Summer 2016

I’ve nearly forgotten how to write. In 6 years of blogging, I don’t think I’ve ever let so much time pass without writing a post before. The only thing I write these days is feedback on trainee teachers’ teaching practice. 

I was still on a post-Camino buzz when I last wrote. That’s over now. There’s still hard skin from the walk on my feet, but it’s crumbling off like cheese that’s been left out of the fridge in the grossest way possible on a nightly basis. My ankles have recovered now, with a slight twinge once every two or three days just to remind me of what I did. 

I still sometimes get flashbacks, like a soldier back from Nam. I will suddenly see myself struggling to get up a hill and thinking I’ll never make it, or shuffling down a hill, convinced that I’ll fall and break my skull, or sitting down on a bench five minutes outside a village, knowing that it wouldn’t take much energy to get to a bar and relax properly and have a cold drink, but not able to convince my body that I actually can. 

In the whole month of July, I went for only two walks. Both were awful. My ankles moaned. I couldn’t motivate myself. On the Camino, you’ve no choice but to be motivated. There’s a flight waiting for you at the other end of the walk. There’s no reason to walk around suburban Galway. No flight waiting. And I missed my walking stick. On my first post-Camino walk, I genuinely found it hard to balance without it. I was like an amputee with a phantom limb. 

So I’ve been living and working in Galway this summer, having been offered five months of work. For the first month, accommodation was provided. It was fine. I was sharing a flat with two old colleagues and I survived. I had to spend every evening chanting to myself “Just be normal. Just be normal.” But I managed it. I really am bad at living with people, but I stayed relatively normal the whole time. That said, I only managed to have breakfast in the flat three times in the first week, and other than that I didn’t eat there. I kept promising myself I would eat dinner there, but I just couldn’t. I escaped every evening to eat. I’ll be normal some other month. 

I’ve moved into a hostel now. I couldn’t afford to move to Galway without getting rid of all my possessions, so I’ve kept my house in my little village in Longford. It’s lucky I did. As it turns out, my job in Galway isn’t as secure as I thought and I don’t have any work or any salary for the month of September. This wouldn’t be so bad except I’ve been scrambling to recover from the adverse financial position the Camino left me in all summer. 

One evening in July, I got a call from my dad. He’d accidentally opened a letter addressed to me (we have similar names, and identical surnames in fact) from the bank. It stated that I had missed my June loan payment. Of course I knew I had missed my loan payment. I often do. The bank are fine so long as you get them their money eventually. Of course this put him into a panic. I calmed him down, assuring him that I was used to this and it was no big deal. The following day, he called me again. My car insurance renewal quote had arrived. It was tortuous as he read out the entire letter. It was confusing and seemed to suggest that I had to pay €1200 or possibly €300 or maybe €400. After a good bit of figuring out what the letter meant, it turned out that this year I’m paying €800ish, which is less than last year, but not particularly affordable. I think I’ve now managed to convince my parents that I’m doing ok financially. Of course I’m not. 

Last weekend I was in Dublin visiting friends. I bought a pair of trousers. Before the Camino both of my pairs of jeans fell apart, so I literally only had one pair of trousers. I have the two pairs of shorts I wore on the Camino and I have one pair of faded stretchy washed-out chinos that I’ve been wearing for three years now. I literally don’t have anything else for my bottom half. No slacks, no jeans, no tracksuit bottoms, no suit trousers, no jeans. I went to the fat men’s clothes shop in Dublin. They didn’t have a single pair of jeans in my size. They had a pair of chinos though. They cost €110. Jesus. I wish I fitted into normal people clothes. The trousers are so expensive that I had to pick them over making my car payment this month. I couldn’t not buy them though. Every day for six weeks I turned up to work in the same trousers. That’s gross. I don’t know what my students must think of me. 

As a result of having the rug pulled from under me for September with work and because I’m really sick of being constantly poor, I’ve started applying for all kinds of jobs I never thought I would. I’m applying for management-y jobs. I just want something that will pay me lots and let me get back on an even keel. Don’t worry. I will continue to be ridiculous and will someday become a YouTube superstar/author/media personality and will no longer have to have a grown-up job. It will happen. 

Anyway, I was sneaking into the gym to use the hot tub and pretending I was staying in the hotel attached to it. My colleague said this reminded her of Samantha from Sex and the City, walking into a club and just saying she was a member with such conviction that she wasn’t questioned. 

Because I’m now living in a hostel, I decided to pay for the gym. I deserve a treat and I wasn’t going to get away with it forever. I had a free session with a personal trainer there last week. There’s something lovely about having a big strong muscly man pay so much attention to your body and tell you what to do. It’s kind of what I imagine marriage is like. He was amazed that I didn’t fit in the leg press machine. He’d never come across that before. I’m glad I exposed him to something new. 

I have to admit that there is a bit of a want in me this summer. In the gym, I sometimes find myself breathless, not from exertion, but from seeing a man with perfect shoulders/perfect glutes/perfect calves. Some guys sit into the hot tub wearing the dirty, sweaty little GAA shorts they’ve just been working out in. I know I should pretend to be grossed out, but I’m entirely titillated by it. I think my body is expecting its yearly fling. This time last year, I was in Macedonia, having my Albanian strange. And this time two years ago, I was in Ljubljana in the outrageously beautiful young psychologist’s bed. There’s been no monkey business yet this summer. 

I did spend two weeks talking on one of my apps to a nice man from Ennis. He only ever messaged me between 9:00 and 5:00 and he couldn’t accommodate, so I’m guessing he was married to a woman, but he had a lovely chest so I didn’t mind. I spent far too long actually arranging to meet up and I lost interest when he asked if he could feed me and fatten me up more during sex. People are complicated. 

Anyway, as I said, I’m now living in a hostel. Four nights a week in a hostel and three in my little house in Longford are cheaper than actually moving to Galway. And with the lack of job security, it’s a good thing I didn’t move there. The hostel is in the city centre, which is good, because I’d spent the whole first month in the suburbs and could have been living anywhere. It also means I walk for 45 minutes twice a day which is good as well. And it’s so much easier to share a bedroom with 6 strangers than to have a room of your own but share a flat with people you know. I sleep much better in the hostel than I did in the flat. And my levels of food guilt have plummeted. Yay for hostels! 

It’s a lovely hostel- brand new with soft carpets and big clean bathrooms with rain showers. The beds are solid and comfortable and each have their own reading light and USB connection to charge your phone. For the first week I was in a top bunk. For the whole five weeks of the Camino I managed to avoid a top bunk. But here I was with four nights in a top bunk ahead of me. Luckily these beds are huge and solid with wide and stable steps up to the top bed. I was terrified that I would fall through the bed and kill the man asleep underneath me, but I didn’t. In my experience of breaking beds (and I’ve broken at least five that I remember), it’s not lying down that’s the problem. It’s sitting or kneeling as you get into or out of bed. When all of your weight is concentrated on one part of the bed that’s when the whole thing could buckle under you. I nearly had heart failure every morning and every night as I kneeled to manoeuvre in and out of the top bunk. There were no fatalities. 

The first night there was lovely, sharing with Korean girls and German guys. Night two was Hellish. There were three 19-year-old Irish girls in the room. I arrived into the room to find a pile of false nails on the floor. I narrowly avoided spearing myself with them. I’ve never seen such a big mess made in such a short time. There were half full bottles of wine and vodka all over the room, two hair straighteners and a hair dryer all in the middle of the floor. So many shoes. And the bathroom. The lovely new bathroom that had been cleaned that morning. There was fake tan smeared everywhere. There were bottles of makeup on the toilet. There was a pair of socks and green lacy panties in the shower tray. There was a tanning mitten in the sink and everything was brown. I’m more pro-fake-tan and pro-false-nails and pro-young-people-binge-drinking than any 35-year-old man I’ve ever met, but I just wish they were two years older and knew not to leave make-up on the toilet or nails on the floor. The girls secreted naggins of vodka into their clothes and bags and left for a club at midnight, inviting me and the German boy to go with them. We thanked them and went to bed. The girls never actually went to bed. They had packed and left when I got up at 7:00. God only knows how drunk they were. They forgot the green lacy panties from the shower floor. 

I’ve now moved into a men’s only dorm. And I’ve made sure I’ll have a bottom bunk for the rest of my time here. It’s different. Quieter. I’m happy there. Of course with my changed work situation, I’ll have to cancel the hostel bookings and the gym membership when/if I leave Galway. I negotiated discounts in both places based on the fact I’d be in Galway till the end of November. They’ll be cursing me for years to come. 

I’m applying for grown-up jobs every day. And dreaming. I’ll let you all know how it turns out. 

Every weekend since the Camino, I’ve promised myself I’ll knock my blogposts about the Camino into a fit shape to send to the literary agent who expressed interest in my blog back in 2012. It would only take a few hours. But I’m terrified, so I haven’t done it yet. I’ll do it someday soon. I promise I will. 

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