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Not Entirely Satisfactory

October 23rd, 2016

Mr. Waffle had to spend all weekend working. In consequence, I found myself engaged in solo front line parenting. Yesterday morning, I took Dan to hurling and shouted encouragement from the sidelines (they enjoyed a very comprehensive victory, so much so that I and another mother who was watching felt very sorry for the opposition). Yesterday afternoon, the boys had a birthday party and I dropped them in and took herself for a cup of tea. Then back into town to collect the boys. I felt like I spent most of the day running children all over the city. Mr. Waffle made dinner though; so that was very welcome.

This morning began at 7 with Daniel getting sick – though, as he said, he made it to the toilet, so it could have been worse. Poor Mr. Waffle trekked off to a meeting at 9.30 and Daniel continued peaky. I realised about 11 that he wasn’t well enough to go to mass. And we had committed to herself doing a reading and some kind of special introduction for the first communicants (local primary prepping for May) at 11.30. In the end I sent her on her own. She was bitter and, as she pointed out she got to read one of my favourite readings; you know the one, St. Paul, “I have run my race to the finish..” If she was bitter, however, Michael was delighted. I briefly contemplated sending him along with his sister but it was too much. She would be up in the choir loft; he would be alone in the congregation staring moodily at the ceiling. I did not feel it would end well.

Mr. Waffle was restored to us at lunch time but, alas, further work beckoned so I took the children out. Herself wanted to go shopping alone so, with some trepidation, I took her to town and left her with her phone in a large shopping centre. If you are of a nervous disposition, I can reassure you that all went well and she managed to spend a large chunk of money in Tiger. Much of it was spent on candles and night lights. I am not sure a) how this reconciles with her love for Marie Kondo and b) whether I entirely approve of her room being turned into a fire hazard.

The boys and I went to the Science Gallery where there was an interesting, if depressing, exhibition on design and violence. It was not perhaps entirely suitable for 11 year olds but there were a number of them there; they weren’t allowed to undergo the virtual reality solitary confinement experience. Probably for the best. Michael, at my instigation, did sit on a metal chair. It’s a cube and is delivered with it’s own sledgehammer and you batter it into a chair shape. If you pay extra, they will pre-batter it for you. I was just asking Michael whether it was comfortable (unsurprisingly, it was not) when one of the staff bounded up and asked him politely, but anxiously, to get off the exhibit. Apparently, it cost €8,000 and they were not keen for people to try it out. High concept design but not practical, I would suggest.

Michael considers a 3D printable gun – just add your own nail:


We went to the café where both boys dutifully looked at the list of words on the wall – semantics of violence, I understand. As one of the words was boycott, I insisted on explaining about Captain Boycott; they were not fascinated. Daniel had hot chocolate and a slice of biscuit cake (much recovered from 7am vomiting) but Michael did not like anything on the menu (a frequent occurrence) and commented, “I thought something like this would happen.” Then, with the air of a conjurer pulling a rabbit from a hat, he took a lollipop from his pocket which he proceeded to suck contentedly. Cheap date.

We then took ourselves off to the Natural History Museum which was busy but appealed in a mild way to both boys. In September, they had been to a session about TH Parke whose statute is in front of the museum, so they were able to fill me in on him. Interesting man.

You probably can’t make out the relief on the statute but Daniel informs me that our man is sucking out poison from the chest of one of the others on his expedition.


And then we all went home and poor Mr. Waffle had finally finished working. He spent an hour playing Betrayal at House on the Hill with the boys. This is a board game which the children love and Mr. Waffle and I loath so this was particularly noble. Now he is making dinner, like a saint, and tomorrow we are all back to work. Alas, alack.


October 21st, 2016

I fell on the pavement a couple of weeks ago. I skinned my hands and knees and I was also mortified. Then I dropped my u-shaped bicycle lock on my foot. Who knew that those locks were so heavy? The pain. Also, the bruising. I still feel quite sorry for myself.

My Phone is Judging Me

October 20th, 2016

Although my life is filled with excitement and incident, much of it is not captured on my phone. I suppose that this is why my phone saw fit to flash up to me recently that I had just one upcoming event this week: a shopping delivery.


October 19th, 2016

For years I have been taking Wednesday afternoons off work. When I started the new job in February, I gave that up. And I have missed it. Today I am taking my first Wednesday afternoon off in nearly 8 months (and have 6 months worth to go at the end of which we will review) and it is amazing! All the things I got done: tested the new local café (good), picked up the boys from school and had a word with their teacher at the school door, wrote thank you letters, went on an emergency shopping trip, got to the picture framer who is eccentric and not open at weekends to pick up 5 pictures (he could only find 3 but that’s better than none which has happened before – he’s good and he’s cheap but he’s not organised), had a look at the boys’ homework before signing it off, made jam, lit the fire (although 3 firelighters died horribly in the attempt, it is now blazing), made dinner, talked to herself on her return from school and I am here blogging away and it’s only just gone 6.

Also, they finished our windows and they are nifty but the entire house is covered in a layer of dust (ok, I may not have got absolutely everything done today).

Please ignore out of control foliage and admire intact, draft free windows:


Up Down

October 18th, 2016

Mr. Waffle and I had planned to go to Helsinki for a long weekend in September but, for a variety of reasons, it didn’t come off. Mostly because Mr. Waffle had put his back out again and couldn’t fly and partly because we were both very busy at work. My sister, however, was still booked to come and mind the children. So we decided to go on a more local break to Co. Down in Northern Ireland (yes, my love affair with Northern Ireland continues, thank you for asking).

On Saturday morning we drove up to Warrenpoint where it lashed rain. Due to Mr. Waffle’s bad back he spent all of the journey there lying horizontally in the front seat. I began to wonder was this the best idea we’d ever had. We had lunch in Warrenpoint which was fine but slow. Mr. Waffle had to keep getting up to walk around due to back pain so that was…unsettling.

View of the sea from Warrenpoint:


I am told that it is beautiful on a sunny day but your powers of imagination would want to be at full wattage to see that the day we were there.

The linguistic regime in the North is complicated. This was on the public toilets:

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My friend from Belfast tells me that the only reason instructions were put on the toilets was so that the council could put it up in Irish as well as English. Who knows?

We went on to our guest house via the scenic route with the mountains of Mourne on the left and sparkling sea views on the right, or so the guidebook told us. In fact, we could see neither due to driving rain and heavy cloud and, as Mr. Waffle was horizontal, he would only have been able to enjoy any views with the aid of a periscope. Things picked up when we rolled into our destination.


We went for a walk on the private beach before dinner but it was only moderately successful. The beach was lovely but damp and the mountains were invisible.

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Our host was a very nice man but felt like he came from another era entirely. I asked Mr. Waffle who had spoken to him on the phone whether he was Irish. “No, English,” he said. In fact when we met him, we found that he had grown up in the house but been sent to school in England. He sounded much more upper class English than anyone I have ever met or heard and I have heard the Queen of England on the TV. It was quite bizarre. He was the only local I met who didn’t say “wee” all the time. Possibly, beaten out of him when he was a wee lad. His partner was a very nice Scottish woman who was a great grand-niece of Alice Keppel and therefore somewhat distantly related to the English royal family and even she sounded much less upper-class English than he did (though not exactly Scottish, I concede – spent some time with her exploring what is the difference between a marquis and a marquess and how each is pronounced; am not very much the wiser on either count). He clearly represented the last hold out of big house unionism. He was inclined to regard the island of Ireland as a whole and had an encyclopedic knowledge of hunts and polo grounds across the country. “I had a friend who used to play polo, but his horse kept getting injured and he jacked it in,” I said. “Well,” said he, “that’s why most people have three or four horses.” Only in certain circles, I would suggest. He had his own polo grounds and about 30 horses which provides a full explanation, I imagine, of why he was taking in paying guests.

We had a lovely bedroom with a beautiful view across the grounds.



That night we went out for dinner to the Mourne seafood bar which was not entirely successful. Firstly, Mr. Waffle had to keep getting up and walking around because of his bad back and secondly, the food was only alright.

We went to bed in our beautiful bedroom, somewhat daunted but ready to face another day. The next day was Sunday. Despite our host’s advice we went into Downpatrick. The Protestant cathedral is delighful and has private boxes [not very common any more] and the graves of St. Patrick, St. Bridget and [possibly, I cannot quite remember], St. Columbanus.



The old part of the town is lovely with elegant Georgian streets. We went to the St. Patrick’s museum/experience which wasn’t bad but was perhaps a bit elaborate for our needs. But the gift shop did give us a further chance to enjoy Northern Ireland’s exciting linguistic regime.


The previous day we had passed the Schomberg Ulster-Scots centre in Kilkeel. You know where you stand when your centre is called after one of William of Orange’s generals. Northern Ireland, where, like the Balkans, they make more history than they can consume locally. Joke adapted from Saki, I think, who told it better.

Earlier that morning we had been to mass in a less appealing part of the town. The church had shutters which was something I have never seen before. The priest saying mass was on a mission from the South [hardly necessary one would have thought] and we didn’t take to him; by the look of the long suffering parish priest who was hosting him, he hadn’t taken to him either. It was quite a long mass and involved small children and modern hymns with actions [my progress towards old reactionary continues apace and I did not enjoy it]. At the end of mass we had blessing of the cars which sounds positively heathen to me. I was telling our hosts about it later and Mr. Waffle asked whether I was mocking my religion in front of non co-religionists and I felt a bit guilty but it did seem quite uncatholic to me and more the kind of thing our evangelical friends would go for. Anyhow, our host said he hadn’t been to a service since he buried his grandmother [neither today nor yesterday, I would say] and, trying to make conversation with the vicar afterwards, remarked that the vicar must be looking forward to having his children home for Christmas to which the vicar replied, “I prefer visiting the sick, really.” That finished our host which is a pity as he has a church at his gates. All 19th century mod cons.

One of the chief things I was really keen to do while in this part of the North was visit Mount Stewart. Between mass and St. Patrick we spent longer in Downpatrick than we should have and we were a bit short of time for our trip to Mount Stewart. We took the ferry up from Portaferry which was lovely but a bit time consuming.


The main reason I wanted to go to Mount Stewart was that I read a really fascinating biography on Castlereagh (which I am thinking of re-reading after my visit) and I wanted to see where he was from. It did not disappoint. The gardens were lovely even though you would not think that autumn would be their best time; the house was fascinating and the guides very knowledgeable. There is a superb collection of portraits in the house including a lovely small picture of Hazel Lavery. I had not known that Sir John and Lady Lavery had been friends of the family but they were and frequently stayed in Mount Stewart.


What is amazing is how almost entirely tourist free the whole area is; there were lots of locals out for the day but I could count on one hand the number of people from outside the area who were there and most of those were from the South so not very far outside.

We would have liked to stay longer but poor Mr. Waffle had a conference call at 6 and was beginning to get restive. We went back to our guest house and Mr. Waffle’s papers like the wind. Mr. Waffle’s phone had failed to charge and, with some reluctance, I gave him mine to make the call. I charged his a bit and went off for a solitary walk on the private beach. Mr. Waffle’s phone gave up as I tried to photograph the beautiful sunset over the Mourne mountains (visible at last). I was bitter and, as I pointed out to him, there was a rainbow too.

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These photos are good but you should have seen it later as the sunset turned the sky pink. I will always have my memories as I, slightly huffily, informed my husband.

Dinner that evening in Dundrum in the Buck’s head was more successful than the previous evening’s offering and my mood gradually softened under the influence of the food and on the restoration to me of my beloved phone. Yes, I worry about me too, thanks for caring.

The next morning we visited Castle Ward which is quite weird. The husband and wife who built it couldn’t agree on an architectural style and it is Georgian on one side:


and gothic revival on the other:


Sadly, it was closed on the Monday and we couldn’t get in, but I understand that the interior architectural mixture of styles reflects the external diversity. Definitely one to revisit. The set for Winterfell from “Game of Thrones” was in the grounds but not super-interesting unless, I suppose you are a big GoT fan.

We then visited a very impressive De Courcy castle with lovely views in Dundrum. This we had entirely to ourselves.



Then, Newcastle (which ought to be twinned with Catania for looming mountains, if for nothing else) for lunch and back home to our loving family.


I intend to go back to Co. Down for another look although, I think, Fermanagh may be the next Northern county on my list. There’s a whole world up there.

All Go

October 17th, 2016

Last week was another rather busy week. On Monday night we had GAA for Dan, scouts for Michael and Pilates for Mr. Waffle to try to help his bad back (on the advice of an eccentric gentleman from Co. Down – more of which anon).

Tuesday was open night for the secondary school that the boys are most likely to go to – the Princess’s current school. She wasn’t there (off at a debating competition) but the teachers all recognised Daniel as her brother as he does look very like her. “I don’t just want to be someone’s sister,” he said mournfully. However, overall the evening was a success. We headed home about 8.30 and promptly, as we sat on the sofa, got a call from the school saying that the debating team had finally returned and could we go back to the school and collect herself. On the debating, she had came home and told us that the motion was “The internet is a waste of time”. So we tossed around some ideas on that. Then the next night she said, “My mistake, it’s Transition Year is a waste of time.” Her teacher is from Donegal where the Irish can be hard from Dubliners to understand and, in any event, idirlinn (internet) and idirbhlian (transition year) sound more alike than you might think.

On Wednesday, Mr. Waffle and I went to the theatre. The piece we saw was a site-specific, interactive, interpretative dance piece and perhaps you needed to be on top of your game to appreciate it because we did not, particularly. It has got superb reviews, if you fancy going along yourself.

On Friday night herself had French class which she got to on the bus but needed to be collected from – v. happily, however, a neighbour volunteered to collect her but with traffic, it was gone 8 when she was restored to us.

All week long we had men in the house fitting new windows which meant that the house smelt of putty (not unpleasant) and was covered in a layer of dust. Also all the curtains will need to be dry cleaned. But still, new windows. They’re supposed to finish this week. Fingers crossed.

On Saturday morning, I was up with the (slightly later) lark to drive Daniel and a neighbour’s child to a GAA match. Herself came with us. I got horribly lost in West Dublin, not helped by the boys piping up from time to time: “The match is probably over now” or “How long have we been in the car?” We did eventually make landfall and the boys were slaughtered by the opposition and quite mournful. In the afternoon we looked for a new car (no joy yet) and Mr. Waffle and I went to a very good exhibition in the National Gallery. We forced Michael to come with us as he had not left the house all day (the other pair stayed behind and made dinner – good eh?). Despite himself, Michael found the exhibition mildly interesting. When asked whether he found it even a tiny bit good, he said “A tiny bit, like about the size of an atom which is the basic building block of the universe.” You have to start somewhere, I suppose.

Then on Sunday, I went to my bookclub which is an all afternoon affair and Mr. Waffle and the children went out to visit his parents in a distant suburb. I felt mildly guilty that we absolutely failed to see anything in Open House Dublin but I think I may be beginning to know my limits. We had some friends call around that evening and they stayed for dinner which was lovely and as they are v low maintenance, quite undemanding- although Mr. Waffle cooked so it may have been more demanding for him.

And then, this evening, it starts all over again: GAA, scouts, pilates. No culture this week though.
Updated to add: Today (Wednesday) Mr. Waffle asked whether in my floundering around west Dublin I had crossed the toll paying ring road.  “Only for two seconds and I told Daniel to remind me to pay the toll when we got home,” I said defensively.  Funnily enough the 11 year old didn’t remember my obligations for me.  Still not too bad, fine is only about 6 quid and Mr. Waffle (having lost all faith in his wife’s administrative ability) is paying it for me.


October 16th, 2016

Herself: I got a shock from the light in the utility room.
Me (vaguely): Oh dear.
Mr. Waffle: I’ve never heard of such thing.
Me: Oh yes, that used to happen to me all the time in the house where I grew up.
Him (sceptically): I don’t believe it.
Her (mournfully): Mum believes me but she’s hopeless at sympathising and Dad just doesn’t believe me.
Him (completely unconvincingly): No, I do.
Me: Don’t switch on the light with wet hands and you should be fine.

A couple of nights later there was a loud yelp from the utility room. We all rushed in. “I got a shock!” said Mr. Waffle in outrage. “Told you!” said herself. “You’ll live,”said I. Anxious readers will be pleased to know that Mr. Waffle is looking into getting an electrician in. Tell me, has anyone else had a light switch shock? Surely, yes.

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