|Family gathering for Jan's birthday celebrations (minus William)|
We are coasting downhill to the Christmas and the New Year with more trepidation than we've collectively felt in my lifetime. There's a strong sense of déjà vu – last year was bad but this year Ireland has a post-apocalyptic feeling now after our €85billion bailout by the IMF and the EU – an intervention much denied by our benighted government in the run-up to their arrival. These sheriffs have been and gone but will keep a close eye on us to make sure we're doing as we're told to keep the banks afloat and raise the taxes to do so, all the while paying the lenders enough interest would run the health service every year. The ignominy of having our affairs handed over to outside forces is a bitter pill to swallow as we have certainly lost our financial sovereignty – not quite back to the old colonial days but economically somewhat similar.
The dreaded budget was unveiled on Tuesday – there's a deficit of €6 billion to fund this year, part of the €14 billion we have to find by 2014. The years of wheeling and dealing have finally caught up with a government who had no grasp on economics as they led us into a bubble of property development borrowing from toxic banks that was totally unsustainable. We're all crashing to earth after builder developers abandon the ghost estates that litter the rural hinterland, while the banksters are all exposed as bluffers who profited from the light touch regulation and deference of the government. What it means to me is a drop in take-home pay of around €2K p.a. and that's just speculative – we won't know till mid-January as there're so many new and combined levies we have a job calculating it all till our first paycheques.
|Jan and me at his birthday party May 2010|
|Sofia's Christening Day, 4th September, with her parents|
|Me and Sofia - October|
|Martin and us at his MA graduation DIT - Oct. 2010|
|William and us at his BA graduation UL August 2010|
Maeve has just had her 15th birthday with a sleepover weekend here at home with five or six of her friends – we lifted the term-time ban on sleepovers for the occasion and she made the best of it. With her Junior Cert looming in June, she has had to knuckle down to the books – and having to do supervised study doesn't really appeal but it concentrates the study to the afternoon and she doesn't have that much to do after dinner. As we didn't go abroad for holidays this year – sign of the times – she spent the summer camping in the garden in a big tent we got in Argos, and they had good fun with that. I took four of the girls to Dublin for a weekend in July – we stayed in the Skylon Hotel and they shopped till I dropped. They enjoyed it and I was able to drop them to Blanchardstown Centre and spend time with Martin and also visit old friends Tom and Darina.
Jan had a very significant birthday this year – he turned sixty in May! All his family came over from Holland for a week and we marked the big occasion with a party in Ballyrafter House Hotel with the family and our friends. I baked a huge cake and we had a lovely night, and he didn't look a day over fifty (!) as we danced the night away to a local combo. The family all stayed in Youghal in holiday homes, and did a lot of sightseeing as well as spending time with us in Lismore during the week – we had a BBQ at home and then hired a bus for a day trip around the Ring of Kerry, which was a highlight for all of us. It was over thirty years since I had been there in my hitch-hiking student days. It's still a beautiful scenic route – a 90 mile round trip from Killarney and some hair-raising bends – no wonder the tour buses can only go one-way! Jan is still active in the local Town Council for Labour and on the national town councillors' committee, as well as Concern's council, and the national festival association.
|Shayne, Sofia and Jany|
I'm still working away in Old Parish area as the public health nurse, although I moved office to Dungarvan in May. With the snow we've had in Ireland in recent weeks – Snowvember as some called it – there have been parts of my area impassable by car, and the coastguard jeep had to do shopping for some isolated folk in the uplands. I don't think Ireland does snow and bad weather too well, as is the norm in so many countries, but we literally grind to a halt when there's more than a few days of snow and ice. We had the Big Freeze in 2009/10 and it looks like it may be round 2 already, with plenty more forecast. I continue to enjoy my job despite the constraints of cutbacks, as the recruitment ban means that posts aren't always automatically filled, and now there're plans to reduce numbers by 6000 in the coming years, half of which may be frontline nursing staff. With beds closing, hospitals overcrowded, and morale very low, it's hard to know where it will all end. There's even talk of returning the beleaguered HSE to the old Health Boards system to improve accountability.
That's about it for our news this year – we weren't away for any holiday, rather the family came to us in May and in late March an old friend Tandy came for a visit – we hadn't met since we lived in Iringa where our kids grew up together, so we'd a lot of catching up to do. We spent some of the time sightseeing around lovely West Waterford and had some knitting lessons – which she has kept up since returning to London. Jany has discovered a previously unknown talent for crochet, and I knitted some funky socks for myself as well as some baby clothes for Sofia. I'm still reading avidly, and in the book club, as well as an online Bloggers' book club, where there's a lot of overlap with the real world club. I enjoy blogging as an outlet for writing – mostly recipes, book reviews, knitting, family events, and current affairs ranting. Check it out – I was chuffed to be shortlisted for two categories in the Irish Blog Awards, even though I didn't win it was a nice accolade.
We're looking forward to having all the family together for Christmas in Lismore, even though it'll be sad as the first one without Ma, and she'll be in our thoughts. May you all have a wonderful Christmas, and drop in if you're around Lismore – we've an open door here and love to catch up on old friends in real time as well as all those we keep in contact with through Skype, Facebook and email, which have all changed the way the world communicates. We wish you all much happiness in 2011 and look forward to hearing from you in the coming weeks and over the festive season.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all,
Jan and Catherine, Shayne, Jany and Sofia, Maeve, William and Martin, and Ben the dog.