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Mostly Cork

29 July, 2017 at 10:00 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister and I did a bit of bonding in Cork in early July. We went to Ballycotton where I found a walk I had never known before but everyone else in Cork did – it’s been there forever apparently. How fortunate my children are that I have never previously been aware of it although we stayed in our friends’ house in East Cork many, many times over the years. It’s not too late.

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In an exciting development, the boys took the train to Cork alone.

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It all passed off very smoothly, unlike when their sister took her first solo train ride and they were quite proud of their independence and ability to travel unaccompanied. In a related development, we said goodbye to our last childminder. This is the first time since 2003 that we haven’t paid childcare fees and I am enjoying the resultant boost in income which I should be putting into the mortgage but am spending on riotous living. It is the end of an era. Our last childminder wasn’t a great fit; she would have been better with younger children, I think and she was never as popular with the children as her predecessors. Also, I think the boys would have preferred to travel home from school alone like some of their friends but I wasn’t entirely happy with having them manage alone in the exciting urban environment from where they had to get the bus. Daniel once described how a man slightly the worse for unspecified intoxicants came up to him and Michael and asked where they went to school. When they answered politely, the man started to rant about their school and abused it and them in pretty unpleasant terms. “Where,” I asked, “was the childminder?” Apparently she was standing a bit further away, it’s unclear to me why he didn’t go nearer to her or she didn’t see what was going on with them but at least she was there and I suppose there was a responsible adult nearby if things turned nastier. I did feel a bit that I was paying to have someone sit in my house looking at her phone as despite my very best efforts there didn’t seem to be very much interaction between her and the children which they all seemed to enjoy very much.

I digress. While in Cork, I briefly met my friend the heart surgeon in Kinsale. She was back from America with her husband and four children for a holiday. I brought the boys to meet them. Unfortunately, all of the children are reaching an age where you cannot put them in a room and say, “play together” so they ended up sitting inside watching the TV and not bonding. It gave the adults a chance to bond outside while admiring their truly beautiful view. She says that Trump is giving middle aged men all over Vermont heart failure as they lie awake all night worrying. On the other hand, I suppose they were having heart failure already as, if they weren’t, how was she gainfully employed?

I must say the weather has been lovely this summer and Cork has been particularly delightful. The boys may not have loved the visit to the Crawford Gallery

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or the riverside walk under the trees

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but they got to have pizza at Milano’s so, you know, not all bad. And it’s always good to jump on the Shaky Bridge.

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They were strangely unimpressed by the excellent window display in Liam Russell’s on Oliver Plunkett Street.

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I took them to Blackrock Castle Observatory which they always like. They also spent an enormously happy evening at my sister’s playing Risk and eating chips.

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My sister facilitated this even though she is ill. She emerged from her house in pyjamas to greet us. “Is wearing pyjamas outside illegal?” wondered Daniel. A number of years ago there was a trend in certain parts of Dublin to venture outside wearing pyjamas. I was strongly against this. Perhaps too strongly as Daniel seems to have taken it very much to heart.

Activities (Various)

28 July, 2017 at 11:01 pm by belgianwaffle

Oh lads, it’s been ages.

Herself has returned from summer camp which she loved with the passion of 1,000 suns.  While she was away, we made feeble efforts to entertain her brothers to the best of our abilities.  We took them to the latest science gallery exhibition on sound which they pronounced to be pretty good.

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Daniel plays chopsticks:
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The science gallery is the only museum they have any affection for.  We made them do a walk-through of the newly reopened wing of the National Gallery and they were not pleased.  In particular Michael was not pleased.

We went to mass in Irish which has the merit of being short and always involves a restorative cup of tea afterwards.  We took them to Four Knocks which is the best megalithic site in Ireland.  Really.  We had been there before with all of the children when they were younger.  The boys were small on the last visit and they had forgotten but it really is an amazing spot.  Much better, I think than Newgrange or any of the more famous sites.  You have it to yourself – you pick up the key from a local farmer – and it is creepy and a bit awe inspiring.  The boys really enjoyed it which is not something you usually get to say about megalithic sites. It is na Fuarchnoic (the cold hills) in Irish which is a bit more accurate than Four Knocks.

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We went for a moderately satisfactory picnic in Ardgillan castle after the Four Knocks excitement but I made us pack up good and early as I was getting the train to Cork and I was paranoid about timing.  Unnecessary.

In other summer excitement, my sister took the boys to Tayto Park and bought them three bottles of Fanta to consume in the rain while being twirled up in the air on a variety of terrifying machines. Their lives are complete and she didn’t die of exhaustion. A win then.

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They also attended a sports camp at the bottom of the road which was very successful except that they were not allowed to leave unless collected by a grown-up which was supremely awkward. Michael missed a day due to illness but otherwise they both enjoyed it very much. Daniel won camper of the week for his supreme politeness and I was filled with pride. He didn’t seem super-delighted though.

Friday Night Fun!

7 July, 2017 at 10:45 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle is out at a work dinner tonight. The Princess is mid way through her three week residential course which she is loving. Communication with her parents has been sparse. Typical exchange captured below.

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So the boys and I were home alone together this evening. In a triumph for parent and childminder alike, when I came home from work they were still in their pyjamas. “What is the point of holidays, if you can’t have a lazy day from time to time?” asked Michael. He and I have fundamentally different views on this matter.

Anyhow, as Mr. Waffle prepared to go out, I said to the boys, “We’ll have fun together, won’t we?” Daniel looked at me, raised an eyebrow and said, “Fun with pasta?” Yes, indeed, it was pasta for dinner again. There’s a boy who knows his mother.

Updated to add: the cat has just been sick on the rug in the hall.  Friday nights don’t get more fun than this.

Maybe Print Is Not Dead After All

3 July, 2017 at 6:42 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle has a subscription to the Economist [that’s even worse than it sounds, I got it for him for Christmas, it was that or more socks]. It lies around the house but I am never really tempted to pick it up. Daniel, on the other hand, is rivetted. He firmly believes Macron will save Europe, just so’s you know. I was talking about this unusual choice of reading material with my friend from Belfast, “I mean,” I said, “I didn’t even watch the news growing up, let alone read the Economist. Did you?” “Well,” he said, “it was the 70s and I was growing up in North Belfast so much of the news was very local, so yeah, all the time.” Well, circumstances alter cases.

I asked Michael and Daniel whether they had seen Trump and the orb. “No,” said Michael peering over my shoulder on to twitter which is now my source of all news. “Do you want to see, Daniel?” I asked. “No thanks,” he said, “I saw it in the Economist”

Re-think

30 June, 2017 at 10:06 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: The boys will be able to cycle to school in September when they start secondary school.
Her: Are you expecting the three of us to cycle in together like high-vis ducklings?
Me: Um, yes.
Her: No.

End of the School Year – Round-up

28 June, 2017 at 9:00 pm by belgianwaffle

It seems that we have been celebrating the end of the school year for a while. As the boys are in 6th class, there’s a lot going on. We had their confirmation on June 9. I wasn’t able to move my neck but otherwise it all went well. My sister was able to join us from Cork and Mr. Waffle’s parents came and we went to Milano’s afterwards which is Daniel and Michael’s favourite restaurant in the world. Their aunt and uncle gave them mobile phones for the occasion and they were ecstatic.

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They also cleaned up on the cash front from indulgent relatives. The spiritual aspect was satisfactory also although no Irish speaking bishop was found and the priest who kindly performed the ceremony didn’t believe in rushing matters. I went up with Daniel as his sponsor and he took Patrick as his confirmation name. “Lovely,” I thought. As I stood there waiting to go up to the bishop, I reaslised that I had no idea what name Michael had taken. I had been pushing Edward but took my eye off the ball. “What did you take?” I asked anxiously afterwards. “Jack,” he said smugly. “There is no St. Jack,” I said. I suppose it’s a variation of John. My sister who was his sponsor was surprised also. He keeps us on our toes.

As part of their ongoing leaving primary school extravaganza, they had an overnight trip with their class in Wicklow. I was a little concerned about that, but I needn’t have been, they had a wonderful time. Packing was a challenge though.

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Then they went to the National Acquatic Centre for the day.

They had the feis as well where both of them sang songs in Irish; I was very proud of them – it’s hard to get up and sing in front of a crowd.

And the other day they brought home their final primary school reports where their wonderful teacher had written some really lovely things about them both.

Today was primary school graduation (insert reactionary comment re when I was young you only graduated from college etc.). There was a nice ceremony at which both boys spoke and Daniel also sang. Then all of the children went en masse to the cinema and a couple of parents shepherded them there including me. I am a shadow of my former self. I’m sad to be ending my association with the school; it was such a nice, happy place for my children.

Meanwhile, herself finished school at the end of June and has spent every waking minute since with her extended group of friends. She is so autonomous now. A bunch of them went to the beach; to town; to the cinema; they walk around the park; they go to each other’s houses; she loves Penney’s (Primark to those from outside the jurisdiction) and spends many happy hours there. When she went to the beach, I forgot to remind her not to drown. It turns out she was on top of that piece of advice. She feels very grown-up and sophisticated – much more so than I was at the same age. I am admiring and it is lovely to see her enjoying herself.

She did very well in the school awards but this information had to be dragged from her. Her school report was excellent except for science. Sadly, science teaching this year has been a struggle with the teacher taking several months off. This story is a fascinating one and involves ultimate cage fighting. Do you think I am making this up? Anyhow, I think it is understandable that the students did not excel as finding a replacement mid-year was quite the challenge. New science teacher next year, anyhow. You will be pleased to hear that she did well in her mathematics examination, well you would be, if you had been involved in the frantic hunt for missing log tables the night before involving, inter alia, approaching the neighbour’s children. As she said to me, “You say summer examinations are really only a point in time assessment, it’s much more important how you developed throughout the year; don’t make me sit this examination, stay true to your principles.” Happily the log tables turned up before my principles had to be put to the test. On Sunday she went off for a three week residential camp. She hugged us goodbye as she propelled us out the door; she seemed so capable and independent. It is strange to be at home without her. This year seems to have flown. I remember 14 being hard, but I think she’s doing alright.

Our Days are Numbered

27 June, 2017 at 10:25 pm by belgianwaffle

The boys are finishing primary school tomorrow. All this year, I have been conscious as we walked in each morning that this was our last year. We started walking to school in November 2013 and we’ve walked almost every morning since then. It is often the highlight of my day. We walk through two small pretty parks and we talk. We know the cycle of every pedestrian light on the route; which ones are slow which ones are speedy. Herself walked with us until she started secondary school in September 2015. I used to love to chat to her. In one of the parks, the boys would run through it and she and I would walk around it talking of important matters now lost in time. I was so sad when she went to secondary school and I no longer talked to her on that morning school walk.

The boys and I developed our own routine though. They run to the first park while I cycle. I ring my bell as I pass them and they run more quickly.  Michael bows in a superior manner as I dismount on arrival in the park; Daniel is above this usually, though sometimes he joins in. The park is so beautiful at this time of year. I often think of that line from the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem “I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding”. The light through the trees reminds me of it though, to clarify, I have never seen a falcon in our Dublin park.

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All year long we look at the leaves. None in winter, coming out in stops and starts in spring, leafy green in summer, then turning and drifting into huge piles in the autumn. We know which trees lose their leaves earliest and come into leaf latest. We check them every school day. We know the men who tend to the parks. We know the postman and depending where he is on his route, we know whether we are early or late. We exchange views on the weather with him.

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We pass the house that has no front garden but an amazing and impressive range of climbing and window box plants. We compliment the owner on it, if we see her – she often tends the plants in the morning, watering and training them on climbing frames – and she compliments the children on their reading at Sunday mass.

Then we cross at the lights (slow and worth running for). Every morning I look right from the traffic lights at the Dublin mountains. “Look at the mountains,” I say. The children are indifferent. I get particularly excited if there is snow in the mountains. Herself says that if she ever writes a book about me, she will call it, “Is there snow in the mountains?” Sometimes we use the mountains to identify the points of the compass: the mountains are to the south so which way is this?

Then we go on to the next park. Sometimes we meet neighbours with children in the school on the way to this park; we pass their house every day. We call them the opposition and race them to school. When we started walking, their baby sister came in a buggy, now she’s walking into school wearing her uniform.

This next park is full of flowers. We know when the daffodils come – for my birthday in March, the tulips – for the Princess’s birthday in April and the red maple and ivy – for the boys’ birthday in September.

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In winter, the sun rises over the far side of the pond and sparkles on the water. In December, there’s a Christmas tree.
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Just one year, it froze.

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Today it rained.

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After this park we are nearly there. We pass a beautiful old house covered in wisteria and ivy. For years we have been tracking the ivy’s progress as it engulfs the houses on either side and greedily makes its way towards second next door.

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At this point we usually meet other children walking or cycling or scooting to school and the boys chat to them or run with them while I talk to the parents. We all come together again at the world’s slowest traffic light. Any given morning, there’s a big gang of parents and children waiting patiently for the traffic lights to change and give us a chance to cross. Then I cycle the last bit downhill and wait for them with their bags at the school. Now they are so big, I leave them to wait outside the school door until it opens; when they were younger, I waited with them, but they are anxious to say goodbye now and get on with their days.

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And here’s another poem that comes into my head a lot at the moment: “And the days are not full enough/And the nights are not full enough/And life slips by like a field mouse/Not shaking the grass”


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