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April 17th, 2014

There is always a slightly impromptu element to the prayers of the faithful at our local mass on Sunday. They are read out with greater or lesser degrees of aplomb and clarity by the children to hand. Without doubt, the most difficult is the deaths. The child says, “We pray for those who have died.” He or she then waits for the priest to list the names of the dead. When the priest has finished the list the child finishes off, “May they rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon them.” The whole thing is fraught with difficulty. The child forgets to stop and reads right through; the priest doesn’t come in quickly enough; the priest leaves too long a pause and the child starts on the rest in peace over the names of the last deceased (whose relatives are likely to be in the congregation); or some ghastly combination of all of these. I am always rather tense when my children get this.

Last Sunday we were spared. Some other mite began “We pray for those who have died” but then the prayer ran on “from war, pestilence and famine”. It was clear to the congregation that this was not in fact the prayer for local dead; say what you like about the area, deaths from war, pestilence and famine are thin on the ground. The child however had heard the magical opening words and not particularly noticed or understood the follow-on. She paused and looked meaningfully at the priest. He looked meaningfully back at her. They stood off for quite a bit until the priest took matters into his own hands and said “Lord hear us.”

It’s all drama around here of a Sunday.

Heart of a Lion

April 15th, 2014

Mr. Waffle normally takes on the slightly thankless task of standing at the edge of a muddy field somewhere in the greater Dublin area early on a Saturday morning watching Dan playing football or hurling.

I went for the first time in a while recently and I must say that the team have really improved and it was quite exciting to watch. Dan is very keen and throws himself into the action. He is very persistent and never gives up and he really cares about the game. This can be a bit of a problem when his team loses (or as a father on the sideline put it to me glumly once “the inevitability of another crushing defeat” – this was an earlier season, they are, mercifully, doing much better this year.)

I was chatting to one of the other parents on the sidelines briefly but it transpired that he was the deputy-coach (oh yes, several coaches) and couldn’t really talk as he had to shout at the boys. At the end of the match when I collected Dan, he said to me, “Are you Daniel’s mother?” OK, I really don’t go very often. When I confirmed that I was, the coach said to me, “He has the heart of a lion!” And he wasn’t being sarcastic or funny, I knew he really meant it, and I know it’s true. Daniel may not be the best player (he’s certainly not the worst either) but he plays his heart out. He cares more and tries harder than anyone else on the pitch and it was lovely to see it recognised.

It’s Over

April 14th, 2014

The scene: An epic table football battle between Michael and me.

Me: It’s not over until the Fat Lady sings and you don’t hear me singing, do you?
Michael: You’re not fat, Mummy.
Me: How kind of you to say so, Michael.
Him: You’re just a bit pudgy.

Anxious to Polish his Halo

April 13th, 2014

Daniel: Daddy said something very mean to me.
Me: What was that, sweetheart?
Him: He said you have to wait your whole lifetime again before you can play Halo.

Daniel: How old do I need to be to vote?
Me: 18 but they’re talking about lowering it to 16.
Daniel: Now I have two things to look forward to when I’m 16; I’ll be able to play Halo and I’ll be able to vote.


April 12th, 2014

The Princess is 11 today.

She is as good as she is beautiful.

Channelling Pippi Longstocking:

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And also Yulia Tymoshenko:

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She is in general a sunny child. She is also a very determined child. I have discovered that I am the only parent of my acquaintance who is barred from her child’s bedroom. Her aunt gave her door knob hangers to decorate for her birthday. I imagine that we will be seeing a fair amount of this one:

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And this one:

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[Please note use of subjunctive which fills her pedantic mother's heart with joy.]

But this one rather less:

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She is a clever child and can be a bit too smart for her own good. She is doing the second reading at mass on Sunday. It is short but after reading it twice, she had memorised it. I was suitably impressed and said so. “Well, I am a product of the Irish education system where rote learning is particularly valued,” said she. I swear I am not making this up.

Walking to school one morning, Daniel asked me: “If the rain comes from sea water, why doesn’t it taste salty?” “Good question, I wonder why that might be,” I said [momentarily stumped - alright, look it was early, I am never at my best in the mornings]. “For heaven’s sake Mum,” said Herself, “the water evaporates but the salt doesn’t!” “What she said,” I said weakly. In my further defence, I don’t spend every waking minute doing the water cycle which does rather seem to be the pattern in schools.

She continues to fight for equality in an unequal world. There were separate maths sheets for the boys and girls the other day. The boys had to cost filling a party bag and the girls had to buy a wardrobe on a budget. She protested to the teacher that this seemed wrong and the teacher said that she could do the boys’ one, if she liked. So she and her friend M did but she was a bit dubious about the benefits of her intervention. I reassured her that she was raising the consciousness of her classmates but she remained dubious.

She asks me hard theological questions. Sample: “When Jesus fasted in the desert was it days only like Ramadan or nights as well? If not, did he eat what he found or eat nothing at all?” I really cannot say. Her friend M, the atheist poked her when they were doing about the persecution of Galileo in school and said, “Your religion.” But she knew, that in the matter of science, at least, the catholic church has moved on quite a bit. Still on religion – she and I sing in the church choir. It is killing me. We are learning this and I am singing alto with the greatest difficulty but she is flying through it and I think quite enjoying herself. In my defence can I point out that sopranos may have to struggle to hit high notes, altos get to sing the dull bits.

She loves to read. She loves to learn things and is interested in a very diverse range of fields leading to questions about the nature of the universe – philosophical and practical – which pin me to my collar. She has a particular interest in criminology and nurtures a burning, but so far unrealised, ambition to go to a course on this. I sometimes think that being the eldest makes her a bit too grown up. Her brothers seem, in many ways, much younger than her even though there are only 2 and a half years between them. I suppose that this is an occupational hazard of being the eldest.

She still likes walking in the mountains and Dublin is great for that. We can drive to the Dublin mountains in half an hour. Wicklow in an hour and up to Louth reasonably speedily as well. Possibly due to her mother’s pernicious influence, she is also fond of art galleries and the nicer kind of tea room.

In lots of ways, I can see that her views and her personality are shaped by us but in other ways she is completely her own person. She is, for example, very fond of poetry and reads a fair amount of it. Personally, I can take or leave poetry and only read a little and the same is true of her father.

If I come in tired or cranky, she will sometimes say, “Sit down and I will make you a cup of tea.” Her cooking career continues apace. She made her own birthday cake yesterday. Insert your own poignant comment about working parents here.

Tonight, somewhat against my better judgement, we are having four of her friends to stay the night. I feel unnerved. I daresay it will all pass off peacefully. They are all nice, well-behaved children. Deep breaths.

It is lovely having an 11 year old in the house. I find her easy to be with. My Nana used to say “Easy to live with is beauty” which is a bit like Cordelia in King Lear in terms of compliments, I know, but she was absolutely right. I like being with the Princess. She is a kind, companionable presence and will happily read her book while I read mine. Last night when her father was out and her brothers were in bed, we chatted while putting away the shopping and unloading the dishwasher together. Not the most exciting evening but life is made up largely of the unexciting parts and it so nice when they are pleasant and easy.

A very happy birthday to my wonderful daughter: we are so lucky to have her.

Mr. Waffle’s Muesli’s Philosophy

April 11th, 2014

From the side of the packet:

“Our Philosophy: We partner with dedicated suppliers to deliver the best for you, working with inspiring foods and ingredients from both home & abroad. Signature Tastes is a great way to bring friends, families and communities together to create real moments of joy & celebration.”

Frankly, I think that’s quite a big ask for a bowl of muesli. It’s clearly pushing the envelope as, going forward, it seeks to be a thought leader in the challenging and diverse world of breakfast cereal philosophy.

More Cat Tales

April 10th, 2014

Did I mention that the cat tends to curl up on Michael’s bed during the evening? At night we put her in the utility room as, if we left her the freedom of the house, she would begin yowling for food outside our door at 4 a.m. She doesn’t like the utility room despite its comforts which include a rug, an armchair and ready access to the outside world via her cat flap. She has to be lured in. I am usually last to bed. I go into the kitchen and open the cupboard under the sink where the dry cat food is kept and, usually, before I have closed the cupboard she comes streaking into the kitchen from upstairs at a speed that is surprising in one so portly. Her hearing is amazing.

Unrelated (though cat related, stay with me here). I was cycling down the lane the other day and a neighbour whom I don’t know was at his garage with a small, yappy dog which came up and barked at me and generally held me at bay. I waited for the neighbour to come and rescue me, which he did, “She’s all bark and no bite,” he said scooping her up under his arm. “She’s terrified of your cat, actually.” It appears that Hodge has been wandering around the neighbourhood terrifying local dogs. In this particular case, the neighbour had come home one evening to hear his dog going ballistic in the hall. When he went in it was to discover that Hodge had let herself in through their dog flap and was lolling on the landing watching the dog racing up and down the hall barking while being too scared to go and tackle her. Oh mortification.

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