Dot writes: my parents have just been to see us for a week. The idea at one point was that we would put them to work helping to redecorate our new house (lucky them). However, as we still don’t have the keys to our new house or even a closing date (the sale was agreed in March. MARCH!!!!), we instead had a couple of days pleasantly hanging around in Dalkey and then three nights camping in County Down, a location chosen largely because you can get there quickly from Dublin and there is a Camping and Caravanning Club campsite. The campsite was in a country park on the shore of Strangford Lough and was rather a success. Although the site itself was small and didn’t allow ball games, there were an extremely good adventure playground and, joy of joys, a narrow-guage railway within a couple of hundred yards; in combination with a plentiful supply of other children to play with, and other children’s temptingly arrayed bikes, trikes and cars to pinch, this was all my boys needed to be vigorously entertained.
However, since Wednesday was my birthday, I insisted we went out that day on a Dot kind of outing. I chose the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Hugh was a bit suspicious. Would there be a train? I promised there would be a train; transport museums usually have something in the train line; and lo! there was a narrow-guage steam railway (one up on the country park, where the train was motorized), and we all rode on it. I won’t list everything we did and saw; we had to make a conscious decision not to push ourselves to see everything, because there was so much, and we didn’t want to tip the boys into that state of hysteria that comes upon tiny children when an outing is foolishly prolonged, but even so we got our money’s worth: it’s a wonderful museum, and it’s also very reasonably priced. I couldn’t help reflecting that in the Republic it would have been (a) twice as expensive and (b) much smaller. The Folk Museum part had something in common with the Irish National Heritage Centre, which we went to a few months ago: both have reconstructed buildings and are on large open sites, but the Folk Museum wins by a long stretch for quality of interpretation, detail, and number of exhibits. Then again, it focuses on buildings and ways of life from around 1900, which is a far easier time to research and present. Anyway, a good time was had by all, even Frank, whose older brother got a bit over-excited with granddad’s umbrella.
I’m sort of glad none of us spotted Frank climbing onto the display and inserting himself into one of the exhibits until it was a fait accompli…
Northern Ireland is an odd place. The people are very friendly, and I love the accent, and the landscape is beautiful, but all the towns are festooned in flags and this makes me nervous. The Union Flag, the Red Hand of Ulster, the St George’s cross, bunting everywhere – it’s all very pretty but why would people need it unless they felt under threat? It’s a high price to pay for access to Sainsbury’s and Asda.
Footnote: yesterday we borrowed the keys to the new house and showed it to my parents. It was the first time we’d been in it ourselves since viewing it in – my goodness – January. I was nervous of what we would find, but I liked it. It’s a nice house. It was slightly surprising, but extremely reassuring, to realise this. The astonishingly prolonged agony of the buying process may indeed be worth it…and the roses were out in St Anne’s Park, reminding us of why we like the area. So I will conclude this post with some of the photos my mum took around the house and environs. All the photos above are mum’s too; not only are we distracted photographers but our camera-battery has taken to conking out every ten pictures or so. Thanks, Mum.
The kitchen needs a spot of attention, but on the upside it’s quite big.