Dot writes: sometimes situations just escalate. You (in this case, Ken) decide to spend a bit of time off work building a bookcase, and before you know it you’re standing between the exposed joists of your living room, wrestling with huge sheets of plywood. Alas, he detected woodworm, and after getting in Rentokil to treat the joists, wrecking the floor in the process, we ended up deciding to replace the floor. Ken did it himself and has earned huge masculinity points thereby. And now we have a soberly comforting new brown carpet as well.
By the way, I love alphabetizing books. Also I love being able to put them upright like in a proper bookshop or library, rather than crammed in in teetery piles.
Dot writes: last weekend, from Saturday to Monday, we had a family trip to Amsterdam, as a last hoorah of our summer holidays before the boys went back to school on Tuesday.
We travelled over in the morning, had lunch in a pancake house by the Damrak, and visited the NEMO Science Museum, which was the highlight of the weekend for the children. It was sunny and hot. In the evening there was a thunderstorm without rain. We would have appreciated rain as the hotel room was without air conditioning and stiflingly warm. However, the hotel (Hotel Albus) was centrally located and very smart and attractively furnished.
We had booked a couple of attractions online in advance: the Rijksmuseum (I didn’t take photos there) and a canal boat tour. The rain arrived very violently as we were on our way to the tram stop to go to the museum and we ducked into a shop to buy brightly coloured umbrellas, but it stopped again and the rest of the day was dry. The Rijksmuseum is huge and we ran out of energy for looking at it before we’d even left the ground floor, but we enjoyed the displays of model ships, antique weaponry and musical instruments, the Asian annex with its Hindu statues and (especially interesting to the boys) more-than-life-size Japanese temple guardians with ferocious faces, and the medieval and renaissance paintings (only Ken really looked at those).
The boys became a little bored during the canal tour but were well-behaved and Ken and I enjoyed following the map and looking at the sights. After the tour Ken took the children back to the hotel and I had a solitary trip to the Pianola Museum. Again, I didn’t take photographs there, but it is a fascinating little place. The owner put on a pianola roll that had been recorded by the composer Grieg a year before his death. It was extraordinary to see the keys moving on the piano in front of me and think that, in a sense, they were being played by the hands of Grieg.
The boys were very excited by the prospect of hiring ‘tandrums’ (Hugh) or ‘tricycles’ (Frank). Sadly the hire shop had only one tandem (with one adult seat and one child seat), but we hired that and two other bikes and went for a ride to the Vondelpark. It was stressful navigating Amsterdam traffic – there are trams and cars as well as extremely determined and fierce Dutch cyclists – but the ride round the park was delightful, and we did also manage to find some quiet and pretty residential streets to explore. We returned the bikes before lunch and spent the early afternoon in the Nieuwe Kerk before collecting our luggage from the hotel and making our way to the airport.
He was sailing along in his boat powered by a lampshade, when something tapped on the gunwale. It was a tentacle.
He found himself face to face with a hideous sea monster.
Well, this is awkward, thought Captain Cutlass.
In fact it was more than awkward.
[I know the comment about the lampshade is slightly mean, but I am very proud of Frank. His pirate and monster are so full of character and although he has drawn the boat in a rapid, stylised way he has clearly also taken some notice of the different parts of boats – note the cabin at the back of the deck and the bowsprit at the front, as well as the railing. I am a proud mum.]
Dot writes: We’ve been in this house almost five years now, and in view of this Ken and I have been thinking it might be a good idea to finish decorating the children’s bedroom. It had a rather vile built-in wardrobe which we’ve been using as a place to keep clothes the boys had grown out of, and as a graveyard for extraneous coat hangers. It also had several test squares of different blues on the ceiling, from when Ken was going to paint a sky around the exciting sun-shaped IKEA light fitting.
The thing about being working parents is that the weekends are very short. You wake up on Saturday, take the kids to swimming, buy pick’n’mix, hang about a little feeling pleased it’s the weekend, have lunch, do the grocery shop, go to the park, do some cleaning and church stuff on Sunday morning, say “wouldn’t it be a good idea to sort the house out this weekend?” and then realise it’s already practically Monday. Rinse and repeat, for four years.
Well, we decided the four-day Easter weekend was too good an opportunity to miss. I’d already prepared last week by sorting out the too-small clothes and putting the ones that were too small for Frank in the clothes bank, and on Saturday we went as a family to Woodie’s and bought paint. Hugh insisted on green paint for the walls, and Frank insisted on buying a plunger which he referred to as “Plungey”. As in “Please, don’t leave Plungey behind!” I’m afraid this made me and Hugh spend the rest of the day compulsively exclaiming “I am Plungor, God of plumbing, and toilet wolves are real!” As a brief digression, this is why:
Anyway, we came back home and Ken ripped out the wardrobe. The room immediately felt astonishingly bigger. He stripped off the wall-paper from the inside of what had been the wardrobe to reveal this (the second picture is on its side):
I think this says “Moyley was here January 1952 and Frank”, but the first word’s a bit indistinct. Hugh helped me pick up the mess of soggy wallpaper; he was really very sweet, asking for tasks and running up and down eagerly fetching the dustpan and brush and other things. A far cry from the decoration efforts of 2011-12 when the children spent their time scribbling on walls and breaking raw eggs on the floor.*
Today we have put undercoat on the sections of bare plaster and the blue squares on the ceiling. The children had various wall stickers which have had to be removed under protest (many cries of “nooooo, don’t move our stickers, paint round the stickers”, but it would have been a hideously fiddly job); the stickers are supposed to be movable and have been carefully preserved on a roll of cling-film, but they’ve brought speckled samples of the previous paint job with them and I’m hoping (probably in vain) that they can be discreetly lost. It was actually my first time doing more than the tiniest bit of painting. In 2011-12 Ken did virtually everything by himself while I was out at work. I have discovered that I am pretty terrible at painting, but that I like it. You can find a zen rhythm in this repetitive manual task while happily listening to The Best of Depeche Mode on your lovely new Bluetooth speaker bought with air miles. We got as far as “Walking in My Shoes”and then the head fell off the paint roller.
More exciting updates to follow.
*It was Frank who did that. We were having the kitchen re-done and all the food was in cabinets in the living room.
Dot writes: don’t worry. There are no bears in our garden, just cheeky rodents, shy woodlice and a solitary magpie being ill-omened for a tease. The Bear of my title is a celebrity cat – celebrated for melancholy, intellect and sensitivity, showing that the routes to celebrity are much more elevated for cats than for humans – and this post is a mix of a book review and an update on Pepper. Here is Pepper, characteristically posed with his paws up on the back of a chair as though hoping to be served a drink. Continue reading “Pepper and The Bear”→
Dot writes: people who live in Ireland or Britain grimly expect rain in the holidays, or at least a mean stiff wind. However, this week we’ve had blue skies and some astonishing warmth. (Astonishing warmth = 18 degrees in Dublin. Woah.) I took Thursday off work (my mum is visiting, I’m allowed) and we had a family trip into Wicklow to climb Great Sugarloaf, eat a leisurely lunch at Mount Usher Gardens, and then tour the gardens. We’d worried it might be too early in the season for the plants, but there was a wonderful display of flowers – daffodils, bluebells and frittilaries on the ground, rhododendrons and magnolias in the trees. Here are some pictures, mostly taken by my mum.
Today I had a lot of baking to do. Mum took the boys to a playground while I shopped. Then Frank helped with the baking.
Dot writes: It’s a little hard to be sure because the pictures are taken from different angles, but it certainly looked to me when we were there as though the winter storms must have dumped a load of extra sand on Portmarnock beach. That large rock in the foreground seems much more buried now.
My mum is visiting. The sun is shining. I worked in the morning and then we went to the beach. It’s suddenly warm enough for the boys to run around making sand-castles in their underpants. (That is, run around in their underpants making sand-castles.) I paddled in the sea and it was cold but exquisitely clear.