Saturday, July 4
We drove to Dingle beguiling the near endless drive by explaining to herself (at her request) the requirements for countries to be recognised. This allowed her to fully appreciate the fate of Nagorno-Karabakh when an article appeared in the paper a couple of days later. No, I have no idea either.
We arrived before grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins so settled into our house to enjoy Michael and Daniel asking at two minute intervals when the cousins would be there.
Sunday, July 5
The cousins came and all the children were whisked away on an adventure walk by my saintly in-laws. Mr. Waffle and I were left with the day entirely to ourselves. Little though we knew it at the time, it was the finest day of the week.
We had an absolutely beautiful walk out by Slea Head and a nice cup of tea in Louis Mulcahy’s and looked at all the delicate things we couldn’t afford. It was all delightful.
The children were less entranced. Although very pleased to be with their cousins, they made the disconcerting discovery that the adventure walk was, in essence, a walk and they get plenty of that with their parents. “How was it?” I asked Michael and he replied dolefully, “I’d rather have gone to mass.” I am not sure that it is a tribute to the catholic upbringing he is getting that going to mass is his ultimate negative benchmark right up there with school.
Monday, July 6
It lashed. My insane in-laws decided to run up a mountain and we took the children. We took them to the library (as Mr. Waffle said, thank God for universal literacy and also for Kerry libraries which give out temporary library cards), we bought them ice cream, we let them watch their English uncle watch the Tour de France in Irish (he now knows how to say geansaí buí). Here is a picture of them enjoying a break from the driving rain.
They look thrilled don’t they?
That evening we got in a babysitter and all the adults went out for a lovely dinner while the children ran around at home working off some of the excess energy that they hadn’t used up in the library.
Tuesday, July 7
We awoke to further lashing rain. The London aunt and uncle took all of the children to the aquarium and the first of the adults departed to work in Dublin. Alas.
Determined not to be put off by rain, those of us who remained went to Ventry strand. We had it to ourselves. The Princess swam, because she is courageous. It was absolutely bitter. I sat huddled under towels with my fleece on.
Wednesday, July 8
This was the Londoners’ last day and the weather was pretty good, by the standards of the week up to then.
The Princess, one of her cousins, her brother and I swam in Ballydavid. It was freezing but we were warmed by inner smugness. This lovely dog turned up on the beach and all of the children enjoyed playing with him.
Even Michael who is usually scared of dogs, loved him.
While herself was out at the waterside covering herself in wet sand which is something she likes to do, she overheard two fishermen chatting on the quay. She thought at first that they were speaking Hungarian, but on listening more closely, she realised it was Irish. As she said, they were just talking Irish to each other and they weren’t even at school. She was astounded. I think she never really believed that Irish was a living language in the wild before.
We dropped in to see Gallarus on the way back to the house. The children were surprisingly uncomplaining about this encounter with heritage. The man on the desk was a native Irish speaker and gamely spoke to us all in Irish which was pleasing to some of us.
Above: Daniel removes a stone from his shoe at ancient monastic site.
Thursday, July 9
Yet again, I rejoiced in the fact that the houses had a proper hot press where you were able to air clothes. That combined with the near constant operation of the dryer ensured that we were all clean and dry for much of the week. Yes, indeed, it rained again. We all went to the library again. The Princess and I went to the Diseart Centre to inspect the Harry Clarke windows which were really lovely. This took us up to lunchtime.
After lunch, it was still raining. We decided to go en masse to the Blasket Island Interpretative Centre. I understand that on a fine day, there are beautiful views of the islands from the Centre. This was not a fine day. All that was visible was rain. The Centre itself was really interesting. The Blasket Islands had an amazing literary tradition and are now abandoned and it was really poignant to read and hear about life on the island. All Irish school children have to read Peig Sayers’ autobiography (very tedious if you are 16 and hard enough going at 46 – I borrowed it from the library) and it has scarred generations of children, so it was interesting to see a different angle on the Blaskets than the “Now I am an old woman with one foot in the grave and one foot on the edge” (opening line of the classic autobiography) angle with which we are all familiar. An insight I had never had before was that the islanders although all native Irish speakers were illiterate in Irish as all their schooling had been through English. They had to teach themselves how to write in Irish or dictate to English anthropologists. There is a (reproachful) letter there from Jim (for Peig enthusiasts, father of Cáit Jim) to his brother in America and it took me a while to work out why he hadn’t written in Irish but, of course, it was because he couldn’t.
It was tough enough going for the children though. Mr. Waffle and I have a strong didactic streak which our children find tedious but with the cousins, we had a fresh furrow to plough. I overheard Daniel and one of the cousins having the following conversation.
Cousin: I am going to ask Aunty Anne about the Blaskets.
Daniel (urgently): Don’t!
Cousin: Why not?
Daniel (despairingly): She’ll tell you.
The children’s reward, however, came that evening, the small funfair in the town had opened. They had a superb evening at what is, as far as they are concerned, the best funfair in the world.
Having nearly suffered whiplash the previous year on one of the rides, I told the children that they were on their own. The bumpers, however, required that each child be accompanied by someone 12 or older. I went with Michael. I am still not the better of it. He drove like an absolute demon. His father went with him the next time. Then his sister. None of us was willing to repeat the dose so he only had three turns. Also I have decided that when it is time for him to learn to drive, I will not be teaching him.
Friday, July 10
On my brother-in-law’s suggestion, we all climbed up to have a look at Eask Tower. It was a bit drizzly but overall a really lovely walk with great views over the harbour from the top.
And out to sea
The tower at the top is a famine folly. The Victorians believed that if you just gave starving people money to buy food they would become indolent and dependent on the State. So, in the 1840s people dying of starvation erected pointless structures all over Ireland so that they could get money for food. I was explaining this sad state of affairs to Michael as we went up the hill and my father-in-law (who is slightly hard of hearing and a very jovial person) came up alongside us as I was finishing my explanation and said cheerily, “And what’s wrong with that?” leaving us both a bit surprised. We assume that he misheard.
The woman who owned the farm on which we had had our walk was at the farmhouse with her granddaughter when we got down. She gave us a hose to wash our shoes (v. necessary though useless to Michael who had chosen to wear sandals and socks to walk up a wet hillside grazed by sheep). The granddaughter lived in Mullingar and was staying with her granny for the summer. I have a friend who lives in Mullingar and, to my immense satisfaction, I was able to establish that the granddaughter was at school with my friend’s children whom she knew. Furthermore, the grandmother knew my friend and her parents (from Dingle). Very pleasing; but, alas, mortifying for my children. I am sure it is character building for them.
By lunch time, it was lashing. After a group lunch, we took the children to Play at Height. It looked terrifying. My nephew loves to climb and he was off like a shot but I thought mine would be more dubious but Michael and herself really enjoyed it too. Daniel didn’t fancy it and he did the zipwire outside in the driving rain which, notwithstanding the nasty weather, he loved.
The following day, we packed up and left. Tune in for our next episode when our heroes go to Cork.