Tacky Light Run

Christmas lights

A typical Irish home on a Tacky Light Tour

One of the most rewarding aspects of  2013 was that Teen Girl joined me on weekly runs around town.

At a time in our lives when we don`t always see eye to eye, we at least share an interest in running. And I am glad of it.

Variety is the spice of running, especially for teens. They have a low boredom threshold at the best of times, so we use this time to explore a different part of town every time.

And we added a little extra element to that yesterday evening, by taking the Tacky Light Tour.

Yes, Christmas lights are still blazing here in Ireland. The Twelfth Day of Christmas is on January 6th, when the Three Wise Men reach their destination, so many people will keep their Christmas decorations up until then.

When the Teens were the Toddlers, few things thrilled them more than seeing Santas clinging perilously on chimneys, luminous Snowmen waving from gardens, and ropes of coloured lights blink furiously from gutters and downpipes.

Children flit easily between the worlds and reality and fantasy. And, I imagine, the frenzy of coloured lights and figures can still take Teen Girl back to that wonderful world.

Luckily, she is more than happy now, to do the tour on foot. And so we combined it with my Janathon Day Three  trot.

And trot we did, just for a one and half mile ramble around the town.  The pace was slow and easy, giving us ample opportunity to appraise the tacky lights.

Oh, I was tempted to whip out my iphone and take pics. Just for your further edification, you understand. But Teen Girl has a more finely honed sense of embarrassment than I. Bad enough to be running beside a totally uncool and seriously untrendy mother, but for said mother to be cheeky enough to take pics of other people`s homes. Well, that would be just too much.

And, besides, it would be a tad insincere of me. Tacky lights bother me. I plain don`t get why people would go to all that effort. Sure, the environmental aspect is a worry. There`s all that light pollution, the added burden on our collective carbon footprint and the sheer burden on the national grid.

But, mainly, it`s because I`m a cheapskate. I`d neither spend the money on the oversized ornaments, or want the electricity bill at the end of the season.

So why take pics if I am really mocking and judging?

I can enjoy in my girl`s delight, however. And I enjoyed the banter about the various decorations as we trotted around the town.

She loved the carolling dolls in an upstairs bedroom window. In plum velvet bonnets and gowns, each porcelain face was frozen in a singer`s “O” as they brought us back to Christmases past.

A favourite of mine was a very simple crib. Set inside the front window of an old cottage, it was simply lit with a red bulb and reminded me of  my childhood Christmases when decorations were low tech and Christmases were too.

But, despite my tacky light reservations- and partially because of them-I thoroughly enjoyed this Janathon run. Distracted by the lights, and enjoying the company and chat, I didn`t think about my time or form or what a lousy runner I am.

As we headed for the car, we were both startled by a life sized, waving Santa standing in a nearby garden. The house was in darkness making him seem a little more ominous in all his bulkiness. We laughed when we realised who he was.

We swiftly agreed that it was time for him to catch the next sleigh ride home.

Just as it`s almost time to leave this Christmas with the ghosts of Christmas Past.

Picture Credit: Journal.ie

How the Candy Cane Fairies Stopped My Advent Streak

Little ballerinas

Little ballerinas

The problem with the Advent running streak is that, well, it happens during Advent.

Advent, that time of craft fairs, cake sales and of course, the annual ballet show.

My regular reader will recall how fond I am of ballet. So fond, that even if Bogland Ireland couldn`t fulfil my childhood dream, I made damn sure Teen Girl did.

I highly recommend living through your children. I now have the greatest of pleasure seeing her en pointe and waving her arms about oh, so gracefully, exactly as I would do if I`d had half the chance. Why, I even have tips I`d love to share with her, but somehow, she doesn`t want to listen…

At least I am allowed to attend the annual Christmas show.

There are all sorts and all ages in my daughter`s ballet school, from three to thirty and beyond. Maybe three hundred in all? Anyway, all of them got their turn on stage yesterday afternoon. And repeated the whole darned performance later on that evening.

As you can imagine, this feat requires precision planning, a few professional stage hands and large body of parents insane enough to volunteer to help out. Naturally, I satisfied the insanity clause and was swiftly left standing in front of twenty nine candy cane fairies.

It`s been a while since I`ve even seen a three year old candy cane fairy. Most times, she preferred her princess guise. Occasionally she would dress as a witch but, as she started ballet a whole lot later, at the ripe old age of six, I didn`t have the terror of wondering if she could wait two hours for her turn to stand in front of those hot stage lights and noisy audience.

Now, standing off stage with my little charges, I was terrified for each of them.

I had forgotten just how sweet a little kid is; all big eyes, dimpled arms and innocence. Each wore a little fairy dress with the red and green candy cane colours. And, it being ballet, they had their hair
upswept in buns and teeny tiny ballet pumps on their feet.

Luckily, we got to spend a lot of that wait watching the show. That meant trooping our charges up one of those labyrinthine passageways to the theatre balcony. Oh! how cute that fairy line looked as they stood in pairs. But cute fairy lines could move at speed. I was grateful when other volunteers showed up to shepherd the bopping line along the stairways, through heavy doors, and finally to the safety of their seats.

I can remember my first time sitting in a flip up theatre seat. It was in the new cinema in Bogland and the movie was “Mary Poppins”. Those seats were fun, weren`t they? Well, almost half a century on, twenty nine fairies discovered them for themselves. Soon, some of the smarter fairies found the armrests moved too. And with an even more satisfying noise! It was also another reason for some fairies to need to go to the toilet. Cue more running to and from the toilet area, counting charges and praying aloud.

By now, the sweat was pouring off me. Running a marathon would have been easier. And there was still a whole show to run.

Having been for the matinée performance, I found it trickier to watch the show second time round. Especially with my back to it, counting fairies and fixing fairy costumes. But the fairies loved it. The land of make believe and reality are all one to a little fairy so the witch in Swan Lake is just as real as all the swans. Just a lot scarier and maybe even a little too much for some of my candy canes.

Their concentration spans are different too. An hour into the show, some had forgotten why they were in the theatre and some had even fallen asleep. But we soon got the nod to shuffle the whole troupe backstage again. More seat flipping, more dancing in pairs and back around the labyrinth to a waiting room.

Troupes of princesses, swans, and shimmering jazz costumes move purposefully about backstage, and the little sugar cane fairies stood off stage watching. Two started to cry. All those bright lights and noise just overwhelmed their little fairy sensibilities. And anyway, every good fairy gets tired eventually and crying seems just the right thing to do.

Luckily, the other fairies paid no heed and couldn`t wait for their turn to go onstage.Neither could I.Sure, I wanted to see them dance but I was a very tired old fairy then ( or maybe even a wicked witch), and I just wanted to go home.

Soon their turn came. With twinkling starlight music they tripped along stage to a gasp of Ah! from the audience. And just as suddenly their dance in the footlights ended as their trotted backstage again following some willowy, sweet princess.

With the last fairy off stage and handed over to their proud parent, I was finally free. I tripped out into the cold night air glad to have done a little to help, glad to be among all that innocence for a little while but shattered after all of it.

Oh, I`d love a little fairy of my own again. But not twenty nine. Just the one.

And, even though I should have run yesterday, I wasn`t too sorry that the fairies took all my energy. After all this is ballet and this is Christmas. It only happens once a year.

And it is magic.

Skerries By Night

Moonlight on Skerries Bay

Moonlight on Skerries Bay

Easing myself back into a running routine again. A moonlit run along Skerries coastline seems the best way to do it.

Teen Girl is in tow. But, at her request. Damned I am if I`ll ever drag anyone running-they`ll really need to want to be there to fully enjoy it. And that goes for my teens, especially. But this is her second time to run with me this week. Her third time in two weeks. Could it become a habit?

I wouldn`t have run two yards when I was Teen Girl`s age. Not willingly, at any rate. So I chose Skerries by night, for our jog.. A run by the sea on a moonlit night has to embed itself in her memory forever. Maybe the sights and sounds of the night would serve as enough incentive for her to keep this whole new fitness phase going for a little longer.

The temperature is a surprising 17 degrees Celsius as we set off along the promenade. Sounds of laughter, chat and lapping waves accompany us as the last of the day`s light seeps westward. Soon all was shadow-the Martello tower, and distant windmill to our right, the softened curves of eroded rock, beachside. Faint orange pools of nearby streetlights, and the silvery rays of moonlight light the path before us.

Teen Girl is getting fitter. She easily keeps pace with me all along the route. Our cadence is mismatched-much like our views on most things- as she has a longer, slower stride. That creates an  amusing contrast between the sounds of our footfall and yet we`re both side by side for most of the route.

Overhead, the azure sky begins to reveal its constellations. The Plough, of course, points to a faint North Star, while Cassiopeia sprawls languidly in a faint, broad W. And Orion, the hunter, is struggles to stand guard and overcome the brightness of the moon.

Twinkling lights line the coast, silvery waters slap the blackened rocks and a solitary lighthouse stands guard on Rockabill Island.

I see all these things and wonder what Teen Girl can see. I wonder what treasures here might draw her back; what payback she sees in pounding the concrete path and panting and sweating her way around the bay.And, critically, if she will want to come again and shuffle along a running route with her uncool mother.

Run over, we take a little time to stretch out, walk and cool down. And then Teen Girl drops the clanger

“Please Mum, can I go to the disco next week?”