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Kerry

31 August, 2006 at 11:00 pm by belgianwaffle

It all seems so long ago. What with the trauma of Doggy and the drive to Dublin and everything (no sign, since you ask, no reply to the pathetic fax either). The parents-in-law rented a house to which we were all invited to stay (and do your parents-in-law organise holidays for you? No, hah, you should have chosen your husband with greater care). Our holidays are now officially the cheapest part of your year as we live off our loving parents.

Despite rain almost every day, we also had sunshine almost every day – that’s Kerry for you. The publishing exec who spent all her childhood summers in Kerry had memories of golden sunshine and she packed accordingly. On her first morning (need I say that the Princess was overwhelmed with excitement upon catching sight of her aunt – for a normally articulate child, all she could do was yelp) she arrived down to breakfast (early, the disadvantage of being beloved by the Princess, she likes the objects of her affection up good and early) scantily clad. She was preparing to go to Skellig Michael with the piccolo cugino and his insane parents (by the time we had arrived they had already been kayaking and visited Daniel O’Connell’s house, later they snorkelled and the brother-in-law ran up a mountain – you may determine on which of these ventures they brought their son). Her father and I looked at her converse runners, skinny jeans and skimpy top dubiously. Oh she said airily “I have a woolly jumper”. How we laughed when we realised that she meant something like this rather than this. So off they went. The Princess and I had contemplated going but were spared the ordeal by inertia. For ordeal it was. As the publishing exec said “those monks were hardy”. As you know hermits like to retreat to the desert. Ireland has always been thin on deserts (that rain again) so they went to Skellig Michael as next best thing, it being remote and miserable. They all came back looking like refugees on the telly (except the piccolo cugino, who seemed fine). The publishing exec said that they had sat on the boat on the way out with a crate around their feet to try to keep warm and while the boatman’s assertion that there was a covered space on his craft was technically accurate, I think that the party had envisaged something more than a small square of tarpaulin which would cover only one person at a time. The island was very beautiful and so on but the steep steps, no handrail and knowledge that they would have to go back on the boat kept the party suitably nervous.

Meanwhile, we were having a lovely time back at base deploying the expert babysitting services that were a feature of our time in Ireland. At least once every day we went out with no children at all. Gasp. We went to a smart restaurant. The unfortunate publishing exec spent hours on the beach with the Princess starting before 9 one morning and only coming back at lunch time. No greater felicity can be imagined for all parties involved. Except maybe the publishing exec. And probably, the parents-in-law were tried pretty high the night we came back to find all three children up and the Princess bouncing off the walls saying “this is ridiculous, we should be in bed”.

We got to see a bit more of the piccolo cugino on this trip. He is the best child. Smiley, gorgeous and sleeps through the night. Of course, my children are smiley and gorgeous too but you will spot the significant respect in which they differ. I wonder could it be diet. I watched in awe as my sister-in-law spooned home made mush (cinnamon and sweet potato) into her willing son’s mouth. “What are you feeding the boys?” my mother-in-law asked me, perhaps worried that I would feel left out. “Um, I forgot to look at the label”. “Maybe carrot” opined the Princess looking at the orange gloop in the bowl. A low moment. When the piccolo cugino abandoned one of his meals in Kerry, I surreptitiously swooped it up and fed it to the boys. They were delighted. It was unfortunate that, as they finished it off, the piccolo cugino decided that he would like some more; I can see a lifetime of this torture by his big cousins ahead of him. Poor mite.

The Princess had a fabulous holiday and, if she’s happy we all are. She adores her relatives and seeing her interacting with them makes me sad that we don’t live in Ireland. We went to the beach every day. I swam twice and one of those times it wasn’t raining. We went for walks, we went to the hotel for drinks. It was very like the holidays I had with my parents and we loved it. Even the kiddies in the hotel were like the ones from my youth. No ipods, no playstations, just down in the basement playing with the moth eaten toys in the game room.

Back in Dublin we got together a number of our friends with children and sat around marvelling at our progeny and exchanging news briefly between bouts of “what a gorgeous baby, clever boy, good girl etc.”. Unfortunately, one friend does not have children. The poor man, he should never have been invited. It was hard to tell which part of the afternoon was the worst, was it when I sneezed on him (I seem to have become allergic to Dublin), when one of my friends and I sat opposite him on the sofa breastfeeding or when the Princess came in and took off all her clothes? I bet he’s really keen to have kids himself now or maybe allergies?

The tragic incident of the dog in the plane

30 August, 2006 at 10:03 pm by belgianwaffle

Last night we got in about 9.00pm and eventually found ourselves in the baggage hall with two hungry boys in a buggy, two large bags, innumerable smaller bags, two car seats, two tired cranky parents and one hyper small girl (high as a kite on smarties).

Me: Where’s Travel Doggy?

Her: He’s in my pocket.

Me: No he’s not.  Is he in your bag?

Her: No.

Me: Did you leave him on the plane?

Her (mournfully): Yes, I forgot him.

Me: How could you do that?

Her: I only have one pair of hands and Daddy was saying hurry up and the boys were crying and I had to put on my coat and…

Him: It’s our fault.

Me (about to collapse in tears – yes, really, it was a long day):  I know, I know.

Me: Let’s try to get back on the plane and see whether we can find him.

Him: Are you mad?  Honestly, you’re more upset about this than she is, let’s go home.

Me (swooping her up in my arms): I’m going to bargain with the passport official.

The passport official sent us to lost property.  The lost property guy said that the plane we came in on had already left (well, we were last off, we had already spent some time on a toilet run and feeding hungry babies takes time also) and doggy was probably on his way back to Ireland.  We got a number of contact details but my heart sank. If you saw a filthy cuddly toy would you keep it or chuck it out?  Meanwhile, the Princess was anxiously tugging my arm – “tell him that Doggy has a shamrock in his mouth and floppy ears, so that they can find him”.

We emerged into arrivals with Mr. Waffle pulling two bags, the Princess seated on my shoulders while I pushed the buggy with a car seat and various bags balanced precariously on the handles (no trollies, mais naturellement, it was that kind of day), to see a single business man leaping into the only taxi big enough to take 5 people.  Eventually home by 10.30.  The boys were surprised and delighted to see their home but, alas, anxious to play.  Nevertheless, they were unceremoniously bundled into their beds much to their upset.  The Princess was a tougher nut to crack but, eventually, Mr. Waffle and I were able to collapse into bed whereupon Michael woke up with a nasty cough.  He spent the remainder of the night in our bed where he alternated sleeping with bouts of weepy coughing and sniffing and delighted handclapping (I said that they were pleased to be home).  Mr. Waffle and I are feeling fresh as daisies today.

Furthermore, you will be disappointed to hear, this morning the Belgian authorities told Mr. Waffle that they had found no trace of Doggy and the Aer Lingus automated reply said, if you have a complaint put it in writing otherwise go to our website which will have everything you need (patently not the case).  He sent them a pitiful fax (text below for your delectation) but I am not hopeful.

“My three-year-old daughter left her favourite toy on flight EI 638 from Dublin to Brussels last night.  By the time we realised, it was too late to get back to the plane.  The Brussels airport lost property office says it does not deal with items left on planes, and the ground handling firm (Flightcare) has not seen the toy.  Both suggest we should try you.

The toy (”Doggy”) is a small brown dog with a shamrock in its mouth.  It is small and worn but it means the world to a little girl.  If it has been found we would be extremely grateful to get it back (we can send somebody to collect it in Dublin airport, or pick it up in Brussels).

Could you get back to me on the above numbers or by e-mail?”

Six degrees of separation

29 August, 2006 at 11:48 am by belgianwaffle

So, I was off with no internet in Caherdaniel.  Remote, secluded west Kerry.  Also wet west Kerry.  I’ll come back to that.  What with the remoteness and the seclusion but presumably not the wet, west Kerry appears to be attractive to the famous. I was somewhat surprised to see a statue to Charlie Chaplin in Waterville.  I was even more surprised to hear from my mother-in-law that when hitching round the ring of Kerry with a friend (this is the kind of bohemian family I have married into) in her youth, she ran into the famous comic.  They both pretended not to recognise him and had a chat about the weather (wet, of course).  My mother-in-law had her camera in her bag but decided to leave him in peace but when they were parting her friend blew their appearance of cool indifference by saying “Well, goodbye, Mr. Chaplin”.

Meanwhile in Dingle, many years ago, a friend of mine who is something of a celebrity in his own right his father being one of Ireland’s best known literary giants was out on a walk when he came across a lost American tramping about in the rain (that rain again).  When the American asked for help, my kind friend took him back to his hotel not deeming it safe to leave him alone in the wilds of Kerry.  They chatted on the way back and took a mild shine to each other but it was not until perusing the Kerryman the next day that Billy realised that he had been touched by greatness because Tom Cruise in a press conference had said “I wouldn’t be here at all, if my good friend Billy had not found me and brought me to this hotel”.  He was over to make that grisly flick “Far and Away“.

Finally, as you will be aware, everyone in Ireland is closely linked to Bono, so you will be unsurprised to hear that the house my parents-in-law rented for 20 odd years in Caherdaniel (though not this year, alas) was owned by Bono’s uncle.  Apparently there was a lot of speculation locally that it might be left to Bono (though why this would be when the man has children and grandchildren of his own is unclear) when he died but he obviously decided that Bono had enough stuff and the pop superhero and his family were not, in fact, holidaying down the road from us.  However, I know that you would like to hear that had Mr. Waffle played his cards right, he could have, as a young man, babysat for Bono’s little cousin Rupert.

 

Hello, world.

28 August, 2006 at 12:08 pm by belgianwaffle

Did you miss me?  I was in deepest darkest Kerry going cold turkey from the internet.  I would have updated yesterday but I was still recovering from the trauma of the previous day’s drive from Kerry to Dublin.  We set off at 10.00 and until 14.30 all was well.  From 14.30 until we reached our destination at 18.00 the following noises emanated from the back seat:

Michael – Waah, waah, waah, I hate this, let me out I hate you all, waah, waah.

Princess – I feel sick, open the window.  Close the window.  Open the window again, I feel sick.  I want to do a wee.  I am not pulling Michael’s hair.

Daniel – Gosh, I have this really loud voice, I’ve just discovered that BWAH, BHAH, BWING.

Michael – WAAH, WAAH, I hate you all, she’s pulling my hair.

Daniel – I have no hair but I have a really loud voice, let’s try that again, BAH, BWAH.

Princess – Are we there yet?  I feel sick, open the window.  Close the window, it’s too cold.

Repeat.  No fading. Updates on actual holiday to follow.  Edge of the seat stuff, I know.

Living off the fat of the land

16 August, 2006 at 12:10 am by belgianwaffle

I had my best night’s sleep in ages last night. I lay down with the Princess at 10.00 to persuade her to go back to sleep and didn’t wake up until 5.00 am when she prodded me awake with the magic words “I’ve had an accident Mummy”.  I discarded my sodden pyjamas and rooted round in the hot press for a pair that I might have left behind when I moved out of home about 14 years ago.  Why does one keep this stuff?  Did I really think that denim dungaree shorts were ever going to be fashionable again? Really?  Anyhow, I found a pair of pyjamas but there was no elastic in the bottoms (really, would it have been too much of a risk to have thrown them out in 1992?).  This morning as I wandered around the house with a baby under one arm and a dirty nappy under the other while holding up my pyjama bottoms with my teeth, my loving husband was kind enough to say how very attractive that look was.

We had decided to go to the beach and I was not to be deterred by driving rain.  Welcome to Ireland, the land that global warming forgot.  On the drive down, I kept seeing new buildings that hadn’t been there last time I was home.  Mr. Waffle looked around nervously before suggesting that I keep my eye on the road to avoid headlining in the Examiner as “Architectural novelty causes freak pile up”.  This boom just keeps on booming. 

We got to the beach and put the Princess into her anorak and wellingtons.  She and Mr. Waffle went to the beach where the Princess cowered in terror at the sight of the ocean.  Mercifully, she wasn’t afraid of the dog which attached itself to them and presented them optimistically with a stick.  I waited by the car with an awake Michael kitted out in his anorak and an asleep Daniel.  When Daniel woke up, I put Michael into the buggy where he gazed dourly at the rain coming in from the Atlantic and lashing his protective plastic sheeting.  Daniel was cranky so I went to the boot to get out a bottle for him.  I was in a bit of a rush what with the screaming and the rain and, alas, locked the key in the boot.  Darn and double darn.  I fed Daniel, put him into his anorak and he joined his brother in the buggy.  I then emptied out the back seat and floor of the car of three car seats, the nappy bag, the bag of swimming gear (you have to admire my laughable optimism) and miscellaneous junk and tried to pull down the back seat to get to the boot.  It would not budge.  I started wondering frantically what I was going to do.  Could I get my parents to bus down to us with a spare key? Would I find a locksmith or a mechanic?  Meanwhile the rain continued to pelt down on our belongings and the boys had started to wail forlornly.  Yeah, ok, you worked this out already, there was a button thing in the front to open the boot.  The key wasn’t there when I opened it because it had been in my coat pocket all along.  How we laughed.  Hah.

The day was redeemed by lunch in the Blue Haven where the lovely staff (all Polish as far as I could see – more boom) provided two high chairs, heated baby food, brought our food speedily and brought some bread in advance to stop the Princess from starving.  The food was also really good, not something that necessarily goes with kiddie friendliness.  I couldn’t help comparing it with yesterday’s lunch in Fota where the food was atrocious and there were far more kiddies yet they only had two high chairs in total rather than the five or six which the Blue Haven staff airily told us were available there.

And the winner is..

14 August, 2006 at 10:50 pm by belgianwaffle

Just in case you missed them in the comments section, there were three brilliant entrants for my LRB/Ayun Halliday competition.  Kind, good people one of whose reward will be an LRB sub. 

This blog is becoming interactive: you may pick a winner.  In the event that the comments are tied (or, worse, non-existent), Mr. Waffle will choose a winner.

From Heather:

In this work Halliday preents the paradigmatic shift of the breast from signified to signifier. Whilst the feminist criticism of the 20th century reclaimed the breast from cultural and fashion icon bypassing successfully the tradionalist Madonna interpretations, Halliday has created here a cultural paradigm. She has shifted the breast from feeding the infant to feeding the memory and providing a reference point which is recognisable across cultures and genders . Here marks the zeitgeist of the mammary as memory…..;

From disgruntled 

Mama Lama Ding Dong inhabits the liminal space between memoir and manual; both bildungsroman and adult cautionary tale, albeit a feminisation of these essentially masculine genres…

From daddy’s little demon:

The centrality of the breast as catalyst, vehicle and avatar for self-actualisation is key to our understanding of human development and the pyramidical relationship of biological and psychological imperatives to personal growth and fulfilment as identified by Maslow’s paradigmatic hierarchy of needs. In her seminal work, Mama Lama Ding Dong, Ayun Halliday elevates debate on the significance of the breast as spiritual and cultural icon from the general to the specific via anecdote and analysis. In so doing she captures in personal terms its transition from physical reality to subconscious motif – the mammary as remembered.

In other news, there was a near murder at the end of the road and we were all interviewed by the Guards.  The victim is critical.  All a bit alarming.  We saw nothing, of course, because we were too busy wheeling children around.  And my parents live in a nice part of town or so we thought.  The guard who interviewed me said sadly “all these nice houses ruined by the presence of students; they should really have the university outside the town like in Limerick”.  Nevertheless, it appears that no students have been fingered for the crime.

Also, I know you’d want to know, we went to Fota where Mr. Waffle and I marvelled at the giraffes running across the Cork savanna, the Princess bonded with the ducks (30 euros in to spend most of the time looking at the wretched ducks, monkeys capering alongside treated with absolute disdain) and the boys were indifferent.

Tomorrow the beach to top up the children’s sunburn.  Yeah, I know, you’re rivetted.

Welcome to Cork

11 August, 2006 at 11:54 pm by belgianwaffle

Despite some difficulty in England, we managed to get back to Dublin without any problems.  It was the Cork leg of the trip that was tiring.  When we sat into the train for our 3 hour trip to Cork (about the same distance as Brussels Paris which takes a mere hour and forty minutes on the Thalys – no one tell me Cork is less important than Paris) the first words to pass the Princess’s lips were “when will we get to Cork?”  Did any of our children nap on the journey?  That would be a no.  Did the woman from Killarney who chose to sit across from us regret her choice of seat?  That would be a yes.

We got there though.  To find that Tesco’s in Wilton is open 24 hours and that Roches Stores is being taken over by Debenhams.  We might as well have gone to England. Ireland is working hard to replicate the UK effect where every town has exactly the same shops.  Soon we won’t have “main streets” we’ll have “high streets”.  I can tell you, romantic Ireland’s dead and gone alright.  Nevertheless, it is lovely to be home and the Princess is ecstatic to be among adoring relatives.  For a variety of reasons she sees less of her maternal relations than I would like and I am delighted at how immediately she seemed at home and how quickly she started prowling around the house and treating its inhabitants with the careless affection she reserves for her nearest and dearest.  We are powerless to stop her roaming the house at will and her extraordinary prudence is our only comfort as, being the house of two adults, it is a death trap for small children.  This morning I found the electric hedge trimmer sitting patiently underneath the dressing table in her room.  The boys are poised to crawl and the plethora of dangerous, shiny objects just out of reach may yet give them the incentive they need or they may continue to settle for doing 70s disco dancing (hand movements only, of course) with my father.  No, really, “it’s fun to stay at the YMCA”.

Would you travel with me?

9 August, 2006 at 8:29 pm by belgianwaffle

If you saw a family getting on your plane with two very spotty small boys, would you be pleased? Tomorrow we are flying to Dublin and, to ensure maximum alarm, we are then getting the train to Cork. I have prepared little labels for the boys’ tops saying “yes we look hideous, but no, we’re not infectious”.

Meanwhile, the Princess has been wheeling a small trolley round the house for the past week saying “Bun, water, tea, cwips?” Our last trip was with Virgin airlines and they offer muffins and Pringle’s crisps and this has made a lasting impression on our heroine. I do not think that Aer Lingus offers Pringle’s crisps. Yesterday Mr. Waffle arrived home from work with a box of Pringle’s stashed in his coat pocket. This evening I came home to find a wailing Princess “Daddy won’t give me cwips”. Our eagle eyed daughter had seen them nestling in the top shelf of the cupboard. She was given two on the understanding that the rest are to be saved for tomorrow’s plane journey. I really can’t wait.

And, on a separate matter, I see Mr. Waffle was entirely right about yesterday’s post.  It is hard to be married to a man who is never wrong.

Mama Lama Ding Dong or Procrastination is the Thief of Time

8 August, 2006 at 8:26 am by belgianwaffle

Early in July, Ayun Halliday wrote to me, yes me, asking would I host her tour for her forthcoming book Mama Lama Ding Dong on this blog for a day in August. I looked her up on the internet (do you think I’m stupid? Oh please don’t answer that). She was a real author with lots of books that shipped in 24 hours (I understand from the publishing exec that shipping in 2-3 weeks is death by a thousand cuts). I said yes like a shot and not just because I wanted a free book but also because she promised to show me around New York, if I’m ever there. As the parent of three small children, I am keen to take her up on this and test her tolerance to its limits.

I was optimistic about Mama Lama Ding Dong especially since I got an entertaining sample extract to read. In fact, it inspired some thoughts for this post but I was stymied by my husband who said “you are not to write about the penises of any member of this family on the internet”. As the Princess would say, “the big meanie”.

Late July and the book arrived along with chicken pox for all three children (I’d like to be clear here, separate mailings). And with one thing and another, I didn’t have as much time to read the book and put in yellow stickies as I would have liked. I read it at odd times (can you please turn off the light and stop sniggering, it’s three in the morning) and in odd places (I can see you hiding behind the nappy bin, get in here, it’s time to give the children another oatmeal bath and stop sniggering). And instead of writing this entry as I went along, I kept putting it off, I couldn’t do anything until I had finished the book. And no, I wasn’t going to take the opportunity to ask Ayun some questions now, how could I ask her questions when I hadn’t even finished her book?

August 7, I finished the book. What can I say? It’s great. No really, believe me, if it weren’t I would never have finished it under current circumstances. The author is a New York based actress who believes in natural childbirth. I am a Brussels based office drone who believes that the epidural is a gift from God. Who would have thought that for almost everything she wrote I would find myself nodding in fierce agreement (yes, yes, celery sticks, babies’ arms are like celery sticks, utterly useless for anything)? I wish that I had thought to put in post it notes so that I could ruin the book for you by quoting all the best bits. The cover of the book says “Mothers buy this!” (it doesn’t actually say that, but it might as well) which is a pity because it’s a great book for the non-parents of this world. I have never read anything that is so spot on about parenting (and I have tried “A life’s work” and Anne Enright’s book). If you want to know what it’s really like, this is it.

Which is not to say that the book is not a good read for parents too. Let me give you an example. Ayun talks a lot about breastfeeding, in fact, she says “If I ever had the misfortune to be flung into the path of an oncoming train, I could instruct the gaping herd to bring me my baby. ‘I want to feed her one last time’.” That’s keen, I think you’ll agree. It also makes me wish I’d used the opportunity this exercise offered to ask Ayun whether she too had planned her own funeral service and decided who would get to do the readings. I had great difficulties with the breastfeeding thing initially and I think a book like Ayun’s where she is keen, but also non-judgemental would have been comforting around then. As she says “Ooh, it’s tempting to mouth off when these guys come around seeking breastfeeding advice for their wives and girlfriends. I rarely stick at anything long enough to master it. There’s a reason people don’t ask me to play tennis or translate something into French for them. What an easy way to pump up the old ego after a long Sisyphean day of rolling diapers and spilled crayons uphill! I could help some poor remedial breastfeeeder to do it right like me! Who doesn’t love an easy chance at gratification? But thus far I have demurred when an anxious father invites me to hold forth. Such restraint is atypical. I just have a hunch that the biggest insult to women whose babies won’t latch on properly is that every other idiot leaking milk through her bra gets to think it’s a cinch.” I like that.

I’m also going to quote one of the stories in the book that made me laugh aloud. If you like this, I suggest that this is the book for you.
“..we took the subway to the Cloisters, an hour uptown. I was in denial about her need to hit the biological bottle before we reached our destination. Our closest neighbor was a bald man in his fifties, a working-class José
who remained where he was despite my fervent wish for him to move. Inky’s nickering was on the verge of becoming nutting out. With no choice, as discreetly as I could, I unsheathed myself […] Inky clamped on grunting in relief. I could feel my neighbor’s eyes upon me. ‘Breasfeeding’ he shouted. I [..] offer[ed] only the faintest murmur of assent. ‘Breastfeeding,’ my seatmate thundered again. ‘It’s the best thing! My mother, she’s in heaven now, god rest her soul, she breastfed all of us, and she had eleven kids.’

I turned to face him. He was grinning from ear to ear. He pointed at the little gobbling head. His voice resounded like a gong. ‘Look at her. It’s a girl, right? Oh god bless her. Que linda. Look at how much she loves it. I’m telling you, you can’t do better than breastfeeding! Good for you Mami! God bless you!’

‘Thank you’

‘It’s the best thing, breastfeeding!’

‘That’s what they say.’

‘Yeah, and it’s the best thing for the baby too. She knows it right? [..]Good for you, Mami! God bless you!’

[..] ‘Look at this baby breastfeeding’ my neighbor called to a couple of women seated across the aisle. [..] ‘It’s the best thing!’ my friend trumpeted, as if any of our fellow riders might harbor doubts. [..]My mami breastfed me. I’m fifty-seven years old and strong as a bull! I’m telling you. Breastfeeding’s where it’s at.’”

In conclusion, I am going to hold a little competition based on an idea given to me by Open Brackets. Regular readers will recall that I am a subscriber to the London Review of Books. Every time you renew your subscription, they give you two new subscriptions free. One of these I have pledged to my mother-in-law, the other, dear reader can be yours. The only condition is that you have not previously subscribed, that you are willing to give me a name and address and that you put hereunder the opening paragraph of a review of Ayun’s book as it would have been written by an LRB reviewer. If nobody enters my competition, I will be sad and bitter. Mr. Waffle says that nobody will as a) many of you have not had a chance to read the book because it’s only just been published in the UK and b) it relies on you knowing the style of an LRB review – if this latter is a difficulty may I refer you to my post on Wal-Mart? If at all possible, I would like him to be wrong in this regard.

All the fun of the fair

7 August, 2006 at 9:00 pm by belgianwaffle

At the weekend, while Mr. Waffle put in time with the spotty boys at home (honestly, my beautiful babies look like creatures from the crypt, or adolescents, I suppose), the Princess and I sampled the delights of the annual foire du midi.  We started with a tame ride on the kiddie merry go round.  She came off electrified.  She was high as a kite from the adrenalin rush of being carried around in slow circles by a panda while Gloria Gaynor’s I will survive played in the background (oh Gloria, how the mighty are fallen).  She wasn’t quite ready to go again (just too terrifying) so she suggested that we go on the big wheel.  It was my turn to be unnerved.  “We’ll have to ask the lady behind the counter whether you’re big enough”.  Yes she was.  There were people with small babies in those circling teacups.  With low railings and no seat belts.  For the five rotations of the wheel, I clutched the railing behind me with one hand and the Princess with the other while muttering fervently through my teeth “don’t stand up, don’t stand up”.  There is a picture of her at the high point of the wheel’s rotation which I took with my feet. 

Nothing was denied her, ice cream, candy floss, chips, a waffle, apple fritters she had them all.  She went on all the merry go rounds that she was interested in; mostly they were just “terrifying!”  – said in tones of horror with hands held over her eyes.  She must be the world’s most prudent child.  We found one further merry-go-round which met with her approval.  True it did go up in the air but only if you pushed a button.  She sat in and we buckled her belt.  As she went around the boy sitting in the front untied her buckle and I thought she would lose her life.  She bawled as she proceeded around in sedate circles.  When the thing stopped she hurled herself into my arms weeping.  Nevertheless, she was game to give it another go.  We searched the apparatus diligently and found one other capsule with a working seat belt.  Safely strapped into a slightly sinister looking clown, she clutched her steering wheel nervously.  I really don’t know why she puts herself through this.  When the ride ended, she propelled herself out of the clown with such speed and vigour that I was caught unawares and slipped from the step at the side of the clown onto the ground in an undignified heap (saving herself from injury, I hasten to add).  As I sat on the ground assessing my injuries (one swollen but not unwalkable on ankle, one very bruised hand – this information is brought to you by an eight fingered typist) and state of cleanliness (poor), the Princess jumped up and down beside me saying “Mummy, were you worried that I would fall out of the clown, were you, were you?”.  On dragging myself to my feet, madam announced “Mummy, I’m too tired to walk, you’ll have to carry me”.  I picked her up with my good arm and limped to the tram stop.  

When we got on the tram it was full and my prudent three year old was too scared to stand because the tram rocks so I held her in my arms all the way to our stop.  When we emerged from the tram, sweaty and dishevelled, I insisted that she cover some ground on her own.  Very shortly thereafter she said “I want to do a wee Mummy”.  “Can you wait until we get home?”  I don’t know why I ask that question because she probably can’t and, in any event, her sense of direction is such that we would probably have to be outside the front door before she could assess how long it would take to get from any given spot to home.  So, we had an emergency toilet break at the side of the road about five minutes walk from home and, due to her mother’s ineptitude (eight operational fingers, remember), she managed to soak her underpants, her sandals and my sandals.  Cunningly, I was able to secrete her damp underpants in an empty packet of paper tissues.  Equally cunningly, I was able to persuade her to keep her skirt down and not show passers-by that she wasn’t wearing any underpants.  We arrived home exhausted.  I said to Mr. Waffle “we brought you an apple fritter, watch out for the wet underpants in the bag.”  And in the day’s final indignity he looked at the bag in alarm and said “whose?”

“Change…is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better”

2 August, 2006 at 11:11 pm by belgianwaffle

My father might fairly be described as disliking change. He is entertaining, charming, brilliant etc. etc. but he does not like change. He is also prudent; my mother is going to purchase a paddling pool for our forthcoming trip to Cork and lots of salt. Why salt? My father insists that it should be added to the water so that should the children fall they will float like in the Dead Sea. That’s one big paddling pool they’re thinking about purchasing.

It’s not really that my father doesn’t like socialising or even doesn’t like his family but there are many of us and we will bring much change in our wake and much phone ringing and much car borrowing. My father does not like the phone. The Princess doesn’t like it much either, when asked to talk to her doting relatives, she says with a toss of her head “I’m like Cork Grandad, I don’t like the phone”. Further, his role as family genius is being undermined although the Princess likes to prop it up by saying whenever we are at a loss for information “We’ll ask Cork Grandad, he’ll know”. “I really don’t think he will know who gave you the purple trousers, sweetheart, that’s not the kind of everything he knows”. The other night, however, my sister called and asked me something I didn’t know. “Ring Daddy” I said (yeah, I know, he hates the phone but it’s my job to torture him, you’re always a teenager to your parents). “No” she said “ask Mr. Waffle”. “He won’t know”. “Yes, he will” she insisted “I’ve noticed he knows everything”. Changing my tune somewhat I said “What, just now?”. “Well,” she said defensively, “he doesn’t talk much”. I related this to Mr. Waffle and he muttered rebelliously “I’m not let”. Indeed. I digress.

So as we prepare to descend en masse on my poor parents in Cork, I feel a particular twinge of sympathy for my father. This email from my brother makes me feel even more nervous on his behalf. “Will be back in Cork when ye are there……..the house will be packed…..what will Daddy think of a full house with you, me, husband, 2 babies, 1 toddler [all three pox ridden, Daniel having finally succumbed today] and possibly 3 eastern European cleaners* to top it all off……..should be interesting”.

*I should perhaps explain that the result of the Celtic tiger is that my parents can no longer find local cleaners and they have 3 Latvians who come in for an hour together and go through the house like a dose of salts. Though they are forbidden to move any of the seven peaked caps and reading glasses which sit patiently at any spot where my father is likely to alight and want to read.

Mama!

1 August, 2006 at 9:48 pm by belgianwaffle

I find that one of the hardest things about being a mother is leaving your child in distress.  This morning, poor Michael was sick, tired, spotty (chicken pox, of course, have found myself humming all day “and another one down, another one down, another one bites the dust”) and needy.  If I put him down, he howled.  If anyone else held him, he howled.  He’s normally such a cheerful little boy but this morning he was miserable and he needed his mama.  Daniel was neither sick nor spotty but he also wanted some maternal attention.  Their mother, however, was off to work and they howled in vain, punching the air in indignation with their chubby little fists and crying piteously “Mama, mama”.  On the way to work, I dropped the Princess off at her course.  “Please Mummy, stay just a little while longer” she said plucking my trousers. “Sweetheart, I have to go to work”.  “Just one last hug”.  “OK, one last hug, but then I’ve got to go”.  I placed herself in the arms of one of the course organisers and she fought furiously while wailing “I want my Mummy”.  My last sight of her this morning was of her furiously red face contorted in distress with big fat tears rolling down her cheeks.  I stayed outside the door for a moment listening to see whether she would calm down but she continued to sob “je veux ma maman”.   Alas.


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