Will this month ever end? I know it's only 16 January, but I've been feeling this way since about the 5th. The combination of being required to take stock of your life and also give up drink is just too much. It wouldn't even happen in Guantanamo Bay. It's the very definition of cruel and unusual.
For the Dunnes it also means living like the von Trapp family. We aren't performing music – yet – but in my role as Captain von Trapp, I am required to say "now children" quite frequently. "Now children, we shall walk on the beach, now children we shall feed the ducks and now children we shall fly a kite." The "now children" bit is easy, it's the next bit that is proving problematic.
Interestingly, Captain von Trapp only ever put his nine children on the stage as a result of having lost money in a banking crisis. Sounds familiar eh? I'm holding off on the dance routines so far but if VHI prices rise any more I can't guarantee it will stay that way. They could still find themselves dancing themselves to a healthier future, but not just yet.
The kite incident was typical. Firstly I made the thing, with assistance from the little von Dunnes. A video of it would show it to be the perfect family bonding experience: Dad cutting things out, the little ones colouring and gluing things. The reality was turmoil. A table was written off and a finger, mine, almost severed. Valium was consumed, but at the end we had a working kite.
Or at least I thought we did. "Now children, we shall go to Killiney Hill and fly it," I told them. Two hours later when we had at last got them dressed and out the door we arrived at Killiney Hill. As we tried to find parking I couldn't help but notice the sign: "No kite flying," it said. It had a drawing of our kite with an X through it.
So we drove to Killiney strand. It too had a "No kite flying" sign up but at this point, tired and emotional, and with the extra worry that Bono might be watching, I decided it was going to fly, even if it meant returning home a man short. But there was no wind. The little von Dunnes ran about as best they might but it never left the ground. We went home.
At home, I contemplated a quick "now children we shall all watch TV, eat take-outs and drink wine until we all fall asleep", but you really can't play that card this early in the month. Instead. the child's nanny, my wife, took us down the down "let's not turn on the TV, let's just have some quality time together", route.
Even the two-year-old groaned. 'Quality time' in our house translates as Snakes and Ladders and Connect 4, two games we have played relentlessly since July last. It was a novelty then. It isn't now.
Later, the four-year-old grew curious. "What is this month called?" she asked. "January," I told her. "January," she repeated, and then looking forlorn asked "and does it last long, daddy?"
You're told not to lie to them, so I didn't. "Yes," I said, "it lasts for three months." She hasn't spoken since. I believe she is tunnelling. I don't blame her.