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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Portmarnock Beach, 9 July 2014
Portmarnock Beach, 9 July 2014
The same rocks, 7th April 2015
The same rocks, 7th April 2015. My mum in stripes.

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.

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Hugh and Frank go to gaol

Dot writes: on Saturday I decided to ditch my Society of Recorder Players meeting in favour of spending some time with my family. So obviously we had to undertake some kind of stressful cultural outing to justify this. I was inclined to go to the Irish Museum of Modern Art while Ken wanted to go to Kilmainham Gaol. In the event we did both, as they’re pretty much next door to each other and we had to book a tour to visit the gaol, meaning we had to go there first and then fill in a couple of hours. And even though the walk down the long path to the gallery was enlivened by Hugh lamenting how this was the worst day of his life and nobody understands him, the afternoon actually went very well.

We hadn’t been to IMMA before so we just visited the two main galleries on the first floor. One had a mix of materials but I particularly liked the kinetic art, of which I think the item below is an example. I didn’t have the wit to photograph the description and get a record of what it was called.


The other gallery had an exhibition called ‘Primal Architecture’. This was a slightly difficult exhibition to visit with children as there were several displays that involved objects on the floor, which were obviously inviting to small hands; but generally it was very enjoyable exploring the galleries with the boys, who were intrigued by all the different pictures, objects and installations.

Then we went to the cafe. This was a very necessary pause before going back over to the Gaol.

The Gaol is a cold and intimidating place. Pictures in guidebooks don’t convey how oppressively bare and dingy and cramped much of it feels, or how ricketty the boards are in the open walkways. The tour was excellent, covering a mix of social and political history, and giving plenty of attention to the 1916 Rising without letting it overwhelm all the other material. The guide joked with the boys and made us feel they were welcome on a tour clearly aimed at adults, but I removed Frank rather before the end as he was more than slightly restive. Hugh, however, stayed the distance and was solemnly attentive to all the dreadful tales of the past. Afterwards he said he had preferred the gaol to the art gallery. So did Ken, though I liked the art best myself.

Frank’s favourite part was the cafe…

Stowaway, or ‘wee sleekit cow’rin tim’rous beastie’

Ken writes:

Dot found one of these wee creatures in her overnight bag while we were camping. We think it’s a shrew.

Here’s the link

I don’t know what kind of shrew it is. Possibly not the afore linked to pygmy shrew, but the Irish Independent reports that the pygmy shrew has been driven out of Tipperary, where we were camping, by the great white toothed shrew.

Apple juice, castles and skeleton hands

Dot writes: we’ve just had a brief family holiday in Tipperary. Notoriously it’s a long way to get there (and the children clearly knew this and complained bitterly for the whole journey), but actually we chose it partly because it’s close – only about three hours from our house – and partly because one of my colleagues had recommended a campsite on an apple farm. I had got it into my head the campsite had cooking facilities the campers could use. This was not the case, but it did have fridges, a piano, nesting swallows, a playground, a friendly dog, free apple juice on arrival, and a lot of signs everywhere telling us to wash our hands. There was a notice in the ladies’ toilets detailing the hand-washing procedure and listing occasions on which to use it, including ‘after touching doorknobs’. To get out of the room where you could wash your hands you had to touch a doorknob. Despite this hint of somewhat self-defeating OCD, it was a lovely place.

Here are some of the things we did in Tipperary.

We went to Cahir (6km from the campsite) and visited the extremely excellent castle, which is full of stairs that go up and down and underneath into surprising tunnels and corners.


Then we went to the nearby Swiss Cottage and had a guided tour. Oddly, Ken seemed to like it more than I did. It was fearfully pretty.

On Wednesday (Ken’s birthday) we went to the Rock of Cashel.


At the Rock of Cashel Ken tried to dissuade the boys from trampling all over the graves by telling them that the occupants would reach up with skeletal hands and grab their ankles. This was before we saw this.

Then we went to Clonmel and had a picnic lunch followed by a swim at the swimming pool.

We had been going to stay until Friday, but the forecast was for rain so we thought it might be more pleasant to come back on Thursday and – hooray! – there was no ferry or anything to stop us doing that. We drove back via Kilkenny and visited another castle.

In many ways the nicest part of the holiday was just hanging around the campsite. The children were distraught to find we hadn’t brought the iPad, but then they went off and made friends with a group of slightly older girls and did a great deal of running about. Frank told the girls they were so beautiful he wanted to marry all of them.

Battle of Clontarf

Dot writes: in 1014, there was a famous battle just down the road from where we live. Today we went and watched it in St Anne’s Park. I suspect that a thousand years ago there were no hotdog stands or parking areas provided, which just shows how civilisation has advanced. (Gripe: we travelled by bike and were turned back at the gate by the security people. We then just went to a small entrance a few hundred yards away that they hadn’t bothered to man and went in that way, but it was still very annoying that our low-impact and healthy transport method wasn’t catered for when cars were. The park entrance is walkable from our house but the area where the festivities were taking place was just a bit too far for the boys to manage there and back.)

Clontarf has been preparing for the great anniversary for some time, for example by adding some new attractions to the playground.




Actually the cow has been there for ages but I had to put in a picture because it is so peculiar. Who on earth thought that was the right place for an udder? It looks like a prolapsed uterus. Anyway, I digress. The above pictures were taken at the start of March. Here, by contrast, and illustrating the strangely marvellous weather we’ve been having, are some views from today.






The Battle was the Valhalla version: when everyone was dead they got up and had a re-match. In fact they had three of them, and that was just the 1pm performance; there was another performance at 4pm and there are two more tomorrow. All the warriors seemed happy.

There was the most dreadful wagon of a woman standing in front of me at the battle. She kept turning around to yell things to her friend further back in the crowd which, as she was right by me, meant yelling in my ear. Then some people sitting on the slope behind us asked us to sit down so they could see, since they had, after all, been there first. One of my neighbours patted the woman on the shoulder as she was standing right at the front, but her reaction was to exclaim irately “Would you take your hands off me!” Then I pointed out that if she sat down I would be able to sit down and then the people behind us could see over us, but she said “Not a chance” and went on standing – which meant that I did too, as otherwise I would have had a close view of the back of her knees. Fortunately she left fairly early on (whereupon I knelt for a bit, but then gave up as there were still people standing all around me and the people on the slope couldn’t see anyway). The boys and I had a fabulous view and it was alright because I felt really guilty.

And we have bought Hugh a toy crossbow. Yes, we deserve everything we get.

P.S.Ken thought he saw Belgian Waffle’s twin sons in the playground. I did a nosey wander about the playground in the hope of meeting Belgian Waffle but didn’t. I wonder if it was them?