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Busy Week

16 October, 2017 at 1:19 am by belgianwaffle

This week nearly killed me. We did a lot of stuff and I’m not counting school/the day job. It will have to stop or we will all keel over.

Monday
GAA for Dan; cubs for Michael (he is going to both cubs and scouts during transition to scouts); and bookclub for me.

Tuesday
Herself attended a “Zeminar” in the RDS. Neither myself nor Mr. Waffle could take her due to work commitments so she had to go herself on the bus which we weren’t crazy about but she managed fine. She visited stands from three Irish political parties at the conference. For Irish people, see whether you can guess which they are:
Party 1: Extremely earnest young man explained all their policies in excruciating detail.
Party 2: “You have no information about your policies up,” she said to them, “all you have is stuff about Game of Thrones”. “Ah,” they say, “you don’t want to be putting people off with the old policies.” “But,” she protested, “you are a political party, people expect you to have policies.”
Party 3: “We can help you to get ahead. We can introduce you to the Taoiseach.”

When she came home she went to the school open night so that she could impress possible incoming students and their parents with her prowess with a bunsen burner.

Michael went to scouts.

Mr. Waffle went to football.

I got sodden cycling in to work and resolved to get new rain gear at the weekend.

Wednesday
Herself was back at the Zeminar and afterwards she went to Bray on the Dart to see a play in a friend’s school. Daniel had training after school and I had to drive to Bray (very far away, people) to collect herself at 9.30

Thursday

Herself had games club followed by a debating tournament after school and had to be collected at 8 (bitter defeat, thanks for asking). Daniel and Michael had their booster vaccinations and sore arms. On the plus side this meant Daniel didn’t go to scheduled GAA training.

Friday
The boys had games club. All three children were supposed to have French but T, our faithful tutor, was sick. Poor T, but it was a relief to have something cancelled. Mr. Waffle and I went out to see Class in the New Theatre as part of the Theatre festival (herself babysat, part of a quid pro-quo for the 90 minute drive I had to bring her safely home on Wednesday night). I thought it was only alright but I was a definite minority. It’s about working class parents meeting a middle class teacher as part of a parent-teacher meeting. Class in two ways, you see.

Saturday

Daniel had a GAA match in the morning. I had a migraine. Unsurprising, frankly. Michael had drama in the afternoon. I dropped him in and bought myself a new waterproof coat while he was being dramatic. By early evening I had recovered sufficiently from my migraine to play “Capture the Flag” in a local park. I wanted to know how it worked before having 8 boys round for Daniel and Michael’s birthday and learning on the hoof (no date set, thanks for asking).

Sunday
Mr. Waffle and Michael went to mass at 10 and hockey at 11. I marched the other pair up the road, running late for 11 o’clock mass. We were half way up the road when herself said, “What time is it?” “It’s already 11, we’re going to be late” I said trotting along. “But mass doesn’t start until half past.” Good point. They had choir and she did the second reading. It was a reading from St. Paul. Even after 2,000 years, his personality still comes across very clearly. Favourite line which I think will become a running joke in this family: “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships.” [Emphasis added]. The first holy communion class were there for the prayers of the faithful and so, the prayer for the dead, always a bit of a tricky one, was doomed. The child did not realise that she had to pause to allow the priest to list the names of the dead and so she ploughed on with her prayer and he ploughed on with his list until he realised there could be only one winner and let her continue. He read the list afterwards but he was clearly ground down by going mano a mano with the 8 year old at the lectern and when it came to a complex name he said, “It’s Áine Ní..M..no I can’t pronounce it, it’s something like that.” He’s not a native English speaker and it was all too much for him.

Mr. Waffle’s parents, who are very prompt, came for lunch and were sitting in their car outside the door when Mr. Waffle and Michael came back from hockey and the rest of us came back from mass. After they went home, I took the boys to see “We come from Far Far Away” which was a play for children about refugees. It was quite good actually but the boys were a bit too old for it and didn’t really enjoy it. Also, we had to sit cross legged in a yurt for the duration which is not very comfortable it you are a grown up. Or maybe that’s just me.

After this we went to Milano’s in Temple Bar for dinner as, for a birthday treat, their father had bought them tickets for the live show of “Impractical Jokers“; they are very fond of the deeply unsuitable TV show. We managed to lose the tickets between dinner and the car and had to tramp around looking for them (in vain) and then go home and reprint them which made punctual Mr. Waffle extremely tense. They arrived at 8.05 for an 8 pm start and, in fact, the warm up act still had ages to go. It was even more deeply unsuitable than the TV show but the boys loved it.

Meanwhile herself and myself were at home. A couple of her friends came round and I was able to give all of them the happy, happy news that the Department of Education had decided to close every school in the country due to the oncoming hurricane. Not a standard Irish weather feature. Then, with growing horror the realisation dawned on me that there might be an impact for grown-ups also and that my office might have to close for the day. I spent the remainder of Sunday evening consulting with colleagues, looking at weather warnings and reading runes while we collectively tried to decide whether the office should close or not tomorrow and how best to get the word out to everyone. You will, I am sure be rivetted to hear that the office is, in fact, closed tomorrow or, at this stage (it is late) today. Mr. Waffle has have brought in the bins and I have parked the car as far away from trees as possible on our tree-lined street. I have my new, guaranteed waterproof coat. My work for the week is done.* How was your own week?

*Actually, it was Open House this weekend and we usually go to see something but this year we didn’t; I’m not even sure I’m sorry.

Despicable Me

14 October, 2017 at 5:21 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister took me to Kildare Village recently where we had breakfast in the only Pain Quotidien cafe in the country (more’s the pity) and then wandered around. Kildare Village is an outlet shopping centre. It is antiseptic but strangely appealing to me. It goes against all my principles but I want to go back. Alas.

In more worthy activities, we also visited Spike Island which is Europe’s premier tourist attraction. I have to say, notwithstanding its success in the tourist awards and the fact that it is in Cork, if you had to choose between it and the Colosseum, I think the latter would win out.

Spike Island is, obviously, an island and it’s always nice to have a little boat trip.

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The guides when we got there were superb – knowledgeable and entertaining and, although, I thought that we would find over 3 hours on a very small island a bit dull, it wasn’t. We didn’t even see everything. I would definitely go back again.

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It was one of the Treaty Ports handed over by the British in 1938 and a small building near the pier was the last structure built by the British in what is now the Republic. The island is full of intriguing snippets of history like that. There’s an exhibition featuring a number of things including this picture of the flags on display in East Beach, Cobh, Co. Cork on 11 July 1938 to celebrate the passing of the port to Ireland. Ahem.

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I hadn’t realised that when World War II broke out, Churchill wanted the Treaty ports back but DeValera wouldn’t let them go back. Frankly, Churchill was not at all as popular in this jurisdiction as across the water.

Religious Tolerance

13 October, 2017 at 5:16 pm by belgianwaffle

When I was in Cork last, my father told me about a man called Pulvertaft (great name) who ran a plumbing manufacturing business. Like many of the business owners at the time, Mr. Pulvertaft was a Protestant, a Methodist, in fact. In the Marian Year of 1954 (ever wondered why so many 63 year old Catholic women are called Marian; wonder no longer) the (Catholic) workforce approached the Methodist owner to ask whether they might, in view of the Marian celebrations, erect a statue of the Virgin Mary on the factory floor. He said that they could and, if they stopped effing and blinding the whole time, he’d even pay for it.

Home Improvements or Why I Never Liked Pinterest

11 October, 2017 at 7:10 pm by belgianwaffle

When we moved into our house in 2013, we did as much renovation as we could afford and then waited until we had money to do the rest. Now we have money to do the rest but no appetite to do so [I know this is what my boss would call a quality problem but nonetheless still a problem – turns out it’s much easier to renovate before you move in]. I was mildly depressed to see that a house we looked at but didn’t buy in 2012 has been put back on the market, having been renovated “top to toe” by its new owners. In the same time, we have failed to get a new sofa. In fact when our old childminder came back into our lives recently, the first thing he said when he sat down was, “Oh God, you still have that really uncomfortable sofa.”

I am pleased to announce that we have put in an order and are now expecting a new sofa in mid-November. I feel an amazing sense of achievement. Also, we got some fancy new mirrors. All the rest of the family cordially loath the one in the hall but I don’t care. Loathed mirror is on the left.

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Have an arty shot of the ones over the fireplaces in the reception rooms that cunningly ensures the orange chintz sofa and the regency stripe curtains are out of view.

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Furthermore, I have, with some difficulty (for me, my sister, my brother, my father and my husband) arranged for my mother’s old dressing table and my father’s old chest of drawers to travel from Cork to Dublin.

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High on my success, I think I might put back the kitchen/utility room/downstairs bathroom renovation programme for another year. In the interim, Michael is insisting on a new bed, we need new curtains downstairs (only so much one can take of unlined, cherry striped curtains) and we have to do something about the wretched piano. God, my father was right when he said that houses are nothing but trouble.

Cycling Gloom

1 October, 2017 at 7:48 pm by belgianwaffle

I seem to have become obsessed by cycling infrastructure. It was not always thus. I have always cycled. I cycled in and out to school from when I was 12 and I never stopped. I don’t remember being concerned about cycling infrastructure and safe cycling until my own children started cycling in Dublin. It has been regularly heart-stopping. But I persist. I want them to be able to cycle: it’s good for them, it’s good for the planet and it’s handy. It’s also scary.

Herself has been cycling in and out to school since she started secondary school a couple of years ago. I was really nervous at the start but increasingly less so. She is on top of it now, I hope. I note from the most recent census that of the approximately 250,000 girls in secondary school, about 700 cycle. This is a significant percentage increase from the last census where only some 500 girls cycled to school but it’s not exactly a sea change. This is what the census says:

Cycling

The 25 years, from 1986 to 2011, saw an 87 per cent decrease in the numbers cycling to secondary school. 2016 saw the reversal of this trend with a 10.5 per cent increase since 2011, bringing the numbers of secondary students taking to their bikes to over 7,000. Over 90 per cent of these student cyclists were male, but the number of female cyclists has grown by over 30 per cent since 2011.

Her brothers started secondary school in September (more on this anon) and have been cycling in and out together, at first with a parent and, now, alone. It is unnerving stuff. September 8 is etched on my brain as the first day they cycled in and out unaccompanied and came home alive. I enjoyed the following conversation with Daniel:

Him: If I am run over while cycling to school, whose fault will it be?
Me: I am sure that you won’t be run over. When you say “whose fault” what do you mean?
Him: Will it be mine for cycling carelessly, yours for letting us cycle to school or [my sister’s] for refusing to cycle with us?

This was a bit depressing and, honestly, it is absolutely no wonder that people don’t send their children cycling to school in the same numbers as in 1986 (when coincidentally, I finished school) because there are far more cars on the roads, they’re faster and they’re much bigger, squeezing cyclists to the edge of the road and the car seems to be king in Dublin.

I am getting increasingly annoyed about this. So far, my only action has been to follow people who share my annoyance on twitter so, more work may be needed on my part. I was deeply depressed to see that the Liffey cycle route has been shelved because of inability to reach consensus in Dublin City Council. I mean Paris, Paris, is able to put in place better cycling provision than Dublin. Every time I visit my parents in Cork, I am impressed, yet again, by what can be done by a city with far fewer cyclists and much more rain than Dublin. I’m not saying Cork is perfect but it has more segregated cycling options in the city centre than Dublin. An action group has recently been formed and they are standing in human chains trying to keep cycle lanes free for cyclists. I applaud their efforts. However, with the best will in the world, there are many cycle lanes in Dublin which are so poorly designed that even sympathetic drivers who keep an eye out for cyclists (like me when I drive in town, which I do occasionally) find themselves crossing over them and squeezing cyclists. The motoring lobby says that the City Council is anti-motorist and in the grip of the cycling lobby. If only this were true or there were some evidence that this is the case in the form of half way decent cycling provision. I despair.

In unrelated cycling news, my bicycle was nicked a couple of weeks ago from the shed. Mr. Waffle, sneaked an illicitly purchased folding table (long story which you may well hear in due course) into the shed at lunchtime on a Sunday. When we went out to the shed in the afternoon to go for a family cycle, one of the family bikes was gone. It transpired that the €700 door we purchased after someone last tried to break into our shed hadn’t worked. It turns out that, for it to be really effective, it has to be locked.

I got the bike in 2015 on the bike to work scheme and, sadly, you can only claim relief once every five years so, I was alone on the purchase of the new bike. I got a second hand one and it was grand but I was a bit disappointed by the reaction of the guards with whom I had registered my stolen bike. They didn’t hold out any hope of getting it back and suggested that I look on donedeal.ie which, um, you know, I suppose, I might. Sigh.

Brief Dublin Interlude

28 August, 2017 at 5:42 pm by belgianwaffle

We woke up in our own house in Dublin on Sunday, August 6 with the gear from Cork to unpack and the packing and tidying for France yet to be done. It was a bit horrific. Daniel said to me, “Mum, I don’t want to go to France.” I knew how he felt because I felt the exact same way myself.

Old friends of ours from the Netherlands were in Dublin and this was our only point of overlap. They came that afternoon with their four children and a cousin or two. It all passed off very peacefully as the children all liked playing endless board games and bonded happily over that while the grown-ups chatted happily in the other room. She is Irish and he is Dutch. The children all speak English with perfect Cork accents. They sound like they come from Cork and my children got quite a shock when they heard them speaking to each other in Dutch. Their mother says it is always hilarious when they are in Ireland as they go into say, a sandwich shop and the assistant asks her teenage child a perfectly ordinary question like, “Do you want coleslaw?” and they turn to her and say in Cork accents, “What’s coleslaw?” She says that she can see the shop assistants looking at her wondering whether she keeps the kids locked in a cupboard under the stairs.

They were camping out as part of a big family reunion on her side. They love to camp. Mr. Waffle refuses to camp. I tried to get them to persuade him but the more they talked the more I could see that he was mentally recoiling in horror. Oh well. On the plus side one of her cousins owns a doughnut franchise and they bought us millions of the best doughnuts I have ever tasted and I tried three so I really made an effort to get a feel for the scope of the wares on offer. Also plus, his job is inspecting nuclear power plants and he confirmed again that when the nuclear apocalypse comes, iodine tablets will be more useful that you might expect. All in all, it was really lovely to see them en masse which we haven’t done in years.

Herself meanwhile had arranged to go out to a friend’s house and mid-way through the afternoon the friend’s parents came to get her and later that evening I drove across town to collect her. Is it any wonder I await the arrival of Dublin’s improved infrastructure with impatience?

Island Living – Part Two: The Adventure Continues

27 August, 2017 at 9:55 pm by belgianwaffle

Wednesday, 2 August

Mr. Waffle and the children got the ferry to the mainland, I came back from Cork and we all met in Baltimore where we had a delightful breakfast. I brought them all UCC tat – hats and t-shirts which went down surprisingly well but Mr. Waffle, who was not fortunate enough to go to college in Cork, now has about 5 t-shirts and feels that this may be enough.

I forced everyone to go pony trekking near Ballydehob which was reasonably successful. Mr. Waffle had never been on a horse before in his life and I had hoped there would be some amusement to be got from this but, although, he mounted quite nervously all passed off peacefully.

My oldest friend (we first met as babies – our parents were friends) has a house in Ballydehob and we met her and her partner for lunch and then they took us to the fete which was a huge success. The children loved smashing crockery, throwing wellies and bouncing on the bouncy castle. Then we went round for tea to my friend’s father and step-mother who live in a beautiful house and they were very kind to us and had a lovely afternoon tea. Daniel particularly enjoyed the scones and, I think, ate 7, helped to this feat by my friend’s father, who was sitting beside him, keeping him generously supplied.

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On our way back, in memory of my youth, we went to Field’s (famous bakery) in Skibbereen. It has become a Super Valu. I’m unsure how I feel about that.

Then back to Baltimore where we inspected the castle which was well worth a visit and covered in great detail the Sack of Baltimore where in the 1600s about 100 villagers were captured by Barbary pirates and sold into slavery. Undoubtedly the single most exciting thing ever to happen in Baltimore.

We were a happy bunch boarding the ferry home. Then the ferry was very late due to an inspection. The crossing was really rough. At first the children enjoyed standing at the front of the boat bouncing up and down and getting soaked by the waves but this palled and by the time we got to the island, they were all miserable, sodden and sick as dogs. Poor Daniel actually was sick just as we pulled into the placid waters of the north harbour. Alas for the seven scones.

We did see a beautiful rainbow which in some way made up for the pain.

IMG_2254Also, we finished our jigsaw so, all in all, pretty satisfactory.IMG_2261

Thursday, August 3

The children dug their heels in and refused to leave the house. I eventually persuaded Michael to come out and inspect the library which was housed in a tiny pre-fab but had a surprisingly excellent stock. Also, I was able to leave back the library books we had brought down from Dublin and the books we took out in Cape Clear could be returned to Dublin. Is this not a superb service? I love the library.

Mr. Waffle and I went to see the lake which was a bit eerie. My father said that years ago when he had been on the island he planned to go there for a swim but when he got up to his knees, he just didn’t fancy it and waded out again. Just as well, I suppose as it is now festooned with signs warning against bathing there.

IMG_2271We strolled up to the castle then. We arrived in the late afternoon and it looked wild and remote and extraordinarily romantic. It was clearly built on the end of the peninsula and over the centuries the cliff crumbled away and now it is inaccessible on a small lonely island.IMG_2284

IMG_2286You have to hand it to the O’Driscolls, they know how to site a castle.

High on my successful touristy activities, I went to the craft shop and bought some local pottery. We also followed up on cross-questioning about school with the local teenager managing the shop (there’s a primary school on the island and for secondary, since the boarding school closed down, they go over to the mainland and stay in digs for the week and then come back for the weekend).Friday, August 4Herself was feeling a bit under the weather so she decided not to come out with us on a boat tour. We hoped to see whales and dolphins and all kinds of exotic birds. Alas, it was not to be, we saw seals alright but they are not exotic if you live in Dublin. We also saw arctic terns, shags and cormorants which we identified with varying levels of enthusiasm with the aid of binoculars and a bird book we had liberated from my parents’ house in Cork.IMG_2304

Michael spent much of the trip in this attitude. A downside, perhaps to our visit to the library the previous day.

IMG_2298The poor boatman was gutted. He made tea on his primus stove and we had tea and biscuits on the small boat rocked by the sea while he lamented the lack of more exciting birds and aquatic life. He knew my Irish teacher. Of course he did. He astonished me by telling me that he was not an O’Driscoll but his mother was. He was a native Irish speaker and it was nice for the boys to speak a bit of Irish. At least, I was pleased, not so sure about them.

 

By the time we got home, herself was feeling a bit better so I forced her out to the library (underwhelmed) and to the castle (genuinely, though reluctantly, impressed).

 

While we were gone, the boys made friends with the next door neighbours and later we all met up at the north harbour where we had ice cream. “Did you close the front door when you were leaving the house?” I asked the boys hopefully. They didn’t know. Happily crime levels on the island appear to be low. Then, high on my success with herself, I made the boys walk up to the castle as well. They were impressed also. Frankly, this castle represents the high water mark of impressing my children with anything historical.

 

It was a beautiful evening and I decided to go for a swim in the south harbour. With some difficulty I made my way in over the rocks. It was one of the coldest swims I have ever had in my life but the surroundings were utterly beautiful and aside from Mr. Waffle, sitting on a nearby rock to make sure I didn’t drown, there wasn’t a person to be seen for miles. Mr. Waffle may have been put off going in by my description of the bone-numbing cold.

 

We finally got to Seán Rua’s on pizza evening that night. It was a series of triumphs.

Saturday, 5 AugustIMG_2381

Our landlady gave us a lift to the ferry. When we got across we decided to go for breakfast in the cafe in Baltimore but it turns out it’s a lot busier mid-morning on a Saturday than early on a Wednesday (which was when we had been there last) and as we were driving back to Dublin that day, maybe not a great start. As we were late anyway, I went to the craft shop and bumped in to the creator of my island pottery which was pleasing. I bought another plate. Don’t knock it, I’m keeping the rural economy afloat.

We scurried off to the car park to find that our car had been boxed in. This was a bit alarming as the driver was unlikely to be in the town and much more likely to have gone off for the day to one of the many islands readily accessible from Baltimore harbour. We spent ages backing and filling. Many people offered advice; I went around the local businesses to see whether anyone knew the the owner; to no avail. Then this wonderful local came out from a nearby building. He began by roundly and colourfully denouncing the car which had boxed us in. This was an excellent start. Then he suggested a new approach and, with millimetres to spare, it worked. We were free.

I had decided that we would stop in Cashel on the way home. We were going to have lunch in the Cashel Palace but, alas, it was closed for refurbishment. There followed some distressing wandering around the town but we got lunch eventually. Fortified, we headed towards the Rock of Cashel. I haven’t been there for years (in fact I think the last time I was there was when Mr. Waffle and I stopped off to stay in the Cashel Palace on the way back to Dublin after our wedding in 2001) and on previous occasions, it was always pretty much empty. Not this time; it was heaving. Highlight was my heritage card getting us in free. It was really much too busy to enjoy. Daniel and myself found some of the talks interesting. The OPW guides are always superb, in fairness. However, you could barely move for tourists. Picture below gives an entirely erroneous impression of the tourist density.

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We went back to the town, fortified ourselves with sheep ice cream (fine, but, you know, not sure it’s really worth the farmer’s effort – we met the farmer’s father and he gave us the full journey from udder to cone) and hightailed it back to Dublin.

Tune in for our next installment which will be from the City of Lights.


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