My father’s first cousin died a couple of weeks ago. She was always very beautiful and quite exotic boasting a tan when everyone else in Ireland was ghostly white. She married a rich man and they seemed to lead extraordinarily glamorous lives even though they lived in Kerry which does not lend itself to glamour. My brother and sister dutifully went to the funeral and met lots of my father’s cousins and reminisced and brought back useful quantities of family gossip. It wasn’t a shock (in fact about a year ago, I had firmly and definitively told my aunt that this woman was dead despite her distinct – and, as it turns out, correct – doubts on that point, so, you know, definitely not a shock) but I do feel that I am certainly edging closer to the front of the church.
The weekend before last, I drove to Cork with the boys. On the motorway outside Cashel (2 hours from Dublin, an hour from Cork, not handy for either), the car died. We pulled over to the hard shoulder and contemplated our options. The AA will let you join from the side of the road (important information) and they were very helpful but the woman said I was probably better off getting a tow truck and she gave me the number of a local. I called him and he came promptly enough. The boys and I were delighted to get off the hard shoulder.
The tow truck man suggested we go to a local motorway service station but I thought we might be better off going into Cashel and getting dinner while we waited for my saintly sister to drive up from Cork to collect us. It was a bit out of the way for the tow truck man but he was very obliging and we had a grand old chat on the way. He knew the (deceased) father of a former colleague of mine and it’s always nice to have an acquaintance in common so we discussed the extended family at length.
We got to Cashel and took out our bags. I also had four litres of milk as the boys get through a lot of milk and the shopping (14 litres) had just arrived the previous day and I thought it would be as handy to take some of the milk to Cork. This was a decision I regretted as we wandered around the town with our luggage and four litres of milk. We went to a restaurant where we have often been before (home of the bacon salad) and settled down to dinner in front of the fire while my poor sister drove up from Cork to collect us.
The problem with the car was failure of the fuel injectors and, on Monday, the tow truck man took it to the Peugeot dealer in Clonmel (still very far from Dublin) who gave us new fuel injectors, probably for less than we would have paid in Dublin but, you know, €1,600 is still €1,600. It took a while. We were carless for ten days which I thought would be fine as I maintain we never use the car during the week. It turns out we do use the car during the week. One morning it was lashing rain. Could we drive the children in? We could not, they got sodden on their bikes. I was on the baptism roster on Wednesday night but I forgot as did my partner. Could I get a lift to the church? I could not. Were 10 people including a week old baby and the parish priest (who was filling in on an emergency basis) waiting anxiously for my arrival? They were, but they were very kind about having to hang around for my arrival (except for the baby who slept throughout which I suppose was her own way of being kind). I really miss the days when there were armies of knowledgeable people with no day jobs to do this kind of thing and they didn’t have to rely on the likes of me.
Mr. Waffle signed us up to the Dublin car sharing scheme (no joining fee!) and it is quite handy but it’s €11 an hour which means that it probably would have been cheaper to have got a taxi to take Daniel to training but we felt it was a bit ludicrous. We also had a family weekend away (more of which anon) and we had to hire a car for that so all in all it ended up being a pricy adventure.
Mr. Waffle being noble said he would collect the car. He had to get the bus to Clonmel (a good two hours) and then walk a mile and a half to the Peugeot dealership. But he got it and he’s still alive.
My bike meanwhile had two punctures in rapid succession. The first, I got near home and Mr. Waffle fixed (what a man, I hear you say), the second was right beside the office. It was flat as a pancake and there was no way I was going to wheel it to the distant bike shop so I left it in the office all week until the car returned to us and I could shove it in the boot and take it to the bike shop.
I think I will be less smug about my urban car free life in future.
My brother went to Japan for the rugby world cup. He seems to be really enjoying himself notwithstanding Ireland’s less than stellar performance. He’s filling me with envy with his pictures of Mount Fuji, his tales of cycling along the world’s ninth longest suspension bridge (weirdly specific); and, most surprisingly of all his visits to Japanese gardens. Who would have thought?
When I was last in Cork, I was in the car with my sister and she said that she wanted to drop in something to a friend who had just had an operation. “Oh,” I said as we drove up to the estate, “this is where my friend F from college grew up. Ask your friend if she knows F.” My sister went in to the house, I waited in the car. “Well,” I said, “does she know F?” “Yes,” said my sister, ” and not only that but F’s sister was her surgeon.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Waffle was talking about a colleague of his. “What’s his wife’s name, again?” he asked me. “You mean A who was in my class in college; whose father was a friend of my father’s; who was a neighbour of my friend F’s (yes, same F) growing up?” “Yes, I suppose, I do,” he said.
My sister was in Chicago the week it was very cold and snowy. Miraculously, she got in and she got out. Her flight out of Chicago was much delayed but she got in to Dublin about midday. She then picked me up and drove us both to Cork.
I offered to drive, I really did but she has a new car and, secretly, I think she doubts my ability to keep it scratch free. It was lovely to have her to myself for the day even if she was exhausted. We stopped en route for lunch in Kildare Village (my struggles with which I have previously documented). I spent a fiver on lipbalm from Penhaligon which was profligate and €7.50 on a vase from Villeroy and Boch which was definitely a bargain.
As we approached Cork, I asked her “Will you go straight to bed when you get home?” “Oh no,” said she, “I have to spend a couple of hours answering emails.” I was suitably horrified by the work ethic expected from her American overlords. “But then,” I said, “then, you’ll go to bed.” “No,” she said, “I’m going to a record launch in Cawlan’s”. “Where?” “Cawlan’s.” “Never heard of it, spell it.” “C-O-U-G-H-L-A-N-S” “Oh,” I said, “Cocklan’s”. “No, Cawlan’s, you’ve just been out of Cork too long, you don’t know how to pronounce it any more,” said she.
I let it go, she was driving after having been awake for 36 hours and flown out of a snow bound mid-West. But I knew I was right.
Later that evening, my brother asked me would I run him to the pub in the car. “Sure,” said I, “where are you going?” “Cawlan’s.” I am a broken woman.
*You know from Hilaire Belloc ” But this pronunciation varies/ Some people call it Buenos Aires.”
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.