My sister has a friend who is a Northern Irish Protestant. Her friend was describing to my sister a weekend she had spent with her elderly parents at home in Co. Down. Getting them out to church was a nightmare apparently; getting them ready was a labour of love; then helping them into the car and then zooming to the church trying not to arrive too late. “Late, you were nearly late?” said my sister, “I thought Protestants were never late.” “Well,” confided her friend, “it was my mother, her father was a Catholic from the South and my father and I think that the older she gets, the more like him she becomes.”
Daniel: We know lots more about Catholicism than everyone else at school.
Me: Good to know.
Daniel: Still, remember that time you were shocked when we didn’t know what the rosemary was?
Me: The Rosary, Dan, the Rosary.
This exchange was fresh in my mind when, at my mother’s removal, I hissed at him, somewhat to the surprise of various cousins, “This is it, Dan, we’re saying the Rosary.”
Herself got back from Zambia on Friday none the worse for wear for her adventure. I think she had a good time. It’s nice to have her back. She brought us, inter alia, Zambian peanut butter made to order in a market in the middle of nowhere. Who knew fresh peanut butter tasted better? I did worry a little that the food hygiene might not be what one would hope as I contemplated the battered label free plastic jar it came in, but I’ve been eating it since Friday and have, thus far, experienced no ill effects.
I went down to Cork on Saturday. My friend M’s aunt had just died. M has buried another aunt and her father over the past 18 months. As her friend L said, “Thank heavens she had a wedding in the middle of it.”
The removal was in Turner’s Cross church on Saturday. A famous work of art deco wonder which I had never been inside before. It’s worth a visit. Circumstances were a bit gloomy, obviously, and I noticed that the undertaker was the same man who had done my mother’s funeral the week before. My friend M was tired and sad having buried the last member of her father’s family (they were curiously unproductive – she is the only child of the four siblings). A woman who looked strangely familiar turned up in the church. She was a friend of mine from college with whom I had completely lost touch: her father is in the same nursing home as M’s aunt had been. “I didn’t recognise you,” she said, “though M hasn’t changed at all!” How to take this? We’ve agreed to meet next time I’m down all the same.
I went back to the house of a cousin of the deceased after the mass. There was a really lovely afternoon tea and I found our hosts delightful. They were from near where my granny lived and where I went to secondary school and I felt I was revisiting the haunts of my youth. On hearing that I had a child who was a vegetarian, my hostess pressed a nut loaf recipe upon me. I was touched. I have yet to make it. We talked a bit about the dead lady and her family. Apparently her mother was always known as Bunny. Why? I discovered later that she, Bunny, had been a friend of my grandmother. I suppose everyone knew everyone in the Cork of the day. My friend M mentioned in passing that her father who was called Chris and was known as Chris to everyone was always called Ivor by his mother. Does this strike anyone else as a bit…surprising? Apparently she liked the name.
Full of tea and cake, I went home to go out for dinner for my aunt’s 90th birthday. It was moderately successful but the venue was a bit noisy and my father, who was with us, is a bit deaf and also quite softly spoken so that was unsatisfactory. Overall though, it was a reasonably good outing and my aunt was pleased which was, after all, the objective.
On Sunday, I went down to Sunday’s Well Tennis Club to see my friend J who was home from America with her four children and putting them through the Munster open. I met my cousin who sang at my mother’s funeral in the car park. I also met J’s parents and husband. That’s a lot of sympathising on the death of your mother. I had a grand old chat with J’s mother who I used to see a lot of in my teens – less so now, of course – she used to organise children’s tennis in the club and now she’s organising the children’s children which she quite enjoys. She comes from a famously sporty family herself: tennis, hockey, squash, you name it. She told me one of her sisters played squash for Ireland and I think they all played at provincial level in their respective sports. She has given up playing tennis in favour of organising but she is still golfing away. It is so pleasing to me to see older people in great nick. It gives me hope for us all. Her family is very Cork and one of her nieces is quite well-known in America and occasionally comes back to Ireland when there is invariably an article in the Irish Times pointing out that she went to school in Dublin. This fills me with rage as that family are so Cork notwithstanding that one of the sisters may have moved to Dublin and after to America. As the French probably wouldn’t say, “Plus Cork, tu meurs”.
My friend J and her husband, who you might expect to have their hands full with four children, two dogs and two full-time jobs as doctors, have fostered another child. I am full of admiration but for the first time since I met her (in middle school as she explained to her American children), I thought she looked a bit tired. I was sad myself and we talked about my mother whom she knew well. We also spent some time talking about retirement and the cost of putting four children through college in America. I suppose this is middle age. As I was sitting outside the tennis club watching the children play tennis (sponsored by Davy’s – notions), I saw a McWilliam’s sail bag at my feet embroidered with the owner’s name and school (Scoil Mhuire) and I thought to myself, “This is it, the ur Cork.”
I tore myself away from my friend and went up to visit my sister. We shared out my mother’s jewellery: she loved her rings but although they looked great on her and really remind us both of her, we’re not quite sure what to do with them. Herself tried them on when I got back to Dublin and she loved them so, perhaps, when she’s a bit older, they’ll go to her. I got my own grandmother’s engagement ring which I was very fond of until it was stolen in Brussels, alas.
I took Monday and Tuesday off work to do some revision for this wretched exam I have on Thursday. I realised recently that I have never failed an exam in my life but I think this might be the one. I missed a lot of the lectures due to other commitments and the subject is a bit technical. Yesterday, I got relatively little done. I dropped Mr. Waffle to the airport to go to Luxembourg. I schlepped back out to the airport to pick up Daniel and his French exchange who were coming back from Paris. Dan had a great time in Paris, heatwave notwithstanding – he and the French exchange, N, get on pretty well which helps – N is the son of a friend of mine from years ago in Brussels – we’ve already exchanged daughters so we thought we’d move on to sons. The two boys travelled together as unaccompanied minors; they managed fine as did Daniel when he went on his own on the way out to Paris, aren’t they competent all the same?
So yesterday evening I took Daniel and N to see a league of Ireland football match. It was an…authentic experience. They both seemed to feel it compared poorly to the quarter finals of the Women’s World Cup which they had seen in Parc des Princes in Paris the previous week. Look, we do what we can here. I then stayed up until 2 in the morning discovering at some length how spectacularly unprepared I am for Thursday’s exam. I went in to the kitchen to check the back door was locked and remembered that I had left oven cleaner on the inside of the oven and the bottle was stringent in its instruction that the spray should not be left on overnight (doubtless terrible for the environment) so I found myself cleaning the oven at 2 in the morning which, in its own way was quite depressing.
This morning was dreadful as I tried to get the three boys up and out to their sports camp: packed lunches, kit which I was assured was packed but was not entirely, Daniel losing his public transport card despite showing me it the previous evening (reconsidering my competent assessment above). We got there in the end and I said confidently, “You guys can make your own way home.” Turns out they were a bit vague. I gave them some further sketchy directions and slithered off home to further contemplate material for this wretched examination. I spent a number of hours hunched over my books and then met herself for lunch after her trip to the hairdressers (she has dyed her hair platinum, photo to follow, hold on to your hats out there) and then back home for more studying until the boys came home (competency marks up again, they made it).
Why you ask, am I blogging and not revising? I just cannot face it any more. Is this a good sign? I fear not. On the plus side, I’m off out to the airport now to collect my loving husband and he is on sandwiches tomorrow.
My father’s sister was 90 on June 20 or possibly June 22 (there is some debate on this point, my grandmother and the official record did not agree). My father was 94 on March 25. My aunt told me that the matron in the Bons in Cork commented to my granny that “Of course, we will have to shoot your relatives.” Her meaning I think being that they lived a long time rather than a revolutionary proposal.
I hope that I have those genes.
Saturday, June 15
I was up in bed reading at 1.30 in the morning when my mobile phone rang downstairs. By the time I got there, the caller had rung off and there was no indication of who it was in my recent calls. I instantly thought of herself who was due to be arriving in Addis Ababa. Had something gone wrong? Mr. Waffle was off in Copenhagen for the weekend (a college reunion) and I sat up in bed reading and worrying for a bit. At 2 the phone rang again and I leapt out of bed and got there just in time. It was my brother. The nursing home had called him, my mother had just died. He was actually in Dublin for the weekend. I drove out to his friend’s place in West Dublin and at 3 in the morning in driving rain picked up him and his bike and brought them back to our house. We couldn’t get my sister.
I went back to bed but I couldn’t sleep which never happens to me. My sister said, a bit tartly, I thought, “If this teaches you some empathy with people who can’t sleep, it won’t be a bad thing.” I spoke to her in the morning. She went to tell my father which was a pretty miserable job. My brother went down to Cork on the train. I was going to drive down with him and the boys but then I thought that would be crazy, the boys were only back from Cork and how would it help. I think I put in the longest day on Saturday. I told Mr. Waffle but unfortunately he couldn’t get back from Copenhagen until the following day. I told the boys about their grandmother. They were surprised and a bit sad but very kind to me. I rang my mother’s oldest friend from college and told her. I told the woman from the church that I wouldn’t be able to run the ice cream stall at the garden party the next day. I emailed work, I texted my boss. I tried to ring herself in Zambia but no joy. Michael had his drama showcase that day so Daniel and I went in. All the time I was exhausted and slightly spaced out. It all felt completely surreal. While the boys were great I did feel a bit alone; stuck in Dublin, unable to go to Cork.
My brother and sister went to see the body in the nursing home. My sister sent me a photo. It was pretty awful not to be there. My father and brother and sister met the undertaker. I really wanted to be there but I couldn’t and it couldn’t be put off. My sister put me on speaker phone. It’s really not the same as being there. We agreed the wording of the death notice and agreed to do some research on possible burial spots. When next I talked to my brother and sister they were wandering around a graveyard well outside Cork looking for my grandfather’s plot. I was able to provide the useful information that I knew that a big gravestone had been stuck up in the 80s as there had been a bit of family…discussion in relation to it. They found it.
I got an email from my friend in Paris setting out the programme of entertainment she had devised for Daniel (who is off to Paris in the morning). I felt I ought probably to say about my mother. I got an oddly formal reply in French (we usually speak to each other in French and write in English). I found it oddly comforting. It is, as she said, “toujours un moment douloureux”.
And then I was in Dublin, a bit sad with the two boys. We went out to my sister-in-law’s house. My little niece was two and we brought her a present. It was so strange but it was nice to be with people who I liked. I was cheered by the two year old. My sister-in-law said wisely, “The worst thing is telling people.” She volunteered to pass on the news to some friends we had in common. I was anxious to tell people they didn’t have to come as a mid-week funeral 250kms away is probably the worst thing.
I talked to my friend M in Helsinki who I have known all my life and who knew my mother really well. Her father died last year and she said I would be exhausted. She was right. We talked about my mother and in a weird way, it felt like I was getting her back after five long years in the nursing home when she was, as a friend said, “Getting further and further away”. On Sunday morning, one of the nicest messages I got was from a friend of M’s, who is really only an acquaintance of mine, it was the combination of kind and surprising.
On Saturday night I got a call from my cousin, my aunt was flying out to America the next day and she wanted to visit Cork as she would miss the funeral. I felt utterly useless as I passed him on to my brother and sister.
Sunday, June 16
Sunday was a better day. Firstly, I slept Saturday night and then I knew Mr. Waffle was coming back. I entered into some complex logistical arrangements to farm the boys out to their Dublin uncle but in the end I left them in the house waiting for their father’s return while I cycled off to the station. Inevitably, my bag split and I had to traipse home again and swap it for a new one. Still, I got a seat on the train, which was not a given, and I was going home. My phone started pinging constantly with messages from expected and unexpected people. I felt it was an achievement to have got myself on the train.
My sister met me at the station in Cork at 4.30. It turns out that grief is exhausting and it saps your power to get things done but many things need to be done and so many decisions need to be made. What would be a good outfit for my mother to wear in her coffin? How about that brooch and scarf that she always liked? What kind of a coffin should she have? An eco-coffin we decided (unvarnished, if you’re curious, quite nice actually). What readings should we have for the funeral service? We had Wisdom 3:1-9 and Revelation 14:13. Turns out you can pick the gospel as well but we didn’t know that so the priest picked it on the morning which was fine too. Who would sing at the funeral? A cousin volunteered. What hymns would we have? More challenging than you might think. It turns out my father doesn’t like a lot of hymns (Lord of all Hopefulness? Too gloomy apparently). And if you get a headache when you are tired and weepy (and who doesn’t?) you are doing all this while regularly popping paracetamol. “Is there such a thing as a wedding planner for a funeral?” asked my brother. “Yes,” said my sister and I, “he’s called an undertaker.”
I still hadn’t managed to contact the Princess who was now in Zambia. I was anxious to talk to her before the notice went up on rip.ie (death’s finest resource) in case in some weird way someone else in the group saw it or heard about it.
Monday, 17 June
The notice went up on rip.ie but didn’t appear in the paper.
Apparently my grandfather’s plot was full and my mother would be buried with my great uncles and aunts and my great-grandfather who, prudently, had bought a plot with perpetual burial rights in 1913. Due to my family’s filing abilities which, I have to tell you, are phenomenal we had the original 1913 document to hand and were able to get a space in a lovely old graveyard in the city.
I went to the chemist to pick up a prescription for my father and the chemist, who I know well from our regular interactions asked how my parents were. I said that my mother had died on Saturday. “Oh,” he said, “sympathetically, I’m so sorry, she was such a lady.” The poor chemist, I don’t know how used he is to customers dissolving into tears but he was really kind.
An old friend of my parents had died at the weekend also and I was sent off to get sympathy cards. I brought them out for my father’s approval. “Well, not that one,” he said, “she was a devout Protestant and would have been outraged to have someone praying for her soul.” Who knew?
My sister and I went to the funeral service in Mallow. We were late. As we sprinted up to the church, I said to my sister, “I bet Protestants are never late for funerals.” “Well,” she said, “we have an excellent excuse.” It was a lovely, lovely service. The eldest child gave a great speech at the end and my sister and I wept through it. It’s not that we weren’t sorry for the deceased, we were, she was a lovely person, but we were more sorry for our own mother. Outside the church we sympathised with the dapper widower. He was not crying demonstrating admirable sang froid but we mortified ourselves by snuffling away and having him sympathise with us at his own wife’s funeral. She had suffered from Alzheimer’s for the last ten years of her life and he had minded her at home. He said to me, “You know, people said to me that I was very good, but I wasn’t really, I loved having her there; your poor father didn’t even have that.” More tears.
My sister and I went to the funeral home to see the body. It’s a strange thing to see your mother in a coffin. Her hands were stone cold, of course, and she looked waxy. “Good outfit,” I said to my sister. We fixed her hair. It felt almost like she might sit up and talk.
We dropped into the cemetery on the way home to see if we could find the family plot but to no avail. We found Fr. Matthew’s grave alright. While we were wandering around, herself rang me from Zambia. The line wasn’t great but she was full of news and excitement. “I have some bad news,” I said my voice catching, “I’m afraid Nana died at the weekend. You won’t be able to make it home for the funeral.” Whether it was me crying or the bad line, I was surprised to hear her say after a shocked moment, “Not attend my own father’s funeral?” “Not Daddy, Nana!” I shouted. The poor child, she was so relieved to find that it wasn’t her father, that I think she was able to bear the news with much greater equanimity than she might otherwise have done. Honestly, it feels like she only has to go away for a grandparent to keel over.
I went back to my parents’ house to wait some more. Waiting for a funeral is a bit like waiting for a flight. You’re tense waiting for an event and there’s nothing to really do except wait.
Tuesday, 18 June
The death notice finally appeared in the paper.
Mr. Waffle and the boys came down. It was lovely to see them. We had the removal. Some of my friends and colleagues from Dublin came down. I was simultaneously delighted to see them and slightly appalled at how awkward it must have been. I have decided I will never again miss a funeral or removal. The Lady Captain of my mother’s golf club turned up and the head of the Chemistry Department in UCC where she had worked. These were surprisingly lovely things to happen. The bishop also turned up. I am still a bit unclear as to why.
Loads of my mother’s relatives came, people I knew well and people I only dimly remembered from childhood. A woman pressed my hand and said, “I will always remember going back to your mother’s house on the pony and trap at Christmas. Han, your grandmother you know, had all the trappings and cakes and things we never had in our house and we came in and your mother was wearing a long skirt and writing Christmas cards beside the piano with Perry Como playing in the background. We thought she was the most sophisticated thing we had ever seen in our lives.” It made me laugh. Almost nothing made me cry at the removal actually. A woman who had been a good friend and golf partner of my mother’s stopped to talk to me. Another crony of theirs who lived up the road from my parents had died a couple of weeks ago. This woman said to me, “I think of your mother all the time, you know she gave me her driver when she couldn’t play any more and I used it this morning.” That was the only thing that made me cry. It does make me happy to think that her clubs are getting use. She would have liked that she was very generous but also frugal. She used to say reprovingly to me and my brother and sister, “I’m not part of the throw-away generation, you know.”
I lost count of the times I explained that I was not my sister and that I was “still above in Dublin” (always the faint tone of disapproval). The boys and Mr. Waffle provided moral support. The boys were very good and very patient, there was a lot of shaking hands.
When we went to the church, the sacristan was very helpful. Mr. Waffle said he sounded like a neighbour. Turned out he grew up near us in Dublin but moved to Cork at 17 to marry a Cork woman. Despite all his years in Cork he never lost his Dublin accent. “Do your family say you’re ‘still below in Cork?’” I asked. Apparently not.
Mr. Waffle and I went to check in to a local little hotel that night, we felt the boys would probably not welcome having to double up and there really wasn’t room for everyone in my parents’ house. The woman on reception was, God love her, full of enthusiasm as we checked in. Were we well? Had we had a good journey? What were our plans while staying in Cork? There was an awkward pause. “It’s my mother’s funeral in the morning,” I said. Oh dear, I did feel bad, but I was too exhausted to dissemble for the woman on reception. We got a lovely room though.
Wednesday, 19 June
The morning of the funeral dawned mercifully bright and sunny. I was surprised by the people who were there. People we hadn’t told at all but who had heard through the inevitable grapevine – a college friend, a school friend now living in Dublin (she heard from her father who had it from the retired academic network – who knew?). And then there were millions of my brother’s friends who my mother fed for years and some of their parents as well, colleagues, cousins, an old college friend of my mother’s from Dublin and all sorts of other people. The funeral seemed to go fine. My sister and I did readings, the boys did prayers of the faithful along with various other relatives. My brother made did a good job on a speech which reminded those of us who knew her what she was like and, I think, gave a good picture to those who never knew her and he said how sad the Princess was not to be there.
We went on to the cemetery which was beautiful in the sunshine. The priest said a prayer and she was lowered into the grave bought by my prudent great-grandfather to bury my great-grandmother in 1913.
I walked out of the cemetery with the undertaker chatting to him about the boom (it’s only in Dublin apparently, he anticipates a downturn there at any moment and thinks in the rest of the country it will get even worse – he anxiously twirled his bowler as he spoke – though I imagine his line of work is quite steady). I thanked him for everything and wanted to particularly commend the woman on reception who received my first teary phone call on Saturday morning – I imagine she has teary phone calls are part of her lot but she’s quite good at managing them. I asked about what they look for in a recruit and he said, “Well, once my brother interviewed a man who asked what the hours were. My brother said, ‘Do you have a watch?’ He said that of course he did and my brother said, ‘You can throw that away for starters.'”
We went for lunch afterwards to the hotel where my brother and sister and I went for first communion and confirmation lunches as children. A friend of mine had brought his two children with him and weirdly the four children (his two and my two) had a lovely time over lunch. Lunch generally was fine and then eventually everyone drifted away. Mr. Waffle and the boys and I went for a walk and then round to my sister for tea which turned into dinner. We went back to my father at 9 to find that due to miscommunication, he had been all alone since 6. I felt like a heel as I made him a couple of sandwiches.
Thursday, 20 June
We called in to my aunt and wished her many happy returns on her 90th birthday. We had seen a lot of each other over the past few days and we were perhaps not in as celebratory a mood as we might have been but I am going to call down again in a week and we will perhaps be in a better mood to celebrate then.
After our birthday visit, we gathered ourselves up and drove back to Dublin. It was a long enough day and having been so anxious to leave home on Sunday, I was glad to get back to it on Thursday evening notwithstanding that the cat left us a dead pigeon in the utility room.
Friday, 21 June
I went out to visit my mother’s friend from college who lives in Dublin. I just wanted to talk about my mother and she seemed the best person to do it with. I have known her my whole life and I remember going to the zoo with her when we are children. She is delightfully entertaining and acerbic and talking to her about my mother reminds me of what my mother was like before she got sick.
Saturday, 22 June
Almost back to normal today. I feel like I am recovering from illness or something. Delicate and a bit light headed but on the mend. Mr. Waffle said something funny this afternoon and it made me laugh in the hall and the boys came running out to the hall, arms outstretched, sure that I was crying and relieved to see that all was well.
Back to work on Monday.
Tuesday, April 16
Regular readers will recall that herself spent three months in Tours before Christmas. Many months ago, we booked to spend a week in Tours at Easter. Serious first world problem alert – but to be honest, it was probably a bit close to our week skiing and it felt like we had only unpacked and we were packing up to head off again. Due to various commitments on my part this is the first weekend I’ve spent at home since early March (I’d say you’re delighted I’m spending it updating the old blog, go on, you know you are) and I would say I possibly over-scheduled myself.
Anyhow, we packed like pros and took ourselves off to the airport in very good time due to Mr. Waffle’s extreme punctuality. We were all a bit ratty as we found ourselves in the airport with two and a half hours to spare but never mind it’s better than being late, I suppose.
As we went through security, I tossed my jacket on top of the tray which my firstborn had selected for her gear and she looked at me in horror. “Have you not seen the instructions? When I went through Charles de Gaulle last, the security man said to me ‘Parfait, c’est juste comme il faut’ and he was pretty irate as well because the people from Honduras who went through before me were not on top of the security arrangements. You are ruining my reputation Madame ‘manteau sur sac’.” Was it for this etc?
The flight was uneventful and we got the train from Charles de Gaulle direct to Tours which was a fantastic service. Our Airbnb hosts met us at the station. When we stay places in France we often end up in places that are slightly bohemian and Michael looked around the Airbnb and said, “Why do we always stay in the same place in France?” I knew what he meant. I suppose it’s a combination of wanting the children to have a bedroom each and not wanting to spend the earth.
Relying on herself for suggestions, we had dinner in a Brasserie in Tours and a nighttime wander. It’s a really attractive small city.
Wednesday, April 17
There was a small market in the local park and I spent the morning poking around there and the local Intermarché. Don’t judge. We got the bus into town and went to Place Plumereau which is the centre of the old town where our hosts had warned us not to buy food due to the extortionate prices but we were tourists so we said to hell with it. The weather was beautiful. There seemed to be lots of French people, perhaps tourists, but very few non francophone tourists and there was little danger of people speaking English to us which is unusual in France these days, I find.
We dutifully checked out the cathedral which had particularly impressive 13th century stained glass but the children were resolutely unimpressed.
We then took ourselves home for dinner. After dinner I was sitting near the open door reading when something caught my eye. Was that a sparrow or some other bird hopping near the pot plant across the room? It was not, it was a rat. In what was, arguably, not my finest hour, I ran squealing from the room and up the stairs where I locked myself in my bedroom. Shortly afterwards, I heard noises from the living room where I had inadvertently locked in the children and Mr. Waffle with the rat. I let herself out. “How is it down there?” I asked as we cowered on the bed. “Well,” she said, “when you screamed ‘rat, rat’ the boys and I jumped up on chairs in the kitchen like in ‘Dead Poets Society’ and Daddy started thwacking the rat with the brush trying to get it out the door and it was jumping and squealing.” Not great then.
In time we all made our way back down to the open plan kitchen/living room to be greeted by a pretty annoyed Mr. Waffle who pointed out that I was useless and a bad example to the children to boot. While accepting this completely, I wanted to know where the rat was. “It was a mouse,” said Mr. Waffle and, addressing herself, “sorry miss, it ran into your bedroom but, in a house with two cats, it’s bound to be gone shortly one way or the other.” Herself, unwilling to face ratty alone, swapped bedrooms with Mr. Waffle and me and all night I heard the rat/mouse scrabbling in the walls which was, frankly, not restful.
Thursday, April 18
We decided to leave ratland behind and hire a car to visit Chenonceau a beautiful chateau in the Loire valley which I had visited with my family some 35 years before and where herself assured us there was an excellent restaurant. It was not to be. There was not a car to be hired anywhere in the Touraine. Top tip, if you’re going to Tours for Easter, book your hire car in advance.
So after a vain morning calling increasingly distant car hire locations we went back into Tours and visited the Musée des Beaux Arts which was appealing in a small regional museum kind of way but stiflingly warm.
Then we went for a walk around the streets of the old town and I tried to buy a Lapsang equivalent in a tea shop and they had hardly any left so gave me what they had for free which filled me with, possibly excessive, joy. However, overall there was a certain amount of wilting in the heat and we took ourselves willingly back to the house for dinner and I laid myself down on my bed with a migraine like a 19th century damsel.
Herself bravely decided to go back to her own room for the night.
Friday, April 19
Herself confirmed, gloomily, that she had heard the pitter patter of little paws in the night. Her father stood by his position that it was a mouse.
Herself and myself went to the pharmacist in the square to buy suncream. He looked at us in utter bafflement, “But it’s April.” He had no suncream. We left and he came running after us with two tiny little samples, “Pour vous dépanner pour aujourd’hui.” Unpopular opinion, as the kids say, French people are really nice.
I went to the Tabac to pick up the paper and had a proud moment speaking to the man behind the counter who asked incredulously whether I was really Irish. Hard to know whether this is an indictment of the language skills of Irish people in general or praise of my abilities in particular. Let’s go with the latter.
We went for lunch with the host family where herself had stayed for 3 months. They were really lovely. They lived in the sunny northern suburbs whereas we were in the distant urban southern suburbs so it was a bit of a trek to get there. But worth the effort and they gave us a lift home. I had been slightly in the horrors that the boys would refuse to eat anything but they were really good and made an effort to try lots of things and actually ate a reasonable amount. It’s like the end of an era but in a really good way.
When we got home, we turned to the train timetable to see about getting the train to Chenonceau the next day being unwilling to renounce our dream of seeing at least one castle while in the Loire valley. I said bracingly to the troops, “There’s a train at 9.10 and then the train back is at 4.36, we can spend the day there.” I met with outright mutiny with Mr. Waffle leading the charge. There was a general feeling that a whole sweltering day in the castle might not be for us and, added, Mr. Waffle, “Suppose that the restaurant can’t take us, we’ll be trapped with no hope of lunch.”
Saturday, 20 April
There was a larger market in our little square which I inspected in some detail and picked up ingredients for a picnic. We went to one of the islands on the Seine (Île Simon). We carried our picnic in a tasteful and authentic wicker basket taken from the French people’s house. Let the record show that these are awkward and heavy to carry. I’ve gone right off the idea of acquiring one. The island, however, was a delight. The children paddled in the Loire and wandered around happily. We sat in the shade of the trees and listened to the bagpipe music coming from the bandstand (yes, really, why? couldn’t say).
With our considerably lighter (though still not a negligible weight) basket we wandered into Place Plumereau and had a drink and then saw the Basilica of Saint Martin (quite the famous Catholic saint) and went to the Monoprix. I love the Monoprix. Sad, but there it is. Herself peeled off and went to the contemporary art museum but none of the rest of us could quite face it.
When we got home, we had lasagna for dinner and Michael startled me by eating absolutely loads of it, where will this end? Daniel also startled all of us by hurtling out of the bathroom at high speed shouting, “There’s a rat in there!” “A mouse,” said Mr. Waffle adding gloomily, “those cats are absolutely useless.” We tried to get the rodent out to the garden using a chicane but it wisely retreated to its lair in the walls.
Herself disseminated a quiz to us all called rat or mouse: Michael got 8/12, Daniel and I got 9/12 and herself got 10/12 but Mr. Waffle got 11/12. Maybe it was a mouse after all.
Easter Sunday, 21 April
I had announced early in our stay that we would be going to mass in the cathedral on Easter Sunday. The children were resigned. In the morning we left at 10.45 and I thought we were in good time as mass started at 11.30. It did not, it started at 11 and we were 15 minutes late. I was very annoyed. The church was absolutely packed and we had to stand in a side aisle. All of the children said they had never seen a fuller church in their lives. As mass went on, and on, I began to regret less and less that we had been 15 minutes late. It was nearly 1 when we emerged blinking in the sunlight.
We went to a nasty Italian restaurant for lunch (it looked fine, but it really was not). Then herself went off to meet her friends from Tours and Mr. Waffle and the boys and I visited the Natural History museum; small but alright. Then we went to an escape room. This was a huge success. We all really enjoyed it. Although the boys were very keen, I was pretty dubious in advance but it was great and really well organised. The boys are very keen to try something similar in Dublin. We will see.
We then met herself in the Brasserie near our tram stop and had a last drink. No sooner had we got on the tram than I realised that I had yet again been outfoxed by the arcane and complex ticketing system. “I’ll have to get off and buy a ticket, you stay on,” I said. Happily a bus arrived shortly afterwards which saw me home a good 20 minutes before the others, I was smug.
After the children went to bed, Mr. Waffle and I stayed up reading for a while. He went to feed the cats and I heard him say, “Feck it!” with feeling. There, dead, stretched out by the cat bowl was the body of the offending rodent. I took a picture. Everyone I have shown it to says it’s a rat. Feel free to weigh in.
Monday, April 22
It’s basically deathly quiet in Tours on Easter Monday. Even the local boulangeries were closed. We were forced to eat croissants from the Intermarché*. We spent the morning tidying up and then our hosts gave us a lift to Tours airport which is tiny and no place to spend ages waiting for a delayed Ryanair flight but theoretically very handy.
We were delighted to be home even though some of us had to clear up dried up cat vomit from the stairs.
Would we go back? Yes, definitely. Would we stay in the same Airbnb? Probably not.
*Sometimes I think I might be beyond parody. Would you tell me if this were the case?