Sunday, 30 August 2009

Happy and helpful

For bedtime stories tonight, of all nights, Mattman wanted his absolutely favourite book of babyhood.

So we read it, and I choked back six years. P3 for him tomorrow, needing all his own accoutrements now, with everything individually labelled.

But of course the big debut on the academic stage belongs to Jojo! Just as well the Green Room is ready in time for new performances...

What I want, what I pray earnestly, for these boys, and for the other boys and girls who are yours, is that they be happy and helpful in their schools. And that, as their teachers "get" our children, they'll be to their teachers more than just another pencil in the case.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Observations III

A link from Kilkenny to my first ever post- Dina Goldstein. We were reading the Saturday papers- on that Saturday, would you believe. Prince Charming announced that I had been right after all...

"After their 'happily ever afters' failed to materialise, the fairy-tale characters in Dina Goldstein's fantastical series, Fallen Princesses, find themselves facing the harsh realities of 21st-century living."

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Last trips to the summer sea

Rip force plunges summer's end

In thrusts of sea and lists.

Already tumble leaves on paths

And morning breaths are crisp.

Wistful, wakeful waves of me

Must crash back on the Shore.

(Or more accurately: down to the school gates beside the Shore, bracing myself for the currents of two schoolboys' adventures instead of just one!)

Friday, 21 August 2009

Observations II

Where to start? The weekend was fabulous: relaxing, sunny, fun. Kilkenny was characteristically genteel, interesting, full of people and stories and spirit. The camping was easy and life thus simple; even C & W caught the bug. (Observing only that airbeds would be preferable to Thermarests for women of a certain age!)

Toibin and Murphy read from their books, took questions from the floor (of the newly opened and jewel-box beautiful Set Theatre), asked questions of each other, signed copies outside in the sun. They explored the link between the Irish prose and the Irish Music traditions. Toibin ventured that the musicality of Irish prose was what separated it from English prose. Apparently even John Banville started as a singer.

I sat with a fascinating woman who had come to live in Kilkenny from her native wee North via ten years in France. But I couldn't agree with her query to Murphy that the italicised dream scenes between his chapters were a distraction. I am finding them to be like the history sections in A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian. Deeply rooted in the events of the story as it unfolds, and intrinsic to the whole tone of the book.

It was particularly obvious that women in the audience hugely outnumbered the men. Do men not read? Do they not read fiction? The authors still appear to be in a male majority? Are the readers not?

The street theatre was good. Futter's Child was visually striking and clever, but didn't quite carry through from that effect with physical comedy or even much wit? Edmund Tahl was, however, brilliant. How he manipulated his sound system in such complete accord with his manipulation of the surroundings and audience, I don't get. But Mattman did disappear without a backward glance into the crowd of children who pursued this Pied Piper all over the castle grounds and into the castle itself! Hilarious!

And Jerpoint Abbey was impressive but still humane and if you stopped in the cloisters you could hear the whisper of chants. The suns certainly looked hard enough for St Christopher and Knight Butler, and were more than generously rewarded by the nicest custodians we've passed through this summer!

Obviously, coffee shops were much visited. N. L. Dore's remains the only place for supper- cereal for two and Irish coffees for two... - and cuckoo clocks. Pennefeather's Over The Bookshop is best for the Booth Over The Balcony for people watching, according to Jojo. And you can't really go home without a quick stop in Nicholas Mosse, to drink out of cups that you leave on the table.

Four nights of no suncream, no need for shade, and less than 3000 miles on the clock. We are surely folk of Northern climes! Same again next summer, methinks!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Don't panic, Mummy, there are still shapes in the clouds

This was Jojo's spontaneous announcement as we drove along the Lough's shore this evening. I really don't think that he could have known how appropriate his encouragement was, but my goodness, am I chastened by his wisdom today!

Reasons to panic: I haven't begun to unpack the weekend in Kilkenny (for Crafting Catherine!); the summer is over now and I haven't done any spelling revision and not enough number revision with Mattman; the house is in such disarray that even the suns are asking constantly when the living room will be decorated and normality restored; I have left it too late to post my indignant question to principal who still hasn't confirmed whether or not I'm working two days instead of one and so I don't even know what pro rata percentage of Baker Days need to be done; Baker days are the same week as Sports Camp; our local Asthma Clinic is of no use to me, or rather to the boys, and I'm still fighting the NHS; and will there be enough grey wool left to finish its round of my blanket, which it transpires I've been crocheting wrongly all along?

Reasons not to panic: there are still shapes in the clouds, and Jojo can see them.


Wednesday, 12 August 2009


Toibin minus three days. C'est tres passionant. There will be no more strawberries until our return. A friend today emailed to ask where my wisdom was. I told him he'd have to wait until I'd had my annual shot of Irish culture. Even the suns have the good grace to be excited. They should be. Street theatre and a playground in the castle grounds. What more could they want? (Real sun would be good, but we'll settle for dry spells!) So observations might abound from all next week.

Dry spells will be needed for C and W who are coming too. They have been to Outdoor Store tonight to purshase specialist equipment. It feels an enormous responsibility to invite folk on their first camping trip. No doubt they will have many observations of their own.

But what of today's observations? According to Saint J, whom I had to contact today for panic advice on turning corners of my alarmingly expanding crocheted square, it takes thirty rounds to produce a pram blanket. So I must be one third of the way there. Observing along said way that so far:

  1. Crochet is more mathematical than knitting in its cyclical threes but less so in that you don't have to count very many stitches at all.

  2. Crochet is kinder to the inefficient than knitting because you know that stitch four warns of a wrong thing. The inefficient should be finishing a chain of three upward instead of attempting to begin a new chain of three through the next gap. And it doesn't matter at all if you drop a stitch or need to rip out. A*.

  3. Crochet is nonetheless more monotonous than knitting especially when you really cannot fathom how it could be turned into a rectangle instead of a square.

  4. Crochet must be fabulous for the creative soul who can't abide patterns, preferring instead to juxtapose fabulous combinations of thrilling colours in all sorts of fluid inventions.

  5. Crochet will be yet another tool of my ultimate humiliation in wool, displaying neither thrilling combinations nor even consistent tension.
I will however take my blossoming blanket to the tent and it will keep my knees warm as I mull over the creativity, nay genius, of others. Maybe I'll find some wisdom too!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Vsiting and loving idle saints

There are two saints I know. They are most graciously generous with their saintliness and mine was the pleasure of being in both their homes today. A good day! No tearful strawberries in these domains!

Saint J made us lunch. No, the Saint Husband of Saint J stood outside in his raincoat and barbecued our lunch. The real sun came out in time for us to sit and eat with our four assembled suns. Most gracious on both their parts.

Then Saint J packed my suns off to rooms filled with toys to play with her suns, and I spent the next three hours being pumped full of life and encouragement, all rounded off with a lesson in the rudiments of crochet. Oh my!

This evening neighbourly Saint K took my suns away so that Prince Charming and I could drive the dismantled remnants of our living room to Bruce Lee's dump, and then she made us all green tea on our return. It should be noted that Saint K was simultaneously running her evening drop-in for All Daughter's Friends. It should also be noted that this same woman had in addition read today's newspaper- today...

Community is not dead, nor is it now reserved for Blogland. It is growing quietly still wherever the gentle war of child-rearing wages. Thank-you both muchly...

Monday, 10 August 2009

Reading and loving idle parents

I am reading and really loving I have been working through all its articles since the Addams Family (names changed to protect privacy of possibly most efficient family in the land) sent me the link last week. There was registered some initial offence that they saw this and thought of me, but the site has been a continual delight and inspiration ever since!

It came at a most timely moment. Crafting Catherine and I had been advocating the Neglect (in the most harmless sense of the word...) Breeds Independance approach to sun-rearing. This was the morning after Mattman and Jojo had made their own cereal whilst I struggled to awake. This was the very morning that Mattman had made his own toast (a relatively long-standing achievement), proceding to butter it and serve it with, decidedly chunky, slices of cheese. How proud I was- not least beacuse Single-Parent Friend has always maintained a vociferous path of Healthy Neglect with her patently fabulous off-spring.

However, this was also the morning before the morning when Mattman would spend all morning nursing two blistered fingers in a bowl of cold water. We had moved on to joint porridge-making and he had brushed the edge of the ring with his finger-tips. Not such a confident mother now...

Quand-meme- the Idle Parent site has much to ponder. Tonight's favourite for me is the No-Job Family. Tom Hodgkinson. A guru for my time.

And for me some proof of children finding good things to do with very little input, and not a blister in sight: a frieze now adorning our temporary living-room, cut and stuck during mother's yucky illness.

Sunday, 9 August 2009


Well, it may or may not be swine flu, but I should isolate myself this week and have little contact with my children. I have no underlying serious conditions and am not pregnant, so require no Tamiflu. Thanks for that then!

I do plan to continue with my life regardless, though the only time I've been up and lucid in four days has been in the evening, so I am a tad at a loss tonight!

There have nonetheless been productive moments from my time in bed:

My Crafting Catherine Loopa scarf is complete and we have all had a little try. Mattman did admittedly need releasing from both attempts to entangle himself Houdini-like therein, so statue man was a much safer model!

I also finally read Star of the Sea and a better read I could not have had in time of lurgy! More than a famine novel, more than a detcective story, more than social comment. Fabulous. From that opening scene to O'Connor's brilliant weaving through a brave and complicated narrative choice. Superb. I have to confess that I read it in a day- in between sleep and sickness, which made it all so much more relevant- but that I am struggling to the point of defeat with Free-Range Knitter. I just don't get the style. It was the same with The Shack. Had to leave it behind on holiday- the atrocious writing style was worse even than the completely disturbing scenario. If you want to find God in fiction, go straight back to Life of Pi.

I'm going to have to retitle this blog "Fiction Snob"!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009 the end of the...

The moon stops me in my tracks every time. I used to be completely fascinated, in pre-strawberry times, and would often be disturbed in moon-gazing mode. I've never tried to capture her before, and this first effort is poor by even my standards. Last night she was much bigger, and shed roomfuls more light through the whole house.

Of course this last fact was only discovered when all the cleaning, tidying and ironing had been done and artificial lights were extinguished throughout. I don't quite know why I was wandering in the dark through the kitchen, and I certainly had an armful of now forgotten but then essential somethings. But it all stopped mid-flow with one glance outside.

She is the most fabulous thing. Dancing round us the whole time, and showing only what she will. Last night, however, for the first she was more than just the round and cratered moon. She was the whole sky beyond, and I was glimpsing her through the proverbial black tunnel. There was the light, and that light was coming into my world, though the darkness wouldn't recognise it.

I'm ready for more light.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


They are in the garden with friends and all is Swallows and Amazons, Famous Five, Indiana Jones, and anybody they like for just ten minutes, please...

So quick, salvage last Saturday's newspaper! Unopened and unread, the News section has been a plate for the of spreading jam since the weekend. Today the Sports section has mopped up all the water that fell from the lasagne dish as it moved from sink to steeping place. And all morning the Family section has swatted wasps with fatal accuracy.

Until now. Suns are fed and extradited to the friendlier shores of Tree House. Mother is resolved to drink tea and read real sentences. Avoca banana cake, thanks Helena, and rarely matching crockery, thanks Emma Bridgewater! Quick!

Two other things that I discover must be accomplished with alacrity- Colm Toibin, I learn from the Review section, is a Man Booker nominee. Hence:
  1. Actually book the ticket for his reading at Kilkenny Festival.
  2. Buy a book of his before they double in price- painfully experienced when buying Taking Pictures...

But then again, this is Saturday's news- not quick enough! Also not quick enough on enjoying the tea-break. The Incredibles are terrorising the rabbits...

Sunday, 2 August 2009

One day early for Bench Monday

I have not yet managed to have the right feet in the right place on the right day, but I feel a Bench Monday debut approaching! The title could be: Jojo drying dishes and stacking them on the kitchen floor until he's ready to put them away. Working quite smart* I thought. He should be in teaching...

I'm realising this weekend that all you bloggers (bloggettes, bloggesses, blogguys?) really must take your cameras everywhere, or have those new-fangled phones with cameras as well as music systems and sat nav and personal assistants and the rest.

Hence my beautifully worded post entitled French Feast remained unpenned as I forgot to find PC's camera in the midst of chopping onions, apples and mushrooms. And there was no mention of the twenty-two Americans and their stew on Wednesday for much the same reason! So tomorrow I resolve to take a camera on our exciting excursion and to complete my draft post on ducks!

On the notion of blogging per se. Now that the sheer thrill of the thing becomes more normal, and slightly less euphoric (mostly because PC gravely pointed out the level to which my obsession had risen), I do wonder what a blog is for?

Are we all so desperate for attention now that we crave the publication of something that is ours? Are we certain that others are interested in the daily jottings of our lives? Do we not recall the lengths we went to in hiding our padlocked five year diaries when we were eleven? Or is this where the post-modern individualist finds community?

PC preaching again on community this morning. Finds it elusive without "huge chunks of uninterrupted time" (inspired by our holiday read from John Ortberg). And I suppose that huge chunks of uninterrupted time are what you can find on the Internet?

Once all those dishes are dried and put back in the cupboard!

*Something, something, achievable, time something, something. I am thinking about next year's PRSD, but not smart enough obviously! Serve the teaching community right for abusing adverbs...

Happy St Patrick's Day!

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