A packed house and schedule keep the children entertained
Published 20/06/2014 | 02:30
The words 'bean an tí' may conjure up images of a Peig Sayers-type woman in sturdy shoes and a housecoat, but Fidelma Padden is a world away from that stereotype.
Yet she and her husband Pat have been hosting children in their home on the edge of Mayo for the past five years and she still "loves it". And she would need to, as the couple sometimes have up to 12 children staying with them for the three-week Gaeltacht courses.
"Pat and I are a young couple and we hope that we bring a fun aspect to it so that they relax and learn something at the same time," Fidelma said.
Eva, now 6, was only a few months old when they started hosting children, so she has grown up with it and now she and her two-and-a-half year old brother look forward to that time of day when the house fills with noise and Fidelma serves dinner and dessert to her guests. Then the visitors all clatter out again to the céilí before returning jaded for a quick bite of supper and some 'caint agus craic' before bedtime.
Fidelma finds they really need that little chat when they return in the evening and then they are so tired that there are no problems after lights out. But it takes some energy to keep going.
"During the summer, we don't finish up until about 11pm. It is great income for us, but we don't see it as work. You have to be really organised and approach it with a positive attitude."
She understands that some children, particularly the young ones, prefer to go to the Gaeltacht with a friend or sibling, but she believes that it is actually a better experience for those who can brave it alone.
"They are not stuck together in a corner and they make great friends. We are like one big family."