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.
Saturday saw the usual drama/football dropping off with a side trip for Mr. Waffle to visit his father in hospital. My sister came over on Saturday afternoon to give the boys their birthday presents which were very well received indeed. She also advised me on my kitchen renovations (only starting in November almost certainly will not be finished by Christmas despite the builder’s blithe assurances to the contrary). She found a dead mouse on the utility room floor (the cat is in overdrive) and instead of closing the door and waiting for Mr. Waffle to return, she took it out to the garden on the dustpan to dispose of it. “Where did you put it?” I asked nervously. “The compost heap,” she said. I was outraged and made her go out and rescue the corpse with a tongs. Then she took it to the lane. I was keen that she throw it over the wall on to the building site from whence, I am convinced, it came but she was unsure that she would be able to get it over the wall and felt unable to run the risk that it might not clear the wall and would rain back down on us, so laid it in the lane underneath some foliage.
After that excitement, she went into town to see an Irish language play. Her partner’s mother was the playwright – he comes from a very literary family. They came to our house afterwards for a cup of tea. I have to say, the playwright is a lovely woman and I felt a bit guilty that we hadn’t attended ourselves but she did not seem at all offended. A low point came as I handed round the plate of biscuits and Daniel said, “No, she can’t have those, they’re the book club biscuits!” It is true that I am up to host book club on Monday and I had indeed bought the biscuits for this purpose and previously forbidden Daniel for eating them on those very grounds but this was not the moment to bring it up.
After they left we went next door where they were having their annual end of summer party. Among the neighbours is a man whose father, I had heard, delivered the little old lady across the road. In fact, chatting to him about this, it turned out it was his grandfather – an awkward moment I have to concede. He is a bit older than me but, it turns out, not that much older than me. I had thought all the families were local to the area but in fact she was born in Carlow where his grandfather lived and worked and he was from Tullamore and it was complete coincidence that they turned up living across the road from each other. I also found out that Mrs. Second Next Door is a sister of Mrs. Directly Across the Road. Yes indeed, Ireland is tiny. Getting back to the man whose grandfather delivered the little old lady who lives across the road, he told me that his wife wasn’t there as she was at home minding their daughter. Ever mindful of my own daughter’s pecuniary needs, I offered her up as babysitter for a future occasion should there be a need, once she returned from France. At this he looked a little sheepish. It turned out that their daughter, who does look very young, is only 18 months younger than ours but that her parents are very protective. He pointed out that she is the only child of older parents and, there we have it, another awkward moment. The next person I spoke to was another neighbour, a lovely man, whom I had met in a slightly heated work context earlier in the month. Between one thing and another, I ended up leaving early to mind the [sleeping and entirely indifferent] boys next door with something of the mien of a coursing hare.
On Sunday we had a specially lengthy mass. I love those. There was a great quote from Frédéric Ozanam:
The question which is agitating the world today is a social one. It is a struggle between those who have nothing and those who have too much. It is a violent clash of opulence and poverty which is shaking the ground under our feet. Our duty as Christians is to throw ourselves between these two camps in order to accomplish by love, what justice alone cannot do.
I have to say that I thought that it was a contemporary source but no, it dates from the first half of the 19th century. Ozanam (I learn from this morning’s leaflet at mass) was a lawyer but a reluctant one which may explain why he was unimpressed by what justice alone could achieve.
All afternoon we had Daniel and Michael’s friends from school playing elaborate board games – like a birthday party only much less effort. We had our regular scheduled talk with herself this evening. She seems to be getting on like a house on fire in France. I hope that she’s not putting on a brave face but I think not. She got my latest letter and hasn’t read it all yet and I don’t get the sense that she’s saving it up. I think that’s a good sign though slightly disconcerting.
I face into a week of book club hosting, football training for Dan, parents’ council AGM, return of Mr. Waffle’s weekly soccer club and kitchen appliance inspection (you have to BOOK to see kitchen appliances now). I’m feeling a sense of anticipatory exhaustion.
I plan to spend the evening re-reading Terry Pratchett to fortify myself. How was your own weekend?
I went down to Cork on Friday to do a tour of nursing homes. My brother was away and it seemed the least I could do to help my saintly sister, though since she ended up having to chauffeur and feed me, it’s hard to argue that my visit was an entirely unmixed blessing. My mother was fine and the nursing home where she lives is near my parents’ house, so reasonably convenient. My father was about an hour away. He is recuperating from pneumonia and given that my brother is away, it seemed best if he spent a little time in respite care. The papers are delivered so it is not all bad but I wouldn’t say it is delightful, now. He’s a bit bored and keen to get home, however, this meant that he was gratifyingly pleased to see myself and my sister. I now chat away to him with a view to finding out about ancient history. “What was it like when the first colour films came out, Dad?” “Well, you know, very exciting at the time,” he said. Sometimes these chats are more successful than others. I did enjoy his description of when he was a junior doctor in the local hospital in the late 40s and the matron put her head round the door of the elderly patient he was tending to (one of the Colthursts of Blarney Castle) and asked him whether he had enjoyed his soup. Sir George replied, “Very grateful to the stomach, sister.” This is a phrase that my father believes should be brought back in to common currency and who am I to quibble.
I spent some time cycling round the city and was, yet again, struck by the excellence of the cycling infrastructure compared to Dublin and the relative lack of cyclists. My sister probably put her finger on the reason for the latter when she said, “The traffic in Cork probably isn’t bad enough yet to make people take to their bikes.”
I left Cork at first light on Sunday morning. Since I thought my train was at 8 and it was actually at 8.25, my rising was even earlier than it needed to be. Alas. On return to Dublin, I lunched with my loving family and scooted off straight to my book club which probably didn’t make me the most popular family member but I understand people say that there is a merit in scarcity value.
How was your own weekend?