While Daniel has training (all the time at the moment, God, I am sick of the GAA, the other night I spent 1 hour 45 minutes in the car dropping and collecting from a distant location), those of us at home are watching a series on Netflix. It’s Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. It’s not bad. Daniel’s a bit curious about the show. The other night the Netflix algorithm threw up Peter O’ Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia as something we might like to watch. “Ah,” said Daniel, “is that the Sandman show you’ve been watching?”
Patroness of the Arts
This is always a very busy time of year: there’s the Fringe Festival, the Theatre Festival, Culture Night (sadly missed it this year but we were in Paris – more of which anon – so basically a win), the Dublin Festival of History. It’s all go, I can tell you. With my new non-working status, I can bring a whole new energy to this which my family very much welcome.
Earlier in the year I booked for four people to go to Steward of Christendom in the Gate. It was cancelled twice (Covid, I guess) and we ended up going in late August which was perilously close to the cultural whirlwind that is autumn in Dublin. Also herself was there and I only had four tickets. Everyone wanted not to go (honestly, this is what I have to put up with) but herself won in the end as she was the one for whom a ticket hadn’t been bought in the first place. You would think as an English student she might want to go to this play by Sebastian Barry exploring the great sweep of history through one individual’s recollection of the tumultuous period around the foundation of the Free State. You might think that but you would be wrong.
Anyway, I thought it was really good. I saw it years ago, maybe in the 90s, in the Abbey, I think, and it made a big impression on me. What I didn’t remember from that previous performance is that the main character is in a county home with senile dementia. I think I didn’t know anyone with dementia then and what stayed with me was the loss and the change experienced by the main character rather than the situation in which he found himself. Also there wasn’t so much exploration then of how people loyal to the Crown managed that transition in 1922/23.
The others in the family were less enthused with Mr. Waffle saying, only half in jest, that it should have carried a warning that it dealt with difficult themes including dementia. Alas.
Mr. Waffle and I also went to a performance at the Fringe Festival. We often go to see a comedian in the Fringe (rather than a play) – only about an hour and a half and my experiences have been generally good. We both quite enjoyed “This is Toxic” by a comedian called Julie Jay. I mean, some dark themes and I emerged knowing more about Britney Spears than I had before, but overall very funny. Mr. Waffle was one of the few men in the audience. Make what you will of that.
I went on a tour of the Worth Library – a long held ambition of mine – as part of the festival of history. I had a cold on the day and it is housed in the offices of the Health Service Executive. In the invitation, I was asked to wear a mask. I hummed and hawed but decided to go. No one in the former Dr. Steeven’s hospital appeared to be wearing a mask except the librarian. When I arrived, he explained that I was the only person taking the 11 o’clock tour. To be honest, I had been hoping to avoid that level of scrutiny. He told me that I was a bit early – I was – and maybe I’d like to go to the ladies’ down the corridor while he turned on the lights. Sure, why not?
It’s one room. I learnt a lot about it, and antiquarian books in general, in the 45 minute one on one tour. The librarian had a northern accent, a mask, and as he said, much to my mortification, a speech impediment. I was mortified because I had to keep asking him to repeat things as he was hard to understand. Meanwhile I was pulling down my mask and blowing my nose every two minutes as we danced around the room maintaining a social distance. As though things were not difficult enough, my trusty ancient cords chose this moment to collapse. A bad habit of keeping my phone in my back pocket became too much for these old trousers to bear and the pocket tore taking a good wodge of fabric with it leaving my bottom at severe risk of exposure. I kept my jumper pulled down with one hand and blew my nose with the other but all in all, I wouldn’t call it an entirely comfortable experience.
During Covid, Mr. Waffle gave me a present of a National Gallery membership and I have been waiting for the correct moment to deploy it. That moment is now. I went to the Giacometti exhibition. I wouldn’t be a major Giacometti fan (he weeps) but I did find it pretty interesting. He had a much younger wife who survived him and fiercely promoted and guarded his legacy notwithstanding his taking up with a much younger again mistress who, like his wife, featured in the exhibition.
Having gazed my fill on Giacometti’s works, I went back to the closed cloakroom where I had left my waterproofs reasoning that no one would take them. Reasoning incorrect. They were gone. I went to all the desks but no joy. It was very wet outside. However, just as I was resigning myself to a damp cycle home and considerable investment, they turned up at one of the desks. Mysterious but very welcome. The security guard told me that the cloakrooms have been closed since Covid. This is ridiculous at this stage, frankly. And, once bitten, I’m not so sure I will abandon my coat again. Welcome to my world of first world problems.
Mr. Waffle and I went to the cinema on a Wednesday afternoon. I don’t think I’ve gone to the cinema in the middle of the working day since I was in college. We saw Official Competition which was quite funny in places but relied too much on one gag, I thought. On reflection, quite like the kind of film I used to go and see in college.
I took the opportunity of an empty foyer to insert myself in the “Don’t Worry Darling” drama.
We went with the boys to see “See How They Run”. It was only alright I thought. I’ve actually seen “The Mousetrap” but happily could remember nothing of the plot so the action was all new to me. We’re still searching for the high that was “Murder on the Orient Express”. I know that that Kenneth Branagh vehicle got very mixed reviews but, for us, it was a really great family film.
More cultural adventures to come. Be still my beating heart.
A Surprisingly Educational Adventure
Daniel has recently acquired the video game Assassin’s Creed and I am transfixed by the quality of the graphics. It looks amazing.
“Look Mum, I can take you on a guided tour of Alexandria,” said he. It includes a lot of history including the hilarious factlet that when Alexander the Great laid out the outline of the great city he did so with flour which was promptly eaten up by local wildlife. Can this be true? We went around the great library of Alexandria and climbed the Lighthouse. As his little avatar (Queen Cleopatra, in case you’re wondering) nimbly jumped up from floor to floor and then looked across the whole bay from an extremely precarious perch, I found the soles of my feet prickling. It felt very high and slightly disturbingly real: great view though.
When we’d finished our tour, the screen flashed up “rare achievement unlocked by only 1% of players” so clearly not the most popular feature of the game. The work that went into something which is obviously very much a minority interest for gamers is spectacular. Honestly, no wonder they made a film out of it.
Just in Under the Wire
It was the Princess’s 19th birthday in April. I always manage to do a birthday post before her brothers’ birthday on September 27, but it’s a bit tight this year, I would concede. I thought I might stop after she turned 18 but she asked me when I was going to put up her “GDPR breaching” birthday post, so I took this as royal permission to continue.
I usually look back on the 12 months up to her birthday when I write these and the first photo I came across was from late April 2021. It strikes me that she looks very young here even if she had just turned 18. She’s grown up an awful lot over the past year.
She became a big fan of getting up at the crack of dawn and cycling around the park during Covid. She was fit as a fiddle. I went with her a couple of times which was always very pleasant though early which is not where my strengths lie.
Building on her Dublin cycling, she went on a couple of very long cycles with my brother (40-50kms) which she seemed to enjoy. Here she is enjoying a late lunch after a 50km cycle. Whatever floats your boat, I guess. I think she cycles less in England but she still whizzes around on her bike in Dublin.
The big event for her last year was the Leaving Certificate. Covid uncertainty made it all pretty difficulty (would there be an exam, wouldn’t there? what would be examined?) but, in fairness to her, she worked very hard. We had some slight anguish about her French which she was doing outside school. The French woman who was doing conversation classes with her was a PhD student out in UCD with no real idea of what the expected level of French in Irish schools is. She (generously in her own mind) predicted a H2 (between 80 and 90 percent). We were all outraged on the Princess’s behalf. Students were allowed to sit the exams in person and get predicted grades from teachers and choose the higher of the two. She sat all the exams as well as getting the predicted grades and, very unsurprisingly, secured a H1 in French (over 90%) in the exam. In fact when she did the oral, the interviewer seems to have really stopped examining and started chatting explaining that the exam is designed for students with much lower levels of fluency. Herself noticed that the examiner made a couple of errors, so I think we knew we were alright there. She was pretty calm throughout the exams and broadly took things in her stride. Slight trauma about the physics exam (fine in the end, you’ll be pleased to hear) but otherwise she sailed through it.
The now traditional holiday with friends after the Leaving Cert was obviously much curtailed and instead of going abroad, she went to Killarney which, you know, was ok. Personally, I went to my friend’s parents’ holiday house in Rosscarbery so I know how it feels.
She finally got her braces off. Honestly, that whole process was disastrous. The pandemic delayed matters. The whole thing was lengthy and painful (and expensive, needless to say). But, I must say, her teeth look great. Still not sure that I would do it again. Or certainly not with the same orthodontist.
She had a summer of waiting. The exam results which are usually issued in mid-August were due to be later this year. She had a place in a college in England contingent on her results and she’d applied to colleges in Ireland as well but the tension in the run up to the results was significant.
While her brothers were off for a week in Cork we brought her out to dinner with just her parents – to celebrate the end of school and the end of the exams – which she is still young enough to enjoy.
She tidied out her room with alarming thoroughness and culled many books which ended up finding homes elsewhere in the house.
We went on what I thought might be our last family holiday (although in the event she came to Stockholm this year so my weeping and gnashing of teeth may have been premature). That holiday feels like a long long time ago now.
She and her brothers are getting on pretty well as they all shade from adolescence into adulthood. Of course they see a lot less of each other now which I feel may help a bit. They haven’t bickered much in years which I suppose is a good thing but sometimes I think it’s maybe because they lead such separate lives. I would love them to stay close. I am really close to my siblings even though we regularly drive each other crazy. And, as they say, it’s the longest relationship you are likely to have in your life, so it’s an important one.
She often seems more than two and a half years older than the boys. And, the fact that they are the exact same age means that they have much more in common with each other than they do with her. But I think, as they all get older, this will change. The boys will be in college next year (gasp) and they will all three have more in common again then.
To no one’s surprise (including her own, I think) she did very well in her exams and comfortably made her college offer in England. Still, I don’t think I will ever forget going into her bedroom after she had downloaded her results and seeing her radiating happiness. We were all delighted.
I honestly didn’t think that I would be the kind of person who would be sad when my children left home. Well, it turns out, I was totally wrong. I expected her to go to college in Ireland and I thought she wouldn’t move out until she’d got her degree which is what happened with me and my siblings and, indeed, most city dwellers in Ireland. There’s a tradition of not going away to college unless you have to. But I should have known that she would be different, she has always been fiercely independent and keen to live away. She loved her three months in France when she was 15 and I think it made her really determined to study abroad. All the same, 18 seems so young to leave home and I was stupidly unprepared for that development.
It was so sad saying goodbye but she was so happy to be there. Mr. Waffle and I flew to England with her and spent an exhausting time setting her up.
She took to college like a duck to water, she liked the work, she liked living in England, she made loads of friends and she was just very happy and excited. My dentist’s daughter also went to college in England. I saw a lot of my dentist in the six months after our daughters both started college (it was a tough time toothwise, let us not speak of it). His daughter was always on the phone to them, came home for all the holidays and they had been to visit her many times. I think she was probably miserable and homesick and though I was thrilled that herself was not, I couldn’t help but feel a bit envious of the dentist and his ongoing access to his daughter. Herself informed me tersely that she was not enjoying being compared to the dentist’s daughter.
One thing that was really good about her going to England was that the college year started in person as normal. In Ireland, we were much more cautious and her friends who went to college in Ireland took a lot of courses online from their bedrooms which was a bit grim.
I was thrilled when she came with us to the Netherlands for a long weekend but already after only a month of college, she seemed to have grown and changed a lot.
She got Covid in December and I felt so sorry for her. Firstly, she was sick as a dog and all alone in isolation in her college room. Secondly, she had planned to go on a college ski trip and a weekend in Paris with a friend both of which had been paid for and she couldn’t get refunded for either. Then I began to panic that she might not make it home for Christmas. I suppose there will come a time when she can’t make it home for Christmas but not while she’s in her teens. I nearly cried. But, I am delighted to report that she did make it home and she got to go and visit some of her friends’ houses in England over the (very long) winter break. After the first, longest term, we were beginning to get the hang of our new relationship. Still every time I leave her off to the airport, I feel a bit heartbroken.
We went to visit her in England at the February mid-term. I think she enjoyed showing us around. We met her friends. Better, she was really keen for us to meet her friends. They were lovely. They were particularly nice to her younger brothers which is generally the way to my heart. It was good to see her happy, established and settled.
Her aunt and uncle in London were a godsend as, if anything went wrong, they were nearby and when she went to London (which she did a fair bit) they very kindly put her up. She gets on very well with her London aunt the author (who has in an absolutely delightful development dedicated her latest book to her nieces, herself is thrilled) who is extremely kind to her.
My own brother and sister are fantastic as well. She is constantly broke so cash from kindly relatives is very welcome. She met my brother in London and they went to some cool restaurant she couldn’t otherwise have afforded to visit. When he left her he gave her a lump of cash which she promptly went and spent on a (lovely) coat. Improvident but I suppose you are only young once. All her Irish-based relatives are relieved by the current relative strength of the euro against the pound.
Having missed the debs at home due to Covid, it was the year of her first balls. She liked them.
She was home for a good long break over Easter – when she celebrated her birthday. I loved having her home for ages. Herself and Dan worked on the design of the Easter table. I was suitably impressed by their efforts.
It’s funny, I was walking through our local urban village with her recently and I asked whether she thought a lot had changed. “Well no,” she said, “because I’m home all the time.” To be clear, this is not, as they say, my truth.
This birthday post is a lot more about me and my feelings than it is about her, I think. That’s largely because she doesn’t live with us anymore and I just don’t know quite as much about her life as I did. I am so pleased that she is happy and well and things are going her way. But the granular detail I had about her life from living in the same house all the time, just isn’t there. And that takes more getting used to than I expected. I still occasionally lay the table for five.
This year with me not working and her more settled into college life, I expect to see a lot more of her. She will visit home a bit more. I will visit her in England more regularly. I feel, however, that this year we have set out the parameters for our future relationship with our adult child.
Daniel, unhelpfully, said to me, “By the time your child is 18 you have, on average, already spent 90% of the time you are going to spend with them.” However as my friend D pointed out, a lot of that time is spent walking up and down in the middle of the night with a crying baby, it’s not a lot of fun but the time now is all good.
In that spirit, Mr. Waffle and I are going to Paris at the weekend to see her. She’s spending the month of September there doing an internship. Isn’t it well for her?
Relationship Status: It’s Complicated
Mr. Waffle and I were on a lovely walk (well lovely in parts, parts were a bit inhospitable, but the views were generally nice and the weather was fantastic) in Carlingford the week before last when my phone started pinging.
It was my Sunday afternoon book club speculating about the health of the Queen of England. They weren’t wrong, we arrived home in time to see the BBC read out news of her death. I was startled by how shaken I felt up there on the mountain. I mean, she was 96, it was hardly a complete surprise.
I suppose she reminds me a bit of my father who was of the same generation, just a year older; the old order changeth and all that. I remember my father telling me about the death of the old King – George V – in 1936 when my father was 10. There are few enough people now who remember that. I am surprised that, 100 years after independence, the death of a British monarch still has so much relevance here including for me
The Irish papers were full of the symbolic importance of her trip to Ireland in 2011. The children were in primary school at the time and the school closed down for the day as it was a bit close to the Queen’s visit to town. People were pretty nervous, I remember (presumably not as nervous as she was). It all went off peacefully though. She went to Cork (“Rebel County” snorted Mr. Waffle as gangs of school children waved flags to greet her on the Grand Parade). The fishmonger in the Market made a career from his brief encounter with her much to my brother’s ongoing chagrin. He feels that the fishmonger may have gone overboard on the marketing. He got a book out of the two minute encounter which was featured all over again in the Irish coverage of her death.
On the Sunday after she died, I was surprised when the priest prayed for her at mass. “We pray now for Queen Elizabeth II and that she will be forgiven her sins, and received into the Kingdom of Heaven,” intoned the priest. “That’s what we do when people die, we pray for them and for God to forgive them their sins,” he informed the slightly startled congregation.
This Sunday, I noticed on the missalette under the list of mass intentions (a list of people for whom parishioners have paid for masses to be said – don’t talk to me about the Reformation – for special intentions, anniversaries, exams, dead family members, whatever you’re having yourself) that on Monday, 19 September, somebody was having a mass said for Queen Elizabeth II (RD). RD stands for recently deceased. Like we didn’t know. There she was sandwiched in between Bennie and Maisie (anniversary) and Pat and Mary (deceased) and sitting underneath the information that it was the feast day of Saint Januarius, Bishop and Martyr.
The second reading from St. Paul (something of a pragmatist) to Timothy was timely:
My advice is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone – petitions, intercessions, and thanksgiving – and especially for kings and others in authority so that we may be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet. To do this is right, and will please God our saviour: he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth.
It really feels like the end of an era.
Updated to add: this appeared in today’s Irish Times. My brother is going to get a hernia.