Seán Moncrieff: Everything went wrong. But it wasn’t so bad

Looking at the bigger picture can get us through the days when nothing seems to go to plan

A household routine is a delicate thing. One faulty element can derail the day.

As I wrote here last week, I had a run-in with a piece of decking which left me with a bruised and swollen knee. That was bad enough, but the following morning my ankle decided to similarly inflate and become purple. An X-ray confirmed no fractures, but it looked awful. I took a picture to show to people, just to prove I wasn’t putting on the limp.

The doctor said the reason why the bruises looked so bad was because I have thin skin. I told her I found that remark offensive. She didn’t get it.

I arrived home in the car, ankle throbbing a little, to find I couldn’t get into the house.

Anyway, for the next few days, walking was not my friend, so I was reduced to driving into work which, as I have also written here, I loathe. Using the clutch with my wonky ankle was, while not painful, a bit uncomfortable.


So, on this day, I arrived home in the car, ankle throbbing a little, to find I couldn’t get into the house. I had a key for the back door. But if a key is left in the other side, you can’t open it.

I didn’t have a key for the front door. Forgot it.

Just as I was standing there, wondering what to do, Herself texted to let me know she’d also forgotten her keys. And that the Tesco delivery man would be there in the next two hours.

I hobbled back to the car and considered my options. Normally, I’d get a ladder and do a MacGyver on an upstairs window. But not with this leg. Daughter Number One had a key, but she was in her apartment. In town.

I collected Daughter Number Four from childcare, told her we were going to visit her sister and headed back into the city centre. Daughter Number Four was pretty good about it, and didn’t start the when-will-we-be-there until we were on the quays, stuck in excruciatingly slow traffic queues. My ankle felt like it was starting to glow.

But I was able to distract her, and me, by encouraging her to look at the city around us. It was a sunny day and Dublin looked fabulous. It’s all too easy to slag off the capital: the prices, homelessness, the antisocial behaviour. Yet it has grown to be a wonderfully diverse place, almost unrecognisable from when I first arrived in the 1980s. You pass sleek modernism, and moments, later, tatty tourist traps and stately Georgian buildings. There are people from every part of the world, and dressed in a wild variety of styles. Sometimes I like to pretend I’ve just arrived from another country, just to force myself to be a bit less Irish in my point of view. Through those eyes, Dublin can be pretty cool.

We arrived at Daughter Number One’s place. Daughter Number Three was also there. Daughter Number Two, who was at work, would be calling in later. They hang out there a lot. Like all sisters, they can have their tensions (I adopt a Switzerland approach in that regard), but they are incredibly close. Not all families are so lucky.

We arrived back home to find Herself sitting outside the front door, surrounded by groceries. She’d resisted the temptation to open one of the bottles of wine that the sceptical Tesco man had delivered. But that was only because she didn’t have a corkscrew. We got everything inside, ate and opened one of the bottles.

Normally, it’s my job to put Daughter Number Four to bed and read her a story. But because my leg was now on fire, Herself took over that duty. She performs the books rather than reads them. I lay on the couch and listened to them howling with laughter. And I thought: today was a good day after all.