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83:17

14 May, 2017 at 12:56 pm by belgianwaffle

I went to a talk recently by a distinguished American scholar on behavioural economics. It was grand. I managed to restrain myself from going up afterwards to tell him that his wife’s first cousin was a good friend of mine from school (welcome to Ireland) although based on his (possibly too extensive for his audience’s liking) introduction about his wedding, I think he would have liked that.

One of the things he mentioned in passing was that it was a rare household where when you asked husband and wife how domestic work was divided between them the total came to 100%. I decided to test this hypothesis at home.

Here are the scores that were returned.

Me – Mr. Waffle 60%: Me 40% [I was being generous]
Mr. Waffle – Mr. Waffle 50%: Me 50% [He is very right on]
Herself – Mr. Waffle 60%: Me 40% [My work is less visible than his]
Michael – Mr. Waffle 60%: Me 40% [Really, my work is less visible than his]
Daniel – Mr. Waffle 83%: Me 17% [Seriously?]

I was outraged by Daniel’s score, the root of which is clearly that my work picking up shoes, laundry and other dropped items is completely invisible. Bitter.

In a, probably not entirely helpful, development since the introduction of the American economist’s aside into our lives I have taken to saying in a bitter undervoice as I go about my alloted tasks, “All part of the 17% service.”

It’s a fun game for you all to try out at home. Let me know how you get on.

The Essence of Romance

6 May, 2017 at 4:21 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle went away for work on Thursday and came back on Friday. Sadly, this meant he missed the boys’ service of light which is part of the new super duper extended disco remix of the confirmation ceremony (they will be making their actual confirmation in June – fun fact, the Irish for confirmation is “dul faoi lámh an Easpaig” literally meaning to go under the hand of the bishop but when herself was confirmed the bishop was not available, am hoping boys will do better – I was only confirmed by an auxiliary bishop myself so we have poor form here).

The ceremony was held in the school which I was a bit dubious about but in fact it was absolutely lovely. The two violinists in the class whose progress we have been tracking over religious ceremonies for many years, have really improved, the children knew their lines, they sang beautifully and the evening sun streamed in through the tall Georgian windows and lit up the beautiful drawing room which is now the sixth class classroom and features children’s collages on the walls as well as the work of Dublin’s finest 18th century stuccadores on the ceiling. Daniel and Michael had their actual baptismal candles which I regarded as an organisational triumph but sadly I should have road tested them as the wicks were a bit short and they went out. The boys were displeased although I think more generally, they enjoyed the ceremony. Not as much as they enjoyed the Domino’s pizza beforehand though.

My sister who is recovering from an operation was well enough to come up and it was lovely to see her. The Princess came along under duress but loved it. It’s been a couple of years since she has visited the school but all the teachers and the principal have been following her progress and congratulated her on her various achievements and I think she was pleased. As it happens, two of her best friends from primary school have younger sisters in the boys’ class so they were there too and the three of them ran around the school commenting on how small the desks were. She showed me where they had written their names on the wall behind the radiator. “Where’s your name?” I asked. “Further down,” she said, “I was more scared of the authorities”.

The shopping was delivered on Thursday night and on Friday morning, I discovered that toilet paper had not been included in the delivery. I gave herself a tenner and asked her to pick some up on the way home from school. My sister offered herself a lift to school which she gratefully accepted. My sister also offered to buy toilet paper but I felt that it was too much to ask a recovering patient. Normally Mr. Waffle looks after all these things as he is self-employed and flexible (as he often points out, self-employed does not mean never has to work and can do errands but it’s an uphill battle getting that message across). The boys and I went out to the shed to pick up our bikes and I noticed that the Princess’s bike was missing. Good job her aunt gave her a lift. I texted herself, “I hope your bike is in school as it’s not in the shed.” About 11.30 she called me at work. Could I collect her as she was sick? I could not as school finishes early on Fridays and by the time I had cycled home and picked up the car, she’d have made it home under her own steam. How I missed my self-employed husband. Unable to do anything for my sick child I offered, “Look, don’t worry about picking up the toiled paper.”

She made her own way home. “Your bike was in school,” I said. “Look,” she said, “I’m not proud of this but I cycled to the library after school yesterday and locked my bike outside, then I forgot it was there and walked home.” It’s quite a step. However, the bike was still there on Friday and she was able to retrieve it and bring it home. And she bought toilet paper. I let her keep the change.

Mr. Waffle came home at 10 last night. As I said to him, he should go away more often as it helps me to appreciate him even more. As I write, he is off collecting the boys’ new bikes from a soulless shopping centre and he’s already done two loads of washing. My hero.

Weekend Round-Up

1 May, 2017 at 10:22 pm by belgianwaffle

Much activity chez Waffle this weekend. On Friday night, Mr. Waffle and Dan went to see the local football team defeat opposition (a first, I think, they seem to mostly lose since Dan got his season ticket).

Saturday morning saw the usual complex GAA/acting/French class dynamic. While waiting for Michael to emerge from drama I took the opportunity to drop a (never used) tablet into the repair man. Herself won it in a national competition (very proud – she won, in descending order of excitement a tablet, a hoodie, honour and glory, a large plaque engraved with her name and a conference invitation). In the train, on the way home from the prize giving in Galway she managed to rest her elbow on the winning tablet and break the screen. €55 to repair but, on the other hand, it was free to us.

On Saturday afternoon, herself had two friends over for a belated birthday celebration. Mr. Waffle the boys and I, having tried and failed on numerous occasions to buy new bikes for the boys in the local hipster bike shops (limited stock) went to a large soulless shopping centre and gave our money to a well-known bicycle chain shop.

On the plus side, I did enjoy this conversation between bike shop guy and a French man buying a bike for his daughter.

French man [poking at bike]: Where are these brake blocks made?
Bike shop guy: Um, Thailand, I think.
French man: Do you have any bicycles with brake blocks made in Europe?
Bike shop guy [pause]: Um no, they’re made where labour is cheapest. Globalisation and that.
French man: Snort.

We then went home and regrouped. About 6, Mr. Waffle and the boys and I left the girls with Netflix and money for Domino’s pizza and went out for dinner (new restaurant, not a success) and the cinema (Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2, a success until the speakers went about 10 minutes from the end and couldn’t be repaired – sigh, we got comps and a refund but we just wanted to see the end of the film).

On Sunday morning, the girls went to the zoo. One of the guests had a family pass which she had brought with her and offered to deploy. I was a bit dubious but herself said that her two friends (both quite tall) were going to pass as a couple and she as their adopted daughter. Even with all the new family structures in Ireland, this struck me as unlikely to be convincing. The zoo were kind of relaxed about it all though and they got in without difficulty even though it transpired that in addition to other difficulties, the card had also expired the previous day. At 12.30, Mr. Waffle’s parents came for lunch. He had made lasagna. At 12.45 the girls called to be collected from the zoo. I collected them and I said to Mr. Waffle that we had better feed them as their parents were delayed. “Family hold back, then,” he said looking dubiously at the lasagna. Moments later there was a dreadful crash followed by a cry of anguish from the kitchen. The lasagna had fallen. Alas. We filled up on bread, cheese and birthday cake. It was exiguous but, you know, acceptable. At 2, I drove the boys’ to their friend’s house for an afternoon of board games and a sleepover.

Once the visitors had departed, Mr. Waffle, Herself and I were left alone together. He and I went to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (modern art – still baffling) and she minded the house. When we came home we had a quiet evening in. Herself recommended “Casting JonBenét” a documentary on Netflix about the murder of a six year old beauty queen. I can report that it is not suitable viewing for a 14 year old at bedtime.

This morning we picked up the boys from their friend’s house and, to groans of horror, announced that we were going to Howth for a walk. Half Dublin had the same idea and it took us ages to get there.

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But the weather was beautiful and we found a set of steps which we had never noticed before and which led to a small stony beach.

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Herself and Michael were in the water and damp to the knees in almost no time. But they were delighted with themselves.

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There were two seals to admire also. We went on to the lighthouse and then walked back to the car park at the summit. On the way we met two very lost Italians who spoke almost no English. I dusted off my rusty Italian and gave them the unwelcome news that it was quite the walk to the village. In a move that will doubtless get me my reward in heaven I offered them a lift down from the car park. They were suitably grateful. They were from Florence and asked for recommendations for things to see. It’s quite hard to give someone from Florence recommendations for Dublin. Bridges? No. Art? No. Probably best to explore the surrounding countryside as they were doing.

All of the restaurants were heaving (insert your own Celtic Phoenix joke here) so we bought fish and chips (20 minute queue but very efficiently managed) and had them on the grass. My enjoyment of our picnic was somewhat marred by having a seagull poo in my eye. The aim, the precision. Very impressive on the seagull’s part.

And how was your own weekend?

Unwanted Fame or the Wicked Flee where the Examiner Pursueth

30 April, 2017 at 3:44 pm by belgianwaffle

I am not in Cork this weekend but I have been for the last three which is a lot of Cork. My infirm relative quota is rising, unfortunately – more details in due course – and I have been pitching in. Related to this, Boots in Cork have been heroic. My aunt was totally on top of her medication but now, not so much. My brother swept all the medication on her desk into a bag and I took it to Boots in Wilton along with her prescription and they a) threw out all the out of date stuff b) blister packed three weeks’ worth of drugs and c) hung on to the extras (disturbing, I feel) to put in to her next prescription. I nearly hugged the pharmacist. I am not sure whether you can appreciate how obliging they were (Mr. Waffle who has heard this story three times, is still unclear) but it was a high point of my engagement with the health sector in recent weeks.

Of course, my pitching in in Cork means Mr. Waffle is solo parenting in Dublin and my children miss me, I assume, in the case of the teenager, and certainly in the case of her brothers. Mr. Waffle’s parents are not as well as they might be either and that brings its own complications.

When I go to Cork, it’s a bit stressful; lots of errands and logistics. I have pitched it thus to everyone. And this is true. Really. But last weekend, when I was there, I snuck out to the Crawford Gallery and saw their new exhibition (which is excellent, incidentally) and, I felt a bit guilty that I wasn’t constantly running so I just didn’t mention my illicit gallery break. I did tweet about the exhibition, safe in the knowledge that my family is indifferent to my tweeting and not among my 234 (gasp) followers. So I was not utterly delighted to get this email from my sister:

From: Her
To: Me

Tweets making headlines

@Belgianwaffle’s Tweet was featured in Irish Examiner

5 things to do this week
Stuck for cultural events this week? Des O’Driscoll has great suggestions for you, whether it’s tv or theatre you’re …

It’s not like it was a secret but it’s not like I was advertising my gallivanting either.

Easter Round Up

19 April, 2017 at 8:06 pm by belgianwaffle

I took the boys to Cork for a couple of days before Easter. They spent a lot of time in front of the television although we did fit in the obligatory trip to Charles Fort in Kinsale. The needs of my elderly relatives are ever-expanding; my poor sister was out of commission [hold out for another post on this] and my brother was holding the fort with a ratio of 1:3 able bodied to infirm so I was there to try to even up the numbers. The boys absolutely loved it but I did feel a bit guilty as well as flattened from dealing with doctors and pharmacists and hospitals and the public health system and home help and finding the kind of chorizo my father likes. It gave me a whole new appreciation for my sister and brother; and I already appreciated them, really. So, not super relaxing.

We came back to Dublin on the Saturday before Easter as Daniel was scheduled to sing in the choir for the Easter vigil. It’s very beautiful. First the church is in darkness and then everyone in the church lights a candle. As we walked up to mass, Daniel reminisced fondly about how one of his fellow choristers managed to set his own eyebrows on fire the previous year. The service was indeed beautiful and particularly the music but it was very, very long. We eventually stumbled out at 10.50.

Before going home, the choristers all picked up an Easter egg. We were chatting to A, one of Daniel’s fellow choristers whose family is from India. A had already been on a three day retreat and was bracing himself for the Indian mass (Syro-Malabar for the intellectuals following along in the smart seats) the following day. Michael was horrified. Mr. Waffle almost asked A what religion he was. Then he remembered, oh no, of course, he is catholic, just much, much more devout than us. Our local church has an Indian and an African mass as well as other masses and it is unfortunate that in our patterns of worship we are (inadvertently, I assure you) replicating South African era apartheid conditions. Except for brave souls like young A and his family who cover several masses with unfailing devotion.

My parents-in-law came to us for lunch on Easter Sunday and we spoke to herself in France. She was holed up in the French exchange’s aunt’s château in Le Havre (location, location, location) along with 39 of the extended family and other exchanges including, a boy from Canada, a boy from Germany and two children from South Korea. I have still not got to the bottom of who in the extended French family is learning Korean. Games were facilitated by herself translating from French for the Canadian and the German (who spoke English) and the German translating for the South Koreans who spoke German but not much French or English. I confess myself utterly baffled by the set up. The Princess was very impressed by the four storey over basement château where she got lost several times and where the room for shoes was as big as her bedroom (which, you know, is a largish double). She also ate her own weight in chocolate and worked it all off on the trampoline.

On Monday, Mr. Waffle, the boys and I went into town for some organised fun. Some of this was pretty good. There was was graffiti:

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and art:

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and science:

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Then we went for lunch in town and all was well. We should have gone home then. Instead we went to Dublin Castle where Daniel saw a theatre thing he didn’t much care for and Michael wandered off to try the pottery making:

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Sadly, they then saw the printmaking and Michael, in particular, wanted to do it. The result was super and the people were really nice but, oh Lord, 40 minutes in a queue when everyone was getting tired and crabby was not a happy time.

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And then we had to cycle home which no one was particularly enthused about at that point. My mother’s motto is “Always leave when you’re enjoying yourself most”. My father always characterised this as rather puritanical but I think she has a point.

And then, yesterday, herself came home. We were very pleased to have her back. Her brothers are coping.

How was your own Easter?

Crossing the Border

22 March, 2017 at 10:27 pm by belgianwaffle

The forecast for Saturday was much better than the forecast for Friday. So that you can avoid the suspense which we enjoyed, I’ll tell you now, it lied.

We went halfway up Slieve Donard. The mountain, I am sure, looms impressively most of the time but on Saturday morning it was pretty much invisible in the fog/cloud cover. We went up by the mountain stream which was actually lovely and pretty dry under the trees considering how hard it was raining. I forgot my phone so we only have our memories and the much less satisfactory photos I took on my daughter’s phone. It was nice, you’ll have to trust me here. Michael continued to complain of a headache and pointed out that I was making him climb a mountain with possible concussion. Think of that as the bass note on which the musical arrangement of the weekend was built. We spent some time as we climbed talking about “The Famous Five”. “I was always Anne,” I sighed “because my name was Anne and my friend wanted to be George and she was older.” “You could have been one of the boys,” herself pointed out. “It never occurred to me,” I said. She was shocked to the core of her being. We distributed the characters to each family member based on his/her characteristics. In the new dispensation, I got to be Timmy the dog. I am not sure that this is an improvement on Anne, to be honest.

Herself beguiled the walk by plying us with questions on what would happen if one stateless person killed another stateless person on a lilo that drifted into international waters. I am not really sure but I do feel that she has a future in setting examination papers. I was vividly and unhappily reminded of my summer examinations in 1988. At the end of the woods, we gave up and turned back. It was just miserable. In fairness to them the children were remarkably cheerful. We had started out with a promise that we would go to Maud’s for lunch and the library across the road after and that seemed to keep them going. Magic Maud’s did the trick again and the library had different stock from our local one and although Michael couldn’t read properly because the words were blurry (concussion, allegedly), they were all quite pleased. I walked back to the house to get my phone as I was utterly bereft without it. Don’t judge. Mr. Waffle said that he had parked us poised for take off and we would not be passing the house. For a place with, essentially, only two streets, it is surprisingly easy to get trapped forever in the one ways of Newcastle, so rather than risk driving, I strolled back. It wasn’t very far and I got to check out the local shops (traditional) and pass Schloss Lidl which has mild entertainment value.

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Happily, at the house, there was a man loading the tank with oil. He had a very strong northern accent and, being from the opposite end of the country, I had no idea what he was asking me but I nodded enthusiastically and it must have worked because that evening the heat was restored.

Fortified and slightly dried out, we drove out to Silent Valley. Mr. Waffle navigated and the sun almost came out and there were beautiful views. “Look, look,” I said to the children. “I have one question,” said Michael gloomily, “Why did we let Timmy the dog drive the car?” Woof.

Silent Valley is where they built the reservoir for Belfast in the 20s and it is a bit creepy in its manicured beauty. It stopped raining for a good while which made a welcome change.

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After this, we explored what the children had been looking forward to all day. The women in the tourist office had told us about a “magic road”. It’s one of those roads where it feels like you are going uphill but you are in fact going downhill. It is true. The road looked uphill and it definitely felt like we were sliding uphill but, obviously, we weren’t. We were fascinated. It’s a slip road, just after Spelga Dam leading to a closed gate if you are ever in the area, well worth a look. Not unknown either, there was a car there experimenting when we arrived and a minibus patiently waited for us to finish our experimentation and bring down the only tourists we saw during our trip.

After that highlight, it was back to our newly toasty house. Had it been fine the next day, I might have been tempted to stay a bit longer but it was lashing again on Sunday so we decided to head back to Dublin. It was Mr. Waffle’s birthday and we gave him some token offerings and then headed off to Dublin. On the way, as it was his birthday, we gave him a chance to inspect one of the old border crossings.

Observe the difference in tarmac types and the change in hard shoulder markings.

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That’s it at the moment but, of course, the newspapers are full of how Brexit may bring back a hard border. We all stood and stared at it for a bit, except for Michael who thought we were nuts and stayed in the car. A woman was parked across the road and got out of her car and came across to us. It turned out she was a photographer for a Swedish paper and they were doing an article on Brexit and Northern Ireland. She asked if she could take some photos of the kids looking at the tarmac – seemed less than fascinating but we said fine. We could be big in Sweden in the next couple of weeks.

We were back in Dublin by lunchtime and poor Mr. Waffle sloped off to the office for the remainder of his birthday. Alas. Overall though, despite an inauspicious beginning another successful trip to Northern Ireland. If you haven’t been there, you should go it is delightful. Yes really.

Consistently Underrated*

20 March, 2017 at 11:30 pm by belgianwaffle

As part of my ongoing love affair with Northern Ireland I booked us into an Airbnb in Newcastle, Co. Down for St. Patrick’s weekend. This was a matter of much bitterness as Michael was due to have his end of term drama show that weekend; Daniel wanted to go to Gamercon; I had promised Michael that we would go to the parade in Dublin this year (I had, but I had forgotten, I am but human); herself had to appear weird to her schoolmates by not being able to go to the parade like everyone else and going to Northern Ireland instead; and Mr. Waffle had to fly out to a meeting on the Monday morning. So not the advance enthusiasm that I had been hoping for.

The drive up on Thursday night was tetchy – I had been hoping to get out of the office early but a variety of bank holiday weekend deadlines conspired to make me stay until 5.30. Google maps told me it was only 99kms to Newcastle from Dublin. Unbeknownst to me, Google maps changes from kilometres to miles automatically when you are travelling to a destination that operates in miles. Let me tell you, 99 miles is quite a bit further than 99kms. Also I had booked us in to a pizza restaurant in Newcastle for 8 and, although they were very accommodating, Mr. Waffle did not relish ringing them to tell them we would be late. Our Airbnb hostess was very obliging though (first experience of booking – would definitely recommend it, surprisingly pain free) and said she would turn up with the keys whenever we arrived which she did.

The house was absolutely fine – not beautiful but central, good value and lots of room for the five of us. The temperature was set to what my friend from the North calls “Ulster Granny” and that’s the way I like it. We awoke on St. Patrick’s Day to driving rain. We walked into mass in the town. The catholic church is quite spectacularly ugly. “They have a place like that in Liverpool,” said Mr. Waffle, “they call it Paddy’s Wigwam.” I sniggered and herself said I was the victim of internalised racism so there you go. Mass was extraordinary. They had Irish dancers (not a feature of mass in general), the flag of the local GAA club was laid on the altar and the first and second readings were both in Irish as well as a good sprinkling of the hymns. Utterly baffling to a majority of the local population, I imagine, as they don’t generally study Irish in school and there is only so much night classes can do (Conradh na Gaeilge were having a collection outside the church, presumably for more of the same). It was strange. The kind of gear that is very standard for St. Patrick’s day in the South like green, white and orange ribbons in girls’ hair is, of course, utterly different in the North. I seem to remember sporting ribbons of this nature myself in Cork in the 70s – my mother was a big fan of the large ribbon – but it meant nothing more than St. Patrick’s Day. Flags in the North are, of course, a completely different matter.

We went to the playground after mass and looked at the mountains of Mourne sweeping down to the sea.

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There was a great claw sculpture which provided some harmless entertainment.

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Michael fell off the climbing frame in the playground onto his head and was deeply unhappy and, possibly, concussed. We went for tea. In what can only be called a stroke of genius on my part, I asked a local with two small children where he would recommend for this. He recommended “Café Maud’s”. The outside was, frankly, unprepossessing but within lay everything that a family with three damp children (one possibly concussed) might require. It was the business. Suitably fortified, we went to the tourist office. I had already rung them earlier in the morning to check whether they were open. When I went in, one of the women behind the desk said to the other, “I think this must be the lady who called me this morning.” I confirmed that I was. I don’t think that they are overwhelmed with tourists – I didn’t hear a single non-local accent while we were there except for the Turkish owner of the pizzeria (I asked him about parades in Newcastle and he was baffled but the locals sitting beside us scooted up to us and saying “I couldn’t help overhearing your question..” gave us the lowdown) and the Polish waitress in Maud’s – and I suppose that might be why they are particularly nice to them. The women in the tourist office got out the range of brochures and started talking about various options including Irish dancing. “Mmm,” said I, “I had some of that already at mass this morning.” The older lady behind the counter said, “I was there too, wasn’t it the oddest thing?” Mr. Waffle who had been at the far end of the premises drifted up to hear us exchanging very satisfactory animadversions on the morning’s service. “How,” he hissed, “did you end up talking about mass? Did you bring it up?”

Given that it was still lashing, we decided to take the advice of the women in the tourist office and go in to Downpatrick for the parade. We stopped off on the way to have a look at Dundrum castle which we had to ourselves and which is far, far more impressive than you might think from looking at my photos.

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We decided to take advantage of the municipal park and ride in Downpatrick. Frankly, this was a bit unnecessary but, never mind, we got to marvel anew at the infrastructure in the North. Not only did they supply a park and ride for a small town but there were half a dozen portaloos in the car park. I can only commend Northern Ireland’s dedication to clean and plentiful public toilets and note that her citizens must get a rude awakening when they travel south of the border.

On the way into the town we passed a very depressed and damp bouncy castle which the kids were quite keen to try out but we resisted. I have seldom seen something less appealing.

Mine eyes have seen the abomination of desolation:
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We had lunch in the town. We went to the St. Patrick’s exhibition which the children found mildly entertaining. There was this rather sad sign in the shop:

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It appeared to be completely ignored by the local teenagers who were all wrapped in tricolours.

We actually managed to miss the parade as the children went to a free F1 experience which was undoubtedly the highlight of their day.

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Herself got to experience again Northern Ireland’s contribution to the ice cream world of which she is very fond. Yes, indeed, it was time for the Pear Picking Porky (as you can probably tell, she enjoyed posing for this photo, ahem):

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Then it was off to the county museum (formerly prison) for organised fun which Daniel actually really enjoyed – storytelling and performances – and the others thought was not bad. It was a small little museum but for a local small town offering, really pretty good, I thought. They had a display of postcards for the day that was in it:
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There was an elderly gentleman with a carousel and he, Michael and herself had a lengthy conversation on Roman emperors. It was odd but they all seemed to enjoy it. We went to the gift shop and the boys bought a wooden sword and shield and a game involving knocking over cardboard cut-outs with rubber bands. The man in the shop gave us 20% off and threw in a free book on early Christianity in Co. Down. Again, I think they are unused to tourists.

The boys and I went to visit St. Patrick’s grave up at the cathedral. He shares a grave with Bridget and Columbanus and I noticed that the Knights of Columbanus has left a wreath in case their lad might have felt left out.

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Herself poses with hexagonal Penfold postbox – very rare – a range of signposts and Downpatrick Cathedral. Yes, this is how we get our kicks, your point?

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Sadly, when we got back to our Airbnb, the heating had gone down, cue much frantic texting and an early night. On the definite plus side, herself and Daniel made dinner while their aged parents and possibly concussed brother relaxed in the, definitely chilly, front room.

People, this is only day 1, we stayed until Sunday. Stay tuned.

*An American economist said Northern Ireland was underrated on his blog recently. I thought it was true.


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