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More Cork, Other Places

August 2nd, 2017

Posting will be light as we are off on our holidays to West Cork for a week. I have hired a house without wifi. The children are going to be appalled.

Then when we get back, we are going to Paris. I know, Paris in August. I yearn for a simpler time when you said to Irish people that you were going to France on holidays and they didn’t ask you where. And if they did ask you, they didn’t know enough to say, “Paris, in August? Are you mad? There are only tourists and it will be baking and everything will be closed.” I also had to grit my teeth and tell the French exchange’s mother who was most amused. But she and her family will be back before we leave and I am quite looking forward to getting the two families together so that will be nice. And maybe, possibly, Paris will be nice.

Full debrief will follow on our return. Stay tuned.

Dalkey Island

August 1st, 2017

Despite my very recent resolution about probably never going on a family outing again, I made the family go to Dalkey island off the coast of Dublin a couple of weekends ago. The weather was beautiful.

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We had a picnic. We explored a bit.

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We paddled.

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We admired the view.

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I didn’t see the famous goats (apparently there are 5 on the island) but I did see some seals very close up and the largest rat I’ve ever seen in my life; also very close up but it moved faster than the seals which were basking on the rocks.

It was a success. More outings to come; my poor children.

Exchanging

July 31st, 2017

We had the Princess’s French exchange, E, to stay for 10 days. Herself was in Paris in April and had a fantastic time with E’s family so we were on our mettle. We sent them to a make a film camp during the day. It was reasonably successful. I think E quite liked it but it was a bit too full of 12 year old boys for my sophisticated 14 year old’s liking.

A comparison of Irish and French summer colouring:

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I took them to the immersive “Great Gatsby” in the Gate Theatre. You were encouraged to wear 20s dress which, mostly, people did. I attempted to shingle my hair with mixed results. They took out all the seats and moved everyone around. We learnt to do the Charleston. There was a bar in the corner and we all drank from big cocktail glasses (regardless of the drink). It was like an Anu production for the distinctly conservative middle class Gate audience. Herself adored it. Audience members moved around and went to different rooms with the cast. At one point, she found herself in Gatsby’s bedroom with just him and a few others. He was seeking advice from the audience. “Stay away from swimming pools,” she advised. “Why should I do that?” he asked, “I love swimming.” It did feel a bit like being at a crowded, quite exciting party at times which is, I suppose, was the effect they were looking for. E wasn’t so sure and when I asked her afterwards, she indicated that she preferred the kind of theatre where you sit down in pre-assigned seats so maybe not a success all round.

We also went on the Viking Splash, everyone’s favourite tour. Poor Michael was sick and couldn’t come, he was gutted. As we waited at Stephen’s Green for our bus to arrive, Daniel realised that many members of his GAA team were on the tour bus about to leave. It turned out that there was a birthday party for which he had not made the cut. He was not particularly pally with the birthday boy but there were many of his team sitting happily on the bus ahead of us. Due to dreadful traffic it sat there for 15 minutes and Daniel chatted dolefully with his friends and a part of me died. Once we actually got on board our own bus, things improved and I think everyone enjoyed the trip.

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The girls went out with some friends on Friday night and we had a quiet night in. A bit of a relief really, this living life to the full can take it out of you.

On Saturday we went for a walk up to the JB Malone memorial. The views were really beautiful and the weather was lovely. The children were resigned but perhaps not super enthusiastic. Still, we gave E a chance to experience nature. Since her own family were on holidays in the Alps while she was in Dublin, it’s possible she might have experienced even more nature had she stayed with them but we did what we could with the Wicklow mountains.

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Sunday saw us kayaking up the Liffey. Great fun actually but considerably wetter than I had anticipated. We were all sodden from the waist down and splashed all over. Both Mr. Waffle and Herself got Liffey water in their mouths. I heard a tour bus operator say humourously as he pointed us out to tourists, “You need three different injections before doing that.” I really hope no one gets Weil’s disease. We were all exhausted but filled with a sense of achievement. No photos because we didn’t want to drop our phones in the Liffey. We’ll just have to have our memories.

E went home last Monday. She took a jar of runny jam with her. We’re all still recovering from the extensive activity programme.

Always Jam Today

July 30th, 2017

This is the season when the tree in the front garden produces millions of plums.

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They make the most delicious jam. My jam making has always been very successful in the past (she said smugly).

Jam production line:

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Alas, this year, with a bumper crop of plums, for whatever reason, it just did not set for me. I now have kilos (litres?) of unset jam to reboil. Sigh. I have been making jam most evenings for weeks to use up supplies. You have to go to it reasonably speedily or they go off. You can freeze them but our freezer is tiny and our plum supply plentiful so after activities with the French exchange (more on this anon) I would find myself making jam at midnight which is a bit unsatisfactory. Particularly when it just doesn’t set.

Mostly Cork

July 29th, 2017

My sister and I did a bit of bonding in Cork in early July. We went to Ballycotton where I found a walk I had never known before but everyone else in Cork did – it’s been there forever apparently. How fortunate my children are that I have never previously been aware of it although we stayed in our friends’ house in East Cork many, many times over the years. It’s not too late.

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In an exciting development, the boys took the train to Cork alone.

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It all passed off very smoothly, unlike when their sister took her first solo train ride and they were quite proud of their independence and ability to travel unaccompanied. In a related development, we said goodbye to our last childminder. This is the first time since 2003 that we haven’t paid childcare fees and I am enjoying the resultant boost in income which I should be putting into the mortgage but am spending on riotous living. It is the end of an era. Our last childminder wasn’t a great fit; she would have been better with younger children, I think and she was never as popular with the children as her predecessors. Also, I think the boys would have preferred to travel home from school alone like some of their friends but I wasn’t entirely happy with having them manage alone in the exciting urban environment from where they had to get the bus. Daniel once described how a man slightly the worse for unspecified intoxicants came up to him and Michael and asked where they went to school. When they answered politely, the man started to rant about their school and abused it and them in pretty unpleasant terms. “Where,” I asked, “was the childminder?” Apparently she was standing a bit further away, it’s unclear to me why he didn’t go nearer to her or she didn’t see what was going on with them but at least she was there and I suppose there was a responsible adult nearby if things turned nastier. I did feel a bit that I was paying to have someone sit in my house looking at her phone as despite my very best efforts there didn’t seem to be very much interaction between her and the children which they all seemed to enjoy very much.

I digress. While in Cork, I briefly met my friend the heart surgeon in Kinsale. She was back from America with her husband and four children for a holiday. I brought the boys to meet them. Unfortunately, all of the children are reaching an age where you cannot put them in a room and say, “play together” so they ended up sitting inside watching the TV and not bonding. It gave the adults a chance to bond outside while admiring their truly beautiful view. She says that Trump is giving middle aged men all over Vermont heart failure as they lie awake all night worrying. On the other hand, I suppose they were having heart failure already as, if they weren’t, how was she gainfully employed?

I must say the weather has been lovely this summer and Cork has been particularly delightful. The boys may not have loved the visit to the Crawford Gallery

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or the riverside walk under the trees

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but they got to have pizza at Milano’s so, you know, not all bad. And it’s always good to jump on the Shaky Bridge.

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They were strangely unimpressed by the excellent window display in Liam Russell’s on Oliver Plunkett Street.

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I took them to Blackrock Castle Observatory which they always like. They also spent an enormously happy evening at my sister’s playing Risk and eating chips.

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My sister facilitated this even though she is ill. She emerged from her house in pyjamas to greet us. “Is wearing pyjamas outside illegal?” wondered Daniel. A number of years ago there was a trend in certain parts of Dublin to venture outside wearing pyjamas. I was strongly against this. Perhaps too strongly as Daniel seems to have taken it very much to heart.

Activities (Various)

July 28th, 2017

Oh lads, it’s been ages.

Herself has returned from summer camp which she loved with the passion of 1,000 suns.  While she was away, we made feeble efforts to entertain her brothers to the best of our abilities.  We took them to the latest science gallery exhibition on sound which they pronounced to be pretty good.

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Daniel plays chopsticks:
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The science gallery is the only museum they have any affection for.  We made them do a walk-through of the newly reopened wing of the National Gallery and they were not pleased.  In particular Michael was not pleased.

We went to mass in Irish which has the merit of being short and always involves a restorative cup of tea afterwards.  We took them to Four Knocks which is the best megalithic site in Ireland.  Really.  We had been there before with all of the children when they were younger.  The boys were small on the last visit and they had forgotten but it really is an amazing spot.  Much better, I think than Newgrange or any of the more famous sites.  You have it to yourself – you pick up the key from a local farmer – and it is creepy and a bit awe inspiring.  The boys really enjoyed it which is not something you usually get to say about megalithic sites. It is na Fuarchnoic (the cold hills) in Irish which is a bit more accurate than Four Knocks.

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We went for a moderately satisfactory picnic in Ardgillan castle after the Four Knocks excitement but I made us pack up good and early as I was getting the train to Cork and I was paranoid about timing.  Unnecessary.

In other summer excitement, my sister took the boys to Tayto Park and bought them three bottles of Fanta to consume in the rain while being twirled up in the air on a variety of terrifying machines. Their lives are complete and she didn’t die of exhaustion. A win then.

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They also attended a sports camp at the bottom of the road which was very successful except that they were not allowed to leave unless collected by a grown-up which was supremely awkward. Michael missed a day due to illness but otherwise they both enjoyed it very much. Daniel won camper of the week for his supreme politeness and I was filled with pride. He didn’t seem super-delighted though.

Not Biblical

July 11th, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I was cycling along in the rain and did something that I haven’t done in about 20 years. I got my bike caught in the tramlines, a deeply unpleasant experience. However, when it happened to me in Brussels, I was younger and fitter and I remember coming down quite hard. My usual cycling pace is now just faster than a walk and I knew that would be a good thing at some point. I fell over gracelessly but very slowly, sprawling full length on the damp cobbles. The only injury sustained, other than to my dignity and my coat, was a nasty bruise on my ring finger. Two passers-by rushed to help me up. As I thanked them, I recognised them as fellow parishioners.

I told Mr. Waffle about the mishap that evening. “And guess who the good Samaritans who picked me up were?” He failed to guess. I told him. “Rather, entry level good Samaritan isn’t it: someone you know from the parish, not very badly injured.” Fine.


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