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Punishing

4 November, 2016 at 10:27 pm by belgianwaffle

I took the day off work today. This week was mid-term and the children were at home. Well, herself was on a course, but the boys were at home. I think she enjoyed her course but it was quite tiring; it was film making and it seemed to involve a lot of hanging around on set. She told me an interesting thing though. They had a make-up guy in and he mentioned that when making up women, he always makes them up to look good first and then adds cuts and bruises or skulls and blood (they were making a horror film). And apparently this is what happens when they are making real films as well which I think explains a lot.

Anyhow, it was a beautiful day. I decided to take the boys up the Sugar Loaf. They were not delighted. “Why,” said Michael bitterly, “are we being punished?” Apparently his father had told him that he could stay in bed all day – something Mr. Waffle denies. Anyhow, they came, resignedly.

It was lovely and even the boys found it moderately enjoyable. We had a picnic at the top.

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It was somewhat windy and chilly but the views were good.

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The boys are both faster and fitter than me but I made it down eventually, only slipping and falling over a couple of times (not particularly painful as on grass on the lower reaches but the mortification was considerable). Daniel was travelling at my slower pace and was very solicitous. I felt about 90. We came home about 4 and lit a fire and did nothing for the rest of the day which was pleasing for all of us.

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And imagine, today is only Friday, I have the whole weekend at home stretching out ahead of me. And Mr. Waffle who, alas, is going to have to work this weekend (his deadline is Wednesday and each member of our little family is counting the days), has promised to take time out to take Daniel to his match tomorrow morning and let me stay in bed. Oh hurrah. Yes, I know, he’s a saint; isn’t he lucky he married someone who really appreciates saintliness.

New Tricks

2 November, 2016 at 11:52 pm by belgianwaffle

This evening we were playing cards (snap/beggar-my-neighbour – all the sophisticated games) and when the game was over I picked up the pack, shuffled and started playing patience. I did this without really thinking. Herself and Daniel have seen me play before but this time they seemed more interested and wanted to learn the rules (possibly because it was bed time). Then they played a game each, very slowly. I commented that the more you played the more likely you were to get it out. In the slightly sanctimonious middle-aged parent manner which I am perfecting, I told them: “When I was a child and at home sick from school, there were no electronic devices and there was no daytime television, so when I got tired of reading, I used to play patience. By the end of a couple of days, I almost always got it out all the time. It seems impossible when you don’t practice, but there it is.” They were suitably impressed and trooped off to bed, determined to work on their patience playing tomorrow.

After they went up, I said to Mr. Waffle, “Did you play patience when you were sick as a child?” “No,” he replied as I laid out the cards. This time it came out. As I was stacking the cards in the pile at the top, he asked “Is that it, will it definitely come out now?” “Of course, it will, you know that” I said. “Actually,” he said, “I’ve never played patience and don’t know how to play.”* I am astounded. How could he have kept this from me? Honestly, it’s like only discovering your husband never learnt to swim 15 years into your marriage. How can a child of the 70s have developed without extensive patience experience? He muttered something about lego. I played with lego too but, really, who didn’t play patience? I am shocked to the core of my being.

Can you play patience? Seriously, can’t everybody? Even Mr. Waffle can now.

*Note that we were a good hour and a bit playing patience with Mr. Waffle giving the impression that he knew all about it before he came clean. There is some moral about gender there, I feel. It reminds me of my mother’s story about how when she was going to study in Germany in the 50s (when Germany was where it was at in terms of chemistry), her professor of chemistry in Cork summoned her to his office and said, “Now, they’ll have a lot of equipment that we don’t have here, but you just don’t say anything and you’ll learn what it is and how to work it fast enough.”

Not Entirely Satisfactory

23 October, 2016 at 7:13 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle had to spend all weekend working. In consequence, I found myself engaged in solo front line parenting. Yesterday morning, I took Dan to hurling and shouted encouragement from the sidelines (they enjoyed a very comprehensive victory, so much so that I and another mother who was watching felt very sorry for the opposition). Yesterday afternoon, the boys had a birthday party and I dropped them in and took herself for a cup of tea. Then back into town to collect the boys. I felt like I spent most of the day running children all over the city. Mr. Waffle made dinner though; so that was very welcome.

This morning began at 7 with Daniel getting sick – though, as he said, he made it to the toilet, so it could have been worse. Poor Mr. Waffle trekked off to a meeting at 9.30 and Daniel continued peaky. I realised about 11 that he wasn’t well enough to go to mass. And we had committed to herself doing a reading and some kind of special introduction for the first communicants (local primary prepping for May) at 11.30. In the end I sent her on her own. She was bitter and, as she pointed out she got to read one of my favourite readings; you know the one, St. Paul, “I have run my race to the finish..” If she was bitter, however, Michael was delighted. I briefly contemplated sending him along with his sister but it was too much. She would be up in the choir loft; he would be alone in the congregation staring moodily at the ceiling. I did not feel it would end well.

Mr. Waffle was restored to us at lunch time but, alas, further work beckoned so I took the children out. Herself wanted to go shopping alone so, with some trepidation, I took her to town and left her with her phone in a large shopping centre. If you are of a nervous disposition, I can reassure you that all went well and she managed to spend a large chunk of money in Tiger. Much of it was spent on candles and night lights. I am not sure a) how this reconciles with her love for Marie Kondo and b) whether I entirely approve of her room being turned into a fire hazard.

The boys and I went to the Science Gallery where there was an interesting, if depressing, exhibition on design and violence. It was not perhaps entirely suitable for 11 year olds but there were a number of them there; they weren’t allowed to undergo the virtual reality solitary confinement experience. Probably for the best. Michael, at my instigation, did sit on a metal chair. It’s a cube and is delivered with it’s own sledgehammer and you batter it into a chair shape. If you pay extra, they will pre-batter it for you. I was just asking Michael whether it was comfortable (unsurprisingly, it was not) when one of the staff bounded up and asked him politely, but anxiously, to get off the exhibit. Apparently, it cost €8,000 and they were not keen for people to try it out. High concept design but not practical, I would suggest.

Michael considers a 3D printable gun – just add your own nail:

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We went to the café where both boys dutifully looked at the list of words on the wall – semantics of violence, I understand. As one of the words was boycott, I insisted on explaining about Captain Boycott; they were not fascinated. Daniel had hot chocolate and a slice of biscuit cake (much recovered from 7am vomiting) but Michael did not like anything on the menu (a frequent occurrence) and commented, “I thought something like this would happen.” Then, with the air of a conjurer pulling a rabbit from a hat, he took a lollipop from his pocket which he proceeded to suck contentedly. Cheap date.

We then took ourselves off to the Natural History Museum which was busy but appealed in a mild way to both boys. In September, they had been to a session about TH Parke whose statute is in front of the museum, so they were able to fill me in on him. Interesting man.

You probably can’t make out the relief on the statute but Daniel informs me that our man is sucking out poison from the chest of one of the others on his expedition.

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And then we all went home and poor Mr. Waffle had finally finished working. He spent an hour playing Betrayal at House on the Hill with the boys. This is a board game which the children love and Mr. Waffle and I loath so this was particularly noble. Now he is making dinner, like a saint, and tomorrow we are all back to work. Alas, alack.

Up Down

18 October, 2016 at 6:51 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle and I had planned to go to Helsinki for a long weekend in September but, for a variety of reasons, it didn’t come off. Mostly because Mr. Waffle had put his back out again and couldn’t fly and partly because we were both very busy at work. My sister, however, was still booked to come and mind the children. So we decided to go on a more local break to Co. Down in Northern Ireland (yes, my love affair with Northern Ireland continues, thank you for asking).

On Saturday morning we drove up to Warrenpoint where it lashed rain. Due to Mr. Waffle’s bad back he spent all of the journey there lying horizontally in the front seat. I began to wonder was this the best idea we’d ever had. We had lunch in Warrenpoint which was fine but slow. Mr. Waffle had to keep getting up to walk around due to back pain so that was…unsettling.

View of the sea from Warrenpoint:

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I am told that it is beautiful on a sunny day but your powers of imagination would want to be at full wattage to see that the day we were there.

The linguistic regime in the North is complicated. This was on the public toilets:

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My friend from Belfast tells me that the only reason instructions were put on the toilets was so that the council could put it up in Irish as well as English. Who knows?

We went on to our guest house via the scenic route with the mountains of Mourne on the left and sparkling sea views on the right, or so the guidebook told us. In fact, we could see neither due to driving rain and heavy cloud and, as Mr. Waffle was horizontal, he would only have been able to enjoy any views with the aid of a periscope. Things picked up when we rolled into our destination.

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We went for a walk on the private beach before dinner but it was only moderately successful. The beach was lovely but damp and the mountains were invisible.

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Our host was a very nice man but felt like he came from another era entirely. I asked Mr. Waffle who had spoken to him on the phone whether he was Irish. “No, English,” he said. In fact when we met him, we found that he had grown up in the house but been sent to school in England. He sounded much more upper class English than anyone I have ever met or heard and I have heard the Queen of England on the TV. It was quite bizarre. He was the only local I met who didn’t say “wee” all the time. Possibly, beaten out of him when he was a wee lad. His partner was a very nice Scottish woman who was a great grand-niece of Alice Keppel and therefore somewhat distantly related to the English royal family and even she sounded much less upper-class English than he did (though not exactly Scottish, I concede – spent some time with her exploring what is the difference between a marquis and a marquess and how each is pronounced; am not very much the wiser on either count). He clearly represented the last hold out of big house unionism. He was inclined to regard the island of Ireland as a whole and had an encyclopedic knowledge of hunts and polo grounds across the country. “I had a friend who used to play polo, but his horse kept getting injured and he jacked it in,” I said. “Well,” said he, “that’s why most people have three or four horses.” Only in certain circles, I would suggest. He had his own polo grounds and about 30 horses which provides a full explanation, I imagine, of why he was taking in paying guests.

We had a lovely bedroom with a beautiful view across the grounds.

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That night we went out for dinner to the Mourne seafood bar which was not entirely successful. Firstly, Mr. Waffle had to keep getting up and walking around because of his bad back and secondly, the food was only alright.

We went to bed in our beautiful bedroom, somewhat daunted but ready to face another day. The next day was Sunday. Despite our host’s advice we went into Downpatrick. The Protestant cathedral is delighful and has private boxes [not very common any more] and the graves of St. Patrick, St. Bridget and [possibly, I cannot quite remember], St. Columbanus.

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The old part of the town is lovely with elegant Georgian streets. We went to the St. Patrick’s museum/experience which wasn’t bad but was perhaps a bit elaborate for our needs. But the gift shop did give us a further chance to enjoy Northern Ireland’s exciting linguistic regime.

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The previous day we had passed the Schomberg Ulster-Scots centre in Kilkeel. You know where you stand when your centre is called after one of William of Orange’s generals. Northern Ireland, where, like the Balkans, they make more history than they can consume locally. Joke adapted from Saki, I think, who told it better.

Earlier that morning we had been to mass in a less appealing part of the town. The church had shutters which was something I have never seen before. The priest saying mass was on a mission from the South [hardly necessary one would have thought] and we didn’t take to him; by the look of the long suffering parish priest who was hosting him, he hadn’t taken to him either. It was quite a long mass and involved small children and modern hymns with actions [my progress towards old reactionary continues apace and I did not enjoy it]. At the end of mass we had blessing of the cars which sounds positively heathen to me. I was telling our hosts about it later and Mr. Waffle asked whether I was mocking my religion in front of non co-religionists and I felt a bit guilty but it did seem quite uncatholic to me and more the kind of thing our evangelical friends would go for. Anyhow, our host said he hadn’t been to a service since he buried his grandmother [neither today nor yesterday, I would say] and, trying to make conversation with the vicar afterwards, remarked that the vicar must be looking forward to having his children home for Christmas to which the vicar replied, “I prefer visiting the sick, really.” That finished our host which is a pity as he has a church at his gates. All 19th century mod cons.

One of the chief things I was really keen to do while in this part of the North was visit Mount Stewart. Between mass and St. Patrick we spent longer in Downpatrick than we should have and we were a bit short of time for our trip to Mount Stewart. We took the ferry up from Portaferry which was lovely but a bit time consuming.

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The main reason I wanted to go to Mount Stewart was that I read a really fascinating biography on Castlereagh (which I am thinking of re-reading after my visit) and I wanted to see where he was from. It did not disappoint. The gardens were lovely even though you would not think that autumn would be their best time; the house was fascinating and the guides very knowledgeable. There is a superb collection of portraits in the house including a lovely small picture of Hazel Lavery. I had not known that Sir John and Lady Lavery had been friends of the family but they were and frequently stayed in Mount Stewart.

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What is amazing is how almost entirely tourist free the whole area is; there were lots of locals out for the day but I could count on one hand the number of people from outside the area who were there and most of those were from the South so not very far outside.

We would have liked to stay longer but poor Mr. Waffle had a conference call at 6 and was beginning to get restive. We went back to our guest house and Mr. Waffle’s papers like the wind. Mr. Waffle’s phone had failed to charge and, with some reluctance, I gave him mine to make the call. I charged his a bit and went off for a solitary walk on the private beach. Mr. Waffle’s phone gave up as I tried to photograph the beautiful sunset over the Mourne mountains (visible at last). I was bitter and, as I pointed out to him, there was a rainbow too.

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These photos are good but you should have seen it later as the sunset turned the sky pink. I will always have my memories as I, slightly huffily, informed my husband.

Dinner that evening in Dundrum in the Buck’s head was more successful than the previous evening’s offering and my mood gradually softened under the influence of the food and on the restoration to me of my beloved phone. Yes, I worry about me too, thanks for caring.

The next morning we visited Castle Ward which is quite weird. The husband and wife who built it couldn’t agree on an architectural style and it is Georgian on one side:

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and gothic revival on the other:

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Sadly, it was closed on the Monday and we couldn’t get in, but I understand that the interior architectural mixture of styles reflects the external diversity. Definitely one to revisit. The set for Winterfell from “Game of Thrones” was in the grounds but not super-interesting unless, I suppose you are a big GoT fan.

We then visited a very impressive De Courcy castle with lovely views in Dundrum. This we had entirely to ourselves.

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Then, Newcastle (which ought to be twinned with Catania for looming mountains, if for nothing else) for lunch and back home to our loving family.

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I intend to go back to Co. Down for another look although, I think, Fermanagh may be the next Northern county on my list. There’s a whole world up there.

Shocking

16 October, 2016 at 6:20 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself: I got a shock from the light in the utility room.
Me (vaguely): Oh dear.
Mr. Waffle: I’ve never heard of such thing.
Me: Oh yes, that used to happen to me all the time in the house where I grew up.
Him (sceptically): I don’t believe it.
Her (mournfully): Mum believes me but she’s hopeless at sympathising and Dad just doesn’t believe me.
Him (completely unconvincingly): No, I do.
Me: Don’t switch on the light with wet hands and you should be fine.

A couple of nights later there was a loud yelp from the utility room. We all rushed in. “I got a shock!” said Mr. Waffle in outrage. “Told you!” said herself. “You’ll live,”said I. Anxious readers will be pleased to know that Mr. Waffle is looking into getting an electrician in. Tell me, has anyone else had a light switch shock? Surely, yes.

A Different Lens

15 October, 2016 at 6:13 pm by belgianwaffle

Some barrister friends of Mr. Waffle’s went to see the new Bridget Jones film. “What did they think?” I asked. “They thought it was alright but they’re astounded that Colin Firth still hasn’t taken silk.”

Properly Regarded as an Economy

7 August, 2016 at 10:36 pm by belgianwaffle

I asked the Princess to make me mint biscuits and she kindly consented. “We need peppermint essence,” she said. It was not available in our local shops. “We could make it,” I said. We looked it up on the internet. All we needed was mint (of which we had a superabundance) and vodka (of which we had none).

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We rang Mr. Waffle who was at the library with the boys and asked him to get some vodka for us. He came back with a €20 bottle. In a moment of rashness, we used it all. We now have a litre of peppermint essence in preparation.

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All I can say is, I’m looking forward to these biscuits. It you know me and you need peppermint essence, contact me, I can do you a great deal.


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