Peacefully. Largely. We spent a couple of days in Dublin, then down to Cork on the train for a week or so and back to Dublin for New Year.
Santa Claus played a large part in our celebrations. When we got to Dublin airport, tired and ratty after a 2 hour delay, he was waiting in arrivals with a big sack of sweets and toys. When we arrived at Mr. Waffle’s parents’ house, it was to discover that Santa had sent an email to announce that there would be presents in the hall (two tractors and a princess dress, since you ask). When we got out of the train in Cork, Santa was waiting for us. I was startled but somewhat touched to see my three children run into his arms and give him a big hug. A number of older ladies then went up and danced with him. The next day was Christmas day and Santa was active overnight. Santa delivered dinosaurs for the boys and a range of things for herself including a pair of sparkly silver shoes, several sizes too small. “Stupid Santa,” I said. “No, Mummy, Santa has been very kind, don’t say that, we can give these shoes to a poor child with small feet,” said Pollyanna. The rest of our time in Cork was slightly bedevilled by continued requests to find a poor child with small feet.
To fit us all in my parents’ house, my sister had moved in with my aunt who lives next door. This was very kind all round. There were a number of difficulties, however (not for us, as my sister would no doubt tell you, bitterly). My sister, after long years in America, is used to houses which can be warmed throughout to the same temperature; there are no such houses in Ireland. Furthermore, the uniform temperature she likes is very warm indeed. My aunt has central heating but doesn’t bother using it much. She sleeps with the window open. She is very hardy. Despite my aunt leaving the central heating on for days and finding herself gasping for air in the garden, my sister found it necessary to sleep in thermal underwear, wrapped in an electric blanket, covered in a sleeping bag and topped off with a hat. She also had a portable heater beside the bed. Actually not the bed as such because my aunt decided that she didn’t need any spare beds a couple of months ago [take it up with the professional declutterers]. She slept on an air mattress which my aunt had got from a friend. It was very swish but, alas, leaked slightly. We were awkward guests and, though no one complained, I couldn’t help feeling just a tiny bit guilty about the level of inconvenience that we caused to everyone. In retrospect, the low point was probably when we commandeered the study for Daniel’s cot because he wasn’t sleeping in our room. He lay there solemnly drinking his milk while my sister was tried to get her invoices out before the end of the month in semi-darkness. “You do know,” my mother hissed “that your sister is trying to run a small business from that study”.
The boys will eat very little. This was brought home to me by the sight of their cousin J dutifully devouring everything his parents put in front of him and by my mother informing me at regular intervals that ‘those children will eat nothing’. I don’t really care about this because I am heartless. Mr. Waffle, however, is most distressed by it and this tended to cast a pall over many meal times.
Those children also got a mountain of presents from devoted grandparents, aunts (special mention to the aunt who felt that all of them should get a present every day they were in Cork) and uncles. When we returned to Dublin it was to find that Santa had been (again!) and left stockings for each of them. We struggled back to Brussels heavily laden with goodies and prepared for the last day of Christmas. Yesterday was Women’s Christmas and Mr. Waffle was nice to the Princess and me on the strength of it. Not as nice, though, as the Befana who called to our Italian neighbours upstairs and, finding that they were both grown ups, left three long red stockings filled with treats pinned with clothes pegs to the lift outside our door. For a while we thought that she had left lumps of coal but consultation with the neighbours revealed that they were actually an extraordinary coal like sweet. Finally, last night we had our Galette and the Princess got the fève. What with Saint Nicolas on December 6, Santa Claus on the 25th and the Befana yesterday, it has been a rolling Christmas treat and the return to regular arrangements this morning was greeted with mournful demeanours and protest.
Presents and family bonding aside, the highlight of the holiday for the Princess was holding a starfish at the aquarium and for the boys feeding the ducks in the Lough. I feel that this says something but I’m not quite sure what.