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The Magic of Poetry

4 June, 2017 at 8:08 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle is fond of Yeats’s poem, In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz. He often quotes it, particularly in the summer, although it’s not a particularly summery poem overall. The other evening, Herself drifted in to us wearing her dressing gown at bedtime, “Ah,” said Mr. Waffle, “Two girls in silk kimonos, both/ Beautiful, one a gazelle.” “Huh,” said Herself, “What was the other, a badger?”

83:17

14 May, 2017 at 12:56 pm by belgianwaffle

I went to a talk recently by a distinguished American scholar on behavioural economics. It was grand. I managed to restrain myself from going up afterwards to tell him that his wife’s first cousin was a good friend of mine from school (welcome to Ireland) although based on his (possibly too extensive for his audience’s liking) introduction about his wedding, I think he would have liked that.

One of the things he mentioned in passing was that it was a rare household where when you asked husband and wife how domestic work was divided between them the total came to 100%. I decided to test this hypothesis at home.

Here are the scores that were returned.

Me – Mr. Waffle 60%: Me 40% [I was being generous]
Mr. Waffle – Mr. Waffle 50%: Me 50% [He is very right on]
Herself – Mr. Waffle 60%: Me 40% [My work is less visible than his]
Michael – Mr. Waffle 60%: Me 40% [Really, my work is less visible than his]
Daniel – Mr. Waffle 83%: Me 17% [Seriously?]

I was outraged by Daniel’s score, the root of which is clearly that my work picking up shoes, laundry and other dropped items is completely invisible. Bitter.

In a, probably not entirely helpful, development since the introduction of the American economist’s aside into our lives I have taken to saying in a bitter undervoice as I go about my alloted tasks, “All part of the 17% service.”

It’s a fun game for you all to try out at home. Let me know how you get on.

The Essence of Romance

6 May, 2017 at 4:21 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle went away for work on Thursday and came back on Friday. Sadly, this meant he missed the boys’ service of light which is part of the new super duper extended disco remix of the confirmation ceremony (they will be making their actual confirmation in June – fun fact, the Irish for confirmation is “dul faoi lámh an Easpaig” literally meaning to go under the hand of the bishop but when herself was confirmed the bishop was not available, am hoping boys will do better – I was only confirmed by an auxiliary bishop myself so we have poor form here).

The ceremony was held in the school which I was a bit dubious about but in fact it was absolutely lovely. The two violinists in the class whose progress we have been tracking over religious ceremonies for many years, have really improved, the children knew their lines, they sang beautifully and the evening sun streamed in through the tall Georgian windows and lit up the beautiful drawing room which is now the sixth class classroom and features children’s collages on the walls as well as the work of Dublin’s finest 18th century stuccadores on the ceiling. Daniel and Michael had their actual baptismal candles which I regarded as an organisational triumph but sadly I should have road tested them as the wicks were a bit short and they went out. The boys were displeased although I think more generally, they enjoyed the ceremony. Not as much as they enjoyed the Domino’s pizza beforehand though.

My sister who is recovering from an operation was well enough to come up and it was lovely to see her. The Princess came along under duress but loved it. It’s been a couple of years since she has visited the school but all the teachers and the principal have been following her progress and congratulated her on her various achievements and I think she was pleased. As it happens, two of her best friends from primary school have younger sisters in the boys’ class so they were there too and the three of them ran around the school commenting on how small the desks were. She showed me where they had written their names on the wall behind the radiator. “Where’s your name?” I asked. “Further down,” she said, “I was more scared of the authorities”.

The shopping was delivered on Thursday night and on Friday morning, I discovered that toilet paper had not been included in the delivery. I gave herself a tenner and asked her to pick some up on the way home from school. My sister offered herself a lift to school which she gratefully accepted. My sister also offered to buy toilet paper but I felt that it was too much to ask a recovering patient. Normally Mr. Waffle looks after all these things as he is self-employed and flexible (as he often points out, self-employed does not mean never has to work and can do errands but it’s an uphill battle getting that message across). The boys and I went out to the shed to pick up our bikes and I noticed that the Princess’s bike was missing. Good job her aunt gave her a lift. I texted herself, “I hope your bike is in school as it’s not in the shed.” About 11.30 she called me at work. Could I collect her as she was sick? I could not as school finishes early on Fridays and by the time I had cycled home and picked up the car, she’d have made it home under her own steam. How I missed my self-employed husband. Unable to do anything for my sick child I offered, “Look, don’t worry about picking up the toiled paper.”

She made her own way home. “Your bike was in school,” I said. “Look,” she said, “I’m not proud of this but I cycled to the library after school yesterday and locked my bike outside, then I forgot it was there and walked home.” It’s quite a step. However, the bike was still there on Friday and she was able to retrieve it and bring it home. And she bought toilet paper. I let her keep the change.

Mr. Waffle came home at 10 last night. As I said to him, he should go away more often as it helps me to appreciate him even more. As I write, he is off collecting the boys’ new bikes from a soulless shopping centre and he’s already done two loads of washing. My hero.

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. 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.

 
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.’


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