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Archive for July, 2015

Sugar Loaf

31 July, 2015 at 4:12 pm by belgianwaffle

We climbed the Sugar Loaf during the week. Due to my legendary sense of direction, it took us two tense hours to complete the one hour journey there. If I never see the ludicrously named hamlets of Stepaside, Kilgobbin and Scalp again, it will not be too soon.

Lovely views from the top though.

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And, I managed to get us home in under an hour, notwithstanding rush hour traffic, so that was something. It would be churlish to point out that the climb up and down only took about 90 minutes. Sigh.

A Game of Two Halves

30 July, 2015 at 3:15 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess was very keen to go to Cork for the weekend alone. With some trepidation, we sent our precious 12 year old off last weekend. I really thought there wasn’t much possibility for disaster. She’s a train veteran and it was a non-stop train, how bad could it be?

Well, on the way down, there was a drunken man in her carriage announcing loudly and intimidatingly that he had just been released from Mountjoy (Dublin’s largest prison). The staff were called but they went away again when he sat down and my poor 12 year old was petrified. Not helped by a six year old running up and down the carriage telling the man he was drunk; some kind of altercation ensued between the mother and the drunken ex-prisoner and the mother and six year old (who had been sitting opposite herself) hightailed it out of the carriage. Herself was terrified and wouldn’t talk to me on the phone in case “he would hear”; I was hearing this blow by blow by text message. I was very upset for her. Mercifully, a kind, saintly midwife sitting nearby asked the Princess whether she was travelling alone and suggested that she sit in beside her for the remainder of the journey which she did, very gratefully.

After the initial trauma, her weekend in Cork was terrific but it would be useless to deny that she approached the train ride back with some trepidation. She met the midwife again in the same carriage so that was a relief to her but they were the only two people in the carriage. One of the staff sat down opposite herself and asked was she travelling alone. She said that she was and he pointed out that every other seat in the carriage was reserved for Dublin supporters who would be getting on in Thurles and they might be a bit rough. Would she like, he asked, to move to first class. She would like. “What about the midwife?” I asked. “I waved to her as I went past,” said she. She travelled back to Dublin in first class. “I am never going back,” she said to me firmly. We’ll have to see about that now.

So, hats off to Iarnród Éireann for prompt action on the return journey but, alas, for the outward journey. Still, I think she is prepared to go on the train alone again, provided that she can travel first class.

Happy Anniversary

29 July, 2015 at 3:12 pm by belgianwaffle

We got married 14 years ago yesterday on the only fine Saturday in 2001. And we’re still married. Pretty good going.

Theology or Possibly Hubris

27 July, 2015 at 12:27 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself: That story about the labourers is really unfair.
Me: Mmm, my granny always hated the one about Martha and Mary. She used to say that Jesus would have got cranky fast enough if someone wasn’t bringing him a sandwich and a cup of tea or the biblical middle east equivalent.
Herself: And how about the prodigal son, how is that fair?
Me: Well, I suppose the prodigal son and the labourers are parables…
Her: Oh come on, God needs to start accepting some constructive criticism.

Endless Summer – Dublin Cinema

26 July, 2015 at 12:19 pm by belgianwaffle

We came back to Dublin on Thursday, July 16. The cat was delighted to see us back.

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That night, the boys and I went to the opening night of the IFI family festival where we saw “Inside Out”. As it was the opening night, they had various competitions and events for the children. As they went around the stalls, Michael was given a stage pass. Before the film started, the children with stage passes were called up to the front. Michael loves this kind of thing and bounded up. There were four other children onstage. They had to do a little piece where they answered “sausage” or “banana” to every question asked. The other children were nervous and almost inaudible. Michael was in his element and had the audience rolling in the aisles. He got awarded the winning prize of the “golden banana” and I have worked out what he can do when he grows up. A win all round.

In fact, it was afterwards I was most pleased. Michael might have been tempted to boast but he hardly referred to his triumph because he felt for Daniel who hadn’t won a prize. Daniel for his part was sad that he shouldn’t have been chosen to go on stage and didn’t win a prize but bravely congratulated Michael and was pleased for him.

We went back to the festival on Saturday with all of the children and a friend (tickets, incidentally fantastic value at €15 for a family and €5 for an individual). We saw a terrific German language film, Winnetou’s Son. It was very sparsely attended which was brilliant for our little group as the star of the film was there with his mother and in the Q and A, they got to ask him loads of questions. He was a lovely, immensely polite child and he posed cheerfully for pictures afterwards:

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Added bonus, Michael was yet again exposed to the advantage of speaking foreign languages. The star was 11 and didn’t really speak English. Mr. Waffle and I speak German (he’s much better than me but I like to talk more so it kind of evens out) so we were able to chat to the star and his mother which Michael could see was useful loath though he might have been to admit it.

Then we went to the closing film. It was a Norwegian film with beautiful cinematography. When I hear the words “beautiful cinematography” I always think, “rotten film”. The film wasn’t bad, it’s about three children who get stranded in the Arctic through a series of deeply improbable events, but for this once, the cinematography really did make the film for me. It was one of the most stunningly beautiful films to look at. The children found it reasonably enjoyable; the main characters are an older sister and her annoying twin siblings and this resonated particularly with some of the family, less so with others. Michael, for example, doesn’t want to see another film, possibly ever, certainly not for some months.

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Endless Summer – Cork

25 July, 2015 at 11:52 am by belgianwaffle

Saturday, July 11

We left Kerry behind us and drove to Cork. Mr. Waffle, alas, had to return to Dublin so it was just the four of us. We were in Cork by lunchtime where, for consistency, it was lashing. My brother took the children into the library for the afternoon. New books, new rain; it was all excitement.

Sunday, July 12

At mass, we had my favourite priest. He is now Michael’s favourite priest too. He is reverent, he doesn’t rush matters, he gives a good sermon and that Sunday, notwithstanding the fact that there was a choir, mass was finished 28 minutes after it started.

I remain convinced that the health of the Catholic church in an area is inversely proportionate to the length of Sunday mass. This explains why, for example, in Godless Dublin our mass is always nearly an hour.

In the afternoon we went to Fitzgerald’s park to go to the playground. For their own inscrutable reasons the city fathers have chosen to do up the playground in July. So, it was closed.

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I am sure it will be terrific when it re-opens but, you know, sub-optimal for the moment. In the absence of the playground we went to the city museum. A poor substitute. It’s a good little museum with lots of interesting (if occasionally slightly random) exhibits but the troops were not in the mood for it.

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Even the recreation of the WW1 trenches failed to spark their interest.

So we went to find the ice cream van and bounce on what is known as the Shaky Bridge (officially Daly’s bridge). Even this failed to cheer the troops. Daniel who doesn’t like ice cream (I know!) was particularly uncheered.

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All that was left for us to do was return to my parents’ house and play with electronic devices with a vengeance.

Monday, July 13

Determined to make up for the previous day’s lack of success, I took the children to Milano’s for lunch. Joy was unconfined. As ever, I decided to push my luck afterwards and take them on the UCC George Boole tour. It’s mostly a UCC tour. And though the guide was knowledgeable and friendly, and there were a couple of costumed characters, it was pitched just wrong for us. For me, with an intimate knowledge of UCC, there was very little I didn’t know already and quite a lot I could have added; for the children, it was too much and too boring and too long. I could see that the tourists were entranced but it just didn’t work for us. For me the highlight was getting into the observatory where I had never been before; for the children, it was the costumed characters but, by the end, I think that all of the goodwill generated by the pizza was exhausted.

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Tuesday, July 14

Michael did not feel well so, leaving him to the tender mercies of his grandfather, his brother and sister and I walked into the market to buy materials for lunch and ingredients for a cake for my aunt. My aunt, who lives next door to my parents, turned 86 on June 21 and after much logistical discussion we were having a birthday dinner for her that night. Herself had undertaken to make a marble cake for the event.

On the way back, I pointed out to the children a historical plaque on one of the houses (my poor children, how they suffer). It said “Professor Simpson who first synthesised succinic acid lived here”. “I wonder,” said herself, “did he have a lisp.” Perhaps you had to be there, but it was the funniest thing I heard all week.

In the afternoon, herself went next door to visit my aunt and came back with an emergency change of plan. Apparently, my aunt doesn’t like marble cake; resourceful child, she made lemon cake instead. Dinner itself passed off very well with only some slight difficulties as follows: 1. My brother, sister and I having concocted this between us, forgot to tell the birthday girl until the last moment, she was able to come all the same; 2. Having accidentally omitted to tell my father, he was convinced that it was a Bastille day celebration (he always celebrates July 14 being a Francophile and a republican – non-violent branch) and, as he is a little hard of hearing, it needed several stage whispers before he understood that it was a belated birthday dinner for his sister and he returned wistfully to the Bastille theme several times over dinner.

Wednesday, July 15

I seized the day. The weather forecast said it was to be sunny and by mid-morning we were in Kinsale on our usual forced march to Charles Fort. It was really lovely, even the children seemed to enjoy it. It made a great change from the rain.

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As we walked back to Summercove to have lunch in the Bulman, I got to make the standard remark which is nonetheless true, “Ireland is the best country in the world for holidays when the weather is fine.”

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Favourite sign on the walk:

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When, we got back to the car, it was still sunny. On the spur of the moment, I decided to go to Garretstown beach. If there is a problem with Cork (which is, of course, denied) it’s that you have to drive out of the city for a good hour to get to a nice beach. It was sunny, we were already in Kinsale, the beach was nearby, we were fed and the beach gear, by happy coincidence, was in the car, so off we went. It was magic. The sun shone, the sea was warm (compared to Kerry, not compared to the Mediterranean), there were waves but not too high. We all loved it and came back to Cork sandy and happy.

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Join us for our next installment, when our heros return to Dublin.

Endless Summer – Kerry

24 July, 2015 at 10:53 am by belgianwaffle

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.

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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.

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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.

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Wednesday, July 8

This was the Londoners’ last day and the weather was pretty good, by the standards of the week up to then.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And out to sea

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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.

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The following day, we packed up and left. Tune in for our next episode when our heroes go to Cork.

Pub Culture

22 July, 2015 at 2:27 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael asked me the other day why there weren’t pubs specially for children. This is what happens after you have holidays in Ireland and the kids eat in the pub all the time. Still, a little unnerving all the same.

In other news, hold out for a blow by blow account of our holidays in Kerry and Cork. Are you on the edge of your seat?

Big City Child

21 July, 2015 at 2:15 pm by belgianwaffle

I was folding sheets with herself on the landing when I heard a coo from a pigeon which appeared to come from the fireplace in my room. Something about the acoustics of the chimney makes pigeons up on the roof sound like they are cooing in the chimney breast. I find it peaceful. It reminds me of the pigeons in the huge lime tree that grew in the garden of the house I grew up in. You could hear them right up on the third floor, cooing softly as you went about your important childish business. “Can you hear the pigeons from your fireplace too?” I asked her thinking how this might also one day be one of her beloved childhood memories. “Yes,” she said “and, I think, filthy sky rats up my chimney.”

Slightly Afraid

7 July, 2015 at 11:40 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself: I don’t want to go to scouts tonight.
Me: But you really enjoyed it the last time.
Her: But I’m tired tonight.
Me: Alright so.
Her: If you were a Tiger mother, you would make me go.
Me: Are you reading that “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” again?
Her: Yes.
Me: But you’ve read it twice already.
Her: Three times.

Sharing the Housework: Perceptions

6 July, 2015 at 11:36 pm by belgianwaffle

I have said before that I am blessed to have a husband with a well developed sense of duty and a clear understanding that housework should be shared by both parents.

I thought I would check over dinner what the children’s view of this was.

Me: What work does Daddy do around the house?
Daniel: The laundry!
Michael: The cooking!*
Herself: The cleaning up after dinner!**
Me: And what do I do?
Long Pause
Me: Well, for starters, the tidying up! I am always picking up things and putting them away.
Michael: But that’s more of a hobby, really.

I think my work may not yet be done here. On a related matter, I was very struck by this post and the comments; worth a look, if you are working mother.

*At weekends
**During the week with the children

Greek Crisis: Analysis from our Local Team in Dublin

5 July, 2015 at 11:21 am by belgianwaffle

Herself: I’d like to go to Japan [inspired by her aunt’s recent trip].
Me: I bet it’s really dear at the moment; the euro is so weak.
Her: Why is the euro weak?
Me: Well, I suppose, now, it’s the Greek economy.
Her: What’s wrong with Greece?
Me: Well, it’s part of the eurozone and it’s doing very badly for a variety of reasons, so that creates problems for the currency as a whole.
Her: Well, then why don’t the other EU countries help Greece out?

Looks like another voice in favour of debt relief there.

Insightful

4 July, 2015 at 11:16 pm by belgianwaffle

A colleague had an American friend and her family to visit. She had lived here for a number of years in the past; they were visiting for the first time. “How friendly the Irish are!” they exclaimed. She thought for a moment and replied, “Irish people are charming but they are not particularly friendly.”

Holidays

3 July, 2015 at 11:12 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself finished school last Friday. The boys and I soldiered on for Monday and Tuesday of this week. On Wednesday morning we were all on holidays (oh hurrah!) except poor Mr. Waffle who had to go in to the office.

On Wednesday, the Princess and I cycled into town at lunch time to see the Anu Productions, 1916 offering. It still needs work and they described it as a work in progress, to be fair. We might go back next year and see how it looks; we weren’t completely entranced. It is set during and just before the Easter Rising and the action takes place in the back lanes around O’Connell St which, I imagine, are, in some ways, very little changed since the Rising. The meeting place is the Dublin Tourist office. There were a couple of tourists in our group and they seemed to react much better than the Irish members of the audience to the participatory element which is a part of all of this company’s work. Still, I wonder how much they knew about 1916 and whether they were a bit baffled.

In the afternoon we had friends of the children’s around. Due to extraordinarily fine weather we were able to barbecue. The excitement. This lured everyone outdoors and all of the children played in the garden.

The next day, Thursday, it was up and out to the park,

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then on to library and, after a refreshing tea with Mr. Waffle, on for our annual trip to see the mummies in St. Michan’s. I love the way the graveyard is so quiet and peaceful right in the centre of the city.

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Alas, there was a rough looking bunch of people drinking at the end of the graveyard. One of the disadvantages of urban, edgy, city centre living is that your children are only too familiar with this kind of group. Mr. Waffle took them home on the tram the other day and there was an arrest where they got on and a bloody altercation with ambulance summoned where they got off. I digress.

In the afternoon, it was back on the bikes to go to the dentist – all was well, we now have plaque disclosing tablets which are a source of enormous delight.

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Mr. Waffle had spent the afternoon fetching the car back from the distant suburb where it was being repaired and we greeted its return with boundless enthusiasm. We are all sick of travelling everywhere by bike (unworthy but there it it).

A man is coming next week to sand and varnish the floors. So that he can sand under the bookcases, the children and I emptied the one bookcase this morning and transported its contents (A-H) to the utility room.

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He is going to do the rest himself. I can only applaud his work ethic.

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Then into town to get sandals and shorts. I then made the children go to the Little Museum of Dublin. I think it’s lovely and, also, Mr. Waffle got me a season ticket for my birthday. They found it moderately entertaining. The Princess has been a couple of times already and likes it. The boys were a bit grumpy going in but seemed to quite enjoy it in the end. I saw a one armed bandit and recognised every one of the images from when I was quite small and spent my evening in pubs in West Cork in the summer (not as bad as it sounds). Looking at the fruit pieces every detail was familiar to me. I realised that one I had been a bit unsure of at age 6/7 was, in fact, a watermelon, the knowledge fitting into my brain with a satisfying mental click. I had utterly forgotten my time on the machine (2p a go, I see, good value for the grown-ups) until the moment I stood in front of it today but all of the images came back to me with startling clarity. The inside of my head is a mystery to me.

Michael with Podge and Rodge whom he would adore if I would let him watch them:
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Irish Times Editor’s Desk:
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Herself and Alfie Byrne contemplate St. Stephen’s Green
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Ross O’Carroll-Kelly (she likes him, she reads the column faithfully ever Saturday, for Honor; Michael does not care for him):
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Daniel blowing a trumpet with a model of Nelson’s Pillar in the background:
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The remainder of the day was spent packing. Tomorrow we drive to Kerry. The children are filled with excitement. The weather forecast is shocking.


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