Summer seems to have arrived in Galway. Everything is green and lush and it’s much too hot for anyone in their right mind to go for a walk from about 11.00am (only because we’re not used to it, it’s probably chilly by some people’s standards). My girl Liv (15) lies on the lawn and we listen to Stromae banging out the tunes, a kind of Belgian and Rwandan blend that we love. I find that drawing with a skinny nib (Platinum carbon pen) and brown ink gives me the confidence to scribble away with lines until I find the one I like. Liv is tall, slim and willowy and I may have made her a bit sturdier than she is, although that’s just what’s required for the top-class dinghy sailor she is.
Hard to believe we are still in semi-lockdown. We can’t travel further than 5km except for work, so I go to the nearby rocky shore with Paddy (18) and Liv, and I have a super swim off the rocky pier. The water is transparent and greeny-blue and I cannot tell you whether it is cold, because I am wearing a wet suit, which the teenagers try to shame me over. “Sorry Paddy,” I say, “I am a sin verguenza” – Paddy is learning Spanish and it’s a phrase I think he will enjoy. It means I cannot be made to feel ashamed. They give up and I enjoy the layer of neoprene, and we’re all happy. As I scramble up the precarious tumble of black rocks that lines the pier wall after each dip, I try to banish thoughts of moray eels living in the gaps. This is ridiculous, as the water empties completely at low tide and any eels would perish in minutes; besides, we don’t have any morays in Ireland.
Afterwards, I ask the kids if they will chill on the shore long enough for me to do a quick sketch. They complain a bit but are soon paddling and playing with the dog. I love kids. Poor Reuben is obsessed with stones, and they come second only to his yellow rubber ring in things he loves to go mental over. He bites rocks, growls, cries, yowls, and it’s absurd. We don’t allow it, ever since we heard of a guy whose Jack Russell wore her teeth down to stubs by rock-biting. Nonetheless, he stares intently into the water in the hope that he can vibe Paddy into throwing one for him. Reuben should know by now that Paddy is completely immovable. I like the way I caught his little white, fluffy body, slightly spiky around the edges with damp.
Reuben’s yellow rubber ring, the Number One toy, is starting to break down. It has a deep fissure on the edge, but it is incredible that is has lasted as long as it has. Reuben opened it on Christmas Day, unwrapping it himself, and has not stopped playing with it since. “I’ll order another one,” I say to Marcel, my husband, “and I’ll wrap it up – he’d like that.” “No!” says Marcel, “you can’t wrap it up!” “Why not?” I ask. “That will add to the pleasure for him.” “But it’ll ruin Christmas,” says Marcel. “Nonsense!” I say. “He doesn’t know it’s May!” “I mean for us,” says Marcel. I tell him I won’t use Christmas paper. I think this is funny, and tell Paddy. “You can’t ruin Christmas!” he says. “We live in a madhouse,” says Liv.
Looks like I won’t get to Dublin in time to finish my book, as my publisher tells me it has to be done by the end of June to make publication this year. All I need is a week of sketching outdoors to get the last sketches in the bag, but I won’t get it, due to travel restrictions (and Guards). I feel disappointed by this, but on the other hand I have entered an intense period of artistic growth. I feel as if scales have fallen from my eyes. Yes, I have stepped off the hamster wheel, and stay home all the time, but it’s more than that. I feel as if at last, at long, long last, I am living in the now, in every moment, with no sense of hurry or urgency.
It is not the lockdown that others have had, and I am grateful.