The Princess and I graced Cork with our presence this weekend. We travelled down on the, very expensive, train and came back by the newly constructed motorway. Well actually, only a stretch of motorway was newly constructed but it completes the Cork to Dublin motorway. The journey, door to door, took us under two and a half hours. When I was young, it used to be easily five hours. As a friend once said to me – whatever they take away from us, they can’t take back our roads.
It’s always nice to go to Cork. I settled into the old familiar routine, leaving the doors open to irritate my father, refusing to let my mother feed sweets to my daughter, stealing my sister’s moisturiser at bed time – do you think she left a tube of leather shoe cream on top of her make-up case on purpose? It’s only harmful, if ingested, but, frankly, it is also sub-optimal when applied to the face.
The Princess and I went to the market to buy dinner and were charged with getting a rack of lamb from Ashley. I was mildly pleased that though I haven’t been there for 20 odd years, he still recognised me and when I consulted with my mother on the telephone, he beckoned me and said “tell her that I have a leg of lamb for â‚¬25”. “Are you still in Belgium?” he asked. “No, I’m in Dublin.” He shook his head sadly at the error of my ways. I ran into our fishmonger’s son last time I was back. They had been going for something like 100 years but when Mr. Sheehan retired, none of the children fancied taking it on. There’s a parable there somewhere but I think it needs an Irish Times columnist to develop it fully.
We went into the Crawford for a look at the sculpture and a cup of tea. I made her walk around the plaster cast of the Torso Belvedere but she was much more taken with a 19th century statue of Hibernia. I once attended a lecture on sculpture and the lecturer said two things which have given me much pleasure and I will now share them with lucky old you: 1. sculpture is three dimensional, always walk around a sculpture to appreciate it fully, 2. sculpture is heavy and often, the sculptor will have to put something behind the subject’s legs so that it is not too heavy to stay upright. At its most uninspiring this is a tree stump or column – visible in this statue on Dublin’s main street but it can also lead to more exciting flights of fancy. On this occasion, our reward for circling Hibernia was to find her dog’s tail sticking out the back of her chair.
When we got to the cafe, I felt peckish. There was a full Irish breakfast on the menu. I ate it. I regretted this. No sooner did we get back to my parents’ house than herself announced to everyone that her mother had eaten more than she had ever seen consumed in one sitting and proceded to enumerate the full contents of the Irish breakfast. This led to all manner of anxious questions. “Was I not being fed properly at home?” “Was there something that should be bought in anticipation of my arrival?” So impressed was my child with my enormous intake that she also reported it to her father when she returned to Dublin the following evening. I feel like some kind of circus performer.
On Sunday afternoon, we were scheduled to drive back to Dublin with my sister. The question of my little family inheriting the parents’ tent has been canvassed (ha ha) over the past number of months. On Sunday afternoon, my sister said, “You should take the tent, it’s now or never.” Why did I believe her? Bits of the tent were everywhere – in one wardrobe, on top of another and – insert drumroll – in the attic. As I stood at the top of the attic ladder holding a bunch of poles while my mother’s and my daughter’s anxious faces peered up at me, I knew that I had made a mistake. My sister had disappeared to deal with some particularly intractable problem related to the start-up menu on the parents’ computer. Mercifully, she came and rescued the poles, only slightly hindered by her niece who had lodged herself on the bottom steps of the ladder. As well as the tent, my mother pressed upon me two sleeping bags and two fold up beds. There was a lot more kit that I wouldn’t let her give me. Partly because my sister’s car is a Golf and there is only so much camping equipment you can fit in a small VW. Partly because I worried my husband would kill me. I then realised that I had no idea what the tent looked like up. My mother suggested that we should pitch it in the garden so that I could see. Two principal objections presented themselves: 1. It was raining; 2 I was hoping to get home before nightfall. My father searched his files for instructions and though I saw directions for putting up the trailer tent over his shoulder (sold ca. 1995 – a real pain to put up), but of the instructions for the, I am assured, 6 man tent I took away yesterday, there was no sign. The only information I have is that the two longer poles go into the ground first and after that it is all intuitive. Mr. Waffle and I are going to try pitching it next weekend and I fear that it will not prove intuitive as rain threatens and three small children ask repeatedly “Can I help?” My mother who, in her heart of hearts, cannot believe that I am a grown-up, said to me anxiously “You won’t be foolish enough to put it away wet, will you?”
And in other news, the cat had her adolescent health check. Yes, really. The vet says that the cat needs to go on a diet. She is not going to enjoy that.