Ah Friends, ’tis a happy girl indeed you find in correspondence with you today. I stand, relieved, on the verge of regaining my peaceful mornings of solitude as the children return to the dubious care of their various educational establishments.
When we need our children to be on their best behaviour, when visiting elderly maiden aunts, attending religious ceremonies or having coffee with people we don’t like, we admonish them to use Ballymaloe manners. That means speaking in hushed tones, avoiding expletives, using the correct cutlery, resisting the urge to make a pirate hat from your napkin and keeping flatulence at bay. We (mostly) don’t have to spell it out for them anymore. Ballymaloe manners works as our code and covers the whole gamut of social graces.
This code came about because Sunday Lunch at Ballymaloe House remains the greatest of rare treats and rare treats bring out the best in people. We went for a 70th birthday, a First Communion and for our 10th wedding anniversary. On each occasion the children, to our relief and astonishment, behaved impeccably.
The lesson might be that children behave exactly as we expect them to behave. Or, the lesson is that they will sit quietly for however long it takes if they know there is a bowl of delicious homemade jelly and ice-cream coming at the end.
You are wondering why I told you that. Hang in there.
The coming school year will be a big one for us. Teenage Son faces into his Leaving Certificate (it’s a bizarre and torturous ritual which every Irish person must pass through before being permitted to leave school and have a life), Teenage Daughter faces the Junior Certificate (basically a training ritual to prepare you for the big one). Middle Daughter will muddle along quite happily with minimal fuss as middle children seem to do.Small Girl will wear a grey uniform and begin big school.
Time marches inexorably forward and we have learned to seize the days, to grasp them tightly and squeeze what joy we may.
In celebration (for me) and commiseration (for our children) of the re-opening of school, Husband has lined up a HUGE treat to finish the summer on a high note.
Tomorrow, we will skip breakfast and wear loose pants to make sure we have plenty of space for our lunch. We will pile into two cars and drive for fifty minutes or so until we crunch our way sedately up the gravel avenue. We will brush the creases from our clothes, straighten our hair and issue the command Ballymaloe manners. Then we will, quietly and politely…
STUFF OURSELVES to bursting point. Yeayyyy! I can’t wait.