I know, I know. This is not the way to keep my readership loyal. Making you wait months and months…it’s just not on. I still haven’t entirely got my technology sorted out. We finally have internet access (unlimited data, oh yes) and a computer and I even have some free time occasionally but my blog host is thwarting me, mainly about posting photos, and if I can’t do that then why bother getting up in the morning?
But it occurs to me that someone somewhere might like to know that we’re at least all still alive even without photographic evidence so here it is: we are.
I will fill in the details later when I’ve won the battle with the blog host (Ithink a small monetary contribution might be called for) but here are the basics of our last few months.
We have a house to live in in what turns out to be quite a lovely area. We didn’t know that when we chose the house – it was just the nicest of a whole day’s worth the agent took us to view – but we have a big long beach nearby and they say that in summer it’s got some primo swimming spots. In fact there are many beaches; we are near the coast and there’s sea everywhere. We have a nice hill in a big park thing just a few minutes’ walk away and from the obelisk on top we can see for a long way in all directions. There are the Wicklow hills to the south, the city to the north, the harbour close by and Wales somewhere in the distance on a clear day. Well, Wales is there whatever the weather (lucky for the Welsh) but you know what I mean. The first couple of times we went up I was surprised at how keen the kids were to see Wales until one of them said, ‘Are there dolphins too?’ Well, not so much.
We can walk easily to schools, the doctor and chemist, the ice cream shop, the supermarket and post office, hardware and electronics shops and all kinds of other bits and pieces. It’s handy to the train into the centre of town and there’s a bus stop right outside. There are many parks and green areas and it all feels very safe. Amy and Daniel can walk to the shops by themselves which is the fulfilment of several long-held dreams – Daniel’s, to have easy access to lollies and mine, to be able to make someone run when I’m out of milk or eggs or oil in the middle of cooking tea. Walking to school on their own is possible for all but Cassia, and even then she’ll be fine as long as I’ve bribed Amy or Daniel to stay close.
Josh has quite a commute but we expected that. He bikes to the train station where he watches the train leave as he runs through the gate a second too late (yes, every day. It’s a gift) and waits for the next. The train takes him into central Dublin where he walks to his office and does the whole thing in reverse on the way home. It’s a pain, but once the kids are all in school he should be able to work from home reasonably often. There’s a guy attached to his office who works from a boat as he sails around the world, so there is some flexibility there.
If we hop on the bus outside our gate (or walk, depending on moaning levels) we soon get to our local village of Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leary, for those whose Irish isn’t up to scratch). Dun Laoghaire is a fishing port which seems to be in the process of being rejuvenated. The main street isn’t much to write home about (yet here I am doing it anyway) but it does have everything we might need within easy reach. The waterfront, though, is gorgeous. Some real effort has been put in to making it usable and attractive. There are cafes, innovative playgrounds, a big park which hosts a market every Sunday, gardens, flowers, and two enormous piers designed for walking along. There’s a new and enormous library/theatre/gallery complex which caused much controversy (‘what do you mean, spend millions of euros on a library? There are far more important things. Bloody council, throwing away taxpayers’ money…’)(sound familiar, Te Awamutu people?) but is, in my humble opinion as a person who didn’t contribute a cent, worth it. The library is several stories high and its seaward end is all glass so you feel like you’re right out there over the water. It’s huge and comfortable and I’ve worked out how to order books from other libraries all by myself on their computer. They run a programme of all kinds of totally free stuff: art exhibitions and concerts and seminars and lectures and author visits and lessons and workshops in all sorts of things for kids and adults. The catalogue for the next three months just came out and I’ve already signed up Daniel for classes in coding for kids and Noah for coding and a weekly Minecraft group. I don’t know what they’ll be doing but I’m sure they’ll like it. And it’s free. I’ve circled all the things I want to go to and I’m going to have to cut down on eating and sleeping to fit it all in. But that’s okay, because it’s free.
As most of you know I wasn’t in any hurry to enrol the children in schools. The school year ends in June and the next one starts in September and I thought we were going to be arriving part-way through the last term and it wouldn’t be worth it. Because we were told that schools are very hard to get into and I didn’t want to be without one come September (there are limits after all) I started enquiring once we’d moved into our house. Sure enough, the first two I tried were totally full for September and had long waiting lists. Each sibling needs to get in individually so you could end up with kids in two or three different primary schools. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
The third one I tried said, ‘To be sure, to be sure! Roll up tomorrow.’ (I may be paraphrasing there). I said that I’d been thinking of September so we could get all the fun stuff done and he said, well, fair enough, but what about this: the holidays were about to start and if I brought them after that they could have a term then do the fun stuff in the summer and when they came back in September it’d be all familiar and easy. I was still torn because I didn’t want to lose my playmates (and let’s pretend it wasn’t also because I loved not having to get everyone up and dressed in a hurry and all the lunches made) but two things changed my mind.
One was that Amy wanted to go to school and, being a teenager, couldn’t ever really bring herself to admit that she was having fun with her family. I remember standing in the middle of Universal Studios in Singapore, a theme park on par with Disneyland, saying ‘Is this better than being at school? Are you glad you’re here and not at school yet?’ I think she did admit on that occasion that it was the better option but it’s blood-out-of-a-stone territory. She participates when we go out but at home shuts herself up a lot of the time and reads or emails or listens to music. Totally age-appropriate I know but it was getting to the point that I wasn’t sure it was the best choice in terms of her emotional state. She has grown beyond wanting to join in with the games the others play most of the time. I could have put just her in school but it would have restricted what the rest of us could do – no overnight trips during the week, that sort of thing, because Josh doesn’t get home early enough.
The other thing was that the class Daniel would go into had 12 kids and three adults. There’s a teacher and two resource teachers, which I assume means teacher aides. For someone with Daniel’s school history that just didn’t seem like an opportunity that I could pass up. A ratio of 1:4? He might actually be able to learn something! The principal promised him that the five boys in the class would be so excited about some new blood that he’d be Mr Popularity. And when Daniel still looked at me with the beseeching eyes speaking volumes the principal took a piece of paper off the back of the door and showed him a programme of weekly adventure sports for that class for the term: kayaking, abseiling, rock climbing, pier-jumping and all the things that Daniel loves.
So it was decided. Except for Amy, who has to wait for the next board meeting to accept her (which is really ironic as the high schools also finish for the year a month earlier than the primaries so, despite everybody ending up getting educated because of her, she’ll be in school for about two minutes before the year ends) they have been to school for one week. Cassia bounces in and out of the class each day perfectly happily. I left Noah crying twice because he would rather be in his old familiar classroom with his old familiar friends, but his teacher is the loveliest person ever and he comes home happy enough. He even admitted to liking Friday.
So far, so predictable. Daniel is where the wheels tend to fall off and despite the promise of popularity and mud he certainly hadn’t thought school was a good idea so I waited with bated breath, whatever that is. He had a reliever on Monday and Tuesday and all went well. His proper teacher was there on Wednesday and Daniel came out smiling and volunteered – volunteered! – that he’d had a really good day. He loved his teacher and they spent the day doing things like art and gardening (‘No learning at all!’ which has always been his yardstick for a good day) and it’s the first class he’s ever been in with no bullies. I imagine it would be hard to get away with much in a class of twelve. Thursday and Friday were also good and they had a Kiwi guy come in to teach them rugby, which Daniel enjoyed. He’s also feeling like he has a bit of an edge quite often, which hasn’t been a feature of his school life up til now. He knew a lot more about the gardening than most, and did the best with the rugby training too. Next week they’re starting an Art project about the children involved in the 1916 Easter Rising (this is the big thing all over everywhere at the moment; the centenary of the start of the revolution) which is big enough to need parent helpers over multiple weeks, which he’ll also do well with.
So, yay to the ‘it was all fun, no learning at all!’ and long may it last. I’ve been a bit bothered during the week wondering if I made the right decision, especially when I think of all the lovely countries that we haven’t seen yet and how I don’t want to wait til summer. Totally about me. But really I’m happy that it’s the best thing for everybody, at least for now. We start the walk/scooter/bike to school at 8:30. Cassia finishes at 1:30 every day and the boys at 2:30 so they’re home by quarter to three and still have a good solid afternoon of doing whatever. We were used to the school bus arriving at 7:35a.m. and not bringing the older ones home until 4:20p.m. – an almost 9-hour day, which most adults don’t work – so it’s almost like a holiday anyway.
And, guess what else? You’ll never guess. Someone somewhere has decided that poor harassed parents can’t possibly be expected to pack a lunch on Mondays on top of remembering that it’s not the weekend any more and getting everyone up. So although Ireland doesn’t provide lunches as England does, on Mondays they all get a paper bag with their choice of a sandwich, bun or wrap with a variety of fillings, a piece of fruit or plain biscuits, and a bottle of water. For free! Every Monday! I’m not sure whether it’s the government providing this bounty or the Holy Catholic Church but I’m pretty sure it’s a blessing straight from the patron saint of Difficult Mornings. Between that and the gorgeous wee First Communion bridal dresses and veils in all the shop windows I might even convert. Hold the phone. You’ll be the first to know.