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The Wind that shakes the Barley

30 September, 2006 at 9:13 pm by belgianwaffle

The scene: A bunch of Pres boys stand around ad libbing about rebellion in a Ken Loach film. Including yer man Cillian Murphy who was a couple of years behind my brother in school (clang).

Me (sotto voce): God they’re dreadful, do you think that they’ll be with us for long?

Mr. Waffle: I’d say we’re stuck with this lot until 1923.


Leader of flying column, Teddy O’Donovan, ad libs on why they must support the treaty: We have to give this thing a green light.

Mr. Waffle: What’s a green light Teddy?

Alas, I know very little about Irish history and I kept having to ask Mr. Waffle for important historical information like, when did the War of Independence end and what was the name of the famous guy from North Cork? Truce was summer 1921 and Tom Barry, since you ask. He hissed at me “didn’t you do any history at all in school?” I replied with great dignity that I had given up history at 15 and stopped at the Renaissance and I could tell him all about the great Florentine painters later.

It was my choice. I wanted to see a Cork film. And there were lots of Cork accents which was entertaining. Although the socialist was from Dublin, as Mr. Waffle said, no one would believe in a Cork socialist. But Cork was burnt down by the Black and Tans, so you would think that it might feature in the flick but, as my mother would say, devil a bit. In fact, I didn’t recognise anywhere they filmed though I see it was shot on location in county Cork. And the dialogue was desperately clunky. I loved Ken Loach’s film “Raining Stones”, I think it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I really hated “Land and Freedom” though which was about the Spanish civil war which featured the same kind of exposition as this film. Lots of scenes with young revolutionaries sitting down and setting out their reasons for fighting. Desperately tedious stuff.

I have no idea why this film got rave reviews (in the English papers) and a palme d’or, perhaps it’s because the English feel guilty about Ireland and the French always enjoy a film that is mean to the British.

Still dire and all as it was, it did make me think. I mean we all knew that the Black and Tans were brutal and that our grandparents were all involved in the war of independence – Mr. Waffle’s grandfather’s house was burnt down by the Black and Tans and my grandmother, who worked in the telephone exchange, used to pass on to the IRA messages she heard passed between British army officers. But our grandparents, they were so law abiding, as Mr. Waffle said, the most conservative revolutionaries ever. I did hear about some old fella who fought the war of independence refusing to go to the reinstated commemoration parade for 1916 because, as he put it, the State had an army for years and why hadn’t it invaded Northern Ireland. You have to admire a man who sticks to his principles.

A big day all round

27 September, 2006 at 10:54 pm by belgianwaffle

Today, as well as being the the festival of the French community of Belgium, it is my parents’ 39th wedding anniversary and the boys’ first birthday.  I spent more time than you could possibly imagine would be necessary putting together a slideshow of their first year.  Time when, perhaps, they might have appreciated a little attention, it being their birthday and everything.  Oh well.

At the end of August, the boys started to crawl.  Can I tell you how glad I am that they waited 11 months to do this?  They are putting their new found skills to devastating effect.  As I can only be in one place at a time, when I am minding them, I tend to encourage the Princess to pitch in “Is Daniel putting his hand in the plughole again?” “No, Mummy, he’s pulling out the plug from the plughole.”  Only this morning while I was in the shower, I heard her admonishing Michael “What is that in your mouth?  Spit it out, give it to me.”  I emerged dripping from the shower to see her holding aloft a small piece of plastic.  That’s a good child, ensuring her brothers’ survival to see another day.  She’s almost as good as her father whom I found one morning mopping up a patch of vomit in the middle of which was the piece of sweet wrapper on which Michael had been choking moments earlier.  When we were at home in Cork, I myself found Michael meditatively sucking on a curtain hook which, somewhat to his chagrin, I removed from him.  My favourite great risk though was the time we found him snuggled up to an empty plastic nappy bag which he had managed to reach by stretching his hands to maximum extent from within his cot.  Meanwhile, Mr. Waffle tells me that one night he went in to comfort a howling Daniel, took him into the bed in their room and awoke some time later with a start to see Daniel sleeping peacefully on the floor.  The other day I heard a roar from the hall and went out to find that Daniel had pulled a chair on top of himself and was lying sprawled on the floor with a lump the size of a small egg over his right eye.  Danger Michael, as we think of him, has managed to move the stand holding in place the full length mirror in our bedroom and, in a delightfully dramatic moment, I was able to save him from being squashed by catching the mirror just before it flattened him.  I also see real potential for their favourite game of playing peekaboo together on either side of a door to end in disaster and bloody digits and foreheads.  As Mr. Waffle says, it will be a miracle, if they reach the age of reason.

They do so many things now and they are changing so fast, I feel I can’t keep up.   They both do lots of imitating.  Michael does an Indian whoop “awa, awa” and puts his hand in front of his mouth.  Daniel flicks his lips with his fingers.  They both do roly poly with their hands and clap when you say clap handies.  When you say “no” Daniel shakes his head vigourously and when you say “yes” he inclines his body forward from the waist. Michael waves when you say “salut” (the creche) and both of them do the movements to one of the Princess’s songs from school.  They adore the telephone and I have only to say the word for both of them to zoom towards the delightful object.  Michael picks up the receiver, hands it to me and when I say “it’s for you” and hand it back, he makes a sound along the lines of “ang” which,  I believe, is his version of hello.  Daniel gets more of a kick from pressing the little buttons.  They both say “Mama” and I’m pretty sure that they know what it means, particularly Daniel who has a very imperious tone when demanding my attention.

What is wonderful is that they have started to play together.  I remember that when the Princess was this age, she had no interest in other babies but the boys really do seem to enjoy each other’s company and from the start of this month have played peekaboo together and laughed together.  Of course, the flip side of this is that they have also started to injure each other (as though their negligent parents and the fixtures and fittings didn’t present sufficient dangers) and that they have to compete for parental attention and toys.  Mr. Waffle calls Daniel “the gentle giant”* as he never takes anything from Michael.  Michael, however, is always swiping stuff from Daniel with an air of mild abstracted interest.  Daniel is never less than horrified by these thefts, turning an alarming shade of red and howling loudly (and he can howl very loudly) but he rarely tries to take back his object of desire; he just sits there protesting until an adult intervenes and returns it to him.  It is strange that they are so very different in this regard.  Generally, Daniel is much more self-sufficient whereas Michael sticks his arms in the air to be picked up the moment he sees me approaching.

In some ways, it has been a long year. They have been sick often, colds and coughs (though incidentally, Daniel’s perma conjunctivitis seems to have cleared up) and, particularly memorably, chicken pox.  They will not sleep which is grim.  Pathetically, over the summer Michael, took to howling himself to sleep sitting up, so we found him asleep bent over with his head on his knees.  We’ve moved on from that, but they still don’t sleep.  Please do not issue advice on this.  No, really, please.   Overall, though, things are getting easier and they are so funny, so affectionate and so lovely that I think that we are quite extraordinarily forunate.  Happy birthday, boys.


*Doubtless with the frantic crawling Daniel will soon stop being super chubby and I am a little sad about that.  His grandfather says that cuddling him is like cuddling “a sack of spuds”

Hysterical, me?

26 September, 2006 at 9:56 pm by belgianwaffle

A while ago poor Michael was sick. Nothing serious, just a runny nose, a cough and a bit of a temperature. But, if I put him down, he roared. It was one of my half days and I had tried to nap in the afternoon because I was tired after a difficult night with Michael and had a slight cold of my own but anyone will tell you that, even if your twin babies are asleep with their minder, having a little girl poke you in the eyelids is not conducive to napping. So we went to the supermarket, hung out clothes, fed the neighbours’ cats and generally laboured for the afternoon. The childminder left me on my own with all my children about 6 (terror) and, unexpectedly, Mr. Waffle was stuck late at work (disaster).

By 7.30 the boys were cranky and tired, particularly Michael, but every time I tried to put him to bed he would wake up and cry. Perhaps the whooping from the other two didn’t help. While I was in the bathroom running the bath for the two healthy ones, Daniel was putting his new found crawling skills to good effect in the bedroom and I kept darting in to check that he was alright. I couldn’t put Michael down because he was deeply miserable and the Princess was lying in our bed saying “I’m sick, I’m sick, pay attention to me not to Michael, Mummy come here”. Under other circumstances, it wouldn’t have been a crisis, but I was so tired and it seemed to me that they all wanted me immediately and I couldn’t split myself in three so I shouted at the Princess “You are not sick, you are being a pain”. I had never shouted at her before. I have occasionally gone into another room, stuffed a towel in my mouth and had a rewarding silent scream, but I had never shouted at her. It was absolutely dreadful. She went pink, then white, then pink again. Daniel who I had just plumped down on the bed thought that I was shouting at him and he began to cry in terror, big round tears coursing down his little chubby cheeks (Michael was still in my arms and completely indifferent, I can’t feel that he is the sensitive one among my children). It was awful. I started to cry myself, the combination of guilt and self-pity proving irresistible. I picked up Daniel to comfort him and Michael started to cry because he was not now in my arms. The Princess looked at me in horror – what’s wrong, Mummy? “Nothing” I said sniffing “I just can’t manage everyone and look, Michael is crying now”. She hopped up and put her arms around Michael (who screamed some more at this unnerving development) and said “Don’t you mind him, Mummy, I’ll look after him.” You know how it is, once someone is nice to you when you start to cry, all you can do is cry some more. As I rescued Michael from his sister’s embrace and kept an arm round a more quietly sobbing Daniel (who later in the evening squealed in terror when I put him sitting on the bed – happy memories, clearly), she said “Mummy, when will you be happy again?” So I said that I would be happy by the time she counted to 60 (that’s one minute, everything is a pedagogical opportunity for the pushy parent, you know) and so, I gathered myself together and faced into the remainder of the evening and, I suppose, we all survived.

More from the Filipino community

24 September, 2006 at 10:06 pm by belgianwaffle

Our babysitter’s husband has been awarded Belgian citizenship and there was a celebration in the local town hall to celebrate this (knowing Belgian celebrations I suspect that it was accompanied by a vast range of edibles, I digress).  Like me, the local mayor was rather pleased with himself for knowing that they speak Tagalog and asked the newly minted Belgian citizen how to say “welcome” in Tagalog.  In fact, it appears that there are over 170 languages in the Philippines.  Our babysitter and her husband speak Illonggo along with 7 million other Filipinos and their grasp of Tagalog is rudimentary, much like mine of Irish.  Our babysitter tells me that her husband was very flustered and started asking his friends and relatives in the room how to say “welcome” in Tegalog.  You can imagine the mayor must have been a bit surprised that this guy was having difficulty telling him the word for “welcome” in what the mayor believed to be his native tongue.  Our babysitter, however, came to the rescue she advised him to “for heaven’s sake, tell him how to say it in Illonggo, it’s not as though he can tell the difference”.

People, there’s a whole world out there.

Elections and elephants

22 September, 2006 at 11:35 pm by belgianwaffle

I have registered to vote in the Belgian communal elections on October 8. How proud I am of this fact. How I have lorded it over other expats who have not registered to vote on the feeble grounds that voting is compulsory, once you have registered, and the fine for not doing so is hefty. How I have spoken eloquently of doing my democratic duty. How I should have known I was riding for a fall.

You may have noticed that it has been a bit quiet here lately. Partly this has been because of our ongoing dispute with Mr. Gates, partly, it is because I have been travelling for most of the past week but largely it has been because my father has been having open heart surgery and I was too scared to blog about it in case I, somehow, jinxed matters. But, almost miraculously, he seems to be recovering well from a second bout between his ribs and a hacksaw wherein his ribs came off worst. Obviously, the bout with the hacksaw was followed by a number of people poking around his beating heart to ensure that it would stay doing just that. And since the last bypass has lasted 20 years, I am cautiously optimistic that all will be well. Today the patient was sitting up in bed asking for the newspaper. But we all got something of a shock. My sister flew home from India last weekend. After much agonising, I decided that I might be more useful when he came out of hospital and, upon my husband’s nobly volunteering to mind the children, rushed to book a trip to Cork for the weekend of October 8.

Ah, October 8, just how hefty do you think that those fines are?

Some confusion

17 September, 2006 at 3:24 pm by belgianwaffle

We have been feeding the neighbours’ cats.  The Princess noted that the neighbours had a number of DVDs – “look, Mummy, television”.  “It’s television for grown-ups sweetheart”. “But what about Tallis and Byrd, what do they watch?”

Talking on eggshells.

13 September, 2006 at 9:19 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Stop eating the eggshell.
Her: But I like the eggshell.
Me: No you don’t, you’re only doing it to annoy me.
Her: No, I’m not.
Me: Yes, you are.
Her: Are we at the pantomime?
Me (trying another tack):  Do you know where eggs come from?
Her: Where?
Me: A hen’s bottom.
Her: But wee and poo come out of bottoms.
Me: Also eggs.  From hen’s bottoms.
Her (looking dubiously at eggshell): I’m not convinced.

Is this yours?

11 September, 2006 at 9:53 pm by belgianwaffle

As parents of twins, we shameless hoover up any goods offered to us.  A spare cot? Yup, that would be great.  Baby clothes?  Yes, thank you. A while back, I returned to the Dutch Mama some of the clothes which she had given to us which the boys had grown out of.  She looked at them and said “these are lovely things, but half of them aren’t mine”.  Also, it appears, we are not very good at returning things to their rightful owners.  When we were in Ireland, we drove through a North Cork where the Dutch Mama’s sister is the postmistress.  “Should we stop and say hi?” asked Mr. Waffle.  “Probably not” I said, “but, if we did, we could point out to her that Michael is wearing a very nice t-shirt that once belonged to her son”.  In summary, I am not sure who lent us what, so I cannot say who lent us the t-shirt with “Little Lord Foster Baby” written on it but I suspect that it may be someone whose first language is not English.

Linkedy link

10 September, 2006 at 9:21 pm by belgianwaffle

Today we went to Ghent.  Although Ghent was, as always, very pleasant, the whole experience was so exhausting, I have no energy to describe it.  Have a couple of links instead.

Men breastfeeding: all they have to do is try.

Jojo’s fantasy life: you will really like this. 

My sister’s attempt to ensure that her carbon footprint is suitably significant: 186,865 kms and 5 continents so far this year.

The 40 dollar dog

9 September, 2006 at 1:37 pm by belgianwaffle

Replacement plush toy retail price: $8.45
Postage (good Lord): $30.00
Actual value of goods as assessed by sending company: $5 (Canadian dollars that is) Look on daughter’s face when opening envelope with new travel Doggy: Priceless


8 September, 2006 at 3:07 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess has two teachers this year; good cop and bad cop.  This morning as I left, bad cop was in charge and she pulled the crying Princess’s hand from mine and pushed me resolutely out the door saying “the sooner you leave, the better it will be”.  True, doubtless, but brutal.  Mind you, my travails are as nothing compared to my friend who has just started her two children at a new school.  The two and a half year old is, to quote her mother “a tough little nut” but the five year old is a very sensitive soul.  When she comes to collect the younger child at midday, she finds her two children glued together in the playground.  She has to prise them apart and then her son cries and clutches the fence and says “I’ll wait here until you come back”.  When she comes to collect him at 3.00 she can see his little hand clutching the fence from afar.  Dear God, it’s all very depressing.  Meanwhile, she tells me that another Irish friend of hers has unexpectedly decamped to Dublin over the Summer because her two little girls have been offered places in a good primary school and, if they don’t take them up this September, the places will be gone forever.  Their papa continues to be based in Brussels.  So, if given a choice between a good school and a father, which would you pick?  I know that’s not fair, but really, it’s madness. 


6 September, 2006 at 12:01 am by belgianwaffle

The boys had some bug over the weekend which they transmitted to their sister. Daniel was sick regularly, Michael occasionally and the Princess once. Daniel took us by surprise, vomiting for the first time on Saturday at lunch time. We rushed to comfort him and change him and remove our own vomit covered clothes. We returned to find Michael happily splashing about in the pool of vomit on the floor while the Princess looked on in profound disapproval. The washing needed to keep pace with three vomiting children is phenomenal. This was why when I heard a choking sound while holding Daniel in our bed, I spun him round to spare the sheets and managed to get vomit on the mirror, the wardrobe the walls and the door. All wipe clean surfaces you will note. As of Monday morning, the waterfall of vomit seemed to have ended. Although poor Michael, got sick in his sleep on Sunday night and when we got him from his cot on Monday morning, he was cold and clammy which, obviously, will help him recover from his hacking cough. No vomiting all day Monday but on Monday evening Daniel got sick (once) as did Michael (twice) and Mr. Waffle (once). Today only Daniel got sick (twice). Could it be that matters are improving?

LRB winner

3 September, 2006 at 9:29 pm by belgianwaffle

And the winner is…

The panel* was very impressed with the level of all the entries, and congratulates  all who took part. Candidates might have scored higher marks for mentioning the Iraq war or the works of Jacques Derrida, but this did not detract from the generally high standard. Sadly, there can only be one winner, so here are the comments in reverse order.

In third place, Daddy’s Little Demon. A good piece which captured much of the LRB’s style – but failed somehow to convey the smugness of the original. For future reference, name-checking Derrida or Lacan would have carried more marks than Maslow, who is now seen as very pre-post-modern.

In second place, Disgruntled. The piece showed great self-confidence but was too short for the panel to judge whether the tone could be sustained over a longer composition. Also, although the use of the word “bildungsroman” greatly impressed the panel, a true LRB author could never begin a German noun with a lower-case letter: the pedantic urge would be too strong.

In first place, Heather. A fluid piece, effortlessly using many LRB favourites (like “signifier and signified” and “cultural paradigm”)  and most accurately capturing the spirit of the original. It may be asked whether Heather, like Disgruntled, should lose marks for spelling “zeitgeist” without a capital. However, the New Oxford Dictionary of English still treats “Bildungsroman” as a German word (with capital) while “zeitgeist” has now been naturalised long enough to be spelled without a capital. Therefore, the use of the word in an actual LRB article would spark a fruitful exchange of correspondence between lexicographers, Germanists and assorted pedants, which could spread over several subsequent issues of the Review. It can therefore be seen as the icing on the cake of this audacious effort.

The winner is Heather.

*Mr Waffle – who took a break from cleaning up vomit to write this – more of which anon.


2 September, 2006 at 10:49 am by belgianwaffle

The boys are asleep and Mr. Waffle has taken the Princess to the supermarket.  He is a hero.  Sometimes going to the supermarket with the Princess is fine.  But sometimes it is as described below.  Please note that this piece was written before the sad loss of Travel Doggy.

In the car park:

Her: Waah, waah, I want to bring travel doggy into the supermarket.

Me: No, honey he might get lost.

Her (pink in the face): Loud, snotty, tears.

In the supermarket:

Her (sob): We should have brought a doudou for me for the supermarket. 

Me: We certainly should but, instead, ahem (searches in handbag) would you like to play with my diary?

Her (sob): No.

Me: I know, how about a biscuit.

Her (miraculous and instantaneous end to sobbing): Yes please Mummy.

Me: OK, here are these fabulous Winnie the Pooh biscuits (noting they are bagged 2×2 and resigning myself to the inevitable) and you can have two!

Her: Mummy, I’m thirsty.

Me: Would you like a bottle of water.

Her: No, I want milk.

Me: OK, here’s a carton of milk with a straw.

Her (opens delightedly and takes one sip): No, I don’t like.

Her (eyeing dairy product aisle): I want a yoghurt.

Me: But you don’t like those yoghurts.

Her: But I’ll like them this time, I promise.

Me: But you won’t.

Her: But you said that, if I don’t like cheese one time, I, I, I might like it another time.

Me: Oh alright.

Her: Can I open it?

Me: No, it’ll make a terrible mess.

Her:  I only opened one Mummy.

Me: But see you can’t eat it, you need a spoon.

Her: We should have brought a spoon, Mummy.

Me: To the supermarket?  Don’t be daft.

Her (with inexorable logic): But how am I going to eat my yoghurt?

Me: Have another biscuit.

Her: I want to do a wee.

Me: Of course you do.  Come on, we’ll leave the trolley here and go across to the Quick and use their toilets. [Insert run across the car park followed by sneak into burger joint toilets]

Return to trolley.  Join queue.

Her: Can I have a go on Mr. Turtle?

Me: OK, but just one go while I’m paying for the shopping, ok [hand over a euro]?

Child skips off happily. Loading shopping takes ages. Preemptively hand over another euro.

Her: But you said just one go.

Me: I lied.  Go again.

Her: But why?

Me: I like my parenting to be consistent. Go again.

Pack everything in car, return home one and a half hours after departure, a shadow of my former self.

The most powerful women in the world

1 September, 2006 at 2:09 pm by belgianwaffle

From: Mrs. Waffle
To: Her loving husband
Subject: Mary McAleese comes in at 55

Merkel beats Rice as world’s most powerful woman

German chancellor Angela Merkel has come top in a Forbes magazine list of the world’s most powerful women, beating US secretary Condoleezza Rice despite Berlin‘s first lady not even featuring in the 2005 ratings.


From: Mr. Waffle
To: His loving wife

Subject: RE: McAleese comes in at 55

And Dooce?

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