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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Desecration of British Landmarks

We were often stopped in the streets of Paris and London by unassuming tourists who mistook us for locals. I like to think it was because of the chic French manner in which I wore my shapeless tracksuit pants, but it was probably more to do with the fact that no one usually takes five young children abroad.

 One rainy day, a wealthy looking American couple who happened to be standing in the Eiffel Tower lift with us, kindly pulled out three bright green parkas and asked us if we wanted them. They had belonged to their sons who had since grown up and for some baffling reason they’d brought the jackets to France. My guess is that they were looking for French street urchins to donate them to and my kids were the closest thing they had seen. Their fluorescent colour came in handy for keeping sight of Hagar, who managed to nick off into the bowels of the Paris Metro and had me bawling and sobbing thinking he’d never be seen alive again.

Blarney Castle was a hoot. Taking the eldest two up the precariously treacherous stairwell to the top of the tower was terrifying. 
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Allowing some old fart to hold their little bodies bent over backwards in order to kiss an ancient stone with God knows how much bacteria thriving on it was not one of my shrewdest decisions.  

I had visions of them hurtling over the parapet to a grisly death. Aside from irritating the other tourists with my fishwife-like hysterics, we made it down safely and have the certificates to prove it.

Leaving the historic site proved to be yet another complex procedure. 

On the way out of the estate there is an ancient iron turnstile contraption and by ingeniously stepping into the turnstile then slithering under and around the internal bars, Padraic managed to imprison himself. 

He was unable to get out and no one else could get in. 

Our predicament was that nobody had seen precisely how he had done it and after much coaxing to “push your arm through that bit” and “poke your bum through first and step over” we realized, as did the incredulous gatekeeper, that he was stuck. 

Even though it was getting late there were still tourists lining up outside the gate waiting to get in. I had visions of having to call an Irish welder to liberate my son, destroying a 600 year old gate in the process.

A large tourist coach pulled up outside and about thirty young American student types disembarked expressing loud dismay at the hold up. 

Padraic’s emancipator turned out to be a young man who had the nous to get Padraic to climb up the gate while he climbed up the other side lifting him above the pointy bits and down to the ground safely.

 Applause erupted from the crowd and Blarney Castle was back in business.

Whilst not an actual diagnosed ADHD sufferer, Hagar displayed many of the symptoms in his younger years. Being cooped up in a van driving all over Britain did not sit well with him and there were more than a few explosive tantrums. One time we became so fed up with him that we left him throwing a full blown rage attack in the car while we all went in to the Little Chef. 

He threw himself around the car in paroxysms of fury, screaming at the top of his lungs while we ate our burgers ignoring the judgemental stares from the other customers. 

He refused to get out of the car to go to the toilet and naturally, ten minutes after we had hit the road again he began whining about needing to wee. His father pulled over in defeat and the van door slid open. I heard a faint yelp, “Help Mum!” I looked out the side window and saw Hagar submerged up to his shoulders in mud. 
Ha, poetic justice.

After the near desecration of the 600 year old Blarney Castle I was a bit nervous when we arrived at the 5000 year old prehistoric monument, Stonehenge. Like most security guards, these guys did not appear to have a sense of humour. The security guards at Hong Kong airport hadn't thought it was amusing when the boys had fired imaginary machines guns at them accompanied with resonant sound effects either. 

Neither had the security guards joined in the merriment at the Dublin Art Gallery while the boys were pointing and chortling at all the majestic nudie portraits.

However, open spaces for them to run around on was much more sensible than the nerve –racking, haunting nightmare of the Waterford Crystal Museum outing.

 I could finally relax, listening to the informative commentary on the audio headpiece whilst strolling around the roped off perimeter. Hagar had already run about five laps of the circuit and was walking behind me when he suddenly spotted his Dad across the other side of the monuments. 

Impetuous to a fault, he vaulted over the inadequate rope barrier and like Jonathan Thurston, stormed down the length of the field, ducking and weaving between the megaliths, streaking over the grass towards his horrified father. 

The world stood still as I experienced flashbacks of the Simpsons episode where Bart knocks over Stonehenge like dominoes. 
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