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Well-Connected

13 November, 2018 at 8:19 pm by belgianwaffle

Our French childminder who came to us on Fridays to give the children French lessons had a fascinating range of relations. He was related to famous actors, philosophers, a concentration camp survivor and all round heroine and he has a distant ancestor who as a baby had all her relatives killed in a slave uprising and was only saved by her black nanny hiding her and keeping her safe. All verified on the internet so it must be true. So it wasn’t a complete surprise when we discovered that he was a descendant of the Dukes of Leinster – a long line of younger sons marrying poorly leaving him and his family in relatively modest circumstances but with a really spectacular array of connections. The children were entirely underwhelmed when I pointed out that a direct(ish) relation of Edward Fitzgerald, the hero of 1798 had been turning up in our house once a week.

The boys miss him now though as they have to go out to French classes on Friday evenings: a source of endless bitterness.

Not a Comparison You Hear Often

12 November, 2018 at 10:19 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself: Can I have €37.50 to go to Paris and back on the train?
Me: You were in Paris only a couple of weeks ago – are they going again?
Her: No, I’m going with my friend for the day.
Me: Which friend? How old is she?
Her: My friend from Vermont [probably not a Francophone], she’s the same age as me.
Me: Paris, Paris, two fifteen year olds, I don’t know.
Her: Honestly Mum, it’s only 45 minutes on the train, it’s like going to Bray.

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.

Cultural Exchange

23 October, 2018 at 7:31 pm by belgianwaffle

In the school in France, they have a language assistant for English class. Herself is obliged to attend English class which she does not love. The language assistant is from Ballymena in Northern Ireland. She told the class about the Northern Irish counties and said that a good way to remember them was the acronym “FAT LAD”. “Fat Lad,” thought herself, “no Fat Dad surely.” There was more to come. “Here,” she said, holding up a Union Jack, “is our flag.” “Does anyone know, who is our Queen?” “Well,” I said when this was recounted to me, “if you ask who is the Head of State of Northern Ireland, the answer is the Queen of England.” Herself harumphed, “She didn’t ask ‘Who is the Head of State of Northern Ireland?” she said, ‘Who is our Queen?'” As I explained to her, there’s a whole world for her to explore out there.

More Weekend

23 September, 2018 at 7:48 pm by belgianwaffle

So we went to our play last night. Despite the rather grim subject matter which was a little close to home (siblings caring for a parent with dementia) it was funny and the acting was very good. I would possibly call it my best Dublin fringe experience ever – this is quite a low bar. If you get a chance, The Cat’s Mother is recommended.

Michael was back to hockey this morning and Daniel and I went along to 11.30 mass together. He did the Prayers of the Faithful with the other children in the choir – it went chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, growl. Although he’s not the oldest, he is the oldest boy and he’s the only one whose voice has broken. He seems relaxed as does the choir mistress who says that his new baritone goes well with the other children. Both boys’ voices have broken over the summer; I don’t really notice much but apparently a number of their classmates have commented.

As a special treat for Mr. Waffle we went to the transport museum this afternoon. I had completely forgotten that we’d been before years ago but I found a reference on the blog. I would be less harsh on this occasion. Maybe it’s a better outing with older children but still not tremendous now.

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We had a cup of tea and then went for a walk on the pier in Howth which was nice in a low key kind of way.

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We got our weekly call from herself while we were walking on the pier. It was a bit unsatisfactory as reception wasn’t great. She seems to be having a good time and settling in well as far as we can tell. I do miss her. It’s probably as well we are restricted to one call a week (“It’s supposed to be immersion, Mum.”) as otherwise I would probably be on 4 times a day.

Update on Herself

16 September, 2018 at 7:24 pm by belgianwaffle

The first week in France seems to have passed off peacefully. The science teacher spent 20 minutes telling the class about the IRA and also asked her whether she knew why U2 were so called, she did not. It reminds me of her saying how they had had a discussion in class on defining a terrorist and many of her classmates had started with, “a foreigner” as a defining characteristic. I’m not sure that this would be the first thing that any Irish person of my age would say, on the contrary.

The English teacher (she sits in English class) is a big anglophile and herself is finding this….surprising. It is a different perspective on English culture from that which she gets in her Irish medium school at home. The English teacher is also filled with confidence and has already corrected herself on how to pronounce Greenwich: “There is a w, it has a w sound,” she told my firstborn. You have to admire the confidence of someone correcting a native speaker.

Her state exam (Junior Cert) results arrived mid-week and, in fairness to her, they were good. She celebrated by going on a bat walk with her host family – not, perhaps as big a deal in France as they are in Ireland.

From next week she is going to cycle in to school and, very exciting, there are segregated cycle lanes the whole way. Also, she says that the town is delightful in the way of a town that has been rich for a very long time. I would like to visit but I fear that it might be frowned upon.

Papal Visit – Belated Edition

10 September, 2018 at 8:14 pm by belgianwaffle

The Pope came to Ireland. I didn’t go last time a Pope came to Ireland in 1979 and I hadn’t intended to go this time but my sister got tickets to the mass in the Phoenix Park and couldn’t find anyone to go with her. Given that I live in Dublin and she was staying with me, it seemed churlish to refuse to tramp to the world’s longest mass. It was fine, actually (though the weather was not); it was nice to go for a long walk with my sister and we had tea to tide us through the mass. The Pope gave his sermon through Italian which was subtitled and I was able to deploy my college Italian to translate as we were too far to see the subtitles on the big screen. Given the age profile of the crowd, I doubt we were the only ones who couldn’t see. It was fine but I was not particularly excited. I’m not a great one for live concerts either so maybe I am just not designed to stand in fields for performances of any kind.

By far the most exciting part of the Pope’s weekend in Dublin for me came on Saturday afternoon and had nothing to do with the Papal visit. I had been in town with the Princess on Saturday morning to replenish her wardrobe in advance of her trip to France and retired exhausted before she had been to all of the shops she wanted to cover. I gave her some cash and told her to make her own way home when she was finished. Waiting for the tram to take her home, she saw a stabbing. As she reassured me, it was just the blood she saw really. Anyway, it effectively stopped the trams and she had to go and find a bus to take her home. As I sat in horror listening she reassured me further, “The stabbing was the worst thing that happened to me on the way home.” In fairness, there is something to be said for keeping her safe in small town France for a couple of months.


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