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More Cork

31 July, 2018 at 8:36 pm by belgianwaffle

Thursday, July 19

Despite only having finished her course the previous Friday, the Princess and her companions were having a reunion in Dublin less than a week later. She was very keen to go which I thought was ludicrous but her kind indulgent father said that we should let her go so we drove her up to the train station in Cork with 6 minutes to spare before her train left. Note to file, Clonakilty to Cork may be 45 minutes by car; outside Clonakilty to the train station is quite a bit longer.

My brother who, when he is not being annoying, can be rather saintly took the boys off to Milano’s for lunch and Mr. Waffle and I had a really lovely lunch in the Farm Gate which I would very much recommend.

We spent the day in Cork bonding with relatives each of whom asked me in turn why on earth I had chosen to go to Clonakilty on my holidays. We picked herself up from the train at 8.30 (a train which she leapt unto 3 minutes before it left Dublin – it was a day of close shaves) and took ourselves back to base. She opined that her 5 hours on the train for 3 hours with her friends had been totally worth it. So that was something.

Friday July 20

For his own obscure reasons, my brother was cycling from Cork to Skibbereen. He stopped off on his trek and we all had lunch together in Deasy’s outside Clonakilty which is quite fancy and, therefore, didn’t have chips. Some trauma ensued as some of the cohort thought that the nice view and gourmet menu did not make good that deficiency.

Then we went to Kinsale to meet a friend of Mr. Waffle’s who had just bought a house there. We had take away fish and chips at her place for dinner so the natural order of things was restored. We also had a an opportunity to take our traditional “Caution Children” picture so that was obviously good.

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On the way back to Clonakilty, to the intense chagrin of Michael who stayed in the car timing how long I was taking, we stopped off and had a look at Timoleague Friary which is very, very beautiful It was sunset (about 10.30 so Michael’s chagrin was understandable, I suppose) and it looked quite spectacular.

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The setting was pretty spectacular also.

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Saturday 21 July

I went to the Red Strand for a swim leaving my non-beach loving family to entertain themselves as well as they could in my absence. Their loss, frankly.

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We went in to Rosscarbery where I spent many bored summers as a teenager (a friend’s parents had a house there) and, to be honest, there is still little enough to do. However we did have dinner/afternoon snack in a very nice pub. One of us had prudently bought a jumper and two of us were cold so she made the ultimate sacrifice.

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I was a bit grumpy and herself asked what I would like. “Why?” I said suspiciously. “Because who ever is the grumpiest runs this family.” This was a startling insight and I realised as I turned it over in my mind, entirely true.

My brother sent us a photo of Lough Hyne which I include because, you know, why not? It does highlight one of the problems of Clonakilty. It is West Cork but not west enough. It’s a bit of a trek to Lough Hyne from Clonakilty (not impossible, 40 minutes in the car) but almost all the good places are a bit of a trek.

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I went up to Cork for the evening because, since my brother was away, I thought I might be able to help my sister out a bit with the elderly relatives. I am not sure how much of a help I was really, particularly as she ended up having to feed me as well but we did enjoy a nice walk.

Sunday 22 July

We packed up and set off for home. Already Mr. Waffle and I were somewhat preoccupied by the thought of the working week ahead (something that does not happen at the end of week one of a three week holiday, I can tell you) and it was a long enough drive back. We stopped off at Blackrock Castle in Cork for lunch because I thought that it would not take us much out of our way (it did) and it would have pizza (it did not, they took it off the menu before Christmas, alas, alack).

On balance, West Cork again next year I think, but further west.

Clonakilty, God Help Us

30 July, 2018 at 8:38 pm by belgianwaffle

We went to Cork last summer for a week. You may remember that excluded from the list of potential places to stay was Clonakilty on the grounds that it was too near Cork and why would you bother. This was good advice I gave last year and I would have done well to have heeded it. But earlier this year, a family from Clonakilty contacted us and asked would we do a house swap and I thought, why not? I know why not. Why did I think that? Anyway we agreed dates and then they wanted to push it to earlier and, like fools, we agreed.

Furthermore, poor old Clonakilty has a gloomy reputation. It was home to a big workhouse during the famine and really the last desperate staging post of dying people hence when you say Clonakilty, people will often say to you, “Clonakilty, God help us” which is a tag line that I think the town has probably been keen to lose since 1847 or thereabouts (I’d say they’d like to have Macroom’s line instead “the town that never raised a fool”).


Sunday 15 July

Herself returned to us from her three week course on Friday and it was such a thrill to have her back. She was very reasonable about packing up to leave again two days after returning. It was a long old drive. We stopped for lunch in Cashel and got in to Clonakilty late afternoon. The house was in the middle of nowhere and it was slightly damp like many, many houses in Ireland but if it was going to be damp after a month in the heatwave, I shudder to think what it was like in the winter. On the plus side they had a wheel attached to a tree in the garden.

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And a piano that was in tune in the house.

We took ourselves into the town which, to be fair, is attractive enough, and went to the tourist office looking for attractions. There was much Michael Collins stuff and also the railway village. In addition to the price of your admission, you get to go on a tourist train around the town. “Would you like to go on Choo Choo?” the tourist office lady asked our mildly affronted 15 year old.

My sister drove down to Clonakilty that evening and saw Jack L in concert. He was good but he needs to find a younger fan base, it’s not often I feel like one of the youngest people in the room.

Monday 16 July

We recovered from our drive and stayed around the town. We bought a card game called “Now That’s What I Call Music” which I cannot recommend highly enough. Did you remember that “Don’t Give Up” was a collaboration between Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel? If yes, this is the game for you. I drove each of my partners wild by singing the 80s songs mentioned but, never, never knowing the artist. We bought a good jigsaw because that’s what holidays are for.

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We bought some books for the children.

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Tuesday 17 July

We went to the model railway village. It was not entirely successful. Our children were the oldest children there by a good ten years. But they were patient. We exhausted its charms quickly. Probably this functioning phone box was a highlight. We decided not to go for the choo choo train around the town experience. This was particularly good for herself as later she ran in to someone she knew in the town and bad and all as this was, it would have been considerably worse if she’d been in the tourist train.

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Continuing our run of poor luck we chose a deeply unpleasant pub to have our lunch in. Go us.

After lunch, we took ourselves to the Michael Collins museum in Emmet Square. This was a success. It was housed in a lovely Georgian house in the square where Michael Collins lived for a bit (not in this house it transpired). And the displays were interesting and it was all quite well done.

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We peaked a bit too soon on the jigsaw.

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I bought a great bowl with a drawing of an octopus by these people. We have named him and I love it. I loved it so much that I later went back and bought a jug and a casserole and it is dishwasher and oven proof. No favours etc. were received for these kind words. Sadly.

Wednesday 18 July

Despite really hard work on my part over the years, Daniel loathes the beach and Michael and Mr. Waffle are, at best, neutral. But it was the best summer since 1976 and I insisted on going to the beach. We went to Inchydoney which is a lovely beach and the Princess and I both swam. Here is how her brothers enjoyed it.

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The Princess continued to diligently read her very hard book on Aids. I made good progress with “99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret”. Don’t judge.

Once we left the beach, both boys cheered up and we had a nice lunch in the nearby hotel. We went to the Michael Collins homestead which is a bit basic but, you know, grand.

Then we went to see the Drombeg Stone circle which I thought was pretty impressive. Beautiful site overlooking the sea.

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My Dad was telling me that he had had it described to him by the archaeologist who found it. Apparently he married a publican’s daughter from Clonakilty and the stone circle was well known locally but archaeologists had never been near it (they have their work cut out, West Cork is just one big wedge shaped gallery grave) and he wrote about it and publicised it. It was felt that he would be the next professor of archaeology at UCC but then he died young. See, if you’re from Cork these are the extra exciting details available to add to your guide book information.

Then we went on to Glandore for a cup of tea. Glandore is basically a couple of houses and a view. But what a view.

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And then one of the pubs has been gentrified and it offered seats outside with shade and cushions and blankets and a delightful desert menu which we partook of liberally. It was absolutely delightful.

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Stay tuned for the second half of our Cork adventures.

Neglected or Completely Random Round-Up

28 July, 2018 at 10:46 pm by belgianwaffle

This blog has been a bit ignored recently. I’ve been busy, what can I say?

The cat has been killing small animals to beat the band. One weekend we had an injured pigeon (one wing down) and a small mouse fleeing around the garden to the cat’s endless delight. We went out hoping that matters would have resolved themselves on our return. When we came back the mouse had gone to his reward but the pigeon was still hopping round the garden. The cat had lost interest and fallen asleep in the flower bed. Mr. Waffle had to usher the injured pigeon to safety in the lane through the shed. You haven’t lived etc.

Herself went off on a three week residential course. I missed her. She had a great time. When she came back, I overheard her saying to her brothers, as the three of them cleaned up in the kitchen, “You guys have really missed your union rep.” Oh yes she is returned.

While she was away I made the boys go to gallery. They can now recognise St. Jerome at 20 paces. A summer afternoon well spent.

They also went to a tennis camp which was somewhat successful. Inspired by this and Wimbledon, Dan and I went out to play a match one evening and I practically expired from the heat. Irish people are just not made for hot summers.

My sister came to visit and too the boys to Taytopark which they quite enjoyed notwithstanding some reservations that they might be too old and sophisticated for it. My poor sister lost her car exhaust while staying with us and fell and hurt her knee in Taytopark so not a total win for her.

My Parisian friend’s family came to Ireland for a fortnight. She was stuck in Paris and in the first week we were on holidays in Cork (much, much more of this anon) but we saw a bit of them last week. We went out for a drink on Monday night and they came around to us for a barbecue on Wednesday evening. Unfortunate that the cat chose to catch a mouse under the table in the garden and decapitate in front of the horrified yet fascinated gazes of the French children. The eldest who has stayed with us a few times on exchange pointed out that the house was full of spiders (a bit I suppose) and coupled with the mouse, it was just too much. I scoffed at her fears and kept from her the fact that when I went to put the burgers on the barbecue there was an enormous charred spider sitting on the grill. Alas. Look, nobody dead yet, eh? My friend came to join her family today and we had lunch together and then went to see the children perform in the drama emerging from the drama camp they had been in all week. It was pleasant, I have to say. And Daniel is going to stay in Paris for a couple of weeks next summer and they’ll take him to see Paris Saint Germain.

It’s all been a bit exhausting though. In previous years, we have tended to do a week in Ireland followed by a fortnight abroad for our summer holidays. This year we did a week in Cork in July and then a fortnight back in work and then we’re off to Denmark. The week in Cork meant Mr. Waffle and I were frantic in the week leading up to it and equally frantic this week after (with added French entertaining duties – it was worth it, but it was hard). Next year we will do three consecutive weeks again.

On the plus side, met a friend for lunch and in our regular, “how are your children?” update told her that herself was going into transition year and she said that they had a work experience programme and might our firstborn be interested. Since finding herself work experience is a problem that has been gnawing at me since the start of the summer (herself seemed relatively unphased) with the school sending me unwelcome text reminders that it had to be sorted before she went back to school in September, I was very pleased. I could have taken her in to my office, I suppose, but neither of us were particularly keen. I feel, however, the life lesson she is getting in how to get a job may not be exactly the one we would want.

Finally, and only tenuously related, while I am on the theme of neglected, the html or css or whatever on this blog seems to have given up the ghost. The twitter links don’t work, the feedly link doesn’t work and the pictures are bizarrely stretched. Not to mention the weird wide margins. And now WordPress is torturing me about General Data Protection Regulation. Frankly, if this website is harvesting personal data, it’s news to me. I had to add a privacy page filled with suggested WordPress text and I feel it is overkill. I cannot believe that this blog is the kind of thing they were thinking about when the GDPR was drafted. Deep sigh. Maybe I can pay someone to fix it all.

Musings for Middle Brows

20 June, 2018 at 8:17 pm by belgianwaffle

I was listening to the podcast of “In Our Time” and they were doing Persepolis. It was really interesting. Though, seriously, how is Persepolis in our time?

I’m reminded of how years ago I was at a pub quiz and the room was there was a group of school inspectors at the next table they left early and my friend said, “They must’ve heard that there was a good play on the radio”. Oh how we laughed. The boot is on the other foot now, of course as I constantly bore my family witless about podcasts I am listening to. I read during the week that Irish people are among the world’s most enthusiastic podcast listeners, so I am clearly aligned to my fellow citizens.

I learnt about Darius and apparently it’s not pronounced like you might think. I was so interested in Darius and Persepolis that I went all out and had a look on the internet for more information. The first search return was the Darius takeaway. How the mighty have fallen.

Before this I knew nothing about Persepolis. I had read the book by Marjane Satrapi and that was pretty much it. My father is fond of saying “Is it not passing brave to be a king/ and ride in triumph through Persepolis.”* Turns out that it definitely is.

*The internet tells me that this is from “Tamburlaine” by Christopher Marlowe. What exactly was the curriculum they were drawing on when teaching Cork schoolboys in the 30s?

Choices

1 June, 2018 at 10:53 pm by belgianwaffle

I chose to work and not stay at home with my children. When herself was a baby, I stayed at home, not from choice but because I was looking for a job. I was out of the work force for nearly two years. Those were two tough years. I was living abroad which doesn’t help when you have a small baby. I was a nervous first time mother and I had two friends who were parents and weren’t working and no family in the country. I was really lonely most of the time and really tired all of the time. Babies are demanding and, in my experience, not great company. I can remember counting the hours until Mr. Waffle got home and I still remember the misery of Armistice day which is a holiday in Belgium but not for those who work in the European institutions (they have Europe Day on May 9 instead). So basically, a full day, in November when everything is closed and there is nothing for you and your baby to do except count the hours until Daddy gets home. It’s not a coincidence that I started my blog during this time and it played a big role in saving my sanity. Look, it was basically fine, we had enough money, we were living in a nice part of the world, I was able to fly home to Cork and stay with my family reasonably regularly; but it was hard.

I found a job before the boys were born. It wasn’t the most exciting job in the world in terms of content but its relatively low demand level was a blessing and my colleagues and I were running the Brussels outpost of UK organisations; we were young (at 36, I was the oldest person in the building); we were left to our own devices and we had a lot of fun. I am still in contact with people I knew there and think of my experience very fondly. When I went out on maternity leave with twins, I think they thought that I would never come back. They were so wrong, I’d learnt my lesson.

When we came back to Ireland, the children were 5 and 3. We actually needed my salary as Mr. Waffle was starting up on his own and had no money – possibly the only time since we met when I earned more money than him. We had a complex tapestry of childcare arrangements and it held up alright. When my salary was cut (thank you economic crisis), we had to send the boys to school earlier than we would have liked (they were 3 years and 11 months) because we couldn’t afford the creche fees and the child minder but it was ok. Then when Mr. Waffle started earning a bit more money, I was able to work a 4.5 day week pattern and take four weeks parental leave in the summer. I’m trying to remember when I started doing that, maybe summer 2011. So I had a reasonable balance, I felt. But I wonder whether for the children, it was ever enough. They have all said to me that they really, really wanted to be collected by me every day not just once a week. At some point, we reached a stage where I could have stopped working and we wouldn’t have been financially ship wrecked. We seriously thought about it. But we didn’t. I’m out of parental leave but I am still working a 4.5 day week which is better than many people manage. And I am excited about my new job and, I suppose, the children need me less than ever. But yet, Michael was sick recently and we left him home alone. He wasn’t very sick and Mr. Waffle was able to drop in on him during the morning. As I left for work, Michael said to me, “Sorry to be an inconvenience.” I have to say, I felt absolutely heartbroken. As Mr. Waffle is self-employed, he does almost all of the appointments and events during the day so I don’t even cover that kind of stuff very often. He tells me, as he returns wearily from another trip to the dentist or whatever, that I’m not missing much, but I do feel that I am.

On the other hand, my own mother worked when I was a child. We had a live in childminder and my memory is that sometimes I was collected from school by my mother, but this was reasonably rare and we regarded it as a treat. Mostly I was on the bus (in primary) or on the bike (in secondary). Often, it seemed my return home would be the signal for my mother to depart (sometimes to play golf, I feel). She was an academic and so had more flexible hours than I have. I don’t ever remember being unhappy with the arrangement but then I don’t ever remember my mother feeling even slightly guilty about it either. I wonder whether these things are related. I enjoyed an excellent relationship with my mother and spoke to her pretty much every day of my life until her dementia got too bad to make that possible a couple of years ago. So, you know, I don’t feel that I missed out or that our relationship suffered.

Anyhow, I still think about it a lot. I think I was put off by staying at home with a small baby which is not for me but I did love staying at home with the children when they were slightly older and those summers off seem halcyon in retrospect (though the children do remind me of the time I was so angry with them all that I pretended to drive off in the car and leave them – so maybe not entirely halcyon, can I say that I only turned over the engine and didn’t leave the driveway? Is it still bad?). Am I doing the right thing? I just don’t know, I am trying to do my best for everyone but I do wonder whether I am succeeding.

Incidentally, time Mr. Waffle has spent wondering whether he should give up work to spend more time at home with his children? None.

To Dust We Will All Return

30 May, 2018 at 7:18 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle’s aunt died a couple of weeks ago; she had been ill for a while and it fell into the category of merciful release, I think. We brought the children to the removal and I was surprised that Daniel was quite upset. Of course, I should have realised that she was the first person my children know who has died. I had also forgotten that it would be the first time that they would see a dead body and I think Daniel, in particular, got quite a shock. With my constant funeral going, at this stage, I feel barely a week passes without my seeing an embalmed and jaundiced corpse so, I perhaps underestimated the likely impact.

The funeral was small but Mr. Waffle’s cousin read a nice eulogy and over the lunch afterwards, Mr. Waffle was rather pleased to meet an old schoolmate of his aunt’s who was able to tell him what she was like when she was young. His aunt, who was somewhat eccentric, had planned her own funeral (many years ago, memorably, she rang Mr. Waffle while he was shopping with the children in Tesco to discuss her choice of coffin) and, to be fair, it seems a pretty good idea as the service really was very nice. She was very Catholic indeed so, if you are of that persuasion, do say a prayer for her.

Weekends Rounded Up

26 May, 2018 at 3:36 pm by belgianwaffle

The bank holiday weekend is a while ago now but I know you are keenly awaiting an update from me. Oh yes you are. Saturday was unremarkable but on Sunday, which was a beautiful, beautiful day, my poor sons spent the day in the art house cinema judging the young audience award for three films (one Finnish, one Italian and one French-Senegalese co-production – all a bit worthy, I think). Herself had plans with friends so Mr. Waffle and I daringly went out for a walk for the day in the Wicklow hills. The weather was really beautiful and we got a little bit burnt but it was delightful. The thrill. If 15 year old me knew that I was describing a walk as a thrill, she would be utterly appalled.

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On Monday, we went out to visit Mr. Waffle’s parents leaving herself at home to study for the Junior certificate (state exams at 15 – a taste of the fear that is to come in 3 years when she sits her final school exams). Later that afternoon, Mr. Waffle and I went up to Glasnevin cemetery to investigate the newly reopened Daniel O’Connell round tower. It’s only just reopened and currently only open from 1-3, given that it was 4.45 that was quite annoying.

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However, we had a soothing middle aged walk around the cemetery and the botanic gardens followed by a cup of tea so not too bad. They have tea rooms in the cemetery but I feel there is something a little disturbing about that so tea elsewhere. We had a pleasant evening in the garden where the boys managed to lose 4 tennis balls to various neighbouring gardens and one landed in the middle of the dinner table (to clarify, outside). I am a martyr to my sons’ entertainment.

The weekend before last, Mr. Waffle and I again went off together and visited Charleville House – we offered to bring the children with us but it was an offer that they were resolute in declining. It’s a big house in Co. Wicklow that is owned by a property developer and opened up to the public at various times of the year for tax break reasons. I wasn’t hoping for great things but it was actually very enjoyable. Firstly, we had the place to ourselves which is always good. We explored the grounds in a mild way. I have reached the age where I find grounds delightful. Four rooms in the house are open to visitors: the hall, the dining room, the music room and a drawing room. There is a really lovely collection of art and furniture. We had the ministrations of two guides entirely to ourselves and could ask questions and look at things for as long as we liked (honestly, the tax break must be terrific because there is no way that this enterprise is turning a profit based on the visitor to guide ratio). I particularly liked a John Lavery picture of the neighbouring Viscountess who was an interesting character in her own right. Highly recommended. I couldn’t face asking to take pictures indoors but here are some pictures of the grounds. Well worth a visit.

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Also, I bought, second hand fire irons. I have been spending my evenings since floating in a cloud of brasso fumes. Idiotically, failed to notice on purchase that bargain basement price may have been due to the fact that there was no shovel. Alas. Photo of work in progress.

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Also that weekend, I has my first spice bag. I think that this is a Dublin only delicacy. It’s chips and chicken strips in batter mixed with spices and chillies. I found it quite spicy myself but I was glad to have sampled the cultural phenomenon. Daniel made a spice bag in home economics on Monday so it is clearly part of the mainstream here. Are people outside Dublin aware of this particular thing or is it, like the deep fried Mars Bar, a delicacy only available in a particular jurisdiction?

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On Sunday I made the boys and Mr. Waffle go for a cycle along the sea front which was moderately successful. As an incentive measure, we had chips from Beshoff’s at the end of our cycle ride and before heading back. Take away chips on Friday and Sunday: truly exceptional parenting.

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Last weekend I went to a work dinner in Kerry on Friday night, took the train to Cork on Saturday morning and came back to Dublin on Saturday night. I wouldn’t exactly recommend it. Although, I must say, the view from my hotel bedroom in Killarney was lovely.

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I did get to go for a lovely lunch with my sister in this convent in Cork which has been repurposed as the Nano* Nagle centre and the UCC school of architecture.

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On Sunday, I forced everyone to walk from Bray to Greystones along the coast. Suffice it to say that it was not a success and all the children were quite cross with me, though no one was quite as cross as Michael who pointed out that it was yet another failed outing on my part and then asked when was I ever going to stop. A low point was finding out that the Dart wasn’t running and we were going to have to get a bus back from Greystones to where our car was parked in Bray. In my defence, I would say that the rain held off for much of the walk.

Actual enthusiastic little faces filled with joy:
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*Real name Hanora. My own granny was called Hanora but I can really see why it’s gone out of fashion and nickname versions were so popular. Granny was always known as Nina. If your name is Hanora, I’m sorry. Not as bad as Tanora (popular fizzy drink in Cork, not normally a girl’s name but I saw one year in the Holly Bough that a grief stricken Cork exile had gone for that for his daughter).


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