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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?

14

17 April, 2017 at 8:22 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess was 14 on April 12.

She wasn’t here, she was off on her French exchange in Paris. She’s only getting back tomorrow. It was her first birthday away from home. She seems to have had a lovely, lovely time. The French exchange’s mother is my friend who I lived with in Brussels for two years and who did more than anyone ever to improve my French by correcting me when I made mistakes (ideal French exchange mother material, you have to concede). Mr. Waffle and I attended my friend’s wedding in Normandy with herself, a 3 week old baby, in tow. So, we’ve known each other a long time and it is very pleasing to be exchanging our daughters. They pulled out all the stops and I am slightly dreading having their daughter E back in the summer as entertainment standards are high. Still we have a couple of months to plan.

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My daughter is a very independent 14 year old. She was away for a week at mid-term, away for 10 days now at Easter and is going away for three weeks in the summer. And she is on committees and teams and seems to be very engaged in all kinds of things. I rely on her school’s twitter account for details of her activities – she refers to it as a fifth columnist. When I did a traineeship in the European Commission nearly 25 years ago, there was a very bright, very competent, fiercely independent English girl who was one of our cohort. She was a friend of a friend and I remember my friend telling me that this girl had essentially left home at 15 winning scholarship after scholarship and entirely paying her own way for everything. It seemed, in some ways, a bit sad to me and the memory has stayed with me. Honestly, at one level, I feel that if herself had to leave home in the morning, she would be perfectly able to do so. I know the job of parents is to prepare children to live happy lives on their own but I’m a bit worried we may have peaked too early here.

School is going well for her. She’s always been very academic so that helps. But she has thrown herself into the “clubs and socs” end of things and is always staying late to do activities at school. As she cycles in and out, she’s very independent and we’ll often get a text message saying something like, “I’m not dead, I have just gone to [friend’s] house. Home later.” And that’s fine. She’s sensible and she’s reliable. And she seems to be doing fine socially though, of course, you can never really know.

She still reads everything and lots of it. Her interests are eclectic. She is fascinated by Jewish religious laws. She’s read a lot on this one. Apparently the rabbinical courts have turned their attention to what happens if a weasel takes bread from the house [the details on why this might be bad elude me] and she likes their attention to detail. She has me tormented on Catholicism and the rules which apply.  I have the shakiest grasp on this myself; this is not helped by her constantly trying to poke holes in my limited knowledge. I blame the internet for giving her the impression that the Catholic church is anti-science. The Church has many, many faults but that is not one of them.

She and her brothers are generally either at war or in a state of uneasy truce. I am hoping this will pass. They sometimes get on pretty well but that is mostly when they are jointly torturing Mr. Waffle and me and I am not sure that we are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for sibling harmony.

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Instagram and snapchat are her social media of choice. She can leave email lying ignored for days but a snapchat question generally gets a (laconic) response. Can I just say that I hate using snapchat and it leaves me feeling old and baffled. This is what I get for being over 25, I suppose. Last autumn my brother and sister bought her a snazzy new phone. Prior to this, she had only been able to access social media through the school iPad which was deeply unsatisfactory for reasons I didn’t entirely understand. Our rule had always been no electronic devices in the bedroom but we dropped the ball here and since she already had her iPad in her room (for homework and – not authorised – watching Netflix) we just let her take the phone there too. We were only brought to our senses by the shared outrage and indignation of her brothers who are only allowed 20 minutes computer time per day. We said her phone had to stay downstairs. She was outraged. We survived it.

She still loves animals. She loves our cat. She desperately wants a dog. She is even fearless with the neighbour’s hens.

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She is a terrific cook. She continues to use her powers for good and makes a range of cakes and buns for local consumption. She also makes great risotto.

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Her room is a fastness and woe betide any family member who crosses its threshold. It was very tidy there for a while last summer under the influence of Marie Kondo but standards have slipped a bit since August 2016. Still reasonably good though as I have promised to just march in there and start tidying up, if it gets too messy.

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I don’t want to tempt fate here but all in all, things are very good. She’s happy, she’s settled in school, she has friends, she has lots of interests and things are going her way. There was a while last year when she was, I think, a bit miserable (based on a reading of signs, omens, portents, not any actual information shared, you understand), but that seems to have passed. She and I go out together a bit, to the cinema or to cafés and it is pleasant. I feel like time is racing away. They always say that children grow up very fast but this has not been my experience to date. Now, suddenly though, it’s like the end of the race is in sight and I’m not sure I am ready to stop running.

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Musical Interlude

14 March, 2017 at 5:55 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel and herself sing in the church choir and due to the unstinting efforts of their wonderful choir mistress, the choir has improved enormously.

I stay behind after mass to watch rehearsals and, increasingly, it has become a real pleasure. I love the fact that we have a really diverse group with children whose parents are from the Philippines, India, Brazil and China as well as Cork, obviously. And they sound amazing. A couple of weeks ago, we had some new joiners. Their mother is a professional opera singer and she stayed to join part of the rehearsal. It was quite breathtakingly beautiful to listen to her singing with the choir. Somehow rendered even more impressive as her youngest child, a toddler, utterly indifferent to his mother’s soaring voice, tugged determinedly at her skirt throughout in an unavailing effort to get her to leave the church.

Last week, herself sang solo at an enormous venue (1,000 seater- every seat filled with doting relatives on this occasion) as part of a school choirs outing. I firmly believe that the church choir played a huge role in giving her the skill and confidence to do it. I must say, though that while she’s a very confident public performer, she was quite tense in the days leading up to her performance. It all passed off peacefully and even her brothers were impressed.

Poetry for Digital Natives

13 March, 2017 at 6:14 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself: I thought T.S. Eliot only wrote cat poems.
Me: Um, no, he’s probably more famous for somewhat less accessible poems.
Herself: Like what?
Me (handing her a book of T.S. Eliot poetry which I have to hand, I am almost unbearably smug): Have a look at this.
Her (after perusing for some time): ‘April is the cruellest month’ is clearly clickbait. I mean, it’s really, ‘You won’t believe this one astonishing fact that makes April worse than all the other months.’

Mid-term Round-up

11 March, 2017 at 5:07 pm by belgianwaffle

This is a bit belated but, you know, better late than never and so on.

Herself went on a school tour. Day 1 saw them assembling at Dublin airport at 4 in the morning; flying to Beauvais with Ryanair at 6; getting on a bus to Flanders and doing a tour of first world war sites ending with the last post at the Menin Gate at 7 that evening. The next day they got on the bus to Paris and then spent that day and the following day exploring all (and I mean all) that the French capital had to offer including Kentucky Fried Chicken. The last day was spent in Eurodisney. I had an animated discussion with her before she left on the importance of bringing a coat to Flanders in February; something she deemed unnecessary. It was, therefore, with some chagrin that I noted from a photo on the school’s twitter account (my source of all information and a fifth columnist as far as my daughter is concerned), that one of the happy group photographed outside the Eiffel tower was not wearing a coat. “It was fine,” said my frozen daughter, “my friend N was able to lend me a coat.” “Clearly she has a better mother,” I said. “It’s not a competition, Mum,” she said. “Everything’s a competition,” I replied. It’s a good job her father’s a hippy who seemed pretty relaxed about the whole coat thing. “She’ll know next time,” he said. I suppose that this approach has its merits.

While herself was off gallivanting, the boys and I went to Cork for a couple of days. We had our statutory trip to Charles Fort (I have a family heritage card and everyone must suffer) and the Bulman which passed off peacefully except for a terrifying half hour in which we thought Michael had lost one of the gloves he has had since we lived in Belgium (the world’s most nostalgic child was not pleased). Happily, it turned up in Dublin.

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Michael, contemplating the prospect of the lost glove:
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During the week Mr. Waffle and I also took the boys out to Dalkey castle (in Dublin). The castle do a really terrific tour with actors. We were the only people there so we got full value although, alas, I feel the boys are getting a bit old for it.

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Though, arguably, you are never too old for stocks.
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We also went to the (still newish) library in Dun Laoghaire – we were going to walk on the pier but it was lashing and this was plan B. The library is a beautiful, very big building with spectacular views over the harbour and loads of comfortable seats. Disappointingly though, it doesn’t seem to have more stock than our local (much less architecturally impressive) library. It has the same volume of books, just much, much more spread out. As Mr. Waffle said, it’s like a very expensive shoe shop. As he trekked around the shelves, Michael suggested that it might have been designed by people who were good at buildings but hadn’t spent all that much time browsing in libraries. It does have a very interesting local studies collection on the top floor and it was also sporting a very poorly advertised, small, though interesting, exhibition on visitors’ views on Ireland over the last couple of hundred years. So, using some of the space usefully, it must be conceded.

Mr. Waffle was home with the boys a bit and took them to IKEA to source a desk and bed for Michael. I emailed Mr. Waffle to ask how he was getting on. He replied:

We’re just finishing our lunch before we plunge into the Mælstrøm (designed to match the Ångst).

In fairness, he’s hilarious.

My Birthday – Extended Disco Remix

10 March, 2017 at 11:10 pm by belgianwaffle

It’s my birthday today. Last weekend my sister took me to London overnight and she flew me business class, oh yes. I realised that it’s been nearly two years since I flew anywhere. I haven’t missed it, I have to tell you although, business class certainly beats steerage. We went out for dinner (my saintly sister-in-law and London guide responded nobly to an email saying, ‘recommend dinner venues and afraid I won’t have time to see you guys’ – she also got me a Persephone book for my birthday) and we talked and talked. We went to the National Gallery which is superb. When I did art history (diploma, spare time, pre-marriage and children), one of my lecturers said that going to the National Gallery in London is like being at an amazing party and each time you go into a new room seeing a raft of familiar friends. This is so true.

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I took the day off work today. I am feeling quite elderly although yesterday I got this comforting text from my friend R:

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[Note smuggled in reference to reading Elena Ferrante in Italian. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, my parents paid good money for these pretensions and I am going to use them.]

On the other hand, one of my bookclub members is getting married and when she and her fiancé went to the church to discuss logistics with the sacristan, he said, “You’re the mother of the bride aren’t you?” The worst thing was that he kept apologising for the remainder of the discussion.  On the plus side, she can have as many flowers as she wants. It hadn’t struck me before but, of course, I too am in mother of the bride territory. Slightly horrifying.

I got loads of cards, including two handmade ones from my sons. I was pleased. I got a cheque from my loving parents which is always welcome. The post also brought herself good news on an exam. People texted (sample from my brother: “Hey Anne happy birthday… Hope you have a brilliant day…. Am in France at the moment will call when I get back. Any requests for presents….A Chamonix stick of rock will hardly cut it I suppose”), emailed and called. Mr. Waffle got me more Persephone books and a print out of my blog which I really wanted in case the internet ever died. Are you mocking me?

That, right there, is the reason I haven’t got a PhD:
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Note cunning juxtaposition with New Yorker book of cartoons. Unintentional.

Mr. Waffle and I spent the day together. We went for a walk in the Wicklow Hills which was damp but not unpleasantly so.

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We went out to dinner to a surprise location and we arrived home about 15 minutes ago to find all the children still up so I thought I would update my blog.

Yet another very satisfactory birthday. Every birthday, about now, I realise that Mr. Waffle’s birthday is on March 19 and I have nothing planned. It can cast a pall on the end of any successful day, I can tell you. Poor Mr. Waffle.

Wasting my Sweetness on the Desert Air

8 March, 2017 at 7:11 pm by belgianwaffle

Myself and the Princess drove along the lane behind our house and when we got to the end we found someone had parked a van so that we couldn’t get out. I was very annoyed. I penned a strongly worded note as follows: “Please do not park here as your van is blocking vehicular access to the lane.” I then very slowly and carefully and to a symphony of beeping (our new car beeps if it gets near walls) reversed down the length of the lane which is quite long and narrow. “I wonder if he will move?” said the Princess conversationally. “I certainly hope so,” I said indignantly. “I don’t know,” she said, “when I cycled in to school this morning, it was there and somebody had taped a note all over the window saying ‘Don’t park here you f**king eejit’ and I notice that it’s gone now so the van owner must have returned, taken it off and not moved the van.” I take it my note was unlikely to be effective then.


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