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.
Last Friday night Michael, Mr. Waffle and I went to see “The Tin Soldier” in the Gate (Daniel was in Rome). It’s by the theatre company that did “A Feast of Bones” which remains one of the most successful plays, I ever forced my children to see. Friday night’s play was good but it wasn’t brilliant. There was some really amazing dancing in it and some very clever things but the script was a bit over complicated and didn’t quite hang together or I wasn’t smart enough to follow it fully – take your pick. The audience seemed to like it and so did Michael so a win overall. I don’t mean to boast but the main actor and I share a hair dresser and I thought his hair looked pretty good: I take my thrills where I can.
I have been to the TUD and NCAD graduate art shows. I haven’t bought anything but it’s just a question of time and wall space, I assume. There were some interesting things in both shows about young people’s experiences of the pandemic and the housing crisis and some pretty odd things that did not float my boat but I suppose that is the way of these things. The new building with beautiful views over the Dublin mountains was a bit of a star of the TUD show.
Our next door neighbour’s first born is about to become or is already an NCAD graduate [how can I keep up, only five minutes ago she was in primary school] and she painted this picture on the concrete wall in the lane opposite the back of our shed. Every time I take my bike out and see it, it fills me with joy. It’s based on a sketch she did from a boat off the Cork coast. She has yet to charge us for it despite constant urging her to do so. I think she feels it’s unfinished but I think it’s perfect.
I went to Bloom in the Phoenix Park for the first time. I have heard rave reviews. I am unconvinced. It’s €25 to get in and then you are invited to spend more money on food, plants, garden furniture, crafts, garden rooms, random gardening tat and random tat. The actual show gardens are relatively few and surrounded by people pressing against the ropes peering in. I do not think I will be back. I did buy a very lovely hand mirror from this crowd though. It seems to be a one man operation and I think Warren himself lovingly wrapped my mirror.
Here are the photos I got hanging over the ropes of some of the show gardens:
And here is the grim reality:
And here is a shot from inside the walled garden of the Phoenix park where you can get in for free all year round (except during Bloom, it transpires):
Mr. Waffle and the boys and I went to see “An Cailín Ciúin“. Loads of people had recommended it to me. One of my friends from bookclub went because the young star was in sixth class in her children’s school and all of the parents were encouraged to go (I mean it’s an Irish language film, I don’t think they were expecting even the modest success that they enjoyed). I was a bit reluctant as my experience of Irish films is that they are gloomy. But it won a couple of awards in Berlin and I decided to give it a go. It was gloomy. Really beautiful cinematography (often, in my view, the kiss of death in a film). I found myself thinking, “Of course the Germans loved it, it’s a certain vision of traditional Irishness”. It’s set in 1981 and the young protagonist is the same age as myself and although some elements are very recognisable (ah the uncomfortable plastic hairband), it didn’t seem to be quite the Ireland I remembered but I am a city child and it is a country story and, of course, recollections vary. It is beautifully shot and acted but there’s no getting away from it, it’s sad. Still the boys loved it.
The boys are finished school for the summer. They had a reasonably good school awards season though Daniel felt he would have done better had he not irritated the school authorities with operation bald. Here he is after 3 weeks of hair re-growth.
Daniel after finishing school last week hopped on a plane to Rome this week. Having ensured that his phone had roaming, Mr. Waffle and Michael dropped him off to the airport. It was only after Daniel had checked in his hold bag that he revealed that he had put his phone in it. This did not give me great confidence that he was going to find his gate and get to Rome safely. However, despite my qualms, he got there no problem and seems to be having a great time. I love seeing them make up for lost time under Covid. One of the really great things about a parent is how much joy you get from seeing your children having a good time.
I am also enjoying an end of term of sorts as I prepare to finish up work next Friday. A certain amount of extra lunching has appeared in my life. Most unusual – and rather charming – so far has been lunch in the club of a friend looking out of the dining room onto Stephen’s Green. Mr. Waffle came too and another friend who was in college with him and is extremely glamorous. I was pretty pleased – and mildly surprised, I had not thought of her as a cycling person – to see her rolling up to lunch on her bicycle until she tied her bike to the pole I had my eye on. On the down side this put her in a position to see my utter humiliation when I was taken to task by a guard for breaking a red light. Completely my fault and I abased myself absolutely apologising furiously. He was quite unpleasant but in the end he let me go with a scowl and trembling knees. Glamorous friend said that I was so long with him that she thought he might be a friend but then she overheard the tenor of the conversation. She was pretty indignant on my behalf and said that though I was in the wrong, I had apologised and what else was I supposed to do; although illegal it was not as though it had been a dangerous manoeuvre; and she felt that he was on a power trip. He did seem to be enjoying himself. I was heartened but also felt a bit feeble. As my father used to say “character is destiny” and I am much more likely to keep apologising than to argue back. I can’t help feeling she would have been far more robust in her approach.
Herself has secured a smallish sum of scholarship money and plans to use it to spend a month in Paris over the summer. Little does she know that there is a good chance I may visit her with my new found freedom. She is currently preparing for exams which start tomorrow. She is a bit nervous but all was going well until a random stranger came up and punched her in the face in the middle of the afternoon last week. It was a young woman, perfectly normal in outward appearance but obviously very unwell. The police said that it was a completely random accident and she was very unlucky. The paramedics said that nothing was broken but she would have impressive swelling followed by an impressive black eye. Right on both counts so far. She was really shaken, as you would be, in fairness. An academic and his wife saw what happened and were very kind to her and he wrote her a nice letter subsequently saying that he had been in contact with her lecturers about what happened. It was quite a shock though and I felt very helpless being so far away. I wish there were something useful I could do. She has a big ball next weekend after the exams and she says she will be like Pádraig Pearse, always getting her photo taken in profile. I am really looking forward to seeing her and a bit worried for her too; though she is pretty resilient it was a nasty thing to happen and has taken a bit out of her at a time when she was anxious anyhow.
And Michael? Michael has been happy as a sandboy since the end of school. He is currently enjoying his status as only child at home. We took him out for a mild walk in the Dublin mountains this afternoon and he seemed to enjoy the full blast of parental attention.
Updated to add: The Italians have just called to say that one of their children has Covid; she’s been sent off to stay at her grandmother’s but I fear the worst. The plot thickens.