I sat in the same place almost a year ago to the day, celebrating my birthday at forty one weeks pregnant, unable to fit any clothes, unable to sit still in a restaurant or a cinema or able to enjoy the usual birthday treats. I sat there with the farmer on a scorching Sunday eating a bag of salty chips watching people come and go like the waves behind me, to-ing and fro-ing in their usual manner. Forty one weeks pregnant and utterly miserable. Have you tried walking the hills people asked in their are-you-sure-you’re-not-just-holding-the-baby-in way! Yes, I walked hills, why on that very hill, the hill to Ballybunion’s Ladies beach, I thought I was going into labour on more than one occasion that very week I’ll have you know. A year ago. Almost to the day.
I’m writing to you to request an extra allowance for farmer’s wives who happen to be the mothers of young sons. You see Minister, you must allow in your estimate of how much water a family can possibly use for the unimaginable quantities of water that some families can go through. Allow me to illustrate using the example of one such family on a dairy farm in North Kerry, namingly mine.
This morning Minister, my second son (three years old) decided he needed to wash the dogs. This began at circa 8am and may have continued until I realised he wasn’t making noise in my immediate vicinity circa post coffee 8:15am. The dogs are clean but the son was not. Bath number one. Later that morning, several buckets of water may have been used to clean up the ‘accidents’ of a certain toilet training toddler. The baby (four months old) who is being weened, Minister, ate solids for the first time today followed by a healthy evacuation of the bowels. Bath number two.
The washing machine is not shy when it comes to consuming water. Why, just today, the same machine washed one load of farmer’s milking clothes, one load of sheets and one load of baby clothes. It’s bedfellow, the dishwasher, is contemplating an all out strike and the negotiations are ongoing. The milk pasteuriser requires a large volume of water to cool the gallon of milk that is brought in from the parlour every second day. Three boys, Minister, three boys.
In the evening, in order to give the farmer’s wife a break from the general washing, cooking, mopping up, bathing et al, the farmer (heeding the warning signs) takes the two older boys to bring in the cows. This as you can imagine Minister on a damp enough day is not a clean job. At approximately, 5.30pm of an evening, two walking mucky boys reappear before me. Clothes in the washing machine and boys in bath number three.
So you see, Minister, in your calculation of the average water usage of Irish famililes, you need to be cogniscent of the fact that there is a farmer’s wife out there who is a slave to water consumption. We are not ordinary mortals when it comes to water Minister, and the allowance could be up to your own discretion. Let’s say, I wouldn’t be adverse to a shopping trip to the capital or indeed, a medal. With that Minister, I’m off for a hot bath myself and a stiff drink of something, preferably not water.