Michael is on the student council at school and he and his fellow student reps went to a Dublin-wide event in Croke Park. He hadn’t intended to go for election to the Dublin-wide council but when he got there, he threw his hat in the ring. He didn’t get on but it is a big thing to speak to a conference centre full of people and I am really glad that he gave it a go. I said that he could try again next year. He said that he might, he doesn’t seem very pushed either way. How I would love to have myself his levels of Olympian indifference.
So the first reading at Mass this morning was a source of mild amusement for Michael and Daniel. Well, definitely for Michael.
A reading from the Prophet Daniel
At that time Michael will stand up, the great prince who mounts guard over your people…
And the second reading was of interest to all, that St. Paul, it’s how he tells them:
Christ on the other hand, has offered one single sacrifice for sins, and then taken his place forever, at the right hand of God, where he is now waiting until his enemies are made into a footstool for him.
A footstool indeed. I hope your own Sunday morning offered up similar nuggets of interest.
Michael was 13 on September 27. This birthday post is a bit late. There’s been a lot on.
Michael loves to read. He continues to enjoy the Economist when other offerings are not available but, as a rule, he prefers fiction to non-fiction. He has a slightly annoying habit of picking up a book and launching in to it just as you are about to start in on it yourself but his parents are sustained by the smugness that comes from having a child who likes to read the same kinds of books as they do.
Other hobbies include playing games on his phone which he definitely regards as a hobby but I wouldn’t call that a hobby as such. He’s still playing hockey which he really enjoys (being Michael he wouldn’t go to training, if he didn’t) and he was quite excited when they were due to play hockey during PE one day at school. Sadly, his schoolmates, who play more hurling and camogie than hockey, did not fully grasp the rules and he returned home outraged because they had been kicking the ball around the field and raising sticks above their shoulders. He is still doing drama which he likes as well. He has games club after school on Tuesday where he plays Dungeons and Dragons type games with other enthusiasts and a saintly teacher who will surely get his reward in heaven. He also still likes playing cards and board games if he can persuade the rest of us to play with him.
Despite eating almost nothing he has shot up over the past six months (shout out to toast and honey which appears to be all a growing boy needs) and is now almost as tall as me. It’s only a question of time before he passes me out. He is still very skinny so it is hard to find trousers that are both long enough to not flap around the ankles and tight enough at the waist to not fall down. He basically has the figure of a super model.
His voice has broken and it’s quite deep although not as deep as his brother’s. He’s still losing teeth (how is this possible?) but I think he may, at last, have lost the final baby teeth.
He cycles in and out to school and is still alive. I have to say, although I am getting less nervous, he still has to go an approved route which is longer than his preferred route. He does not love this.
He and his brother are great friends. Although they can really annoy each other, they have lots and lots in common and mostly they are having slightly incomprehensible conversations about video games and dungeons and dragons. He gets on reasonably well with his sister but he has managed fine in her absence for the past couple of months occasionally forgetting that she is in another country rather than holed up in her room.
Unlike his brother and sister he is not particularly competitive and is inclined to let things go. These characteristics (which do not come from me, I fear) make for a charming companion but not for someone who is particularly driven. He is never happier than when he is left at home to do nothing. These are categorically the best kinds of days for Michael.
In general, he loathes outings but he is resigned regarding them as part of the rain that must fall in every life. He did comment to me once, in a moment of bitterness, that in his view there is no such thing as fun for all the family.
He seems to be well settled in school. Academically he seems to be grand and his dyslexia (which happily doesn’t affect his reading but manifests itself in spelling problems) seems to have improved enormously which is great. He’s learnt to touch type and his fingers seem better at knowing what to spell when typing. Spell check doesn’t hurt either. Socially, he knows the drill and what is expected of him and he seems to be popular with teachers and fellow students without caring even slightly what they think of him so long as they do not impinge on his comfort. He ploughs his own furrow our Michael.
He is the world’s most sentimental 13 year old. “A Muppet Christmas Carol” is his favourite film and he and I are looking forward to sitting down together and watching it on Christmas Eve. I recently made the very significant mistake of giving some of his old toys to his one year old cousin. Poor decision. He is bitter. In my defence I would point out that he has not played with these toys in many years. I won’t be doing that again. He was utterly unimpressed by his aunt telling him that his 10 year old cousin had looked out some toys for the one year old. “If that’s what she wants, that’s fine,” he said shooting me a venomous glance. As I say, he is not one to modify his behaviour to meet societal expectations.
He continues to be endlessly charming and obliging. I find him delightful and although his siblings believe he is a shameless manipulator (“weasel” is the word I think I hear his siblings hiss at him) even they have to acknowledge that he is generally a peacemaker who tries to intervene when other family members go to war. When he is annoyed though, he is utterly terrifying and, as it is very rare, we take it seriously. When he doesn’t want to do something, it is far easier to stop doing it than to insist. He doesn’t use this power often but it is almost invariably effective. Currently I am persevering in sending him to a French class on Friday evenings which, crucially, I have paid for already for a term. He will finish at Christmas and it is hard to know who will be more pleased, him or me.
Overall though, things are good, I think. He seems happy and, better, in general, he is good at knowing what makes him happy which is a gift I would quite like to have for myself. He is the only person who rushes out to greet me when I come home from work and my heart does leap as he rushes out to the door, arms outstretched shouting, “Mama, Mama, you’re home!” I’m not sure that will last forever, so I suppose I should enjoy it while it does.
Our French childminder who came to us on Fridays to give the children French lessons had a fascinating range of relations. He was related to famous actors, philosophers, a concentration camp survivor and all round heroine and he has a distant ancestor who as a baby had all her relatives killed in a slave uprising and was only saved by her black nanny hiding her and keeping her safe. All verified on the internet so it must be true. So it wasn’t a complete surprise when we discovered that he was a descendant of the Dukes of Leinster – a long line of younger sons marrying poorly leaving him and his family in relatively modest circumstances but with a really spectacular array of connections. The children were entirely underwhelmed when I pointed out that a direct(ish) relation of Edward Fitzgerald, the hero of 1798 had been turning up in our house once a week.
The boys miss him now though as they have to go out to French classes on Friday evenings: a source of endless bitterness.
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.