Family Rituals

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The unpredictable, sporadic nature of Irish weather is well-acknowledged – though from all the talking we do about the weather, you wouldn’t know it. But this summer is setting all kinds of new records, not only for rainfall and miserable temperatures, but for the weird, schizophrenic changes. It rains most days, but then every now and then, about once a week, we get one glorious day of blue skies, sunshine and (relatively) high temperatures.

Saturday was one of those days. I was in Dalkey, and my dad begrudgingly bestowed the camera on me for the day.

My parents’ house in Dalkey is north-facing, and dark, except for my attic rooms. I try to spend as little time downstairs as possible. However, there’s something about the glowing patches of sun that erupt around the house on fine days that brings me back to my childhood, and makes me smile.

Another thing I love about sunny days in Dalkey is when we have a barbeque. I have occasionally thrown barbeques in a party context for friends, and I have of course attended such events myself, but to me a barbeque is all about just sitting around on our patio, me and my parents and occasionally one close friend/boyfriend/cousin, while my dad zealously guards the grill and my mum passes plates with obscene amounts of marinated meat. Despite the fact that the wooden chairs are somewhat uncomfortable, and the abundant plants on the patio attract a lot of bees and wasps, this is one of my favourite places to be.

Part of what I love about it is the ritual of the preparation. First, the table is set out, and the coals are heated on the barbeque. Because we barbeque on hot coals, this takes quite some time. I love sitting out in the garden at this point, smelling the smoke and anticipating the food.

Once the coals are hot enough and have stopped flaming, the grilling can begin. This is my father’s domain. My mother and I hang back, bringing out salads when we can, and my dad starts to barbeque the steaks.

 

And then the eating and drinking commences. Despite my dad’s rigour, it’s always a relaxed affair. As a family of three, eating dinner together usually just feels like we all just happened to sit down at the same time to eat, but something about the party atmosphere of a barbeque makes it feel like an actual family dinner, a family experience. It’s a feeling that we only ever come close to recapturing at Christmas, but even then it’s not quite the same. The table feels fuller, the conversation seems more boisterous. Usually, three people are not enough to create this atmosphere.

It probably helps that our cat always comes to join us, sitting under the table to keep us company while she eats. Bumble loves nothing more than having some company in the garden, and she tends to get particularly excited when the barbeque comes out. I guess she loves the smell of the cooking meat, though she doesn’t usually beg for any, and never gets fed from the table. I think mostly she just likes to hang out, and it’s exciting to have us all outside at the same time.

So for me, the barbeque is one of our most important family rituals. Thanks to our weather, we’re lucky if we get to have one four or five times in one summer, but maybe that makes it all the more special.

I spent most of the day in the garden, and took some more photographs, but I’ll share them another day. The last two days have been gloomy and rainy again, but I’ve learned this year to enjoy the nice days when we get them.

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