I don’t work on Wednesday afternoons. I collect the children from school and bond with them.
Last Wednesday, there was a demonstration and I arrived late to collect them. A guard shouted at me as I tried to manoeuvre past the crowds of marching off duty guards, nurses and prison officers (cross about pay cuts). The children were full of reproaches. The school had sent text messages to parents asking them to come early as they knew about the demonstration. I didn’t get a message. I could tell that neither the principal nor the children believed me though it was quite true. Thus, I was feeling weak when the Princess asked whether we could to the vile greasy caf adjacent to the school.
I tramped in crankily. I had exactly €7 in cash on me and cafs do not take cards. The children were told that they could spend two euros each. Michael and Daniel each got a drink and the Princess got a particularly greasy bacon sandwich which she devoured with every appearance of enthusiasm. This was the cause of some friction with her brothers who were anxious that she should share and got a microscopic piece of bacon and some crisps each (of course, the sandwich came with crisps). The Princess told me that Brian Cowen was taking all her teacher’s money. I endeavoured to explain to her the financial crisis and the arguments for cuts in public spending. Very cannily, she instantly asked whether her father and I worked in the public sector or the private sector.
Having only parked the car for a quick scurry to school rather than an extended snack, I realised that I would need to feed the meter. I abandoned my children with the injunction not to move and left them in the care of the Polish greasy caf lady. I came back to find them all still in situ. We finished, put on coats, went outside, got to the traffic light and the Princess announced “I want to go to the toilet”. Excellent. We all traipsed back in, everyone went to the toilet. While Michael was in the toilet, herself asked whether she could have a drink of his juice. He said yes but, when he emerged from the toilet, he discovered she had taken more than he bargained for. He began to cry and we put on coats again and traipsed out of the cafe with a howling Michael bringing up the rear.
Having reached the safety of the car, I said to the Princess “I assume that you have your school bag”. But, of course not. I left them in the car and flew back to the cafe where it was sitting waiting for me.
An hour after emerging from school we were finally on our way to the science gallery which has consistently provided entertaining exhibitions and did not let us down on this occasion. The children happily created a number of new animals and I would have loved a go myself but they were not in the mood for sharing. We met a colleague of mine on the way back to the car and they all said hello politely and she said “what nice polite children” and I was ecstatic (low bar these days) until two seconds later when Daniel started tugging my sleeve and saying “Muuum” in that whiny voice that small children sometimes favour.
On homewards where we had to settle down to homework. I promised a half an hour of television when homework was over. Homework, normally a 15 minute exercise lasted ages as herself had an impossible word search which stymied me (Mr. Waffle of course, found the last word instantly and annoyingly on his return home). So a bit hard to get dinner on and general fratchetiness all round.
Over dinner, Daniel turned to me and said anxiously, “Will F be collecting us from school tomorrow?”