Of late, I have taken to trying to put my phone down at 6.30 when I come in from work and not picking it up again until I go out to work in the morning. I have imposed my draconian regime on Mr. Waffle and the boys also. From when I come home, no one looks at the phone. I’m not saying it works perfectly all the time and sometimes things ping in or there is a phone call but basically we are phone free for most of the evening most of the time. I have a slight tendency to check the phone as I’m going to bed but I am trying to stop. Overall, it’s great for me. Now Mr. Waffle is saying we watch too much telly but, frankly, that’s a bridge too far for me. I’ll keep you posted on our progress towards Victorian evenings.
The coda to our logistics last week was getting Herself back to France. She was due to fly out at 9.50 on Wednesday morning. Alas, I did not see some form online which was supposed to be filled in for under 16s [Air France didn’t need one but Aer Lingus did – I know, I know, when you’re explaining you’re losing] and she was thrown off on the steps of the plane. Mr. Waffle had to zoom back to the airport and re-book her for a later flight and then we needed to re-book her train from Charles de Gaulle to the west of France. It was all a bit stressful. She is Miss Super Competent in fairness to her. She got on the plane in Dublin and from there, unaccompanied, navigated her way to the train station in CDG and on to the express train back to her host family in the west of France.
Poor Mr. Waffle meanwhile spent the morning in the airport (unexpectedly, obviously) and then came home to find that the wretched cat had captured a blackbird and brought it into the kitchen. Mr. Waffle arrived home to a storm of feathers and the bird standing dazedly on the work surface between attempts to hurl itself out the closed window. The cat was pacing the floor frantically some dimly understood precept (or possibly her vast bulk) preventing her from hopping up on to the work surface. Mr. Waffle threw her into the utility room and ushered the bird into the garden. The cat got out the cat flap in the utility room and was waiting anxiously for them at the back door so that escape plan was not entirely successful. The bird got out eventually and we are still finding feathers in surprising places. Joy.
Meanwhile it was Halloween in Dublin and for the first time since moving in, our decorations beat next door’s. It could be that now that their children are 19 and 17 they are not trying so hard but I like to think that we really tried. The boys looked very impressive in their costumes but were too sophisticated to go door to door and just wore them for school.
We had planned to go to Cork for a couple of days over mid-term before Mr. Waffle’s father died and I wondered whether we should cancel but after some humming and hawing we went in the end. In a new development, the boys stayed in my parents’ house and Mr. Waffle and I stayed with my sister. This was a very satisfactory development for everyone except, possibly, our host.
We drove down on Thursday night which was a bit of an epic trek but it did mean that we woke up in Cork on Friday morning ready for a day of Cork related fun. In what can only be called the high water mark of family cultural engagement, the boys said that they wanted to go to Charles Fort in Kinsale on Friday, so we did. It was a bit damp but we missed the worst of the rain. On the strength of this, I bought a new family heritage card for €90 which means that we have to go to at least six heritage sites over the next year to break even. I fear the worst. So do the children.
We went for lunch in the Bulman and Daniel took the obligatory before and after pictures of the ketchup bottle to send to his uncle who does not love ketchup. The waitress assured me that ketchup is part vegetable but I am not entirely convinced.
We took the traditional picture at the caution children sign.
On Saturday, my brother and sister minded the boys for much of the day (including a trip to Milano’s for pizza, let joy be unconfined) leaving myself and Mr. Waffle to our own devices. We were a bit blinded by the unexpected freedom. We went for breakfast and, after a trip to the Crawford gallery and a mild wander around the town in the rain including a look at food fair in the City Hall, we waddled on to lunch. In slight desperation, wondering what to do next, I asked Mr. Waffle to check a list of 17 hidden exciting things to do in Cork he found on the internet. One of them was feed the ducks in the Lough. I mean, I’ve no objection to feeding the ducks but I wouldn’t exactly call it exciting. We had about an hour and a half until Mr. Waffle was meeting a friend for coffee and I almost suggested going home (to be fair, it was lashing) but then I had a mild stroke of inspiration and we went to see Elizabeth Fort and the Protestant cathedral.
Elizabeth Fort boasted mildly exciting views and an air raid shelter which I don’t remember seeing before. It was extremely damp and had a random collection of cold damp objects for viewing including this slightly alarming map.
I quite like the cathedral although I am not generally a fan of neo-gothic. Mr. Waffle wondered about the candles and the IHS on the altar. “Maybe they are very high church?” I offered. “Not in Ireland,” he said firmly. He said it was the least Protestant looking Protestant church he had ever been in. I wonder was he misled because Ireland is basically full of 19th century neo-gothic churches that are Catholic and there are inevitable stylistic similarities. It’s a mystery.
That evening, the boys played board games with my sister and her partner and had a fantastic time.
We drove back on Sunday morning. It was actually a really good idea to go in the end. We all had a lovely time. It turns out that despite the cynical words of my son Michael on another occasion, there is such a thing as fun for all the family.
So we went to our play last night. Despite the rather grim subject matter which was a little close to home (siblings caring for a parent with dementia) it was funny and the acting was very good. I would possibly call it my best Dublin fringe experience ever – this is quite a low bar. If you get a chance, The Cat’s Mother is recommended.
Michael was back to hockey this morning and Daniel and I went along to 11.30 mass together. He did the Prayers of the Faithful with the other children in the choir – it went chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, growl. Although he’s not the oldest, he is the oldest boy and he’s the only one whose voice has broken. He seems relaxed as does the choir mistress who says that his new baritone goes well with the other children. Both boys’ voices have broken over the summer; I don’t really notice much but apparently a number of their classmates have commented.
As a special treat for Mr. Waffle we went to the transport museum this afternoon. I had completely forgotten that we’d been before years ago but I found a reference on the blog. I would be less harsh on this occasion. Maybe it’s a better outing with older children but still not tremendous now.
We had a cup of tea and then went for a walk on the pier in Howth which was nice in a low key kind of way.
We got our weekly call from herself while we were walking on the pier. It was a bit unsatisfactory as reception wasn’t great. She seems to be having a good time and settling in well as far as we can tell. I do miss her. It’s probably as well we are restricted to one call a week (“It’s supposed to be immersion, Mum.”) as otherwise I would probably be on 4 times a day.
Last night, the boys went for French lessons (not a success). While they were there, as part of Culture Night, Mr. Waffle and I went to the RIA and the Mansion House. I’d been to the Mansion House for events before and it was grand but a bit dull. Not their brass, though, which was impressively shiny and made me realise, sigh, that my own is in sad need of polishing. A very enthusiastic woman in the RIA explained about the Irish Historic Towns Atlas and explained, even to my satisfaction, why on a 25 year project when even Youghal and Bandon are done, Cork city is not due until 2020. Apparently it’s because Cork is particularly difficult to do as it has a very complex and ever-changing street landscape. So there.
We went with the boys to the Terry Pratchett exhibition in Trinity which was disappointing as it was a bit heavy on lecture and light on other elements. There was a great map though. It was a bit of an evening of maps.
We went to Gotham (a pizza and burger joint off Grafton Street) for dinner as I could not face Milano’s. It was crowded but they were able to put us outside. It was the first time in years I’ve eaten my dinner beside a smoker and the first time ever for the boys who were displeased but also fascinated. “Wait until tomorrow,” I said, “when you wake up, all your clothes will smell of smoke.” We packed up reasonably rapidly and went home.
When I was going to bed I noticed a weird small rash thing on my neck. “Probably stress,” I said to myself gloomily. In the morning, however, it came off in the shower so I can only suppose that it was ketchup which ended up on my neck due to a combination of peculiar eating habits, shortsightedness and poor hygiene. You’re welcome.
In other cultural news, Mr. Waffle and I are going out to the theatre this evening. It’s a thing in the Fringe and only an hour or so; we are leaving the boys to fend for themselves. Mr. Waffle has just come in after struggling for about an hour with a ladder and the unhappy interaction of the down-pipe and the rose bush in the front garden. I’ve told him we’ll have to leave for the theatre in about 15 minutes. He’s delighted.
We spent the day ferrying Daniel and Michael to various activities – tennis, drama etc. But, we also looked at ovens for our new kitchen. I want to get an aga. Am I crazy? Stove/oven advice very gratefully received.
Just now, the cat has skulked to the flower bed with a dead mouse between her jaws, I can only hope that my shouting at her, “Don’t you dare bring that into the house!” will be effective. All the news as it happens here.
And how has your weekend been so far?
It absolutely lashed today. I traipsed round town grimly at lunch time trying to find a present for our lovely former childminder, T, who was coming to say goodbye to us before moving back to France. My normal first resort would have been an Amazon voucher but he is very ethical and disapproves of how Amazon treat their workforce so it seemed a perverse choice. I bought him a reasonably large framed photo of St. Stephen’s Green as he used to go there often with the children after school so, I assume that that means he liked it. As I splashed out of the photo shop, I realised that I was unlikely to be able to get it home on my bicycle. Just as well, really, I ended up getting the tram instead.
This evening I had to get home in time to say goodbye to T and give him his present, get to the school for a parents’ meeting at 7 and feed the boys dinner. Mr. Waffle was supposed to be home by 5 but as there were no taxis at the airport, he ended up splashing in to town and getting the tram home thereby missing his chance to say goodbye to T and the school meeting. He was sorry to miss saying goodbye to T and I must say, I felt quite tearful myself saying our final goodbyes, he was such a nice man and the children loved him – he reminded Michael how he used to carry him on his shoulders from school to Stephen’s Green (Michael was never a child for unnecessary effort) and how one Wednesday he collected them from school (I usually collected them from school on Wednesdays) and Michael started crying and saying, “I want my Mummy.” Apparently he kept it up all the way from school to the bus stop and all the way home on the bus and only stopped when T bought him a lollipop from the shop at the bus stop. My heart.
Anyhow when I got home from the school meeting what did I find? My saintly husband had lit the fire and made tea. Is it any wonder I miss him when he’s away?