So, are you looking forward to a full description of our second holiday of the summer? Ah go on.
Tuesday, July 18
The children and I drove from Dublin to Cork. Humiliatingly, I managed to turn the wrong way on Dublin’s mighty ringroad. I had to ring Mr. Waffle and ask him to pay the toll twice – once for going the wrong way and once for coming back the right way. The children were very virtuous on the longish drive. They were particularly conscious of my recently acquired penalty points [2 for doing 60 in a 50 km an hour zone, since you ask] and any time that they felt the car speeding up at all, each would make a little comment.
Daniel [in tones of panic]: Penalty points, penalty points.
Michael [drily]: Achem [he sounds faintly Arabic when saying ahem, who knows why?], penalty points.
Herself: Only 10 more points until you lose your licence.
It is fair to say that these interventions certainly had the desired result. We lunched with my kind parents and drove on to East Cork where our wonderful friends have a house which they lend us regularly – so regularly that some of the neighbours think we own the place.
When we arrived, conscious that the house would need to be cleaned before we left the following week, I contacted a cleaner whose number Mr. Waffle had got from a colleague. This colleague had said to him, that the woman would do a fine job but on no account was he to reveal where he had got her number. She said this to him on several occasions but refused to go into the reasons why just saying that it was complicated. The cleaner’s reply to my text was to ask where exactly I had got her number. I said “friend of a friend” but the cleaner never contacted me again. A mystery.
Wednesday, July 19
We went to the seaside and the children neatly divided themselves between the beach on one side of the car park
and the playground on the other
while I ran between both locations making sure that they were still alive.
After we had been burnt by the sun, it started to rain and we drove to Cork city looking for diversion. I decided that we would visit Mahon Point in our search for wellingtons. I was fascinated by this shopping centre which, whenever we pass it at Christmas has cars backed up the motorway for ages which indicates that people are surely desperate to get in. Oh the bitter disappointment, as Michael said, “It’s like the ILAC centre with fewer people”. We took ourselves to Debenhams which, alas, had no wellingtons but we picked up a new kettle for the house. As I was paying for the kettle and the children were all talking at me, my phone rang. I thought that it was a local babysitter and answered in that spirit. [Please insert noises of children/paying for kettle/apologies for taking call into the dialogue below to appreciate the full effect]. I missed her introduction but she followed up with “Where are you?”
Me: In Cork
Her: On holidays?
Me: Yup, are you available to babysit?
Her: I just called to tell you I’ve decided to retire.
Me: Sorry, who is this? You must have the wrong number.
Her: No, I haven’t it’s me, your boss, I thought I should tell you before you heard on the grapevine.
The mortification. The distinct quashing of holiday spirit. I love my boss – she is a really interesting person to work with as well as flexible and extremely brilliant and I was curing her faults – maybe that’s what forced her into early retirement. Alas.
The Princess and I deposited the boys at their grandparents’ house and went to see Harry Potter which we enjoyed. We returned to the grandparents’ to find that their television – a key part of their babysitting strategy – had broken down. With great presence of mind, my mother had lured the boys to the park with promises of chocolate and then made them run races to get it. I think, nonetheless, that our return was greeted with relief.
We went back to Garryvoe where, inspired by the Princess’s tales of Harry Potter, Michael waved around a wand [a chopstick which he had brought from Dublin for this very purpose] and the others were given kitchen implements as substitute wands. Of course, herself wheedled Michael’s chopstick out of him in no time and he was left with a slotted spoon.
Thursday, July 21
We went to the beach in the morning and then to Stephen Pearce’s pottery in Shanagarry for lunch where, astoundingly, not one of the children saw a solitary thing that he or she liked. Michael briefly contemplated a cheese sandwich until he discovered that it was orange cheese and not white cheese [in Michael’s world, cheese and cheddar are synonymous]. We left dolefully but were cheered up by a young potter running out with three plastic bags full of clay which he said that the children might like to play with. They had a great time making lumpen pots and the like which they brought back to Dublin and which [the shame] I have just covertly thrown out.
So, for lunch we went to the Kilkenny design shop which was unremarkable except that the Princess spent all her money on a teddy bear which we had refused to buy for her at Christmas. And also, we were able to buy three pairs of the world’s most expensive wellingtons.
The afternoon took us on our annual trip to Leahy’s Fun Farm which always pleases. I ran into old Mr. Leahy and asked him about the economics of the place [because I am shameless] and his views on the viability of the Valentia pet farm for which my kind brother-in-law has prepared a website. The answers were a) excellent – it supports seven families and b) slightly pessimistic. The children brought home a caterpillar from the pet farm – great excitement – but eventually let it loose in the wild.
The children finally plucked up the courage to investigate a group which had been intriguing them. The previous day, we had seen people in red jumpers giving out leaflets on the beach. They were the “United Beach Missions“. Their leaflet specified that they were not a cult, which may not have had the reassuring effect they were hoping for. It seemed to be run by rather nice older ladies from Northern Ireland and, crucially, they played games.
The children started to play games interspersed with God. An older lady and I sat and watched – her great niece was playing too. All the other children were very quiet but mine were roaring out the answers to everything. “Why is this?” I asked the other lady, mildly mortified. She replied, laughingly, in the manner of all Cork people, “They’re from Dublin, aren’t they?” “Do you think they’re being indoctrinated?” I asked. She felt yes but then got distracted by telling me how you could get mass online. I turned my attention back to the children who were now all bellowing out about the wages of sin. The man leading the group, said that everyone could be saved, it didn’t matter who they were or what their ages. Inevitably, I heard Daniel pipe up “What about someone who is 42, my mother is 42.” The lady beside me became mildly hysterical.
The missionaries broke for lunch so we went in to Ballycotton and had a walk along the pier which was nice though windswept [please note crisp bribery].
The children then had a surprisingly good time running up and down the ramp to the lifeboat station – almost as much fun as they had tipping all my change into the RNLI collection box in the pub (you know the one where the ship goes up and down in the waves as the money goes in – an object of huge fascination to my from my own misspent youth in pubs).
We were careful to be back for the indoctrination tug of war which was followed by further bible study [all you need is the bible, there is no need for further enlightenment or explanation – the catholic in me winces] and then a break before the talent show. I went back to the house. We took too long and when we returned to the beach the talent show was over. Michael was inconsolable and ruined the presentation ceremony by wailing “WE WERE TOO LATE” until I bundled him into the car. Daniel took up his role and was placated by a puzzle and yoyo from the missionaries.
To recover from the missed talent show, we went to visit the Ballymaloe shop – part of the Ballymaloe empire – poor choice – rather dull and expensive. The wailing continued unabated. Back to the Stephen Pearce pottery shop on the basis that, though unsuitable for lunch, it might provide an acceptable restorative snack. It was closing. The lady behind the counter, observing the children’s mournful faces suggested that we might buy something to eat outside which we did. Outside was lovely – warm and sunny with room for the children to play some of their newly learnt Christian games. All was well.
That night, after the children had gone to bed, the next door neighbours knocked on the door and asked whether I would like a glass of wine in the front garden with them. They were lovely. She works in the cinema and had only the previous week been to London to see some flick Keanu Reeves was making. “What’s he like?” I asked. “Well,” she said, “my colleague and I were hampered by the fact that we had to pretend not to be overwhelmed that he was talking to us so that took away most of our conversational skills but he seemed like the guy in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. So now you know. I had to leave then as herself marched across the grass to the table to tell me it was high time I came in.
More tomorrow, if you’re feeling strong.