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Perhaps Not Entirely Positive

November 29th, 2015

You will recall the whole piano moving trauma.

The piano tuner has got back to me after reviewing the photographs of the piano I sent him. In fairness, he seems to be able to tell a lot from the photos. This is what he said:

Thanks for your photos.

Sadly your piano, which is at least 150 years old, is in a very distressed state. It is a wooden frame piano with a sticker action, that has the moving parts glued into position. This will make servicing the action almost impossible. In addition, it has had some moth infestation which have been nibbling on the felts and leathers over the years. The missing ivory keys can be replaced but not matched to the others.

However, all the above issues that I can see, pale into insignificance because of the broken strings and the oblong tuning pins. At the very least the piano needs restringing, a replacement set of tuning pins which would have to be specially manufactured and this piano does not justify any investment to try and improve it.

Finally, due to the age of the piano, we would expect to find significant weakness in the original timbers and possibly it may have had a woodworm problem during its life.

I particularly enjoyed “pale into insignificance”. I think I will call him and say that it doesn’t have to be perfect, just alright and can he do anything for me. Do you have any advice, internet?

Home Thoughts from Abroad

November 28th, 2015

I was briefly in Cork. I went down last night and am back in Dublin tonight.

It occurred to me that I am 46 and I have spent more or less half of my life in Cork and half out. Those first 23 years make all the difference, I can tell you.

I went to the Crawford Gallery this morning and they had a small exhibition on commerce.

James Barry – From The Triumph of Commerce (The Thames or The Triumph of Navigation)

It reminded me of something that has increasingly struck me over the years since I have left Cork. Cork is all about commerce. Dublin has government and public servants and Cork has commerce. Look, of course, Dublin has lots of commerce too and Cork has teachers and doctors and nurses and so on but the way Cork thinks of itself is fundamentally commercial.

Ireland has traditionally been a very centralised country and still, the machinery of government and governing is overwhelmingly in Dublin and this, in my view, gives Dublin a lot of its identity. Cork on the other hand, had the merchant princes, local businessmen who invested in the city. Even the Crawford Gallery is named after Sherman Crawford, brewer and philanthropist. There were all of the fortunes made in the butter trade and the Quakers and the Dutch merchants. Some of the largest supermarket chains in Ireland started off in Cork (Dunne’s – now in Dublin, Roche’s – now defunct and Musgrave’s – still in Cork). Cork is a city of commerce and proud of it.

Names like Barry, Crosbie, Murphy and Beamish and Crawford are woven into the civic fabric of the city.

When I was in secondary school in the 1980s, commerce let Cork down pretty badly: Ford’s left, Sunbeam closed, Dunlop’s left, unemployment was through the roof and things were pretty grim. But things seem to be back on an even keel now, even after the 2008 recession. The chemical industry in Cork harbour (mmm, I know) is a really good employer, the city feels prosperous. Whereas the boom spread Dublin and made it slightly monstrous, it just improved the centre of Cork and left it compact but revamped (notwithstanding that there are still some closed shops on Patrick Street). It is a delightful place to visit now.

I love living in Dublin, but I will always miss living in Cork. This Cavafy poem about leaving the city is not entirely apt but the idea that wherever you go –

“This city will always pursue you. You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
will turn gray in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city.”

You never really leave your home behind, you carry it with you in your head for your whole life.

Let It Go

November 27th, 2015

I am sitting here in wonder. My brother has never heard of the song “Let It Go”. He’s firmly refusing to believe it’s famous. I’m refusing to believe that he hasn’t heard it. I’ve sung it for him in English, French and Dutch (that’s how I roll). Very reluctantly, he has conceded that the fact that the version he looked at on YouTube has 450 million likes might mean that some other people are aware of this obscure number.

Plumbing and Logistics

November 26th, 2015

Our toilet is blocked. Mr. Waffle is upstairs deploying a plunger. The bathroom floor is covered with newspapers. He’s been at this since we got home at 6.30 this evening with only a brief respite for dinner. I feel I am setting a poor example for my children by making plumbing a gendered space but I just can’t face it myself.

We are facing into a logistically complex 48 hours with me going to Cork, herself going to a friend’s house miles away to sleep over (needing to be collected on Saturday morning), Michael doing a thing with scouts and Daniel with his usual Saturday morning GAA match. Today, I have made appointments with doctors and dentists and committed to sending photos to a piano tuner. A number of Christmas events are bearing down on me and I am in no position to be either a host or guest due to complete lack of organisation. Have I laid in any small tasteful presents to dole out at the appropriate moment? I think we both know the answer to that question.

Oh yes, it’s approaching the most wonderful time of the year. You will excuse me, I need to sit quietly in a darkened room while listening to peaceful suctioning noises emanating from the upstairs bathroom.

And to the Americans, happy Thanksgiving. I can only rejoice that this is not an Irish celebration. It might tip me over the edge.

Pedants’ Corner or How We Amuse Ourselves at Breakfast

November 25th, 2015

From: Herself
To: Me
Re: Girls’ and women’s
Sent: 07:51 (14 hours ago)

When your last hope for humanity is the cereal box.


I think herself is concerned that she may be one of the only people now living who is familiar with the correct use of the apostrophe.

Also, does everyone else read food packaging labels when there is nothing else available? I think it is hereditary; my father still knows off by heart all the labels which graced his parents’ table in the 20s and 30s.


November 24th, 2015

As part of what we are calling “The Decade of Centenaries” every primary school in the country is being given a national flag in a formal ceremony. Representatives from the Defence Forces turn up at the school; the proclamation of independence is read; and the children learn about the protocol for looking after the national flag (handy, on all sorts of occasions, I am sure). I think they then use this knowledge to hoist the flag up over every school for Easter 2016.

The boys had their flag visit today. Three of the children from the school got to read out part of the proclamation of independence during the ceremony and Daniel was one of the chosen few. He was very proud. The Irish was quite hard too. He had the bit about “cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past”. No prizes for guessing to whom the alien government refers. It’s all peace and reconciliation now, of course.

As part of the celebrations, they got no homework tonight. I am sure that the signatories of the proclamation would be delighted.

Romantic Text Messages in Middle Age

November 23rd, 2015

Mr. Waffle was putting out our bins this evening and he ran into our next door neighbour putting out their bins. Her husband travels a lot for work but she said that no matter where he is or in what time zone, he always texts her to let her know which bin* to put out when.

Unrelated: it was lashing here this evening but Daniel still spent an hour out at GAA training getting damp and filthy. The Gaelic Athletic Association is not for the faint hearted. Also this evening, Michael got his first scout badge; great rejoicing.

*Green for recycling; black for general and brown for organic (only Mr. Waffle and Mr. Next Door can remember which bin goes out on which night).

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