The boys were off school last week. I’m not sure they were totally delighted to have their mother around the house arranging activities but they bore up.
Some friends of ours from Brussels, now also resident in Dublin, had an enormous wedding anniversary party – caterers, entertainment, marquee in the garden, the works. “Bring your teenagers,” they said, “there will be lots of young people.” I was a bit dubious but we brought the boys. They had the time of their lives. I was amazed to see them out on the dance floor dancing with enthusiasm. There was a big gang of teenagers, chatting and bonding away. It was brilliant.
Mr. Waffle and I meanwhile struggled slightly. There weren’t many people there that we knew aside from the hosts who were obviously busy and a couple of people we knew a little. We spent some time speaking to a lovely man – a retired solicitor now a psychotherapist – who Mr. Waffle had known professionally. We were joined by a woman I knew thirty years ago when we were on the same course as trainee solicitors. I was able to recognise her as she has not changed at all. She was beautiful then and is beautiful now. She was always really pleasant and very, very clever. I felt that the gods smiled upon her and gave her all the gifts at birth. We talked a bit about our children and then turned to work and, to my surprise, I found that like me she was taking a year out from work. “How exciting,” I said with enthusiasm. She put her hand on my shoulder and said, very gently and pleasantly, “I don’t know if you’ve heard but my husband died last year.” I actually can’t believe that I hadn’t heard – Dublin is tiny – but it was such a shock. There’s definitely a lesson there somewhere.
We were taken to talk to our (French) hostess’s relatives who were over from France and didn’t speak a great deal of English. As French speakers we were offered up. They were very nice but I feel that I spent a lot of the evening speaking to older slightly deaf gentlemen. The culminating insult was when our hostess’s uncle said to myself and Mr. Waffle, “You are retired too, I think?” I think not.
All in all, by the end of the evening, I was a shadow of my former self. The boys had an amazing time though and we had to pry them away when we were going home. So there’s that.
The Dublin marathon was on the bank holiday weekend and I cycled all around the city with supporting banners trying to see the several people I knew who were running and failed to see any of them. I think that they’re all crazy anyhow.
We went out to Dun Laoghaire, had a walk on the pier and dinner out with the cousins which was lovely. It reminds me how one of the main reasons we wanted to come home from Belgium all those years ago was so that the children would know their relatives and I am pleased how well it has worked out.
Mr. Waffle moved office over the break and Michael and I helped unpack his boxes (Daniel was a bit sick). I will tell you this: there is a lot of stationery Mr. Waffle has acquired which he wishes his wife hadn’t been there to unpack (57 sets of file dividers anyone?). However, we finished quite speedily and Mr Waffle took us out for lunch so all’s well that ends well so long as he never brings his stationery stash home.
I took the boys to see an adaptation of an M.R. James short story in the Bewley’s Cafe theatre. I thought it would be suitably Halloweeny. “Who is this Mr. James anyway?” asked Dan. Things were a bit tense beforehand, a combination of lashing rain and a trip to the gallery failing to improve anyone’s mood. I pointed out to the boys a bunch of happy tourists enjoying the rain or at least not hating it as much as they were. Not a truly effective tactic. Mercifully, they quite enjoyed the play after so I’m going to call that a win.
For his birthday we got Michael Kilkenomics tickets. It’s a festival of comedy and economics in Kilkenny. He loves economics, I thought he’d like it. I was disabused of this idiotic notion the second he opened the envelope. We got him something else. And really, I should have found a friend to go with but I brought him anyway in the vain hope that when he got there it might be more fun than he feared.
My first mistake was bringing our bikes on the train. Kilkenny is small and everything was within five minutes of the station. There was no need for bikes and it is a pain bringing your bike on any train other than Cork-Dublin (where they are handily accommodated in the Guard’s van). You have to fit it on a rack designed for strong young men with light bikes.
My next mistake was booking three talks. What was I thinking? We were exhausted after two. The talks were ok and there were even some funny bits. The first one was the worst – it was hosted by Dylan Moran (comedian who knows a lot more about economics than you might expect) and at least one of the speakers was a bit dull. Michael commanded my admiration by asking a question at the end in a theatre filled with about 300 men in their 60s. Again, what was I thinking booking this? We had both read the book “Chums” by Simon Kuper which is an easy read – as Michael said, “gossipy” so we went to a talk by him. It was fine – and the comedian host, Rosie Holt, pretty good but almost everything he said was covered in the book so, not exactly new. He did have one funny story though. Apparently when Prince Edward was at Cambridge he was accompanied everywhere by two security officers. Edward did anthropology and was not very good and the despair of his tutors etc. but one of his security officers became fascinated and started doing the reading and hanging behind to chat to the tutors. Great story, if true, as they say.
We were really drooping at this stage but, happily the final panel was the best. A former Argentinian finance minister was really interesting and all of those on stage (a manel, I fear – honestly, economics on the evidence of this day, is overwhelmingly male) were engaging. There were two things said about Brexit which I thought interesting. One was that this was the first time in a break up that Britain was involved in that it was the smaller, less important, less influential partner. Obviously, in the outgoing tide of colonialism, Britain has had a lot of break ups but it’s arguably always been in the more powerful position. The other was that Britain was a “new state” after Brexit. I knew what the host meant, a bit like French Republics – you know the way they’re on the fifth now – this is a change so fundamental in outlook as well as economics that it is something of a new country. I have to say that the only English person on the stage profoundly disagreed with that analysis but I think there’s something in it. The final question was what was the first thing you would you do if you were a finance minister in a new country. The English man said that he would make radical changes as the country would never be as united as now after an independence movement. Everyone else leapt in to say, “Absolutely not, a civil war is often item one on the agenda of newly independent countries”. But the English man stuck to his guns and it appeared to me stoutly maintained that this is generally not the case. I think he was wrong there but it’s been awhile since they’ve had an armed revolution in England.
Michael and I got back to Dublin exhausted. We were met by other exhausted people. Mr. Waffle had had his course all day and Daniel had gone to the Trinity open day, a reunion with the people from his summer course and a rugby match with his uncle where, I am pleased to report, Ireland won. It was a lot.
On the Sunday before return to school, there was a fair amount of hanging around the house recovering although Dan had a GAA match (of course). I had to go to a removal across town (elderly father of a friend) so I abandoned the men folk to their fate and that was that.
A little tiring overall though. How was your own mid-term?