One of our neighbours was 70 recently and another neighbour had everyone round for a mild afternoon celebration. It was nice in a low key way. The 70 year old was born on our road and had all kinds of stories. He remembered when only five families on the road had cars. One of them was the family who lived in our house. The father would take the battery out of the car and bring it in to the house every night to make sure that it didn’t get too cold. The 70 year old remembers that one morning he heard the man who lived in my house offer a girl from another house a lift to school with his own daughter. “No thanks Mr. R,” she said, “I’m in a hurry.”
I went into one of those phone fixing shop and there were two women behind the counter. I said that it was nice to see women running the shop as it’s quite unusual in these kinds of shop. They were quite pleased. One of them said that only the other day a man had come into the shop and asked them whether there were any men working there because “no offence, but women are no good with phones.” Another man came in the door, took one look at them and threw his eyes to heaven and walked out. If you don’t believe this, I can recommend this podcast.
As I write, the Italian exchange is somewhere over France. Everyone in the house, except Daniel, remains Covid free.
We took the Italian to visit the Guinness Storehouse which I have to say, I found pretty tedious but he seemed to find mildly interesting, or perhaps he was just being polite. Aside from the staff, Michael and I were the only Irish people in the building.
We also took a day trip to Howth which was pretty much perfect. The weather was beautiful and the Italian threw himself into the sea with admirable enthusiasm.
He was delighted to see two seals in the water nearby. It turns out seals in the water are not a feature of the Mediterranean. He dried himself off by lying on the beach looking like some kind of golden Greek god surrounded by pasty Irish people. Then we went for a very nice lunch on the pier and we were home before the rain started.
This morning it was lashing but I took him into town to buy presents for his mother and sisters (his father and brother got Guinness tat but he felt he needed jewellery for the women in the family). He cooked us all lunch – pasta amatriciana – which was delicious and we dropped him to the airport where chaos levels were medium/high. It took us an hour of queuing to get him to the security check where we left him to carry on alone. It was only his second flight alone ever but he seems to have managed to get off alright a mere three hours after his arrival at the airport.
He was a really nice young man and in himself no trouble – in fact, very chatty and engaging for a teenager whose first language is not English – but God, the timing turned out to be very awkward. I am exhausted. I’m still a small bit sub par from Covid and the energetic entertaining was well, energetic. I am hopeful that our French arrival, due Monday, may be put off until the end of August.
We were supposed to be going to a 50th birthday party at the weekend but we have cancelled in case we give anyone Covid and to tend to poor Daniel who is really not very well. I am off to Cork on Sunday to see my friend from America who is back for a couple of weeks and I really hope nothing intervenes to stop that. I am holding my breath here.
The Italian exchange has arrived. Mr. Waffle and Dan took him into town this morning and showed him the sights. They seem to have been very thorough in Rome and I think there is hardly a significant sight that Dan hasn’t seen. I felt we were on our mettle and, let’s be fair, even on a good day, Dublin is not really going to rival Rome. But it seems to have passed off peacefully and the visitor expressed suitable interest in our local sights. The visitor seems to be a nice polite young man. At about 9.30 last night he asked, “Where’s the sunset?” so the lads were able to fill him in our long summer nights. Already he has learnt something from this cultural exchange.
They’re off in the Dublin mountains zip lining this afternoon. I had firm instructions to conceal from the visitor that I speak Italian but, for obvious, reasons, it hasn’t really arisen so far. He speaks pretty good English. The Italian school system has a strong literature focus which is why Italians are familiar with Shakespeare and Blake (yes, really) but weak on finding their way to the train station. This is not a problem for our visitor, in fairness.
I did not tell you that my last week at work was slightly blighted by bicycle chain problems (now resolved you will be pleased to hear). One night, as I was leaving about 8 the man in the portacabin at the gate insisted on helping. I begged him not to but he insisted. After about 10 annoying minutes he said, “The problem is, that’s broken you’ll have to take it to a bike shop.” I thanked him as civilly as I could, wheeled the bike around the corner, turned it upside down and after some poking to deal with the damage the man in the portacabin had wrought, fixed it. A group of Italians nearby burst into applause. They were from Naples and very pleased though not surprised to find an Italian speaker available to them. They had a number of queries about the joys of Howth. And also the pronunciation of Howth. If only it had featured in the English literary canon they would be alright.
So I’m still confined to my bedroom. My sister sent me a cheering hamper of food.
Today’s test is definitely a less strong line than earlier in the week so maybe, maybe tomorrow I will be released back into the wild. Let us remain optimistic.
I was talking to a friend about my year off, my sabbatical as I think of it and he asked would I be travelling. Not really. Doing a degree? Nope. Writing my novel? Again no. “What are you going to do then?” he asked. “A bit more around the house,” I said. “My husband does a lot of the domestic stuff because he’s around the house more; I’ll learn how to use the washing machine,” I said. “So you’re taking a year off to do more washing,” he said. I think I need to find less snarky friends.
Here are my thoughts on what I will be doing. Almost as an aide memoire to myself. If I get none of these things done, then so be it.
On matters domestic:
More organising, sorting handymen, getting things done around the house that have been put off because we just haven’t had time: sorting the shed; the utility room; getting the house painted; re-doing the floors; taking the children to appointments; more (though not all!) domestic admin including making arrangements for powers of attorney now that the Assisted Decision Making Capacity Act is finally being commenced (so worthy, you cry – we promised to do it when we were making our wills but were waiting for the Act, this is our chance); more gardening; finally getting the brass lacquered, the furniture repaired and the clocks fixed. I will go for those blood tests the GP is so keen on (not because I’m ill but because she wants to do a general check up – good idea, I suppose).
Recently when I was giving Daniel an emergency last minute lift to GAA practice because I had forgotten that he had training and come home late to make dinner and therefore he hadn’t time to cycle, I said, “When I take my break from working I will remember when all your training nights. I will be on top of all the detail.” “Mum,” he said, “are you sure you want to spend all your break acting like a glorified secretary?” Good point. I will need to watch out for that. Maybe I won’t know when he has training after all.
I’ll keep up the school parents’ council and the church but I might have time to volunteer a bit more for the tasks being doled out rather than cravenly shirking them. I have not spent all this time learning Ukrainian on Duolingo to have it be completely useless although judging by my recent encounter in the lane with our new 9 year old Ukrainian neighbour who until 2 months ago spoke no English, it might be. Maybe I should learn basic Russian as well.
More time with the boys; a chance to meet them after school; pick them up if it’s raining; hear about how their days are going; help them if they can face it. More days out with my husband. More weekends away with him. Finally learning to cook or to slightly enjoy cooking. Maybe more bread making? Maybe not. More trips to England to visit herself (though her suggestion that I might drive over to England, pick up all her stuff and then drive home alone again while she goes to the end of term ball and on to London found little favour with me when put forward and was subsequently revised).
Helping to sort out my parents house; seeing my elderly aunt; travelling with my sister (she has mentioned Iceland, I said no initially but now I think, why not?); bringing the boys to Cork a bit more; maybe just spend some time thinking about my parents and writing a bit about my mother’s life ( I wrote about my father for his funeral and I want to do something similar for my mother).
I think I might try this sea swimming thing – my friend from Clontarf goes every day, is this crazy? June seems like a good time to start that. Gretchen Ruben visits the Met every day. In a small way I might do that myself, go into the National Gallery most days, finally cash in my membership gift card. I’ll possibly rejoin the tennis club. I will continue to lunch. If you are willing to go at odd hours and take your chances you can get really good meals from the TUD catering college (I think it’s now the BA in Culinary Arts). I’m keen to test it out.
I mean it all feels amazingly exciting and delightful. I am so lucky to be able to do this. I think it’s the absence of stress as well. Christmas and summer holidays will be better when there are no calls from work and when the weeks leading up to the break are not absolutely frantically busy.
Yesterday was my last day at work until October 2023. Oh yes. And though I was broken by the run up to it, I am pretty pleased now.
Let the good times roll.