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May 14th, 2017

I went to a talk recently by a distinguished American scholar on behavioural economics. It was grand. I managed to restrain myself from going up afterwards to tell him that his wife’s first cousin was a good friend of mine from school (welcome to Ireland) although based on his (possibly too extensive for his audience’s liking) introduction about his wedding, I think he would have liked that.

One of the things he mentioned in passing was that it was a rare household where when you asked husband and wife how domestic work was divided between them the total came to 100%. I decided to test this hypothesis at home.

Here are the scores that were returned.

Me – Mr. Waffle 60%: Me 40% [I was being generous]
Mr. Waffle – Mr. Waffle 50%: Me 50% [He is very right on]
Herself – Mr. Waffle 60%: Me 40% [My work is less visible than his]
Michael – Mr. Waffle 60%: Me 40% [Really, my work is less visible than his]
Daniel – Mr. Waffle 83%: Me 17% [Seriously?]

I was outraged by Daniel’s score, the root of which is clearly that my work picking up shoes, laundry and other dropped items is completely invisible. Bitter.

In a, probably not entirely helpful, development since the introduction of the American economist’s aside into our lives I have taken to saying in a bitter undervoice as I go about my alloted tasks, “All part of the 17% service.”

It’s a fun game for you all to try out at home. Let me know how you get on.

The Essence of Romance

May 6th, 2017

Mr. Waffle went away for work on Thursday and came back on Friday. Sadly, this meant he missed the boys’ service of light which is part of the new super duper extended disco remix of the confirmation ceremony (they will be making their actual confirmation in June – fun fact, the Irish for confirmation is “dul faoi lámh an Easpaig” literally meaning to go under the hand of the bishop but when herself was confirmed the bishop was not available, am hoping boys will do better – I was only confirmed by an auxiliary bishop myself so we have poor form here).

The ceremony was held in the school which I was a bit dubious about but in fact it was absolutely lovely. The two violinists in the class whose progress we have been tracking over religious ceremonies for many years, have really improved, the children knew their lines, they sang beautifully and the evening sun streamed in through the tall Georgian windows and lit up the beautiful drawing room which is now the sixth class classroom and features children’s collages on the walls as well as the work of Dublin’s finest 18th century stuccadores on the ceiling. Daniel and Michael had their actual baptismal candles which I regarded as an organisational triumph but sadly I should have road tested them as the wicks were a bit short and they went out. The boys were displeased although I think more generally, they enjoyed the ceremony. Not as much as they enjoyed the Domino’s pizza beforehand though.

My sister who is recovering from an operation was well enough to come up and it was lovely to see her. The Princess came along under duress but loved it. It’s been a couple of years since she has visited the school but all the teachers and the principal have been following her progress and congratulated her on her various achievements and I think she was pleased. As it happens, two of her best friends from primary school have younger sisters in the boys’ class so they were there too and the three of them ran around the school commenting on how small the desks were. She showed me where they had written their names on the wall behind the radiator. “Where’s your name?” I asked. “Further down,” she said, “I was more scared of the authorities”.

The shopping was delivered on Thursday night and on Friday morning, I discovered that toilet paper had not been included in the delivery. I gave herself a tenner and asked her to pick some up on the way home from school. My sister offered herself a lift to school which she gratefully accepted. My sister also offered to buy toilet paper but I felt that it was too much to ask a recovering patient. Normally Mr. Waffle looks after all these things as he is self-employed and flexible (as he often points out, self-employed does not mean never has to work and can do errands but it’s an uphill battle getting that message across). The boys and I went out to the shed to pick up our bikes and I noticed that the Princess’s bike was missing. Good job her aunt gave her a lift. I texted herself, “I hope your bike is in school as it’s not in the shed.” About 11.30 she called me at work. Could I collect her as she was sick? I could not as school finishes early on Fridays and by the time I had cycled home and picked up the car, she’d have made it home under her own steam. How I missed my self-employed husband. Unable to do anything for my sick child I offered, “Look, don’t worry about picking up the toiled paper.”

She made her own way home. “Your bike was in school,” I said. “Look,” she said, “I’m not proud of this but I cycled to the library after school yesterday and locked my bike outside, then I forgot it was there and walked home.” It’s quite a step. However, the bike was still there on Friday and she was able to retrieve it and bring it home. And she bought toilet paper. I let her keep the change.

Mr. Waffle came home at 10 last night. As I said to him, he should go away more often as it helps me to appreciate him even more. As I write, he is off collecting the boys’ new bikes from a soulless shopping centre and he’s already done two loads of washing. My hero.

Weekend Round-Up

May 1st, 2017

Much activity chez Waffle this weekend. On Friday night, Mr. Waffle and Dan went to see the local football team defeat opposition (a first, I think, they seem to mostly lose since Dan got his season ticket).

Saturday morning saw the usual complex GAA/acting/French class dynamic. While waiting for Michael to emerge from drama I took the opportunity to drop a (never used) tablet into the repair man. Herself won it in a national competition (very proud – she won, in descending order of excitement a tablet, a hoodie, honour and glory, a large plaque engraved with her name and a conference invitation). In the train, on the way home from the prize giving in Galway she managed to rest her elbow on the winning tablet and break the screen. €55 to repair but, on the other hand, it was free to us.

On Saturday afternoon, herself had two friends over for a belated birthday celebration. Mr. Waffle the boys and I, having tried and failed on numerous occasions to buy new bikes for the boys in the local hipster bike shops (limited stock) went to a large soulless shopping centre and gave our money to a well-known bicycle chain shop.

On the plus side, I did enjoy this conversation between bike shop guy and a French man buying a bike for his daughter.

French man [poking at bike]: Where are these brake blocks made?
Bike shop guy: Um, Thailand, I think.
French man: Do you have any bicycles with brake blocks made in Europe?
Bike shop guy [pause]: Um no, they’re made where labour is cheapest. Globalisation and that.
French man: Snort.

We then went home and regrouped. About 6, Mr. Waffle and the boys and I left the girls with Netflix and money for Domino’s pizza and went out for dinner (new restaurant, not a success) and the cinema (Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2, a success until the speakers went about 10 minutes from the end and couldn’t be repaired – sigh, we got comps and a refund but we just wanted to see the end of the film).

On Sunday morning, the girls went to the zoo. One of the guests had a family pass which she had brought with her and offered to deploy. I was a bit dubious but herself said that her two friends (both quite tall) were going to pass as a couple and she as their adopted daughter. Even with all the new family structures in Ireland, this struck me as unlikely to be convincing. The zoo were kind of relaxed about it all though and they got in without difficulty even though it transpired that in addition to other difficulties, the card had also expired the previous day. At 12.30, Mr. Waffle’s parents came for lunch. He had made lasagna. At 12.45 the girls called to be collected from the zoo. I collected them and I said to Mr. Waffle that we had better feed them as their parents were delayed. “Family hold back, then,” he said looking dubiously at the lasagna. Moments later there was a dreadful crash followed by a cry of anguish from the kitchen. The lasagna had fallen. Alas. We filled up on bread, cheese and birthday cake. It was exiguous but, you know, acceptable. At 2, I drove the boys’ to their friend’s house for an afternoon of board games and a sleepover.

Once the visitors had departed, Mr. Waffle, Herself and I were left alone together. He and I went to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (modern art – still baffling) and she minded the house. When we came home we had a quiet evening in. Herself recommended “Casting JonBenét” a documentary on Netflix about the murder of a six year old beauty queen. I can report that it is not suitable viewing for a 14 year old at bedtime.

This morning we picked up the boys from their friend’s house and, to groans of horror, announced that we were going to Howth for a walk. Half Dublin had the same idea and it took us ages to get there.

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But the weather was beautiful and we found a set of steps which we had never noticed before and which led to a small stony beach.

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Herself and Michael were in the water and damp to the knees in almost no time. But they were delighted with themselves.

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There were two seals to admire also. We went on to the lighthouse and then walked back to the car park at the summit. On the way we met two very lost Italians who spoke almost no English. I dusted off my rusty Italian and gave them the unwelcome news that it was quite the walk to the village. In a move that will doubtless get me my reward in heaven I offered them a lift down from the car park. They were suitably grateful. They were from Florence and asked for recommendations for things to see. It’s quite hard to give someone from Florence recommendations for Dublin. Bridges? No. Art? No. Probably best to explore the surrounding countryside as they were doing.

All of the restaurants were heaving (insert your own Celtic Phoenix joke here) so we bought fish and chips (20 minute queue but very efficiently managed) and had them on the grass. My enjoyment of our picnic was somewhat marred by having a seagull poo in my eye. The aim, the precision. Very impressive on the seagull’s part.

And how was your own weekend?

Unwanted Fame or the Wicked Flee where the Examiner Pursueth

April 30th, 2017

I am not in Cork this weekend but I have been for the last three which is a lot of Cork. My infirm relative quota is rising, unfortunately – more details in due course – and I have been pitching in. Related to this, Boots in Cork have been heroic. My aunt was totally on top of her medication but now, not so much. My brother swept all the medication on her desk into a bag and I took it to Boots in Wilton along with her prescription and they a) threw out all the out of date stuff b) blister packed three weeks’ worth of drugs and c) hung on to the extras (disturbing, I feel) to put in to her next prescription. I nearly hugged the pharmacist. I am not sure whether you can appreciate how obliging they were (Mr. Waffle who has heard this story three times, is still unclear) but it was a high point of my engagement with the health sector in recent weeks.

Of course, my pitching in in Cork means Mr. Waffle is solo parenting in Dublin and my children miss me, I assume, in the case of the teenager, and certainly in the case of her brothers. Mr. Waffle’s parents are not as well as they might be either and that brings its own complications.

When I go to Cork, it’s a bit stressful; lots of errands and logistics. I have pitched it thus to everyone. And this is true. Really. But last weekend, when I was there, I snuck out to the Crawford Gallery and saw their new exhibition (which is excellent, incidentally) and, I felt a bit guilty that I wasn’t constantly running so I just didn’t mention my illicit gallery break. I did tweet about the exhibition, safe in the knowledge that my family is indifferent to my tweeting and not among my 234 (gasp) followers. So I was not utterly delighted to get this email from my sister:

From: Her
To: Me

Tweets making headlines

@Belgianwaffle’s Tweet was featured in Irish Examiner

5 things to do this week
Stuck for cultural events this week? Des O’Driscoll has great suggestions for you, whether it’s tv or theatre you’re …

It’s not like it was a secret but it’s not like I was advertising my gallivanting either.

A Boy Who Knows His Mother

April 28th, 2017

I had to collect Daniel from GAA at 7 on Thursday night. I arrived home from work at 6.45 to be met by Mr. Waffle who immediately cycled off into the sunset to a school information night. I drove to the training grounds. I was a little late. No sign of my first born son. It gradually dawned on me that they must be training in the other grounds. I arrived there about 20 minutes later and my child was sitting patiently waiting for me at the side of the road. Our conversation went as follows.

Me: Were you waiting long?
Him: Yes.
Me: Were you worried?
Him: No. One of the trainers asked me whether I was alright when she was leaving. I said I was and not to worry because my Mum is always late. The trainer said that there was a lot of traffic but I said that you were late whether there was traffic or not.
Me: That is true.

Not My Finest Hour

April 23rd, 2017

Of all the burning issues which you might think that I should really care about, it turns out that cycling is the one I’d die in a ditch for. I’m pretty surprised but as the discussion becomes more polarised, I find myself reading all kinds of things and snorting at the ignorance of people who disagree with me. I have become, perhaps annoyingly, evangelical about the joys of cycling; the exercise, the reliability, the handiness. I used to accept people parking in the cycle lanes and on the pavement as a fact of life but, increasingly, I am irritated by behaviour I used to ignore as inevitable. All this is to set the scene for the following little vignette.

One morning the boys and I were cycling to school. From our house to the nearby park, they cycled on the pavement [which is legal for children]. When we got to the short (very quiet) one way street leading to the park, there were vans blocking the pavement on either side of the road and I said to the boys to come off the pavement and cycle on the road but be very careful as it was one way against us. Out they came and a workman came across the road with a long pole which he was loading on to one of the vans and nearly took Daniel’s eye out. He immediately started shouting at me that it was a one-way street, which, of course, it was and he wasn’t checking both ways. We both got a shock although no damage was done. I was annoyed and I said, “We wouldn’t have been on the road if your vans hadn’t blocked both pavements”. We had a vigourous exchange of views for some time. When I caught up with the boys in the park, they were both a bit shocked. “Angry Mama,” said Michael, “why were you so mean to that man who was only trying to do his job?” I was a bit mortified. “How do you think I should have handled it?” I asked him. “I don’t know, I’m only 11” he said.

I spent all day thinking about it and what I should have done differently. If he had apologised, I would have immediately apologised myself but it was the fact that he was so aggressive and so self-righteous really got to me. I brought it up again at dinner. The boys had tired of the subject. “I’m reflecting on how I could have handled that better,” I said. “You’ve reflected already, now you’re dwelling,” said Dan.

I’m still dwelling. What should I have done?

Easter Round Up

April 19th, 2017

I took the boys to Cork for a couple of days before Easter. They spent a lot of time in front of the television although we did fit in the obligatory trip to Charles Fort in Kinsale. The needs of my elderly relatives are ever-expanding; my poor sister was out of commission [hold out for another post on this] and my brother was holding the fort with a ratio of 1:3 able bodied to infirm so I was there to try to even up the numbers. The boys absolutely loved it but I did feel a bit guilty as well as flattened from dealing with doctors and pharmacists and hospitals and the public health system and home help and finding the kind of chorizo my father likes. It gave me a whole new appreciation for my sister and brother; and I already appreciated them, really. So, not super relaxing.

We came back to Dublin on the Saturday before Easter as Daniel was scheduled to sing in the choir for the Easter vigil. It’s very beautiful. First the church is in darkness and then everyone in the church lights a candle. As we walked up to mass, Daniel reminisced fondly about how one of his fellow choristers managed to set his own eyebrows on fire the previous year. The service was indeed beautiful and particularly the music but it was very, very long. We eventually stumbled out at 10.50.

Before going home, the choristers all picked up an Easter egg. We were chatting to A, one of Daniel’s fellow choristers whose family is from India. A had already been on a three day retreat and was bracing himself for the Indian mass (Syro-Malabar for the intellectuals following along in the smart seats) the following day. Michael was horrified. Mr. Waffle almost asked A what religion he was. Then he remembered, oh no, of course, he is catholic, just much, much more devout than us. Our local church has an Indian and an African mass as well as other masses and it is unfortunate that in our patterns of worship we are (inadvertently, I assure you) replicating South African era apartheid conditions. Except for brave souls like young A and his family who cover several masses with unfailing devotion.

My parents-in-law came to us for lunch on Easter Sunday and we spoke to herself in France. She was holed up in the French exchange’s aunt’s château in Le Havre (location, location, location) along with 39 of the extended family and other exchanges including, a boy from Canada, a boy from Germany and two children from South Korea. I have still not got to the bottom of who in the extended French family is learning Korean. Games were facilitated by herself translating from French for the Canadian and the German (who spoke English) and the German translating for the South Koreans who spoke German but not much French or English. I confess myself utterly baffled by the set up. The Princess was very impressed by the four storey over basement château where she got lost several times and where the room for shoes was as big as her bedroom (which, you know, is a largish double). She also ate her own weight in chocolate and worked it all off on the trampoline.

On Monday, Mr. Waffle, the boys and I went into town for some organised fun. Some of this was pretty good. There was was graffiti:

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and art:

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and science:

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Then we went for lunch in town and all was well. We should have gone home then. Instead we went to Dublin Castle where Daniel saw a theatre thing he didn’t much care for and Michael wandered off to try the pottery making:

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Sadly, they then saw the printmaking and Michael, in particular, wanted to do it. The result was super and the people were really nice but, oh Lord, 40 minutes in a queue when everyone was getting tired and crabby was not a happy time.

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And then we had to cycle home which no one was particularly enthused about at that point. My mother’s motto is “Always leave when you’re enjoying yourself most”. My father always characterised this as rather puritanical but I think she has a point.

And then, yesterday, herself came home. We were very pleased to have her back. Her brothers are coping.

How was your own Easter?


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