Did you do anything nice last weekend? No need to answer that question, firstly because I won’t be able to hear your reply, but also because I only asked so that I could tell you what I did — I brought my kids to a science fair.
I am currently luxuriating in the smug sense of self-satisfaction that comes from doing something educational with my youngest two children. I see myself in the mould of Edward James Olmos’ character in 1988 movie Stand And Deliver, the charismatic teacher helping kids from disadvantaged backgrounds — ie, our family home — to broaden their minds and horizons.
Timely then that Science Foundation Ireland and Cork City Council were holding the Carnival Of Science in the leafy surrounds of Fitzgerald Park. Like most liberal arts types, the word science has the same effect on me as sunlight on a vampire. I lurk in the endless grey area of human stories, avoiding the caustic effects of facts, data, and irrefutable truth.
But I don’t want my kids to end up like me, with zero grasp of science, because the last two years have taught me that maybe we should all listen to the scientists a little more rather than going with the thoughts and opinions of some randomer on social media. So this was meant to be about education, but somehow it ended up being the best fun we have had in a while — we saw hilarious live shows, wild experiments, we played giant Jenga, held snakes, learned about aquaculture, and climbed through a giant version of the human digestive system (complete with the opportunity to make loud farting noises as we exited the bum, for scientific accuracy, of course).
I am also pleased to announce that I absolutely flattened about 10 little kids in a tug o’ war, to the frowns of their parents. Look, they learned a valuable scientific lesson about force versus mass by trying to drag my flabby form across the line. I am, first and foremost, an educator.
And just in case I don’t seem smug and self-satisfied enough from all the above, I also used public transport to get to the event. A Green Party candidacy beckons, surely.
Except tragically, I didn’t use the train and bus to get to the science fair because I care about the planet, but rather that my gas-guzzling car had refused to start. And the reason I decided to bring my kids to the science fair in the first place wasn’t that I wanted to broaden their minds, but that the event was free.
And this was important because I had already spent €1,000 on my car during the week to fix the problem which then prevented us from getting to the free event. Unravel that conundrum, Einstein.
Our finances exist in a state of delicate equilibrium and any wobbles can take some time to correct. We had only started to get back in black after the pump in our well went belly up recently when my car decided to really mess with us.
We try not to talk about money in front of the kids but the 19-year-old is sharp enough to pick up on things, which led to the touching yet depressing moment when she offered me a loan to help me pay for the car. I reassured that it wasn’t necessary and that I would rather take money from a shady payday loan firm with hired goons as debt collectors than have her hold the loan over me, but I also assured her that we were financially fine, which we are: we are technically comfortable. No debt and a not-unhealthy household income, but we are still feeling the pinch of the last few months.
When I used to bring the kids to do the big weekly shop we would always try to guess how much it would come to. We don’t bother anymore as we just can’t — the cost is going up every week.
For now, we can get by, but the question is how much more prices will climb — if we summer here in the ‘getting by’ category, then where the hell will we winter? What about when summer ends and we need home heating oil, more electricity, more everything?
My only hope is that science is on the march and that they fix all the problems with the economy, the environment, and my car, whilst also holding family-friendly free events every weekend from here until my kids leave home. Is that too much to ask?