I took the children to Cork from Friday to Monday. All in all it passed off pretty peacefully. The children were pacified by watching 5 hours of television a day and eating all the junk food they could get their hands on. We picked up the Princess’s baptismal certificate in the church where she was baptised in Cork so that she can now make her communion – though I fear she is turning against organised religion.
Anecdotes for your delectation:
The Princess found one of my old dolls. She fashioned an outfit for it including a sash. I peered at the sash expecting to see “Rose of Tralee” or “Miss World” but in fact it said, “Votes for Women”. A proud moment owing something to the intervention of Mrs. Banks.
On Sunday, I decided I would take the children for a walk in Farran Woods just outside the city. I spent 30 minutes, putting on the children’s shoes, coats and gloves and prising them away from the television. My mother accompanied us. We got hopelessly lost. “How can you not find the way to somewhere you drove to every Sunday for 20 years?” I asked my mother in exasperation as the troops battered each other in the back seat. “How can you not find the way to somewhere you were driven to every Sunday for 20 years?” she replied tartly. After a long hour and a half we arrived. It was 4 in the afternoon, cold and about to get dark. The signs were not propitious. Nevertheless, we began our walk. After 5 minutes, the children announced en masse “I want to do a wee.” I let them off into the bushes on their own which turned out to be a spectacular error of judgement. One of them (name concealed to protect the guilty) emerged soaked to skin with every piece of clothing from the waist down wringing wet. It was quite a spectacular accomplishment and one which was quite difficult to achieve, I would have thought.* There was nothing for it but to pack everyone back into the car and go home. On the plus side, the return journey only took half an hour.
I had planned to return to Dublin early on Monday afternoon. Unfortunately, no sooner had I pulled out of my parents’ driveway than the car started flashing a red warning light at me. I drove back, redeposited the children in front of the television and rang my husband, some 250kms away, who couldn’t talk. As I pointed out to him, I could have been on the side of the motorway in desperation. As he pointed out to me, he could hear my family in the background so he knew, I wasn’t. So, my mother supervised the children; I perused the car manual (unhelpfully, only available in French); my sister inquired of the internet what the problem might be and my poor father, recovering from routine surgery (but still, you know, surgery) emerged from his armchair where he had been quietly reading the paper and hovered over the bonnet. “Ring Canty’s” he suggested. May I take this opportunity to endorse Mr. Canty’s operation should you ever find yourself in need of a garage in Cork. I rang the garage and described my problem. “Throw in a pint of water,” said the mechanic. “Where?” I asked. “There are only three places you could put it: where the oil goes, where the brake fluid goes and where the coolant goes.” “How do I know which is which,” I asked anxiously. He laughed and said, “Whatever you do, don’t put it where the oil or the brake fluid go and drop down to us and we’ll take a look at it.” My father indicated the correct spot and I drove to the garage with my poor sister as moral support. The warning light disappeared. The nice mechanic checked it over and said it was fine while opining that Peugeots are dreadful cars for mechanics. “We have a rule here that we never take more than 2 French cars in a day, as it could tip us over the edge.” If you care, he said that the best cars to fix are Toyotas. And he didn’t charge me. But it all took two hours which made for a late arrival home. Poor Mr. Waffle was working away on the home front and for reasons which I still don’t fully understand had not one but two dinners prepared for us. I think I might try it again when we have all recovered from the excitement.
* Please note example of elegant variation as despised by Fowler and other great stylists.