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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on her desk into a bag and I took it to Boots in Wilton along with her prescription and they a) threw out all the out of date stuff b) blister packed three weeks’ worth of drugs and c) hung on to the extras (disturbing, I feel) to put in to her next prescription.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?

Epiphany

6 January, 2017 at 11:53 pm by belgianwaffle

Today is the last day of Christmas. Christmas was good and really long this year because of how it fell, I was on holidays for nearly a fortnight. Hurrah.

Our advent calendar went missing mysteriously and despite extensive searching could not be found so our Christmas season began with the week long steaming of the pudding:

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This was followed by the arrival of Saint Nicolas. To be honest, Mr. Waffle and I were pretty sure that he would not come to people who left Belgium more than 8 years ago. We were so wrong.

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We got the annual Christmas magazine from school – same as the one I got 35 years ago but they’ve updated the graphics:

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We got the Hollybough:

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We got the bumper RTÉ Guide:

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We put a wreath on the door.

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Then we got the tree.

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Daniel and I decorated it.

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We saw Santa at mass the Sunday before Christmas – he was in mufti – he gets a lot of work locally and covers the boys’ school. At the sign of peace, Michael was quite startled to see him in the pew behind us but Santa, showing great composure, raised his eyebrows and put a finger to his lips. Michael was charmed.

We had a furious round of pre-Christmas activity. I took a day off work to get my Christmas shopping done. Don’t mock. That morning Mr. Waffle had a meeting he couldn’t miss. Inevitably, both boys were sick. I spent the morning minding them until the secondary school rang to say that herself was sick also. I left the boys in their sick beds and, as the car was in the garage, took a taxi out to rescue my poor sick child (on the plus side it gave me the opportunity to verify that the Princess’s bike was in the school bike shed as suspected and not, in fact, stolen from our garage like the last one as we had feared – there had been a certain amount of driving in and out to school due to wet weather and the pathetic time she arrived home bedraggled and damp and her heartless parents felt bad and we had slightly lost track of where the bike was). At lunch time, Mr. Waffle relieved me from duty and I went off and bought everything in the afternoon. It just shows, it can be done.

The boys had their Christmas play which was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Daniel was Charlie and he was terrific. Michael was Slugworth. He was also terrific. I was very proud, my sister came up to see them and she said they were marvellous and, unlike me, she is completely objective. In drama class, Michael got to star as Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”. It went very well but Tiny Tim’s leg accidentally fell off. There was a Christmas concert in the Princess’s school; there was also a carol service in the church near the Princess’s school. The Princess sang at both. I recorded her singing the song at home so that I could dazzle you with her general amazingness but she is not keen to share it so you will have to imagine it. There was also a carol service in our local church where both herself and Daniel sang (not a complete success as she was exhausted after a sleepover the night before and Daniel was sick). And we had some neighbours and friends around for Christmas drinks. We watched “A Muppet Christmas Carol”; in my view by far Michael Caine’s best film. And then constant work parties, lunches etc. It was quite the whirlwind, I can tell you. I can almost sympathise with the teacher in the Princess’s school who hates Christmas and wants them all to know about it; an t-Uasal Ó Grinch as he is known.

By Christmas Eve I was a bit flattened. Nonetheless I was up early getting cranberries in the supermarket (I blame the Americans, when I was a child there were no cranberries and we got through Christmas fine). Then I went to the butcher’s to get our Christmas turkey and spiced beef. There was an enormous queue and the staff were plying Christmas punters with tea and coffee during the wait. Text received from herself during the waiting: “When will my mother return from the war?” When I got back, we took ourselves off for a walk in Wicklow with a picnic lunch. It was cold but, crucially, it did not rain.

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And then we went to midnight mass (starting at 9, confusingly) where there was beautiful music and herself got to carry the baby Jesus to the crib and none of the children collapsed from exhaustion. In fact so lively were they that Daniel arrived downstairs at 12.30 for a chat which was quite the surprise.

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The next day, we had Mr. Waffle’s family for Christmas- 8 adults and 5 children including ourselves. I was quite nervous about the quantity of food that needed to be prepared but it was grand and a good time was had by all etc. At least I hope so, they ate it anyhow which is crucial when you bring a turkey into the house.

As is tradition, we went orienteering on St. Stephen’s Day and for the first time ever, I think, it did not lash rain on us.

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The next day we headed to Cork. As my mother always says, we travel light. Ahem.

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We stopped off at my parents’ house and hoovered up presents. It was like Santa all over again and then some. Then we went to east Cork where we often stay in my friends’ summer house – so often, that we now have our own key. Um, look they were in Spain, it was empty. They have very energy efficient modern Scandinavian heating which takes about 12 hours to warm up so we came prepared with hot water bottles for the first night but after that it was perfectly toasty – underfloor heating is where it is at.

They have no television and no wifi. We fell back on traditional entertainments. The boys made plastic models.

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We attempted their jigsaw. Very hard.

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We went ice skating. We went to Fota Wildlife Park. I must say that all of these things are a lot easier when your children are 11 and 13 than when they are under 8. Although Mr. Waffle got pretty grumpy about the traffic in and out to Mahon Point for the ice skating. Do not go ice skating in a shopping centre at peak post-Christmas sale time was part of the message we took from that experience.

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We went to visit second cousins in Limerick. We saw a ruined abbey.

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We were back in Dublin for new year’s eve. Mr. Waffle went to a party at a neighbour’s house but I was tired and stayed home and the Princess and I chatted. Mr. Waffle returned to join us just before midnight. We did some further mild relative visiting. I went to the sales. I took the boys to the dentist. We went for a lovely walk in Howth.

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I went back to work yesterday and am slowly re-adjusting. Mr. Waffle and the children are still on holidays. Today is Women’s Christmas and Mr. Waffle nobly took the children out so I got back to an empty house – slightly thrilling. After dinner, I suggested that Mr. Waffle and the boys might clean up as it was Women’s Christmas and the Princess might be excused (I was the cook and so excused ex officio). The Princess was outraged by this blatant sexism when Mr. Waffle does just as much work around the house as I do (or, according to Michael, slightly more which I dispute but I don’t think Michael counts putting things away as work) and insisted on staying to help her father.

And now it is nearly midnight and the end of Christmas. Tomorrow we will be taking down the Christmas tree and the decorations. Alas. How was your own Christmas?

Alas, Alack

23 November, 2016 at 6:46 pm by belgianwaffle

My favourite aunt is 87 and lives next door to my parents. She is well in pretty much every way and is still driving around and going out for lunch and looks fantastic. But she fell today. She just tripped when going from the pavement on to the road. Even as I write she is being x-rayed but it looks like a broken hip. Sadly. Oh dear. I spoke to her on the phone and she sounded cheerful but it is not very cheerful. She said that people were very kind; they helped her up and when it became apparent that she wasn’t going to be able to get up, fetched a seat from a nearby pub, got her a cup of tea and sat with her until my saintly sister and the ambulance arrived, in that order. Send cheerful thoughts towards Cork, please.

Cork

3 November, 2016 at 11:08 pm by belgianwaffle

I took the children to Cork for the bank holiday weekend. We did the usual things: bonding with relatives, lots of TV, a trip to Charles Fort and the Bulman, the traditional photo by the “caution children” sign:

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The trip down was rendered exciting by a largish piece of plastic from the underside of the car coming off on the motorway (happily it came off near the edge of the road – no damage done to anyone). Our car has been with us since 2005 and, perhaps, this is a sign that we need a change before the NCT later this month.

Herself spent a couple of hours with my 87 year old aunt Marie Kondoing her house. They found my aunt’s birth certificate. She was born in California but returned to Cork aged about 2 and has found it perfectly acceptable ever since and has never, to my knowledge, pined for sunnier climes. I suppose she got it out of her system early. They kept the birth certificate.

Later, when I came to see how they were getting on I heard her great niece addressing my aunt kindly but firmly, “Are you sure you want to keep the Meister Eckhart? Does it spark joy?” My aunt was unsure. I think Meister Eckhart was saved in the end but a vast number of other books (including a substantial collection of theological books which it turned out did not spark joy) and random items were not deemed worthy of keeping. The pair were delighted with themselves: four black bags of stuff for giving away and three full of rubbish. Then, my brother put his foot down and said that the rubbish bags couldn’t go in the bin as it was too full and would have to go after the next collection (my parents and my aunt live next door to each other and there is a complex bin sharing treaty in operation between the two households). They are stored temporarily in my aunt’s front room but I fear they may never leave. In my heart of hearts, I knew that nobody was ever going to bring the four bags for giving away to the charity shop so I hauled them into the car and brought them back to Dublin to give away. They’re gone now, I hope some of the Dublin locals enjoy reading about theology. I drew the line at bringing the bags of rubbish back to Dublin but even now, I am feeling mild regret as there is a real danger that they will never make it to the bin at all.

As though her work in her great aunt’s house was insufficient to meet her needs, herself begged to be allowed to make a pilgrimage to my parents’ attic. I permitted this, but only on the condition that she did not try to tidy it. You will be delighted to hear that “Star Trek Annual 1976” is even now upstairs in Dublin. She also found some material in a big trunk. She loves to sew and make costumes and was graciously permitted to help herself. When it came time to go back to Dublin, she and her brothers kindly packed the car for me. Once we were beyond Mitchelstown, she said, “Is it too late to go back to Cork?” “Yes,” I said. “Good,” she said, “because I brought more material than you might like.” When we unpacked the car, there were bolts and bolts of material. That night, when she dressed up for Halloween, I noted that the lace covering from my first communion dress, was getting another outing for the first time in 40 years.

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Halloween passed off peacefully enough. The children went out on their own for the first time. They liked it. More particularly as they came home laden down with sweets. Not a solitary monkey nut this year.

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In other Halloween news, the cat was puzzled, and not entirely pleased by the Halloween decorations:

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Being Irish

6 October, 2016 at 8:57 pm by belgianwaffle

Over the summer, two rowers from west Cork won silver medals at the Olympics. The nation went crazy. I did not as I was on my summer holidays in Brittany and was not swept up in the madness.

I was on the phone to my sister who told me all about it.

Me (as the tale concluded): V. exciting. Do we know them at all as they are from Cork and we are honour bound to have a connection to all Cork people?
Her: Well, no, but their aunt is in my pilates class.

Some kind of point proved here, I feel.

Cork

3 August, 2016 at 11:28 pm by belgianwaffle

I took a week off work in July and brought the children to Cork. This was largely successful although Herself came down with a cold which dogged her for the next fortnight. Happily she does not seem to have passed it on to any of her elderly relatives.

We did the usual things. We went to Charles Fort. It lashed rain on us. The walk out was very damp.

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But happily, on arrival at the fort, the sun came out.

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We had lunch in the Bulman.

We dropped round to see an old friend of mine and her family. She emigrated to America years ago. She and her husband bought a house in Kinsale and now visit regularly with their four American children. We don’t meet very often due to geography but it is delightful to see the children of friends growing up in leaps and bounds. We had dinner with them; found out about each others lives; reintroduced the children to each other and admired the beautiful view from their house.

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We went to Shandon.

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And rang the bells.

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And visited the church (under some mild protest).

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My sister and brother were very kind to them and doled out treats which they very much enjoyed. This, in part made up for the pain of having to visit the Crawford Gallery.

Herself was rather taken with this figure in Daniel Maclise’s “Francois 1 and Diane de Poitiers”. She feels it would make an excellent internet meme. Who am I to quibble with a digital native?

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Probably a highlight for Herself was another raid on my parents’ attic. They are, of course, only too delighted to let her take stuff from there. As she had done an impressively massive root and branch clean out and re-organisation of her bedroom in Dublin, I could only concede that she now had room to accommodate a number of miscellaneous items which had taken her fancy. I rescued some things myself including a number of china jugs which had been wrapped in newspaper and, for reasons which are now lost in the mists of time, stored securely in an old wicker wastepaper basket.

On our return to Dublin, I ticked off the remaining item from our standard summer schedule and brought them to St Michan’s to see the crusader. You are no longer allowed to shake the mummified hand which, I suppose, is really for the best all things considered. The literature makes it seem like this was a 19th century thing but I know for a fact that it was standard practice in recent years, including last year. I said to the boys, “How exciting, you will be able to tell your grandchildren that you shook the mummy’s hand when you were 9 and when you came back the following year, you realised that that was the last opportunity ever!” They were not excited.

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Finally, I might mention that I was rather taken with this junction box in Cork; alas, not an aspiration likely to be realised.

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