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Not My Finest Hour

23 April, 2017 at 6:18 pm by belgianwaffle

Of all the burning issues which you might think that I should really care about, it turns out that cycling is the one I’d die in a ditch for. I’m pretty surprised but as the discussion becomes more polarised, I find myself reading all kinds of things and snorting at the ignorance of people who disagree with me. I have become, perhaps annoyingly, evangelical about the joys of cycling; the exercise, the reliability, the handiness. I used to accept people parking in the cycle lanes and on the pavement as a fact of life but, increasingly, I am irritated by behaviour I used to ignore as inevitable. All this is to set the scene for the following little vignette.

One morning the boys and I were cycling to school. From our house to the nearby park, they cycled on the pavement [which is legal for children]. When we got to the short (very quiet) one way street leading to the park, there were vans blocking the pavement on either side of the road and I said to the boys to come off the pavement and cycle on the road but be very careful as it was one way against us. Out they came and a workman came across the road with a long pole which he was loading on to one of the vans and nearly took Daniel’s eye out. He immediately started shouting at me that it was a one-way street, which, of course, it was and he wasn’t checking both ways. We both got a shock although no damage was done. I was annoyed and I said, “We wouldn’t have been on the road if your vans hadn’t blocked both pavements”. We had a vigourous exchange of views for some time. When I caught up with the boys in the park, they were both a bit shocked. “Angry Mama,” said Michael, “why were you so mean to that man who was only trying to do his job?” I was a bit mortified. “How do you think I should have handled it?” I asked him. “I don’t know, I’m only 11” he said.

I spent all day thinking about it and what I should have done differently. If he had apologised, I would have immediately apologised myself but it was the fact that he was so aggressive and so self-righteous really got to me. I brought it up again at dinner. The boys had tired of the subject. “I’m reflecting on how I could have handled that better,” I said. “You’ve reflected already, now you’re dwelling,” said Dan.

I’m still dwelling. What should I have done?

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?

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.

Democracy

12 March, 2017 at 6:02 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael is into a new video game called Democracy. It’s clearly designed to meet the needs of pushy parents. I was only delighted to arrive downstairs on Saturday morning to hear the computer saying to him, “Now what is protectionism and what are the implications of pursuing a protectionist policy?” I was slightly less delighted when I came in half an hour later to hear the computer saying to him, “What then are the economics of prostitution?” It looks like all public policy issues are addressed.

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.

Inherited Characteristics

5 March, 2017 at 6:53 pm by belgianwaffle

Everyone in our family likes Terry Pratchett. The other night, I was rereading “Carpe Jugulum” which, obviously, I recommend and Michael saw it and asked whether he could take it to bed with him as he wanted to reread it himself. “OK,” I said, “and I’ll pick it up from your room when I’m going to bed.” It was, as usual, lights out at 9.30 for Michael. When I went to bed at midnight there he was curled up in the corner of the bed, dim nightlight turning his face an unhealthy blue colour and the book, nearly finished, clutched in his paw. He leapt up guiltily. I was inclined to forgive him though having only the other night stayed up until 2 in the morning finishing off a Georgette Heyer I had read many times before.


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