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Your Point?

May 3rd, 2016

A number of people sent me a link to this Kevin Barry piece in Granta about Cork.

It starts out as follows:

If cities are sexed, as Jan Morris believes, then Cork is a male place. Personified further, I would cast him as low-sized, disputatious and stoutly built, a hard-to-knock-over type. He has a haughty demeanour that’s perhaps not entirely earned but he can also, in a kinder light, seem princely. He is certainly melancholic. He is given to surreal flights and to an antic humour and he is blessed with pleasingly musical speech patterns. He is careful with money. He is in most leanings a liberal. He is fairly cool, usually quite relaxed, and head over heels in love with himself.

At the very least, the last of this is true: the city of Cork is besotted with itself, and it talks of little else.

It is a truly brilliant article; especially since the author is only a blow-in.

One of These Excuses is not like the Others

May 2nd, 2016

It was my oldest friend’s birthday on April 20. We thought we might go to lunch on a Saturday to catch up.

From: Me
To: Her
Subject: Happy birthday to you

Alas, I cannot go to lunch on Saturday – I am out on Sunday afternoon and I can’t go out to lunch on Saturday as well. Planning ahead but how about Saturday, May 7?

From: Her
To: Me
Subject: RE: Happy birthday to you

That’s too bad about Saturday but it was short notice so I knew it was a long shot. As regards 7 May, I will possibly have a Kiwi friend visiting that weekend, I don’t know yet for sure but I will keep you posted.

From: Me
To: Her
Subject: RE: Happy birthday to you

Will we pencil in May 14 – I know it’s a long way out but still…

From: Her
To: Me
Subject: RE: Happy birthday to you

14 May I am in Ulaan Baator. Yes, really.

I think she has won that email exchange with her fermented mare’s milk. If you care, the 21st isn’t a runner because my niece is making her first communion so we have settled on May 28.


April 12th, 2016

The Princess is 13 today.  Her aunt gave her clothes from India.  I took a picture to send to my sister (the donor). “Call it ‘cultural appropriation’,” suggested herself.


Incidentally, you might note the complete inability of anyone who lives in this house to shut the door.

Her main celebration is on Saturday but tonight she had a small cake.  Behold the birthday cake of a child with two working parents:


Fuller post to follow telling you all about my 13 year old.

She Suffers or Pedants of the World Unite, You Have Nothing to Lose but Misplaced Apostrophes

April 11th, 2016

Email correspondence:

From: Herself
To: Me
Subject: Bishops


I am not sure whether the resolution on the picture allows you to read the caption which is “Pope Francis: Will reflect on much of what his bishops’ have had to say.”

Everyone’s a Critic

April 7th, 2016

Herself sent me an email:

From: Herself
To: Me
Re: Complete idiocy from the Irish Times


I did point out to her that journalists from the Irish Times weren’t the first people to use cranes as a symbol of economic dynamism.

I think she gets her judgemental streak from me.

The Shipping News

April 6th, 2016

Herself: So, Dumbledore says that for the challenge he is going to match Harry and Hermione. Then Karkarov, says that he can’t have Hermione because he needs her for Krum. So Dumbledore says he is going to match Harry with Cho but then he can’t have Cho because Cedric Diggory is rescuing her. So Dumbledore says, [insert dramatic pause here], stop sinking my ships.

Both parents: Sorry, I don’t get it.

Her: Stop sinking my ships!

Both parents: Nope.

Her: Do you know what a ship is, short for a relationship?

Us: What?

Her: You know, you can have a cannon ship, a cross ship, a submarine, a crack ship, a cross crack ship, then there’s your OTP and your NOTP, of course.

She explained all those terms in detail. People, there is a whole world out there. I will have a teenager living in my house from next week. Expect regular updates on what the young people are talking about.

It’s a Long, Long Way from Clare to Here

April 3rd, 2016

We’ve been planning to go to Clare for quite a while. Ever since herself started studying the Burren in geography and asked why we had never been there.

A colleague had been encouraging me to try out youth hostels for some time saying that they have really gone upmarket with family rooms and it would be great for me and my family.

I put these elements together and booked us into a youth hostel in Clare. We booked to go in early March. I was only mildly put off when I got a phone call saying that the hostel didn’t open until after St. Patrick’s day and could we re-book. We did, for this weekend.

It’s a good three hour drive from Dublin and we set off on Friday morning. The children played an amusing and quite successful April’s fool joke by pretending that they all desperately wanted to go to the toilet as we were speeding along the motorway; they are using their increasing age and sophistication against us. It’s working. We stopped in Ballinasloe in Galway for lunch. It was lashing. Ballinasloe, famous for an annual horse fair in October, was grand but, frankly, not at its bright and beautiful best. I managed to get us lost on the way from Galway to Clare and we floundered around the back roads of the Burren for some time pausing occasionally to force the children out of the car to look at damp Karst landscapes. We saw Leamaneh castle which was impressive but not open to the public and surrounded by grazing cattle.


We arrived into the youth hostel in the late afternoon. I am sure that had I seen it in the late 1980s/early 1990s when I last graced youth hostels with my presence, I would have been suitably impressed. However, in the intervening 20 odd years, it appears that my standards have risen quite considerably. The bedroom smelt unpleasant. Mr. Waffle had suggested we bring towels. I said, “nonsense”. There were no towels. You were able to hire them for €2 a towel (it subsequently transpired that this was a mistake and we were refunded for our towel investment). There was a drip in the games room. The light fittings in the TV room did not work. Are you getting a picture?


All in all, it was not a hugely successful day. We went out to the local pub for dinner which was pleasant and afterwards we forced the children to go on a mild walk. Michael was particularly bitter until we found that the path led to a playground. Great happiness followed. Then we went back to the youth hostel and played pool. All my old skills came back to me; I was quite useless. But the children enjoyed it.


The next day, it was not raining. This was a surprising and very welcome development. We had a day of intense activity which was largely successful. We saw the Cliffs of Moher which continue to be impressive. However, we were greeted on entry to the car park by an extraordinarily rude employee. I think when this kind of thing happens in your own country, you are doubly annoyed a) it’s annoying and b) what will the poor tourists think? And there were plenty of them, mostly bus tours with lots of French and German teenagers. In the 20 years since I have last visited, direct access to the edge has been fenced off. Probably for the best.


Herself was quite impressed by the interpretative centre. After that we had more Karst, Caherconnell ring fort, the Burren interpretative centre and the cathedral in Kilfenora of which apparently the Pope is bishop – I doubt he gets there often.


After that we saw the Fr. Ted house. We had tried to book tea in advance but to no avail, alas, so we could only stand outside and admire.

2016-04-02 13.58.04

From left Fr. Jack, Mrs. Doyle and Fr. Ted (out of shot, Fr. Dougal).

We then went to the Aillwee caves which was definitely the highlight of the day. We almost didn’t go to the accompanying birds of prey show which was an extra €15 for the lot of us. But we did. It was the best money we spent all weekend. The show was amazing. Michael demonstrated a knowledge of birds of prey which was startling and detailed. Herself got to hold an owl.


The birds flew really low over our heads and the whole thing was unnerving but fascinating. We quite enjoyed the caves too.


Then we had a successful pizza dinner in Ballyvaughan and another night in our communal room in the youth hostel. Everyone else complained about snoring and tossing and turning noises but Michael and I slept fine, thanks for asking.

This morning we visited Corcomroe Abbey which was very beautiful and lonely and quiet. It became considerably less so as a “Paddywagon” bus full of tourists deposited them as we were leaving but we had timed our adventure well.


Our final cultural stop of the day was over the boarder in Galway where we visited Dunguaire castle in Kinvara. It’s the first time I have ever been in one of those square stone castles (with which Ireland is very well endowed) and been warm. Their heating bill must be breathtaking. It was pleasant though.


Then lunch in Kinvara and about 2 and a half hours to get back to Dublin in the late afternoon. The children are back to school tomorrow after a very long Easter break and are not contemplating the prospect with any great enthusiasm. Still, I think that we all enjoyed the trip.


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