A cold coming we had of it

7507019fWe disembarked from Sealink’s St Columba on 3 January 1988. There were four of us: Victoria, Edward, Susan and me. Southwell Minster School term began later that week, so we left Hugh lodging with a friend. It was dark, nowhere open until 9.30 or so, so breakfast at the Royal Marine seemed like a good idea.

Our new home was up the Old Long Hill between Enniskerry and Roundwood. The removals van wasn’t arriving until next day, so we had a barren sort of a day. I wondered what the hell I’d done accepting this job in a foreign country, agreeing to move house in January, and leaving our two boys at cathedral choir schools in England. Madness.

Ye Gods, it was cold. Thin walls, large windows. The only bit of the house with carpet was the small hall, so there we slept in sleeping bags, five hearts (we had a dog) huddled together.

The week after, Edward went back to school in Ripon: Fokkers to Leeds/Bradford. Victoria, secondary school age, stayed with us. I used to stand in the kitchen and watch the St Columba on its way to Holyhead and ache for the boys. That memory does not dim with the passing years.

The house was in a wonderful position with lovely views to the main Glendalough road across the valley, and to the sea and the Kish lighthouse over the roofs of Bray. But what a money pit. Everything that could be rickety was rickety, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Water pumps, leaky roofs, failing heating system, wonky electrics, wobbly floors, inspissated sewage pipes leading to a jerry-built septic tank. Ah, that’s why the vendor refused to let our surveyor go into the roof space and take up the carpets. There’s a moral there: don’t buy from a solicitor who is acting for himself. Caveat emptor. When you’re dealing with the well-being of a young family in insecure times, though, other concerns predominate.

We found a builder – well, he called himself a builder – to mend the leaks, but every hole plugged meant a larger one in the bank balance as money flooded out. He taught us to ask ‘which Tuesday?’ when he said he’s be with us on Tuesday.

It was lovely in summer. It was a wonderful place for adventurous children to grow up. But life was complicated.

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