If you had asked me which of my children would be the first to learn to drive, the answer would not have been Michael who always had very little interest in driving. But due to a combination of circumstances (herself was caught by Covid and then went abroad; Daniel injured himself), he was the first to do the 12 mandatory lessons and last weekend Mr. Waffle and I both took him out for a spin (he can only drive with a fully- licensed person). I was honestly petrified at the prospect but, do you know what? He can drive, it’s grand. I am amazed. With the waiting lists it will be a year or so before he can do his test and he needs some practice anyhow, I suppose. Insurance until August when our policy renews is…wait for it…drum roll…an extra €812. And Daniel begins mandatory lessons this week. I genuinely think we’re approaching the point where insurance and maintenance might be more than our 9 year old car is actually worth.
Earlier this week, I went for a cycle in the park with my loving husband. The place was pretty much deserted on a damp Monday afternoon.
We had a cup of tea at the lake.
Then we headed for home where we arrived safely notwithstanding the fact that this stag looked pretty dubious about our bikes. You have to imagine the sound effects – Mr. Waffle saying in increasingly urgent but low pitched tones, “Don’t stop to take a picture, keep cycling.”
The weather was lovely on Wednesday and I went for a swim in the sea with my friend who swims in the sea every day of the year. She has several pairs of magic little bootees which fool your body into thinking it’s not going to be unbelievably cold. I am a big fan. I think I might buy my own for summer time swimming which would look stupid but do I even care anymore? It was lovely swimming – yes really – and then we went for lunch afterwards.
We went to Wicklow overnight with the in-laws. Of the younger generation, only Michael and the youngest cousin (6) came but they both seemed to have a good time. Daniel was home alone for the first time. Delighted.
It was lovely to see everyone and my only regret was the bank holiday traffic which was horrendous. In fairness Wicklow (the garden of Ireland as it styles itself) was looking pretty good.
My sister was in Dublin for the weekend and came to dinner last night. It was great to see her. To my absolute horror I realised that her birthday is coming up in November and somehow, in all of the other excitement, I am not as on top of her present as I might be. Never mind, there’s still time. She filled me in on her extensive building works – she’s moved out until Christmas at least. Terrifying.
Today Mr. Waffle and I cycled to Howth, stopping off for breakfast on the way. I raced him back – I wanted to cycle and he was going to get the suburban train, the DART which allows you to bring your bike on board on bank holidays. I got home first but, alas for him, he had to cycle as well as the DART was undergoing bank holiday Monday repairs. I feel that correct competition conditions were not observed. Howth was looking lovely although there was a woman photographing a rat sitting up and eating some fruit and nuts on the pier. “He’s only a baby and people keep leaving stuff out for him,” she explained. He looked very large for a baby, if you ask me.
I am fully decorated for Halloween tomorrow.
Although none of my decorations are as effective as those of my neighbours up the road who have impaled turnip heads on the spikes of their garden fence.
A busy week. What am I trying to avoid thinking about? Why the return to work tomorrow. It has been fantastic being off. I’ve been lucky to do it. And the job I’m going back to will be grand, I think. But currently this music is playing on repeat in my head. As the young people say, “If you know, you know.” Wish me luck.
I have a nasty cold which is finally starting to get better. I had the dentist this morning at 8.40 (why, why did I pick this time?) and in fairness to him, I felt I’d better do a Covid test in advance. Negative but mood not improved by waggling Covid test stick up my nose at 7 in the morning. Annoyingly Dan and Mr. Waffle both had this cold and are already fully recovered, Michael, who despite his slender frame appears to have an extraordinarily vigorous immune system, wasn’t sick at all. In far off England, herself, who clearly shares my level of disease resistance, had been felled by freshers’ flu which is hard when you’re a sophisticated third year.
And as well, a couple of weeks ago, I got the most horrendous thing. I have never had a stye on my eye so why, the first time this happens to me would I get a hordeolum? This is a stye inside your eyelid. It’s as revolting and as painful as it sounds.
Is it going to be a long winter? Quite possibly. Note to self: get the Covid booster and the flu jab as soon as possible.
We went down to Cork on Saturday to bury my aunt’s ashes. It was a much deferred event and in the end this weekend didn’t really suit because a) Mr. Waffle and I had a party on Friday night; b) Daniel was staying out at a friend’s house to do a Friday 13th horror marathon and had to be picked up from there on the way to Cork and was up until 5 am being jump scared; c) my sister was enjoying a rolling crisis at work and ongoing illness and d) she and her partner were moving out of their house the following Monday to make room for the builders who are moving in until Christmas.
At the party on Friday, an old friend of mine from Cork asked me how Aunty Pat was and I had to say, not great, we’re interring her ashes tomorrow. I felt a bit sorry for him but there you are.
Anyway, we got to Cork, we got to the graveyard and we did it. It was a short ceremony and it’s pretty surprising to see how small the box of ashes is. The gravedigger knew Aunty Pat and had done some gardening work for her in the past, so that was actually quite nice.
We went for lunch afterwards which was not entirely successful because it was vegetarian which not everyone loved, Daniel was exhausted, my sister was sick and it was so loud that it was difficult to hear anything. Alas. Before we went to the graveyard, my sister had sustained us with a snack including a Cornish pasty from Marks and Spencer’s. “Look Mum,” said Daniel excitedly, “an English empanada.” Good point.
At lunch we were trying to tell Aunty Pat stories over the din. My brother said – which was news to me – that she loved rugby and when he was a kid, he used to go into her house to watch matches. Mr. Waffle and I went round to her house – where my brother is now living – that evening to watch Ireland play the All Blacks and, honestly, with one thing and another, it would have been nice if the Irish team had won. But no, it was that kind of weekend.
I feel a bit sad but I guess it’s good that she’s interred there with her uncles and aunts, brother and grandparents (her parents are elsewhere). And, as they say, she had a good innnings. In fact, she was pretty much perfect and driving about until her late 80s. She was 94 when she died and living at home. Things could have been a lot worse.
I was talking about Bottom in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with the children for reasons which I have now forgotten. Daniel asked, “Is he from ‘The Taming of the Shrew’?” “No,” I said. “Oh yeah,” he said, “‘The Taming of the Shrew’ is not the one with all the animals in it despite having an animal in the title.” Fair point.
We missed the boat with herself and, due to Covid, she went to England without ever learning to drive. I was determined to get the boys sorted. It took a lot more bureaucracy than I expected.
Firstly they needed to get public service cards. As they were under 18 at the the time, I had to go with them to the centre where you get your public service card. I was confused by the queuing system in the centre. I asked another person waiting whether we needed a ticket and she responded in Ukrainian, that she didn’t understand. Well, this was the opportunity I had been waiting for. My lessons, my duolingo and my time spent listening to Ukrainian in the cesspit that is YouTube shorts were about to pay off. I repeated my question in Ukrainian. She looked baffled. Her teenage sons sniggered unhelpfully. My teacher said that part of the difficulty might be in the way I pronounce “ticket”; apparently, it sounds like “flower”. Alas.
Anyway, eventually, we sorted Dan’s card and Michael was the beneficiary of the scoping exercise I had carried out with Dan the previous day. The next day Michael and I were in and out in 10 minutes. One of the officials was the mother of a friend of his from school and while this made no difference to the speediness of the operation, it made us feel very well connected to the corridors of bureaucratic power.
Later, I was appalled to see that the cards ran out on their 18th birthday in September. The idea of going through it all again was very distressing. I am, however, pleased to report that following their birthday, new cards arrived automatically in the post. The relief.
Once they got PS cards they were able to do the driver theory test. If you have just done your Leaving Certificate, prepping for the driver theory test presents precisely zero difficulties. They sailed through it unlike their mother who failed the mock test they made her do online. In my defence, I would say that I answered some questions with what I thought they would like you to do rather than what I would actually do and, it turns out, what I was doing was actually right. Who knew? It was ironic that I shortly afterwards received a notification that my own licence was due to expire. However renewal is, in fairness to the driving licence people, extremely easy, if you have a licence already. Crucially, no resitting of any tests is required. I mean, maybe it should be?
Once they had their theory tests and PS cards, the boys could apply for provisional licences. Daniel, as a glasses wearer, needed a piece of paper from the optician following an eye test. We did it. Then I realised that everyone who wants a driving licence has to do an eye test, not just people who wear glasses. On balance, a good thing but back to the optician with Michael, of course, on the morning of our flight to Argentina. The optician’s credit card machine was broken. Extra trip back. Sigh. Anyhow, Michael’s form in and everything in order. Hurrah.
Then we got a message about Daniel’s form. Due to his eye condition, he needed a medical form as well within ten days or the application would not be progressed, his fee would be forfeit and he would have to start again. I rang the helpdesk, they were helpful. “We’re going on holidays today, we won’t make the 10 day deadline,” I said. “You can go to any GP at all,” said the nice man at the other end of the line. “We’re going to Argentina,” I said. A pause. “Look,” he said, “I will flag it on the application and maybe they will wait but it might be rejected.”
When we returned from Argentina, Michael’s provisional licence was there waiting for him. We went to the GP with Dan as soon as we could get an appointment (she got to look at his injured shoulder as well, so a win as it is €70 for a GP visit and it is nice to get more than a quick once over and a form filled in) and put in the form and, hallelujah, it was accepted and he too got a provisional licence. Though the physio said that he couldn’t actually drive for at least a month so no urgency really then.
Michael had his first actual lesson on the road at the start of September and was genuinely horrified by the power of fourth gear. He has to have a number of lessons with an instructor before he can be put on our insurance and drive with a parent (something that will be possible at the end of the month and, quite frankly, something we’re all dreading).
It’s funny that Michael is the most advanced in his progress towards actually having a driving licence because he has zero interest in it really, it’s just something useful to have. The other two are much keener. The physio has finally cleared Dan to have lessons and I actually think he will quite enjoy it. This will make a pleasant contrast with Michael who heads out to lessons with the demeanour of a condemned man and comes back a shadow of his former self. When these lessons are costing you a fortune, it is hard to take this with equanimity.
A friend of Mr. Waffle’s points out, most unhelpfully, that it is hardly worth their while to learn on a manual gear stick as they will be phased out for all cars by the end of the decade. However, our current car, on which they will be learning to drive, is a manual car so I really don’t think we had a lot of choice. It’s much harder, of course, but it will make them mentally strong, I am sure.
They’ll both be on our car insurance in the next month or so. That’s two 18 year olds. I shudder to contemplate what the cost will be. Good job I’m planning to go back to work. I don’t at all remember learning to drive being so administratively challenging when I learnt. Although, I did nearly send my mother to an early grave with my near misses (favourite expression deployed on my rounding a bend too quickly in the city centre, “What would you have done, if there had been a cow lying in the middle of the road?”). I vividly remember her clutching the door handle and pumping an invisible brake with her foot. At the time, I thought she exaggerated but I did notice that as I became a more experienced driver those behaviours disappeared. I suppose it is all ahead of me.