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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.


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.


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.

Weekend Round Up

9 September, 2018 at 7:24 pm by belgianwaffle

So we are slowly getting back to normal after the return from the holidays and the departure of Herself for France. The two weeks between our return from Copenhagen and her departure were spent in a whirl of activity. Herself went to Belfast for a conference, Cork to say farewell to the relatives before departing on her odyssey (a financially very worthwhile journey although, in fairness, that was not at all her motivation) and Donegal to the Gaeltacht with the school. That’s a lot of travelling in a fortnight even if you haven’t just come back from Denmark and are about to depart for France. Also, she has a vast circle of friends all of whom had to be seen and bidden a fond farewell, some more than once. When she came back from the Gaeltacht (last Wednesday), I announced to the family that she would not be going away again before she went to France. Michael voiced mild surprise, “Was she away? I thought she was up in her room.” This may explain why he feels that, at least initially, he may not miss her.

On Saturday morning Mr. Waffle and I went out for breakfast in town leaving the boys to the tender mercies of the x-box. We signed them up for French classes until Christmas, news which they greeted with the amount of enthusiasm you might imagine. Our lovely, lovely French childminder is finally sick of Ireland and moving back to France. He had been coming on Friday afternoons to play games with the boys and force them to speak French whether they liked it or not but now he is gone and we have to consider alternatives.

On Saturday afternoon we had the street party and it says a great deal for our residents’ committee that they managed to pick a rainy afternoon after the finest summer we have had in 40 years. That said, it was nice to see all the younger children who live nearby and the new families who have moved to the area. Michael really enjoyed it but Daniel was not in the mood for it although he came and played football and basketball with the other children. He had just returned from his final hurling game. While he likes Gaelic football, he has been lobbying to give up hurling for some time and yesterday was, by agreement, his last hurling game ever (end of an era etc.). His team was beaten 6-19 to 1-2 and he is not one to shrug off defeat lightly. Perhaps finishing on a low note. He has also been recently diagnosed with Osgood Schlatter disease which is not serious but explains why he has had a lump on his knee for years and was limping after every match and training and means I have had to notch my sympathy levels up from my traditional, “you’re grand”. Apparently you grow out of it so the cure is, basically, just wait. It was not maybe the ideal moment for him to join in the street party fun.

This morning we were back to mass in the parish for the first time in ages. Some new priest turned up. He spoke on the second reading which was a nice one (religious people, how come so much St. Paul and so little James?) about how every person has value and we shouldn’t judge based on appearances or wealth. This is the part of Catholic teaching that really appeals to the wishy-washy liberal in me. So I was not delighted when the priest used it as a starting point for saying that probably no one in the congregation had any importance in the world and yet we could influence things even though we were pretty powerless. He suggested we take the example of Saint Serapia who sold herself into slavery as she felt that this was how she could serve God (without wishing to criticise Saint Serapia, I am not completely convinced). I am possibly being a bit chippy here but I resented the way he patronised the congregation of this parish some of whom are perhaps not particularly rich; it being Ireland, I can absolutely guarantee you that quite apart from the number of the parishioners who were themselves very important in the world, every one of those parishioners, even if not “important in the world” (and pray define that and isn’t the point of the reading that importance in the eyes of the world is not important in the eyes of God?) has great influence with all kinds of people who are “important” in the tiny pond that is Ireland. By the way, please note the irony of my being judgemental about a priest’s sermon on a reading about the importance of not being judgemental. If I have one fault… (as a friend’s brother said to her, “If you have one fault?)

In other religion related news, our musical director had one of her pieces sung during one of the events when the Pope came to visit and we are all suitably impressed. She jotted it on the back of an envelope in 1996 and now it is sung all over the place. The excitement.

We had Mr. Waffle’s parents and their carer around for lunch and then found ourselves slightly at a loose end. My programme of constantly ringing herself for updates yielded fruit and she called to tell us that she had finally reached her destination in the west of France after her orientation in Paris. She’s a bit flattened, poor mite, but she seemed in reasonably good form, all things considered. She’s starting in the LycĂ©e tomorrow and has promised to ring to update us tomorrow evening. It’s all go.

Back in Dublin, after some deliberation, I forced Mr. Waffle and the boys to go up the restored Daniel O’Connell tower which was only moderately successful.



On the plus side, we got to touch the coffin which, apparently brings good luck. A little unlikely, I would have thought but like Niels Bohr and his horseshoe, I understand it works whether you believe in it or not.


We were all reasonably interested but it turns out Osgood Schlatter disease is not super-consistent with playing hurling, football, basketball and climbing to the top of a round tower in one weekend.


Still and all, good views (in the foreground is the museum building which I did not make us visit although the price was covered in our entry ticket to the tower; we have been before and I am merciful).


And sighting of a dangerous handrail. So definitely not a complete loss.


We got home for 6 for poor Mr. Waffle to take a work call and the rest of the evening has passed off peacefully so far.

And how was your own weekend?

Changed or Gone

7 September, 2018 at 6:55 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself is in transition year and we are sending her off to France for three months. She got on a plane on her own unaccompanied for the first time this afternoon. We got her her own bank card. In a weird way, giving her freedom of the cash machines felt even more of a sign that she was growing up.

We saw her off at the airport, even her brothers came. I am a bit heartbroken. I will really, really miss her but I think she will love it and it will be a terrific experience for her. But three months. We met her friend’s mother in the park on Sunday and she said to me, “You are very brave because she will be a completely different person when she comes back.” I know it is true but I’m not entirely sure I welcomed hearing it.

Anyway she has just this instant landed in Paris and her first message confirmed that her phone credit has come through so all is well.

Neglected or Completely Random Round-Up

28 July, 2018 at 10:46 pm by belgianwaffle

This blog has been a bit ignored recently. I’ve been busy, what can I say?

The cat has been killing small animals to beat the band. One weekend we had an injured pigeon (one wing down) and a small mouse fleeing around the garden to the cat’s endless delight. We went out hoping that matters would have resolved themselves on our return. When we came back the mouse had gone to his reward but the pigeon was still hopping round the garden. The cat had lost interest and fallen asleep in the flower bed. Mr. Waffle had to usher the injured pigeon to safety in the lane through the shed. You haven’t lived etc.

Herself went off on a three week residential course. I missed her. She had a great time. When she came back, I overheard her saying to her brothers, as the three of them cleaned up in the kitchen, “You guys have really missed your union rep.” Oh yes she is returned.

While she was away I made the boys go to gallery. They can now recognise St. Jerome at 20 paces. A summer afternoon well spent.

They also went to a tennis camp which was somewhat successful. Inspired by this and Wimbledon, Dan and I went out to play a match one evening and I practically expired from the heat. Irish people are just not made for hot summers.

My sister came to visit and too the boys to Taytopark which they quite enjoyed notwithstanding some reservations that they might be too old and sophisticated for it. My poor sister lost her car exhaust while staying with us and fell and hurt her knee in Taytopark so not a total win for her.

My Parisian friend’s family came to Ireland for a fortnight. She was stuck in Paris and in the first week we were on holidays in Cork (much, much more of this anon) but we saw a bit of them last week. We went out for a drink on Monday night and they came around to us for a barbecue on Wednesday evening. Unfortunate that the cat chose to catch a mouse under the table in the garden and decapitate in front of the horrified yet fascinated gazes of the French children. The eldest who has stayed with us a few times on exchange pointed out that the house was full of spiders (a bit I suppose) and coupled with the mouse, it was just too much. I scoffed at her fears and kept from her the fact that when I went to put the burgers on the barbecue there was an enormous charred spider sitting on the grill. Alas. Look, nobody dead yet, eh? My friend came to join her family today and we had lunch together and then went to see the children perform in the drama emerging from the drama camp they had been in all week. It was pleasant, I have to say. And Daniel is going to stay in Paris for a couple of weeks next summer and they’ll take him to see Paris Saint Germain.

It’s all been a bit exhausting though. In previous years, we have tended to do a week in Ireland followed by a fortnight abroad for our summer holidays. This year we did a week in Cork in July and then a fortnight back in work and then we’re off to Denmark. The week in Cork meant Mr. Waffle and I were frantic in the week leading up to it and equally frantic this week after (with added French entertaining duties – it was worth it, but it was hard). Next year we will do three consecutive weeks again.

On the plus side, met a friend for lunch and in our regular, “how are your children?” update told her that herself was going into transition year and she said that they had a work experience programme and might our firstborn be interested. Since finding herself work experience is a problem that has been gnawing at me since the start of the summer (herself seemed relatively unphased) with the school sending me unwelcome text reminders that it had to be sorted before she went back to school in September, I was very pleased. I could have taken her in to my office, I suppose, but neither of us were particularly keen. I feel, however, the life lesson she is getting in how to get a job may not be exactly the one we would want.

Finally, and only tenuously related, while I am on the theme of neglected, the html or css or whatever on this blog seems to have given up the ghost. The twitter links don’t work, the feedly link doesn’t work and the pictures are bizarrely stretched. Not to mention the weird wide margins. And now WordPress is torturing me about General Data Protection Regulation. Frankly, if this website is harvesting personal data, it’s news to me. I had to add a privacy page filled with suggested WordPress text and I feel it is overkill. I cannot believe that this blog is the kind of thing they were thinking about when the GDPR was drafted. Deep sigh. Maybe I can pay someone to fix it all.

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