Boys, blue skies

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. DSC05269 DSC05283 DSC05292 DSC05295 DSC05311 DSC05317 DSC05318 DSC05336

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.

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Hugh’s second ascent

Dot writes: we’ve had a lovely day today. We needed it. Here’s a splurge of negative stuff from our week, but I promise if you wade through it you’ll get to some blue skies and cheering healthy exercise, not to mention good behaviour and delicious Avoca salad. You don’t get to eat the salad, but I can assure you I did a very good job of eating it on your behalf.

It has been an anxious week. Tib has not returned. Ken and the boys have leafleted everyone in our road and everyone in the road that backs on to ours and whose gardens Tibby may have run into. I have put up adverts on lostandfoundpets.ie and pets.ie and contacted the DSPCA and some local vets. But there has been no news and no sightings. I keep expecting him to turn up at the back door, but the days go by and he just doesn’t.

At the same time we have been dealing with another rather stressful situation. A bit over a week ago, Ken was offered a job – which is good – but in Bristol, which is rather less good, since it means him being away during the week; but it’s a great chance to get experience, and pleasing confirmation of the fact that he is a Good Thing, and we agreed he should take it. They seemed to want him to start very soon, and I signed up to AuPairWorld and began dealing with the flood of applications from eager young Spaniards (there are a LOT of Spanish girls who want to be au pairs). But despite the initial message of hurry hurry, Ken’s new employers don’t seem to be getting their act together. The guy who recruited him wanted him to come over to the UK for training and told him to arrange dates with the current brewer, but the current brewer told him to arrange dates with the other guy and seemed rather hostile if anything; neither of them has been back in touch, and now we are beginning to wonder whether this job will actually happen after all. I narrowed my au pair search down to three girls and then had to tell all of them that I’m no longer sure we’ll need them.

Also, Ken ran the marathon on Monday and has been a bit sore in the knees, and I’ve had a rotten cold. (The marathon deserves a post to itself. The cold doesn’t, but it was very snotty and repulsive.)

All those things on the minus side. But on the plus side, this:

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Last time we climbed Great Sugarloaf Hugh was a little baby carried on Ken’s chest. This time both boys did it on their own legs with remarkable vigour and enthusiasm; it seems the secret of a walk without whinging is to make it as steep, rocky and pointy as possible. The wind was brisk but the sky clear, and from the top we could see all the way to the Mournes. Then we came down and had lunch at the Avoca outlet in Kilmacanogue (so that’s the tasty salad part I mentioned – for me and Ken only; the boys were being good, but not salad good – their lunch was rather less vitamin-rich); and then we went and visited our former neighbour, who has poor health and always likes to be visited. It was nice to catch up with her but also felt like something of a good deed. Since we last saw her she has had thyroid cancer (we didn’t know about this or we’d have visited more often) and, post-treatment, ironically feels better than she has done for years.

And so home, feeling pleased with ourselves and our day.

P.S. Here are the boys in their Halloween costumes. A nasty mother would say these costumes reveal rather than disguising, but I am not a nasty mother. And really the boys have been very good today.
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The call of the hills

Dot writes: given a bank holiday Monday with rain forecast and two tiny children, which of the following options seems most sensible?:

a) staying at home and drugging them with mindless DVDs
b) going to Dundrum shopping centre, along with 98% of the population of Dublin or
c) walking up a steep, exposed hill in Wicklow.

Yes, the answer is (a). And now guess which one we did.

It wasn’t entirely awful. Well, it was quite awful. I made my accustomed exclamations about how unfit I am, but with feeling; Frank and all his gear on my back didn’t exactly make it easier for someone who hasn’t done any serious walking for several years. Ken under the weight of Hugh was glad of his walking pole. Frank started to cry as we emerged into the exposed part at the top, and both boys howled on the way down as the rain became heavier and they were imprisoned behind raincovers. Hugh repeatedly lost one boot. It was a group walk and we enjoyed the social side, and I think Hugh liked clambering around the cairn, but I suspect we won’t be trying anything similar in the future unless the weather reports promise on their honour that there will be temperate sunshine for the next month.

On the other hand…I love the hills. I’d forgotten how incredibly satisfying I find it, even in my present pathetically flabby state, to plod my way step by step up a steep slope and then look back and see how high those slow patient steps have brought me; how much I love bleak uplands and expanses of heather, even in the rain; how surprisingly good rain can feel when you are properly dressed for it and warm with exercise (though sweatiness and raincoats aren’t a good mix); how good a pork-pie tastes at the top. I want to do more of this. But not without a babysitter.

Lugnaquilla, Co. Wicklow

Ken writes:

I went walking yesterday with Michael Gallagher and Izzy Jack from UCD and Niall Connolly, Gwen Murphy and Pål Antonsen from Trinity. We climbed Lugnaquilla, the highest mountain in Wicklow and the highest outside Kerry. I’ve already climbed Slieve Donard in County Down, the highest in Ulster, so with Lugnaquilla that makes the highest peaks in two of the four provinces. But none of this counting matters really. The day began extremely cold and windy but the weather improved throughout the day. The wind at the top was severe, but everyone made it down again with all five fingers and toes.

We went up via the Glen of Imaal. The route runs along the end of an Irish Army artillery range, so we had to ring ahead first to check they weren’t firing. Judging from the reputation of the other popular ascent (from Fraughen Rock Glen and Glenmalure) this is definitely the easiest way to do it (although not without some steep bits, but nothing you can’t handle if you take it slowly).

Anyway, here are some pictures

The party at the gate at the start of the walk
The party at the gate at the start of the walk

Our snow capped goal
Our snow capped goal

Michael, Gwen and Niall
Michael, Gwen and Niall

Izzy
Izzy

Another view of Lugnaquilla
Another view of Lugnaquilla

Start of the icy slog
Start of the icy slog

view south from the Lug
view south from the Lug

Blades of grass encased in icy jackets
Blades of grass encased in icy jackets

Sign in icy jacket
Sign in icy jacket

view of sign obscured by author
view of sign obscured by author

Pål Antonsen chilling out at the summit
Pål Antonsen chilling out at the summit

Ken at summit (note finger of God reaching to pat me on back –or press the button, I'm not sure)
Ken at summit (note finger of God reaching to pat me on back –or press the button, I'm not sure)

View of Wicklow from the Lug
View of Wicklow from the Lug

The descent
The descent

As we descended, the weather improved making it look...
As we descended, the weather improved making it look...

positively benign
positively benign

Hugh’s first proper walk

Ken writes:

We did a circuit around the upper lake at Glendalough today. The primary reason was that it looked like being a nice day and it is important to take one’s chances to get out of the city. I also wanted to see how long I can go carrying him in a front-fitting sling. To balance out the weight, I also carried our pack on my back and used to poles to spread the load.

The walk was a great success. Maybe Lugnaquilla is an option in the not too distant future after all. Pictures to follow when I can figure out how to upload them (wordpress has changed how it handles these things and it’s not functioning properly with either Opera (for Mac) or Safari).

view point above upper loughAt the look out above the lough

After the initial climbWalking along southern edge of the lough

tired outTired out after all that walking.

(Firefox came to the rescue. I’m still miffed with wordpress, though.)

Hugh pictures (lots!)

Here are some scenes from the recent life of Hugh (though of course all of Hugh’s life is recent).

Pictures taken by Ben, from the 8th to 11th December. Hugh was four weeks old.
sofaHugh with daddy and Auntie Meriel on the sofa.
hand of dadThe hand of Dad.
stripesStripes
argumentativeHugh presents his side of the case
chairThe new chair grabbed his attention at once.

Hugh on his playmat. 18th December.
dangly thingHugh inspects the dangly jingly thing.
batBat! Admittedly, it’s hard to be sure he meant to do this.

Here is Hugh at his first dinner party, with our friend Lucy and some incriminating evidence. 19th December (one day short of six weeks old).
Hugh and LucyHugh and Lucy

Hugh looks Christmassy. Knitwear by Joan Fisher. His six-weeks birthday (Thursday 20th December).
ChristmassyNo publicity, please!

Today (Saturday 22nd December) we climbed Great Sugarloaf. Last time we went to Sugarloaf Hugh had just been conceived, though we didn’t yet know it; we went up the hard way from the GAA carpark at Kilmacanogue. This time we took the cheaty route and parked on the minor road south of the summit. It’s still a decent piece of exercise for someone who can’t walk.
snackHugh readies his strength for the climb.
before SugarloafHugh and Daddy at the start of the route.
partwayPartway up. On the shoulder of the summit cone.
summit shotSummit shot.
summit with MummyHugh with Mummy at the top of Great Sugarloaf.