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Failing to Keep Up with the Joneses

14 January, 2019 at 8:35 pm by belgianwaffle

When we went to Cork for a week our next door neighbours minded our cat, then when they were in France last week we fed their chickens. They came back at the weekend and we exchanged token gifts in return for neighbourly services.

Our token gift: a packet of artisan marshmallow picked up at a food fair in Cork

Their token gift: two large bars of chocolate, a jar of foie gras, a jar of onion confit, an enormous amount of Tomme and some other mountainy cheese.

I feel bad but I had some of the foie gras this evening and, God knows, we need some cheering in the midst of illness and renovations, and I was cheered. Also, Mr. Waffle tells me that he put out their bins and took them in again so there’s that. As against that, we got four eggs from the hens during our period of responsibility.

Changing Mores or an Unexpected Caller

14 January, 2019 at 3:31 pm by belgianwaffle

Over Christmas Mr. Waffle and I went for a walk along the South Bull Wall which is a wall with a lighthouse at the end of it that sticks out into Dublin bay. Half of Dublin was there (including a child from the boys’ class whose parents had forced him out while we left ours plugged in to the mainframe). The guilt.

They missed the great views out to Wicklow across the bay but they were unmoved when we told them.

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Anyhow, this is all by the by. The story I am wending my way gradually towards concerns a couple who were walking towards us. The woman was speaking with great vehemence, “I mean, she’s a monster, unbearable, who even does that?” I listened with interest to hear what the sin was and, apparently, the monster dropped in on them without notice. That was it, that was her sin. Sadly, only my friends M & R do that to us but I love an unexpected drop in. Is it now gone the way of the dodo? My sister tells me that a woman who was in her class in school has a sign up in her driveway saying, “Please respect our privacy and do not call to the door.” This just strikes me as rude. Am I out of touch? What do the young people do?

Cork Round-Up

5 January, 2019 at 5:20 pm by belgianwaffle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Frodo or not Frodo?

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

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

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

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

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




Middle Aged Concerns

28 December, 2018 at 7:45 pm by belgianwaffle

We have a lane behind our house. It’s a clean lane and, as lanes go, it’s a nice lane. There is nowhere to sit in the lane except just opposite the door into our garage where an old boarded up door into the convent which used to be behind us has a handy step for sitting on.

This tended to attract older men who would sit and drink there in the fine weather. I did not love this but they were always quiet and polite and left their beer cans in a plastic bag which I would dispose of with a tch sound.

The convent is now being replaced by apartments and the building work has made the lane (and indeed our back garden) a much less pleasant place to be. Our older gentlemen drinkers have moved on.

I was deeply displeased on coming home in the middle of the day to see that their place had been taken by two drug users. My neighbour from up the road was cycling past with his granddaughter on the front of his bike and he gave them the evil eye and waited for me to let myself in to the shed with my bike. They were very skinny with bad teeth and clearly about to inject something so the man’s assurance to us that they were “only smoking a joint” was unconvincing.

I didn’t even bother calling the guards but my neighbour up the road did but, as he observed bitterly, they didn’t come. I suppose they are busy.

I feel sorry for these people who have fallen through the cracks and are stuck drinking or even drug taking in our lane but I do not want my children coming home from school and having to wrestle their bikes into the shed while people are shooting up beside them. I had made my peace with our drinkers but I think intravenous drug use is probably where I draw the line. When our builders start in January, I am going to ask them to block up the step with breeze blocks which are somehow a bit better than those vile pigeon spike things.

I suppose we’ll make another attempt to get everyone to agree on gates for the lane – a project which has been in gestation for at least ten years. I note that there are new neighbours at the top of the road who will have to be persuaded. According to their older neighbours whom I know, they are lovely. She is a surgeon and has already diagnosed one of their ailments. I’m not sure whether that will make the new neighbours feel more neighbourly and inclined to agree to an electric gate and then, of course, jointly funding it. The last objector to gates in any way shape or form has died (naturally of old age, I hasten to add) but a number of people won’t go for electronic gates which they see as excessive and over the top but which are insisted upon by the people with the fancy car which they park in the garage accessed by the lane. Everyone has to agree or it can’t be done. Honestly, I can see this running for another ten years.


Christmas Round-Up

27 December, 2018 at 7:38 pm by belgianwaffle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Last photo of the Princess upright

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

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

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

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

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

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

And how has your own Christmas been so far?

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

Maybe We’re Not Back, Baby

23 December, 2018 at 7:09 pm by belgianwaffle

A woman I met at work told me that a friend of hers fits kitchens. Apparently during the boom, he was run off his feet. Once he had requests for quotes from someone putting in a galley kitchen in Killiney (smart Dublin suburb) and someone putting in a kitchen in a big bungalow in Meath (in the countryside). He didn’t want to do the Meath job so whereas he would normally have quoted €18k, he quoted twice that. Inadvertently, he texted the Killiney clients (for whom he intended to quote €9k) that their galley kitchen would cost €36k and, you know where this is going, they said that was fine.

My informant believes he took the money which is, clearly, poor. Notwithstanding talk that the boom is back, I do not believe we are yet in the territory of the €36K galley kitchen.

Cycling Ire

22 December, 2018 at 6:57 pm by belgianwaffle

When I am in the car I always smile at cyclists if I catch their eye. Firstly, I’m mostly a cyclist myself and I always like to be reassured that drivers have seen me and, you know, all the better if they are cheerful about it. Secondly, I am in my car causing traffic and polluting the air and they are not.

However, I am aware that not everyone feels quite as warmly towards cyclists as I do. I hit a new low the other day. It was lunch time. I was wearing work clothes and I was pushing my bike on the pavement. The pavement was wide. The road was one way against me. Cars were parked right up to the kerb so there was no way that I could push it on the road and walk along side it.

A respectably dressed older gentleman, maybe in his late 60s, came up behind me and deliberately pushed against me and hissed, “Get off the pavement.” I have to say, I was a bit shook. He was quite angry. I mean, I feel I could have taken him, if it had come to a fight but it was so gratuitously unpleasant. I thought that he must really hate cyclists or, maybe more charitably, he was in the early stages of dementia. Although, as Mr. Waffle pointed out, if I had been a young man, he probably wouldn’t have behaved in that way.


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