Life

Nuala McCann: The birds, the cat, the Communion – spring has arrived at last

We know it is spring too because it's First Communion season and miniature brides and grooms parade the streets of a Saturday. Tuxedos were banned when our boy made his Communion. Hummers were possibly off limits too – but who listens to that?

A year ago, I thought the cat was shy. Now I think he couldn’t be ar**d

OLD grumpy cat leaps onto our window sill of a morning on his daily patrol. We're his traditional route. Where's a bin lid when you need to rattle one?

“I've gone off him,” I tell our boy.

Why? Perhaps it's because he giveth me no more than a cursory glance and he dodges the hand that feeds him... the hand that only wants a chance to pet him in return. No chance.

A year ago, I thought he was shy. Now I think he couldn't be ar**d. He demands to be fed, then sniffs at the biscuits – chicken and cheese? You've got to be joking! He is also too taken with the baby coal tits and robins in the ivy out our back.

They're out at dawn doing Cirque du Soleil on the washing line – but the mere flash of the boyo's tiger coat and they're tucked back in their safe little nests.

The cat sits, ears perked, still as an assassin, gazing up at them with murder in mind.

“But he likes you,” says our boy who's on old grumpy cat's side. “When he rolls over and shows you his belly, that means he likes you.”

Dare anyone go to pet that belly and a neat swipe of the paw will put an end to any of that.

But I'm playing the same game. Long may he gaze in, saucer-eyed at the window – “The cat may look at the Queen,” I tell him, but I'm not getting up to play adoring.

Still, the great outdoors is calling. Spring has arrived. “Finally!” I cry, unlocking our back door.

There are rays of golden sunshine to be soaked up and suddenly I want to ring my daughter in Australia – if only I had a daughter in Australia – and tell her it's a grand drying day here in Ireland.

What greater joy can there be than stepping out into the garden and burying your face in the white cotton bedsheets flapping on the line?

The whole spring cleaning thing never made sense before. But sunlight shows up dirty windows and dusty corners, the cupboards shriek that they are full of tat and suddenly it might not be a fashion faux pas to dig out white linen trousers.

At the weekend, our street buzzes to the staccato of hedge clippers and electric lawn mowers. It feels like a good time to get clearing, to make things sparkle. It may even be a good time to grab a drinking glass and sheet of paper and evict the house spider.

“I know you'll be back but think of it as your summer holiday – your trip to the Bahamas under the night stars,” I tell her before depositing her carefully under the rose bush. She looks at me with her eight eyes, not amused. She knows that in a few days, I'll forget and shower her with the remains of my coffee cup.

We know it is spring too because it's First Communion season and miniature brides and grooms parade the streets of a Saturday. Tuxedos were banned when our boy made his Communion. Hummers were possibly off limits too – but who listens to that?

There are more big fat white frills than a big fat wedding – there are meringue frocks and full tans and false eyelashes and tinny tiaras that light up with the joy of receiving the body of Christ. It is a holy show... but I'm a sucker for a holy show.

I'm a sucker for a small girl in white lace twirling a white parasol or a small boy looking shy in a suit that suddenly makes him look so grown up.

Down the street they stroll, stopping off to chat to friends and collecting the usual Communion money that some of them will, doubtless, still have when they go to buy their first house. Others may have difficulty stretching the cash out to their confirmation.

My father had an expression for those of his children who tore through their student grants at lightning speed.

“You're spending money like a man with no arms,” he'd cry.

I never quite understood the phrase, but you didn't argue.

And hey, it's spring and, in my memory, my mother is down on her knees digging her beautiful garden as a cheeky robin perches on the fork, waiting for worms.

And my father is standing at the hedge chatting to a neighbour in the evening sunlight, warm as brandy.

It feels good to be alive.

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