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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.”

The Essence of Romance

6 May, 2017 at 4:21 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle went away for work on Thursday and came back on Friday. Sadly, this meant he missed the boys’ service of light which is part of the new super duper extended disco remix of the confirmation ceremony (they will be making their actual confirmation in June – fun fact, the Irish for confirmation is “dul faoi lámh an Easpaig” literally meaning to go under the hand of the bishop but when herself was confirmed the bishop was not available, am hoping boys will do better – I was only confirmed by an auxiliary bishop myself so we have poor form here).

The ceremony was held in the school which I was a bit dubious about but in fact it was absolutely lovely. The two violinists in the class whose progress we have been tracking over religious ceremonies for many years, have really improved, the children knew their lines, they sang beautifully and the evening sun streamed in through the tall Georgian windows and lit up the beautiful drawing room which is now the sixth class classroom and features children’s collages on the walls as well as the work of Dublin’s finest 18th century stuccadores on the ceiling. Daniel and Michael had their actual baptismal candles which I regarded as an organisational triumph but sadly I should have road tested them as the wicks were a bit short and they went out. The boys were displeased although I think more generally, they enjoyed the ceremony. Not as much as they enjoyed the Domino’s pizza beforehand though.

My sister who is recovering from an operation was well enough to come up and it was lovely to see her. The Princess came along under duress but loved it. It’s been a couple of years since she has visited the school but all the teachers and the principal have been following her progress and congratulated her on her various achievements and I think she was pleased. As it happens, two of her best friends from primary school have younger sisters in the boys’ class so they were there too and the three of them ran around the school commenting on how small the desks were. She showed me where they had written their names on the wall behind the radiator. “Where’s your name?” I asked. “Further down,” she said, “I was more scared of the authorities”.

The shopping was delivered on Thursday night and on Friday morning, I discovered that toilet paper had not been included in the delivery. I gave herself a tenner and asked her to pick some up on the way home from school. My sister offered herself a lift to school which she gratefully accepted. My sister also offered to buy toilet paper but I felt that it was too much to ask a recovering patient. Normally Mr. Waffle looks after all these things as he is self-employed and flexible (as he often points out, self-employed does not mean never has to work and can do errands but it’s an uphill battle getting that message across). The boys and I went out to the shed to pick up our bikes and I noticed that the Princess’s bike was missing. Good job her aunt gave her a lift. I texted herself, “I hope your bike is in school as it’s not in the shed.” About 11.30 she called me at work. Could I collect her as she was sick? I could not as school finishes early on Fridays and by the time I had cycled home and picked up the car, she’d have made it home under her own steam. How I missed my self-employed husband. Unable to do anything for my sick child I offered, “Look, don’t worry about picking up the toiled paper.”

She made her own way home. “Your bike was in school,” I said. “Look,” she said, “I’m not proud of this but I cycled to the library after school yesterday and locked my bike outside, then I forgot it was there and walked home.” It’s quite a step. However, the bike was still there on Friday and she was able to retrieve it and bring it home. And she bought toilet paper. I let her keep the change.

Mr. Waffle came home at 10 last night. As I said to him, he should go away more often as it helps me to appreciate him even more. As I write, he is off collecting the boys’ new bikes from a soulless shopping centre and he’s already done two loads of washing. My hero.


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