Me: Hilarious, witty quip.
Herself: Is that a joke?
Me: Of course, it’s a joke, it’s hilarious.
Her: No, it’s just sometimes hard to tell whether you’re being funny or going senile.
Me: Hilarious, witty quip.
Herself: Is that a joke?
Me: Of course, it’s a joke, it’s hilarious.
Her: No, it’s just sometimes hard to tell whether you’re being funny or going senile.
School is well over at this stage. The end of year activities were suitably frantic. Michael got a prize for best all-round student in his class and he was pleased. The school reports were fine.
The summer is the usual hodge podge of cobbled together activities. Herself and Daniel had many things organised (Zambia, France, a three week course on law and politics and robotics respectively) and the couple of weeks they have nothing on, I am more than happy for them to hang around the house. While Dan was in Paris, Michael did a drama camp which, frankly, he did not love. Daniel and Michael did a couple of things together – the sports course with French exchange N and a week in Cork with my brother.
I sent the boys to Cork to bond with their Cork relatives. My brother insisted that they bring their bikes and, despite some reservations on my part, I duly complied. My sister collected them from the station and as she cycled into town she chatted to Michael. She said, “It was his voice but your words.” Apparently he admired the segregated cycling infrastructure.
My brother who is the stubbornest person I know, took them on a 15 km cycle to Cobh. They were multi modal and in the course of their travels around Cork they also got the ferry and the train. They seemed to like it. I was impressed despite myself.
They also visited my mother and I was so glad that she got to see them one last time.
Next week, all three children are at home with no plans which I think will probably be ok but from the week after, Michael will be at home alone as the other two are at their camp and his parents are at work. An attempt to sign him up for a sailing course with his cousins has been resisted with extreme vigour. What on earth will he do?
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.
We saw Daniel off to Paris yesterday. It was his first time flying without school or family and I was a bit nervous even though, flying as an unaccompanied minor, he was accompanied by a bored airline employee. You will be pleased to hear that he made it safely to Paris, notwithstanding my concerns. Herself is in Botswana due to fly home via Addis Ababa. Michael is enrolled in a drama course for the week despite his protests.
I see in today’s Irish Times that i) the heatwave is expected to be so intense in Paris this week that they are opening the swimming pools at night and ii) there has been a coup attempt in Ethiopia and that there are “reports of gunfire in Addis Ababa”. Also, Michael is loathing his drama course.
Herself was 16 on April 12 so this is a very belated birthday post.
In the run up to her birthday she conducted a concerted campaign to get her nose pierced. We yielded though I fought a good, but ultimately unsuccessful fight, on the “this is cultural appropriation” angle. Once her birthday had passed, Mr. Waffle took her to a tattooed man on the quays who pierced her nose. It’s the outside of enough to have to support something you don’t even want but I didn’t want her going on her own so Mr. Waffle nobly took her. I do not love the nose piercing but it is reversible, I suppose.
Poor child, I was glad she had something to look forward to as she got braces on her bottom teeth and was absolutely miserable. I am slightly in the horrors about our choices on braces. Her teeth were fine and I feel I have been susceptible to American influence in my belief that they should be perfect. She bitterly points out that, as is often the case, I have learnt my lesson from her and would be pretty reluctant to put her brothers through the same misery unless the dentist insists.
This year in school is Transition Year where they do fewer academic subjects and more other things. One of the things they did was a school musical. She told me it was terrible and that she had a tiny part. I don’t know why I believed her because it wasn’t true and had I known the nature of the performance I would have brought along the extended family to admire her genius. It was held in a small theatre and the children did a wonderful job. Herself was fantastic, funny and clever and really engaging in one of the three main roles. I loved it and so did her father and brothers who are a much harder audience to please. One of the other parents said to me afterwards, “Is there nothing that daughter of yours can’t do?” and a part of me thought, “Nope, there isn’t really.”
Yet again this year she was on the organising committee for the school trust’s gathering of all its schools. She is now an expert conference organiser. She also basically runs the school and has got herself on to the student council for the fifth year running.
Although she missed three months at the start of the year, she still got a “Teastas Ór” – gold award for her year’s work. Not worth seeing she assured me as she gathered up her portfolio of stuff and hid it away from me forever. Sigh.
She has been very good about going to French class on Saturdays which she only finds alright. All the children in the class except for her and one boy, A, go to single sex schools. She and A sit together at the centre of the semi circle of students as they are the only two students who can speak to everyone in the group without embarrassment. “Once,” she told me, “a boy spoke to a girl and she went to the toilets and never came back.” This really takes me back, I was that soldier. I still cannot think of my debs without a slight shudder.
Due to constant efforts on my part, she realises that the rest of the country exists and that views outside Dublin may be ambivalent towards the capital. She was on a school day out to Tayto Park (the theme park devoted to a crisp, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it) and seeing all of the other children wearing GAA shirts in county colours, her friend E said, “We’re surrounded by culchies.” Acutely aware of how this term is less than appealing to people from outside Dublin, she said to her Dublin friend, “Don’t say that.” E replied, “What should I say then, ‘people of the farm’?” My poor daughter, she has a mountain to climb.
She is still a vegetarian. I find this tough going but I am resigned. She’s doing it for climate change reasons which her father finds admirable. Like many teenagers (but unlike her brothers, it must be said) she is always off marching against climate change and trying to get us to buy less plastic and worry about the environment. It’s working a bit although, obviously, I bought the Aga which is an environmental mortal sin. Her vegetarianism and my poor cooking skills are not a great match. I find myself buying things in cartons (paper, recyclable cartons) for her from the supermarket which I know is not great. “What was your Indian vegetarian thing like?” I asked. “See the way it has a smiling white Irish man on the packet and it’s described as mild?” she asked. “Yes,” I said. “It tasted like that,” she said. Alas, another failure. She’s a great cook herself and occasionally she cooks for all of us. I am hoping this will become more of a thing over the summer holidays. I came home recently to find she had made a very elaborate blueberry pie. I definitely regard this as a good sign.
She spent a weekend in Sligo with her aunt and uncle who were going to a wedding and retained her services to mind her two year old cousin. She found it tiring but lucrative. She’s working on her CV and is anxious to add to her list of skills. She did some work experience as part of Transition Year, so she’s got that as well. She would like to get a job. I am a bit unsure. I’m prepared to fund a reasonable degree of excitement and I feel she ought to have fun during her school summers. She feels a job would be fun which shows how little her work experience has taught her.
I find her a delight to be with. The two of us went to Cork together last weekend and she was such a charming companion. She was lovely with all of the elderly relatives. She was lovely with me. And she makes me laugh. We watched “The Lives of Others” recently and she commented, “I know it’s the fault of the repressive State but honestly, if we’d lived with you in East Germany, you would have been disastrous.” Funny because it’s true, people.
She is very wise. I am not sure why that should be but it is. I find her advice helpful and thoughtful. As she says herself, she is a wise owl in training. She reads a great deal; almost all of it very serious and worthy. A lot of it in French which is even more serious and more worthy. She gets this from her father who loves a serious book. Not from me, I’m rereading Harry Potter.
She seems very cool and trendy to me though, as she pointed out, if I think this, it is, basically, the kiss of death.
She is very good about telling us where she’s going and who she is with. She travels around the city, the suburbs and surrounding counties without any difficulty whatsoever. Her travel card is her most precious possession. I find myself praying she won’t be injured while riding her bicycle in town. Is it any wonder that I have become infinitely tedious on the subject of segregated cycle lanes?
This academic year has seen her change and grow a lot. The three months in France made a big difference but so did the freedom from the school academic routine. When she got back from France she had work experience one day a week; she also did a university law and politics course one day a week as part of an early university entrance programme; and then when she was in school they did different things – first aid, driving, the school musical, making a radio show. It was all pretty good, I think. It may be part of the reason why she described herself as being like a battery chicken who has experienced going free range but is now being sent back to the coop. I think she has strong views on our education system and they may not be entirely positive.
Earlier today, I saw her off on a plane to Zambia (via Madrid and Addis Ababa, mmm) where she and some classmates are going on a school tour (can I point out that all we got for our school tour was a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon?). They spent the year raising money for a school and orphanage in Zambia and they’re going to visit it as part of the trip which should be eye opening for them. I am terrified that she will get malaria, a terror not remotely helped by my father who snorted when he heard where she was going and feared that she would certainly get something. He’s a bit of a pessimist my father. I’m hopeful she will have a fantastic time but I am a little bit afraid. Honestly, this seems to be the basic state of being a parent of a 16 year old: I’m a little bit afraid at every new step but hopeful that it will all be fine, even better than fine, perhaps.
So, my oldest friend, M, got married yesterday. Our parents were friends and she is a year older than me so I have known her since I was born – 50 years ago as regular readers will be aware.
I haven’t been to a wedding in a while – I’m waiting for my friends’ children to start getting married – and I did enjoy it. I described M’s father’s funeral last year. It was sad that he wasn’t there as he would have hugely enjoyed it all and made a great speech to boot.
The wedding was in Bantry House which was lovely but absolutely freezing – consider yourself warned. I spent much of the evening crouched by various fires. When it came to dinner in the huge dining room (possibly originally a ball room) one of the other guests who was sitting near me had both a shawl and a poncho and lent me the latter: she was a Bulgarian and many years of living in Ireland appears to have given her little confidence in Irish people’s ability to heat their houses. This was fortunate for me.
The wedding brought a range of visitors from far flung places including Argentina, Canada, Vietnam and Brazil. The bride’s cousins had come from England. I hadn’t met them since we were all little girls and I confided to these grown up, sophisticated English women that I had regarded them with great bitterness when I was a child as, for weeks before they came to visit M spoke of little else and I was terrified of being usurped. They were a bit nonplussed for a moment and then started to apologise. Honestly, English people can be truly charming.
Notwithstanding its freezing nature, I loved, loved, loved the venue. I’m not sure why but I’ve never been to Bantry before. Bantry House is a delight and as wedding guests we were free to wander around and inspect a number of the rooms which I enjoyed hugely. I am very keen to go back and stay in the B&B they run and have a tour of the house (will definitely bring my hot water bottle though).
The bride and groom were visibly delighted which made everyone cheerful. They picked their own readings for the ceremony, made their own vows had a friend officiate and another friend sang. I knew I would cry and came prepared with tissues.
Speech of the night came from the groom’s 17 year old son who was funny and touching. After dinner there was a great magician. Not words I ever thought I would utter but he was really entertaining.
The music was calculated to appeal to the mature audience. You have not lived until you have seen a 78 year old lady dancing very handily to “Love Cats” by the Cure (the bride’s aunt, since you ask – looks amazing and very on top of who everyone was “Oh,” she said to me, “I remember you, you used to come and play with M.” True.)
What was really nice as well was that Mr. Waffle and I had a weekend away – just the pair of us – for the first time in ages. On Saturday morning we wandered around Bantry delighted with ourselves and bought various crafty things including a large basket for turf which we carried back to the hotel between us looking as cool as you might imagine.
Herself was 16 on Friday (hold your breath for a long post on that milestone) and I felt a bit of a heel abandoning her but she wanted to stay in Dublin and Mr. Waffle’s wonderful sister had her to stay and showed her a good time. The boys stayed in Cork. My brother and sister looked after them and they seem to have had a great time also. A win all round, I hope.
Today was a bit of a long day. We left Bantry about 11, picked up the boys from Cork, stopped in Cashel for lunch about 2 (I was still full after a large breakfast and ordered the warm salad with bacon and black pudding – a plate heaped with lardons and almost a whole black pudding dowsed in salad dressing arrived, after some digging I found a solitary lettuce leaf cringing miserably at the bottom of the bowl – when they say bacon and black pudding in Tipperary, they mean it) and got home at about 4.30. Herself had been dropped home shortly beforehand by her loving aunt which was great. The cat had been sick on our bed and the rug which was less great.
How was your own weekend?