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Christmas Round-Up

7 January, 2018 at 9:43 pm by belgianwaffle

So Christmas day passed off peacefully enough. Herself was displeased with her offering from Santa “Why does Santa hate me?” but otherwise all was well. We went out to the cousins for drinks with extended family but it was just ourselves at home for dinner which I really liked. I am not the world’s greatest natural hostess and I find it pleasantly undemanding when it is only family for dinner.

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Our crib shepherd lost a head at a crucial moment and so missed most of the big day. He was taken out by a large book on Dr. Who which hit him inadvertently. It was suggested that he might be renamed St. Denis for this year only (his head is now safely superglued back on his shoulders).

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On the 26th we went on the traditional orienteering expedition in the Dublin mountains with the cousins. For the first time ever, as far as I can remember, it did not rain.

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That evening, herself went as emergency babysitter to the three year old child of friends who live around the corner. It went very well and she sees a lucrative new income stream opening up.

On the 27th we went to Cork where a vast array of exciting presents awaited. We stayed in our friends’ place in East Cork and went up and down to Cork city for various excitements including ice skating.

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We did the Ballycotton cliff walk which was spectacularly muddy. We ran into another family; the mother was American and was walking along with a child in a sling and the father was Irish and admiring the view. They also had a two year old splashing through an enormous puddle. Her mother kept begging her not to run through the puddle; advice which the child ignored with unfortunate but not entirely unexpected consequences. I felt very sorry for the child and her mother. I did think her father was quite useless. Herself has urged me not to be so judgy but I said, “I bet your grandfather was better than that in the 1970s.” When we checked at her insistence, however, he indicated that he too would probably have looked at the view. I refuse to believe that. Like his granddaughter, he is not judgy (other than about politicians, oh my goodness, lots of judgements there) and I feel he just wanted to exonerate the father from blame. I digress. Thanks to our new boots and greater height and motor skills than the average two year old, we remained dry.

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That evening, my sister and her partner took the boys to the new Star Wars film and dinner in Milano’s. Herself, Mr. Waffle and I went for a more sophisticated dinner option together which she quite enjoyed (she tires of Milano’s but her brothers never will).

We finished our Christmas holiday jigsaw. Almost unbearable excitement, I know. The house in East Cork has no television or wifi which I really enjoy. The children, slightly less so, though not as much less as you might imagine.

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We were back up to Cork the next day where my brother and sister made a very elaborate family dinner for ten where the Yorkshire puddings were a highlight for Daniel and Michael. My brother bench pressed herself; this is the kind of quality entertainment that is available at family dinners. My father told us about his first meeting with my grandfather, his father-in-law to be. My mother went off somewhere with my grandmother and he and my grandfather were left to cope alone. My grandfather asked him whether he would like a drink. He would. At the time, my grandfather was going blind and after rooting around the cupboard, he emerged with a bottle of whiskey and poured out a measure for my father. He didn’t take any himself. My father who was a keen whiskey drinker was pretty sure that the contents weren’t whiskey but pretended to drink filled with fear that it might be some terrible poison – my grandfather was a farmer and farmers are or certainly were, inclined to fill random bottles with agricultural supplies. When my mother and my grandmother came home, investigation proved that the non-whiskey drink was actually Lourdes water. Also on herself asking him about living in American in the 1920s (long story, he did), he recollected turning off all the lights in the house commemorating some anniversary of the lightbulb. It must have been quite the shock coming back to Cork with its oil lamps in the 1930s. He also was quite adamant that it snowed while they were in America, given that they were living in Orange County, South Pasadena (apparently the South was important), that seems a little unlikely but he is adamant.

That night, we had games night – Michael got a number of games for Christmas and he was keen to try them out. It was actually quite good fun though slightly hideous in prospect.

On new year’s eve we went for our first walk on the beach since arriving. It started to lash rain/sleet and we ran to the hotel hoping that it might give us lunch but, sadly, no. Mr. Waffle and herself braved the rain and got the car and we went to the Kilkenny shop in Shanagarry instead. We met a good friend of mine from Dublin there with her family which was quite random and proves that Ireland is tiny etc. She and her family were reliving her husband’s childhood family holidays in Waterford and their exploring had taken them into East Cork.

Then back to Dublin. We bought a “Best of Queen” CD and a 5 set CD of hits from the 80s to listen to on the journey (mock, if you will). I can confirm that Queen had more lasting hits than all of the 80s put together. About half way back I started to feel unwell (unrelated to the hits of the 80s). By the time we got home, I was very unwell. I spent the remainder of the evening getting sick and could only lend half an ear to the various woes involving the cat (neighbours had wrong keys, had gone out and bought cat food and sent their teenager over the garden wall to put out cat food for the cat every day, frankly, above and beyond the call of duty). About 11.45 in a brief break from my time in the bathroom, I headed downstairs to wish Mr. Waffle a happy new year. He was just heading off to rescue herself from a new year’s eve party. All in all, we have had better starts to the new year. I finally stopped throwing up about 3 am. I firmly blame the grilled brie in the restaurant where we had lunch for my brief but violent illness. The next day, feeling delicate, I was sitting reading the paper while the boys played their new videogame (Overwatch, very popular), “I am a one-man apocalypse,” hissed the character on screen. Herself lent across the sofa and said to me, “It’s the brie speaking.” Oh yes indeed.

Mr. Waffle’s sister, husband and baby came to Dublin from London for a couple of days at the start of the month. We had them round for an extended family lunch before I trudged dismally back to work last Thursday. We had the tree yesterday for Women’s Christmas but it came down today and the children are back to school tomorrow. Alas alack.

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In other news, over the Christmas holidays, Daniel and Michael lost a tooth each. Seriously, when do children stop losing teeth? I think herself still has some to go and she’ll be 15 in April.

How was your own Christmas?

The Struggle Continues

28 November, 2017 at 8:47 pm by belgianwaffle

I have recently covered how ideologically opposed I am to Kildare Village (outlet shopping) in principle while being strangely attracted to it in practice.

When we went down to the wedding in East Cork a couple of weeks ago, we stopped off for breakfast in the Pain Quotidien in Kildare Village which I loved. Mr. Waffle was distinctly less impressed as he sipped from his bowl of weak tea. “It’s all very well abroad,” said he, “but I am in Kildare and it seems outrageous to be drinking this kind of tea when I know that everywhere around me perfectly good, normal tea is available.” I left him to brood over his tea while I went for a quick run around the shops. I bought some Penhaligon Bluebell perfume which my father used to bring from London to my mother. When I met my sister that evening, I said, “Smell this!” and held up my wrist and she instantly recognised it. I’m wearing it all the time now although I do seem to be mildly allergic to it and it makes me sneeze which I concede is sub-optimal. Like my relationship with Kildare Village.

Did I mention it has a Villeroy and Bosch shop? I love Villeroy and Bosch.

Happy Birthday

9 November, 2017 at 11:06 pm by belgianwaffle

Today is my sister’s birthday. I love having a sister. I wish that I had been slightly more organised and there was the remotest chance that her present might arrive on time. Still, we have a lifetime left for me to surprise her by actually getting her present to her on time. What a delightful thought that is.

Bad News – Good News

5 November, 2017 at 9:57 pm by belgianwaffle

So, my sister got diagnosed with cancer in April. It was all a bit sudden. She went into hospital for a routine procedure and they said, “Do you know what; we found a tumour.”

It was stage 1 and that is the best stage; the prognosis was really good but, oh the shock and the fear. Work were very good and let me take unpaid leave to go down to Cork and sit in while she was doing some of the chemotherapy. The world of cancer was pretty much a closed book to me in advance. I knew that the chemo drugs made you lose your hair but I hadn’t realised that this meant the hairs in your inner ear that help balance, the hairs up your nose that stop stuff getting up your nose and your eyebrows and eyelashes which mean that you have to wear sunglasses a lot to keep everything out of your eyes and you look otherworldly. I knew fatigue was a side effect but not that your limbs would go numb and your sense of taste would go. Your immune system is compromised so she got shingles as well. So, all in all, chemotherapy is pretty brutal. When you see someone fully clad in plastic carefully insert a needle into your sister’s hand to give her intravenously drugs that burn, if splashed on the skin, it is quite unnerving. She was cheerful all things considered. For the first session, she wore a thing called a cold cap that is supposed to keep the chemicals away from your head and preserve your hair. It sometimes works. It didn’t work for her. All she got was icicles in her hair and then it fell out and she bought a wig. Seriously, the cost of wigs! Who knew? Happily her insurance covered it. In fact she has made a profit on her medical insurance this year. Not as satisfying as you might have thought.

So the pattern was week 1 chemo (the longest protocol, a whole day in hospital getting drugs intravenously) and steroids to get her through it. Week 2 she felt really terrible and week 3, she began to recover and then she started the cycle all over again. Being a person of extraordinary energy and fortitude, she spent much of her recovery time sorting out administration and medical visits and all sorts of other things for my elderly parents and aunt. If you do not have elderly infirm relatives, you have absolutely no idea how much time this takes. And she’s done all sorts of big logistical things too like reorganising my father’s office and filing cabinet (not for the faint-hearted) and arranging for many of his payments to come by EFT rather than cheques which have to be cashed. She is very kind-hearted and obliging and she did all of the weird and random tasks (I need india ink for my pen, I need to renew parking permits etc) efficiently and speedily. My father, in particular, was delighted. So was I, but I was guilt ridden as well (after her first session of chemo, she came to Dublin and took the boys to Taytopark, no really). She was amazing

Anyhow, she had her last chemotherapy session three weeks ago. She is still, of course, hairless and sick as a dog and she fell and sprained her ankle last weekend which didn’t add to her happiness. I am just delighted though. She has to go back for a check up in three months but the doctors have declared the treatment a success and her treatment is over. The relief. Although she is seven years younger than me, which is a big difference when you are children, we have become very close as grown-ups. I speak to her almost every day. There is no one else who understands me in quite the same way. I am so glad that soon she will be well again. I feel we were so lucky because, if she hadn’t had that routine procedure, that tumour would have quietly gone about its work and killed her. It feels like a miracle.

Despicable Me

14 October, 2017 at 5:21 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister took me to Kildare Village recently where we had breakfast in the only Pain Quotidien cafe in the country (more’s the pity) and then wandered around. Kildare Village is an outlet shopping centre. It is antiseptic but strangely appealing to me. It goes against all my principles but I want to go back. Alas.

In more worthy activities, we also visited Spike Island which is Europe’s premier tourist attraction. I have to say, notwithstanding its success in the tourist awards and the fact that it is in Cork, if you had to choose between it and the Colosseum, I think the latter would win out.

Spike Island is, obviously, an island and it’s always nice to have a little boat trip.

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The guides when we got there were superb – knowledgeable and entertaining and, although, I thought that we would find over 3 hours on a very small island a bit dull, it wasn’t. We didn’t even see everything. I would definitely go back again.

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It was one of the Treaty Ports handed over by the British in 1938 and a small building near the pier was the last structure built by the British in what is now the Republic. The island is full of intriguing snippets of history like that. There’s an exhibition featuring a number of things including this picture of the flags on display in East Beach, Cobh, Co. Cork on 11 July 1938 to celebrate the passing of the port to Ireland. Ahem.

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I hadn’t realised that when World War II broke out, Churchill wanted the Treaty ports back but DeValera wouldn’t let them go back. Frankly, Churchill was not at all as popular in this jurisdiction as across the water.

Mostly Cork

29 July, 2017 at 10:00 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister and I did a bit of bonding in Cork in early July. We went to Ballycotton where I found a walk I had never known before but everyone else in Cork did – it’s been there forever apparently. How fortunate my children are that I have never previously been aware of it although we stayed in our friends’ house in East Cork many, many times over the years. It’s not too late.

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In an exciting development, the boys took the train to Cork alone.

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It all passed off very smoothly, unlike when their sister took her first solo train ride and they were quite proud of their independence and ability to travel unaccompanied. In a related development, we said goodbye to our last childminder. This is the first time since 2003 that we haven’t paid childcare fees and I am enjoying the resultant boost in income which I should be putting into the mortgage but am spending on riotous living. It is the end of an era. Our last childminder wasn’t a great fit; she would have been better with younger children, I think and she was never as popular with the children as her predecessors. Also, I think the boys would have preferred to travel home from school alone like some of their friends but I wasn’t entirely happy with having them manage alone in the exciting urban environment from where they had to get the bus. Daniel once described how a man slightly the worse for unspecified intoxicants came up to him and Michael and asked where they went to school. When they answered politely, the man started to rant about their school and abused it and them in pretty unpleasant terms. “Where,” I asked, “was the childminder?” Apparently she was standing a bit further away, it’s unclear to me why he didn’t go nearer to her or she didn’t see what was going on with them but at least she was there and I suppose there was a responsible adult nearby if things turned nastier. I did feel a bit that I was paying to have someone sit in my house looking at her phone as despite my very best efforts there didn’t seem to be very much interaction between her and the children which they all seemed to enjoy very much.

I digress. While in Cork, I briefly met my friend the heart surgeon in Kinsale. She was back from America with her husband and four children for a holiday. I brought the boys to meet them. Unfortunately, all of the children are reaching an age where you cannot put them in a room and say, “play together” so they ended up sitting inside watching the TV and not bonding. It gave the adults a chance to bond outside while admiring their truly beautiful view. She says that Trump is giving middle aged men all over Vermont heart failure as they lie awake all night worrying. On the other hand, I suppose they were having heart failure already as, if they weren’t, how was she gainfully employed?

I must say the weather has been lovely this summer and Cork has been particularly delightful. The boys may not have loved the visit to the Crawford Gallery

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or the riverside walk under the trees

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but they got to have pizza at Milano’s so, you know, not all bad. And it’s always good to jump on the Shaky Bridge.

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They were strangely unimpressed by the excellent window display in Liam Russell’s on Oliver Plunkett Street.

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I took them to Blackrock Castle Observatory which they always like. They also spent an enormously happy evening at my sister’s playing Risk and eating chips.

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My sister facilitated this even though she is ill. She emerged from her house in pyjamas to greet us. “Is wearing pyjamas outside illegal?” wondered Daniel. A number of years ago there was a trend in certain parts of Dublin to venture outside wearing pyjamas. I was strongly against this. Perhaps too strongly as Daniel seems to have taken it very much to heart.

Sounds Unlikely

25 June, 2017 at 10:18 pm by belgianwaffle

My father was 92 in March and, all things considered, he is reasonably well. He does tend to get quite deaf though. It comes and goes a bit. When it comes, everything is turned to maximum volume. When I lived at home, I used to fall asleep to the sound of BBC radio 4 and, as I got older, and went to sleep later, to the sound of the world service. My father is a big fan and he always keeps the radio on all night. The last weekend I was in Cork, my father was very deaf. He had the radio on at maximum volume and I had to put my head under the pillow to try to get to sleep. “How do you stand it?” I asked my brother who lives at home. “Well,” he said, “it’s not all the time and you get used to it, but, I am worried that the students next door might complain about the noise.”


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