Stupid milk

Morning hair













Either I’m a genius or I’ll live to regret this.

But there has been a marked dwindling in my three-year-old’s enduring passion for the word ‘stupid’ since this exchange today.

-Can I have juice, Mammy?
-No, Beineán.
-But I want juice!
-Water or milk.
-I. Want. JUICE.
-Water or milk.
-Water is stupid! Milk is stupid!
-So … stupid water, or stupid milk?
-Stupid millk, please.
-Here’s your stupid milk.
-Thank you very much. I LOVE *stupid* milk.

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Breastfeeding in Ireland: the Difference Between “Promotion” and “Protection”

It was the kind of morning where I was feeling sluggish from less a than-adequate –night’s-sleep and a busy week so far. I was on my third cup of tea.

And then I saw this article in the Irish Independent: a children’s charity has come under fire for accepting sponsorship from a milk formula company for its annual ‘Big Toddle’ fundraiser.

Suddenly I was wide awake.

Nothing like a surge of the “ire” that storms through a “breastmilk lobbyist” to shake out the cobwebs.

Except I am not actually a “breastmilk lobbyist” – nor do I believe I know any. Certainly not in the way people interested in the whole politics of breastfeeding – yes, breastfeeding  has politics, like everything else – are usually represented. Like how the concerns of “breastmilk lobbyists” were responded to by the Irish charity in the Irish Independent article: that their decision to work with the sponsorship of Danone’s Cow & Gate brand was “not an attempt to influence any parent’s decision making about their infant”.

I am not affiliated with any organisation, but I count myself as one of the people who are dismayed at this issue. Not because I am interested in any other parent’s decision making about their infants.


I am interested in my decision-making about my infants.

Big, blockbuster businesses like Danone know lots about formula.  The only people qualified to speak about breastmilk with any authority, are those who have breastfed. I know lots about breastmilk and breastfeeding.

It is what businesses like Danone to do to represent their product, through their marketing channels – by overtly idealising it in relation to breast-milk like MINE, in conflagration of all I have studied and experienced with breastfeeding – that gets my “ire” to storming.

There is a consistent confusion in Ireland, particularly obvious in the media, that protecting breastmilk or breastfeeding equates to promoting breastfeeding – i.e. attempting to “influence parent’s decision-making about their infant”. And while organisations like the HSE do have an agenda to work to raise breastfeeding rates in this country, for health reasons, the truth is that most so-called “breastmilk lobbyists” are not necessarily interested in promotion – they just want to see breastmilk and breastfeeding represented fairly in this country. So do I.

To date, breastfeeding and breastmilk is still not treated fairly in Ireland. The marketing practices of businesses like Danone have an enormously significant part to play in this – I wrote about this before on a post on this blog: Ireland: the Land that Forgot Breastfeeding. The UK-based not-for-profit organisation Babymilk Action also raised their concerns about this specific  sponsorship issue on their website here. There is also a Facebook page working to highlight this issue called “Ethical Sponsorship Ireland” which can be found here.

I don’t grudge an Irish charity its desperate efforts to raise cash, especially a children’s charity. I support the work of this charity when I can, but I will personally not be supporting events linked with businesses like Danone.

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Powercut Verbatim

In 1998, my family at home in Carrantanlass, County Galway, experienced our second Christmas in a row without electricity due to storms. We had Christmas dinner  by candlelight at my cousins next door. For about four days, we otherwise congregated in the kitchen, where my Dad had oil lamps lighting. The smoke from the lamps blackened everything so badly that the enormous Pyrenees Mountain dog had to be washed in the bath and my Mam had to repaint the kitchen ceiling when the power eventually came back.

On Stephen’s day, darkness ushered in once again and I sat at the kitchen table with an open copy book and a pen left in front of me. I decided to take them and write down the dialogue going around me, unbeknownst to everyone until they finally caught me out in the end. This was just another symptom of my compulsion to record. Today, while I am at home again in Carrantanlass, I wondered if I had any photographs from that powercut and was tickled to find a  photograph of my  Mam reading by oil lamp at the kitchen table, the very copy that I used to write the dialogue  just visible in the corner of the image. I still have the copybook, too. My handwriting is surprisingly neat, considering I was transcribing so fast; I can’t handwrite that well nowadays, now that all my writing is via phone or laptop.

I love reading back over it now – an entire, still-recognisable family dynamic reeks from the short conversations, including the cats and dogs who inhabited the house as equal as the humans. Thirty new books arrived in the household that Christmas, as gifts: most of us were avid book readers. I’d like to say we still are, but I know smartphone technology has changed how we read –speaking for myself, certainly; we’re more likely to be found with our noses in iPhones as books now. Marx Brothers references abound. My aunt brings the local news, the better of any professional roving reporter: still to this day, my parents need never leave the house to know what’s going on beyond.

These are the unwitting players.

Mother                Catherine
Father                  Aidan
Carmel                 Aunt
Adrienne             Me                         (19)        transcribing the following dialogue
Alan                      Brother                 (18)
Alicia                    Sister                     (16)
Aaron                   Brother                 (13)
Padraic                Cousin                  (12)
Tomás                  Cousin                  (11)
Extremely large dog
Éanna, cat (4)
Eire, kitten

Alicia and I sit on benches on either side of the kitchen table. Carmel sits at the head of the table. Aidan sits beside the oil range, which isn’t working due to the powercut. A gas heater is lighting on his other side. Mother is making supper at the gas cooker. Alan, Aaron, and Tomás are in the spare room down the hall. Padraic has just gone home to next door.

Father: A pain in her leg?
Carmel: Yeah – crippled with a pain in her leg.
Shure, you won’t be playing anywhere tonight Aidan?
Father: Why?
Carmel: Who’d be going out on a night like tonight?
Father: I wish it was like that.
Carmel: Endangering their lives tonight. Anyone in tonight should stay in. And that man in Maam Cross had some poor fella in the car with him … Henny’s funeral mass is tonight.
Father: Tonight?
Carmel: Yeah, the family want it tonight. Herself mustn’t be great. Sandwiches and all in the Cortoon Inn afterwards.
Father: God.
Carmel: And a bus overturned in Achill.
On the electricity. Well, it won’t be back for tonight anyway.
Father: Oh, ‘twill not.
Carmel: Them are grand candlestick holders
Father: Alan got me them for Christmas.
Enter Tomás.
Tomás: Picking up oil lamp. Can we take this?
Alicia: No, we’re using it.
Father: Go on.
Tomás: ‘kay.
Exit Tomás.
Carmel: Well wasn’t he very thoughtful.
An awful day.
Father: Shockin’.
Mother: ‘Twas promised.
Enter Aaron.
Aaron: Any more candles to spare?
Father: What are ye doing?
Aaron: Table tennis. A torch or something maybe?
Alicia: Can’t ye play it up here?
Father: Don’t go bringing my flashlight down there, I’m telling ye
Carmel: Looking towards the kitchen window. There’s traffic out as bad and all as it is.
Exit Aaron.
Carmel: Back to old times.
Alicia: Yeah.
Father: To Carmel. Have ye candles or what down there?
Carmel: Candles.
Mother: From conversation with Alicia at the frying pan: If we can keep Adrienne away from the mushrooms.
Adrienne: What?
Mother: If we can keep you away from the mushrooms.
Carmel: Better go before it starts raining again. Goes to hall door. Are ye coming? Not realising that Padraic left earlier. Shure, I’d say that’s the worst of it over now anyway. I’ll see ye. G’luck.
Exit Carmel through the back door. Long silence. Aidan messing with candlesticks. Mother frying rashers in the pan and wearing headphones. Adrienne scribbling this text. Alicia talking to kitten.
Alicia: Oooh, Eire’s first Christmas, in the dark!
Alicia: Adrienne, did you count my Sense and Sensibility book?
Adrienne: Yeah.
Alicia: Eire, do you want to go to the toilet?
Father: Let him off outside, he’ll be grand.
Huffy silence in offence to this suggestion. Exit Alicia.
Enter Alan.
Alan: Mam, would it be alright if I drove down to collect John tonight?
Mother: And how am I supposed to go to mass?
Father: Wait and see how the weather is before you go making plans.
Alan: Talk to Mam, Dad, she’ll start shouting at ya.
Mother: Over her earphones.  I heard ya!
Alan guffaws.
Enter Alicia.
Alicia: To cats. Hell-yo!
Alan: Adrienne, who is this? Stomps across kitchen in manner of Groucho Marx
Adrienne: Laughing. Groucho!
Exit Alan. He is heard laughing in the hall, probably at Aaron.
Mother: Have they gas down there or what have they?
Father: Jays, I dunno.
Father: That £30 was well spent.
Adrienne: What £30? Oh, the gas heater? Yeah.
Father: And it nearly gone on that other fella. Satisfied with himself. Good bidding.
Enter Alan.
Alan: What £30?
Alan lifts leg in imitation of Harpo Marx in Duck Soup. Mother and Alicia laugh. Someone burps loudly
Alicia: But, why does the other fella do it then too?
Adrienne: Alicia, it doesn’t matter. You just laugh at it.
Mother: Probably cos he got sick of looking at the other fella doing it.
Father: To the cat. Eiry-fairy.
Mother: Adrienne, what are you writing there?
Adrienne: Nothing.
Mother: Nothing? You have a page written there.
Exit Alan. Thumps against the door. Aaron whimpering. Nobody in kitchen reacts. Mother transfers earphones to Alicia.
Mother: To Father. Do you want rice? Will a fry suit you?
Enter Aaron.
Mother: Rounding on Aaron. What’s wrong with you?
Aaron: I dunno. My knee was sore yesterday
Mother: Weary. I dunno.
To Father. Talking to you and you not listening … shure how am I supposed to know if a fry’ll be making you belch again …
Father: I shouldn’t have had them second helpings yesterday.
Mother: Impatient. You don’t have to eat it. Goes to back door. Come on Éanna, out.Opens back door, thrusts cat out. Gust of wind blows in. Cat re-enters hurriedly. Bitcheen. Picks up cat. Notices kitten. Éire! Hell-yo, little fella! Howaya! Goes to window, opens it. Shoves cat out. Go on! Ya can come in again.
Alicia: Reading answers to puzzle game Aaron got for Christmas. “…and in the second pyramid ….”
Aaron: Alarmed. Alicia! Don’t tell me!
Alicia: “… in the second pyramid …”
Father: Alicia! Did I tell you not to be telling him! And don’t pretend you can’t hear me with them earphones on.
Alicia: What?
Father: Shut up!
Mother: To Aaron. Where’s there a lighter?
Aaron: Dunno.
Mother: Insistent. Has Alan got one?
Aaron: Dunno.
Mother: Perplexed. Well, will you go and ask him?
Aaron: Insistent. There should be one here.
Mother: Exasperated. God, will ya ever go down to him!
Exit Aaron.
Mother: Muttering. Just what I wanted to hear, trees coming down all over the place
Father laughs.
Enter Aaron.
Aaron: He doesn’t have any.
Mother: There was two there a while ago.
Father: Pensive. What did she say was wrong with Peg?
Mother: Pain in her leg.
Exit Father.
Alicia: Listening to headphones. “70,000 homes without electricity.”
Mother: Fractious. It’s the weather I want!
Alicia: Right. Enter Father.
Father: To Mother. Get one yet?
Mother: No. There was two there a while ago –
Father: Proudly. Here. Hands Mother a lighter.
Mother: Menacing. Hah!
Father: Wounded. I went down to the spare room especially for it!
Mother: Oh! Apologetic. Thanks
Extremely large dog snores.
Mother: Apoplectic. Will someone shut that pig up!
Alicia: Taking off earphones. Frost, Mam.
Enter Alan. Pulls out bench that Adrienne is sitting on to sit down. Almost tipples Adrienne off the other end. Leans over Adrienne’s shoulder to see what she is writing. Adrienne shrugs him off.
Alan: I’m not “breathing down your neck” as Mam always says!
Alicia leans over Adrienne’s other shoulder.
Alicia: Mumble mumble mumble. Thats what we do at school, it’s awful annoying. No Alan, denna denna denna denna, denna denna denna denna, Batman
Alan joins in.
Mother: Shut up, will ye!
Alicia: No, this is annoying – AdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienneAdrienne
Mother: SHUT UP!
Alan: “I’ll dance with you till the cows come home. Actually, I’d rather dance with the cows than you come home.”
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The Problem of Odd Socks

Well, the internet appears to be broken.

Or else I am not as proficient at using it as I thought I was.

Has my technology addiction failed me after all? Can it really be true that it is not possible to source multi-packs of childrens socks with all of the socks bearing the same colours and/or patterns??

The sock situation in our household is perplexing. We’re down to about four matching pairs for each of my two children. It’s interesting to speculate about where they disappear to (mysterious compartment in the washing machine/domestic sock monster/domestic sock monster resident in washing machine) but instead of attempting to prevent the problem, I thought I’d at least try to mitigate against its impact by stocking up on many socks of the exact same design.

But they don’t come like that in the shops, OR, apparently, on the internet. They aren’t really sold just one pair in a pack, and all the multi-packs come with socks of radically different patterns, replete with deliberate obsoletion because, I am sure, sock manufacturers cynically know ALL about the domestic sock monster.

I am astounded that there appears to be no entrepreneurial, consumer-focussed sock producer out there that appreciates the problem of odd socks and who could enterprisingly undertake to sell multipacks of many pairs of the SAME colour and pattern.

Because I will buy them.

Meanwhile, what am I supposed to do with all these odd socks*??


*there are just TWO matching pairs in this photo

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The Pumpkin in the Lego


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The Raddle and the Ram

In which I am unwittingly re-indoctrinated into FARMING.  

I come from an actual farm in Galway but I had a love-hate relationship with it as a child (loved pet lambs, hated the mortification of holding up traffic to move livestock between fields). Over the Summer Colm and his brother increased their small flock of sheep that they started when we lived here for my maternity leave last year.

I thought it  was just a fad then.

But it’s not.

Last Thursday I was asked to help.

Blue raddle paint

Colm                     Get the raddle paint, put it on there.

Adrienne             What, I’m doing this?!

Colm                     Yes, I have to hold the ram still.

Adrienne             Maybe I can hold the ram still?

Colm                     No, you can’t. Get the raddle there.

Adrienne             How do I put it on?! Should I get a paintbrush?

Colm                     Use the gloves there.

Adrienne                Where do I put it?

Colm            Around there- wait! Where are you going with it?!

Adrienne             Under his belly back here?

Colm                     No, no, no! It doesn’t go near his lad!

Adrienne             I didn’t think it had to go near his lad!

Colm                    Well, it goes to his front.

Adrienne             I’m spilling it now.

Colm                     Hurry up, we can’t hold him here for long.

Adrienne             I’m trying. I can’t see what I’m doing.

Colm                     Don’t put it on so high on his front.

Adrienne             Well, where then?!

Colm                     Lower down! On his chest.

Adrienne             Here?! Or where?

Colm                     You tell me. Have you his front well covered?

Adrienne             I don’t know! I can’t see and he keeps wriggling.

Colm                     Where is the child meanwhile –

Adrienne             He’s just there. To child. Get down from there!

I’m getting this stuff on my dress.

Colm                     What are you wearing?! You’re sheep farming!

Adrienne             Says who! I never wanted to be a sheep farmer!

Colm                     Why are you rubbing it on his face?!

Adrienne             I’m not rubbing it on his face, I’m trying to rub it OFF his face!

Colm                     How are you getting it everywhere?!

Adrienne             I don’t know!  I want to make sure I get enough on.

Colm                     I think you’ve probably managed that all right.

Adrienne             No smart comments!

Colm                     Is he done do you think? Will we let him out to the yard?

Adrienne             I have no idea!  I’m not a sheep farmer!

Colm                     Let him out there till we see.

Oh Christ. What have you done to the ram.

Adrienne             Oh dear.

Sorry ram.

The raddled ram

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Dublin Doors


Victorian doors in Phibsborough, Dublin 7. I took this especially for my Instagram feed yesterday.

And just look at those beautiful tiles.

My daughter loves looking at the terraced red bricks in this area. She knows this was our neighbourhood for the first four months of her life. We lived nearby on Goldsmith Street, behind a door like these painted red.

These two doors date from after the time that postal deliveries were first made to private homes (1845 onwards), so they come replete with their own letterboxes (it must have seemed like a violation for some to have to insert letterboxes into earlier, grand old Georgian doors that didn’t already have them). These doors have timber-hinged weather boards at the bottom, along with brass door knockers and large central brass door knobs, in keeping with the new Victorian mode for prominent door furniture. (I love that a door can have its own furniture).

The fanlights above the door are fashionably plain, due to improvements in glass-work technology – earlier, more decorative fanlights of the Georgian era made use of multiple, small pieces of glass. The timber surrounds are of panelled pilasters with foliate scroll console brackets supporting the simple panelled frieze and cornice.

For more on Dublin doors see
Dublin Doors: their Stylistic Development and Conservation Requirements

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