Jaysus, I’m so hungry I’d ate a nun’s arse through a convent wall, I said to myself as I shumbled out of the damp dreary Dublin dusk into the bright warm welcoming embrace of Cornucopia. I marvelled, as I often do, at the glorious incongruity of the very existence of Murphy’s Ice Cream Shop, across the road. A triumph of optimism over experience, it seems. But, like meself, still there.
As I walked up to the food counter, little bubbles of sounds from the conversations of the people I was passing popped in my ears. The sight of the food on the plates, the smells wafting from the dishes on display and my memories of the many meals I had enjoyed there, had a predictable Pavlovian effect on my salivary glands. And also on my mood. As I noticed the friendly faces and the wholesome souls of the people there, I felt the knots of tension in my forehead, jaw, neck and shoulders begin to loosen.
“Can I help you” the beautiful smiling young man behind the counter said. His open expression and guileless face the very antithesis of the hell worlds I have just vacated. I gazed at the array of dishes in a sheeplike manner, my appetite still crossing O’Connell Bridge. “WTF do I want”, I muttered to myself, still reeling a bit from the last few clients I had seen and slightly wondering what the young man made of this indecisive, stressed-out old man I front of him. Confident that my appetite would catch up by the time I sat down at the table anbecause I am a real man, I ordered a quiche. It looked really delicious.
As I waited at the salad bar, bent over and trying to see what was available under the stuff on the upper shelf, I felt a flash of irritation. “Why the hell can’t they sort this out” I thought to myself “all they have to do is number the dishes and have a list, grrr” My countertransference monitor recognised this immediately and gently sent it on its way. More tension rolled off me, back into that bottomless pit from whence all demons emerge.
As I looked at all the salads I though how tasty they all looked and because I didn’t know the ingredients – you’ve guessed it, there is no list – I pointed – you’ve guessed it again, they had no names – to the one that looked the nicest, hoping that my eyes were on message. It looked very fresh.
I also ordered a mixed fruit salad with natural yoghurt on top. You gotta have a desert and anyway, it’s a few of my 5 a day. Very generous portion control although I noticed that this can vary depending on who serves. Is there a correlation between generous portions and personality, I wondered.
I shuffled on, like a King Penguin with a big egg on his foot, past the cakes to the cash desk averting my eyes from all the goodies on display. “A moment of the lips, a lifetime on the hips”, I thought.
As I stood there, waiting for the couple in front of me to complete their transaction, I looked around and tried to breath in the atmosphere through my pores, right down to the soles of my feet. I still felt a bit strained. “I like what they’ve done here, the reconstruction looks good. Looks more professional” The young couple, I think they were French, manoeuvred their trays around me and as they did, our eyes connected and we smiled. More stress gurgled away.
The woman at the cash desk had a fresh Irish face and as I fumbled around in my pocket for my loyalty card I asked her “What’s the discount for old people” She gave a startled laugh. “old people”, she said. “Yes, over 65s”, anyway, what’s so funny about being old” I said to her jokingly, thinking that one of the delights of being old is that you can make young people blush. We bantered a bit and the I pickup my cutlery from around the corner and looked for a table that wasn’t crowded and gave me a good view. I spotted one and sat down.
Just as I put the first forkful of quiche into my mouth, my appetite galloped in and together we started clearing the plate. My teeth crunched the food and as it made its way to my belly it connected my head and my body. Aaah. Soon my plate was clean and I chased the last elusive bit of salad around with my fork. Thought I might use my fingers to pick it up but an old voice said, ‘no, you can’t do that. That’s bad manners’ So I used my fingers and gobbled the last bit down.
Now that my famine gene was satiated, I pushed my chair back and before I started on my fruit salad, I took stock of the restaurant again from a more contented perspective. I thought about how grateful I was that such a place existed and that nourishment means a lot than just food. Not being the most confident of cooks, I like the fact that good wholesome and tasty meals are just a short walk away from my work and how this walk has become a part of my self care. My work as a psychotherapist with addiction and trauma is very demanding and I need regular nourishment of body, mind and spirit to replenish the energies I use up in my work. That quaint little red-fronted shop in Wicklow Street does a lot to help me meet these needs.
I finished my fruit salad, very tasty, checked my emails, put my coat on wondering when was the last time I saw my belt buckle, avoided thinking about joining a gym and left to wind my way home.
As I rambled down on my way to Grafton Street, a bit heavier in the belly and a bit lighter on my feet, one of the local resident zombies did the methadone shuffle in my direction. “Any spare change, buddy” I swerved around him, looked in his eyes, smiled and nodded ‘no’. I thought, as I frequently do following these interactions, of my dark days back in the 1970s when I was a lost soul and living rough in parks and derelict houses in England. They were bad days but now a source of my understanding and compassion. As I thought of the women and men who reached out and shared their experience, strength and hope with me and helped me recover, I felt a hot flood of gratitude in my heart.
I crossed over O’Connell Bridge, my appetite beside me, and walked down past the Abbey to my lovely, safe warm apartment with a sense of wellness and satisfaction.
Cornucopia, the horn of plenty and symbol of abundance and nourishment. Yep, works for me.