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Deirdre Conroy

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I’ve been thinking about the word ‘digs’ lately. I used to hear my aunts and uncles using it as a term for the place they stayed when they came to work or study in Dublin. It wasn’t as independent as having their own flat, but a room in a family house, which is what I thought I’d specifically advertise last week; I wanted to check its etymology first. I tried to figure it out, assuming it was hiberno-English, maybe coming from the Irish ‘Tigh’ the possessive for house. I must admit it was only when I studied English at university that I found out what the genetive (possessive) case was and lo, what the ‘tuiseal ginideach’ meant, after all those of years of complete bewilderment in Irish class – why didn’t I just ask? Would you believe Google doesn’t know nor does the Oxford English Dictionary? The nearest thing is ‘where you dig a foundation’ or I’m more likely to concede it’s giving a ‘dig out’. It’s possibly old French, but really only used in Ireland and England, so, a dig out, or a helping hand, seems apt. Answers on a postcard…
The other origin I’m wondering about is Monday Washing Day, how did that come about? It’s exercising my brain as I’m stripping the previous tenant’s bed and it happens to be Monday with the washing machine going at full tilt. Strangely I don’t have an aversion to this, which I find very odd, I only ever deal with my own bed. The Cost Centres change their own linen when hollered at. I think I’m not grumbling about doing it because I’m being paid (very little) and it’s a humble but satisfying task, with a purpose. I get it done quickly without any murmurings that I should be doing something more important, like making thousands of euros writing a report. Then it’s on to Adam’s bedroom (Lodger#1) where I’m trying to guard his socks from Cost Centre #2. He left a rail of washing to dry in his room while he’s away skiing and I decide to pair the socks and stash them, seeing as he’s only been here two nights this month. The first time I did this I was taken aback to find some of my own underwear hanging amongst his. I am slightly more over this totally weird juxtaposition. But not quite.
The male sock population is breeding like rabbits and I noticed the child wearing Ralph Lauren socks the other day,
‘Where did you get them?’ I enquired.
‘Found them.’
‘But they’re not yours.’
No sooner do I settle back to re-writing my novel when Cost Centre #1 comes in from college. When they were in school I knew I could have a working day until 5 then I’d set off to collect one or other of them from sports or after-school study. Now they could rise at noon and start cooking an Irish breakfast, just when I’m about to get that perfect sentence crafted. Now CC#1 thinks a subway in Rathmines is better and cheaper, thankfully.
He tells me he’s been making enquiries about joining the Navy. I never know where this is coming from, but he fills me in on quite a lot this morning. He’s adamant he doesn’t want an ‘office job’ after college, ‘I like being on my feet’ he says. Again, I don’t know where this is going. There’s no doubt he’d look good in uniform, a big strapping lad of 6′ plus. Years ago I put him off joining the guards, and probably shouldn’t have. When I discovered he was dropping out of his first college course, in the same week my father died, it was a double grief, which I’m still not over. Now, I’m prepared to listen to any of his initiatives. Approaching 23 with a very studious girlfriend for the last few years in Cork, I don’t think I have much say anymore, except about ironing. Which is why I think he’d make a good officer and a gentleman.
‘What do they do in the Irish Navy?’ I ask.
‘Catch fishermen,’
‘Oh.’ I murmur. Now we know.
‘But you’re studying marketing, how will you use that?’
‘In their marketing department.’
What do I know?
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