Monthly Archives: February 2011

The History Road Trip

Photo: Bernard Castle, outside of Bandon

I have had the most beautiful weekend. Everything is better now that I can drive. Yesterday I drove into Cork again and met up with a wonderful girl who is involved in the arts scene in Cork. She showed me around some of the sights, the English Market, the Peace Park, then we went for a vegetarian lunch and visited THE BEST SHOP IN THE WHOLE WORLD. I am not kidding. Its called, ‘Vibes and Scribes’ and it has wonderful books, but also material, ribbons, lace, buttons, beads, stickers, ink, stamps, glitter, yarn, wire, pendants, easels, canvases, paint, hats, feathers etc. etc. I had to restrain myself from spending all of my money on pretty pink frilly things and polka-dot things and soft, fluffy things and glass, swirly things. I kept going, ‘But its only one euro! Surely I can find a use for three metres worth of Union Jack ribbon! I’ll… put it on a… a… costume!’ Even in my ‘restraint’ I still bought 3 books (2 about the Celtic Tiger and where to go from here, the other on a notorious murder case in Cork 19th century history), 3 bits of scrap material (I’m going to put them on a costume!), 2 packets of stickers and 1 ribbon.
Today, the girls’ uncle took me on a trip to Kinsale, which is a town on the sea, and at the mouth of the Bandon River, where Bono and Simon le Bon (of Duran Duran) used to live. It is stunning. Apparently Edmund Spenser wrote part of the Faerie Queene somewhere nearby. During the Celtic Tiger years, the town became a playground for the rich of Ireland and Europe, and you can see why. Its all twisty streets and cute stores and fantastic restaurants. Everything faces the quiet harbour and the rolling green hills that face out towards the Celtic Sea.
Along the way, the uncle showed me a variety of spots of local history. I just adore learning about it all. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, its all so old! I know that sounds dumb, but as I was telling the uncle today, most of my history knowledge starts from the 18th century, specifically from the Enlightenment (I had a random thought today, which is that the 18th century was the time Australia was colonised by Britian. Even though I wasn’t ever really overly interested in Australian history, I wonder if, sub-consciously I was influenced by this date? I didn’t like history before the Enlightenment because I couldn’t fathom anything earlier than that? Because there are no physical historical Western sites in Australia that were from an earlier date? I don’t know, long bow, I guess, but it still intrigued me). Many of these places were from the 1600’s, one church we went into had a list of rectors from the 14th century to the present day! This completely blew my mind. To be standing in a building, to be walking over stones that someone was standing in, walking on the stones of 700 years ago was a truly amazing experience. I know there are plenty of places like this in Europe, but these sites, particularly the churches, are not tourist destinations, they’re just local places. You don’t have to pay to go in, there’s no one checking you out, you just walk in. The uncle said a quick prayer in the Catholic Church. Over the 17th century church stones, there hang little notices about Over-55’s exercise groups and local markets. It makes it feel like the community and people have such history and longevity, rather than just the buildings.
Anyway, we started off in the area around Bandon. The uncle asked, ‘Have you seen the castle yet?’ The what???? ‘Ok, we’re going to the castle first.’
So, we take a right-hand turn just off the road to Bandon, and there, on the grounds of the golf course, are the ruins of Bandon Castle, the seat of the Lord of Bandon, built in the 17th century, and then burnt to the ground by the IRA in the 1920’s. The current ‘Lady of Bandon’ (Lady Jennifer, if you please) lives in a bungalow to the side of the castle. She apparently owns all the woods and land that I have been traipsing about for the past two weeks, which just blows my mind. I had presumed it was public land.
On the way to Kinsale, we pass an old Orange Lodge, which were places of Loyalist/Unionist/Protestant support and activity, which again was burnt by the old IRA in the 1920’s and is now a private home.
In Kinsale, we visited the ruins of two forts from the 1600’s, and saw some graves from the Lusitania disaster in 1915 (where a German U-boat sunk an American passenger ship, causing the deaths of 1200 innocent civilians), the wreck of which lies just outside of Kinsale Harbour.
Kinsale is also the spot of one of the last major battles between the Irish Army and the British Army in the 17th century. The Spanish sent an Armada to assist their fellow Catholics, but only 3500 Spaniards managed to land, the remaining 2500 (as well as most of the gunpowder) had to turn around due to bad weather. The Brits had around 12,000, whereas the Irish had 6,000, plus the 3,500 from Spain. The battle and ensuing siege lasted for 3 years, and the Irish eventually surrendered completely just after Queen Elizabeth’s death. The surrender marked a turning point in the conflict between the 2 countries, and was the start of the real British stranglehold over Ireland.
The uncle also told me about his mate, an Irish anarchist, who regularly protests in Kinsale, because of the local golf course. This golf course is internationally renowned, but it is highly controversial, because it has abandoned the ‘walking rights of way’. The ‘walking rights of way’ are set into law in Ireland, and its the reason why people don’t really mind you wandering into their fields. It seems a bit more in-depth than this, but, basically, if there is no other way to walk, people in the surrounding properties have to allow people to wander through their fields. The golf course do not allow this anymore and the Cork anarchists are very unhappy about the fact. They protest by walking around the golf course. Which seems like a particularly pleasant way to hold a protest (you know, as opposed to chaining yourself to coal tankers, or throwing yourself bodily against locked doors and/or policemen)
We saw a Church of Ireland (so, Anglican) church from the 14th century, as well as some Catholic churches from more recent times (the irony is, that although only 3% of the Irish population is now Church of Ireland, there are still heaps of Church of Ireland churches around, and most of the very old churches in Ireland belong to the Church of Ireland and not the Catholic Church, because, of course, the even older Catholic churches were destroyed by the Brits during the sad course of Irish history). We read all the plaques in the churches, and there were some fascinating stories, like the nun born in Kinsale, but who ended up in Marrickville, the Kinsale native who was in the British army, and was at Waterloo as well as the American War of Independence and 2 brothers from WWI who had the last name ‘Darling’ (and, although they both died very young – 20 and 23- only a few months apart from each other in 1915, I couldn’t help having a giggle, thinking of Rowan Atkinson and Captain Darling… ‘Hello, Darling’ in Blackadder).
So, its been an amazingly wonderful day/weekend. I really, truly love this area. It is so beautiful. I love the people, who always say hello when you pass them, I love the quiet little pubs and their friendly waiters, I love the windy, windy streets that seem to be shared equally between the pedestrians and the traffic, I love the colourful little houses with the geraniums in their windows and the fact that streams and waterfalls trickle everywhere. I love love love where I am right now.

Photo: Kinsale Harbour
His hooker’s in the Scilly van, 25
When seines are in the foam,
But money never made the man,
Nor wealth a happy home,
So, bless’d with love and liberty,
While he can trim a sail, 30
He ’ll trust in God, and cling to me—
The Boatman of Kinsale.
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Jenny the Accidental Mum (no, that’s not what I mean…)

Phrases that have spewed unintentionally out of my mouth this week and made me sound scarily like a mum:

1) ‘I’m not your slave
2) ‘What do we say?’
3) ‘I’m going to count to 3’
4) ‘No chocolate ice-cream until you’ve finished your pasta.’
5) ‘Do not kick your sister. DO NOT DO IT.’
6) ‘You can’t run off like that, I get worried.’
7) ‘If you do not start behaving, you will find yourself in bed at 6 o’clock, do you understand?’
8) ‘What did I say about tantrums?’
9) ‘If you do not start behaving, I will turn this bicycle around and that will be the end of it, do you understand?’
10) ‘We have to share.’
11) ‘Right, if we can’t play nicely, the dolls are being put away.’
12) ‘Don’t terrorise your sister, there’s no need.’
13) ‘That’s an awful thing to do! Why would you do something like that? Why? And why are you smiling about it? Look at me. Why would you do something like that? Are you listening to me?’

And hundreds of other examples that I can’t think of right now. Where does this mum speak come from? It seems to happen completely unintentionally. It just comes out of my mouth and I’m suddenly like, ‘what? uh? who the hell am I?’

On a slightly related note, last night, when I was getting ready to go out, the eldest girl came in to my room and started talking to me. Eventually, as I was in the bathroom putting on make-up, she said, ‘Ok, Jenny, see you later!’ I said, ‘Bye!’ and then heaved a sigh of relief, thinking I had a little bit of quiet time to get ready. I went and made a sandwich, came back, started eating it, watching Jon Stewart and the Daily Show, then, about 15 minutes later, I suddenly notice the curtains moving. The eldest girl had been hiding on my window sill for about 15 minutes!!! Which more than a little freaked me out, considering I had no idea and could have started getting changed, or, I don’t know, started watching porn on the internet… not that I do that regularly, but, oh, you know, it was weird. So, I moved out to the kitchen to eat my sandwich, she followed, I then went and made myself a cup of tea, and snuck back into my room whilst she wasn’t looking. Two minutes later, she comes rushing into my room again, and I just snapped, ‘The evening is for me to have a little time for myself, ok? So, just, please, leave me alone for a little while, ok?’ This was after she sulked all day, ignored me, yelled at me, hid in her room etc. etc. and then, as soon as her mother is home and the younger girl is out of the way, then the eldest wants to be my best friend. I know she’s suffering huge amounts of jealousy over her little sister, but its very difficult to deal with. Anyone got any tips?

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The Car.


Well, hopefully today represents a breaking point in the cabin fever. Sue got me insured on her car on Tuesday, and this evening I managed to drive all the way to Cork and back (about a half hour drive up the motorway) for a meeting. This is an achievement. Believe me, its an achievement. The car is a manual, and Dad taught me how to drive a manual in about 8 lessons over the course of 4 days in the week before I left. I then didn’t drive a manual again until last Saturday – a gap of about 4 weeks. On top of this, there are no lights, like NO lights along the roads here, the roads are also thin and windy, and little rocky walls line the streets, meaning its impossible to have parked cars and two lanes of traffic. In fact, usually its even impossible to have two lanes of traffic, unless both cars drive in the gutter. Its like Newtown, but all over Ireland and at 80km/h.
SO, the fact that I’m alive, and that the car is alive, and that all the people and animals that I passed along the way are alive is really a major achievement. I probably deserve some kind of award. Even if I did stall the car twice on one hill, change in to 2nd a couple of times when I meant to change in to 4th and went backwards at a few traffic lights due to a lack of accelerator action (whilst driving the girls around the other day, the eldest asks dubiously, ‘Are you sure you know how to drive?’ ‘Yes, I’ve been driving since before you were born, its just a new car and I’m getting used to it.’ Silence. ‘You need to go faster here.’ ‘Thanks.’ Silence. ‘You need to reverse now.’ ‘Thanks.’ ‘Do you know where the reverse button is?’ Silence. ‘That’s a really bad park.’ ‘Thanks.’ Silence. ‘What are you doing now???’ *through gritted teeth* ‘I’m doing a better park’).
In fact, I also deserve an award for driving to Cork and managing to find one out of the two places I was trying to get to. Not a huge award, I admit, considering I missed my first appointment, but I should get something. Admittedly, it took me 1 and a half hours to get somewhere it should have taken me half an hour to get to, got lost in a place called Blackpool (I thought that was in England???) and ended up having to buy a street map (on which there was no Blackpool, so the map was totally useless anyway, and, all things considered, I probably was in the Blackpool in England after all, what with the amount of driving I did, and hence why I was so GODDAMN LOST), but I got there. I even managed to keep my cool (at least compared to the first time I drove in Sydney, where after 45 mins of ‘no right turns’ and ‘one way streets’ and ‘no entry’ signs, I was sobbing, hitting the wheel and terrifying pedestrians by screaming at the traffic lights), even when there was nowhere to pull over to check the map, and no street signs up anyway, so even if I could check the map, I wouldn’t have been any wiser as to where I was located, whereabouts I wanted to get to, and, most importantly, how to get there.
I’m still amazed the mother actually insured me on the car after driving around with me on Saturday, but, hey, its her car, her insurance, her money, I guess. The family, and, really, the Irish people in general, seem to have a very ‘C’est la Vie’ attitude to a lot of things. I mean, there was no concern about me taking out the car tonight, and no directions offered, they just sort of assumed I’d work it out. Which I did, I guess. Its probably why Blackpool isn’t on the map and there are no street signs. Its an attitude I’d like to adopt. Apart from being good for my health, I think it would add to my whole ‘manual-car’ driving image. I’m totes country. I’m wearing jeans and a red-checked shirt and boots and apart from bunny-hopping the car down the road every 20 metres, I look really authentic. By the time I get home I’ll be driving tractors and milking cows and growing my own lettuces.

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Cabin Fever.

Photo: All Ludo and Snakes and Ladders makes Jenny go crazy.

Well, it was bound to happen.
Things couldn’t stay idyllic forever. I wasn’t going to be able to be Miss Perky and Miss Optimistic 2011 for the entirety of my time in Ireland.
Even though I’ve been complaining about how tired I am, and how I’d like some time off to do some writing and rest and how I need to get away from the girls etc. etc. when I finally had some time off yesterday, everything went downhill.
I had a lovely Saturday – got up for a run, walked into Bandon, joined the library and got some books, did some writing, ate an enormous piece of strawberry cheesecake, went to the post office and walked home again. Apart from some guilt over the elder girl (‘Why can’t I come with you?’ ‘Because I’m only going to be doing work in Bandon and its going to be boring’ *slams door in my face*. Actual answer should of course be, ‘Because I get weekends off!!!!!’), the day was lovely. I had a good evening too, I was babysitting and even though I did have to play 6 games of Ludo and 6 games of Snakes & Ladders, and the eldest girl kept hiding things from me and then insisting she hadn’t (she is still insisting until today that I’m the big, fat, liar, not her – she also at one point yesterday told me I had thin hair, a big bum and spots, all because I wasn’t going to along with her games of hiding and cheating *sigh*), it was a decent night.
BUT, come Sunday morning, I was at a loss of things to do. I’m still not insured on the car, so I couldn’t drive anywhere, it was raining so I couldn’t walk to Bandon, and whilst I wanted to do some writing, my head was in such a funk because I couldn’t get out of the house, that it became almost impossible. I ended up lying on the couch, staring at the computer screen and/or the TV screen for the majority of the day and eating peanut butter and nutella sandwiches (an evil, evil thing that Sonia told me about before I left London. Evil because they are so addictive. They’re essentially Reese’s Pieces in sandwich form. But more gooey. They’re like melted Reese’s Pieces. Which makes them SO MUCH better, because all the nutella and peanut butter squirts out the sides and goes on your fingers and then you can lick your fingers and all the drips make patterns on the plate and they are just so delightfully fun to eat! They make me giggle. They make me feel like a little kid. They are also the reason my jeans don’t fit). I got homesick, felt totally useless and spent most of the day sulking. Because I don’t really know anyone here yet either, I couldn’t call anyone to see if they wanted to go out, or at least talk with them over the phone. Also, because it was my day off, I was trying to avoid the girls, to give myself a break before I had to take responsibility for them again this week. It meant there was very little I could do in the house or in the backyard, because as soon as I did, there was the eldest girl, ‘What are you doing? Where are you going? Can’t I come? Can’t we play Ludo? Can’t we play Snakes & Ladders’ etc. etc. etc.
In the evening I finally got off my arse and decided to do something different, so I played my violin for an hour and a half, trying to pick out the tune of various songs and get used to the new, much cheaper violin that I bought in Cork. This was very pleasant for me, but I don’t think was very pleasant for the rest of the household – when I came out to the kitchen the radio was turned all the way up and the dad asked me, ‘Are you teaching yourself violin, Jenny?’ Ahhh…. no. I’ve been playing since I was 5. Embarrassing. I know I’ve got to keep practicing if I’m going to get any better, but I feel so bad for assaulting their ears all evening I don’t think I’m going to get up the guts to play again for a little while.
Today, despite having to look after both the girls all day (its school holidays) and spending almost an hour and a half arguing with the eldest girl on the way home from our bike ride, I feel so much better and so much more able to think and write. Its something I’m becoming more and more aware of – inspiration needs to be constantly fed by experience. You can’t hope to sit on your arse in the dark, by yourself, and write or create consistently or continually. Your brain is going to run out of fuel. No matter what it is, whether or not its a bike ride, or a workshop, or an argument, or just walking outside, clearing your head and changing the scenery, its going to get you thinking in a different way and start the creative process all over again.
Anywho, that’s my 2 cents worth. the eldest girl has a play date tomorrow, thank goodness, so I’ll just be looking after the younger, which makes things much easier. Its easy to keep one or the other occupied, but the both together is more difficult because each one wants your full attention, and because the younger is obviously less able to do things for herself, she generally wins. Whenever we’re all together, she spends most of the day chirping that her sister is ‘NOT happy.’

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UIB

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There are lots of things to get used to when looking after children that I never considered before. And whilst others may laugh knowingly at this next statement, I also hadn’t realised how obsessive compulsive, controlling, perfectionist and slightly prissy I was/am before starting this job.
Some of the random things I am struggling to get used to:
a) The amount of food that gets wasted by kids. In any one meal, the youngest will throw half of her food on the floor and/or herself and the eldest will refuse to eat half of hers. The youngest will then forget about the other half of her meal (the bits that remained in the bowl), at which point her parents generally throw away the food. Both of them will then both demand multiple bowls of ice-cream, so that a tub that was bought on a Monday, generally doesn’t see a Tuesday. I can’t stand all the wasted food, which brings me to the next thing I am struggling to get used to…
b) When you are around kids, the likelihood that you are going to eat like kids like to eat is high to assured. This is not only because I don’t really feel like cooking something separate to what the kids are eating (so I am eating a lot of pasta, for example), but because, in an effort to reduce waste, I am eating the remains of the girls’ foods. Yesterday evening for example, I ate a bowl of pasta mixed into a bowl of lentil and vegetable soup. Today I ate a ‘salad’ (I have no other word for it) made with cold pasta, left-over broccoli sauce, left-over sweet corn, with lettuce leaves and kidney beans added in for protein. Then lots of balsamic vinegar. I eat a lot of porridge at odd times of the day. Like, for lunch, because the eldest didn’t want to finish the whole pot at breakfast. Very strange.
c) Dinnertime and food becomes a battleground. Food is so very plain. Pasta with a single vegetable sauce – Broccoli sauce. Tomato sauce. And even then it’s a struggle to get kids to eat food. I used to think back on my days as a kid and think, ‘I wish I was that picky again, then maybe I’d still be skinny’, but after being around kids for a week or two, I’m terribly pleased I like food and I enjoy it.
d) How many things get mixed-up or ruined around kids. For example, I was sitting down with the girls to play with play-dough, and got very upset when they mixed up the colours (I didn’t take it out on them, of course) and then spending 10 – 15 minutes attempting to separate said colours. Also, attempting to get all the tiny little bits of play-dough that had been sprinkled on the carpet/table whilst using the play-dough to, again, ‘avoid waste’. This goes for painting as well, when I make nice little dabs of colour on a plate for the youngest to paint with and then she swirls it into one great circle of brown and puts her hands in it. Or, when doing craft, and the eldest makes great big swirls of glue on her card and then proceeds to tip ENTIRE CONTAINERS of glitter on to said glue, with most of it going on her uniform, on the floor, on the table etc. Me also desperately attempting to scoop up said glitter and put it back in the container before she tips another coloured glitter onto the floor and mixes them up.
e) You never know when something is going to go from good to DISASTER. You can be playing along very happily, and then, suddenly, for no apparent reason, well none that you can really fathom, someone is in tears. ‘No, bring them to me one at a time!’ ‘No, we can’t do it there, we have to do it here!’ ‘No, legs under blankets!’ Its amazing what children find offensive.
f) When you are on to a good thing, you are ON TO A GOOD THING. For a kid, if someone has magically come up with a game that you like, you don’t want to have to confront the danger of thinking up something new. I mean, what if you didn’t like the new thing? What if the new thing wasn’t as good as the old thing? Better to just stick to the old thing. Forever. Or, as long as you can possible convince the adult to continue playing with you. This goes for everything – Limbo, hopping races, bouncing games, switching the lights on and off, splashing water, making silly noises, sticking out your tongue. If it was fun the first time, it will be fun the twenty hundred millionith time.
g) What I am calling UIB – Unidentifiable Bruises. Every morning when I get into the shower, I look down and I think, ‘What? How did that get there?’ I am black and purple and green and blue up and down my limbs and most of the time I have absolutely no idea how it happened. I have bruises on the tops of my thighs, which I assume comes from playing too many clapping games. Did I have this many bruises as a child? Or can my aged skin just not handle the pressure?
h) How controlling children can be. The amount of times I’ve been in the middle of a game with the elder girl, me playing a monster, for example, her playing a screaming princess, and she’ll pretend to frighten me into a cupboard and lock me away, and then, she’ll suddenly stop screaming, re-open the door and say, ‘But in a few minutes, after I’ve locked you up and run away, you have to break down the door and come out again. And you have to put your hood over your head. And you have to pull the top part up. Like that’ And then she’ll close the door and run away screaming. Its too funny.
Not much else to report. The days are similarly paced at the moment. I have my first full weekend off tomorrow and I hope to go to Bandon and sit in a café and drink cups of tea and do lots of writing and be all artistic and grown-up and QUIET and stuff. I’m looking forward to it. I must say though, I have the utmost respect for all my friends and family who have children. Watching the mum with her girls, her patience and love never fails, and it’s the same with all those friends I see with their kids. Does it just happen as soon as you have kids? Or do you develop the patience as you go along, after they’re born? Or, do you just get better at hiding the annoyance and the tiredness? I’m sometimes far too transparent: The eldest girl has asked on several occasions, ‘Are you bored?’ ‘’Are you going to cry?’ ‘Are you stressed?’ Whoops.
Pasta? For me? Again? Oh, you shouldn’t have. No, really. You shouldn’t have.

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Grown-Up Cork


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I thought I’d take advantage of some ‘down-time’ to write a little bit more. In the afternoons, the youngest goes to crèche, and of course, the eldest is at school, so after doing some chores, I have some time to myself, which is nice.
So, I arrived in Co. Cork last Tuesday, with no number, no address, no exact meeting place or person to look for and only a fairly small, dark photo of the family to go off. These things hadn’t really bothered me until I was sitting at Cork bus station with all my bags and with no-one who really looked like I was expecting. There were a few dodgy looking old men around, and I was terrified one of them would come up to me and ask was I Jenny, the new au pair, and tell me that he was here to collect me, with some dodgy excuse as to where his wife and children were. In short, for the umpteenth time on this trip, I thought I was potentially in a situation where I was going to be raped and murdered. Ah, my responses to scary situations are always so measured and reasonable, aren’t they?
Of course, as you know can tell, I wasn’t picked up by a scary Irish farmer with no teeth and blood under his fingernails, but by my new Irish family. When I arrived back to the house, it was all systems go, I was shown to my room, unpacked and then sat down to dinner. After dinner, I played with the eldest for a bit, and then joined the dad and his younger brother (who has been living in the USA for the past 20 years) for some beer and cider and TV watching.
The next day was when things got really exciting. I had found out, through the glories of Facebook, that and Irish arts body– Irish Theatre Forum – was holding an ‘Open Space’ meeting on the 9th of February in Cork. My new employers were very kind and understanding about letting me attend this meeting, and they drove me in to Bandon to get the bus to Cork for the day. It was fantastic! One of the funniest things was, that because I had no idea who anybody was, I just kept introducing myself to whoever was sitting around me. These people often turned out to be incredibly impressive and/or established actors, directors or producers of Irish theatre. I met a man who has just signed on for 5 seasons of the new HBO drama, ‘Game of Thrones’ with Sean Bean, and I met another man who had just recently toured Australia (including the Sydney Theatre and the Civic at Newcastle) with ‘The Walworth Farce’ – for any of you who happened to catch it. These were people that I would have felt presumptuous speaking to if I had known who they were, but, of course, they were absolutely delightful, very friendly and very welcoming. Everyone I spoke to thought it was hysterical that I had only arrived in Cork the day before.
The meeting was hugely inspiring and basically gave me a run-down of most of the opportunities available in Cork for artists, as well as a contact list of 90 people in the Cork area who are interested in the arts. One of the arts centres in the city (the Triskell Arts Centre) was holding an open day the following Saturday with workshops and a play reading, so I went along to that as well. I ended up having lunch with a group of people, and making friends with a few others, who offered to show me the sights of Cork, which was again, really wonderful. Everyone keeps telling me I’ve come at a really good time, because nothing has happened in the arts in Cork for ages, but I’m still impressed that in a town of 100, 000 – 200,000 people you’ve got a variety of professional theatre spaces, as well as artists who feel they don’t have to leave for the big smoke of Dublin if they don’t want to. I’ve got a meeting this Saturday with some of them, hoping they’re going to be able to put me in contact with some directors or producers who might be interested in working with me on some fringe festival shows. We’ll see.
Apart from all the artisty stuff, the uncle from San Francisco invited me out to the pub on Saturday night with some of his mates, and whilst I was initially hesitant (I had desperately wanted to do some writing that night, plus, he’s quite a bit older than me, and I didn’t know if I was going to fit in with his mates), but I ended up saying ‘yes’. Again, at the risk of sounding ridiculously perky and insufferably optimistic and sunny, it was just the best! The ‘pub’ is called ‘Chaplin’s’ and its again, basically just a room, with a bar in the corner. I love these style of pubs. I usually really dislike big, soulless, loud and crowded bars, I prefer going to a friend’s house for drinks. So, these Irish pubs are like going to your friends for drinks, if your friends happened to have cider and beer on tap. Everyone was great, one of them was also my eldest charge’s teacher, and they made me feel very welcome. I tried stout for the first time (Murphy’s, not Guinness – Cork people will often have Murphy’s instead because it’s a local drink) which was kind of yuck, but not nearly as bad as I had been led to believe. I met a guy who I think was a bit closer to my own age, Barry (they started calling him ‘Bazza’ in honour of me, the Aussie girl), got fairly tipsy and had a roaring good time. When the teacher asked me how long I’d been in Cork and I said, four days, she was so shocked. She said, ‘But you seem so comfortable and fit in so well. You seem like you’ve been here for ages!’ So that was kind of nice.
When I was in Norway, I held back from people quite a bit, I was shy, and I also felt bad about making people speak to me in English because I didn’t know any Norwegian. It meant, apart from a few very lovely friends that I made early on, I was a bit lonely for the first half of the year. I’m really trying to make sure that doesn’t happen this time round, and so far, I think I’m doing pretty alright. The other thing about Norway was, there wasn’t any real reason for me to be at school and do school work unless I wanted to, and, again, not knowing any Norwegian made it difficult to follow any lessons. Of course, eventually, it was wonderful, but it was a very hard start to the year for me. Here I’m busy all the time with the girls or housework, which means I don’t really have time to feel useless or homesick. Its working out well, I think.
Quick update: Just heard I’ve been given free space and rehearsal time to develop a fringe show (only 6 hours– but still!) for Dublin on the 4th of March. I wrote the application last night. I friggin’ LOVE this country!

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My first week as an Au Pair or 135,602 Reasons why I’m not having kids anytime soon.

Photo: Me, out for a walk in beautiful Bandon.

Apologies for the great big gap in communications! I have arrived safely in Bandon, Co. Cork, and settled in nicely. Its hard to find time to write in between looking after the kids – the eldest girl tends to stand next to me and watch everything I’m doing and ask constant questions. This happens even when I’m ‘off duty’, because, of course, I’m living in their house, and its hard to draw a line between what I’m doing for work and what I’m doing just because I like her. Its tricky, because of course, I want to be friends with her and want her to like me, but at the same time, I want to be able to do my own work and write emails and take walks in the quiet etc. etc. The littlest girl is just SO full of energy. Its a constant game of chase with her – NO, don’t jump in the muddy ditch, NO, don’t slide into the mud, NO, don’t pick up the container full of old dog food and water, NO, don’t put paint on your face, put it on the paper. Fun times!
There’s so much to talk about, but its all over the place, all different topics. So, I’m going to restrict myself to talking about my job as an au pair at the moment, and later I’ll tell you all about the awesome people I’ve met and the artsy things that are going on and the rolling hills and all the cider I’ve been drinking.
Well, to give you an idea of what I’m going through, I just had a break of about 6 and a half hours between writing that last sentence and starting again. In that 6 and a half hour ‘break’, I have painted with the youngest, and then changed her clothes. Gone into the garden with her, played on the swings, played on the slide, played chasies and then changed her clothes. I’ve played endless games of Ludo with the elder girl (this is not the real Ludo, by the way. Its game of her devising, which basically involves us rolling the dice and moving our counter the amount of spaces the dice says. When she thinks I’m not looking, she moves her counter more spaces, or rolls her dice more times until she gets the number she wants – I’m trying to break her out of this! Cheeky monkey!) I’ve watched ‘The Witches’, and ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’. I’ve watched ‘Peppa the Pig’ (over and over and over again. Peppa Pig…. Peppa Pig… there’s a tune that goes with these words, but I can’t accurately describe it in my blog). I’ve helped both of them climb a ladder. I’ve helped them climb down. I’ve helped them climb up. I’ve helped the climb down. I ran all over the place getting ‘food’ for the eldest girl, who was pretending to be a queen, and then packing it up. I’ve then attended mass, presided over by the Queen/Pope, where I was told I had to pray to God, eat lots of fruit and veggies and not play Wii too much. I went outside with the girls and Murray the dog and Lucky the cat. I tried to stop the youngest getting entirely covered in mud. I failed. I changed her again. I taught the eldest ‘chopsticks’ on piano (mistake!) I cleaned her shoes. I did 4 loads of washing, drying and folding clothes. I washed all the dishes. And about 10 minutes ago, when I sighed, the eldest asked, ‘Are you bored?’
No, no, I am EXHAUSTED.
Its been a steep learning curve. I flatter myself that I’m pretty good at the job. I’m not bad at multi-tasking, or finding things for the girls to do, keeping my energy up and being patient. But, my goodness. I couldn’t do it full-time. The eldest girl in particular is very difficult at finding things to do on her own. If you leave her alone for all of 5 minutes, she’ll come looking for you saying, ‘I’m bored’ and demand attention or games or…. anything. Something. Entertain me! She just found me. ‘Can I watch you write your email?’ Good lord. She also wants me to be exactly the same as her. ‘We have the same earrings.’ Whilst eating porridge: ‘Are you going to eat porridge? I think you should eat porridge.’ Whilst eating ice-cream: ‘Don’t you want an ice-cream?’ ‘I’m allergic to those earrings, aren’t you allergic to those earrings?’ etc. etc. etc. She’s also very competitive, she tries to find sneaky ways of getting me away from her sister, and she tells me things like, ‘Is your house bigger than ours? I knew it wasn’t,’ or, ‘My Dad is the strongest in the house. And then my uncle. And then my mum, and then you.’ Great, thanks. She is lovely though, its just the age she’s at. She tries really hard to help me, telling me where everything is in the house, telling me how to use the computer, how to use the stove, how to use the DVD player etc.
The youngest is adorable and very enthusiastic. She claps her hands and hits you and wiggles her bottom when you suggest things to do. That is, as long as you agree to go along with what she wants to do. That usually involves getting very, very, very messy. In fact, I venture a guess that a great deal of Ireland’s carbon footprint is due to this 4 year old girl. Today, she has been changed at least 4 times and all of these clothes now need to be washed, and dried, to make sure she has enough clothes for tomorrow’s assault on the world.
Despite all this, its a pretty rewarding job. There are definite perks. Like, spontaneous hugs and/or hand-holding. Incredibly enthusiastic morning greetings. And there is an incredible sense of satisfaction and achievement after a day with the girls and cleaning the house. I think its a combination of the physical activity, the simple tasks, and the appreciation you get from the girls (its a rare job that your employers give you hugs and kisses when you’ve done something they like…. well, it would be a weird/potential sexual harassment case if most employers did that, anyway).
I’m going to have to leave it there, I think. I don’t know if I actually listed any reasons why I’m not having kids soon, but I presume it was assumed in all the things I was saying. I’m too selfish, basically. There is still more Jenny time to be had. I don’t think I can devote my every waking hour to little ones just yet. But, anyway, I will reiterate again, my brain feels like mush. I am utterly wrecked. I have so many things I want to do this evening, but I’m going to have to watch some more Alvin and the Chipmunks before then. I have been watching a lot of telly and drinking a lot of cider recently, because I’m so tired by the end of the day, so that is also a drawback, but hopefully I’ll start getting used to it and get back into writing etc. a little bit more.
Love you all!

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