Monday, August 30, 2010

third bonniest baby in killala

“Who’s judging this year?” I had been interrodgating my fellow mums in the village shop about the Bonny Baby Comp at our local festival. “Outsiders,” was the word on the street. Damn - there was no political angle to exploit, no vicars to charm, no counsellors to lobby. Tommo’s wide reputation as a charming flirt among the customers of Lucy B’s hair salon, his sojourns being baby-sat behind the till as I whizzed round Centra would count for nothing. It was all about how he performed on the day.
I got to the festival early so we were there for hours before the competition started, and a shower of rain put pay to Tommo’s crawling explorations . By the time the judges got to him my gorgeous baby was as angsty as a bag of rats and, despite my best efforts, covered in snot and dribble and expensive Ella’s Organics Carrot and Sweet Potato mash . He tried to launch himself off my lap, wriggling himself out of his posh christening jeans onto the slippery marquee floor. Then he caught sight of a lifesize Barney, eyed it suspiciously for a few seconds, before howling. A giant Minnie Mouse tried to console him, and he went mad altogether.
“He’s normally very good humoured,” I said to the judges. “He’s tired – you know?” Then in a pathetic attempt to win favour I added; “We got here too early. He’s been sitting in the buggy since twelve.” All around clean, beautifully turned-out babies giggled, and gurgled adorably.
“Let’s go,” I said to Niall as we waited for the judges decision,“He’s not got a chance. There’s at least three bonnets in there. Maybe I should have got him a bonnet?”
“Hang on,” he said, “lets give it another half an hour.”
We stood and looked down at the pitch as the village kids slid around their primary coloured inflated wonderland in the school grounds. Friend and neighbours drifted about drinking tea, and doling out change to red faced running offspring for their umpteeth bag of popcorn and bars.
The school grounds are sheltered at the back by little green hills. The sun was shining and I said to Niall; “This is great isn’t it? This life – our set-up here?”
“Yeah,” he said non-committedly. ‘No complaints’ was the sub-text. We did the right thing moving here.
I had holidayed from London in this area every year as a child – hooking up with my Ballina gang of friends, going to discos in Ballina Rugby Club, swimming in the old Downhill pool, taking the bus out to Enniscrone. Although I have been living in Ireland for twenty years now, seven of them full time in Mayo, being here in the Summer months still brings me back to that feeling of holiday excitement I had as a child. The soft rain on an overall sunny day, the smell of burning turf reminds me of a time when we had no money, but still managed to get out at the weekends and have a bit of craic.
Tommo came third in his category. No overall place, but there’s next year – and I’ll be ready then. I’ll have him worn out and fed before we arrive- oh, and if the judges are reading this? Third bonniest baby in Killala? I don’t think so!

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