Monday 30 June 2014

Summer. Perception Vs. Reality
We have been particularly lucky with the weather these last couple of months.  It makes everyone happy and we tend to do things we wouldn’t normally do.  Things like not turning on the oven and slowing down considerably because it is impossible to move fast in the heat.  I intend to kick back over the next while and actually enjoy life. 

I have serious perceptions for the next few weeks. 

Long evenings playing in the garden.  Because we are going to be gifted with the type of weather that compels us to fire up the BBQ and everyone is going to be positively balmy themselves as a result.  Adults and kids alike will be watered and fed; juice for the kids with wine and beer for the adults.  Everyone relaxed in their preferred method.  The kids will tear about like creatures possessed due to the aspartame in their cheap juice but the adults won’t bat an eyelid.  They will be too busy supping wine from garden loungers, doing their best not to get too comfortable lest they fall asleep in a drunken stupor and forget to put the kids to bed.

Lie ons.  See above.  Due to the drunken balmy evenings it will be after 10pm before the kids are put to bed.  Covered in grass and the souls of their feet thick with dirt.  The adults will fall into a very pleasant, slightly tipsy sleep and all will waken at 9am the next morning.  Taking at least an hour to wake up properly before a still slightly hung-over mother calls, “anyone for pancakes and maple syrup?”

Camaraderie similar to the Famous Five and Secret Seven.  After the pancake breakfast, everyone will be dressed (still filthy mind you) and head off outside for the day, arms slung casually around each other to play in the meadows and forage for wild fruits to stave off the hunger pangs that otherwise would drive them home.  They will return at the sixth sense time of dinner, pleasantly hungry. Lightly tanned and just bursting to get back to the water hole.  This time they will take a tightly rolled up towel in which to dry themselves, a bag containing apples, some flapjacks and a large bottle of homemade ginger ale.  What fun!

Healthy picnics.  It is forest day where everyone will enjoy a trek under a green canopy to shield from the sun.  The dog will gambol on ahead and sniff out the best places in the undergrowth.  Not once will she jump up on or hump an innocent stranger.   No one will get lost.  There won’t be a single complaint about sore, cramping legs.  No-one will need to take an undignified pee or otherwise in shrubbery. There might be the odd sing song, definitely a few jokes and someone will always point out a fascinating fact of nature that no-one else knew.  Who says a forest walk with four kids is not fun?

Then there’s the reality of it all.

Boredom.  It is day one and not even 10am.  There has been a Netflix embargo and it is not going down well.  In fact the neighbours can hear how ill received this decision is.  They are bored.  They hate this.  They want to know what can they do?    They don’t want to be outside.  There are things to be spawned on Mine Craft and Zen gardens that need visiting.

Cooking meals that will not be eaten.  It might be the summer holidays but the little blighters still have to eat. Who knew?  In my house I like to get the main meal out of the way by 1pm so I can forget about it!  They all like chicken so a roasted one with all the trimmings is on the menu. But apparently it’s too hot to eat it.  Little bastards.  They ask for Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Weetabix and one demon requests a chocolate sandwich.  I give it all to them.

Loud demands for bicycle rides and trips to the swimming pool.  This ties in with the boredom thing.  The not so amusing fact about four boys is it is so demanding.  Everything is physical be it pulling them off one another, running to a bathroom assist, helping them up onto and down from trampoline/swings and then tidying up.  Relentless I tell you, relentless.

Refusals to go to bed.  They spend all afternoon lounging on and fighting over couch rights but once 8pm hits, they morph into sprites and off out the door.  This is all good but it doesn’t mean they will lie on the next morning.  Instead they waken at their usual hour and as a result are cranky little fuckers for the rest of the day.  The only other person whose nerves are in shite is their mother.

But I am determined to be chilled and bronzed by the end of it.  Now, it’s wine o’clock somewhere in the world, right?

Friday 27 June 2014

Carbon Footprint

During autumn we collect acorns and conkers to put in milk cartons and the odd take-out coffee cup.

We end up with bags and bags of them but only yield maybe a dozen shoots.  That number gets halved again depending on the weather, animals, accidents and memory.


Last year’s successes got washed out of it thanks to the many deluges of rain so currently there are about five milk cartons with baby trees being nursed and watched carefully with the intention of maybe planting them over the next couple of years.

We have one such tree, a horse chestnut that surely must be about ten years old by now, growing stronger and stronger each year in a large ceramic flower pot.

This one has survived a pesky neighbour’s cat deciding she liked to use it as her bed and would curl up around it when it was a seedling. 

A couple of years ago the top got chewed off by another pesky animal but still it kept growing. 

For me this tree is the first indication that spring and autumn have arrived as it is always the first to bud and turn golden.

We decided the June bank holiday Monday would be the day that finally, all of our trees would be put into their forever homes; the ground.

The lads have a bit of a TV addiction so it was also a ruse to get them out of the house and into the dirt.

We knew it wouldn’t be hard once we got them out there with the promise of a bit of digging, water and planting.

Off we went our wheelbarrow laden with pots of trees, shovels and two empty paint buckets for water.  Our dog Juno and the four boys.

Oldest Boy got stuck in almost immediately and started singing “every day I’m shovellin’” absolutely thrilled with himself and his wit.

He didn’t believe us when we told him this tree is older than he is.

Holes had to be dug, prepped and then the trees dropped in.

Then the first one went in!

Naturally such hard toil is thirst making.


And you never know what you might find in the grass if you decide to sit down and take a break.


It would go against union rules if a lunch break wasn't allowed.

Also the trouble with leaving plants in pots around the house is you tend to forget what you have.kinda forgot about this:  a hazelnut plant.  Last autumn it produced one fine specimen called a nut.  Here's hoping its time in the ground will produce more.                                                               

And then at the end of it all, a little walk around the garden produced this discovery.  Pears!

We spent the afternoon putting our trees in the ground but hopefully we planted some lovely memories too.

Monday 23 June 2014

School Tour Fail. Kind Of.
The first school tour of the year happened on the hottest day of the year.  The day Met Eireann issued a Yellow Warning.

I remember the school outing information reaching me via the monthly newsletter.  I diligently took note of the date and paid promptly.

Then I forgot all about it as I am wont to do. 

The bus was leaving school at 9am sharp and to return at the usual home time of 1.30pm.

On the hottest day of the year.

Parents received a text message about the need to apply layers of sun block, provide a hat and supply plenty of fluids.

They were going to a venue suitable for both Junior and Senior Infants and although I had never been to the supposed designated place of fun, I was worried about the heat.

I contacted a friend about my concerns.

“No shelter there at all.”  Was her response.  “It’s very open.  Drench him in sun block and put on long sleeves.”  Or words to that effect.

This is the child who sweats watching television.  He would be slick with melted sun cream within ten minutes of stepping off the bus and long sleeves were not an option.

I didn’t even have a hat for him.

On the hottest day of the year.

I did think about keeping him at home such were my reservations but I decided to play it by ear.

Who knew what might happen?  He could kick up the mother of all kick ups at the school gate and refuse to go as far as I knew.

School Tour Morning arrived bright and early.  And hot.  He was delighted with himself. 

Looking good so far. 

I lashed on the sun block.  So much of it he was snow white for about ten minutes until it absorbed.  He performed his usual fidgety dance, concerned about being late and missing the bus on this most important morning.

I attempted to distract him by telling him what his lunch box contained.  A lot more sweets than usual.  This was allowed. It was School Tour Day.

“You have to pick me up today so I can tell you all about it.”  Were his words as we all piled into the musty and hot-air laden car at 8.30am.

This was looking very promising indeed.  There were no obvious signs of him thinking about not going.

On reaching the school, he had his seat belt off and was out of the car like a hot snot before I could wish him a lovely day.

By the time 10am came round I was a hot and bothered sticky mess.  What on earth was he going to be like, running about in the open?  I fervently hoped the Múinteoirí were keeping a close eye on all of their charges and making sure none of them were being sizzled under the hot sun.

Then I received a message from the school to say the show had been late starting (Show?  What show???) So the bus was expected to arrive back at the school twenty minutes later than previously thought.

At least the kids were inside for part of the morning.

I rocked up to the school just in time to meet the bus as the kids were climbing out of it.  Not a sunburn in sight. 

Yes, it was the first thing I looked for.  They all looked fine and no-one was crying with heat stroke.

 Then I spotted my boy.  He gave me a big wave and pointed me out to Múinteoir Daithí.

“Well?”  I enquired when he reached me.  Big white streaks of sun block contouring his cheekbones.  “How was your tour?”

“We didn’t go to the place you said we were going to.  We went somewhere else.  And there was a show.  With people in it.”

Jesus.  Where was he then?

“Where were you then?”

A shrug.  “Some place called Little Red Riding Hood.”

“Oh.”  Who knew?  “And did you enjoy it?”


“That’s the main thing.  Now, let’s go home for some ice-cream.”

And so I can google where the blue blazes you were for your school tour!    

Friday 20 June 2014

A Yellow Warning
What heat!  What fantastic, glorious, reddening, scorching, buttery, melting yellow heat.  Windows are open everywhere.  Birds are singing their little hearts out at 4am.  Lots of dubious tan lines.  People eating ice creams the size of a small child.  Guzzling bottles of water.  Wine and beer coolers being put through their paces. 

Who doesn’t love this weather? Okay, I know the lady down the back is pregnant and you have my sympathy – about your discomfort I hasten to add.  Been there with Lovely Liam.  Not pleasant. 

Forgive me as I am about to begin with all the good things about summer.

Good/great/fantastic things about summer

Vitamin D.  Sunny D.  Sunshine’s little gift to us.  However you want to label it, Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and it helps keep our immune system healthy. It’s all good!

Ice-cream.  Smoothies.  Picnics.  Salads.  Corn flakes.  Corn flakes?  Come on.  Who wants to turn on the oven in this heat?  All of the above are perfectly acceptable for dinner.  You just don’t have to tell anyone you are eating corn flakes for your second meal of the day.

Long runs in the middle of the day.  Just foolin’ with ya!  Are you off your rocker???  In this heat?  Unless you are willing and able to rise at 6am in the morning to go for a run, I recommend reserving any moving quickly for ice-cream runs.

Wine.   Cold, ice cold glasses of white wine of an evening as the kids are bouncing on the trampoline when they should be in bed.  Who cares if they won’t be able to get up in the morning?  Who cares if the neighbours are wearing earplugs to drown out their shrieking?  Not you.   You are sipping wine.  Ice cold glasses of wine.  ‘nuff said. 

Swimming pools.  Paddling pools.  Garden hose.  Water guns.  With all of that sun cream we need to apply to keep blistered skin at bay, the kids will need to be washed each evening.  If you don’t possess a power hose and your house is minus a gable end, the above will do the job nicely.  Don’t forget to add shampoo.

Lack of clothes.  Nobody said anything about being naked.  I mean shorts and t-shirts for the kids.  Dresses for the lady grown-ups.  Everyone wears shades and the bigger they are, the less of your face you will have to cover in make-up which melts off before mid-day anyway.

Lovely childhood memories of summer

Long grass.  Lying in it on a blanket with the sun beating down on our bodies.  Bodies plastered with baby oil or just the vegetable oil from under the kitchen sink.  Yes, we did that.  One of my sisters turned a beautiful, golden brown underneath all of that grease.  Me?  I was that sacrifice offered to the molten god in the sky and ended up with blisters and the inability to bend my legs for the rest of the week.  

Melted Tar.  Fess up.  You played in it as a child as well, didn’t you?  All of those gorgeous, shiny, sticky, black puddles at the side of the road taunting you, daring you to test it out.  Bring it home and leave it on the sink in the bathroom and all over the towels.  The smell of it still brings back those memories.   

Comics.  Friday was comic day in our house.  Reading them after school in the garden.  Taking a cardboard box from the garage and setting it upright in the grass.  Draping a towel over it, lying down with my head inside the box and using said towel as a shield from the sun as I read.  With just my legs sticking out.  Covered in vegetable oil.

Lemon Juice.  Convinced this would transform me into one of the Wakefield twins in Sweet Valley High, I went mad squeezing lemons and sitting in the sun with the juice in my hair trying to make it blond.   Two and a half decades later, I prefer my lemons in a G&T.

Pretty Woman.  Remember Julia Roberts in that red dress when she met Richard Gere in the hotel foyer?  I think I fell in love with her myself there and then.

Bad/not so great stuff about summer

Heat rash. Even if you have never experienced this affliction, you will know of someone who has.  Your neighbour, your granny, the dog.  Heat rash can be diagnosed as little itchy bastard spots that appear at the first hint of heat.   On top of the discomfort, it is most unsightly. 

Heat rash

Fat hands.  Fat feet and a fat face.  Mine all mine.  It’s like my body thinks I am pregnant and bloats up.  My fingers resemble little sausages with freckles.  My flat feet become wider and I have to loosen the straps on my sandals.  My body insists on retaining an extra 7 pounds despite running my arse off and it being too hot to eat chocolate.  It’s just not fair!

heat rash AND fat hands.  Lucky me!!

Sun Burn.  I was that fool over the weekend who neglected to apply adequate sun cream.  Make that, no sun cream at all.  There was a delightful breeze.  I was wearing a light cardigan.  Yeah.  I was burned.  Not badly but enough to make me go FFS in my head.  I also got a lovely heat rash for free!

Heat rash, fat hands AND sun burn.  Lucky me!

Hay fever.  This does not apply to me.  Directly. But it is in the house creating coughs and sneezes that wake me up in the middle of the night so I suppose in a roundabout way, it does apply to me.  Although thankfully the sufferer seems to be getting off lightly compared to previous years.

Christy Moore armpits.  Apologies to Christy for poking fun at him at my expense.  I sweat during the heat, okay?  The right arm pit particular is a real pain.  It’s the Christy Moore of armpits.   Deodorant laughs at me.  I have tried the heavy duty 24 hour stuff.  Nada.  I even went through a weird phase where I purchased a salt crystal thing on line and used that.  They saw me coming, I’m afraid.  These days I am using a good old bar of soap.  And it works!  For ten minutes.

Leather seats.  In cars.  At school meetings. Anywhere.  Just don’t sit on it!  A layer of skin will come unstuck from the backs of your thighs as you peel yourself off it howling in pain.  Never a good look.

Whatever your thoughts/ailments/memories of summers now and past are, enjoy it.  Buy up that last paddling pool tomorrow before they are all sold out.  It happened last year you know.  And all that was left in the supermarket fridge was one bag (split open) of ice-cubes.