. . . on super Saturdays


A couple of years ago I went to Ikea because I heard a rumour our Swedish overlords had a place you could leave babies for free while you wandered around eating hotdogs and choosing photograph frames. It turns out there is such a nirvana but you can’t actually leave babies there as your charges have to be over three. I was having a rough day at the time so I persisted in trying to leave ours there but the nice woman in Smaland was firm about the rule. Instead, we wandered around with a pram full of babies which took the shine off our bulk-buying of tea lights and other essentials.

We’ve had some of our worst rows in Ikea, disputes that have been well documented here in the past. But as much as I fear for our relationship I can’t keep out of the place. There are so many inexpensive things I didn’t know I needed under that roof. Last Saturday a thought occurred to me: “The childer! They are old enough now to be left in Småland! To Ikea at once and don’t spare the horses!”

“But we don’t really have anything to get in Ikea,” said their father, putting a dampner on things.

“Not the point. We can leave them there and people will mind them for free.” I’ve only ever seen him move so fast when he’s trying to grab the remote to watch Winning Streak. (It’s ok. He sees someone for an hour every Tuesday about this unnatural desire.)

Initially the children were a bit dubious about being left alone, despite all the playdough, a giant shoe and pit full of plastic balls. But they went in eventually and the buzzer thing they gave us, which they said would buzz when we had to come and collect them, never went off until the appointed time. So we figured all was fine in Smaland. Less than an hour later we’d got all our Christmas wrapping paper and a cardboard ginger bread house with an LED light inside which previously I had not known I needed.

Then we had lunch. The place with the mythical creche also does a radical thing in that it charges children’s prices for children’s food. So you can get a substantial plate of, for some reason, moose-shaped pasta for €1.

After lunch we went visiting and made a card for a birthday party and the time passed pleasantly until they were in bed and we sat on the sofa going through the all the tiny highlights of the day.

All this is by way of saying I nearly didn’t vote in the children’s referendum last Saturday. Put away the pitchforks, I said nearly. Fortunately I had that post-X Factor, hang on a second I didn’t vote moment and got out the door just before 10pm. They were dismantling the voting booths and they’d nearly run out of pencils, but I made my mark. Still, it was skin of the teeth stuff. I only made a fraction of the effort of some voters, like the highly industrious person who stapled a condom packet to his/her ballot paper and spoilt their vote with the words “If you can’t care for them, don’t have them”.

I don’t reckon Enda reads this column but if he’s interested, I blame my nearly not voting entirely on the fact that it was a Saturday. You see if it doesn’t involve food, shopping, children, playgrounds, food, jigsaws, starring in kitchen productions of Goldilocks and The Three Bears, food, or devising cunning ways to read the paper for 10 uninterrupted minutes, then it doesn’t get a look in on a Saturday.

I’m inclined to think at least a small percentage of the almost 70 per cent that stayed away from the polls did so not because they were apathetic to the cause of children or because they weren’t engaged in the issues, but because they were victims of the day that was in it. For some it’s a day when their children are overscheduled to within an inch of their little lives and the schedule doesn’t leave time for voting. For others, as for us, Saturday is switchoffday, the one day of the week when nothing outside our own little nucleus matters, when we exist in a bubble, a domestic blister, when whole hours can pass rendering three miniature porridge bowls for bears in modelling clay.

Fortunately my civic duty burst the domestic blister at around 9.55pm and I hauled myself off the sofa to vote. But because it was a Saturday, it nearly didn’t happen. There’s a lesson there, somewhere, only now it’s switchoffday again and this porridge is just right and I can’t quite think what that lesson might be.

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