My mother and I emerged from the parents’ house on Sunday morning to go to mass. It was pouring rain which made the fact that some yobs had walked on the roof of my parents’ car and put a dent in it which created a large gap between the roof and the sun roof that little bit more annoying. Somewhat to my surprise, the guards came when we called them and said that they had arrested a mob which was rampaging around the area. This is the second time that I have seen the guards on a trip home. I am beginning to think that my parents live in a more dangerous part of town than I had realised.
At mass, the priest gave a sermon about divorce. Divorce was only introduced in Ireland in 1995 and we’re all still getting used to it. Some of us more quickly than others, it appears. The divorce rate is 33% the priest told us. He said that in his 20 years as a priest he had only seen unhappiness and misery when people split up. So far, so catholic. And a marriage is for life. Continuing catholic. Even though this is the case and he knows that there will be people who disagree with him, he believes that people should be allowed to have their second union blessed by a priest in a church. I nearly fell out of my pew. Doubtless his defrocking papers are in the post. We also prayed for people who had died during the week including a man who would have had his birthday next week. I think we were all expecting the priest to say his 100th birthday but he said “his 21st birthday”. He died in a traffic accident last week and he was lying in the side chapel.
After mass, we repaired to the scout hall where they were having a book sale. It was a great book sale. Lots of old Nevil Shutes and Dorothy L. Sayers and theology primers (“An Introduction to the new Mass”). We ran into my favourite aunt who told us that she had brought four boxes to the sale and was busy buying more back. I bought some myself. My father once said to me “books are the ruination of this house”. I was appalled but I am beginning to see what he means. My parents’ house is falling down with books – I am reminded of the C.S. Lewis quote where he describes himself as follows: I am the product … of endless books. There were books in the study, books in the drawing-room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents’ interests, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not”. When I was a teenager, my father was always tying up piles of books with string to go to the Oxfam shop and I would unpick the knots and take out any I considered worthy of saving. Now I see that he was right. Our own flat in Brussels is chock full of books. I am reluctant to get rid of most of them. There are the ones I will read again. There are the ones that I may read again. There are the ones that I read with great difficulty over many weeks or possibly even months which I am reluctant to remove from the shelves because, if people are to judge me by my books, I would, hypocritically, rather that they judged me by these rather than my set of Georgette Heyers (which definitely fall into the first category along with Terry Pratchett, the Narnia books and Cold Comfort Farm). And then there are the ones I am going to read. Yes, really, when I get a moment.
Book sale notwithstanding, probably my best moment all weekend came when I bought cake at the French cake shop with my mother. We’ll have a mille feuille, I said and the French woman behind the counter said “you pronounce that really well”. My heart swelled with pride, it nearly made up for the time my husband and a French waiter fell about the place laughing at my pronounciation of this most difficult collection of French vowels. Mind you, every one in Cork says milly filly so the competition isn’t exactly fierce.