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Pre-Christmas Round-Up

22 December, 2018 at 12:03 am by belgianwaffle

It has been a long time since I updated you on my doings. Fear not, a fascinating update is on the way.

First and foremost, herself came home. It is truly wonderful to have her back and it is only now that she is home that I realise how much I missed her in the first place. She appears to be on top of French language and teenage culture so, overall, objectives achieved.

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I discovered that all of my children fell into the common error of assuming that the feast of the Immaculate Conception (which falls on December 8) refers to the conception of Jesus. No, no, that falls on the feast of the annunciation on March 25 exactly nine months before Jesus was born on December 25. They are now clear that it refers to the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This reminds me that my copy of “Eminent Victorians” has gone missing. Strachey covers Papal infallibility and, I think, Immaculate Conception, when writing about Cardinal Manning. If you haven’t read “Eminent Victorians”, I truly recommend it. It’s a lot more entertaining than its title might have you suppose.

My brother went to Tenerife on a week’s cycling holiday (who knew?) and he met a second cousin and her elderly parents (the father’s my mother’s first cousin, try to keep up) on the plane on the way over. One day of his holiday was spent with them at their resort covering north Cork news. While he was in Tenerife, I went to Cork which was looking very Christmassy.

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Herself was no sooner home than she went off babysitting her little cousin. She described the experience as lucrative and satisfactory. The parents have just moved to Dublin from London. Sadly this one time may be the last time as when we were at Christmas drinks in their house last Sunday, she heard them say how excellent it was that there was a teenager in the estate who would babysit. Alas for her. However, it was hardly an ideal location for her chauffeurs so on balance, I’m inclined to regard it as a positive.

Despite the fact that we left Belgium more than 10 YEARS AGO, Saint Nicolas continues to turn up and leave sweets in our children’s shoes on December 6. What an after sales service.

Daniel had his GAA Christmas party and Michael had his drama showcase both of which were, in their own way, satisfactory. Sadly due to a miscommunication, Daniel ended up waiting for an hour outside the club house in the dark and cold after the party had ended. He started walking home and was half way there when he saw me sailing past in the car. He ran all the way back to the club house where I was sitting in the car waiting patiently for him to emerge from the party. Unsatisfactory.

Daniel and I decorated the Christmas tree with, frankly, minimal help from the others.

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My sister came to Dublin for the weekend to deliver presents to the children. We’re not going down to Cork until January 1 and she felt it was too long for them to wait. I did not think this and, to be fair, neither did they but my sister has higher standards than all of us. We went to IKEA at 8 in the evening because my sister made us. It was not at all as hideous as I expected. Closing time is clearly the moment to arrive. Mind you, I went against my will and ALL I needed to get was an extension lead but yet I spent €104. World’s most expensive extension lead.

A large parcel came to the house which I thought was full of bubble wrap as Mr. Waffle is preparing to move everything out of our kitchen for renovations starting in January (let us not speak of it). However it turned out to be delightful Spode ware; I was extremely pleased. Though it always makes me think of Wodehouse fascists.

Last Friday, my friend S booked us tickets for a Trinity Festive Research gig. I was considerably more enthusiastic about this when it was originally mooted than when the day rolled round. However, in I went and it did feel very worthy. There was a lecture on why stars twinkle (exoplanets); early film; how Christmas trees will do under global warming (very well, fir trees will rule the earth just like they did under the dinosaurs); ghost stories; and midwifery research. It was pretty enjoyable in retrospect actually and gave us loads to talk about, criticise and dissect over dinner afterwards. My friend gave me a great Christmas present. Pleasing.

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I also bought myself a book of M.R. James ghost stories after the lecture on ghosts; I haven’t tried them since I was very young and quite terrified. I’ve read one so far and I am holding up. I suppose it’s only a question of time before I am filled with terror.

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Michael and I went ice skating. We liked it. Mr Waffle and I went to an artsy Christmas extravaganza on Henrietta Street. I was really keen to see inside another of the dilapidated but very beautiful Georgian Houses on what is, I think, Dublin’s most beautiful street. It was a beautiful house but chilly.

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And the show was for those with a sense of fun in their hearts which I seem to be, sadly, lacking as I found it to be a bit tedious. The food was fine but exiguous and vegetarian, so I was still quite hungry after I’d finished. The saving grace, however, was our neighbours. We were seated at trestle tables beside random strangers (by design) and we spent the evening chatting to a really delightful couple. He lectures in design and she runs a vintage clothes shop (my sister cross-questioned me on this and, apparently, it’s quite a well known one that she has read about in the papers). Regardless of the success of vintage clothes, it seems to be a business with tight margins. Our neighbour blithely described how her French interns were put off that cold winter when the water in the toilet froze. In fairness, wouldn’t that apply to most people? However they were endlessly entertaining. They’ve bought a 1950s school building in Monaghan and they’re planning to live in it (they’re from Monaghan). I have to say, it’s not a county I have ever visited but they made me curious.

The children have all been sick this month. For the last three weeks we have had at least one child home from school. Michael has been sick all this week. Today I told him he was better but his cough refuses to believe me.

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I took a day off work on Monday and spent it Christmas shopping. This goes against my stated views which include deploring the commercialism of Christmas and the triumph of capitalism. But I got everything and I was absolutely delighted with myself. I am slightly conflicted.

Herself had a Junior Cert award ceremony at the school yesterday. I skipped my office Christmas lunch to be there. It started at 2.30 and as we parked in the school car park at 2.34, I blithely reassured Mr. Waffle that these things never start on time. “Why then,” he asked, “can I see her through the glass door on the stage in the hall shaking hands with her year head?” We slunk in but, she noticed we were late. “I don’t blame you,” she said to her father as we had tea afterwards. In all the circumstances, that was probably fair.

The rest of the school had the Christmas awards ceremony today and Daniel got student of the year for second year. I think they’re trying to keep them keen because this is only for three months worth of effort. He was pleased all the same.

I had my annual hair cut today. I looked at the before picture and asked Michael whether I always have those vertical lines on my forehead. Yes, apparently. I’m sure they are from squinting – it’s probably too late now but I took delivery of my new glasses on Wednesday and when I wear them everything is weirdly small and clear. My hairdresser intimated, very tactfully, that the very short haircut I prefer may not suit me as well as it once did. He gave me a 1970s number instead. I’m not sure. I took the after picture in the mirror by candlelight which is much more flattering than the before picture (“she may very well pass for 45/ in the dusk with the light behind her”).

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This afternoon, I met my oldest friend who is home for Christmas and it was delightful and she had a big bag of presents for me – thrilling. Of course I had nothing for her except a chance to admire my new haircut – possibly less thrilling for her.

Daniel sang in the carol service in the church this evening. It was a bit long and chilly. The choir director has different tastes from mine. I could have done with more traditional numbers and fewer experimental ones. However, she is amazing with the children and at Christmas she has the adult and children’s choir sing together and the traditional ones they do are lovely. There is a semi-professional soprano in the adult choir and she does a beautiful “O Holy Night”.

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Today is the winter solistice and on the way home this evening in the drizzle, I came across a parade with a fire, Christmas lights and drums accompanied by a middle aged and sceptical Guard. It appears that we may be about to lose the run of ourselves again. Mr. Waffle is out to a work dinner and I am updating my blog and have performed my duties in the matter of putting out the bins. I believe you are up to date with my doings.

Weekend Round-Up

25 November, 2018 at 7:54 pm by belgianwaffle

On Friday, Daniel was still feeling a bit sick so he missed French class. Michael and I went in together. While he was not enthused, he is now resigned to French class which, I suppose, is progress. While he was doing French verbs, I went to the new look Bewley’s and had a cup of tea and a cherry bun. I was pleased with my experience: the tea was good, the bun was good and, as I was in no rush, the fact that service was spectacularly slow was not a problem. A fire is nice at this time of year and although I was seated miles from the fire, it definitely improved the overall atmosphere. I will be back.

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Yesterday morning, Mr. Waffle and I cycled off for breakfast together to a new venue recommended in the Irish Times, we were a bit underwhelmed but breakfast is a low stakes investment and we got to go to the architectural salvage yard across the road afterwards so, a win really.

The afternoon was heavy on logistics. My brother was in Dublin again. I collected him from the station and then dropped him and Dan to collect Michael from drama and the three of them went for pizza. Then Michael came home and Mr. Waffle dropped my brother and Dan to the Dart (like a metro only not as useful) and they went to the Ireland v US rugby match. The outcome was pretty much never in doubt and Daniel was pleased. He does not bear losses by his team with anything approaching equanimity.

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Then I collected Dan from town leaving my brother to go out with his friends.

This morning, Daniel was called upon to read at mass at short notice. He rose magnificently to the occasion and I felt like a minor celebrity as people rushed up afterwards to congratulate him on his performance. Michael was at hockey with Mr. Waffle and my brother was still in bed. A neighbour called round to ask the boys to distribute leaflets for the Christmas fair next weekend and had loads of interesting news about the neighbours (deaths, births, marriages, house sales). Why do I never hear anything?

After lunch, I dropped Daniel round to a friend’s house and my brother to the train. I felt curiously at a loose end. I went into town with Mr. Waffle who wanted to look at the soldier sculpture before it was moved on tomorrow. Stephen’s Green was full of people who, last minute also, were peering at the statue.

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Building on previous success, we went to Bewley’s but there was a huge queue – town was heaving – so we went elsewhere which was mildly unsatisfactory. Mr. Waffle went home and I went around the shops in a desultory fashion and made my way home in the rain. When I got back, Michael was curled up on the sofa in front of the fire resplendent in his dressing gown and slippers. He opined that he had made better use of his afternoon and it was hard to argue.

Herself was in Paris today with her friend, their planned trip for yesterday having been stymied by the gilets jaunes. I was slightly anxious all day because that is my job but I have just received a text confirming that she is safely back.

25 November was my Nana’s birthday which was unfortunate as she always hated the dank miserableness of November. I wonder what she would think of town full of Christmas shoppers and all the lights up. You know what? She might like it.

In the Bleak Mid-Winter

21 November, 2018 at 11:14 pm by belgianwaffle

Slightly scraping the bottom of the barrel tonight. What news? I have to get up early in the morning for a course I’m doing. Poor Daniel is sick. The weather is rainy and miserable. Michael is grumpy. Herself is in France. Mr. Waffle and I planned to take Monday off to go for a walk together and now I can’t because of a work thing. On Friday it will be a month since my father-in-law died.

How’s your own November going?

Extended Round-Up

4 November, 2018 at 11:54 pm by belgianwaffle

The coda to our logistics last week was getting Herself back to France. She was due to fly out at 9.50 on Wednesday morning. Alas, I did not see some form online which was supposed to be filled in for under 16s [Air France didn’t need one but Aer Lingus did – I know, I know, when you’re explaining you’re losing] and she was thrown off on the steps of the plane. Mr. Waffle had to zoom back to the airport and re-book her for a later flight and then we needed to re-book her train from Charles de Gaulle to the west of France. It was all a bit stressful. She is Miss Super Competent in fairness to her. She got on the plane in Dublin and from there, unaccompanied, navigated her way to the train station in CDG and on to the express train back to her host family in the west of France.

Poor Mr. Waffle meanwhile spent the morning in the airport (unexpectedly, obviously) and then came home to find that the wretched cat had captured a blackbird and brought it into the kitchen. Mr. Waffle arrived home to a storm of feathers and the bird standing dazedly on the work surface between attempts to hurl itself out the closed window. The cat was pacing the floor frantically some dimly understood precept (or possibly her vast bulk) preventing her from hopping up on to the work surface. Mr. Waffle threw her into the utility room and ushered the bird into the garden. The cat got out the cat flap in the utility room and was waiting anxiously for them at the back door so that escape plan was not entirely successful. The bird got out eventually and we are still finding feathers in surprising places. Joy.

Meanwhile it was Halloween in Dublin and for the first time since moving in, our decorations beat next door’s. It could be that now that their children are 19 and 17 they are not trying so hard but I like to think that we really tried. The boys looked very impressive in their costumes but were too sophisticated to go door to door and just wore them for school.

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We had planned to go to Cork for a couple of days over mid-term before Mr. Waffle’s father died and I wondered whether we should cancel but after some humming and hawing we went in the end. In a new development, the boys stayed in my parents’ house and Mr. Waffle and I stayed with my sister. This was a very satisfactory development for everyone except, possibly, our host.

We drove down on Thursday night which was a bit of an epic trek but it did mean that we woke up in Cork on Friday morning ready for a day of Cork related fun. In what can only be called the high water mark of family cultural engagement, the boys said that they wanted to go to Charles Fort in Kinsale on Friday, so we did. It was a bit damp but we missed the worst of the rain. On the strength of this, I bought a new family heritage card for €90 which means that we have to go to at least six heritage sites over the next year to break even. I fear the worst. So do the children.

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We went for lunch in the Bulman and Daniel took the obligatory before and after pictures of the ketchup bottle to send to his uncle who does not love ketchup. The waitress assured me that ketchup is part vegetable but I am not entirely convinced.

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We took the traditional picture at the caution children sign.

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On Saturday, my brother and sister minded the boys for much of the day (including a trip to Milano’s for pizza, let joy be unconfined) leaving myself and Mr. Waffle to our own devices. We were a bit blinded by the unexpected freedom. We went for breakfast and, after a trip to the Crawford gallery and a mild wander around the town in the rain including a look at food fair in the City Hall, we waddled on to lunch. In slight desperation, wondering what to do next, I asked Mr. Waffle to check a list of 17 hidden exciting things to do in Cork he found on the internet. One of them was feed the ducks in the Lough. I mean, I’ve no objection to feeding the ducks but I wouldn’t exactly call it exciting. We had about an hour and a half until Mr. Waffle was meeting a friend for coffee and I almost suggested going home (to be fair, it was lashing) but then I had a mild stroke of inspiration and we went to see Elizabeth Fort and the Protestant cathedral.

Elizabeth Fort boasted mildly exciting views and an air raid shelter which I don’t remember seeing before. It was extremely damp and had a random collection of cold damp objects for viewing including this slightly alarming map.

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I quite like the cathedral although I am not generally a fan of neo-gothic. Mr. Waffle wondered about the candles and the IHS on the altar. “Maybe they are very high church?” I offered. “Not in Ireland,” he said firmly. He said it was the least Protestant looking Protestant church he had ever been in. I wonder was he misled because Ireland is basically full of 19th century neo-gothic churches that are Catholic and there are inevitable stylistic similarities. It’s a mystery.

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That evening, the boys played board games with my sister and her partner and had a fantastic time.

We drove back on Sunday morning. It was actually a really good idea to go in the end. We all had a lovely time. It turns out that despite the cynical words of my son Michael on another occasion, there is such a thing as fun for all the family.

Wednesday to Saturday

29 October, 2018 at 8:35 pm by belgianwaffle

My poor father-in-law died on Tuesday night.

Wednesday

On Wednesday morning, my sister-in-law flew in from London. She and Mr. Waffle and Mr. Waffle’s brother went off to the undertaker at lunch time. I was home from work to help but found myself at a loose end once I’d organised for herself to get home from France. It was strange. I then realised that I had given the boys a lift to school that morning and would be unable to give them a lift home as they might expect because the car was on the other side of the city. I cycled in to the school to tell them this, stopping off on the way to pick up a newly arrived library book.

When I arrived at the school, the boys were fine about getting home by bus and I said I would take their school bags on the bike. This was a bit unsatisfactory as the bags were quite big but I got home safely only to discover that the library book must have fallen out in my perambulations. I cycled all the way back to the school hunting for it but it was gone forever. I thought about going into town with the boys to get funeral wear but decided I would wait until the following day when I had the car. When Mr. Waffle and his sister arrived home, they said that the funeral had been arranged for Saturday morning. They had found a priest with some difficulty, their brother was deployed to find a venue for lunch afterwards and they were doing the missalette and finding the singers. Mr. Waffle said it was like organising a wedding, weirdly, but with only three days notice. He and his brother met for a drink that evening and I gave his brother a lift home. We talked about his father, of course, and I couldn’t help feeling that my father-in-law was so lucky to have him – they had a shared interest in running and even when my father-in-law’s dementia began to take hold, my brother-in-law was organising running gigs in the mountains for him.

Thursday

We did a bit of work picking readings in the morning and then Mr. Waffle drove his sister to the airport to pick up her husband and baby daughter who had spent the previous day packing up their flat in London (mostly him, to be fair). She booked the soprano and the organist for the funeral on the way in the car and selected the music. My poor sister-in-law, it was quite the week. Then there was a difficulty getting in to their air bnb and various tense emails were exchanged. I drove them there and then turned around to go back to the airport to pick up herself. I was just in time.

It was wonderful to see her. Exciting and delightful. She had been followed by a middle aged man at the bus stop in France (broad daylight, not her usual bus stop but still) and I was a bit worried – we’d spoken on the phone and by Skype but it’s really not the same – once I saw her, I knew she was alright. She has been having a fantastic time in France and, I think, it’s been really great for her. That night Mr. Waffle toiled over the missalette and I put my amazing word processing skills to work.

Friday

The boys had to be got ready for Hallowe’en in school on a slightly last minute basis (a skeleton and an assassin, thanks for asking). I drove Mr. Waffle out to to the church in the morning to finalise the funeral arrangements with the priest. Then I came home and took herself into town to buy something suitable for a funeral and bought a jacket and shirt for Daniel as well (Michael had a jacket in stock but as it travelled into school as part of the Hallowe’en outfit, I was a bit nervous, herself said she had a white shirt in the drawer that would do for Michael). I realised, to my horror that it was the day of the presidential election vote and the blasphemy referendum. I flew down to the polling station. Turnout was low. Bad for democracy but good for me, I was in and out in 2 minutes.

I got a message from Mr. Waffle that he would like the boys to get a haircut so we drove (reprehensibly, it’s really close enough to walk, but it was an emergency) to the hairdresser, dressed them respectably and just about managed to get in the car for 3 to get across town for the beginning of the removal at 4. We were the first to arrive at the undertaker’s and the woman in charge took one look at my children and murmured, “He had very strong genes, didn’t he?” We looked at Grandad in the coffin and he was wearing a tie which he never liked in life, so the undertaker took it off. He didn’t look like himself really. I thought the children might be upset but they were ok. We were so early, we had time for a cup of tea. When we came back, people were streaming in. Across the road at the church, all sorts of unlikely people turned up who it was really lovely to see. The deacon said a couple of nice words and it was clear that he knew the deceased which is not always a given.

Many people repaired to the pub afterwards including herself and Mr. Waffle but I took the boys home as my sister was coming up from Cork on the train. By the time I got my sister to our house, I was flattened. I felt very bad when I saw a text message from Mr. Waffle saying that he and herself were trekking across town on the bus but also, pathetically, very relieved not to be sitting in to the car again to collect them. When they came back, herself was wrapped up in her Grandfather’s jacket which they had taken from her grandparents’ house on the way home to add to her own rather flimsy jacket. She’s hardly taken it off since.

Saturday

Mr. Waffle went off early to get his mother from the nursing home, she only went in to the home the week before her husband died – that is a lot of change for one family.

I got Daniel to try on the jacket I’d bought for him. Tragically and clearly, much too large. I called for the white shirt which herself had stashed in her room. She handed it to me sheepishly. It turned out it was Mr. Waffle’s shirt. I dropped my poor sister and Daniel into town and told them to find shirts and a jacket and quickly. They did. Almost miraculously, we were all in the car and ready to travel at 10. We parked around the corner from the church for the funeral at 10.45.

Oh the funeral, it was awful. The readings were great (herself did one – I have run my race to the finish– particularly appropriate in this case), the prayers of the faithful were fine (the boys and the cousins) but almost from the beginning, all three of my children started crying silently (I was crying myself but, as Michael pointed out, everyone expected me to cry, I am the family crier). Then, my nephew read a letter which his grandfather had written to him for a school project when he was 6. The letter was put in a time capsule to be opened when he was 12. He’s 12 now. My father-in-law’s voice came through so clearly, talking about all the fun they would have in 2019.

Loads of people made the effort to come to the funeral, including Mr. Waffle’s friend who lives in the Hague who was in Cork visiting her own mother and heard and came up. It was surprisingly lovely. There was more lycra in evidence than you normally see at funerals as the hill runners made him a guard of honour. He would certainly have enjoyed that. My sister had to go back to Cork for a meeting but my brother was there for the next bit having arrived towards the end of the funeral mass (he will certainly be late for his own funeral). We went to the cemetery which had views of the mountains my father-in-law loved and we went to the lunch afterwards.

The grandchildren reminisced about their holidays in Kerry when (we now discover to our horror) their grandfather would pile all five of them into the back of the jeep with no safety belts and drive them at hair-raising speed to the beach. They kept that quiet at the time.

“How are you?” I asked Michael after the funeral. “I’m thinking of ‘the Muppet Christmas Carol'” he said, his voice breaking. “‘Life is made up of meetings and partings. I am sure that we shall never forget … this first parting that there was among us.’” I don’t suppose we will.

Weekends Rounded Up

21 October, 2018 at 7:04 pm by belgianwaffle

What have we been doing, you ask yourself. Well, wait no longer.

In the category of what herself refers to as “culture as middle class performance*”, I outdid myself by taking them all to see Ruth Negga as Hamlet in the Gate. I wasn’t as prepared as I might have been for full frontal nudity with my teenage sons, their father and myself sitting in Row A. However, overall, it was pretty positive. It was very long. At the interval (90 minutes in), I half expected that the boys would have had enough but they were actually really enjoying it and their father’s hope that he might have to fall upon his sword and take them home early was dashed. In fact, Michael was very excited and started quoting all the Shakespeare he knew as well as sprinkling his conversation with doth, verily and forsooth. He and Mr. Waffle went to the Centra at the top of O’Connell street during the interval as the queue at the bar was massive and he only wanted a soft drink. Mr. Waffle tells me, and I am sure that he is correct, that the Centra at the top of O’Connell Street at 9.30 on a Friday night is not the optimal environment for a 13 year old using Shakespearean language and trying to speak in iambic pentameter.

The second part wasn’t as good as the first in my view and it did drag a bit but overall, it was one of the most engaging and accessible Shakespeare plays I’ve been to see.

We went to the Cinema and saw “Johnny English”. Probably not “culture as performance” but we all found it mildly enjoyable.

Last Sunday, Mr. Waffle had to work and so I was on duty taking Michael to hockey training. The whole thing ran like a poorly oiled machine. We went to early mass as Gaeilge to facilitate this. Normally we cycle but I had left my bike at work so the boys cycled and I met them en route on a Dublin bike. Michael had to turn around and go home as he hadn’t brought his coat on the baffling grounds that I might not approve. He was freezing. Daniel took ages to arrive as his chain had come off. Eventually we set off. When I walked round to the church, having got rid of my Dublin bike, Michael was pacing up and down; he had put his bike lock in the basket of the Dublin bike. We had to walk to the Dublin bike stand as he couldn’t cycle on his own as he didn’t know where it was. By the time we arrived the sermon was just finishing up and small wonder. Alas. When we got home, Michael announced that his runners were too small and his tracksuit bottoms too big. “Don’t be cross,” he said, “I told Dad last week.” I was a bit cross all the same. We turned around and drove straight to the massive shopping centre near his training and bought runners and tracksuit that stayed up (he is tall but v skinny so this is a challenge). I discovered that he had never learnt to tie laces. It is true that if you wait until they are ready they learn quickly. He got the hang of it in about two minutes. Though as Daniel pointed out, it was possible that he was ready some time ago. Anyhow better late than never.

When poor Mr. Waffle came back from his meeting at about 4 we went for a mild walk in the Phoenix park and saw an exhibition about the RMS Leinster (it sank). I particularly enjoyed the story of the captain who had a family in Dublin and Holyhead so he could sleep in his own bed with his wife regardless of which side of the Irish Sea he was on.

Daniel got new glasses and I think they’re great. Literally, nobody else cares, even Daniel.

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Last Friday, I went to Cork and visited aged relatives and some of the younger ones as well. I thought my father had really improved since his emergence from hospital so, all to the good. I came back on the train last night and it took forever; delayed by 50 long, long minutes.

Today we went to the Obelisk on Killiney Hill. Mild walk, great views.

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And what have you been up to yourself?

*Not her own line but she likes to use it when speaking of her mother.

Weekend Round-Up

30 September, 2018 at 6:52 pm by belgianwaffle

Saturday saw the usual drama/football dropping off with a side trip for Mr. Waffle to visit his father in hospital. My sister came over on Saturday afternoon to give the boys their birthday presents which were very well received indeed. She also advised me on my kitchen renovations (only starting in November almost certainly will not be finished by Christmas despite the builder’s blithe assurances to the contrary). She found a dead mouse on the utility room floor (the cat is in overdrive) and instead of closing the door and waiting for Mr. Waffle to return, she took it out to the garden on the dustpan to dispose of it. “Where did you put it?” I asked nervously. “The compost heap,” she said. I was outraged and made her go out and rescue the corpse with a tongs. Then she took it to the lane. I was keen that she throw it over the wall on to the building site from whence, I am convinced, it came but she was unsure that she would be able to get it over the wall and felt unable to run the risk that it might not clear the wall and would rain back down on us, so laid it in the lane underneath some foliage.

After that excitement, she went into town to see an Irish language play. Her partner’s mother was the playwright – he comes from a very literary family. They came to our house afterwards for a cup of tea. I have to say, the playwright is a lovely woman and I felt a bit guilty that we hadn’t attended ourselves but she did not seem at all offended. A low point came as I handed round the plate of biscuits and Daniel said, “No, she can’t have those, they’re the book club biscuits!” It is true that I am up to host book club on Monday and I had indeed bought the biscuits for this purpose and previously forbidden Daniel for eating them on those very grounds but this was not the moment to bring it up.

After they left we went next door where they were having their annual end of summer party. Among the neighbours is a man whose father, I had heard, delivered the little old lady across the road. In fact, chatting to him about this, it turned out it was his grandfather – an awkward moment I have to concede. He is a bit older than me but, it turns out, not that much older than me. I had thought all the families were local to the area but in fact she was born in Carlow where his grandfather lived and worked and he was from Tullamore and it was complete coincidence that they turned up living across the road from each other. I also found out that Mrs. Second Next Door is a sister of Mrs. Directly Across the Road. Yes indeed, Ireland is tiny. Getting back to the man whose grandfather delivered the little old lady who lives across the road, he told me that his wife wasn’t there as she was at home minding their daughter. Ever mindful of my own daughter’s pecuniary needs, I offered her up as babysitter for a future occasion should there be a need, once she returned from France. At this he looked a little sheepish. It turned out that their daughter, who does look very young, is only 18 months younger than ours but that her parents are very protective. He pointed out that she is the only child of older parents and, there we have it, another awkward moment. The next person I spoke to was another neighbour, a lovely man, whom I had met in a slightly heated work context earlier in the month. Between one thing and another, I ended up leaving early to mind the [sleeping and entirely indifferent] boys next door with something of the mien of a coursing hare.

On Sunday we had a specially lengthy mass. I love those. There was a great quote from Frédéric Ozanam:

The question which is agitating the world today is a social one. It is a struggle between those who have nothing and those who have too much. It is a violent clash of opulence and poverty which is shaking the ground under our feet. Our duty as Christians is to throw ourselves between these two camps in order to accomplish by love, what justice alone cannot do.

I have to say that I thought that it was a contemporary source but no, it dates from the first half of the 19th century. Ozanam (I learn from this morning’s leaflet at mass) was a lawyer but a reluctant one which may explain why he was unimpressed by what justice alone could achieve.

All afternoon we had Daniel and Michael’s friends from school playing elaborate board games – like a birthday party only much less effort. We had our regular scheduled talk with herself this evening. She seems to be getting on like a house on fire in France. I hope that she’s not putting on a brave face but I think not. She got my latest letter and hasn’t read it all yet and I don’t get the sense that she’s saving it up. I think that’s a good sign though slightly disconcerting.

I face into a week of book club hosting, football training for Dan, parents’ council AGM, return of Mr. Waffle’s weekly soccer club and kitchen appliance inspection (you have to BOOK to see kitchen appliances now). I’m feeling a sense of anticipatory exhaustion.

I plan to spend the evening re-reading Terry Pratchett to fortify myself. How was your own weekend?


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