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Confirmed

May 23rd, 2015

The Princess was confirmed yesterday. It all went reasonably well. My aunt, my brother and sister came from Cork. My aunt stayed in the B&B around the corner. It looks lovely from the outside but after she arrived I went to check her bedroom with her and, regrettably, it was vile. Absolutely tiny and utterly unappealing in every way. It was also pretty pricy so that was definitely a minus. However, my aunt nobly assured us that it was fine and said that she slept like a log. My aunt fills me with hope for our old age. She will be 86 next month and she is well in every way. She joined a swimming club recently and told them that she was 75 in case they didn’t want her due to her age and they totally believed her. Utterly reasonably. She is in fantastic shape. She attributes her good health to a lifetime of inertia and overeating so I feel my chances for a healthy old age are good also.

The morning of the ceremony was a bit frantic. I had underestimated how long it would take to ferry two carloads of people to the church. The first carload arrived at 10.40 instead of the required 10.30 and the second carload containing the Princess’s sponsor (my brother), her brothers and her mother arrived well after the 11 scheduled start time. We were nearly later because as my brother and I were talking about the marriage referendum, Daniel was inspired to make his position clear and wrote in large letters in highlighter on his arm, “Vote YES”. While I applauded this at one level (“I thought you would be happy,” said he), it didn’t add to his allure as he headed off to his sister’s confirmation in his short sleeved shirt. Spit and rubbing ameliorated the situation but he looked distinctly orange.

When we arrived, the service had already started and while the boys could sit at the back of the church with other relatives, parents and sponsors were right up the front. Herself was at the lectern about to begin her second reading. Mercifully I didn’t miss her. And she was terrific, I was very proud though somewhat mortified by my late entrance. As Mr. Waffle tactlessly said later to Herself, “I presume you saw your mother coming in, you could hardly have missed her, arriving late and coming up the aisle in her red dress as you were about to do your reading.” Sigh.

Lunch went well and then we deposited various relatives to buses, trains and their homes. Then, I went out to vote with the children in attendance and collapsed. I developed a spectacular migraine and I still feel a little delicate. It is to this, the Confirmation excitement generally and Mr. Waffle’s recent hectic travel schedule that I attribute a severe oversight this morning. We are normally very reliable as a family, if you want reliability, look to the Waffles. As I was driving Danny home from a GAA match in North County Dublin (a massacre, thanks for asking) I noticed a church car park full to overflowing, “There must be a communion on,” I remarked to him. Then it hit me, Herself was supposed to be singing in the school choir for the First Communion that morning. We frantically rang home. Had they by any chance remembered? They had not. Was the Communion service now over? It was. Did she have a solo? Several. Am I looking forward to going into school on Monday morning and grovelling before the choir director? I am not.

12 on April 12

May 21st, 2015

So this post is a little late but I’ve been busy.

What is my daughter like at 12?

The thing that I find most delightful at the moment is how kind she is. I was out in the garden, pulling up weeds the other day and she unloaded the dishwasher without being asked. Her father was away and she went downstairs early and made sandwiches for school for everyone. She likes to make her parents happy. In my case, that often involves tea in a china cup. She is also a great baker. So sometimes there is cake as well. She makes the best cakes.

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She loves animals including our cat..

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but she would really, really like a dog.

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She is very like I am now. Not very much, I think like I was when I was 12. We like the same things. I worry a little bit that I am dragging her to very dull museums but she seems to like them or else she is very indulgent.

She knows lots and she reads lots, so it is a virtuous circle but it can make her a bit smart. Sample, the other night as she was curled up on a chair trying to read in peace, I came up distracting her which she didn’t entirely welcome.

Me: “No man is an island/Entire of itself”
Her: John Donne, metaphysical poet, your point?

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She is busy preparing herself for secondary school which starts in the autumn. She has decided to study German and is busy teaching herself with Duolingo. She has made a surprising amount of progress in a week. She has more time to dedicate to it than I do but it is nonetheless unwelcome that she is a couple of lessons ahead of me considering that I actually studied German for five years in school and was once reasonably good at it.

She and I cycled all around town last weekend (Marsh’s library, The Little Museum of Dublin and the Science Gallery) and while I was a little nervous from time to time, her cycling and her traffic sense have really improved so I think she will be cycling to her new school come September.

I will really miss her on the walk to primary school in the morning. At the moment the boys tend to walk together and talk about their interests (Skyrim, Minecraft) and she and I talk about whatever we fancy. Between 23 (maximum velocity) and 28 (left home early) lovely minutes.

She may be acquiring the rudiments of tidiness. I don’t want her to be as obsessive as me but I would like her to pick up things and to see when things are on the floor. Yesterday she brought me upstairs to show me that she had now understood why it was unwise to leave her chest of drawers open.

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She has put a lot of time and energy recently into planning for the zombie apocalypse. She tells me that she has looked it up on the internet and a lot of children go through this phase so we are not to worry. When we drove out to visit her grandparents on Sunday, she mapped the route carefully so that she would be able to go there with her band of survivors (her grandparents live near the sea, boats are great in the zombie apocalypse). There is lots, lots more, but I will spare you.

She still has an amazing memory which she is putting to good use learning poetry (aside, did you know that Felicia Hemans who wrote “The boy stood on the burning deck/when all but he had fled” was buried in Dawson Street in Dublin?) which Daniel quite enjoys also and even Michael doesn’t mind occasionally.

She loves the company of adults and gets on particularly well with my brother. They spend all their time arguing; both of them like to have the last word.

However, when she has her friends over, she does not love the company of adults, particularly her parents. She has been very lucky in primary school and had a group of lovely friends not all of whom, alas, are going to her secondary school.

She and her brothers enjoy reasonably good relations much of the time but occasionally they tire of the yoke of tyranny; she is always in charge. On the plus side, like all good tyrants, she provides entertainment. In her case this takes the form of invented games and stories which they love.

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She is very responsible. I often leave her home alone with one or other of the boys while I go out on small errands and when I send her to the shop to buy things, I don’t even worry about her any more because I know she will be sensible and cross roads properly and know what to do, if it all costs too much or if the shop is closed. Next year, she will be home alone from 1 on the day she gets her half day so this is the beginning of her latch key lifestyle.

I think the next year may bring lots of changes.

New School

May 20th, 2015

The Princess and I had a meeting in her new school for incoming first years and their parents. We were slightly filled with fear. We had two hours of powerpoint which was heavy on the school rules. Clearly the authorities are of the “don’t smile before Christmas” school of teaching. This is in stark contrast to the charm which was demonstrated when we went to visit the school as one of a number we were considering for our precious first born’s continued education.

I can only hope that once she actually starts the horrors will be not as vivid as they have been painted. All the students we met on the open night seemed relaxed and articulate, so we live in hope.

On the plus side, it is a mixed school and I note with mild glee from my perusal of the first year timetable that all students will be spending some time doing both woodwork and home economics.

Ceremony of Light

May 19th, 2015

A couple of weeks ago by way of preparation for the Confirmation, we had the ceremony of light. As Mr. Waffle observed, sardonically, there was no ceremony of light when we were children but there didn’t seem to be any difficulty in confirming us in its absence.

Nevertheless, we dutifully trooped in to the church for our ceremony. The children’s teacher had them drilled to within an inch of their lives and they were absolutely brilliant. Even children who I know to have been consummate messers for the past seven years, totally delivered the goods. This is also a tribute to their ruthless but effective teacher.

Normally all religious ceremonies for the school are carried out by the same priest who is a saint and speaks excellent Irish. Unfortunately, he had to withdraw and another Irish speaking priest had to be found which is no joke at short notice. A priest was found (he was a Capuchin and to the delight of younger members of the congregation, he remarked that he was in his Jedi robes) and he confessed that his Irish was ropey. He wasn’t joking and it was very decent of him to step into the breach but it served to further underline how really excellent the children were at their lines and how comfortable they were with their Irish.

All very gratifying.

In the mildly amusing, secular Ireland goes to mass category, I offer you the following:

Herself baffled her classmates by genuflecting in the church. They had never seen anyone do this before (really, really?)

I overheard one of the other children describe the priest as the Pope. I think not.

Hoist with my own Petard

May 18th, 2015

Herself is making her confirmation on Friday. It is a busy week.

As I write, Mr. Waffle is off in Helsinki. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to fly to Luxembourg. It appears that the possible Finnish air traffic strike will not now go ahead so he will not need to use his back up plan of taking the ferry to Estonia and flying to Luxembourg from there. On Thursday night, he will fly from Luxembourg to Amsterdam and then into Dublin about 11. If his Thursday work gig runs late, he is booked on to the last flight out of Luxembourg to London and then he will get the red eye from London to Dublin on Friday morning. I am mildly concerned that she will be confirmed in her father’s absence.

Mr. Waffle, having little faith in his spouse, left a highlighted note on the kitchen table this morning that a red confirmation rosette was required and then also texted me to this effect. The boys need new shirts for the event. A colleague said that herself needs a new dress; she is being confirmed in her school uniform (mercifully). On enquiry, she confirmed that other children are getting new clothes to change into. “I don’t care,” said she, “I don’t look good in neon.” What are we to make of this? And then I had to ring the guesthouse for my aunt, book a restaurant for lunch for everyone on Friday and consider where my two siblings will sleep on Thursday night. I also had fend off my sister’s queries as to what I am doing with my daughter’s hair. Apparently “getting her to wash it” is a poor response.

And then as well as all the confirmation organisation, I am doing all the things Mr. Waffle regularly does (bins, washing, GAA preparation, cleaning up after dinner) and the things we do between us (homework checking, sandwich making, chasing to bed) and my own tasks (dinner, scouts, walking the children to school). And work is busy too.

So, this evening when my very undemanding daughter – in the matter of confirmation prep, at least – reminded me that she wanted to go to confession before her Confirmation, my heart sank. I had forgotten at the weekend when confession is very handily available in almost any church you care to think of. The internet tells me that the only real possibility is going to a city centre church between 5 and 5.45 on Wednesday. Alas, fair maiden. With Mr. Waffle away this would mean bringing all three into the centre of the city at rush hour. So I hemmed and hawed and said we’d see but, I feel like the (I am sure apocryphal) mother who said her child couldn’t make the first communion ceremony because there was too much else to do on the day of the communion.

Also, the Princess tells me that she and Michael need cardboard boxes for their art class tomorrow. Because.

Skyrim

May 7th, 2015

Daniel and Michael love Skyrim. They want the game and in its absence have familiarised themselves with a telephone book sized tome on all its inhabitants.

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They have learnt the song of Skyrim and so have I, by extension. Regrettably, they are not going to get their mitts on the game until they turn 18. This is a matter of great bitterness and you would not believe the list of people in their class who have access to Skyrim.

A propos of nothing in particular the other day, Daniel said to me, “Do you know that Skyrim was voted goriest game 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014?”

This kind of information is probably not assisting their campaign work.

Worth Seeing; Worth Going to See

May 6th, 2015

Long-term, devoted readers (a select group, mostly related to me) may remember that about this time last year, I went to Rye with a group of friends I used to work with in Brussels.

Two of our number were from Northern Ireland and one is from Bangor and pressed for the delights of the Antrim coast so, last weekend off we went. July was ruled out due to the way the months work in Northern Ireland as explained to me by friend from Bangor: “January, February, March, March, March…”

On the way up, we stopped in Hillsborough, Co. Down which is a pretty little place with, for me, a very English feel to it. We failed to telephone for advice and in consequence had a mediocre enough lunch; I have discovered that for food in Northern Ireland you have to know where you are going. We did not know where we were going. I have also discovered that tea is served very strong (expression “you could trot a mouse across that” almost certainly originated here). I extracted five tea bags from a pot for two. We also discovered that parking rules are rigourously enforced and acquired a £90 fine (£45, if we pay it in time).

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Notwithstanding preliminary difficulties in Hillsborough, I had the most amazing weekend. The scales have dropped from my eyes. I cannot tell you how beautiful Co. Antrim is and it is empty. It was the May bank holiday weekend (North and South) and we had the place largely to ourselves. It’s only about three hours drive from Dublin and it is a spectacular spot where you feel like you are at the edge of the world.

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Our native guide acquired for us a really lovely holiday cottage with the sea and the Ulster way at the end of the front garden.

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As well as beautiful views over White Park Bay.

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Apparently the area near the beach boasts the remains of the Hedge School where Lord Castlereagh got his start in life but I didn’t see it, alas.

We were staying for three nights and three of our number cooked, having imported a range of food from foreign parts. Always have someone who originally trained as a chef among your party. I doubt whether anyone on the Antrim coast ate better than we did. And it was really nice to stay in and talk as we don’t all meet very often and there was lots of news; property buying is rife.

The forecast was for rain and our hostess’s parents who had lent a car, a map, two coolbags and their prayers to our endeavours were filled with fear but on Saturday there was no rain and we walked from the house to the Giant’s Causeway. It was about two hours and it was one of the nicest walks I have ever done and a highlight of the weekend for me.

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There were plenty of the weird rock formations to see on the way.

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The Giant’s Causeway itself was, as advertised. It was also unusually tourist rich for this stretch of coastline and I enjoyed a warming smug glow as I thought of our delightful walk and superior views.

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Samuel Johnson was sorely mistaken. Before looking this up, I hadn’t realised that a jibe at Dublin preceded his famous remark on the Giant’s Causeway. A “worse capital” indeed.

After our walk we took ourselves to the pub in Bushmills where we had scones and tea in front of a, very welcome, roaring fire. Ah, Ireland in May.

On Sunday morning, I felt that I ought to sample some of the religion with which Northern Ireland is so particularly generously endowed. There was a small Protestant church nearby and three of us headed off: myself, the Protestant and the saintliest of our number (a godless atheist from England). Although I have been to Protestant weddings before, I haven’t been to a Protestant service and I was amazed how similar it was to mass: the shape of the service is the same; the Creed is the same; the Gloria is the same; the sign of peace is the same (discovered afterwards that my Protestant friend’s father and my own father are identical in their loathing of this religious development – hands across the barricades and all that); the Our Father is, of course, the same.

The C of I hymn book introduction reinforced all my stereotyped beliefs about the Church of Ireland. It was put together by a committee who excluded some verses of hymns on the grounds that they might be offensive to modern ears; where it didn’t affect the the hymn too badly, they substituted humankind for mankind; they included hymns in Irish (for inclusivity – I was very surprised how many of these I didn’t know at all) and English translations (also for inclusivity); and they agonised over the updating of thy, thee and ye (which last they pointed out is still in use in some parts of Ireland – including my house, as it happens). You have to love the C of I. It was a family mass (or service as my C of I friend pointed out in anguished tones) so we had lots of children floating around and it was all rather nice. Although the devil has the best tunes, he resolutely chose not to deploy them on this occasion. We all warbled together the vile “Bind us together Lord” which has clearly crossed the religious divide. I was very amused by my English friend’s unavailing efforts to follow the service in the missal; old hands like myself and my Northern Irish friend are used to the flicking back and forth the almost tissue thin pages in non numerical order but she became a bit lost which is most unusual for someone who is normally the epitome of efficiency.

I felt slightly guilty afterwards when I discovered that the Catholic church was only down the road (usual neo-gothic offering) and slightly astonished to see two more churches (chapels?) in what looked like pre-fabs – possibly Methodists or Baptists or some of the more exciting evangelical sects to which the North is home. There is no shortage of variety of religious worship in even the smallest town, it appears. I noted that, as is universally the case in Ireland, by far the most appealing church, architecturally, was the C of I one and it also had the best setting looking out over the sea at the edge of the cliffs, surrounded by whitewashed houses.

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After this we went down to the harbour at Ballintoy which is a setting for Game of Thrones, if that is your thing – not mine though perfectly pretty little harbour.

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The real excitement was, undoubtedly, spotting the “Pear Picking Porky” which my other friend from the North had been pining for. It is a pear flavoured ice lolly only available in Northern Ireland. The porky bit is a red herring*; it contains no bacon. It may not contain any pear either.

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After lunch we went to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge which is quite exciting and definitely sways.

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One of my Northern friends found it a bit unnerving and had to be walked across by the, rather forceful, guide. Who could blame her?

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Apparently, it’s much sturdier than it used to be. The mind boggles.

We also saw Dunluce castle but we arrived ten minutes after last entry and, displaying the unyielding nature which can sometimes characterise our Northern brethern, the man on the gate refused to let us in.

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Never mind, I will see it when I come back next time, because I will certainly be back.

On Monday, I got the bus back to Dublin from Belfast. As we drove through the little towns, we were able to appreciate the Northern fondness for murals. Take Cushendall for example:

As my Northern friend dropped me to the bus, she pointed out a couple of Republican landmarks: the Divis flats were visible in the distance, Milltown cemetery and the Falls Road – were “just down there”. I mentioned that Daniel was in Belfast for the day playing a GAA football blitz and she looked at me in utter horror. “Don’t worry,” I said, “I’m sure they’re off somewhere in a lovely, leafy suburb.”

When I got home, I asked Daniel and Mr. Waffle where the football blitz had been. The Falls Road, it transpired. “Were the children rough?” I asked in mild trepidation. “Some were and some weren’t,” he said. When you’ve played football in Dublin, nothing can faze you. They got to the semis too.

*Did you see what I did there?


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