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Zen Master

October 21st, 2017

I worry a lot, about all kinds of things. Over the summer, herself said to me, “That’s a problem for today.” “What?” I said. “Well,” she said, “tomorrow, that won’t be a problem because it has to be dealt with today.” Although, obvious, like all self-help advice, it’s a formulation that works well for me. “A problem for today,” I mutter to myself as I deal with my nasty head cold, a dull meeting or whatever it may be. I offer it here for free because I’m generous that way.

Busy Week

October 16th, 2017

This week nearly killed me. We did a lot of stuff and I’m not counting school/the day job. It will have to stop or we will all keel over.

Monday
GAA for Dan; cubs for Michael (he is going to both cubs and scouts during transition to scouts); and bookclub for me.

Tuesday
Herself attended a “Zeminar” in the RDS. Neither myself nor Mr. Waffle could take her due to work commitments so she had to go herself on the bus which we weren’t crazy about but she managed fine. She visited stands from three Irish political parties at the conference. For Irish people, see whether you can guess which they are:
Party 1: Extremely earnest young man explained all their policies in excruciating detail.
Party 2: “You have no information about your policies up,” she said to them, “all you have is stuff about Game of Thrones”. “Ah,” they say, “you don’t want to be putting people off with the old policies.” “But,” she protested, “you are a political party, people expect you to have policies.”
Party 3: “We can help you to get ahead. We can introduce you to the Taoiseach.”

When she came home she went to the school open night so that she could impress possible incoming students and their parents with her prowess with a bunsen burner.

Michael went to scouts.

Mr. Waffle went to football.

I got sodden cycling in to work and resolved to get new rain gear at the weekend.

Wednesday
Herself was back at the Zeminar and afterwards she went to Bray on the Dart to see a play in a friend’s school. Daniel had training after school and I had to drive to Bray (very far away, people) to collect herself at 9.30

Thursday

Herself had games club followed by a debating tournament after school and had to be collected at 8 (bitter defeat, thanks for asking). Daniel and Michael had their booster vaccinations and sore arms. On the plus side this meant Daniel didn’t go to scheduled GAA training.

Friday
The boys had games club. All three children were supposed to have French but T, our faithful tutor, was sick. Poor T, but it was a relief to have something cancelled. Mr. Waffle and I went out to see Class in the New Theatre as part of the Theatre festival (herself babysat, part of a quid pro-quo for the 90 minute drive I had to bring her safely home on Wednesday night). I thought it was only alright but I was a definite minority. It’s about working class parents meeting a middle class teacher as part of a parent-teacher meeting. Class in two ways, you see.

Saturday

Daniel had a GAA match in the morning. I had a migraine. Unsurprising, frankly. Michael had drama in the afternoon. I dropped him in and bought myself a new waterproof coat while he was being dramatic. By early evening I had recovered sufficiently from my migraine to play “Capture the Flag” in a local park. I wanted to know how it worked before having 8 boys round for Daniel and Michael’s birthday and learning on the hoof (no date set, thanks for asking).

Sunday
Mr. Waffle and Michael went to mass at 10 and hockey at 11. I marched the other pair up the road, running late for 11 o’clock mass. We were half way up the road when herself said, “What time is it?” “It’s already 11, we’re going to be late” I said trotting along. “But mass doesn’t start until half past.” Good point. They had choir and she did the second reading. It was a reading from St. Paul. Even after 2,000 years, his personality still comes across very clearly. Favourite line which I think will become a running joke in this family: “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships.” [Emphasis added]. The first holy communion class were there for the prayers of the faithful and so, the prayer for the dead, always a bit of a tricky one, was doomed. The child did not realise that she had to pause to allow the priest to list the names of the dead and so she ploughed on with her prayer and he ploughed on with his list until he realised there could be only one winner and let her continue. He read the list afterwards but he was clearly ground down by going mano a mano with the 8 year old at the lectern and when it came to a complex name he said, “It’s Áine Ní..M..no I can’t pronounce it, it’s something like that.” He’s not a native English speaker and it was all too much for him.

Mr. Waffle’s parents, who are very prompt, came for lunch and were sitting in their car outside the door when Mr. Waffle and Michael came back from hockey and the rest of us came back from mass. After they went home, I took the boys to see “We come from Far Far Away” which was a play for children about refugees. It was quite good actually but the boys were a bit too old for it and didn’t really enjoy it. Also, we had to sit cross legged in a yurt for the duration which is not very comfortable it you are a grown up. Or maybe that’s just me.

After this we went to Milano’s in Temple Bar for dinner as, for a birthday treat, their father had bought them tickets for the live show of “Impractical Jokers“; they are very fond of the deeply unsuitable TV show. We managed to lose the tickets between dinner and the car and had to tramp around looking for them (in vain) and then go home and reprint them which made punctual Mr. Waffle extremely tense. They arrived at 8.05 for an 8 pm start and, in fact, the warm up act still had ages to go. It was even more deeply unsuitable than the TV show but the boys loved it.

Meanwhile herself and myself were at home. A couple of her friends came round and I was able to give all of them the happy, happy news that the Department of Education had decided to close every school in the country due to the oncoming hurricane. Not a standard Irish weather feature. Then, with growing horror the realisation dawned on me that there might be an impact for grown-ups also and that my office might have to close for the day. I spent the remainder of Sunday evening consulting with colleagues, looking at weather warnings and reading runes while we collectively tried to decide whether the office should close or not tomorrow and how best to get the word out to everyone. You will, I am sure be rivetted to hear that the office is, in fact, closed tomorrow or, at this stage (it is late) today. Mr. Waffle has have brought in the bins and I have parked the car as far away from trees as possible on our tree-lined street. I have my new, guaranteed waterproof coat. My work for the week is done.* How was your own week?

*Actually, it was Open House this weekend and we usually go to see something but this year we didn’t; I’m not even sure I’m sorry.

Despicable Me

October 14th, 2017

My sister took me to Kildare Village recently where we had breakfast in the only Pain Quotidien cafe in the country (more’s the pity) and then wandered around. Kildare Village is an outlet shopping centre. It is antiseptic but strangely appealing to me. It goes against all my principles but I want to go back. Alas.

In more worthy activities, we also visited Spike Island which is Europe’s premier tourist attraction. I have to say, notwithstanding its success in the tourist awards and the fact that it is in Cork, if you had to choose between it and the Colosseum, I think the latter would win out.

Spike Island is, obviously, an island and it’s always nice to have a little boat trip.

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The guides when we got there were superb – knowledgeable and entertaining and, although, I thought that we would find over 3 hours on a very small island a bit dull, it wasn’t. We didn’t even see everything. I would definitely go back again.

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It was one of the Treaty Ports handed over by the British in 1938 and a small building near the pier was the last structure built by the British in what is now the Republic. The island is full of intriguing snippets of history like that. There’s an exhibition featuring a number of things including this picture of the flags on display in East Beach, Cobh, Co. Cork on 11 July 1938 to celebrate the passing of the port to Ireland. Ahem.

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I hadn’t realised that when World War II broke out, Churchill wanted the Treaty ports back but DeValera wouldn’t let them go back. Frankly, Churchill was not at all as popular in this jurisdiction as across the water.

Religious Tolerance

October 13th, 2017

When I was in Cork last, my father told me about a man called Pulvertaft (great name) who ran a plumbing manufacturing business. Like many of the business owners at the time, Mr. Pulvertaft was a Protestant, a Methodist, in fact. In the Marian Year of 1954 (ever wondered why so many 63 year old Catholic women are called Marian; wonder no longer) the (Catholic) workforce approached the Methodist owner to ask whether they might, in view of the Marian celebrations, erect a statue of the Virgin Mary on the factory floor. He said that they could and, if they stopped effing and blinding the whole time, he’d even pay for it.

Teenager News

October 12th, 2017

Herself died her hair blue/green over the summer. It wasn’t bad actually but, if she were to do it again, I would strongly recommend non-permanent colours. Staring down the barrel of the new school year and the firm rule that hair could only be “natural colours” according to the school dress code, she went and got all the green cut out. The hairdresser gave her a bob and I absolutely loved it. She hated it. Every time I said I loved it, she hated it more. She is resigned to her fate now and I think, maybe even, sneakily, likes it a bit herself.

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There was actually a bit of green left which we tried to address with ketchup on the hairdresser’s advice. Yes, really. It didn’t work but, happily, the school seem to feel her effort have been sufficient.

She also had her first babysitting gig minding a 3 year old and a 5 year old – grandchildren of the people who live across the road. She earned €30 and was delighted with herself.

Home Improvements or Why I Never Liked Pinterest

October 11th, 2017

When we moved into our house in 2013, we did as much renovation as we could afford and then waited until we had money to do the rest. Now we have money to do the rest but no appetite to do so [I know this is what my boss would call a quality problem but nonetheless still a problem – turns out it’s much easier to renovate before you move in]. I was mildly depressed to see that a house we looked at but didn’t buy in 2012 has been put back on the market, having been renovated “top to toe” by its new owners. In the same time, we have failed to get a new sofa. In fact when our old childminder came back into our lives recently, the first thing he said when he sat down was, “Oh God, you still have that really uncomfortable sofa.”

I am pleased to announce that we have put in an order and are now expecting a new sofa in mid-November. I feel an amazing sense of achievement. Also, we got some fancy new mirrors. All the rest of the family cordially loath the one in the hall but I don’t care. Loathed mirror is on the left.

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Have an arty shot of the ones over the fireplaces in the reception rooms that cunningly ensures the orange chintz sofa and the regency stripe curtains are out of view.

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Furthermore, I have, with some difficulty (for me, my sister, my brother, my father and my husband) arranged for my mother’s old dressing table and my father’s old chest of drawers to travel from Cork to Dublin.

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High on my success, I think I might put back the kitchen/utility room/downstairs bathroom renovation programme for another year. In the interim, Michael is insisting on a new bed, we need new curtains downstairs (only so much one can take of unlined, cherry striped curtains) and we have to do something about the wretched piano. God, my father was right when he said that houses are nothing but trouble.

Michael at 12

October 10th, 2017

Michael was 12 on 27 September.

He started secondary school at the end of August and for the first month he found it hard. I was slightly despairing about whether we had done the right thing. I agonised. Mr. Waffle agonised. And then, almost overnight, everything was better; he got the measure of the expectations, the timetable, the school and he seemed reasonably pleased with himself. He joined the games club on Friday afternoons. He is in a different class from his brother for the first time ever. At the beginning, I realised how much we had previously relied on Daniel to tell us what the homework was or clarify difficulties. Michael was on his own now. It did not go well initially but somehow, now it’s fine and he seems to know what he has to do all by himself. He is the ultimate pragmatist and as the school operates a stringent policy of promoting the first national language he adheres to it and has started speaking Irish a bit at home, possibly to avoid the extra effort of covering two languages. In fairness, he is quite positively disposed towards Irish: he sees it has value as an Irish person to know Irish and that is half the battle. There are also a couple of children in his class who went to English medium primary schools and are really struggling with the language and this, I think, underlines to him the very practical, current benefits of Irish.

Part of Michael’s difficulty was, I think, that everything was changing. At the same time, he went from cubs to scouts and he didn’t like that much either. It was like school, it was all rules and everyone was cross but, again, after 3 weeks he got the hang of it and he seems to be perfectly happy again now.

He has also taken up hockey. He has been pushing for this for a number of years but I have resisted partly on the grounds that I wasn’t convinced that he would really like it; partly because we don’t live particularly close to a hockey club. This year, I folded and he joined a club. I’ll say this much for Michael, he knows what he’s going to like. He really enjoys it. Hockey is mostly played by girls in Ireland and of the 30 players in his group, 28 are girls. He doesn’t care. Daniel came along one Sunday and asked, “When will we get a match?” and the answer, for boys, is basically, probably never. Daniel decided against pursuing this interest; Michael continues to be perfectly happy to continue playing. The only difficulty is that training is at 11 on a Sunday, miles away. Daniel and herself sing in the choir at 11.30 mass locally and Daniel, in particular, wanted to stay involved. This means we are doing mass in two phases: Mr. Waffle and Michael at 10 and myself and the others at 11.30. It is unsatisfactory but I am quite pleased that Daniel actually wants to go to mass.

Michael still loves to read. Every break in school he spends sitting contentedly reading his book. His brother, his sister, his fellow students and his anxious teachers have all asked him whether he is ok on his own; it would appear that he is.

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[Can I just say that it is despite his parents’ best efforts that he often wears socks and sandals?]

I find him completely delightful; his brother and sister refer to him as the arch-manipulator. He knows exactly how to behave to get what he wants; I suggest that they should learn from him rather than indignantly outing his behaviour. Funnily enough, that does not seem to appease them. He and I get on like a house on fire except in relation to his homework; if I ever try to help him, we both get furious. He is so lackadaisical, I am so unreasonable. In fact, Mr. Waffle is much better at this which is a surprise to all of us.

He continues to eat almost nothing. It was a sad day for me when, over the summer, he decided that he was no longer going to eat cereal. Cornflakes and milk was his major food group and this has now been replaced by toast and honey which I have to regard as a backward step.

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He gets on very well with his brother. They have loads in common and they spend many happy hours together. He also gets on with his sister, they seem to mostly travel in parallel grooves but the odd time they interact, it’s all perfectly cheerful. Being in the same school again has allowed for much greater interaction between them which, on balance, they seem to find mildly interesting.

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He is cycling in and out to school which is a bit heart-stopping but, like his Irish, his cycling has really improved. I think it’s good for him.

He’s still a complete home bird. Unlike his brother and sister he had absolutely no interest in signing up for the school tour to Germany: “All day on a bus, looking at boring museums with teachers on my holidays.” He thought the other pair were certifiable. He is doing German at school and it is alright. We are trying to keep his French up at home by having a former childminder come and play games with them – through French – for a couple of hours a week. When I got home from work last Friday, Michael was sweeping the board in Monopoly but not bothering to say, in French, any numbers higher than 10 (numbers below 10 are not a big requirement in Monopoly), slightly to the childminder’s despair. We’ll see how it goes; it’s nice that he and his brother are so pleased to see the childminder who we had for a number of years and was a firm favourite.

He continues to like to wear exactly the same clothes he has always worn. This is a problem as he is growing and many of his trousers are approaching mid-shin length and he will not let them go. I keep trying to introduce new elements and sneak away the old but he is having none of it.

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He loves babies and small children and when we were in Tesco recently bag packing for the scouts he went up to all the babies and made them smile. He is absolutely charmed with his new baby cousin from London.

He continues to be really interested in history and is always reading books about history and regaling us with tales from the past. He loves “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Simpsons” neither of which is really appropriate for someone who turned 12 last month. He spends many happy hours glued to his phone watching people commenting on games they are playing, a form of entertainment entirely baffling to his parents.

He is obliging and even, if he wriggles out of things, which he can do, he, disarmingly, instantly goes to rectify whatever the fault might be – “Of course,” he says cheerfully when asked to tidy his room. If he is annoyed, it very rarely shows and that makes him delightfully easy to live with.

While his brother and sister are keen to be older and more independent even with the responsibilities that brings, Michael is happy just where he is, if anything, he wouldn’t at all object to being younger, particularly, if it meant less homework.

He is very sensitive to the moods of others – if people are down, he tries to cheer them up. He is a pleasure to be with: warm and funny if occasionally dogmatic.

I am curious about what the next number of years will bring but for the moment [she tempts fate] all is well.

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