Fresh from our experience of Belgian summer “stages”, in the spring we started looking for ways to entertain our daughter in the month of July when she would be on holidays but we would not.
In March I signed her up for a week at the National Concert Hall. It cost €150. The week before the course started in July, they were advertising places for €75. The early worm gets the bird. The course started at 10 and none of the other aspiring musicians appeared to be the offspring of two parents who worked as there parents were able to drop them off and collect them. A task which we delegated to C, a nice French girl on our books. Nevertheless, it did run for more or less the duration of the school day and herself learnt to conduct and to sing:
Haydn’s Great Surprise
SURPRISE SYMPHONY – JOSEPH HAYDN
Listen very carefully/To this noted symphony/Maybe you will recognize/Haydn’s Great Surprise
Though it’s slow make no mistake/This piece will keep you awake/With a trick that typifies/Haydn’s Great Surprise
Did that outburst startle you?/Well that’s what it was meant to do/Don’t forget its name implies/Haydn’s Symphony’s the Great Surprise
Oh there’s that burst again/You will hear it now and then/Every time that we reprise/Haydn’s Great Surprise
And if you think you’re smart/Try to learn this piece by heart/See if you can memorize/Haydn’s Great Surprise
Just be careful goodness knows/While list-e-ning stay on your toes/Heed this warning to the wise/Haydn’s Symphony’s the Great Surprise
Then the next week, it was off to the Municipal Gallery which, for €60, undertook to entertain her from 10.30 to 12.00 for four days (closed Monday). On day one she spent the whole time “staring at just one painting, can you imagine how boring that is?” On inquiry, it transpired that the painting was Waterloo Bridge by Monet:
I don’t think that she’s going to like the Impressionists. In any event they’ve got off to a rocky start. Day 2 was better; they made a drum and didn’t look at any art. Day 4 was rendered hideous, for me, by having to tackle the much loved babysitter C, in relation to the (unknown to us) boyfriend whom my husband met on returning to the house unexpectedly at lunch time on Day 3. She was contrite.
Weeks three and four were due to be spent in the Alliance Francaise for an eye watering €450. I hope that she will thank me one day when she can properly roll her French rs. In the first week she really seemed to like the course and it made French seem much more real to her to be speaking in French to children her own age again. In the past month, she had stopped speaking to her father in French though he has nobly kept us his role and suddenly she was back speaking to him in French again. I have to record, in proud parent fashion, that as her English reading has improved her French reading has come along in leaps and bounds and she is now at a stage where she can (more or less) read age appropriate comic book material which means that she is doing a lot more of French reading than when she could only read baby books. Anyhow, I felt very warm towards the Alliance until late Friday evening when we discovered an email telling us that the course for the following week had been cancelled. I fail to see how a two week course could have enough children in week one but not in week two. On finally, after many irritated hours on hold, getting through to reception on the following Tuesday afternoon, I was greeted by an outstanding member of staff. My irritations were many but she soothed them wonderfully by making noises of competent contrition. She made no excuses. She apologised with gratifying thoroughness. She asked me to send in my complaint in writing (something I have been itching to do) and she promised that she herself would see my refund cheque was issued that evening. I felt distinctly less chilly towards the Alliance than I had done over the weekend. Emergency arrangements were made as follows: the Princess went to her loving Dublin grandparents for a couple of days and I took part of yesterday and today off to whisk her down to Cork for the end of the week. My loving husband is off from today until the end of the summer; remaining holiday cover falls to him to deal with. And there’s plenty of it since the boys finished Montessori today (something you might think would merit a post on its own – I’m getting to it) and herself is now officially finished all her courses. Thank heavens we are all off on August 8 for a fortnight. Mr. Waffle might otherwise collapse from the strain.