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Zen Master

21 October, 2017 at 6:23 pm by belgianwaffle

I worry a lot, about all kinds of things. Over the summer, herself said to me, “That’s a problem for today.” “What?” I said. “Well,” she said, “tomorrow, that won’t be a problem because it has to be dealt with today.” Although, obvious, like all self-help advice, it’s a formulation that works well for me. “A problem for today,” I mutter to myself as I deal with my nasty head cold, a dull meeting or whatever it may be. I offer it here for free because I’m generous that way.

Teenager News

12 October, 2017 at 7:20 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself died her hair blue/green over the summer. It wasn’t bad actually but, if she were to do it again, I would strongly recommend non-permanent colours. Staring down the barrel of the new school year and the firm rule that hair could only be “natural colours” according to the school dress code, she went and got all the green cut out. The hairdresser gave her a bob and I absolutely loved it. She hated it. Every time I said I loved it, she hated it more. She is resigned to her fate now and I think, maybe even, sneakily, likes it a bit herself.

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There was actually a bit of green left which we tried to address with ketchup on the hairdresser’s advice. Yes, really. It didn’t work but, happily, the school seem to feel her effort have been sufficient.

She also had her first babysitting gig minding a 3 year old and a 5 year old – grandchildren of the people who live across the road. She earned €30 and was delighted with herself.

Cycling Gloom

1 October, 2017 at 7:48 pm by belgianwaffle

I seem to have become obsessed by cycling infrastructure. It was not always thus. I have always cycled. I cycled in and out to school from when I was 12 and I never stopped. I don’t remember being concerned about cycling infrastructure and safe cycling until my own children started cycling in Dublin. It has been regularly heart-stopping. But I persist. I want them to be able to cycle: it’s good for them, it’s good for the planet and it’s handy. It’s also scary.

Herself has been cycling in and out to school since she started secondary school a couple of years ago. I was really nervous at the start but increasingly less so. She is on top of it now, I hope. I note from the most recent census that of the approximately 250,000 girls in secondary school, about 700 cycle. This is a significant percentage increase from the last census where only some 500 girls cycled to school but it’s not exactly a sea change. This is what the census says:

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The 25 years, from 1986 to 2011, saw an 87 per cent decrease in the numbers cycling to secondary school. 2016 saw the reversal of this trend with a 10.5 per cent increase since 2011, bringing the numbers of secondary students taking to their bikes to over 7,000. Over 90 per cent of these student cyclists were male, but the number of female cyclists has grown by over 30 per cent since 2011.

Her brothers started secondary school in September (more on this anon) and have been cycling in and out together, at first with a parent and, now, alone. It is unnerving stuff. September 8 is etched on my brain as the first day they cycled in and out unaccompanied and came home alive. I enjoyed the following conversation with Daniel:

Him: If I am run over while cycling to school, whose fault will it be?
Me: I am sure that you won’t be run over. When you say “whose fault” what do you mean?
Him: Will it be mine for cycling carelessly, yours for letting us cycle to school or [my sister’s] for refusing to cycle with us?

This was a bit depressing and, honestly, it is absolutely no wonder that people don’t send their children cycling to school in the same numbers as in 1986 (when coincidentally, I finished school) because there are far more cars on the roads, they’re faster and they’re much bigger, squeezing cyclists to the edge of the road and the car seems to be king in Dublin.

I am getting increasingly annoyed about this. So far, my only action has been to follow people who share my annoyance on twitter so, more work may be needed on my part. I was deeply depressed to see that the Liffey cycle route has been shelved because of inability to reach consensus in Dublin City Council. I mean Paris, Paris, is able to put in place better cycling provision than Dublin. Every time I visit my parents in Cork, I am impressed, yet again, by what can be done by a city with far fewer cyclists and much more rain than Dublin. I’m not saying Cork is perfect but it has more segregated cycling options in the city centre than Dublin. An action group has recently been formed and they are standing in human chains trying to keep cycle lanes free for cyclists. I applaud their efforts. However, with the best will in the world, there are many cycle lanes in Dublin which are so poorly designed that even sympathetic drivers who keep an eye out for cyclists (like me when I drive in town, which I do occasionally) find themselves crossing over them and squeezing cyclists. The motoring lobby says that the City Council is anti-motorist and in the grip of the cycling lobby. If only this were true or there were some evidence that this is the case in the form of half way decent cycling provision. I despair.

In unrelated cycling news, my bicycle was nicked a couple of weeks ago from the shed. Mr. Waffle, sneaked an illicitly purchased folding table (long story which you may well hear in due course) into the shed at lunchtime on a Sunday. When we went out to the shed in the afternoon to go for a family cycle, one of the family bikes was gone. It transpired that the €700 door we purchased after someone last tried to break into our shed hadn’t worked. It turns out that, for it to be really effective, it has to be locked.

I got the bike in 2015 on the bike to work scheme and, sadly, you can only claim relief once every five years so, I was alone on the purchase of the new bike. I got a second hand one and it was grand but I was a bit disappointed by the reaction of the guards with whom I had registered my stolen bike. They didn’t hold out any hope of getting it back and suggested that I look on donedeal.ie which, um, you know, I suppose, I might. Sigh.

And We’re Baaack!

22 August, 2017 at 7:51 pm by belgianwaffle

We landed in from Paris yesterday evening and spent today frantically preparing for the new school year. The boys start secondary school tomorrow and herself is back to school on Thursday. I’m not back to work until Thursday. Frankly, I didn’t see myself spending my leave ironing on labels and doing domestic administration but into every life, some rain must fall.

Excellent holidays and, as ever, a blow-by-blow account will follow. I will begin with our week in West Cork and follow on with our trip to Paris. Hold on to the edge of your seats there.

Exchanging

31 July, 2017 at 10:35 pm by belgianwaffle

We had the Princess’s French exchange, E, to stay for 10 days. Herself was in Paris in April and had a fantastic time with E’s family so we were on our mettle. We sent them to a make a film camp during the day. It was reasonably successful. I think E quite liked it but it was a bit too full of 12 year old boys for my sophisticated 14 year old’s liking.

A comparison of Irish and French summer colouring:

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I took them to the immersive “Great Gatsby” in the Gate Theatre. You were encouraged to wear 20s dress which, mostly, people did. I attempted to shingle my hair with mixed results. They took out all the seats and moved everyone around. We learnt to do the Charleston. There was a bar in the corner and we all drank from big cocktail glasses (regardless of the drink). It was like an Anu production for the distinctly conservative middle class Gate audience. Herself adored it. Audience members moved around and went to different rooms with the cast. At one point, she found herself in Gatsby’s bedroom with just him and a few others. He was seeking advice from the audience. “Stay away from swimming pools,” she advised. “Why should I do that?” he asked, “I love swimming.” It did feel a bit like being at a crowded, quite exciting party at times which is, I suppose, was the effect they were looking for. E wasn’t so sure and when I asked her afterwards, she indicated that she preferred the kind of theatre where you sit down in pre-assigned seats so maybe not a success all round.

We also went on the Viking Splash, everyone’s favourite tour. Poor Michael was sick and couldn’t come, he was gutted. As we waited at Stephen’s Green for our bus to arrive, Daniel realised that many members of his GAA team were on the tour bus about to leave. It turned out that there was a birthday party for which he had not made the cut. He was not particularly pally with the birthday boy but there were many of his team sitting happily on the bus ahead of us. Due to dreadful traffic it sat there for 15 minutes and Daniel chatted dolefully with his friends and a part of me died. Once we actually got on board our own bus, things improved and I think everyone enjoyed the trip.

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The girls went out with some friends on Friday night and we had a quiet night in. A bit of a relief really, this living life to the full can take it out of you.

On Saturday we went for a walk up to the JB Malone memorial. The views were really beautiful and the weather was lovely. The children were resigned but perhaps not super enthusiastic. Still, we gave E a chance to experience nature. Since her own family were on holidays in the Alps while she was in Dublin, it’s possible she might have experienced even more nature had she stayed with them but we did what we could with the Wicklow mountains.

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Sunday saw us kayaking up the Liffey. Great fun actually but considerably wetter than I had anticipated. We were all sodden from the waist down and splashed all over. Both Mr. Waffle and Herself got Liffey water in their mouths. I heard a tour bus operator say humourously as he pointed us out to tourists, “You need three different injections before doing that.” I really hope no one gets Weil’s disease. We were all exhausted but filled with a sense of achievement. No photos because we didn’t want to drop our phones in the Liffey. We’ll just have to have our memories.

E went home last Monday. She took a jar of runny jam with her. We’re all still recovering from the extensive activity programme.

Activities (Various)

28 July, 2017 at 11:01 pm by belgianwaffle

Oh lads, it’s been ages.

Herself has returned from summer camp which she loved with the passion of 1,000 suns.  While she was away, we made feeble efforts to entertain her brothers to the best of our abilities.  We took them to the latest science gallery exhibition on sound which they pronounced to be pretty good.

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Daniel plays chopsticks:
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The science gallery is the only museum they have any affection for.  We made them do a walk-through of the newly reopened wing of the National Gallery and they were not pleased.  In particular Michael was not pleased.

We went to mass in Irish which has the merit of being short and always involves a restorative cup of tea afterwards.  We took them to Four Knocks which is the best megalithic site in Ireland.  Really.  We had been there before with all of the children when they were younger.  The boys were small on the last visit and they had forgotten but it really is an amazing spot.  Much better, I think than Newgrange or any of the more famous sites.  You have it to yourself – you pick up the key from a local farmer – and it is creepy and a bit awe inspiring.  The boys really enjoyed it which is not something you usually get to say about megalithic sites. It is na Fuarchnoic (the cold hills) in Irish which is a bit more accurate than Four Knocks.

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We went for a moderately satisfactory picnic in Ardgillan castle after the Four Knocks excitement but I made us pack up good and early as I was getting the train to Cork and I was paranoid about timing.  Unnecessary.

In other summer excitement, my sister took the boys to Tayto Park and bought them three bottles of Fanta to consume in the rain while being twirled up in the air on a variety of terrifying machines. Their lives are complete and she didn’t die of exhaustion. A win then.

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They also attended a sports camp at the bottom of the road which was very successful except that they were not allowed to leave unless collected by a grown-up which was supremely awkward. Michael missed a day due to illness but otherwise they both enjoyed it very much. Daniel won camper of the week for his supreme politeness and I was filled with pride. He didn’t seem super-delighted though.

Friday Night Fun!

7 July, 2017 at 10:45 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle is out at a work dinner tonight. The Princess is mid way through her three week residential course which she is loving. Communication with her parents has been sparse. Typical exchange captured below.

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So the boys and I were home alone together this evening. In a triumph for parent and childminder alike, when I came home from work they were still in their pyjamas. “What is the point of holidays, if you can’t have a lazy day from time to time?” asked Michael. He and I have fundamentally different views on this matter.

Anyhow, as Mr. Waffle prepared to go out, I said to the boys, “We’ll have fun together, won’t we?” Daniel looked at me, raised an eyebrow and said, “Fun with pasta?” Yes, indeed, it was pasta for dinner again. There’s a boy who knows his mother.

Updated to add: the cat has just been sick on the rug in the hall.  Friday nights don’t get more fun than this.


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