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July 24th, 2014

I have been up and down to Cork a bit with the children.

On our last visit we donated a possibly interesting document to the city archives. I found it in a box at my parents house with random tat including postcards, school essays and the like. I suggested that I might drop it into the national archives but, my father, roused to vehemence, said he did not want it to go off to Dublin and it was to go to the Cork archives.

The city archives are not particularly central but they are near where the man who did my mother’s upholstery had his workshop. I saw a chaise longue on the footpath and pulled up on a whim. The boys sat resolutely in the car but herself came in with me for a look. It turned out that the upholsterer (Mr. Nodwell – an unforgettable name, you would think, but I had forgotten) had operated out of the premises next door but was now dead. The Princess and I had a look around the bric-a-brac shop with the chaise longue. I suggested that she look out for coins to add to her growing collection. The shop owner overheard us and made her a present of a big box of coins and a cheque from 1961 from a butcher’s shop on Castle Street (now gone) which specialised in crubeens. We had to explain to her what crubeens were. Burdened down by her gifts she whispered to me that she felt she ought to buy something. Her eye fell on a 1970s picture of a foxglove.

Her: Excuse me, how much is that picture please?
Him: €3.
[She opens her purse]
Him: Are you paying for it yourself? You should always haggle. Look, I’ll do it for you. Will you take €2, go on, it’s hardly worth €3. Alright so, you can have it for €2.

Giggling, she handed over the cash and left with her treasures clutched to her chest.

Then we went into the North Cathedral where I had never been before.

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The children found the cathedral unutterably dull but I was surprised how attractive it was inside. It is also the burial place of the bishops of Cork. The Victorian bishop is on the left – no false modesty there. The other graves get progressively plainer until we get to Bishop Murphy who confirmed me whose tablet is flush with the ground. There’s a metaphor there but you’ll have to work it out for yourselves.

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We strolled down to Shandon where I had promised the children a chance to ring the bells. Alas, the bells were being repaired and were unavailable to ring. The children sat in the Belfry dolefully for some time and we got chatting with the young man fixing the ropes.

Him: Where are you from?
Me: Cork.
Him: Do you know where Griffith College is?
Me: No, probably after my time.
Him: What?
Me: I haven’t lived in Cork for more than 20 years.
Him: You’re not from Cork at all then.
Me: Where are you from?
Him: Leap (West Cork).
Me: Is there much money in the whole bell repair thing? It must be quite a niche job.
Him: I don’t know, I was a gardener until the day before yesterday.

I hope that works out for you Shandon.

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Then, gluttons for punishment, we went to the butter museum. Of only mild interest, but having been there before, the children knew what they were signing up for.

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I took them to the South Chapel as well. Because I can. But look, catholic church from 1766 and a famous sculpture. What’s not to love?


July 23rd, 2014

The Princess got a present of a waffle maker from her aunt. She made waffles. We are all very impressed.


Email from Husband

July 22nd, 2014

Subject: Wretched Cat


It’s like a morgue here.

There’s a Rat in my Kitchen

July 21st, 2014

Well not actually in the kitchen but lying outside the kitchen window. It was so enormous and sleek and healthy looking in a fetching shade of grey that I thought it was a soft toy which the children had left out overnight.

Closer inspection revealed that it was a huge dead rat stretched out in rigor mortis. I can only assume that the cat caught it but decided in her infinite mercy not to bring it into the kitchen or under the stairs. How did I deal with this? Well, I called my husband (rather shrilly) to dispose of the corpse and ran to get my phone to photograph it for you but by the time I came back, the body was gone and Mr. Waffle was washing his hands. He’s a fast operator. It’s in the bin out the front but I don’t think I’ll be fishing it out to pose for pictures.

And how has your day been so far?

Unrelated: Happy Belgian National Day!

Very Green

July 19th, 2014

We went to Clara Lara fun park on Monday. Rain notwithstanding, the children had a good time. Very many of the other families in the park had northern accents and I assume that they had made their way out of Northern Ireland for a holiday during the July marching season.

For no reason that I can tell, other than, perhaps, the subliminal impact of all the northern accents, Michael attracted the amused attention of other diners by saying loudly at lunch, “When oh when are they going to give us back Northern Ireland?” At least Daniel didn’t say, “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.” This is his usual automatic reaction to any mention of the North [reasons unknown - suspect school] but possibly my outraged hushing of Michael made him decide to hold back.

Some briefing may be required before we go to Belfast to see the Titanic exhibition.

Five go to Smuggler’s Top

July 18th, 2014

Last year, some friends from Brussels came to Dublin and we agreed that we should all meet again this year.

I mentioned that it would be lovely to go to Rye and little faerie hands went and made it happen [pause to regret that I no longer work with the organiser who is spectacular at getting things done]. So on the first Friday in July, I flew to Gatwick leaving my little family to fend for themselves. In what can only be called a spectacular organisational débâcle, that morning I drove the 250kms from Cork to Dublin with the children sitting resignedly in the back. My appetite for driving from Gatwick to Rye at 9.30 that evening was, therefore, even less than it might otherwise have been. However, my trusty phone navigated me safely there. Very cheaply also as the new lower roaming rates had just been introduced. Let us pause for a moment here to think positive thoughts about the European Commission and all who sail in her.

The drive was a bit hair raising. Due to it taking forever to get the rental car, it was 10.30 before I set off and midnight before I arrived. The whole journey was busy, lots of cars even in the rural parts and I was struck anew by how very full England is, particularly, the south east. The accommodation was terrific – my first airbnb experience and I would recommend it on the basis of this place.

It has been years since I have been away with a group of friends and I was delighted with the novelty of not constantly worrying about meals which is a feature of travel with my children and also, nobody said, “I’m bored”. There were five of us who used to work together in Brussels on this weekend and although we are a somewhat disparate group we get on really well and, of course, have the delightful luxury of reminiscing about our time working together and what happened to our least loved colleagues.

Rye itself is delightful. I was reminded how pretty England is and, as my friend J pointed out, this part of the world has had money for at least a thousand years, and it shows. Rye is a hilltop town looking out over marshes to the sea. It’s all steep little winding lanes and half-timbered cottages. Tiny and perfect.





I had wanted to visit since my friend J told me that it was the town on which Tilling in the Mapp and Lucia books is based. If you haven’t read them, I really recommend them. They are set in the 30s and describe two middle aged women vying for social dominance in a small English town. I re-read the books in preparation for my trip and was slightly appalled to discover that I am now older than Miss Mapp who is only 43. Alas.

They were filming a TV series while we were there so I was able to take this picture from the church which was rather appealing, to me at least.


I also climbed the church tower from which Lucia’s garden is visible.


Rye is awash with literature. Lamb House which is the model for Mallards in the novels was where EF Benson lived but Henry James also lived there for many years as did Rumer Godden (unknown to me in advance of my trip but now will try her – suggestions welcome). Radclyffe Hall also put in time in Rye but not at Lamb House I think. Entirely coincidentally, I had taken “The Well of Loneliness” out of the library recently to give it a go but I am not entirely convinced that I can face it, enthusiasm for Rye notwithstanding. Anyhow, here is a picture of Mallards and it is entirely clear on seeing it why Lucia wanted to get her mitts on it.

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I had forotten that this part of England was also the setting for one of my favourite Georgette Heyer novels – “The Unknown Ajax”. Since I almost know it by heart from repeated re-reading, I was able to recognise the landmarks referred to in the book and was suitably delighted to see the cage of the murderous butcher referred to in the novel when I visited the little museum. Rye is also, apparently, the inspiration for “Five go to Smuggler’s Top” which I am also about to re-read. Your point?

The local supermarket was called Jempsons and it was, insofar as a supermarket can be, charming. Everything about Rye is charming. J bought a ceramic hen for keeping eggs and my soul was filled with envy but as I had travelled hand luggage only, I was not going to be able to buy a ceramic hen as well as a biscuit barrel [why am I obsessed with biscuit barrels?]. Happily, in Cork this week, I found a ceramic hen [someday I will post a picture of my mother's enormous range of china] and, with my parents’ blessing, brought it safely to Dublin and it is even now surveying the kitchen with a beady eye from its perch.

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We also went to Camber Sands which are very beautiful but very full of people and built up right to the coast in a way that reminded me of Scheveningen in the Netherlands which is also very full of people. This inspired my friend N who is from Northern Ireland to suggest that next year we might visit the Antrim coast which is also full of beautiful beaches but boasts considerably fewer people. So next year will see us going off to Northern Ireland. Isn’t it well for us?


July 13th, 2014

Michael: Dan, ma man, what’s up?
Daniel: Nuttin’ just chillin’.

The Americans have a lot to answer for.

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