The key to a successful family day out is not in the planning, but rather in the total absence of any kind of coherent plan. Even the faintest whiff of a day being squared away for us all to spend together and the natives get restless: The teenager finds literally any other event in the country – Mass, threshing, study group, Young Fine Gael meeting – to attend other than be with us, the ten year old schedules a PS4 team battle that he simply can’t miss, while the younger ones, AKA Thing One and Thing Two, sense that they need to be strapped into a car seat and therefore they go running off in opposite directions. No, the key to it is all is reaching the point on a Sunday morning when you realise that it’s either fling them all into a car and hit the road, or you stay in the domestic pressure cooker and spontaneously combust.
Our day trips tend to involve a lot of holy wells. There are several reasons for this: They remind me of my own childhood, they’re educational in that I get to explain Nietzschean thought to my kids while we stare into the black pool, and most importantly, they are free. The only thing better than a trip to a holy well is one that has an accompanying holy stone nearby, and this is where Ardmore comes in. With it’s sparkling sands, cash-only cafes and Michelin Starred eyrie in the shape of the Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore is like a Greek island jammed onto the west Waterford coast. Perhaps less well advertised is the fact that Ardmore also boasts the holy floating stone of St Declan. Declan sailed over to Ardmore in the fifth century, but forgot his bell, so an acolyte sent it over on a large boulder, in a sort of medieval version of Amazon’s drone delivery service, except Jeff Bezos is even more concerned with owning all our souls.
We duly strolled over to the rock, laid hands upon it and waited for a thunderclap, which came in the shape of Thing One announcing he needed the toilet and attempting to urinate on it. After that we had a short visit to St Declan’s hermitage, home of the holy well. We stared into it, unsure what to do, until an older child asked if they could throw a coin into it. I pointed out that this was a place of pilgrimage for a thousand years, not the water feature in the local shopping centre, so no, we would not be throwing a coin into the sacred well. Also I have no money as I took a liberal arts degree instead of the sciences and my earning power is not such that I can be flinging coins into ancient puddles and such. And there endeth the lesson.
So we trudged back to the car, pausing to peer at rich people through the tinted glass of the Cliff House, and went to Youghal to screech at each other over chips like angry seagulls. Loaded up with lard, they slept in the back all the way home as I wondered if this was what it would have been like for On The Road’s Neal Cassady if he had simply given up on life and bought a Fluence. It’s not half bad, to be fair.
Of course I came home to the latest cry for help from Piers Morgan, who has overcome the fact that he looks like Diarmuid Gavin suffering a food allergy, and now manages to shoehorn himself into all sorts of idiotic controversies. The latest one was about Daniel Craig being less of a man because he was seen wearing a papoose, those things you use to strap babies to men in the vain hope they get an understanding of the lower back trauma suffered during pregnancy. Finally Piers has had the courage to say what we were all thinking – any man who willingly spends times with kids – his own or other people’s – is a weirdo or a wuss. That is, of course, until you actually go out wearing a papoose. You really only get one shot at it, usually with the first child, because if older ones see the smallest being carried, then they want to be carried, and you end up like a deranged possum with various sized children crawling over you. I loved carrying my daughter around in one, and there were several reasons – it was easier than pushing a buggy, it was like carrying a little hot water bottle around, and also because it made me look great: Kind, caring, devoted, and with obvious upper body strength; the papoose was like a magnet to women everywhere I went. Standing around shopping centres was never so much fun, as my wife would return from the shops to find me deep in conversation with some impossible beauty who had wandered over from the cosmetic hall. Perhaps James Bond wouldn’t be so moody if he traded in his Walther PPK for a papoose and spent less time breaking limbs, wearing tiny suits, and watching his girlfriends die in various ways and actually settled down, got an office job, and accepted that his most challenging mission would be trying to stop a three year old from urinating on a holy stone.