Friday, December 19, 2014

A Story involving Children, A Lost Dog, Starlings and Santa’s Sleigh…..a best seller!

I work as a part time childminder for two different families. On Mondays and Tuesdays I have my gorgeous girlies - aged 6, 5 and 3; Wednesday and Friday afternoons I have my best buddies-aged 12, 10 and 6. They are all great kids and all attend Gaelscoil Bhriain Boroimhe in Applewood, Swords. My best buddies are members of a relocated South African family - all of my buds were born in Ireland, and they speak both English and Irish (and fair play to their mother for mastering Irish to be able to help them with homework – she has better Irish than 99% of our population) with a delightful Afrikaans’s accent. They family blonde, sallow-skinned and beautiful.
 On Thursday night last I was sitting at home idly scrolling through Facebook when I spotted a picture of a dog that looked remarkably like Charlie, new pet (with the smelliest farts in Ireland), of my best buddies. This dog had been found near Airside in Swords, Dublin, and looked very plaintive in the photo.. He had been taken in by a family and they'd posted his image on a local ‘Things For Sale, Swap or Free’ page in the hope someone in the area would recognise him. I mentioned it to the Jemser and he said
‘Sure ring your best buddies’ mother and let them know.’
 But it was late and I didn’t want to disturb them so I left it. The whole thing went completely out of my head on Friday morning – until I got a text from me buddies’ Mam asking me something, and mentioning that she’d left the side gate open as Charlie had done a runner. The family only got Charlie five weeks ago - from another nice home; but he is unused to the area and apt to bolt to explore if one leaves the  front door open for even  a second. The kids aren’t used to this yet and so forget to be careful. Plus they’re kids. He had gotten out on the odd occasion before Thursday but they’d always managed to catch him. But he went AWOL Thursday evening - the children were heart broken and very worried. Losing a pet is hard enough on adults, but there is a very special bond between children and their pets, I suppose because children’s lives are - for the most part, carefree; so any little anxiety hits them harder. The children absolutely adore Charlie and have showered him with affection since he came into their lives, they play with him constantly when at home, and he is mad about them all. The parents are incredibly loving busy people but hadn’t taken Charlie to the vet yet for chipping, nor had they gotten around to buying a dog tag. That’s first thing on their list this morning!
                ‘OMG!’ texted me to her,‘saw him on FB!At least I think it was him. I’ll get kids to confirm and if it’s him we’ll collect him.’
 She couldn’t access FB in work to check if it was Charlie so I popped onto the FB page and posted that I thought I knew the owners and would be in touch later. I was right excited going up to me best buddies’ house. I had a little Christmas present for each of them and planned to take them out to eat as a special Christmas treat. I love treating kids, love their faces when something different happens to them. Oh! to be a child again –  to still have that sense of wonderment and joie de vivre. Mind you, I do try me best to be tuned into it. I had the laptop open onto that lovely picture of Charlie on FB, ready and waiting hard for the scholars coming in.
The ten year old was first through the door.
‘Hi Ev-eh-lin, Charlie ran away yesterday – is he back?’ Love that child’s accent.
‘No….But’, I  raised my right hand, palm out towards him, palm outwards,‘look at this. Is that Charlie?’
‘Yes. That’s my dog.’
‘Well then, he’s found. He’s safe in a nice family’s house.’
His face went through every emotion in ten seconds flat and ended in sheer unadulterated joy as he fist pumped, jumped up and down , shouting
’ My dog. She found my dog. The other two landed in through door.
’What? What?What?’ That lovely blossoming twelve year old, her face a little anxious.
‘Charlie, Ev-eh-lin found Charlie. Look.’
Her face lit up like the twinkliest Christmas tree ever.
‘What? What?’’ She was confused momentarily.
‘Look. Look at his picture.' I put my arm around her, drew her to the laptop. 'It’s him, he was found – I didn’t find him, I just spotted it on Facebook. I have contacted the lady who found him and I’m waiting on a text or phone call to tell us where Charlie is.’
More jumping and fist-pumping and -
 ‘Ev-eh-Lin you are the best childminder ever’.
This despite my protestations that I hadn’t actually done anything – just luckily spotted their dog and joined the dots. The six year old decided I was magic. In my Story Queen persona I am magic – and he likes that idea.
‘And I’m taken yiz to Burger King as a special Christmas treat. And you’re even allowed dessert after dinner.’
 The joyous whoops continued. Then I gave them their pressies – books of course, John Green and Chris O’Dowd for the twelve year old, David Walliams for the ten year old ,and Emer Martin and co-writers for the six year old - along with a magic set - the younger they are the less they regard books or clothes as ‘proper’ presents. One of my gorgeous girlies went into meltdown earlier in the week because I had gifted her a fabulous dressing up dress which looked stunning on her. Deep blue crushed nylon velveteen with a white fur trim and a long fur trimmed cloak, tiara and wand included!
‘Y’didn’t even get us a toy’ she huffed initially, throwing guna on floor.  Her mother was mortified. The child’s a child. It happens.
 Back to me best buddies. As they opened their pressies and thanked me I kept an eye on FB – lots of comments and messages flying to and fro about our Charlie. The kids were highly entertained as I read them out. After the excitement had calmed down somewhat and they each had a little play on the X Box we set out for BurgerKing. I have a Christmas CD in the car and we sang-along as we drove. I felt all fuzzy and warm inside – like a little girl on Christmas morning when she knows, just knows, everything is going to be perfect. No one will fight, no one will shout in anger, everybody in her family will be happy all day long. No-one will get drunk and ruin everything. There will be love.
We got to the fast food joint and the kids picked what they wanted. They messed with paper crowns and a little Christmas decoration as we waited for the food. They talked. I listened. We laughed at silly things. It was fun. As we ate our grub I noticed through the window a huge murmuration of starlings roiling through the sky as the hard bright winter’s evening drew to a close. I pointed them out to the children and we chatted about it. Then ‘what to my wondering eye should appear’ - behind the starlings and very, very high up, but something that looked so like Santa’s sleigh it was incredible. Of course, it was a plane - and its angle and whatever way the setting sun caught it  gave it that mysterious pinkish silhouette. We were all gob-smacked. A magical ten seconds.
‘It can’t be him. It’s too soon. I only sent my letter today.’ Six year old buddy looked a bit worried.
‘You’re right. It’s a plane – but doesn’t it look lovely with all the starlings flying about.
‘Yes. But Ev-eh-lin. It’s not Santa.’
‘No. You’re right.’
We went home then and he showed me some of his magic tricks. Watch yer back Derren Brown. The lady who  was caring for Charlie phoned just before I left me buddies' house and they’ll all be reunited this morning. I’ll batter their Da if he doesn’t send me a picture of them with their beloved animal. I won’t batter their Ma, because it’s always the Das’s forgettorys that causes these things,

I had a brilliant day. Happy Christmas yiz all.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Evelyns..........

I was supposed to have a perfect day. I had it all planned. I had stepgranddaughter#1&only this morning so decided to take her with me to the National Crafts & Design Fair in Dublin's RDS where I wanted to vist the stall of the wonderful . Siobhan is a fabulously talented artist and was selling her hand-painted silk scarves at the Fair.

I meticulosly planned my route and my timing. However the RDS was jammers, there were UCD exams on there and Funderland had started as well, so traffic was slow and parking hard to find.  I readjusted my schedule and knew I'd have a max of forty minutes at the fair. A lovely lady gave me a spare free pass she had, and myself and Cara took the lift to the balcony and found Siobhan. I couldn't believe how many beautiful stalls there were and the quality of the work on display was second to none. Prices were very reasonable and I only wish I'd had more time and money to spend.

Anyway I bought myself a Christmas present of one of Siohan's scarfs and of course got her to drape it properly around my neck - never got the hang of dressing myself properly. Another lovely artist friend Anne Wingfield was there too and it was great to see them both. Cara had been brilliant in the car and buggy but was getting restless at that stage, so I parked the buggy and took her out and gave her my fingers to balance herself as she paraded up and down the balcony, drawing smiles from everyone. We stopped to chat to a few people and she roared her 'Scary Cara' at them all, much to their feigned fright and her amusement. Cara charms all round her and is the light in our lives. I reinstalled her in the buggy and we took our leave of Siobhan and Anne.

On the way into the fair I had spotted a lovely 'Make your own...' kit and stopped to treat myself again. This is their website and their stuff is really lovely, great gift for anyone who loves crafty things Cara and I chatted to the lovely ladies on the stall as they wrapped my purchase. One of them had an eleven month old daughter so we compared notes! Fair play to her for starting up her own business with a young family. Next year I am doing no Christmas shopping until i visit the fair. And I'm going to spend a whole day there.

Out to find the car again and I knew I was cutting it fine to get back to Swords for a school pick-up at 1.30pm. I rang my charges's mother to explain and to see if she could do the pick-up. As it happens she was going to his school play so was going to collect him and take him for a McDonalds as a reward so I wasn't needed until about 2.15. Great, I could relax - although Cara must be hungry as it was past her lunch time. Anyway...whatever move I made...I took a wrong turn and got totally, hopelessly lost. I kept trying to find signs for the airport or the M50 and went round and round in circles.

I ended up over at St James Hospital and pulled in on a street behind it to ring the Jemser. I hate ringing the Jemser if I'm lost, he invariably asks 'how did you end up there?' It is such a stupid effin' question. If I knew how I did it I wouldn't have done it!Although my track record for getting lost is second to none. I once went to Kerry via Gort (??!!) and on another occasion ended up in Claregalway on the way home from Knock to Dublin. Hopeless case.
'Howrya. Listen, took a wrong turn and am lost, need to get to Swords by two.'
'Where are ye?'
'I'm at the back of St James Hospital'
'How the hell did you end up there? Where at the back. St James is huge?'
Stepdaughter #2 overhears his end of conversation and almost had heart failure thinking her baby is in hospital.
'I can't see a street sign.'
'Move on and when you find a street sign ring again. Are you heading North or South?'
'Jesus Jim, how long are you living with me? How the hell do I know?'
'Where's the sun?'
I looked out
'Behind a shaggin' cloud. I'll move and ring again.'
'What about (names charge).'
'Salright, I've been in touch with his Mam.'

Pulled out again and found a street whose name I knew,  then started following a bus whose number I knew would lead me in right direction - I thought. Didn't think it was going North to South instead of vice versa. To make a very long story shorter I ended up in Terenure before I managed to find the M50. I fianlly got back to Swords two hours and forty minutes after I'd left the RDS. The journey, even with traffic, should take no more than 45 minutes.

I had been in contact with my charge's mother and she had taken him into the office with her. However I had to drive up to my house firsr, deliver Cara to her Mam, switch to my car because my family needed Jemser's car as it has the baby seat in it and Jemser had to bring Mam and Cara home. 'Cept my car wasn't there. The Jemser had gone off shopping in it. I dumped me baba with her mama and raced back down the town to collect me charge in his car.

Up to his house then and couldn't fine housekey. I swear I was ready to cry. So I stopped, took ten deep breaths and looked for key again - I found it. Rest of afternoon went smoothly and I was glad when the

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Story Queen's Aul' Owls..............

My favourite children's picture book has long been Martin Waddell's 'Owl Babies'. In fact it is probably my all time, any genre, book. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It has a little message without being didactic. It is a story about mothers and children and the love between them. It is a beautiful book.

   I dressed up as my alter-ego, Her Majesty The Story Queen, last week and paid a visit to the children in Appleseeds playschool in Swords. Her Majesty met thirty wonderful children, all in or around three years of age. They all have a guileless charm, great innocence and a love of life. They are not afraid to say exactly what's on their mind. We had a great chat and Her Majesty told them all about StoryLand and her Magic Bicycle and her best friend Santa Claus (Storyland is 2nd left after The North Pole) and about The King who is really terribly lazy and doesn't DO books and about her eight children Molly, Polly, Ruth and Rose, Billy, Bobby, John and Joe. Then we read Owl Babies and the children shouted out the recurring line in it, that is - owl baby Bill saying 'I want my Mammy'. One of the wee girls I help look after attends the playschool and although she knows I am The Story Queen she still buys into the fantasy. We pretend that Evelyn the Minder is the Story Queen's cousin and they look alike. The Story Queen left the playschool to a resounding cheer and lots of happy waving.

   This morning I went to the local shopping centre with my little charge and we were wandering around Penneys when I spotted a little owl hat. I put it on her and it was so cute I had to have it. Then I had a brain wave and bought two more hats.
    'Why you do that Ellen' (she can't pronounce my name).
    'Well, I was thinking. Why don't we wrap up these hats  and put in a little note for your two friends'    (they play in the yard together while we wait for their older siblings to come out of school.)
   'We can say the parcel came down the chimney from The Story Queen.'
    Her face lit up, then fell.
    'But they be all dirty.'
    'No no, sure the Story Queen is magic - she just sprinkles some magic dust on them so they won't    get dirty.'

    We bought the hats and some nice red paper and when we got home wrapped them up. She was     beside herself with excitenment as we walked up to the school. As soon as she spotted the pals she was off.
. 'Leila! Leila! Alannah! Look! Look what The Story Queen send you - down my chimbly!' Much excited tearing of the paper. Then they put their owl hats on and beamed at each other, just like the real Owl Babies.
  'Now', said Evelyn the Minder. 'The Story Queen told me to ask you - what does Bill say?' And at the top of their lungs they shouted,
  'I WANT MY MAMMY,' before skipping happily away.

Such joy. Such delight - for  a cheap little hat from Penneys. It's the child's imagination that's priceless.

PS Her Majesty is appearing in The Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar on Saturday Dec 6 at 10.30am for a forty five minute session - free admission.