1/6/99 – We got the kids out to school – Sean made a big fuss because he didn’t want to wear his uniform – apparently lots of kids don’t wear them these days. Susanna didn’t have to wear hers because it’s her PE day.
2/6/99 – I played pool with Sean.
4/6/99 – Sean had been complaining of various ailments over the past few days, so we let him stay off school.
5/6/99 – Pauline took Sean to Virginia, and he had a haircut according to his instructions, which looks very good. He was absolutely thrilled with it; he thinks it looks really cool.
6/6/99 – We left around 9.30, dropping off a key so that Sinead could mind Tiger. Susanna was complaining of feeling sick the whole way, and always seemed on the verge of it. We stopped at one point and Pauline tried to make her get sick, rather comically. In fact it was Sean who vomited with very little warning in Newry, into a plastic bag.
8/6/99 – Pauline took the kids to Cootehill in the afternoon, where Sean bought a go-kart with his communion money – he was delighted with it. After dinner we took it to Maire’s; the kids played on it while Pauline and I moved stones on the site. We also had some help from Sean, Susanna and AJ – I caught Sean and AJ’s imagination by saying that any landslide they could start would be a help.
10/6/99 – Sean had to be at the school by 8.20 to go on his trip. They were going to visit the Coca-Cola factory in Dundalk, the Natural History Museum in Dublin and Sea World in Bray … [later] Sean got home around 7, having had a great day – the highlight was the Coca-Cola factory, which was actually in Dublin.
12/6/99 – Sinead was over, and the kids asked if they and she could sleep in the tent tonight. We said OK, and Pauline moved the tent to the back of the house … We expected the kids to abandon the tent for the house at some stage, but they didn’t. Sinead and Sean were awake late, telling spooky stories.
14/6/99 – We got the kids out to school, complete with swim bags and a spoon and potato each – today is their sports day. Pauline stayed to watch them. Susanna came second in the potato and spoon race; Sean won his sack race (as he did last year).
18/6/99 – The kids’ last day in second class and baby infants. They’re having a party and getting off at 12.
19/6/99 – Sean did a lot of reading – he’s reading Fantastic Mr Fox – and Susanna did some too.
21/6/99 – We had gone to Kilbroney Park – Sean befriended a boy called Aaron, and I played football with the two of them. I also played football and snooker with Sean at home.
22/6/99 – I played snooker and pool with Sean, and did a jigsaw with Susanna … Their school reports came – both very good. Sean got ‘excellent’ in everything except ‘very good’ in some Irish categories and handwriting. His teacher says that ‘Sean is a lovely child with impeccable manners’. Susanna’s teacher gave her a lot of high praise, ending with ‘She is a well-behaved child and a pleasure to teach’.
24/6/99 – I took the kids up the fields – the grass in the top field had been cut.
25/6/99 – It was a beautiful hot day …. I took the kids up the fields. Sean followed a hare, which ran along in front of him, for quite a distance; this reactivated his notion that he has ‘a way with animals’.
28/6/99 – Sean and Susanna had had a wonderful time [at Virginia ‘heritage show’], with pony rides and so on.
4/7/99 – Some people reckoned that Nostradamus had predicted the world would end today, but it didn’t happen.
5/7/99 – The kids and I had a walk up the fields. Tiger came too, and chased a hare, which accelerated away in fine style.
11/7/99 – On getting up, I was surprised to notice two beautiful thoroughbred horses rampaging in our front garden.
20/7/99 – Sean was awake very late, reading.
21/7/99 – The kids, especially Sean, have turned into keen birdwatchers since we put up the bird table, though it seems to be used mainly by jackdaws and chaffinches.
23/7/99 – Pauline and the kids arrived, with a lovely new silver bike that they’d bought in Newry – Sean’s birthday present.
24/7/99 – My 39th birthday … The kids brought me in a load of presents and cards. I got CDs by Sheryl Crow, Mott the Hoople, John Lee Hooker and Bob Dylan. Also a fleece and two t-shirts, which suit me very well. Sean brought us coffee in bed and we all listened to some tracks from the CDs. I cycled up and down the road with Susanna (on my crossbar) and Sean.
25/7/99 – Sean and Susanna cycled up and down the road – Susanna is now a fully competent cyclist without her stabilizers. Sean cycled about three miles earlier with AJ and David. They went almost the whole way along the bog road and back … Sean really loves his new bike. He’s also very fond these days of a chaffinch that frequents the bird table and shows little fear – Sean says that chaffinches have the same ‘hairstyle’ as him (brushed back).
26/7/99 – Sean and a group of kids cycled to the bog. Sean loves his bike.
28/7/99 – Sean’s eighth birthday. Susanna gave him her presents – two Harry Potter books and a lottery scratchcard … the kids had a great time playing [at Fort Lucan, with a group of Sean’s Dublin friends] – Sean especially loved the water slide … Sean had a wonderful time, and we all enjoyed the day.
31/7/99 – Pauline spent an hour reading a Harry Potter book to the kids at bedtime.
11/8/99 – Sean had a new pair of binoculars, bought in Dublin with his own money.
15/8/99 – Pauline took the kids and Sinead to a ‘family fun day’ in Castlerahan. They had a great time – while the other three were doing something else, Sean’s name was announced on the PA as the first volunteer for the ducking chair. He got soaked, and loved the attention.
16/8/99 – Sean, on going to bed, was sad about not being with his Dublin friends.
17/8/99 – Pauline took the kids to Dublin early … [later] Pauline and the kids arrived around 10.30. Sean in particular had had a great day – he’d spent the afternoon playing with Matthew, and later played with Billy and Kevin … The kids slept in the same room, having frightened themselves on the way home with talk of monsters etc.
24/8/99 – I took Sean, Susanna and Tiger up the fields at twilight … Tiger managed to get stuck up a tree, and I had to make a precarious ascent to rescue him.
26/8/99 – We watched a couple of ‘nature’ programmes, one on the search for the ‘mythical’ giant sloth and one on polar bears – Sean is very keen on such programmes.
28/8/99 – I had been up the fields with all the kids earlier, and we had seen a fox.
29/8/99 – I took Susanna up the fields to find Tiger, who had spent much of the weekend up there with the kids.
31/8/99 – Pauline put the kids to bed early and read to them for quite a while, as usual. Sean really loves the Harry Potter books.