Michael received a letter from scouts to bring home to us. It opened with the words “Your child has reached the required age to attend Hogwarts Camp of Witchcraft and Wizardry.” Unfortunately, my child can’t attend because I have already booked and paid for us to go away on the weekend in question. Am I the only parent to stop her child attending Hogwarts?
Archives for May 2016
I am not planning to say this every year, really, but, in April, it was three years since we moved into the new house and it continues to make me very happy. I love our house. The garden is not huge; it’s a small city garden, but it is green and pleasant, if slightly overgrown:
The reception rooms are really beautiful and although we have an exciting curtain/sofa/rug combination which is perhaps a little jarring, we will fix it in time. Though I was quite pleased with my London sister in law today as she a) admired the rug and b) said that contrasting colours and textures are very fashionable in London. Frankly, if it is in this particular way, I will eat my hat, but I was somewhat gratified nonetheless.
Our old house has finally come out of negative equity and we are selling it. If someone buys it, we might get that new sofa.
Herself: I’m thinking of applying to join the Irish language committee at school.
Me: Do you think you would like that?
Her: Yes, the committee members are allowed to use the front door of the school.*
*In my school students were only allowed on to the premises by the back door. The front door was reserved for teachers and visitors. A similar regime pertains in my daughter’s school. In the egalitarian haven/free for all that was my husband’s school, everyone came in by the same door. I assume he is the exception and we are the rule. What’s your own experience?
“A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2)” by George R. R. Martin
“A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow (Book 3 Part 1 of a Song of Ice and Fire)” by George R. R. Martin
“A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold (Book 3 Part 2 of a Song of Ice and Fire)” by George R. R. Martin
“A Feast for Crows” by George RR Martin
So, I’ve continued reading the Game of Thrones books. I’m enjoying them. Look, I’m not alone here. More blood and gore than I like and a bit long winded but I have always been a fan of the fantasy novel. I am making Mr. Waffle watch the telly series with me as well. He is not enjoying it. To be honest, I am not enjoying it hugely either but I feel strangely compelled to watch it. For my money, the books are better.
“High Wages” by Dorothy Whipple
Young woman who works in a shop makes good through her own industry. Unfortunately, falls in love. I am really enjoying all the Dorothy Whipples that I can get my hands on. She’s terrific.
“They were sisters” by Dorothy Whipple
A story of three sisters. One is beautiful and self-centred, one marries a bad lot and one is plain and responsible and ends up happiest. Another fantastic Dorothy Whipple novel.
“Number 11” by Jonathan Coe
I am a big Jonathan Coe fan and I would read any of his books. I quite enjoyed this morality tale but it is not his strongest work and, in places, feels like a number of vignettes strung together rather than a coherent novel. If you were launching on an exploration of Jonathan Coe’s work, I would not recommend that you start from here.
“The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” by Agatha Christie
I haven’t read this in years. My enjoyment on re-reading was somewhat marred by the knowledge of who the murderer was. But still surprisingly enjoyable.
“Death of a Nurse” by MC Beaton
Another Hamish Macbeth mystery. Pity me.
“Viper Wine” by Hermione Eyre
I should have loved this. Strong, interesting writing based on true historical events. But I did not. As a friend said to me, it felt more like an MA thesis than a novel. The author wears her learning very heavily and, at times, it felt like ploughing through a primer on England under the Stuarts. There was an artsy conceit of linking historical preoccupations with current ones (lead make-up/cosmetic surgery etc) which did not work for me. I did not enjoy this at all; it may not have been helped by the fact that I really expected to.
“The Unknown Bridesmaid” by Margaret Forster
I read this immediately after “Viper Wine” and the sense of being in the hands of a competent novelist who knew how to engage readers was a huge relief. This is an engaging short novel about the relationships between mothers and daughters. Perhaps not particularly cheerful but interesting.
“Bossypants” by Tina Fey
This largely left me cold. It’s a series of work done for other contexts strung together into a memoir. It’s not particularly good as a memoir but it is entertaining in parts.
“Darkmouth: Chaos Descends” by Shane Hegarty
I have to stop reading these. I understand that they are not bad at all if you are a ten year old boy but I am not a ten year old boy and, frankly, this was tedious.
“The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell
This is a really long book. You know when you are really enjoying a book and you don’t want it to end? Well this is what this book is like. I loved it. It’s literary fantasy which I think is a genre that David Mitchell pretty much has to himself. It’s about a group of immortals and humans interacting and fighting a war that most humans don’t know is going on. Fantastic. In every sense of the word.
“I Heart London” by Lindsey Kelk
This kind of book wouldn’t normally be my cup of tea. I read it because I was curious about the author. Slightly tedious romantic comedy. Not for me, I fear.
It’s been a busy year.
Herself turned 13 on April 12. So far, the teenage years have been great, though I have been under pressure to get up a birthday post.
This was her first birthday in secondary school. It’s been a big transition. I think she quite likes the range of subjects although she is still appalled by the amount of homework. It’s a big step up from the primary school regime of half an hour a day and nothing on weekends.
She is on the student council at school (hands up anyone who is surprised) and the teachers are all pretty impressed by her ability to speak to a crowd. She is student of choice to deliver messages to the student body either live in assembly or over the tannoy. She really is a great public speaker. She regularly reads at mass and is very good. I said to my father recently that her reading of a passage from Apocalypse at mass was outstanding; she read clearly and, by appropriate pausing, showed that she fully understood what she was reading. “It it was Apocalypse, that would be extraordinary,” he commented dryly.
Her school, like many others, is run by a trust and a couple of weeks ago, the trust brought all the school councils from the trust schools together for a meeting. A man from the trust came to talk to the students in advance. “I suppose,” said he, “you girls will want to do the buns and the tea.” Herself said, “I would be comfortable with a more active role”. “You can hold the microphone then,” he said kindly as he doled out speaking roles to all the boys in the room. She was outraged. I was outraged on her behalf. I said to Mr. Waffle, “This would never have happened, if we had sent her to an all-girls school”. “Mmm, but it’s not an all-girls world out there,” he replied. Still I feel it’s tough on her. That said, her school is fully using her talents so I suppose we have to just chalk it up to bitter experience.
Entirely as an aside, the event itself was a bit dull but a highlight was the students from English schools – English Catholics are just a very different breed from their Irish cousins – with their blazers with prefect badges and the like. When all the groups had to design a poster; the English schools did theirs in Latin. Ah yes.
She’s been singing a lot this year between school and church choirs and learning about music in an extra curricular class. This last has been a source of much bitterness and, at Easter, driven to distraction by her complaints, I said that she could give it up. But she hasn’t, she says she can’t face telling the teacher who has gone from a class of 30 to a class of 4 over the course of the year. I think it’s good for her because along with PE it’s the only class where everything isn’t easy for her. She remains to be convinced.
Her favourite subject is geography because her teacher is outstanding. She is also funny. When they were on their school tour in Italy, one of the children got sick on the bus. As the geography teacher cleaned up, she remarked to her charges, “Tell your parents that this is why teachers get long holidays.”
She seems to be warming to the Irish language. Her vocabulary is superb although she is a bit vague on the English terms for some geographical features/scientific terms. I daresay she will pick them up fast enough, if she needs to. She did ask me when I thought she would need the ability to describe coastal erosion in detail in Irish. I was thrown back on my mother’s advice which, as I told her, I have empirically found to be true: “Knowledge is never wasted.”
She is brilliant at dressing up herself and her brothers for Halloween and random dress-up days in school. The latter invariably come at about 12 hours notice and without her, our goose would be cooked.
She is very funny and has a lot of interesting things to say. She is good company. She gets on well with the extended family and they always seem suitably pleased to see her.
She is very dutiful, responsible and reliable. Like all eldest children, I think we probably expect more from her than we do from her siblings. By the time the younger children reach that age, we’ve already been through it once and we are much more relaxed. She loves her brothers but the three of them drive each other crazy. Either brother on his own is fine but there is something about the combination of both that she finds very trying. It has to be said, in combination, they too can find her trying. Sarcasm is not unknown to her and she does like to have the last word.
She cycles to and from school which is terrific. She likes the autonomy, although she hates the cycling. She is ludicrously punctual. School begins at 8.32 (I don’t know, ask the principal) but she likes to be there at 7.30 when the doors open. A couple of times when I have had early meetings, I have suggested we could cycle part of the way together but I am always too late for her and she is chomping at the bit anxious to be off. She did not get this from me. It’s great that we can cycle together into town to go for a cup of tea or visit a museum and I no longer spend part of the journey fearing that she is going to die due to unpredictable cycling habits; a sensation which is still, occasionally, available when cycling with her brothers.
She loves the beach though. She can spend hours happily playing on her own beside the sea. Even on freezing Irish beaches.
I am slightly in despair about the state of her room which is rarely tidy and where my presence is profoundly unwelcome (to be fair, all of us are unwelcome in her room but I am the only one likely to tidy it). But then she did an amazing job on her bookshelves and the other night she cleaned the kitchen within an inch of its life for reasons unknown, although this was a very welcome development.
She continues to be a far better cook than me and is now making dinner one night a week in exchange for pocket money. We had seafood risotto this evening. It was superb. I understand these things can skip a generation. She made lemonade the other day, just because (please admire food styling, she could pin that except that on pinterest her focus is on her grammar board, of course it is):
She has an excellent vocabulary to describe things that, at her age, I was blissfully unaware of. For example, the other day she played me a 2014 version of the song Cecilia. “That’s nice,” I said. “Meh,” said she, “you didn’t see the video with its appalling objectification of women.” She continues to read and re-read Shakespeare’s plays. Her English teacher had forbidden her from reading the only book on the prescribed reading list for Junior Cycle which she has not already read. She’s read it now; that’s proscription for you. She finished “Animal Farm” the other day. “So sad,” I said. “So many interesting ideas,” she said. She is tough; “I am David” is apparently the only book that has ever made her cry. I’m always sniffing over stuff myself.
Below is the picture she describes as the “cultural appropriation” shot. Fine.
She has been urging me to take her to get her hair cut since February. Mr. Waffle finally took her today. It looks lovely. She looks very grown up all of a sudden although, as she often tells me, she is the smallest student in the school. I think she’s probably due a growth spurt. In any event, there will be new first years in September and, as I tell her, she’s bound to be taller than them.
In short, she is delightful and we love her.
Herself went to Cork the weekend before her birthday. She went by train on her own and, happily, it all passed off peacefully. She had a brilliant time in Cork and came back with a large suitcase full of presents, including a pen for writing on windows. It was wet in Cork, though.
While she was in Cork, we took her brothers zip lining in the Dublin mountains which they really loved. Although, standing around in the hail did nothing for my nasty cold.
The following week herself had all kinds of birthday excitement as well. Her friends took her to see Hamlet which they all enjoyed. Then the next day they went zip lining (Mr. Waffle became a fixture peering up through the leaves in the forest) and she had two friends stay for a sleepover.
Meanwhile, Michael announced that he and Daniel had never got birthday presents as they already had what we bought them (last September) and we gave the presents back to the shop but they never got anything else. This struck me as unlikely but conceivably true. It was certainly true that the presents were slightly disastrous. Neither Mr. Waffle nor I retained any memory of replacing them. So the boys and I cycled in to town and I bought them an x-box game and a fart gun. The latter, for which I grudgingly forked out €24.99, has enjoyed success beyond our wildest dreams. His sister really hated it, so already something of a win as far as Michael was concerned.
On some Sunday since I last blogged (am a little hazy which) we had a very successful trip to Glasnevin cemetery. Firstly we went by bike and it was speedy and no one was knocked over. Secondly, it’s a fantastic cemetery with all kinds of interesting patriot stuff and great, elaborate graves. Thirdly, it’s beside a very nice pub known, appropriately enough, as The Gravediggers, and we went there for tea and crisps after our wanderings in the cemetery. I wonder is Glasnevin the only cemetery in the world with a very nice cafe in the gruonds and a pub practically built into the curtain wall.
As well as the patriots, I see that the father of plastic surgery is interred there. Not a lot of people know that, I imagine or, indeed the link between Robert Emmett and plastic surgery. There’s a great pub quiz question for you now.
And here’s an arty shot from inside the Round Tower over Daniel O’Connell’s grave:
The details of the weekend just past are a blur but I can confirm that the following elements featured: bouncy castles, canoeing on the canal, a visit from my sister in Cork and an all day hurling blitz.
Is it any wonder I’m exhausted?