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Weekend Round-Up

10 December, 2017 at 8:28 pm by belgianwaffle

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?

Weekend Round-Up

3 December, 2017 at 7:43 pm by belgianwaffle

The weekends are going to be the death of me. I am limping towards Christmas. I was out a bit during the week which didn’t help general grumpiness levels by the time we got to the weekend (pub quiz on Wednesday night where I thought I had a crack team and we did not win, bitterly disappointing, I digress).

On Friday, Michael stayed home from school sick. This was a mercy as it meant no hockey Friday night and French was cancelled also as T wasn’t available. Herself went off with a friend for a sleepover. Leaving Mr. Waffle to mind the boys on Friday evening, I went to a drink after work for a couple of departing colleagues, I went on from there to a retirement for a much loved former boss who is now a friend. It was lovely but a bit sad. Her husband died suddenly a couple of years ago and they had no children and she is an only child herself so a bit thin on relatives. That said, she more than made up for it with loads of friends and staying in great contact with all of her cousins but still, she and her husband had such great plans for when they retired which, of course, will never now be realised. On the other hand she’s off to New Zealand for all of January hiking with a friend while I will be weeping at my desk so, definitely not all bad.

On Saturday morning, I was outside Tesco with Michael (fully recovered) for two hours flogging tickets to support the scouts. People were really generous especially people you felt couldn’t really afford it which was a little depressing. We had a venture scout, a scout, a cub and a beaver and I can unequivocally state that, if you want to sell tickets, then beavers are the business. This little six year old pulled them all in with her enthusiastic bell ringing (small angel sized bell). She was in Michael’s old school so he was able to offer her some sage advice on how to handle the teachers. While we were selling tickets, Mr. Waffle and Daniel were off at a GAA match. Daniel’s team won comprehensively and he was pleased. We all arrived back to the house about lunchtime, including herself from her friend’s house. Quick lunch turnaround and then up to the church fair where herself and Daniel were singing carols at 2. Mr. Waffle drove Michael in to drama at 2.30. I bought various Christmassy items at the fair and, although it was freezing, a reasonably good time was had by all. Mr. Waffle picked up Michael from town at 4 and I went in to look disconsolately at possible throws and cushions for the sofa of doom. No joy. Ikea beckons.

On Sunday morning, Mr. Waffle and Michael went to mass in Irish and then on to hockey. Herself, Daniel and I went to mass together where they sang (beautifully I have to say, our choir mistress has done a wonderful job with the choir) and then stayed for rehearsal where they sang lots of lovely Christmas songs.

Back home to lunch with Mr. Waffle’s parents. It was a bit of a rush and I think that they were waiting patiently in their car when he got back from hockey with Michael. Herself was going into town to meet friends and I had promised to drop her in so, after a quick lunch, we abandoned the grandparents but I was back in time to have a cup of tea with them. After they left, a couple came from Bray to take away the old sofa which we had offered on freecycle. They sat on it and declared that it was too uncomfortable to take even for free. They were very pleasant and apologetic but while I sympathise, I was not entirely delighted.

Then Mr. Waffle and I decided to take a trip into town for ourselves. We abandoned the boys to Christmas test prep (school Christmas tests start tomorrow, there is a certain amount of tension around as I type) and went in to the National Gallery and then off for a cup of tea. Herself agreed to join us for tea. I picked her up in a bookshop where she was with her friends. I found myself asking one of them whether having that enormous rip in the knee of her jeans was conducive to keeping warm in December. I am my worst nightmare. Herself seemed unphased by my extreme parentness. She had just, unwisely in my view, spent €9 of her own money on “The Great Gatsby” because she loves it. Given that we have, at least one and probably two copies in the house and Christmas is coming, I felt that she could have played that better especially when she explained that she only had €7 and had to get the extra €2 from her friend M.

And how was your own weekend?

Weekend Round Up

26 November, 2017 at 9:13 pm by belgianwaffle

Saturday morning Michael had a storytelling thing at the school. He was quite looking forward to it but it didn’t totally live up to expectations. Daniel’s GAA match was cancelled (oh rejoice!). Michael went to drama in the afternoon – how he loves drama class – and I did some mild Christmas shopping while waiting for him to emerge. I know, I know, it’s only November. Herself, briefly emerged from her room for mealtimes but basically stayed put recovering from the rigours of the week.

This morning we cycled to 10 o’clock mass in Irish (basically realising Dev’s vision for Ireland). I see that they are making the extraordinarily named Solanus Casey blessed. I think that’s step one on the road to canonisation. I was already conscious of this from my contacts within the religious world (hi Mark) but my contact, being American, neglected to mention that Solanus’s parents were Irish. An essential point, you would have thought. Also adding to the mystery of his first name. Was he perhaps Solanus in religion and christened something less exciting? The mystery continues.

We then cycled into town (freezing) to see Fanny’s Journey as part of the French film festival. It’s about a group of young Jewish children trying to flee into Switzerland from France. I cried from frame 1 and to the end of the film. Then we split forces and the Princess and I after a brief stop for sustenance went to buy her trousers for school. As she points out to me, she has been campaigning for school trousers since third class. I’m not quite sure why I resisted for so long but I did. I think in my oppressive, conservative, internalising the patriarchy way, I quite liked the school skirt. Anyhow, I have now accepted the error of my ways. Really.

When we got home she took herself off upstairs to do homework. Daniel was the only child even slightly willing to go into town to check out the organised Christmas fun at Smithfield. It was freezing. I bought Daniel a migraine inducing coloured light thing which sang a tinny jingle bells as his reward for accompanying me. We queued for 40 minutes (timed on my phone) for crêpes. That was a low point. Post-crêpe it was all mildly appealing, far too few stalls and an arctic east wind but loads of entranced kids running around and people on stilts and local kids singing in a choir. There was also a chance to hold the Sam Maguire Cup which Dublin seems to be consistently winning these days.

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Still we were glad enough to leave and get back home to the fire. Final weekend items – Daniel lost a tooth and my brother was in Dublin for the rugby match and did not visit his loving family, my wrath will be terrible etc. And how was your own weekend?

A Funeral

25 November, 2017 at 6:21 pm by belgianwaffle

My uncle died on Saturday night, October 21. It was his 83rd birthday. He had a constitution of iron but he used it all up. My mother is now the only one of her three siblings still alive. My uncle died after a long illness and my mother has been sick for a long time herself. I think that, although it was a terrible shock, the way their eldest brother died, suddenly at 76, might have been a better way to go.

As is often the case in middle age, the only time I see extended family is at funerals. I really miss having my parents around at these events and I am struck by how many of my cousins still have parents who are hale and hearty. I hope I have inherited these genes. In the coffin, I was surprised how like my mother, my uncle looked in profile. When he was alive, I never saw the similarity. He was so frail by the time he died that his bone structure stood out in a way that it hadn’t when he was alive. My cousins and I reminisced about how, as children, he and my mother had loathed each other. Although they got on fine as grown-ups, they vied for their parents and older brother’s attention as children. My uncle was very ill as a small child. The wisdom of the time was that his parents shouldn’t visit him in hospital. When he went in he was walking and talking and when he was discharged, he couldn’t walk or talk. It must have been terrifying for my grandparents. He was probably a bit spoilt in consequence. My mother was very bitter about the time he threw her china doll’s tea set out the window. I think this was after the return from hospital. He never settled in school and ran away from boarding school a number of times until my grandparents gave up the effort and let him leave early. My mother, on the other hand, loved school and grew up to become an academic. They were very different people but as adults they were loyal and kind to each other.

At the removal, the decade of the rosary in the funeral home (once my uncle’s and now my cousin’s – he was burying his father in a particularly literal way) was led by a priest with a smart English accent. I was astounded, has it come to this in the Catholic church in Ireland that we have to import English priests to work in congregations in small towns in Co. Limerick? As we walked over to the church, I asked my mother’s elderly (but very sprightly) cousin Maurice whether the priest was English. He’s a bit hard of hearing (aren’t we all?) so I had to repeat my question more loudly. Two local men who were walking just in front of us turned around to fill me in. “No, he’s not English, he’s from Limerick. He did spend some time in England alright,” said one. His companion added, “He sounds so posh that I was once there when he was saying mass and the fella beside me asked whether he was a Protestant.” I think you probably need to be Irish to find this hilarious rather than baffling but Maurice and I were both in fits.

I spent a while with Maurice, he’s a farmer and when I was a child he would often turn up at our house with dead pheasants which my mother would hang in the attic before plucking. I think this is not a feature of most urban childhoods. My mother used to put on her white lab coat to pluck them and once my sister’s friend, the vegetarian (at a time when it was unusual), turned up at our house and had the door answered by my mother in her lab coat covered in blood and feathers which, I think, was not a great experience for her. Maurice has been finding out about family history – he’s done a lot of research. Apparently the man who wrote this book is some class of relative. Sadly, I see that “Kiskeam versus The Empire” is no longer in print. I’ve never been to Kiskeam myself but I understand it’s quite small. According to Maurice, when the author was asked about the ultimate fate of tiny Kiskeam he announced, “Well, Kiskeam is still here and there’s no sign of the Empire”. Mildly interested in getting a hold of this and having a read.

I asked the relatives from Ballyhea who were there whether Ballyhea continued to say no. Apparently they had just started back the previous day. News. I discovered (to my mild outrage) that my beloved grandmother was godmother to one of my second cousins as well as me.

The next day, my sister and I drove back up from Cork to the funeral. We picked up a hitch hiker on the way. He was an unemployed painter and we asked for advice on painting. He was a bit monosyllabic but he became really animated when he talked about never using gloss paint outside. I give you this tip for nothing.

I texted Mr. Waffle to see how the morning had gone at home. “Poorly,” he replied. When I rang him it transpired that the children had headed off on their bikes and he noticed that Michael had left his lunch behind. He picked up the lunch and drove after them in the car. He caught up with them about half way in. He was quite annoyed. Not as annoyed as he was when he got home and discovered that Daniel too had forgotten his lunch and he had to get back into the car and drive the whole way into school with it. Suffice it to say, they were missing me.

The funeral mass was in the church where my parents got married. There were many elderly relatives reminiscing fondly. My mother’s cousin’s husband, Pat, recalled her arriving to the church just as the clock was chiming the hour. “It must have been the last time she was on time for anything,” I said. My father subsequently confirmed both parts of this story. A very glamourous cousin of my aunt’s said that she had known my father when he was a junior doctor and she was a trainee nurse. She was an extremely healthy looking 80 odd and she introduced me to her 95 year old aunt, who appeared to be in perfect health, although she did have a stick. Sadly, these are not blood relatives of mine so these genes are not available to me. The cousin was very nice about my mother who she knew when they were both young – “And, Anne,” she confided, “she was so clever, we all thought she was fantastic.” This was a pleasant counterpoint to Pat who was busily listing all of my blood relatives with dementia (he only married in, he’s as sharp as ever). After a while he said gleefully, “Do you think it’s hereditary?” Despite the impression this may give, he is actually a lovely man and married to one of my mother’s favourite cousins; it’s just that as an elderly relative he has dispensed with the need for restraint, I’m quite looking forward to this phase myself. He also did a recording of my parents’ wedding which I have never seen but my sister thinks she might know where it is.

Then off to the graveyard where we buried my uncle beside his son who died last year, his mother (1984), father (1969) and brother (2008). Notwithstanding the fact that he could be a difficult man, my aunt adored him and she was devastated by his death. Burying him and her son within the year is horrendous. I genuinely think she is a candidate for sainthood. I have never met a more-selfless person. She cared for my uncle at home for years when he was suffering from dementia and bedridden. Caring for other people and religion are the twin pillars of her world. Although she has lots of children and grandchildren, I have never seen her as lost as she was at my uncle’s funeral. If you are a praying kind of person, I am sure your prayers would be welcome.

My brother assures me I am paranoid but I remain convinced that my other aunt still has it in for me for not attending her husband’s funeral. It was in 2008 and the day we were moving home from Brussels; he died suddenly in hospital. My other cousin flew home from New York for it. They still talk about that. My other aunt pointed out my other uncle’s newly engraved headstone when we were in the graveyard. My assurance that he was my favourite uncle (he was) I feel sure availed me not at all. Again, to reiterate, my brother thinks I’m completely paranoid.

I’m going to become one of these people who love going to funerals, it’s the next step in my journey through middle age.

Saturday Night at the Movies

19 November, 2017 at 7:18 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle, the boys and I went to see Paddington last night. In the cinema, we met a) Daniel and Michael’s friend and his family who had just seen Paddington – they recommended it b) a friend of the Princess’s (she remained unmoved when I told her that her friend was there and thought that Paddington – which the Princess had refused to see with us – was a worthy film) c) a boy from Daniel and Michael’s year in school and two second years from their school and d) a neighbour from the bottom of the road and her two sons. I used to think that Dublin was an anonymous big city; I think I was misled.

Anyhow we all quite enjoyed Paddington in a mild way. The Princess joined us afterwards in Milano’s (funded by my brother’s Tesco vouchers, thanks Dan) and we explained the plot to her though we had some difficulties (what did happen to the treasure? and the book?) she surveyed us in mild contempt and said that if we were having plot problems with Paddington then she despaired of us all. No change there then.

In unrelated news, Daniel won the hamper raffle at school. It was in aid of the student council where herself is a leading light. There’s a hilarious picture on the school’s twitter feed of her handing the hamper over to her brother with a forced smile while he is receiving it with unalloyed delight.

50 Years

8 November, 2017 at 10:39 pm by belgianwaffle

My parents were 50 years married on September 27. My father is 92 and mentally very well; he is exactly the same man I have always known, he hasn’t grown old and vague, he hasn’t failed to keep up with things, he still reads two papers cover to cover every day. He is certainly physically more frail but he is, in his conversation, in his views, in his pretty encyclopaediac knowledge of everything from literature to engineering, entirely the same man I have always know. Sadly, the same is not true of my mother who has been ill for a number of years with Parkinson’s disease and related dementia. Although she has good days and bad days, it is getting steadily worse. A friend of mine says that it is like seeing someone get further and further away which I think is a pretty good description. So we didn’t really do anything to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. I sent my father a card. It’s hard for all of us, for my father, of course, and for my brother and sister in Cork who between them visit my mother every day and, whisk her home at the weekend, if she shows any sign of being well which, increasingly, she does not.

My parents had a very happy marriage. I only saw my mother annoyed with my father twice, once when he trimmed her hair (with great reluctance on his part, rightly it turned out) and she had to go to the hairdresser and basically get it all chopped off to fix his work and once when she had finished packing for the family camping holiday in France and he wanted to get his wash bag from the bottom of the boot and she had to unpack loads of stuff. I don’t ever remember him being annoyed with her. My mother’s best friend from college, a lovely woman with whom I am still very friendly, said that my parents had the best marriage of anyone she ever knew. They were certainly very happy. Each of them thought the other was amazing. They were both right.

My mother was 31 when she got married and in 1967 that was very old and, I think, my grandparents had given up hope that their career woman daughter would ever marry anyone. My father was 42 and his family had definitely written off his chances (a guy I knew in college said that it was assumed in Cork that my father had abandoned his confirmed bachelorhood because my mother was heiress to a huge fortune; sadly, I can confirm, there was no fortune). My parents met in March, got engaged in June and were married in September. My father broke the news to my long-suffering grandmother as he was dropping her into the Imperial on the South Mall for her regular Saturday afternoon tea with my aunt Cecilia. As she stepped out of the car he said, “And by the way, I’m getting married.” He then took off on a four week sailing holiday leaving my grandmother who had never even met my mother to cope with this information as best she might.

I wish my mother were well and I miss her every single day but I know I am very lucky to have grown up in a family where my parents were so happy together so swings and roundabouts, I suppose.

Parents

Mild Success

6 November, 2017 at 6:15 pm by belgianwaffle

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple of weeks on trains and I am very susceptible to advertising. “Murder on the Orient Express” has been plugged pretty relentlessly on the big screen in Heuston station. It was, therefore, perhaps inevitable then that we should go en famille on Sunday.

There was some negotiation on the timing of this. This weekend herself was out with a friend Friday morning, out with other friends Friday afternoon, at a party next door Friday night – about 70 teenagers, I applaud my neighbours – over to a friend in Kildare for a sleepover on Saturday and back Sunday lunchtime; Daniel had a play off for second place in his division of the league, they won could well be looking at promotion to division 9, and choir on Sunday morning; Michael had drama on Saturday afternoon and hockey on Sunday morning, so finding an agreed time at all was difficult. I decided we would push on even when I saw a stinker of a review in the Irish Times. We cycled in and out very successfully (back in the dark as well) and the film itself was actually ideal Sunday afternoon family fare. None of the children had read the book so the dénouement was a surprise to them. The cinematography was truly beautiful (my sister says that this is always the kiss of death for a film) and it was all enjoyable in a mild way. Herself got great entertainment from Kenneth Branagh’s Belgian accent (poor, he pronounced the f in ouefs apparently, I didn’t notice) and it was all good stuff and it prepared us psychologically for the much-regretted end of mid-term.


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