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Christmas Round-Up

January 7th, 2018

So Christmas day passed off peacefully enough. Herself was displeased with her offering from Santa “Why does Santa hate me?” but otherwise all was well. We went out to the cousins for drinks with extended family but it was just ourselves at home for dinner which I really liked. I am not the world’s greatest natural hostess and I find it pleasantly undemanding when it is only family for dinner.

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Our crib shepherd lost a head at a crucial moment and so missed most of the big day. He was taken out by a large book on Dr. Who which hit him inadvertently. It was suggested that he might be renamed St. Denis for this year only (his head is now safely superglued back on his shoulders).

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On the 26th we went on the traditional orienteering expedition in the Dublin mountains with the cousins. For the first time ever, as far as I can remember, it did not rain.

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That evening, herself went as emergency babysitter to the three year old child of friends who live around the corner. It went very well and she sees a lucrative new income stream opening up.

On the 27th we went to Cork where a vast array of exciting presents awaited. We stayed in our friends’ place in East Cork and went up and down to Cork city for various excitements including ice skating.

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We did the Ballycotton cliff walk which was spectacularly muddy. We ran into another family; the mother was American and was walking along with a child in a sling and the father was Irish and admiring the view. They also had a two year old splashing through an enormous puddle. Her mother kept begging her not to run through the puddle; advice which the child ignored with unfortunate but not entirely unexpected consequences. I felt very sorry for the child and her mother. I did think her father was quite useless. Herself has urged me not to be so judgy but I said, “I bet your grandfather was better than that in the 1970s.” When we checked at her insistence, however, he indicated that he too would probably have looked at the view. I refuse to believe that. Like his granddaughter, he is not judgy (other than about politicians, oh my goodness, lots of judgements there) and I feel he just wanted to exonerate the father from blame. I digress. Thanks to our new boots and greater height and motor skills than the average two year old, we remained dry.

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That evening, my sister and her partner took the boys to the new Star Wars film and dinner in Milano’s. Herself, Mr. Waffle and I went for a more sophisticated dinner option together which she quite enjoyed (she tires of Milano’s but her brothers never will).

We finished our Christmas holiday jigsaw. Almost unbearable excitement, I know. The house in East Cork has no television or wifi which I really enjoy. The children, slightly less so, though not as much less as you might imagine.

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We were back up to Cork the next day where my brother and sister made a very elaborate family dinner for ten where the Yorkshire puddings were a highlight for Daniel and Michael. My brother bench pressed herself; this is the kind of quality entertainment that is available at family dinners. My father told us about his first meeting with my grandfather, his father-in-law to be. My mother went off somewhere with my grandmother and he and my grandfather were left to cope alone. My grandfather asked him whether he would like a drink. He would. At the time, my grandfather was going blind and after rooting around the cupboard, he emerged with a bottle of whiskey and poured out a measure for my father. He didn’t take any himself. My father who was a keen whiskey drinker was pretty sure that the contents weren’t whiskey but pretended to drink filled with fear that it might be some terrible poison – my grandfather was a farmer and farmers are or certainly were, inclined to fill random bottles with agricultural supplies. When my mother and my grandmother came home, investigation proved that the non-whiskey drink was actually Lourdes water. Also on herself asking him about living in American in the 1920s (long story, he did), he recollected turning off all the lights in the house commemorating some anniversary of the lightbulb. It must have been quite the shock coming back to Cork with its oil lamps in the 1930s. He also was quite adamant that it snowed while they were in America, given that they were living in Orange County, South Pasadena (apparently the South was important), that seems a little unlikely but he is adamant.

That night, we had games night – Michael got a number of games for Christmas and he was keen to try them out. It was actually quite good fun though slightly hideous in prospect.

On new year’s eve we went for our first walk on the beach since arriving. It started to lash rain/sleet and we ran to the hotel hoping that it might give us lunch but, sadly, no. Mr. Waffle and herself braved the rain and got the car and we went to the Kilkenny shop in Shanagarry instead. We met a good friend of mine from Dublin there with her family which was quite random and proves that Ireland is tiny etc. She and her family were reliving her husband’s childhood family holidays in Waterford and their exploring had taken them into East Cork.

Then back to Dublin. We bought a “Best of Queen” CD and a 5 set CD of hits from the 80s to listen to on the journey (mock, if you will). I can confirm that Queen had more lasting hits than all of the 80s put together. About half way back I started to feel unwell (unrelated to the hits of the 80s). By the time we got home, I was very unwell. I spent the remainder of the evening getting sick and could only lend half an ear to the various woes involving the cat (neighbours had wrong keys, had gone out and bought cat food and sent their teenager over the garden wall to put out cat food for the cat every day, frankly, above and beyond the call of duty). About 11.45 in a brief break from my time in the bathroom, I headed downstairs to wish Mr. Waffle a happy new year. He was just heading off to rescue herself from a new year’s eve party. All in all, we have had better starts to the new year. I finally stopped throwing up about 3 am. I firmly blame the grilled brie in the restaurant where we had lunch for my brief but violent illness. The next day, feeling delicate, I was sitting reading the paper while the boys played their new videogame (Overwatch, very popular), “I am a one-man apocalypse,” hissed the character on screen. Herself lent across the sofa and said to me, “It’s the brie speaking.” Oh yes indeed.

Mr. Waffle’s sister, husband and baby came to Dublin from London for a couple of days at the start of the month. We had them round for an extended family lunch before I trudged dismally back to work last Thursday. We had the tree yesterday for Women’s Christmas but it came down today and the children are back to school tomorrow. Alas alack.

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In other news, over the Christmas holidays, Daniel and Michael lost a tooth each. Seriously, when do children stop losing teeth? I think herself still has some to go and she’ll be 15 in April.

How was your own Christmas?

Pre-Christmas Round-Up

December 24th, 2017

We put our Christmas tree up last weekend. Mr. Waffle and the children behaved as though I were the Grinch for refusing to allow them to put it up earlier but if you put up a real Christmas tree at the start of December, it will be dead by Christmas. Negotiations are continuing and next year we may have to go back a week. All to play for. Herself pointed out that her friend M’s Christmas tree was up before ours, “And she’s Jewish!” she added bitterly.

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I had my annual haircut. My hairdresser and I have agreed that once every nine months might be better than once a year so we will be moving to a new and exciting timetable.

Once we had our tree up and I had my hair cut, we were in a position to have some people around for Christmas drinks which was pleasant. The children, of whom there were many, were herded into the utility room which had been repurposed as a children’s entertainment centre. I stuck my head around the door and found very earnest 10-13 year-olds arguing about Trump, Brexit and religion while one of them strummed a ukulele. The younger children ignored their seniors and watched Spongebob on the telly. A vision of hell, really. Herself and her friends (sophisticated 14-15 year olds) retired to her room. She pointed out to me later that all of her friends have an immigrant parent, not sure what that proves other than that Dublin city centre is quite diverse, well more diverse than Cork in the 80s where all my friends had two Cork parents or, at worst, two Munster parents.

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We went to a play for Christmas. It was “Let the Right One In” in the Abbey. It was the first time Daniel and Michael had been in the Abbey and as they filed into their row, Michael said, “I take it this won’t be immersive theatre with audience participation, then”. My unusual 12 year old. The play is based on the film which in turn was based on the book. It’s about vampires. It was only alright. They could easily have cut out an hour and seriously improved it.

On Tuesday, herself and Daniel were singing in the school Christmas show and Michael had his scouts Christmas party for which he was supposed to bring cake. We found some cake at the last minute. The week was filled with last minute requests: cake, Christmas jumpers, Maths past papers, the Hollybough (vital Cork Christmas publication without which etc), crowns made out of cardboard for the boys so that they could be Magi in German class. Mr. Waffle has renamed himself Eason Man and his superpower is going daily to Eason’s to get school/children requests.

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Christmas jumpers (not from Eason’s) were a success.

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They have been wearing them a lot.

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I bought myself some Christmas mugs and I love them. My family mock me. They’re made by Spode which always reminds me irresistibly of PG Wodehouse. Herself had a look and said, “Hmm, only for Christmas eh? How many do you reckon you have left? Do you really think you’ll get value for them?” Oh har di har.

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The children finished school on Friday. One of their teachers who hates Christmas and bars it at the doors of his classroom (we call him an t-Uasal Ó Grinch) received a Christmas card from my daring daughter. She was also let out of class by her maths teacher to make an announcement on the intercom to the effect that her year wished everyone a happy Christmas in particular an t-Uasal Ó Grinch. “You can do it,” said her maths teacher, “as long as you keep me out of it.” Inevitably, she mentioned him. Is this going to end well? With great power (getting to make school announcements because she’s on the student council) comes great responsibility, I understand.

Yesterday was the first day of my Christmas holidays. We bought Michael a bed from Northern Ireland and it was due to be delivered between 7.30 and 9 yesterday morning (spectacular timing). A lifetime’s experience with tradesmen has always made me pretty dubious about times. Let me put it this way, I did not expect to be knocked out of my bed at 7.39 by two men who had left Cookstown Co. Tyrone at 3.30 in the morning on the day before Christmas Eve. That, however, is what happened. As they brought the bed in past us in our dressing gowns, they mentioned that they had already done two deliveries in Dublin. That’s a lot of Dublin families they’ve seen in pyjamas, I would guess. This reinforced all my (positive) prejudices in relation to the Northern work ethic, particularly when they refused point blank to have a cup of tea and just sailed off into the very early morning. Later, I brought herself into town and bought all the remaining items needed for Christmas including getting her ears re-pierced. Not the day I would have picked myself but it wasn’t too bad actually. Once I had left her with her friends, I had a look around St. Ann’s Church on Dawson Street which I have never seen open. Mrs. Hemans is buried there. “Who?” you ask. Does “The boy stood on the burning deck” mean nothing to you?

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Today we went for a mild walk in the Dublin mountains up to the Hellfire club.

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The children all had dry feet due to my extensive recent investment in boots. I am very proud. Photo from the pub car park where we had lunch. Authentic.

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We’re back from carols and midnight mass (9.00 start but, you know) and the choir were fantastic which is always delightful, particularly when two of your children sing in it. The third just sits beside me and wonders when it will be over. In his sermon, the priest referred to Tom Kettle. Before this afternoon, I had never heard of him but herself had got a book of poetry from a friend and read out one of Kettle’s poems to us in the car on the way to our walk. It was a lovely coincidence to hear the final lines again tonight.

As I write this, the spiced beef is on and a certain amount of present wrapping remains to be done but we are pretty much ready. I hope you are too.

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In conclusion, merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Family Communication in the Digital Age

December 15th, 2017

From: Library
To: Me

This is a reminder that the following library loans are due to be returned in 3 days. If you wish to extend your time, please contact your local library or https://librariesireland.iii.com/iii/encore/myaccount with your library card
Please note – This is a courtesy notice only. There is no need to reply.

> AUTHOR:
> Tolkien, J. R. R.
> The fellowship of the ring
>
> AUTHOR:
> Colfer, Eoin.
> Artemis Fowl and the last guardian

From: Me
To: Herself, Mr. Waffle, Daniel, Michael

I have LOTR but does anyone know where Artemis Fowl is?

From: Herself
To: Me, Mr. Waffle, Daniel, Michael

obviously not me. unsubscribe

Weekend Round-Up

December 10th, 2017

On Friday night there was no hockey training for Michael as it was cancelled due to cold weather. This is not the kind of attitude adopted by the hardy GAA players/coaches to cold weather; it was very welcome though. I had my office Christmas party so although it was my Friday half day, I went back in about 5 having spent the afternoon picking up my daughter’s bike from school (she was on the DART to friend in Wicklow) and watching a film in front of the fire with my loving sons. I was reluctant to go back to work but did and it was grand but I felt dutiful and virtuous rather than having fun and letting my hair down; possibly for the best. I bailed out about 7 to pick up herself from the DART. She was going to a friend’s Christmas carol concert in Trinity. I was a bit dubious – I have been stung before by youth choirs. We met her other friend J in front of Trinity and then went into the chapel where the concert was to be and to my surprise and delight it was quite warm. And then the concert itself was absolutely superb. The singers were amazing; they were unaccompanied but sounded utterly beautiful. The performance included the only good version of “Away in a Manger” that I have ever heard (sorry everyone). My favourite song was probably “Gaudete” but they were really all excellent. Afterwards herself and myself went to supper and that was lovely too although she was exhausted by the time we got home.

On Saturday afternoon, Daniel had his final GAA session of the year (7 a side tournament – which his team won – followed by pizza). You will note that the GAA were not put off by inclement weather like the hockey people. Michael meanwhile had his drama showcase (v good if a bit confusing). Herself and myself attended and we picked up glitter Christmas glasses.

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Afterwards we went to look at the Christmas window in Arnott’s (for me, for me, children only v mildly interested) and got on the new extended Luas line home (verdict from children – “it’s a tram”).

On Saturday night we all trooped off to see the Princess win an award. My poor parents and parents-in-law are not really well enough to attend this kind of event any more and my brother and sister are a bit too busy and far away so herself had to make do with enthusiastic support from her parents and some lacklustre support from her brothers who were, you know, supportive but a little bored.

This morning we had mass (herself mentioned from the pulpit for her award but they got her name wrong so, um, swings and roundabouts) and choir rehearsal. Had a great chat with one of the other parents while waiting for rehearsal to end. Like my mother, he is from Limerick and v interested in horses. I was asking how his daughter was getting on in secondary school and he said that he had spent last night explaining sets to her. “It is,” said he, “very useful for working things out if you want to put a combination on the tote.” He spent some time trying to explain this to me but, unlike his 13 year old, I seem to be a slow learner, I am glad, however, that somebody has found a practical example for the use of sets.

At lunch time we took ourselves off to see a special screening of “A Muppet Christmas Carol” in the cinema. Singing along was encouraged but it did feel like Michael and I were the only ones who knew all the words; so we were, I thought, a little conspicuous. We had hoped to go and look at the snow in the mountains but it was too cold and wet (I mean, I know snow is wet but you want blue skies to enjoy it not leaden sleeting ones) and we realised, belatedly, that herself has grown out of her hiking boots and would have to climb the mountain in Converse runners so instead, we went to the parents-in-law for a visit and now we are home, I have lit the fire and nobody is going anywhere for the remainder of the evening.

How was your own weekend?

Term 1 – Sporting and Other Achievements

December 8th, 2017

Daniel’s hurling team (U12 C team) has come second in its division (division 10 and that’s not the lowest division, there are millions of kids hurling in Dublin), his football team (U12 B team) has come second in its division (division 5 and there are even more football than hurling divisions) and they were knocked out in the final of the school football tournament. Pretty close every time. Next season, we might get the cup or at least a cup. He is cheerful about his achievements all the same. It’s unclear whether his teams will be promoted like in English soccer (unclear to me anyway,I’m sure the GAA coaches know) and what impact that will have on next year.

Michael got a cert for completing his first term of hockey training. It’s early days.

Meanwhile, herself is up for an award the parish put her up for. There’s a big ceremony at the weekend and she’s allowed to bring five guests. I’m thinking we can just go with her but she’s not sure whether her brothers will be able to face it when the alternative would be a nice evening at home with electronic devices. Possibly a realistic assessment. I’ll keep you posted.

Saint Nicolas, Patron des Ecoliers

December 7th, 2017

We left Belgium 9 and a half years ago but yet, around the end of November, Michael began to ask, “When is Saint Nicolas coming?” “He comes to Belgian children on December 6, but I hardly think you count at this stage,” I replied. However, on December 5 all the shoes went out and were filled at about 11.30, by a chocolate Paddington and a miniature packet of Pringle’s crisps. Saint Nicolas’s helpers realised that there had been a terrible misunderstanding. Each thought the other was sorting Daniel. So, at 11.30, one went down to the Spar and bought Pringles. In the morning, Daniel said dolefully, that he had wanted a chocolate Santa. Herself, regarding the M&S Paddington dubiously said, “I’ll swap you for this, Saint Nicolas isn’t what he once was, it used to always be a Leonidas Santa.”

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Who knows whether Saint Nicolas will visit us next year?

Thought for the Day

December 6th, 2017

Me: When the children leave home, I wonder what we’ll do at the weekends?
Him: Hmm. I don’t know.
Me: We could go to mass in the pro-Cathedral and hear the Palestrina choir on Sunday. And then we could go for a nice walk in the mountains somewhere. [Pause] Why didn’t we do that kind of thing before we had children?
Him: It’s possible that your views have changed. Maybe in your 20s mass and a walk was not your idea of a fun Sunday.


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