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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.

Bitter Bitter Bitter

28 October, 2018 at 7:45 pm by belgianwaffle

Me (buying the Saturday newspaper requirements for Cork – The Daily Telegraph (yes, I know) and The Examiner for my father, The Guardian for my Aunt and the Irish Times for me – truly a back breaking load): Can I tap to pay?
Young woman in the shop: No, I’m afraid you’ll have to put in your PIN.
Me: Why don’t you have the tap facility? Is there a cost?
Her: The boss doesn’t want it. It’s a no go, if it makes our lives easier.

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

17 September, 2018 at 7:44 pm by belgianwaffle

I went down to Cork on Friday to do a tour of nursing homes. My brother was away and it seemed the least I could do to help my saintly sister, though since she ended up having to chauffeur and feed me, it’s hard to argue that my visit was an entirely unmixed blessing. My mother was fine and the nursing home where she lives is near my parents’ house, so reasonably convenient. My father was about an hour away. He is recuperating from pneumonia and given that my brother is away, it seemed best if he spent a little time in respite care. The papers are delivered so it is not all bad but I wouldn’t say it is delightful, now. He’s a bit bored and keen to get home, however, this meant that he was gratifyingly pleased to see myself and my sister. I now chat away to him with a view to finding out about ancient history. “What was it like when the first colour films came out, Dad?” “Well, you know, very exciting at the time,” he said. Sometimes these chats are more successful than others. I did enjoy his description of when he was a junior doctor in the local hospital in the late 40s and the matron put her head round the door of the elderly patient he was tending to (one of the Colthursts of Blarney Castle) and asked him whether he had enjoyed his soup. Sir George replied, “Very grateful to the stomach, sister.” This is a phrase that my father believes should be brought back in to common currency and who am I to quibble.

I spent some time cycling round the city and was, yet again, struck by the excellence of the cycling infrastructure compared to Dublin and the relative lack of cyclists. My sister probably put her finger on the reason for the latter when she said, “The traffic in Cork probably isn’t bad enough yet to make people take to their bikes.”

I left Cork at first light on Sunday morning. Since I thought my train was at 8 and it was actually at 8.25, my rising was even earlier than it needed to be. Alas. On return to Dublin, I lunched with my loving family and scooted off straight to my book club which probably didn’t make me the most popular family member but I understand people say that there is a merit in scarcity value.

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How was your own weekend?

Changing By Degrees

3 August, 2018 at 10:57 pm by belgianwaffle

When we were in Cork, Mr. Waffle and I found ourselves in the Stone Corridor in UCC admiring the ogham stones. There was an office with a plaque there; it said “Head of Student Experience”. “What do you think that is?” I asked Mr. Waffle. “I think it’s what we used to call the Dean of Discipline when I was in college.”

More Cork

31 July, 2018 at 8:36 pm by belgianwaffle

Thursday, July 19

Despite only having finished her course the previous Friday, the Princess and her companions were having a reunion in Dublin less than a week later. She was very keen to go which I thought was ludicrous but her kind indulgent father said that we should let her go so we drove her up to the train station in Cork with 6 minutes to spare before her train left. Note to file, Clonakilty to Cork may be 45 minutes by car; outside Clonakilty to the train station is quite a bit longer.

My brother who, when he is not being annoying, can be rather saintly took the boys off to Milano’s for lunch and Mr. Waffle and I had a really lovely lunch in the Farm Gate which I would very much recommend.

We spent the day in Cork bonding with relatives each of whom asked me in turn why on earth I had chosen to go to Clonakilty on my holidays. We picked herself up from the train at 8.30 (a train which she leapt unto 3 minutes before it left Dublin – it was a day of close shaves) and took ourselves back to base. She opined that her 5 hours on the train for 3 hours with her friends had been totally worth it. So that was something.

Friday July 20

For his own obscure reasons, my brother was cycling from Cork to Skibbereen. He stopped off on his trek and we all had lunch together in Deasy’s outside Clonakilty which is quite fancy and, therefore, didn’t have chips. Some trauma ensued as some of the cohort thought that the nice view and gourmet menu did not make good that deficiency.

Then we went to Kinsale to meet a friend of Mr. Waffle’s who had just bought a house there. We had take away fish and chips at her place for dinner so the natural order of things was restored. We also had a an opportunity to take our traditional “Caution Children” picture so that was obviously good.

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On the way back to Clonakilty, to the intense chagrin of Michael who stayed in the car timing how long I was taking, we stopped off and had a look at Timoleague Friary which is very, very beautiful It was sunset (about 10.30 so Michael’s chagrin was understandable, I suppose) and it looked quite spectacular.

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The setting was pretty spectacular also.

No filter, honest.
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Saturday 21 July

I went to the Red Strand for a swim leaving my non-beach loving family to entertain themselves as well as they could in my absence. Their loss, frankly.

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We went in to Rosscarbery where I spent many bored summers as a teenager (a friend’s parents had a house there) and, to be honest, there is still little enough to do. However we did have dinner/afternoon snack in a very nice pub. One of us had prudently bought a jumper and two of us were cold so she made the ultimate sacrifice.

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I was a bit grumpy and herself asked what I would like. “Why?” I said suspiciously. “Because who ever is the grumpiest runs this family.” This was a startling insight and I realised as I turned it over in my mind, entirely true.

My brother sent us a photo of Lough Hyne which I include because, you know, why not? It does highlight one of the problems of Clonakilty. It is West Cork but not west enough. It’s a bit of a trek to Lough Hyne from Clonakilty (not impossible, 40 minutes in the car) but almost all the good places are a bit of a trek.

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I went up to Cork for the evening because, since my brother was away, I thought I might be able to help my sister out a bit with the elderly relatives. I am not sure how much of a help I was really, particularly as she ended up having to feed me as well but we did enjoy a nice walk.

Sunday 22 July

We packed up and set off for home. Already Mr. Waffle and I were somewhat preoccupied by the thought of the working week ahead (something that does not happen at the end of week one of a three week holiday, I can tell you) and it was a long enough drive back. We stopped off at Blackrock Castle in Cork for lunch because I thought that it would not take us much out of our way (it did) and it would have pizza (it did not, they took it off the menu before Christmas, alas, alack).

On balance, West Cork again next year I think, but further west.

Clonakilty, God Help Us

30 July, 2018 at 8:38 pm by belgianwaffle

We went to Cork last summer for a week. You may remember that excluded from the list of potential places to stay was Clonakilty on the grounds that it was too near Cork and why would you bother. This was good advice I gave last year and I would have done well to have heeded it. But earlier this year, a family from Clonakilty contacted us and asked would we do a house swap and I thought, why not? I know why not. Why did I think that? Anyway we agreed dates and then they wanted to push it to earlier and, like fools, we agreed.

Furthermore, poor old Clonakilty has a gloomy reputation. It was home to a big workhouse during the famine and really the last desperate staging post of dying people hence when you say Clonakilty, people will often say to you, “Clonakilty, God help us” which is a tag line that I think the town has probably been keen to lose since 1847 or thereabouts (I’d say they’d like to have Macroom’s line instead “the town that never raised a fool”).


Sunday 15 July

Herself returned to us from her three week course on Friday and it was such a thrill to have her back. She was very reasonable about packing up to leave again two days after returning. It was a long old drive. We stopped for lunch in Cashel and got in to Clonakilty late afternoon. The house was in the middle of nowhere and it was slightly damp like many, many houses in Ireland but if it was going to be damp after a month in the heatwave, I shudder to think what it was like in the winter. On the plus side they had a wheel attached to a tree in the garden.

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And a piano that was in tune in the house.

We took ourselves into the town which, to be fair, is attractive enough, and went to the tourist office looking for attractions. There was much Michael Collins stuff and also the railway village. In addition to the price of your admission, you get to go on a tourist train around the town. “Would you like to go on Choo Choo?” the tourist office lady asked our mildly affronted 15 year old.

My sister drove down to Clonakilty that evening and saw Jack L in concert. He was good but he needs to find a younger fan base, it’s not often I feel like one of the youngest people in the room.

Monday 16 July

We recovered from our drive and stayed around the town. We bought a card game called “Now That’s What I Call Music” which I cannot recommend highly enough. Did you remember that “Don’t Give Up” was a collaboration between Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel? If yes, this is the game for you. I drove each of my partners wild by singing the 80s songs mentioned but, never, never knowing the artist. We bought a good jigsaw because that’s what holidays are for.

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We bought some books for the children.

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Tuesday 17 July

We went to the model railway village. It was not entirely successful. Our children were the oldest children there by a good ten years. But they were patient. We exhausted its charms quickly. Probably this functioning phone box was a highlight. We decided not to go for the choo choo train around the town experience. This was particularly good for herself as later she ran in to someone she knew in the town and bad and all as this was, it would have been considerably worse if she’d been in the tourist train.

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Continuing our run of poor luck we chose a deeply unpleasant pub to have our lunch in. Go us.

After lunch, we took ourselves to the Michael Collins museum in Emmet Square. This was a success. It was housed in a lovely Georgian house in the square where Michael Collins lived for a bit (not in this house it transpired). And the displays were interesting and it was all quite well done.

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We peaked a bit too soon on the jigsaw.

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I bought a great bowl with a drawing of an octopus by these people. We have named him and I love it. I loved it so much that I later went back and bought a jug and a casserole and it is dishwasher and oven proof. No favours etc. were received for these kind words. Sadly.

Wednesday 18 July

Despite really hard work on my part over the years, Daniel loathes the beach and Michael and Mr. Waffle are, at best, neutral. But it was the best summer since 1976 and I insisted on going to the beach. We went to Inchydoney which is a lovely beach and the Princess and I both swam. Here is how her brothers enjoyed it.

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The Princess continued to diligently read her very hard book on Aids. I made good progress with “99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret”. Don’t judge.

Once we left the beach, both boys cheered up and we had a nice lunch in the nearby hotel. We went to the Michael Collins homestead which is a bit basic but, you know, grand.

Then we went to see the Drombeg Stone circle which I thought was pretty impressive. Beautiful site overlooking the sea.

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My Dad was telling me that he had had it described to him by the archaeologist who found it. Apparently he married a publican’s daughter from Clonakilty and the stone circle was well known locally but archaeologists had never been near it (they have their work cut out, West Cork is just one big wedge shaped gallery grave) and he wrote about it and publicised it. It was felt that he would be the next professor of archaeology at UCC but then he died young. See, if you’re from Cork these are the extra exciting details available to add to your guide book information.

Then we went on to Glandore for a cup of tea. Glandore is basically a couple of houses and a view. But what a view.

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And then one of the pubs has been gentrified and it offered seats outside with shade and cushions and blankets and a delightful desert menu which we partook of liberally. It was absolutely delightful.

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Stay tuned for the second half of our Cork adventures.


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