tree fell on Clare O’Neill’s car?” “Where was God when Stephen Paddock starting shooting?” I think these are perfectly valid questions, I ask them too. It’s very rarely I hear the reverse though. Continue reading


Dear Coffee

It’s nothing personal, I’m just done- it’s over.

I know everyone is going to to think I’m crazy breaking up with you- you’re as close to perfect as they get. You are idolised the world over from hipster haunts to fast food basics to the jar of instant in Mum’s cupboard. People cling to you in the mornings as if their lives depended on you (and they would swear they do). Endless memes have been created to praise your name. You even have your own international day of recognition this Sunday. Your fans have raised the standard of living for farmers and suppliers across the world. They’ve also raised the standards of taste and consistency- even I can tell the difference between franchise and something special and smile a sigh of appreciation!

We’ve made some great memories over the years, you and me. From that first choice at college between the 80c cup of burnt filter coffee or the €2 luxurious-by-comparison machine latte. Friendships were forged and opinions aired over those cups, even more so when management banned Paula the canteen lady from letting us take hot water for free. (We protested by bringing in a kettle and the makings of Irish Coffee and drinking it on the sly but it only lasted a day or so)

I even worked with you for a while. 6:30 early mornings sipping the first espressos of the day to make sure they were up to scratch (the second one always tasted less bitter after the shock of the first). The morning rush of remembering customers by order: two small americanos, small latte with half a shot, small cappuccino for here, large cappuccino (“really frothy”), cappuccino no chocolate, iced americano (even during winter). Three lattes per shift just to make it through- first with 3 sugars each before my body rebelled and reduced it to none (even now I can’t drink you with anything resembling sugar, even when you’re dark and bitter). I learned how to steam milk and create latte art: hearts and ferns and spiderwebs. That one guy would always try to interpret the ones that went wrong (the UPC symbol, half of batman).

You watched me stumble my way through London coffee culture in my own home- caught between the single espresso mokka-pot and the freshly ground Monmouth (I taught the latter to steam milk and he ended up doing it better than I ever did). I didn’t realise what all the fuss was about until I realised how awful coffee was treated in Ireland by comparison.

You watched me grow up. You saw me divert from the old-faithful-latte when the occasion called for it: my first iced-latte when it was 40 degrees in Boston, espressos in Marseille strong enough to walk on, the after dinner cup of tea replaced by the single espresso with the little speculoos biscuit. Once was enough for bullet proof coffee.

Then last year, we broke it off for a while. Honestly I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, forty days is a long time. I’m not gonna lie, the first three days were hell. My head pounded and my body cried out for you. But then, like all transitions, it changed. changed. Mornings were actually easier without you. I woke up clear-headed and ready (this has never happened, mornings are my nemesis). I had more energy than I ever remember having.

It wasn’t a clear cut break though. As much as I loved my new-found freedom I missed that dark, milky texture that only you have (herbal tea doesn’t cut it, even breakfast tea with milk isn’t the same). I did the unthinkable (I can still see Cheryll’s face when I told her the first time).

I started drinking decaf.

“What about the chemicals?!”

“But the caffeine is the best part!”

I didn’t care. It tasted just enough like you to provide the comfort without any strings attached. I could still hold my reusable coffee cup in public and people would think that I was ok, that I was one of them. I think that’s one of the worst things actually, how many of my friendships and relationships revolve around you. “Wanna go for a coffee?” “Would you like to come over for coffee?” There is no escaping you and I’m starting to resent it. At first people thought it was cute when I gave you up, “Oh, that’s nice!” while secretly wondering how long it would last. Then they started looking at me like there was something wrong, “How on earth can you survive without it?!” I got tired of being singled out for trying to do what was best for me.

On day forty-one I had one cup. I couldn’t sleep that night.

It was fine for a while again, but recently the sleepless nights have been getting more frequent and I’m done. I could easily blame it on you, tell you that you’ve changed: you’ve become more sophisticated, more refined, that I can’t keep up with your new friends. Part of that would be true. You have changed. But I’ve changed too. I want different things. I want my sanity back. I want the days of my life to be punctuated by something other than coffee. I don’t know what else they could be punctuated with but the not-knowing kind of excites me. I know you’ll be ok. You have so many other admirers, people who understand and love your many nuances and shades and flavours far better than I ever did. I know you’ll be happy without me and I wish you all the best.

So there it is, I’ve said it.

I’m leaving you.

No longer yours,


How to Make French Onion Soup

In loving memory of Josetta Asha Koshy and Rosalie Heaney.

Chop onions until your eyes gush
Enough to flood the sting.
Chop, chop! As saline bleeds
Into milky juice leaking and
You no longer know where
Vegetable ends and you begin
(or is it you who’s ending?).

Chop one for the babe
Who will never get to taste it
(her heart lulled to a pause;
Mother weeps herself to sleep).
Chop one for the flesh
Eaten to death (in heaven
it’s the cancer that rots).

Heat the pan ’til the butter foams
And toss the onion in. Grind in the
Pepper and add in salt gingerly.
Adjust the heat (too much and it burns,
Too little and it stays raw and rigid).
Now wait. Resist the urge to rush-
Speed kills.

Sit with it. Don’t leave
It unattended: wait upon it.
Stir every so often. Wait some more.
(how long? is there such a thing as too long?)
Then (you don’t so much see it as know it)
The last of the stiffness melts
Away and the slices stop resisting
And meld together, surrendering to
The embrace of the base of the hot pan,
Constant and still. It happens so slowly
You hardly notice but somehow you know it:
It’s time.

Add garlic and sugar. Now you must
Stir and stir and stir to stop it all
Catching and turning bitter
(don’t grow weary, you’re not done yet).
Stir and watch and wait until
It all succumbs to sweetness.

They seem smaller after all
They’ve endured, those little
Golden crowns, yet their fragrance
Fills the whole room.

Add a dessertspoon of flour and
Mix, mix, mix, mix, mix
As it cooks for a minute
Before you add the stock.
Simmer for twenty minutes
(it’s all quite quick in the end)
And finally,

What I’m Giving Up For Lent

via Daily Prompt: Conquer

When the extension lead burnt out this morning so did something inside me.

Within five minutes I knew that the world could be made right again as long as I made sure that the water boiler for the tea wasn’t plugged into the same socket as the sound system next time, as long as I told each person how to hold the microphone correctly so that it wouldn’t make funny noises again, as long as I made sure that the contrast between the font and the background on the PowerPoint was high enough to read on the little projector screen, as long as each person knew exactly what to do and when, and we finished when we said we would, and nobody interrupted at any point to share some love or encouragement for the long, weary hours between now and next week.

“When everything lives up to my expectations all will be right with the world again”, I reasoned. (or at least right with my little part of the world) Continue reading