10 Mar 2019

I was awakened this morning by the lashing down of bullet-sized raindrops and sideways gusts of gale force winds rattling at our bedroom window. As usual, Richard was dutifully up and at the farm since 6am, despite it being a Sunday morning begging to be embraced by cosy turf fires, fresh scones, wooly slippers, books, papers and play. 

I stretch, yawn, and walk downstairs to the kitchen followed loyally by our four-legged furry girls nipping at my heels bursting to go outside for a loo break and a sniff around the garden.

In the kitchen, I ask Alexa to start my day. She replies in her robotic British tone with a funny joke about Chuck Norris and begins the play the American news from Reuters, plus a recap of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, followed by the local weather and then any “SHeduled” appointments in my “diary” of which there are none.

It’s 8am and I make myself a cup of coffee. Despite having had a full barista style Italian coffee bar installed when we built this house, I can’t use it without flooding the place so instant Starbucks (no apologies), or if I am feeling like a hipster, a pour-over locally roasted brew, it is. I stand over our Belfast sink waiting for the electric kettle to boil, and stare out the window at the back garden, pondering whether or not to plant that wildflower meadow this year or not because if I do want to then I’d better do something about it now. Out the of corner of my eye, I notice the gate leading to the back patio and how rusted and chipped it is, it clearly needs a new lick of paint, and in that case, well, everything on the back patio needs a new lick of paint doesn’t it? Fennel, roses, bay, and borage are thriving together in the raised bed that I built into the centre of the terrace, and I decide that this will be THE year that I plant my completely edible terrace that I dreamed up last summer. The kettle clicks and it’s back to reality. 

I light the fire, let the dogs in and then sip coffee while flicking through the treat of a copy of the Financial Times that I scored when I went to town yesterday. The Financial Times replaced my beloved Sunday NY Times when I moved here, and despite the fact that it comes out on a Saturday, I only ever read it on Sundays, and only the Sundays when I have an excuse to go all the way to the city on the weekend. 

When it’s time to think about breakfast, I open the fridge and take out a package of Meer’s black pudding, 4 smoked streaky rashers left from the previous Sunday fry, a vine ripened tomato grown in an Irish hothouse, and the last handful of mushrooms leftover from a pizza night. I set the whole lot down on my desperately dull Carrera marble countertop and then take 6 eggs from the basket and crack them into a big glass measuring bowl, along with a glug of raw farm milk, salt, pepper and a shimmy of curry powder before whisking it all into a speckled frothy blend. The bread box has a few cuts of brown soda bread and the butter dish has leftover churned butter from my food styling workshop earlier in the week, #FTW.

As I slice the bar of black pudding into thick squares, I wonder how anyone can eat this crusty cake made from pig’s blood. On my first tasting, the morning of my premier visit to Ireland, I likened it to eating a scab and to this day I can’t bear the idea of even a morsel of pudding hitting my tongue. (Pssst. Don’t tell anyone that. It wouldn’t be prudent to be a food writer and simultaneously not love black pudding) Since puddings are a revered staple in this household, I make a fist of it and prepare it quite often (true love and all that jazz.)

I stand at the stove frying, flipping, stirring, sauteéing, while slowly slurping my coffee and listening to Claude Debussy Claire de Lune perhaps too loudly over the Sonos speaker set up in the living room which lies just beyond the kitchen and dining room. Our open floor plan/somewhat minimalist decor essentially lends itself to concert hall acoustics so music sounds quite powerful in this space, but can also feel a bit empty.  

A teardrop wells up in my right eye, and lingers just on the edge of my lower lid. The smoke alarm goes off randomly. I jump, turn down the gas burner, and carry on cooking. Eventually, the ringing stops. And, Debussy fades back in.

The table is just set when Richard’s farm jeep (Not the Jeep brand, everything that is not a car or lorry is considered a “jeep” in Ireland) pulls up. He comes in, kisses my cheek, and sits down. I bring over steaming hot plates of full Irish breakfasts and we tuck in together. In between bites, we discuss how many calves were born overnight and who showed up to work at the farm this morning. When we finish, I show him my latest sketch and new samples of Irish wool to go with it. We both look at the clock and say frightfully in unison, “Geoffrey should be finishing his breakfast about now too” and check our mobile phones for any missed calls.  The only thing I see is the wallpaper image of Geoffrey on a recent mommy and son trip we took to West Cork. 

Richard and I seem too young to be empty nesters. But, empty nesters we are, as our only son now attends secondary (middle school-high school) boarding school, a concept totally foreign (to me) yet embraced by us all since September last. 

This is the first in (hopefully) a series of posts that I am writing as we begin an unfamiliar chapter, this time I am looking at life through yet another lens, paying homage to my history here in the Irish countryside and discovering where this path will take us now…

Could get bumpy. And, most definitely emotional. But, is there ever any other way?

Slan Abhaile,


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12 Responses to “Awakenings.”

  1. Norman says:

    I found my way here via a Twitter post from CappuccinosWexford, and I’m just blown away by your writing. After orienting myself during your first few sentences, I found myself carried along joyously. You make it look easy. I know it’s not. Hoping to read more soon!

  2. Jennifer Oppermann says:

    Gorgeous melancholy narrative. It definitely has resonated with me as I know at some stage in the not so distant future my three teenage girls will leave home and I too shall be an “empty nester”
    I’ll definitely delve in to your archives for further reading.
    Thank you

  3. Jamie Earles says:

    You have made both of “your boys” world so loving
    and special and your sons time away will help
    establish a firm foundation for the future. Truly enjoyed reading your short story, Imen! Love, Jamie

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I’ve missed these posts. What a lovely read they are!!! Please consider doing more of them.
    Wishing you the best!!

  5. Deb Piepho says:

    I felt like I was there with you in the kitchen. Beautiful poignant emotional writing.

  6. Patty Barnett says:

    What a wild journey you are on!

  7. Lovely to read from you again Imen. Know the empty nester feeling, it does get easier after a while but I still find myself in the shop thinking I should cook that for Jasper he would love it. Then I shrug my head and shoulders and think I guess I’ll cook it for myself.

  8. A new chapter, Imen. Lovely to have you back writing. Cx

  9. Siobhan says:

    Hanging on every word..could we have a Sunday morning weekly recap post from you do you think? You are a wonderful writer.

  10. Cindy Doe says:

    Wonderful writing. I’m there with you. or wishing I was. You paint an envious picture Imen.

  11. Nina Hunt says:

    Wonderful… making me long for Ireland! I might just book a fly for April.
    FYI live your cookbook!

  12. Francescribbinmurphy says:

    Lovely piece and well written . My boys went to Boardimg school too I found it very hard…lonely , but I felt it was best for them to go . They came back for 5/6th to the Tutorial in Limerick and I was delighted to have them home

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