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St Patrick’s Day Round Up

16 April, 2018 at 10:03 pm by belgianwaffle

Look, better late than never. We’ve been away for Patrick’s Day for the last number of years. This has been a source of considerable ire to Michael who hates going away in any event and also, was keen to see the Dublin parade.

So, this year, we stayed at home. We went to mass and had all the good Patrick’s Day numbers including “Dóchas Linn Naomh Pádraig” and “Hail Glorious St Patrick”. Herself got to encourage the congregation to join in and make up a little Irish spiel on the spot which she did quite competently. I was very proud. Michael and I then got the bus in to town to see the parade. His siblings had no interest whatsoever. It was bitterly cold. Michael and I found ourselves in the middle of a huddle of French people. “Where,” they asked, “are all the Irish people?” I could not say but I could confirm that they were not at the parade anyhow. I actually found it quite enjoyable but Michael was completely frozen and we didn’t stay until the end. The poor children in bands and floats were absolutely perished. One little boy was weeping from the cold in his lightweight band uniform and the other band members were trying to cheer him up/warm him up with no real success. Honestly, March just isn’t the month for this. On the plus side, one of the young French people standing near me was able to show me how to get autocorrect to work in French on my apple phone (it’s all in the keyboard function, I mean, who would have guessed that?). This may represent peak middle age for me: asking some random young person to fix my phone.

I took myself off to Cork that afternoon to see my aging father, he was moderately pleased to see me but quite, quite deaf. As I listened to the booming tones of the world service coming through the walls from his bedroom to mine at 2 in the morning, I was pardonably bitter, the more so because it was a programme which I had already heard and had not enjoyed particularly the first time. You will be pleased to hear that his hearing has been more or less restored in the interim and I look forward to a slightly less noisy trip to Cork this weekend coming.

I think next year we might go away for Patrick’s weekend again. Don’t tell Michael.

Mother’s Day Walk

11 March, 2018 at 6:49 pm by belgianwaffle

Even though they were exhausted by yesterday’s birthday celebrations, I made my family go out for a walk in the Dublin mountains today. Fortune favoured them and the road to the walk I had planned was closed due to snow.

We went for a mild walk in the woods instead. It was snowy, it was foggy. It was not an enormous success. I said that it reminded me of the set of the play we saw at Christmas and my, extremely literal, husband and son both said, “But the trees on that set were all white.” Walking down the snow in the fog, I said to Daniel, “Listen to the sounds, what do you hear?” “I hear running water and birdsong,” he began and was promptly interrupted by someone shouting in the distance, “Are you taking the piss, Jonathan?”

Some key walk statistics follow.

Time spent complaining about walk: 4 hours
Time spent gathering hats, coats, boots etc for walk: 35 minutes
Time spent complaining about wet socks/trousers: 90 minutes
Time driving to and from the walk: 75 minutes
Time complaining about evil siblings’ snowball throwing: 75 minutes
Time actually spent walking: 75 minutes

UntitledUntitledUntitledAnd we had to stop at Tesco on the way home to pick up ingredients for Home Ec tomorrow. Oh the humanity.

Winter Wonderland

2 March, 2018 at 11:55 pm by belgianwaffle

It’s been a very exciting week here, I can tell you.

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My phone started pinging about 6.30 on Wednesday morning with news that the “Beast from the East” (cold air) was coming, the country was to be blanketed in snow and the emergency planning group were issuing a “code red” (it’s far from code reds we were reared etc). From a work point of view, we were somewhat more prepared than when Storm Ophelia struck last year and able to cascade out to people reasonably readily that they were only to come in to work, if safe to do so. I went in myself and it was eerily quiet. Another colleague and I were the last to leave at the not incredibly late hour of 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Mr. Waffle and the children were at home as school was closed as well. About midday on Wednesday we were able to confirm to everyone at work that offices would be closed for Thursday and Friday also – it was a bit of a weight off my mind as I had a hideous vision of last minute calls Thursday and Friday morning.

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We had a lot of snow. Herself is still recovering from a cold and hasn’t left the house since it started. Michael did venture into the back garden and out onto the road and today, with some prodding, to the park around the corner. Daniel went (somewhat) further afield and was rewarded by an opportunity to throw snowballs at the neighbours’ children.

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Mr. Waffle and I walked in to town which was full of bewildered tourists but otherwise, pretty closed and empty.

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We have managed reasonably well. We had sufficient food including strategic bread stocks. We did run out of briquettes but Mr. Waffle chopped up some wood that was in the shed and that’s got us through today, along with the central heating.

Yesterday we watched “The Big Short” and now we all know what a synthetic CDO is so we certainly haven’t been wasting our time. We also tidied bookshelves, shelves in the kitchen, baked, worked a bit, finished homework and put away laundry. It’s all passed off very peacefully. The cat hates the snow though.

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Was there snow where you are? How was it?

Updated to add: Mr. Waffle trekked across the city on foot last night to attend a party. At the top of the road, he was hailed by our butcher. The butcher and two of the lads in the shop had been unable to go home due to the snow and they were staying in the B&B at the top of the road (he has some kind of contract to deliver nursing home food apparently and when they got back from doing the delivery, there was a queue of 20 people outside the shop and he felt obliged to open up and this was his undoing). When Mr. Waffle met them, they were venturing out in search of amusement having exhausted the limited entertainment offered by the B&B – apparently they had been reduced to playing chess on a Friday night and were mildly hoping for something better.

Seen and Not Heard

15 February, 2018 at 7:30 pm by belgianwaffle

When I was a child, my parents would regularly say to me, “Children should be seen and not heard.” It did not seem odd to me and it was standard that children would have to be silent to allow grown-ups converse although, children could, of course, leave (I found out the hard way that swinging silently but thrillingly from the curtains in the room until eventually bringing down the pelmet was not an approved activity). It didn’t seem harsh or inhuman or anything other than completely normal. My husband was astonished when he heard this and it feeds further into his belief that I had the last Victorian childhood in Ireland. He, of course, was raised by hippies (well, relative hippies,I mean his father was a captain of industry but a very right-on one), so I was unsurprised. I checked with my bookclub and while I was not alone in hearing this expression brandished about, I was a definite minority. I feel that it was reasonably widespread but the unscientific evidence seems to be against me on this point. Gentle readers, did your parents say it to you?

Things are the Sons of Heaven

12 February, 2018 at 7:16 pm by belgianwaffle

My parents and my grandparents had lots of mahogany furniture. My grandmother gave my mother some of her furniture including an enormous solid bookcase and my mother spent a great deal of her own time scouring auctions from where much of our furniture was sourced (I used to sit beside her quiet as a mouse because she told me if I moved at all, items would be knocked down to me and I was terrified). This was great when my parents lived in a big house but not so fantastic when they moved to a smaller Edwardian semi-detached house which basically had to be organised and extended around the furniture. I remember one of my friends commenting when he came to my parents house first what a curiously old-fashioned house it was.

Anyway, doubtless due to my peculiar upbringing, I love dark furniture. I think mahogany is a lovely, lovely wood. And it is out of fashion so truly beautiful pieces are going for a song. I want to cry every time I see a big house auction and fantasise about bringing all these items home to my terraced Victorian house. Although, frankly, with the items we have already imported from my parents house and the sofas of doom, there isn’t a great deal of space. Furthermore, I am not at all handy and so the round mahogany table which should tilt sideways, is permanently slightly askew, let us not even speak of the piano, the wardrobe door will not close (my grandmother gave me the wardrobe and I love it but it is inconvenient to have to wedge one door shut with a child’s old sock) and one leg is collapsing and there seem to be no carpenters who are at all interested in mending these beautiful things. It is all a bit depressing. I saw in the Irish Times design supplement one Saturday (which I find curiously appealing, I know what you’re thinking, stop it) an exhortation to readers to go out and buy mahogany furniture cheap at auction and then paint it over with pretty pastel shades. I think I nearly did cry when I saw that.

Am I entirely alone in my love for cluttered living with dark furniture? A whole generation of Victorians can’t be wrong.

Christmas Round-Up

7 January, 2018 at 9:43 pm by belgianwaffle

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

24 December, 2017 at 11:09 pm by belgianwaffle

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.


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