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9 February, 2019 at 6:59 pm by belgianwaffle

Honestly, I can’t remember when I have had a more miserable January. At least 3 of us had the flu and we were all sick. I am only really better now. Poor Mr. Waffle is still going around coughing pathetically. His recovery was not, I imagine, in any way advanced by a shower of hail while he stood on the side of a GAA pitch this afternoon cheering Daniel on to a miserable defeat.

The works in the kitchen have been quite hideous. The house continues to be almost always filled with builders and dust. The temporary kitchen set up in the utility room is as hideous as you might imagine. We had many freezing weeks without a wall. The temperature in the temporary kitchen fell to as low as 8 degrees celsius and the olive oil solidified. For one hideous wet, rainy, cold miserable night we had to go out in the back garden to get to and from the temporary kitchen.

We enjoyed about a week of an earth floor in the kitchen which as depressing as it sounds. Particularly, when you see the cat eyeing it speculatively as a vast indoor toilet facility. Our tiles in the kitchen were laid on earth by the Victorians and, as Mr. Waffle said, there were worms there sticking their heads into the air for the first time since the build up to the Boer War. British worms.

There were several dates for delivery of windows to make the kitchen weatherproof. This was even more important as doors between the kitchen and the rest of the house had to be removed. Two of the delivery dates were missed to no one’s real surprise but the windows and glass doors were delivered on February 4 and although the door doesn’t open and the bathroom window is not the colour we ordered, we are inclined to regard this as a definite step forward.

Meanwhile, like a fool, I am doing a course which required an assignment to be submitted by February 7. It had to be done in the course of January. You would think we were suffering enough but I enjoyed putting myself through that extra layer of misery. I am never doing another degree, diploma or anything unless it is for my own entertainment and maybe not even then.

My poor 93 year old father also got the flu and I was ringing him for daily updates on his condition. He’s almost recovered, thanks for asking. As I rang to hear his litany of woe and he sympathetically listened to mine, he would say, “there is only one thing for it ‘durchhalten'”.

I think the worst might be over. But it might not.

The Problems of Another Age

23 January, 2019 at 3:46 pm by belgianwaffle

My aunt was telling me that, many years ago, my Granny got a new fur coat with which she was very pleased and she brought it home. Instead of hanging it up in the wardrobe she put it on a hook under a high shelf the better to admire it.

No sooner had she paused in her admiration than a stray bird flew in through the window and perched on the high shelf above her fancy new coat. It was the work of a moment for the cat, also in the room, to climb up the fur coat and secure the bird. I understand that the coat was never the same after. I suppose the bird wasn’t either.


12 January, 2019 at 6:55 pm by belgianwaffle

Saturday, January 5

So we drove back from Cork last Saturday morning. We got into Dublin just before lunch and all was well. I dropped herself into town to meet some friends. Would she wear a coat? She would not. “I’ll be inside the whole time,” she said. My riposte – “You are meeting your friends in St. Stephen’s Green, that is a park. Outside,” – was met with withering disdain.

I went home to start clearing out the kitchen for the builders who were due to start on Monday but Mr. Waffle said, “We’re all tired after the drive, will we do it tomorrow?” This was most unlike him but very welcome at the time. Subsequently, of course, it proved to be a big mistake. I’m sure there’s a moral there somewhere.

About 6 I got a call for herself wondering whether there was any chance of a lift as she was freezing. “Aha,” said I, “the absence of coat a mistake?” “Yes,” she conceded, “I also regret the sandals.” As I had been toting a hot water bottle around with me for the past hour as I was inexplicably cold, I hopped into the car with it and brought it to her. She was suitably grateful.

Sunday, January 6 – Epiphany

I slept badly and woke up feeling terrible. I couldn’t even go to mass, for Epiphany. But you know what I had to do? Clear the kitchen for the builders, that’s what. We all helped and it wasn’t quite as awful as you might imagine but I had a raging temperature and was unutterably miserable.

About 4 I was able to limp back to bed. Mr. Waffle made dinner and I came downstairs to make an attempt at eating it but my heart wasn’t in it and I definitively took to my bed at 8 that evening.

Meanwhile, Herself began to display symptoms, shivering away.

Monday, January 7

I don’t know when I was last so sick. I had a horribly disturbed and slightly hallucinatory night. My torso was too hot and my feet were freezing. Regular doses of paracetamol seemed to make no difference though I suppose they did.

About 20 years ago when living in Brussels, I had the flu and I thought to myself this is it again. I got out of bed once to go to the bathroom and that was pretty much it.

The builders turned up at 8 in the morning and started doing building things. The noise. The misery. I can so see why flu can be lethal to babies and old people. I am rarely sick and I feel my system is wearing itself out. Prediction is, nevertheless, that I am likely to live.

Mr. Waffle tended to the builders (lots of questions), me and the Princess. When the boys got home from school, Daniel didn’t fancy eating and felt tired so he went to bed. Was this a good sign, gentle reader?

Tuesday, January 8

Yet another disturbed night and really pretty miserable. Mr. Waffle dropped me into the GP where I waited to be seen for about an hour in a room full of miserable people. The GP confirmed the flu and said cheerfully, “Watch out for pneumonia though, that’s what we worry about.” Apparently it’s all related to the colour of your phlegm. God. I pointed out that I didn’t have a runny nose, something I felt, somehow that I ought to be congratulated on, and she said, quite pleased, “Yes that’s typical for flu.”

Home and crawled back into bed with the builders doing their thing in the kitchen and Mr. Waffle tending to two children and me. So miserable.

Michael came up to me when he came home from school. He was burning hot. “I felt really dizzy and hot today and I had a headache cycling home,” said he collapsing into the bed beside me.

I’m a bit confused about what happened next but about 8 in the evening, Michael said, “I need water.” Mr. Waffle’s voice came from the floor at the end of the bed saying, “You’ll have to get it yourself and can you go to your own bed”? Apparently, Mr. Waffle started to feel sick too and decided to construct a camp bed rather than move Michael. Everyone was getting a bit confused. There was no dinner and everyone was in bed by 6 we think.

Wednesday, January 9

I woke to the sound of the cat whining at the bedroom door. I went downstairs to feed her. While I rejoiced in my ability to walk downstairs with only the occasional pause to cough up phlegm ( not green – good news on phlegm watch), I was not super delighted to be besieged by builders asking hard questions about windows, flues and other matters.

With Mr. Waffle out of commission, I dragged myself around to the children’s rooms doling out paracetemol and the limited stock of sympathy I had available to me once I had used up most of it on myself and then took myself back to bed where Mr. Waffle was hacking up a lung while wearing a fetching damp face cloth on his forehead.

It feels like I have been sick forever. 3 full days in bed is a really long time for a grown-up to be sick.

Thursday, January 10

Herself was going to a concert with her friends – tickets part of her Christmas present and had to cancel due to ill-health.

I showered in the morning and began to feel a bit more human. Was this the beginning of the end?

The main builder who is an older gent waslooking a bit under the weather. I didn’t sleep last night he tells me between coughs. This could carry him off. And, as the GP said cheerfully, “In a closed environment like a house, it is very likely to spread.”

The boys’ parent teacher meetings were that evening so I left the house of illness and went to spread my germs around the school and, on the way home, Tesco. Feedback on the boys was all grand. Apparently Michael is a born presenter and now that 10% of his State exam marks are for a class-room based presentation, all the teachers seem to have noticed. The history teacher loves Daniel. One of their teachers is super scary and even I find him a bit scary so I didn’t find a way to work into the discussion this slightly amusing factlet which the Princess shared with me: “if we watch documentaries in English, he sits in the back of the class translating them into Irish, like we can’t understand them in English.” Ah yes, “TosnaĆ­onn an lae in san Serengeti..” I did, inadvertently, mention something about messing in class and he looked puzzled and said, “No, there is never any messing in my class.” I bet there isn’t. Meanwhile, when I asked the art teacher whether Michael was well-behaved in class she said, “Oh yes, in fact, if it gets too noisy, he asks everyone to be quiet and they are because they know if he says something, it must be really loud.” On application to Michael, he confirmed that this is true “But,” he added, “they don’t stay quiet for as long as I would like.” What on earth is that teacher thinking? And why is it that in one teacher’s class discipline is absolute and in another’s it’s like a zoo?

In a landmark moment on our road to recovery, we all sat around the table for dinner and everyone ate something.

Friday, January 11

The builders didn’t come. The main man has the flu.

I went back to work for the morning. Couldn’t face the bike so spread my germs around public transport (should no longer be infectious, really). It was alright but I felt pretty seedy still to be honest. All the others I left coughing at home. The fact that the kitchen is basically a dust bowl and a fine layer of dust now covers almost everything in the house probably isn’t helping our recovery.


My sister rang to say that my father has the flu despite getting the jab. I rang to see how he was and he was alright. Not as whiny as me actually.

When I got home from work, it was to discover that my lovely sister-in-law had sent us a hamper of goodies to speed our recovery. It was the highlight of an otherwise miserable week.

We’ve had to feed the neighbours’ hens for the week so this has added a slightly farcical element to proceedings as poor Mr. Waffle regularly dragged himself next door to check the level of the feed bin and pick up the odd egg.

Saturday, January 12

Mr. Waffle, Daniel, Michael and I are still a bit under the weather but more or less alright. We all left the house today for non-essential purposes. Herself, however, is still miserable. “Maybe,” she said to me, “I’m getting pneumonia.” Dear God in heaven.

This is the worst start to the new year we have had in years. I suppose the only way is up?

Next year we are all getting the flu jab even if not 100% effective, it’s much better than nothing. If you haven’t already, I recommend it as flu is vile. I have learnt my lesson.

Cork Round-Up

5 January, 2019 at 5:20 pm by belgianwaffle

We drove down to Cork on January 1. We had to pick herself up from Kildare where she stayed overnight at a friend’s house following a New Year’s Eve party. Personally, I was tucked up in my bed at midnight and it was fantastic. I don’t know why I didn’t start doing this years ago. Did I mention that I turn 50 this year?

It was only when we stopped in Cashel for lunch that herself noticed that her carefully packed bag had been left behind in Dublin by her mother who faithfully promised to put it in the car and then completely forgot. “You have your overnight bag,” I pointed out, not entirely hopefully. That remark was treated with the contempt that it deserved.

We were coming to a family in Cork which was a bit laid low. My father had a fall last week and although he appeared to have sustained no serious injury he had a most spectacular bruise covering all one side of his face. Meanwhile my brother had contracted flu and my sister had sprained her ankle. Not propitious. We called in to my parents’ house to distribute and receive presents and inspect the various invalids before travelling on to our friends’ house in East Cork where we were staying. They seemed alright and they improved over the course of the week.

Our friends’ M and R had just vacated their premises in Garryvoe before we arrived and it was delightfully warm (normally their fancy energy efficient Scandi heating requires a day to heat up). We unpacked. Mr. Waffle came downstairs, “Is something wrong with the toilet in the ensuite?” “Yes,” I said, “remember they told us when we met for lunch and when they texted that they were leaving. ” “They met you for lunch and texted you, but you did not pass this on,” he said with understandable bitterness. His first new year’s google search was for dealing with a used broken toilet. In view of the audible unhappiness attendant on this issue, I was not going to fall for it the next day when Daniel said to me, “I used the broken toilet.” Sadly, it was all too true. Later in the week I stumbled blearily from bed to the en suite bathroom and would have fallen into the common error but Mr. Waffle was ready for the lot of us and the toilet bowl was sealed with sellotape and there was a sticker on the lid saying “Out of Order”. Truly, he is a prince among husbands.

We made a 500 piece jigsaw and failed to make a 1,000 piece one. Valuable lesson there for us.



The Princess and I spent two hours shopping in Cork for a replacement wardrobe for her. I have to tell you that it nearly broke my spirit. I’m not able for the young people’s shops with their absence of places to sit. We bought a pair of cords for her which I quite liked. “Do I look like Frodo of the Shire?” she asked. I assured her not. Big shout out to the lovely waitress in Barry’s, Douglas who spontaneously admired them. Actually, I found the service in shops and cafes in Cork uniformly lovely. Even though they probably despise my family as non-Corkonians, they concealed it really well.

Frodo or not Frodo?

My sister took the children and me to dinner in Milano’s. Later in the week herself went for breakfast with me in the Crawford (where we had a look at the lovely Harry Clarke exhibition) lunch with her aunt and wandered around town like the Dublin sophisticate she is. Daniel and I went on the Ferris Wheel on the Grand Parade which was surprisingly pleasant.


In the absence of wifi in Garryvoe, Daniel and Michael took to doing the crossword.


In a very mild way we went for a walk on the beach and in the forest.


Herself showed a gratifying level of interest in old family photos which are all stored in three drawers under one side of the old bookcase (bought by my Nana from the Canon in Kilmallock and designed for a much larger house). On the plus side they are all together. On the minus side, they are not particularly well labeled or, really, at all. There’s one I quite like of my mother and her classmates doing calisthenics on the front lawn of their rural Limerick boarding school in the 1940s (to impress parents? who took the picture? so many questions which are now unanswerable). Herself was able to unerringly identify her Nana in the photos. Others were trickier. There’s some young man in a Free State army uniform with his Lee Enfield rifle. Who is he? My father doesn’t know and also, doesn’t care. I didn’t think that either side of the family were big fans of the Free State so I am a bit baffled. On the plus side there was a picture of my father’s grandfather which my father instantly recognised. His intervention was unnecessary as my mother had written all his details on the back. “Born 1848, died 1938” I read out. “Look,” I said, “born just after the famine, the year of the Young Irelander uprising and your Grandad sitting just over there knew him well, lived with him, talked with him, look at how close you are to the middle of the the 19th century.” Both she and her grandfather were unmoved by this but studying the picture she said irately, “He has the same bags under his eyes that you, Grandad and Aunty Pat have, and they’ve passed on to me.” She neglected to mention that they are also the bags my Granny had but, they were. Notwithstanding this unfortunate genetic inheritance, I think he looks very kindly and my father says he was lovely. Great genes as well as eye baggy ones, he lived to be 90 as I pointed out to herself.


We came back to Dublin today. The builders are supposed to be coming to start work on Monday. We have put off clearing out the kitchen and under the stairs until tomorrow. Oh dear. And I still have my assignment for my course to do (deadline end January, loads of time, right?) and it’s back to school and work on Monday. Alas, alack.

2018 Review

31 December, 2018 at 8:24 pm by belgianwaffle



My major achievement for January was keeping the Christmas tree up until Women’s Christmas on January 6. Small goals. We also decided we would get the kitchen done in 2018.



I got offered a new job. Go me. Otherwise, things were quiet. Mr. Waffle’s parents got a live in carer who improved the quality of everyone’s lives exponentially.



The snow came. The office had to shut down for three days. It was, frankly thrilling. Also we had sufficient bread to carry us through the crisis.

2018 was the year of funerals. Just like I spent all of my early 30s going to weddings all the time, late 40s seems to be the moment for all the funerals. I turned 49 in March.

My sister was still sick although she had finished her chemo at the end of 2017. I wondered whether she would ever be really well again.



We took the children to Brussels for the first time since they left in 2008. Ten years is a long time.


The Princess turned 15 and I started my new job. The weather finally improved.



Herself got braces. The pain, people. Who knew? The weather was glorious and we were beginning, little though we knew it, the best summer since the heatwave in 1976.



The boys finished their first year in secondary school. Herself finished her first state examinations. My sister started to get much better. Her hair grew back curly. Meanwhile my daughter died her hair red. Because summer time (on the left is last year’s summer colour).


We agreed with the architect to defer the kitchen building job to September. The weather continued glorious.



We went to Clonakilty for a week’s holidays. It was good in parts. A bit too near Cork city and not near enough to West Cork. Although the weather continued to be really lovely, it wasn’t quite as toasty as Dublin.

2018-07-21 17.01.05


We went to Denmark on our summer holidays. On balance, we were very much in favour.



A big month for us. Herself went off to France for three months. I was terrified leaving her at the airport but she managed just fine.

The builder was stuck on another job and promised faithfully to start in October.

The boys started second year, without any undue concern. They also turned 13 at the end of the month.


Daniel got new glasses and was also taller than me. It definitely happened this year but I’m not quite sure when.


My father-in-law had a fortnight in respite care and then put out his back on his first night back home and had to go into hospital. Although we didn’t know it, that was the last night he would ever spend at home.


My mother-in-law moved to a nursing home. My father-in-law who had been getting sicker and sicker since going into hospital died on October 23. My sister-in-law and her husband and baby moved to Ireland from England on October 25 – she came early leaving him and the baby to pack up. The funeral was on October 27. It was pretty strange and it really still is. Aside from the dementia, he seemed pretty well. He was only 74 and he had been a runner for years. We went from a situation of regular crises with both Mr. Waffle’s parents to order and calm with a hefty side order of guilt on the part of Mr. Waffle and his siblings that they should have done more. Guilt which was, in my view, entirely unjustified; I thought they all did a superb job coping with a very difficult situation without ever falling out or blaming each other even though it was all horribly stressful.

I am trying to remember my parents-in-law and all the good times we had before they got sick. The holidays we went on together – mostly to Kerry (actually a lot to Kerry, I’ve run out of energy in finding links so you’ll have to take my word on this) but also to Sicily three times and once when the Princess was little to France. We would meet the cousins in their house most Sundays and they brought the family together, minding children, paying for houses in holiday places and dinners in nice restaurants. They were endlessly helpful and cheerful and delightful parents-in-law and I want to remember all the fun we had over the years.



Our builder guaranteed us that he would start at the end of the month and our kitchen would be finished by Christmas. This was the first NaBloPoMo I didn’t complete in years. My heart wasn’t in it. Also November was quiet. Here’s Dan at a rugby match. Ireland won. He was pleased.



Our kitchen works will definitely, definitely start in January. Not on the 2nd as promised but on the 9th. Hmm.

We had Christmas day in the parents-in-law’s house and my mother-in-law came out of the nursing home for a bit. The boys had a fantastic time with their cousins although herself was sick and a bit miserable. Overall, Christmas was a bit strange.

With one thing and another, it’s been a tough year for us. My sister is still getting over her cancer. She and my brother are rushed off their feet looking after my own parents and elderly aunt – although my mother is in a nursing home, they are very faithful visitors which takes time – and my father and aunt are both at home and are very old and in the case of my father, frail and my aunt, starting dementia. It’s hard. We’ve had a difficult year with Mr. Waffle’s parents as well, obviously.

On the non-elderly relative front, I’ve started my new job and though there are many positives, it’s a new job in a new place and that is always hard at the beginning. Although herself had a great time in France and this is basically a good news item, I missed her horribly for the three months she was away. And then there was the constant annoyance of the wretched kitchen. I did get an Aga though (as yet uninstalled) which is a sign perhaps of my mid-life crisis; my lovely husband got me this, inter alia, for Christmas.

There were lots of good things in 2018 too but I can’t help hoping that 2019 will be better. Happy new year!


No More Tears

29 December, 2018 at 7:12 pm by belgianwaffle

When the children were little we used Johnson’s shampoo. We got a bottle with a pump in Brussels and it followed us home and we re-filled it for years. It lost its label but the bottle was robust and it lasted and lasted.

It was in the corner of the shower for ages, almost empty, the children having long since moved on to more potent shampoos. I was in the shower the other morning and I noticed it was gone. I am normally ruthless about chucking things out and not engaging in nostalgia (a reaction, I suspect, to the attic groaning with old school books and the like in my parents’ house) but I must say, I felt sad about the plastic bottle. However, I suppose it will live forever in landfill. Not as comforting a thought as you might think.

Christmas Round-Up

27 December, 2018 at 7:38 pm by belgianwaffle

I went in to work on Christmas Eve in the morning and did some very desultory bits and pieces and inspected my colleagues’ children who had come in to see Santa. Herself was sick but the boys came in to briefly inspect my office and then to go and meet a former colleague and his children.

For many years we have met in the canteen in his office with our children for a Christmas Eve get together. Sadly, the canteen was unexpectedly closed for renovations so we found ourselves in the less than glamourous surroundings of the Spar cafe. Also unexpected was the presence of his eldest child who started college this year and who we both expected to be a no-show but there he was grown up and bearded looking but still tormenting the younger ones. I have to say that despite the distinctly unappealing surroundings, it was all relatively pleasant. Our own little Christmas miracle.

Daniel and I went to midnight mass early as he was singing in the carol service beforehand. Mr. Waffle and Michael followed a bit later. Herself couldn’t go as she was sick as a dog. I was quite sad that she couldn’t make it, but it was for the best.

The boys looked very dapper for midnight mass, I thought.


It wasn’t even too long as our saintly parish priest is reverent but speedy. Notwithstanding singing and processions, we finished at 10.15 and we were home hanging up stockings at 10.20.


Santa and my sister did an exceptionally good job on the presents this year and I think all of the children were quite pleased with their respective hauls. I was quite pleased myself, Mr. Waffle having excelled himself in the present department.

We had Christmas breakfast at home which was quite nice in an understated way and gave me a chance to use my Christmas Spode wear and my fancy new Marimekko oven gloves which were a present from my friend who lives in Finland (aside: am a bit concerned about these now as sister-in-law said, “You got two? we gave someone one for a wedding present once.” I can only hope that they are cheaper in Finland.) I threw the old ones in the bin over Mr. Waffle’s howls of protest that they were still perfectly fine if a little stained from usage.


For a variety of logistical reasons we were having Christmas dinner in my parents-in-law’s house. I was a bit nervous. We were due out there from the morning and it seemed a bit of a long day. My mother-in-law was coming out of the nursing home for a couple of hours and all the aunts, uncles and cousins were coming for drinks and kind words about my father-in-law. It all worked out pretty well although it was slightly stressful at times. The boys had a fantastic time playing with their cousins but herself was really pretty miserable and sick and went upstairs to lie down at one stage. She took to her bed when she got home and hasn’t emerged from the sick room since. Poor Princess.

Last photo of the Princess upright

I am not generally a person who finds small children entertaining, however, I am enjoying the company of my little niece, S, who is 18 months old. Her English father is doing Trojan work trying to get her to say “Father Christmas” which is apparently what they say in England but all of her Irish relatives (of whom there are many) are working on “Santa” and we definitely have the upper hand although the Princess, in an admirable gesture of solidarity with her uncle is trying to teach young S to say “Father Christmas”, it is, frankly, an uphill battle. She was quite a cheerful presence at a Christmas where a lot of the grown-ups were a bit sad thinking about my poor parents-in-law and all the changes in 2018.

On St. Stephen’s Day we went orienteering as is traditional. Herself stayed home alone I think regarding missing the annual orienteering expedition as one of the few upsides of her illness. On the plus side it did not rain for the first time in many years.


On the minus side the food in the pub where we traditionally retire for lunch afterwards has hit a new low both in terms of quality of food and speed of delivery. We may have to consider alternative options in 2019.

We dropped in to see niece S and her parents on the way home (sister-in-law having been resolute in her determination to not enjoy this annual tradition with her little family) and I did enjoy my niece’s appalled little face at the prospect of these interlopers coming to her own home. I thought she waved us off with conspicuous enthusiasm. I can’t feel Mr. Waffle is helping the process of my endearing myself to her by referring to me as “scary lady” although his sister assures me that S has no idea what that means.

Today we hung around the house mostly though Mr. Waffle and I did go for a mild walk to look at the deer in the Phoenix Park.


Tomorrow, I am making the ultimate sacrifice for niece S. She rises at 5 am and her parents are often stuck for early morning activities. The three of them are coming to our house for 8 in the morning tomorrow so that we can all go off to a megalithic tomb (I feel that her English father needs to see something of the tourist offerings available, this is a feeling I am somewhat regretting). My own children a) having seen this particular tomb a number of times and b) being teenagers on their Christmas holidays will be sitting out this particular adventure. I am feeling particularly virtuous and I hope this feeling will sustain me when I leap from my bed at 7.30 in the morning but I kind of doubt it.

And how has your own Christmas been so far?

Updated to add: The in-laws decided to postpone the delights of the tomb so we went to the park instead which was, in its own modest way quite successful also.

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