On Saturday we went to Planckendael again – it’s like a safari park but less glamourous. I have had it with Planckendael. The Princess said that she would rather go to the supermarket and conducted herself accordingly throughout the trip. We paid 50 euros to get in (and the boys were free) and they spent their time looking at frogs in the river and playing in the elaborate playgrounds. “Will we go and see the giraffes?” “No!” The Princess mortified me by going into meltdown at the entrance to the cafeteria where she wanted to stay watching television. She lay on the ground, blocking the door and screeching. This loud screaming in public is a very recent development and I am desperate to stop it. We then climbed up a rope yoke which the Princess loved but the boys were scared and had to be carried. It is hard to walk up a rope surrounded by netting carrying a small boy. We got down eventually, the Princess did not get down. There were words. We lost her at one point and I was terrified. There were further words. We instructed her that, in future, if she ever got lost and could not find someone who worked in the establishment, she was to ask a Mummy to help her. Yes, yes, picture the scene, there you are having a nice time with your family in Flemish and a weeping lost little girl attaches herself to your group – fabulous eh?
On Sunday, we had our upstairs neighbours and some friends around for coffee. Our upstairs neighbours are lovely Italians. There are only two of them and every time I go into their flat which is the same dimensions as ours but oh so different, I am convulsed with envy. They have white furniture (no children, obviously). She is finishing a PhD in art history and has acquired all kinds of lovely furniture at auctions and flea markets over the years. It looks lovely in our 19th century building, unlike, say, my self constructed coffee table from Habitat. Anyhow, over coffee yesterday the talk was all of our return to Dublin (with the occasional digression into how the recent NATO war training exercise went, from my friend C – she who combines defence work and orchestra management in her portfolio of activity – good news, we won). They were all curious about what our house in Dublin is like and I, with my fondness for histrionics, put my head in my hands and said “hideous, absolutely hideous”. I had, alas, completely forgotten that the Princess was there and she looked up at me, shocked and tearful and said “But Mummy, you said that our house was lovely.” Much furious and, I fear, ineffective backpedalling followed. I could kick myself.
The house isn’t really hideous, it’s just small and in need of some work. I was talking to the heart surgeon about it last night and she put her finger on the problem: just as all our friends are settling in the houses they are going to be living in for the rest of their lives, we are moving backwards. That is exactly the problem. All our friends are moving in to nice big houses and we are going back to a starter home. It’s not hideous, it’s relatively hideous. I hope that in 3 or 4 years we’ll be able to move somewhere nicer but, for the moment, we will have to make the best of it.
Meanwhile, the heart surgeon is back at work after a mere three months (she does live in America so this is extraordinary luxury by their standards) and working weekends and nights and so on (as is her doctor husband) with a 3 year old, a two year old and a three month old. She is expressing four times a day. She’s also decided to renovate her kitchen. I can’t quite imagine how tired she must be. She told me, in tones of great glee, that, as she had a couple of tough procedures today, her husband was going to mind the baby last night and she was decamping to the third floor for a full night’s sleep.