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More Cork, Other Places

2 August, 2017 at 12:49 am by belgianwaffle

Posting will be light as we are off on our holidays to West Cork for a week. I have hired a house without wifi. The children are going to be appalled.

Then when we get back, we are going to Paris. I know, Paris in August. I yearn for a simpler time when you said to Irish people that you were going to France on holidays and they didn’t ask you where. And if they did ask you, they didn’t know enough to say, “Paris, in August? Are you mad? There are only tourists and it will be baking and everything will be closed.” I also had to grit my teeth and tell the French exchange’s mother who was most amused. But she and her family will be back before we leave and I am quite looking forward to getting the two families together so that will be nice. And maybe, possibly, Paris will be nice.

Full debrief will follow on our return. Stay tuned.

Mostly Cork

29 July, 2017 at 10:00 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister and I did a bit of bonding in Cork in early July. We went to Ballycotton where I found a walk I had never known before but everyone else in Cork did – it’s been there forever apparently. How fortunate my children are that I have never previously been aware of it although we stayed in our friends’ house in East Cork many, many times over the years. It’s not too late.

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In an exciting development, the boys took the train to Cork alone.

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It all passed off very smoothly, unlike when their sister took her first solo train ride and they were quite proud of their independence and ability to travel unaccompanied. In a related development, we said goodbye to our last childminder. This is the first time since 2003 that we haven’t paid childcare fees and I am enjoying the resultant boost in income which I should be putting into the mortgage but am spending on riotous living. It is the end of an era. Our last childminder wasn’t a great fit; she would have been better with younger children, I think and she was never as popular with the children as her predecessors. Also, I think the boys would have preferred to travel home from school alone like some of their friends but I wasn’t entirely happy with having them manage alone in the exciting urban environment from where they had to get the bus. Daniel once described how a man slightly the worse for unspecified intoxicants came up to him and Michael and asked where they went to school. When they answered politely, the man started to rant about their school and abused it and them in pretty unpleasant terms. “Where,” I asked, “was the childminder?” Apparently she was standing a bit further away, it’s unclear to me why he didn’t go nearer to her or she didn’t see what was going on with them but at least she was there and I suppose there was a responsible adult nearby if things turned nastier. I did feel a bit that I was paying to have someone sit in my house looking at her phone as despite my very best efforts there didn’t seem to be very much interaction between her and the children which they all seemed to enjoy very much.

I digress. While in Cork, I briefly met my friend the heart surgeon in Kinsale. She was back from America with her husband and four children for a holiday. I brought the boys to meet them. Unfortunately, all of the children are reaching an age where you cannot put them in a room and say, “play together” so they ended up sitting inside watching the TV and not bonding. It gave the adults a chance to bond outside while admiring their truly beautiful view. She says that Trump is giving middle aged men all over Vermont heart failure as they lie awake all night worrying. On the other hand, I suppose they were having heart failure already as, if they weren’t, how was she gainfully employed?

I must say the weather has been lovely this summer and Cork has been particularly delightful. The boys may not have loved the visit to the Crawford Gallery

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or the riverside walk under the trees

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but they got to have pizza at Milano’s so, you know, not all bad. And it’s always good to jump on the Shaky Bridge.

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They were strangely unimpressed by the excellent window display in Liam Russell’s on Oliver Plunkett Street.

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I took them to Blackrock Castle Observatory which they always like. They also spent an enormously happy evening at my sister’s playing Risk and eating chips.

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My sister facilitated this even though she is ill. She emerged from her house in pyjamas to greet us. “Is wearing pyjamas outside illegal?” wondered Daniel. A number of years ago there was a trend in certain parts of Dublin to venture outside wearing pyjamas. I was strongly against this. Perhaps too strongly as Daniel seems to have taken it very much to heart.

It Never Ends

10 July, 2017 at 11:54 pm by belgianwaffle

I was in Cork recently and went into town to get some things for my father. I was out rather longer than I expected. He telephoned me.
Him: Are you alright?
Me: Yes.
Him: There’s no rush back; it’s just when you were late I was worried you might have been in an accident or something.

He is 92, I am 48. It looks like parenting is forever alright.

In other news, he told me about the college chaperone. When my father was at college in the 40s and my mother in the 50s, the college employed a chaperone; by the time I got to college in the 80s, they had thrown their hats at it. I suppose it was the 60s did for the institution of college chaperone.

Anyhow, Mrs. Madden (for that was her name – possibly the last UCC chaperone, google was unhelpful in relation to my researches in this regard) was friendly with my father and she told him this story. Apparently the students would be assigned to mind the chaperone in turn and keep her plied with food and spend time chatting to her. She said to this one young man, “This is very hard for you, I am sure you would much rather be out dancing with the girls”. Instead of mendaciously insisting that there was nothing he would rather do than spend time with Mrs. Madden he said seriously, “Yes, but I offer it up.”

My father related this tale over dinner out – my sister and I were triumphant at having got him and my aunt out for my aunt’s birthday. This involved a complex series of manoeuvres with a walker, a wheelchair, a disabled parking badge and a phone torch. This last was cunningly deployed to allow those whose eyesight was less than perfect to read the menu in the dim lighting which the restaurant favoured. You may congratulate us.

New Irish

2 July, 2017 at 6:54 pm by belgianwaffle

I was down in Cork a while ago and visiting my mother in the nursing home. One of the nurses said she had been in Dublin the previous day. “What for?” I asked. She’d been at the citizenship ceremony. She’s Indian and as, apparently, India doesn’t allow for dual citizenship, she agonised about whether to apply for Irish citizenship or not but in the end she did. She was delighted. The natural instinct of almost all Irish people is to be self-deprecating and I was desperate to point out all the disadvantages of her new status but it didn’t seem like the moment so I just said, “Congratulations.” The fact that she was so pleased made me feel proud to be Irish which is not really something you get a lot as an Irish person, we’re often a bit moany about Ireland and I, personally, am on the subs bench for the Irish Olympic whinging team. Maybe time to reconsider.

Sounds Unlikely

25 June, 2017 at 10:18 pm by belgianwaffle

My father was 92 in March and, all things considered, he is reasonably well. He does tend to get quite deaf though. It comes and goes a bit. When it comes, everything is turned to maximum volume. When I lived at home, I used to fall asleep to the sound of BBC radio 4 and, as I got older, and went to sleep later, to the sound of the world service. My father is a big fan and he always keeps the radio on all night. The last weekend I was in Cork, my father was very deaf. He had the radio on at maximum volume and I had to put my head under the pillow to try to get to sleep. “How do you stand it?” I asked my brother who lives at home. “Well,” he said, “it’s not all the time and you get used to it, but, I am worried that the students next door might complain about the noise.”

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?


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