Some diary entries … December 1998 to February 1999

1/12/98 – I had a walk up the fields in the afternoon; they seemed magical in the fog, which was very thick.

2/12/98 – Bought a Yamaha keyboard for Sean’s Christmas present.

3/12/98 – Before we went to bed I was locking up the garage when I heard a loud and strange noise from the field. I went to call Pauline, who had heard a strange (dissimilar) screaming the other night, then the noise had moved and got more distant. Perhaps the cry of a wild goose or some other bird, but very eerie.

4/12/98 – When the kids got home we all went to Maire’s to feed the hen and chicks … We let the kids stay up for the Late Late Toy Show, having tried unsuccessfully to video it. So they were up till midnight.

5/12/98 – AJ and Sean made a ‘garden’ for Susanna’s playhouse.

6/12/98 – Sean and I fitted a door to the side passage of Susanna’s garden.

8/12/98 – The kids had no school on account of the holy day. They played around the house, and Sinead was here in the afternoon. She also took them to her house to help put up the Christmas tree … When I called Itsy at midnight, there was no sign of her – just a faint, distant mewing. Pauline, Tiger and I went out with a torch to look for her, and found that she was stuck up a small tree. There was nothing we could do at that moment, so we went home. Then Itsy came bounding in, to our relief.

11/12/98 – Pauline and I went to the school and had meetings with Sean and Susanna’s teachers – the verdict is that Susanna’s doing very well, and Sean’s doing very well except for his writing – left to right and right to left have always been more or less equivalent to him, and he seems to have a form of dyslexia.

14/12/98 – Pauline took the kids to Virginia, where they chose a Christmas tree from the field where it was growing. Sinead helped us to put it up and decorate it.

16/12/98 – The kids wrote a lot of Christmas cards for their friends – Sean took particular care over one he made for a girl called Elaine, whom he likes because ‘she cares about everybody’.

17/12/98 – We got the kids out to school – Sean agonized over whether the writing on the card for Elaine was too messy, whether he should give her a bought card, and so on.

20/12/98 – The kids and I broke the ice on the swamp; Itsy and Tiger walked on it. The kids made little tarts out of pastry and watched The Sound of Music with Pauline.

21/12/98 – Pauline and the kids made a crib. Sean had a nice letter from Simon [Dublin friend].

22/12/98 – We both went to the play in the school, and gave Maureen a lift there … We gave Maureen and Sinead a lift back, and they showed us the large dead turkey hanging in the shed, somewhat to Susanna’s disgust. Sean got a book in the post and a nice letter from Matthew [Dublin friend]. Pauline and the kids baked biscuits … Pauline soldered an angel for Susanna’s teacher; Sean had given one to his teacher today.

23/12/98 – We got the kids out to school – no need to give them lunch today, as they were having a party. They brought in home-made biscuits, which were hardly necessary as the parents’ association had bought loads of stuff … [later] The party had consisted of them stuffing sweets into themselves for an hour. Sean had won a bottle of red lemonade in a raffle drawn by Pauline, to his delight.

24/12/98 – The kids were in bed and asleep quite early; Pauline and I ate smoked salmon, brown bread and salad and watched some TV, then wrapped those of the kids’ presents that we hadn’t wrapped before, and did Santa and Rudolph’s work for them.

25/12/98 – The kids didn’t wake us till 8.30 or so, then there was a lot of present-opening. Sean and Susanna were both thrilled with what they got. From Santa, Sean got a ‘Capsela’ set of components for making motorized vehicles, robots, etc. He also got an Action Man watch, an encyclopedia of science, and Esio Trot, which he’d already got from Matthew – we hope to change it. From other people he got a Yamaha keyboard (us), two pairs of pyjamas, a reading light, an art set and so on. From Santa, Susanna got a Barbie doll and various clothes for her, a jewellery-making set and a book – Sophie Hits Six. She also got a junior computer (us), a reading light, a pair of slippers and a pair of pyjamas, a set of blowpens and so on … [Later] Before our dinner we’d gone for a walk on the road, singing ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’, which we all know. And it was a wonderful Christmas Day … James and his sister Kate called, and we had a chat … the kids were at their most charming, and kept Kate in particular entertained.

26/12/98 – I have more or less taught Sean how to play ‘Silent Night’ on the keyboard – he’s very keen … In the afternoon the wind rose to what must be gale force, and has been going on like that for hours – I’ve never known such a strong wind, I think. The trampoline was lifted up, carried over a fence about five feet high, and blown into the next field. And the trampoline is quite heavy.

27/12/98 – After breakfast we all went to Virginia … then had a good walk in Deerpark. Many large trees had been uprooted by the wind … [Later] Pauline and I retrieved the trampoline from the field.

28/12/98 – The swamp is frozen, and there is a thin layer of snow in the fields. We took the kids up the fields, and all of us had goes on the sleigh, which was good fun though the snow wasn’t really deep enough.

1/1/99 – It was an uncannily bright moonlit night – we took the kids out to see. The moon was casting well-defined shadows, and there was a tinge of green on the fields.

7/1/99 – The kids were back at school – Sean wasn’t looking forward to the prospect much. He’d rather be at St Attracta’s.

8/1/99 – Pauline arrived with Billy, to Sean’s delight – we hadn’t told him. Sean and Billy walked up the fields; I went up after them.

10/1/99 – The other day Billy asked Sean if he still loved Elaine, in earshot of Pauline. Sean hushed Billy up, and Pauline pretended not to hear … [Later] We all, including Tiger, walked on and through the ice on the swamp, which was ¾ of an inch thick.

12/1/99 – Sean has got a book of prayers to prepare him for his first holy communion, and he’s taking it very seriously – he claimed to have read 38 pages of it in bed.

16/1/99 – I went through Sean’s religion book with him earlier, and explained about holy communion and so on.

25/1/99 – There was an interesting programme on ‘the Roswell incident’, which the kids watched too – Sean enjoyed it thoroughly.

29/1/99 – Sean was glad the weekend had arrived – changed days from St Attracta’s.

30/1/99 – Sean wanted to make a dumbbell from my old light stand, so he and I cut out some circles of plywood to put on it. We had a good time doing this.

31/1/99 – Did some work with Sean in the garage.

1/2/99 – Sean had his keyboard lesson.

5/2/99 – Sean had got 17/17 in his spelling test, and written very neatly.

9/2/99 – Pauline and I had a go on the exercise bike – Sean cycled four miles on it later, which made him quite proud.

10/2/99 – Sean and AJ played on our site and were, Sean told me, chased by foxes.

11/2/99 – I read some of Keats’s poems later – read one to Sean, which inspired him to write a poem of his own, which he asked me to ‘edit’. I did it and an older poem he’d written on the computer.

14/2/99 – Susanna and I had a walk up the fields; I ‘edited’ some chapters of a story Sean is writing; Sean did some keyboard practice.

15/2/99 – Sean is still writing chapters of his story, very enthusiastically, and was awake late. He doesn’t seem to need as much sleep as he used to.

16/2/99 – The kids made birthday cards for Pauline and Sean wrote a poem for her.

17/2/99 – Pauline and the kids were at the site again, and watched concrete being poured into the foundations. They put some money in for good luck.

18/2/99 – Sean and I had a few games of pool. He beat me in one, to his great delight. He got 17/18 in his spelling test, having got full marks for the past two weeks, so he’s doing well … [Later] Maureen was over again later, then came back to the house with a frog she’d found on the road, to show it to the kids. It was a fine specimen, large and perhaps ready to spawn, orangeish underneath. She had feared it would be run over.

22/2/99 – I saw two large birds in the sky that I think must have been ravens.

25/2/99 – Sean had a sore throat in the morning, and stayed off school. He was well able to get out of bed and play, though.

26/2/99 – Sean again was apparently too sick to go to school, although he soon perked up. Susanna’s teacher was missing, so Pauline brought her home and she was here for the day also … [Later] Pauline and I drank a bottle of wine and watched TV – there was a very moving item on the Late Late Show in which Christy O’Connor junior and Charlie McGettigan talked about the death of their sons.

28/2/99 – Susanna fell in the mud at Maire’s and had to be rescued by Donal; she came home showered and wearing Andy’s pyjamas.



Filed under Christmas, Death, Ireland, Memories

11 responses to “Some diary entries … December 1998 to February 1999

  1. pauline

    I have just realized what Sean was doing – there is some smoke rising, they used to use a magnifying glass to try and start fires.

    • Very well spotted … I hadn’t noticed that.

      • Hello Pauline. I hope you are well. I like the concentration of Sean’s bent head. It looks as though Susanna is keeping a lookout for interfering adults. No risk of a raging field of fire with that glorious sea of chlorophyl though! It’s a beautiful photograph of children having an adventure.

        I liked the reference to Sean agonizing over his writing and choice of card for his special friend. A sign of caring deeply about his relationship to other people.

        Very strange about the eerie noise from the field. Fields become different places at night.

        As ever, the whole piece is a joy to read. Thank you.

        • Hello Cymbeline (Pauline says hello too, and sends you her best wishes). Thanks for the kind words.

          Yes … Ireland is usually much too damp for fires to spread far. I thought afterwards that the strange noises might have been made by a nightjar. According to a book I have, its song is audible at 1 km and sounds like an engine breaking down.

        • I have never knowingly heard a nightjar. Next time I hear the sound of a grinding engine, I shall blame a nightjar. I suppose that the ‘jar’ bit of the word is to do with the jarring sound the bird makes.

          I was interested to see that nightjars are also known as goatsuckers, in the mistaken and strange belief that they suck milk from goats. Caprimulgus.

          Birds appear frequently in your writing.

        • Yes, I like birds and tend to pay attention to them. While I was talking to someone outside the house today, a sparrowhawk flew down and landed on a gate pier near by … I’d never seen one so close before. Beautiful birds.

          I’m not aware of having ever seen a Caprimulgus (strange legend indeed), although according to the map in my bird book they dwell in every part of Ireland except Connacht. Perhaps they are afraid to cross the Shannon.

          On checking the Birdwatch Ireland site I find that they are actually rare here.

          So I am none the wiser as to the provenance of the noise. I remember that it was very strange. I did hear a hedgehog scream once.

  2. papaguinea

    Good evening one and all! isn’t it strange how a photo can seemingly look so innocent and yet after Pauline’s observations has undertones of children’s mischief. Al the same, I think the photo is charming! Back to your diary entries; I love the trampoline hurtling over the fence to the next field, on Boxing day of all days .

    My mother told me once that her brother, as a young boy, had set fire to a haystack. I remember particularly because she told me that her mother had made the boy apologise to the farmer. Echoes of that years later when my own mother made one of my friends apologise to a neighbour for calling her “an old walrus”. It was a pretty good description mind you!

    As you know, Brendano and Pauline, I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to be enjoying the antics of my own son, now coming up to 4 and a half. At every chance I get, in all those simple intimate moments I say to him “David, I love you”. Sometimes he says it back to me. This is usually when we have a cuddle in bed. But last night he said more. He added , “I’m your best friend.”

    I may have said that to him myself for him to say that, but nonetheless, I am sure he meant it and knowing he said it fills me with great joy.

    It also gives me great pleasure to read about Sean and the pleasure he gave to so many. I think of Brendano and son as being the best of mates. From beginning to end. And from this world to the next.

  3. Thanks very much, PG … lovely comments and good stories. You understand where I’m coming from. It’s great that you have such a close bond with your son. Ireland’s new president said during his inauguration yesterday that the best things in life can’t be measured, and he was right.

    I do feel that it isn’t over … our relationship with Sean. And I’ll keep on expressing that feeling in one way or another.

    The Heineken Cup is starting again this weekend … he would have been excited about that. My nieces will be paying a visit next weekend, and I’ll try to make some progress with your version of ‘All We Had’ with them.

    • papaguinea

      Thanks Brendano – I’m off to a big Ghanaian celebration. House full of people getting ready! Yes I see the rugby is to kick off again and it was good to see Ireland win 4 -0 last night, being lucky to watch it on Sky.

  4. I read the Irish President’s speech. He is right to tell people to beware of destructive materialism. “Our successes after all in the eyes of so many in the world have been in the cultural and spiritual areas – in our humanitarian, peace-building and human rights work – in our literature, art, drama and song – and in how that drama and song have helped us cope with adversity, soothed the very pain which they describe so well, and opened the space for new possibilities.” As just one pair of non-Irish eyes, I certainly see Ireland as having contributed greatly to literature, drama and song. I like the way he speaks of how this has helped to cope with adversity, opening the space for new possibilities. This struck a chord as it is very much the spirit of this particular Irish blog. The Irish President says that he wishes to emphasize the value of creativity. You should send him your 17 Songs, Brendano. I am sure that he would appreciate them, both as a president and a poet.

    “Our arts celebrate the people talking, singing, dancing and ultimately communing with each other. This is what James Connolly meant when he said that: “Ireland without her people means nothing to me”. Connolly took pride in the past but, of course, felt that those who excessively worshipped that past were sometimes seeking to escape from the struggle and challenge of the present. He believed that Ireland was a work in progress, a country still to be fully imagined and invented – and that the future was exhilarating precisely in the sense that it was not fully knowable, measurable.”
    I thought that this was interesting when compared to the poem we spoke about, the poem in which Michael Higgins speaks of his time coming.

    The speech ends with the President saying that “we Irish are a creative, resourceful, talented and warm people, with a firm sense of common decency and justice.” Anything else? I’m sure that such national self-praise is allowable 😉

    • Hello Cymbeline. National self-praise? Quite a modest litany, I would have thought. 😉

      I have just got home after spending virtually the entire day in the local pub, watching three rugby matches … luckily, I abstained from alcohol until the last one; otherwise I doubt I could hit the right keys now. A draw for Leinster in Montpellier, a win for Ulster against Clermont Auvergne, and an epic match between Munster and Northampton, which Munster won with the last kick of the game. So, I’m feeling quite elated.

      Michael D. constantly and dependably hits the right notes in terms of reminding people what really matters and trying to steer them away from materialism, followed by despondency when the materialism comes unstuck. We do have big advantages that we should try to exploit … we will never compete with Germany or the UK on their terms, but we can compete very well on our own terms by playing to our strengths.

      Thank you, again, for the kind words about this blog. Don’t forget that you make a major contribution to it. Perhaps when I am a bit further along the road and have developed my creative efforts a bit more, I will draw Michael D.’s attention to them. I know for sure that he would appreciate them … as well his public face, I’ve heard good reports about him from people who’ve known him. So, I’m very glad he was elected.

      A good couple of days, all in all.

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