Open House or Scenes from Village Life

Often people look at me with unhidden astonishment. „Read On“, they say is the countryside not an awful boring place to live in? Especially on the weekends. No theater, no movies, no places to have a good dinner. It truly is a desert you are living in.     ( Even if it is quite a wet one, because this nevertheless is Ireland. They obviously imagine my existence as a silent and undisturbed one, seeing me doing not much more than reading a long, old book and drinking too much tea. I have to confess this was my plan as well when I decided to move to a tiny Irish village. I saw me with a cat on my lap, sitting in an old armchair and looking out of the window all day long. Reality overruled my plans in a nanosecond. The cat I inherited with the house has no ambitions to purr on my lap at all. Queen Cat just conquered the old armchair and dozes off happily and she would never, ever not in this or in the next two lives intend to give this place up for me looking out of the window. I leant this quite quickly. But now after two years of village life I just start laughing hysterically at the thought of leading an undisturbed existence, being all on my own and doing nothing more than reading long books. An ordinary Sunday in the village for example looks like this.Very early and always way too early Queen Cat jumps forcefully on my belly. Humble servant I am, I feed her and she jumps on the armchair to call the day a day. I go for run ( Going for a run, sounds better than to confess that I am just walking doesn’t it?), the sea is half a kilometer away, it is not even 7 AM but the neighbor from across the street is already up and waves to me, Read On, he shouts: „How are you doing?““Just fine neighbor-from-across-the-street „I am shouting back, but I am not getting away that easily. He comes closer and tells me all about his despised daughter-in-law, who is from Bristol and when came over to visit him last May was neither able nor willing to peel asparagus and wanted to convince him of buying pre-cooked potatoes. The neighbor- across- the- street tells me this story every Sunday morning. He is 94 years old and still quite a charmer: „Girl he always says, if I only were younger I would drag you into the church and marry your ass off.“ I have to confess I am bit flattered and finally manage to walk down the street to the seaside. There the men from the sailing club are getting the boats ready and of course I have to stop to admire the boats and comment on the weather: “ No, not too bad at all.“ When coming back from my walk I have talked with three more people and enter the shop of the grocer’s wife, who before she even thinks of handing over the best raspberry scones in the world to me, gives me un update of what happened during the week, this includes all intimate details of all of those living in the tiny village of ours. Sometimes when neighbors look quite strange at me I am sure the grocer’s wife has just revealed a dark secret I probably don’t even know I was hiding. But as long as the grocer’s wife knows everything it is just fine. When I come back to my place I find a bunch of sweet scenting roses on my doorstep, they are from the neighbor-across-the-street, who does so on every single Sunday. ( In return he receives a piece of cake every Sunday). Then, you might think I escaped all social life the village has to offer, but you couldn’t be any more wrong. In the very moment I am about to fall down on my sofa ( the armchair of course occupied ) wearing track pants and an old Batman t-shirt, eagerly waiting to get lost in Orhan Pamuk’s wonderful, dizzling, dazzling novel „A Strangeness in my Mind.It bangs loud against my door. It is the grocer’s wife. The grocer’s wife accompanied by a young man with a sheepish look. The grocer’s wife takes in lodgers, most often groups of students from all over the world, who want to improve their English and tend to get drunk, unfortunately very often right in front of my house, meaning they are hanging over the fence vomiting into the garden. This young gentlemen from Spain, has missed the bus that should take him and his fellow students back to town and to the airport. As it turns out the English of the young man is non-existing and the grocer’s wife decided to hand over the problem to me because: „you know languages, Read On“. That the languages I speak do not include Spanish does not irritate the grocer’s wife for a minute. „You’ll get along“, she says, slaps the young man on the back and hurries back to the shop. It tuns out that the young man only knows Spanish and it turns out that I only know the first few lines of „Feliz Navidad“ in Spanish. After one hour of distress and endless phone calls ( the group did not even recognize someone was missing ) the bus could be located and the grocer’s wife husband hurries down with the young man to catch the bus. The grocer’s wife bangs against the door again to embrace me with one of her rib-cracking hugs and again I look longingly in the direction of the book and the sofa. Then I remember that today is Sunday. On Sundays the priest comes for lunch. ( How this happened to become an institution is another story I wouldn’t dare to bore you with.) I storm into the kitchen and work against the clock, which in this case is the church clock. The priest comes and brings two bags full of quinces and apples and we sit down. The priest is a most entertaining person. He makes me laugh tears when he recalls his times in Rome and his return to a tiny Irish village quite similar to our small place, he most politely praises whatever I cook and he is wonderful to argue with, because he never beats his chest. After lunch we play a game of chess. I always lose. Then the priest returns to his parsonage and I again look into the direction of the couch. But before I can even formulate: „Couch, now“ it bangs against the door. The neighbor from the house next to my door on the opposite of the road looks at me and I sigh. Twenty minutes later I play hide and seek with two toddlers and bribe them with chocolate cookies, convincing them not to pour water over Queen Cat to wake her up. A few hours later, the toddler’s leave and I very convincingly swear to their mother that they ate plenty of fruits. Chocolate is kind of fruit as well, isn’t it? By now it is 5 PM, Couch for the rescue I think and finally fall down following Mevlut, the seller of boza and yogurt through the narrow lanes and wide alleys of Istanbul. After not even twenty minutes of blissful reading it bangs against the door again. I sigh and roll over to open the door. It is the vet. The vet looks wrecked. He stumbles in, shushes Queen Cat ( I would never dare) falls down on the armchair, Queen Cat jumps on his lap and dozes off again. Long day, I ask and the vet sighs deep and nods:“awful.““Hungry I say, and he just nods“ In a remarkably short time, he wolfes down the leftover chicken from lunch and finishes all my cheese. „I owe you, he mumbles before he snores unisono with Queen Cat.“ But I know in reality it means: I own you. This whole village does. Then I finally return to the couch.

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