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Archive for October, 2006

More from the Eagle

31 October, 2006 at 10:14 am by belgianwaffle

My brother has sent the following email to my parents: Hi All, This will be just a quick email as I’m writing on a dodgy old computer(think our old computer before I put the extra RAM in) and I’m afraid I’ll lose all the info before I get to send the email…….. This is my first travel email for quite a while so it’s time to reacquaint yourselves with the diet of unfinished sentences, obscure analogies and spelling that appears in no (English) dictionary. Anyway the trip has gone very well so far although thanks to Helen’s input the pace has been fairly hectic….arrived in Delhi, was barely over the jetlag when I was taken out for a look at the famous red fort and walk around the market in the Muslim quarter in old Delhi. The red fort was impressive with mosques and palaces and stuff. One problem with Delhi is that it is full of beggars and people trying to sell you stuff you don’t want (although I managed to accumulate enough of the latter in Ireland without any pressure). The problem in Delhi is getting stuff you do want, beer would be easier to find in Chicago during prohibition, junk food and ready meals are easier to find in our (new) fridge at home. All in all the place is tough going but not as bad as Helen makes out (that would not be possible). Next day we flew to Nepal, had a look around the city, we saw temples full of monkeys (not sure how this would work in St. Agustine’s [local church in Cork]). Continuing the tour (think American tourist in Europe pace but in a country with no infrastructure) we went down to the jungle area in the south of the country for a 2 day safari. We were staying in a beautiful lodge in the middle of the jungle, very atmospheric place, I felt like a British Explorer from the 19th century, all I was missing was the shotgun and hip flask. The views were spectacular but the wildlife took a little patience, we were hoping to see the elusive tiger, but we found him deserving of this adjective….. however we did see rhinos up close [father reading over my shoulder pshaws, ‘no rhinoceroses in India’, though you would think that Dan might know, if he got up close], crocodiles (the good ones i.e. herbivores [really, a herbivorous crocodile?]), deer (only in the distance, funny to think you try to avoid them in the Phoenix park and pay good money to see them in Nepal.) All in all it was a brilliant experience. From there we left for Pokhara, (Mum I think I saw the atlas in the drawing room) and that’s from where I write this email. Helen is flying back to Delhi on Friday morning and I’m going on a 6 day trek in the Annapurna mountain range, will report back afterwards. 

My sister’s take on my brother’s adventures is here.

What we won’t be getting, if Ryanair take over Aer Lingus

30 October, 2006 at 11:40 pm by belgianwaffle

We flew to Dublin this morning with Aer Lingus. The air hostesses were lovely to us. They smiled at our children. They helped us carry them about. They saved our sanity. It doesn’t cost anything to be nice to customers but Michael O’Leary doesn’t seem to encourage it. He revels in the fact that Ryanair has only one part time person on customer service. OK, yes, it is cheap.
But it would never have let us enjoy the letter below. You will recall that we lost travel doggy and wrote a pathetic fax to Aer Lingus. This is the reply we received (some grammatical improvements were made because I’m like that and I can’t promote improper use of the apostrophe):

Ref # 6171

Without Prejudice

Dear Mr. Waffle,

Thank you for your correspondence.

I am sorry to learn your daughter left her favourite toy on flight EI638, when you travelled with us recently.

Despite a thorough search, I regret that so far we have been unable to locate these items. Please accept my sincere apologies on behalf of Aer Lingus for the inconvenience caused.

However, in common with other international carriers Aer Lingus do not accept any responsibility for passengers’ hand baggage with the onus of its safe carriage reverting directly to the passenger themselves. If you have travel insurance or made your booking using a credit or debit card, offering automatic travel insurance, you should notify them as soon as possible regarding any claim you wish to make from them as soon as possible.

If I can be of any further assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for choosing Aer Lingus. Your support is much appreciated.

Consumer Response Representative

Confusion in Multicultural Ireland

29 October, 2006 at 10:05 am by belgianwaffle

Non-Irish Trader in organic, right on market: These sardines come from Latvia.

Mother-in-law: From Latvia.  Goodness.  Tell me, how do you say ‘thank you’ in your language?

Trader: Merci.

Mother-in-law: That’s not Latvian, that’s French.

Trader: I am French.


27 October, 2006 at 8:12 pm by belgianwaffle

I was pretending to bite the Princess on the arm for comic effect, she squealed in delight and then suddenly lost interest. She said to me coldly “stop it, Mummy, I’m not for eating”. What are you for then, sweetheart?” I asked, slightly maliciously. She rolled her eyes and said “I’m for talking”.

The Eagle has landed

26 October, 2006 at 10:32 pm by belgianwaffle

My brother and sister called my parents from Kathmandu this morning.  My mother was delighted to hear that her ewe lamb had arrived safely in the Nepalese capital.  He asked whether she had got their email and she said no.  He began to double check that she had followed all the correct procedures for downloading when my sister snatched the mobile from him, muttering indignantly about the expense of giving this kind of advice on an Indian mobile from Nepal.  There’s a good joke there about call centres; fill in the blanks yourselves please.
When my brother headed off to visit my sister in India, I had the following conversation with my mother:

Her: So, he’s off to India this week.

Me: I’m sure he’ll have a great time.

Her: He’s been really fantastic since your father has been ill.

Me: Yes, he has been very good.

Her: To be honest, I’m a little worried about him going.

Me: I can imagine, but Daddy’s on the mend now.

Her: Oh no, not because of me and Daddy but you know, India, it’s so far away and so different.

Me:  But, but, your youngest daughter lives there.

Her (defensively): Well, it’s different for your brother, he might get ill.

Me: But, but, she was ill all the time.

Her: Well, your brother is very delicate.

Me: Gasp of outrage.

In conclusion, it is true what they say about Irish mothers and their sons and, apparently, sibling rivalry never really dies.

Some exaggeration for effect

25 October, 2006 at 10:27 pm by belgianwaffle

This evening, I described our weekday mornings thus to my husband and daughter.

At 6.15 Michael rouses his parents from sleep with sounds of indignation. Mr. Waffle says to me “You stay in bed, I’ll get him”. Somewhat to his surprise and mild resentment, I invariably accept this invitation. My will power is nil and I am not a morning person. I find that this always gets the day off to a good start.

Michael howls in continuing indignation that his Mummy has not come to fetch him and I put my head under the pillow and snuggle up to the duvet. Mr. Waffle puts Michael in the playpen and showers and shaves in precisely 30 seconds. Daniel wakes up and by this time the guilt is too great to bear and I usually stagger out of bed about 6.45. The second he sees me, Michael starts to scream. I pick him up and he stops. Daniel and Mr. Waffle continue about their business (sucking on a toy and eating breakfast respectively) ignoring this touching scene. Mr. Waffle then prepares porridge for the boys and straps them into their high chairs. They squeal and reject the porridge with contumely. I feed the boys some Rice Krispies. Michael sits on my lap and Daniel stands holding on to my chair looking up at me hopefully. The Rice Krispies are always a disappointment to him and he spits them out on the floor.

The Princess gets up. I say, “I think I’ll have my shower”. Mr. Waffle says to the Princess “Que-ce que tu veux manger, ma puce?” The Princess ignores him.

“Princesse, Papa t’a posé une question.”

No response.

Me: She’ll have Rice Krispies.

Mr. Waffle pours out Rice Krispies and adds milk.

Her: Mummy is today a school day?

Me: Yes, honey.

Her: I don’t want to go to school and then (transferring her attention to her breakfast), no, don’t want, I want Corn Flakes.

Mr. Waffle’s face acquires the set look that characterises his morning appearance and he puts Corn Flakes in a bowl.

Her: Encore.

Him (severely): T’auras encore quand tu as fini ce qu’est dans ton bol.

Her (collapsing into loud sobs): No, je veux MAINTENANT.

Me: Look, just give her some more cornflakes. I’m going to have my shower.

Princess looks at Mr. Waffle in triumph and I hot foot it to the bathroom pursued by a weeping Michael crawling at speed. Daniel continues phlegmatically chewing on a plastic toy. I spend three hours in the bathroom showering and flood the floor while Michael sits outside wailing and head butting the door. From the distance I hear the sound of the Princess bawling hysterically about some fundamental right which has been breached “non, je ne veux PAS du lait dans mes corn flakes”.

I emerge from the bathroom swathed in towels and rescue Michael (sodden of course from the flooded floor and his ocean of tears) and comb my hair and put on make-up with him in my arms (“Michael, let go of the comb, ok so, you have it and I’ll put on some mascara, Jesus where are all the teeth, have you eaten them, open your mouth, open your mouth, ow, don’t bite, stop it”). Daniel is now sucking peaceably on a wooden toy. “Daniel, honey, you’re the best boy”. I am rewarded by a beaming smile and an invitation to suck on his toy.

Meanwhile, a dressing drama is unfolding in the Princess’s bedroom.

Mr. Waffle: Tu mets tes vêtements!

Her: Non, je ne veux pas.

Mr. Waffle: Tes chaussettes vont sur tes oreilles.

Me: That’s right, your socks go on your ears.

Princess puts socks on her ears.

Her: J’ai une idée, peut-être ils vont sur mes pieds.

She puts on her socks and runs around the house clad only in socks until forcibly brought back to base.

Mr. Waffle (face becoming increasingly set): Princesse, mets tes vêtements.

Me (putting down Michael): Come here sweetheart.

Her (eluding my grasp and giggling hysterically): No, I don’t want.

Michael: Somebody put me down waah, waah.

Daniel: Would anybody like to suck on this excellent book?

Me: Don’t be cross with her.

Mr. Waffle: I have been up since 6.15, would it be too much to ask that I might get to work on time? (sets off in hot pursuit).

Mr. Waffle: Si tu mets pas tes vêtements, c’est le coin colère.

Princess howling hysterically and, with a great show of reluctance, puts on her clothes.

Mr. Waffle: Bravo, mets ton manteau.

Her: NON, je ne veux pas.

Me: Sweetheart, please put on your coat.

Her: NO. It’s not cold.

Me: Well, it is very mild for late October…

Mr. Waffle (eyeing me menacingly addresses the Princess): Tu mets ton manteau.

Grumbling the while, she does.

Mr. Waffle: Où est ton cartable?

Her: Je veux l’autre cartable.

Me: Sweetheart, what’s wrong with the green bag?

Her: I want the red one.

Me: But why?

Her: Because I don’t like the green one anymore.

While Mr. Waffle, snorting with indignation, takes Daniel to be changed, I put down Michael and move her school things from the green bag to the red bag.

Michael: Waah, waah, waah, I don’t know whether anyone has noticed but I’m sitting on the floor here.

Kisses all round and the Princess heads out the door all smiles accompanied by Mr. Waffle looking like thunder. I shut the door and sigh with relief.

During this recital to the pair of them over dinner they both laughed and Mr. Waffle said “will we try to be nicer to Mama in the morning?” and the Princess said with shining eyes “tell me it again, Mama”.

I’m the gin in the gin-soaked boy

24 October, 2006 at 10:11 pm by belgianwaffle

I had an excellent day at work the other day. As I drove home, destroying the planet, I listened to this catchy song on the stereo. As far as I was aware, all three of my children were healthy and cheerful (I’m the ghost in the machine). We had a babysitter booked for that evening (I’m the sunset in the east). All was right in the world (I’m the trojan horse in Troy). This, I thought to myself, ecstatically, is having it all (tum, tum, tum, tum te tum, tum). Is it though, enough to make up for the other 364 days of the year (I’m the half-truth in the lie)?

And, I know, I’m one of the lucky ones. I enjoy my job. My colleagues are lovely, my boss is a pleasure to work with and the work is interesting. But in the mornings, Michael is particularly clingy and he clutches on to my clothing howling desperately when I leave (mercifully, Daniel is very phlegmatic). Even to go to the kitchen. My mother used to say, when the Princess was small “she was fine until you came in” and it’s the same with Michael. He’s fine and then he sees me and he starts to cry. It will pass I suppose.

But it’s hard. I hate to sound like Breda O’Brien, but I do think that the Irish government is wrong to try to force single mothers and every other type of mother out to work. It’s hard when you are going out to an interesting, reasonably well paid job; it must be bordering on the impossible, if you are going out to some horrible minimum wage job. Especially, if you have no partner with whom to share the childcare. And, let’s face it, what generally works best with childcare is part-time and, mostly, part-time jobs are neither the most interesting ones nor the ones with the best prospect of promotion. My cynical colleague says “worse, come the economic downturn, they’ll all be told to go home to tend their children, two part-time women is one full-time man”. I’m not sure I entirely share this view but I do believe that this whole dilemma will continue until everyone in society acknowledges that children have two parents, both of whom have responsibilities, and that to accommodate this, it is as normal for men to work part-time as for women. I guess I’ll be waiting a while, then.

Monday night is quiz night

23 October, 2006 at 10:12 pm by belgianwaffle

First, Mastermind. That guy, John Humphreys is dreadful at it. I’m not sure whose idea it was to have a little banter between quizzer and quizee after the specialist and before the general knowledge rounds but it leads to dreadful results. If say, the specialised subject were “Stalin and the gulags”, John Humphreys would probably begin by saying “Stalin, not a nice chap then?”
And then, University Challenge.

Art round

Him: Oh, it’s that guy, geometric shapes, whatchamacallhim.
Me: Albers?
Him: No, no the Garnier logo.
Me: Ah, Mondrian.

The moment you’ve all been waiting for

21 October, 2006 at 1:39 pm by belgianwaffle

And then again, possibly not.  Please see the Princess on video admonishing her students in the language of Voltaire.

In other news, as of yesterday, I am no longer breastfeeding.  The boys have tired of beating dry gourds and even Michael has definitively moved to bottle.  No more business trips with the breast pump then.

And finally, I bought wild boar in the supermarket this morning.  Why?  Because it was there.  Do I regret this?  Deeply.  How long does it need to be marinated before it can be eaten?  Five days.  Sigh.

Double standards

20 October, 2006 at 3:15 pm by belgianwaffle

What I may not want to hear my children saying when I am old:

She loves it, really.

She’ll have stopped crying 5 minutes after we walk out the door.

It’s good for her socialisation skills; I’m sure it wouldn’t be good for her to be at home all the time.

I like to see her making friends with all those other people; it’s just a pity they all seem to catch each other’s bugs.

The staff are great; you can tell that they really like old people.

I’m glad to see that they haven’t got a television; it’s great that they’re devising games and songs for them instead.
Good God, am I paraphrasing a Cat Steven’s song here?

Not for vegetarians

18 October, 2006 at 9:57 pm by belgianwaffle

Princess (staring at a glassy eyed fish on a marble slab): That fish is dead.
Me: Yes it is honey.
Her: Bad for the fish.
Me (neutrally): Hmm, I suppose.
Her: But good for us.

Jiminy Cricket, or the Voice of Conscience

16 October, 2006 at 8:44 pm by belgianwaffle

Late afternoon

Her: Is it Sunday?

Me: Yup, why?

Her: Hell’s bells, we forgot to go to mass.

Why things can be trying

15 October, 2006 at 2:42 pm by belgianwaffle

I sometimes thinkof what I thought having children would be like before I actually had any. I saw myself sipping tea with a friend while our children played peacefully together. This, despite the fact that I remember distinctly the irritation I felt as a child when I saw my poor mother trying to read a book. But often, even now, I ask myself, why it is so hard. What exactly is the problem with having three small people in the house? Well, take the other night.

The boys were getting cranky. Mr. Waffle had run the bath and was wrestling Daniel (who is very strong) to the ground to remove his clothes. Daniel was keen to get into the bath. He loves it, in fact, the other night he appeared to say “the bath!” when taken into the bathroom. I was very excited but Mr. Waffle discounts this and the time where he looked at a bottle and said “bottle”. I am convinced my son is a genius although he hasn’t been able to reproduce these sounds under laboratory conditions. I digress. Having disrobed him, Mr. Waffle, alas, failed to perceive that Daniel had a dirty nappy (easier to do than you might imagine, I assure you) and plonked him into the bath diluting the water with poo and making all the toys that bit more appetising to suck; cue cursing, bath emptying and disinfectant spraying. Meanwhile, I was distracted by Michael who was howling because he had finally succeeded in catching his hand in the door – something he has been trying to do for some time. The Princess was indignant because nobody was paying any attention to her. She was standing behind the bathroom door with her head under a towel shouting “I’m hiding, look for me, I’m hiding” in increasingly hysterical and irate tones. Our efforts to talk her down were unavailing since she seems to be a bit deaf after having a sore ear earlier in the week (cue general nebulous concern).

We finally packed the boys off to bed. They are beginning to go to bed more easily either because we’ve worn them down or, because their standing up and (in Michael’s case) moving round the room using handy chairs like zimmer frames, has worn them out. This moving around is new and to celebrate we spent 120 euros on shoes for them. They will beggar us.

After dinner, the Princess went to bed and 20 minutes later she got up and announced “I’ve wet the bed”. This is becoming something of a pattern. She will often wet the bed 20 minutes after going to bed and then again during the night. This from a child who stopped wearing nappies at night before the Summer, was generally dry and is, after all, 3 and a half. My mother suggests that it might be a problem at school and it is true that her teachers said that she has been a bit difficult recently. She says she doesn’t want to go to school but when we ask her what’s wrong she just says “there are too many people at school”. On the days I collect her from school, she does seem to be playing alone, but quite happily and she always rushes up to me to press into my hand offerings which she has gathered in the yard (my pockets are full of conkers, fallen leaves and pigeon feathers).  If the internet has any suggestions about the whole bed wetting thing, I would welcome them.  The books seem to feel that it’s all within the range of normal, but I don’t know.
I hope it’s not a school problem. I remember that I loved nursery school and primary school. Secondary school was vile but those under 12 days were halcyon. I think I must have been unbearable, though. I remember telling my teacher, when I was ten, that our cat was called Hodge. “Why?” she asked “Is he very fat?”. “Not Podge, Hodge” I said indignantly “after Samuel Johnson’s cat” (I would like to clarify that my parents are to blame for this). When another child in the class asked who he was, my teacher said “a writer from a long time ago” and I cut her off saying, quite crossly “he’s the famous lexicographer!”. Quite. And I remember on a sunshiny Friday afternoon walking out of school and saying to a friend “I hope that there isn’t a nuclear holocaust at the weekend because I think that I got 100% in that maths test”. It’s the smugness combined with the warped priorities that appeals. We did live a bit in the shadow of a potential nuclear holocaust; we were all fascinated by it. We frequently had conversations along the lines of “If you knew that there was going to be a nuclear war tomorrow, what would you do?”.

I remember when I was about 14, going to the Gaeltacht and being chatted up by some Dublin boy who insisted on giving me a full description of the SALT talks. He kept filling me in on more details every time we ran into each other. In English, I hasten to add as, notoriously, Dublin people could never speak any Irish and kept getting expelled from Gaeltacht summer schools for speaking in English. So I could only lend half an ear to his descriptions of the arms limitation treaties as I was on constant look out for a supervisor who might find us speaking English and send us back to our respective homes in disgrace. Though I was impressed by his knowledge of nuclear weapons reduction treaties, in the end it was never going to go anywhere as he was 12 and was only as high as my shoulder. This is a long way from where I started. Let me reiterate: any tips on the bedwetting, people?

Belated Sunday Newspaper Reading

13 October, 2006 at 3:14 pm by belgianwaffle

I quite enjoyed the interview with the Chapman brothers in last week’s Observer. Rudeness can be so entertaining.

I was incensed, however, by
an article about Amy Winehouse. She said “I wouldn’t say I’m a feminist, but I don’t like girls pretending to be stupid because it’s easier.” Why is it people say “I’m not a feminist” in the same way that they say “I’m not a racist”. Their comments make it clear that they are feminists and, unlike being a racist, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; so why do people think that there is? Does Ms. Winehouse mean “I don’t believe in equal pay for equal work, I don’t believe that women and men are equally capable and I don’t believe that women should have the same rights as men”? When she says “I wouldn’t say I’m a feminist”, that is, surely, the message she conveys. I am a feminist and so is anyone with the slightest bit of sense. Perhaps this is where Ms. Winehouse’s problem lies.

Any other feminists out there?

Apparently, I do have standards

12 October, 2006 at 9:11 pm by belgianwaffle

This morning, I was standing on the pavement waiting for the traffic lights to change and standing beside me was a man in a suit holding a well dressed, beautiful looking little girl who was about nine months old.  She had a runny nose.  Her father searched his person for tissue but to no avail (done that).  Then, he wiped her nose with his fingers (done that).  Then, he looked at his snotty fingers, shrugged his shouders and wiped them on her dress (done that).  But her nose kept running. He wiped it again with his fingers and then, absentmindedly, licked them clean (this is where I draw the line).

How did McDonald’s get a toehold in this country?

11 October, 2006 at 9:55 pm by belgianwaffle

I had chips for lunch yesterday.  I went to the Maison Antoine.  It has been many years since I had the opportunity to check out what are, by common consent, the best chips in Brussels and I was not disappointed.  There was a notice in the window saying that, as potatoes are small at this time of year, punters may get the odd small chip in their servings.  The upset caused by this is deeply regretted.

Sunday Morning

9 October, 2006 at 9:08 pm by belgianwaffle

My mother and I emerged from the parents’ house on Sunday morning to go to mass.  It was pouring rain which made the fact that some yobs had walked on the roof of my parents’ car and put a dent in it which created a large gap between the roof and the sun roof that little bit more annoying.  Somewhat to my surprise, the guards came when we called them and said that they had arrested a mob which was rampaging around the area.  This is the second time that I have seen the guards on a trip home.  I am beginning to think that my parents live in a more dangerous part of town than I had realised.


At mass, the priest gave a sermon about divorce.  Divorce was only introduced in Ireland in 1995 and we’re all still getting used to it.  Some of us more quickly than others, it appears.  The divorce rate is 33% the priest told us.  He said that in his 20 years as a priest he had only seen unhappiness and misery when people split up.  So far, so catholic.  And a marriage is for life.  Continuing catholic.  Even though this is the case and he knows that there will be people who disagree with him, he believes that people should be allowed to have their second union blessed by a priest in a church.  I nearly fell out of my pew.  Doubtless his defrocking papers are in the post.  We also prayed for people who had died during the week including a man who would have had his birthday next week.  I think we were all expecting the priest to say his 100th birthday but he said “his 21st birthday”.  He died in a traffic accident last week and he was lying in the side chapel. 


After mass, we repaired to the scout hall where they were having a book sale.  It was a great book sale.  Lots of old Nevil Shutes and Dorothy L. Sayers and theology primers (“An Introduction to the new Mass”).   We ran into my favourite aunt who told us that she had brought four boxes to the sale and was busy buying more back.  I bought some myself.  My father once said to me “books are the ruination of this house”.  I was appalled but I am beginning to see what he means.  My parents’ house is falling down with books – I am reminded of the C.S. Lewis quote where he describes himself as follows: I am the product … of endless books.  There were books in the study, books in the drawing-room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents’ interests, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not”.  When I was a teenager, my father was always tying up piles of books with string to go to the Oxfam shop and I would unpick the knots and take out any I considered worthy of saving.  Now I see that he was right.  Our own flat in Brussels is chock full of books.  I am reluctant to get rid of most of them.  There are the ones I will read again.  There are the ones that I may read again.  There are the ones that I read with great difficulty over many weeks or possibly even months which I am reluctant to remove from the shelves because, if people are to judge me by my books, I would, hypocritically, rather that they judged me by these rather than my set of Georgette Heyers (which definitely fall into the first category along with Terry Pratchett, the Narnia books and Cold Comfort Farm).    And then there are the ones I am going to read.  Yes, really, when I get a moment.


Book sale notwithstanding, probably my best moment all weekend came when I bought cake at the French cake shop with my mother.  We’ll have a mille feuille, I said and the French woman behind the counter said “you pronounce that really well”.  My heart swelled with pride, it nearly made up for the time my husband and a French waiter fell about the place laughing at my pronounciation of this most difficult collection of French vowels.  Mind you, every one in Cork says milly filly so the competition isn’t exactly fierce.

Embracing middle age

8 October, 2006 at 11:47 am by belgianwaffle

When we were in Kerry during the summer, my mother-in-law asked me whether I was particularly fond of 1960s songs as I seemed to know a lot of them.  I found myself mulling on this and reflected that I knew far more songs from the 1960s than from the last 10 years.  I asked Mr. Waffle to hum one hit song from the last year and he couldn’t do it.  I knew precisely one song, something about God by pink and I couldn’t hum it either.  We are without it.

Furthermore, I am getting quite testy about this business of complete strangers addressing each other and, more particularly, me by their or my first names.  In a hotel I stayed in for work, the 60 year old man on reception had a label with “John” on his chest.  Not “John Bloggs” just “John”.  Am I really supposed to call this older gentleman “John”?

I have had some exposure to hospitals recently through my parents whom the doctors and nurses treating my father felt completely free to address by their first names whether they knew them or not.  In a context when you or your spouse is ill, poked, pulled and cut open, I can’t help feeling that it would be nice to have some vestiges of dignity retained.  Neither of my parents complained, but my mother did mention it and I wondered who decreed that all patients should be addressed by their first names.  In Belgium, I was “Madame Gaufre” to everyone when I was in hospital.  Maybe it’s because they have “tu” and “vous” in French and this encourages formality.  Whatever the reason, I like it.  You can always tell people to be a little less formal but it’s much harder to ask people to be more formal.  I remember when a friend of my parents’ was very ill (possibly dying) in hospital, he was addressed by his first name.  As it happened, he was always known by his middle name, so that wasn’t even his name, really, if you see what I mean, and I, who had known him all my life, only every addressed him as Professor C.  A little courtesy might be welcome.

I was pleasantly surprised the other day when I got an email from an academic beginning “Dear Anne (if I may)”.  Yes, you may, how nice to be asked.  When I started my working life, which is not that long ago, 1990, in fact (if this was before you were born, please don’t comment), it was quite standard to address the senior partners in the office as Mr. (there were no senior women, so the question of Ms, Mrs or Miss did not arise – ah, progress, not all bad then), though my own boss did get his secretary to tell me to stop calling him Mr. because it made him feel very old. 

As a child, I addressed grown-ups as Mr. or Mrs. or, good friends of my parents as aunty or uncle.  This latter, I concede, carried its own difficulties. As a sullen adolescent, I wasn’t going to call unrelated people “uncle” or “aunty”, so I ended up having to address them as “you” or point.  I don’t, however, like to see the Princess imperiously addressing my friends by their first names and telling them to do things.  Imperious is her usual mode of interaction and, it might, I suppose be softened, if she were using some form of title.  I am not entirely sure how to deal with this, but perhaps inspiration will come.

Oh, and also, the policemen appear to be getting younger.

The Belgian Plumber

8 October, 2006 at 12:14 am by belgianwaffle

I am visiting my parents for the weekend.  Mr. Waffle is minding the children alone.  My heart bleeds for him. 

My father seems to be recovering apace.  Alas, on the day he emerged from hospital (last Sunday), the downstairs toilet broke.  Obviously, getting a plumber in to fix the toilet is out of the question in boom time Ireland, so for the past week my father has been traipsing up and down to the bathroom, despite the fact that he has strict instructions to only climb the stairs once a day.

Today, I sourced a thingy to attach the handle to the flushing device. Perhaps I do not have a long term future in the plumbing industry as I now have no recollection of what it was called. I removed the lid from the toilet cistern and spent half an hour kneeling on the toilet lid wrestling under water (clean water, I like to think, it goes into the cistern before it goes into the toilet) with a pliers and a singularly unyielding piece of metal while fielding helpful comments from my mother.  I fixed it.  I am very proud.  Let us hope it remains fixed, at the very least, until I leave tomorrow.

The Grammar Diet

6 October, 2006 at 2:21 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle: It must be time for dinner.

Me: I think it must be; I’m starving, myself.

Him: Am I married to Posh Spice?

Me: No, I’m starving, comma, myself.


4 October, 2006 at 4:39 pm by belgianwaffle

Her: Mummy, I want to live in Kerry.

Me: I know sweetheart we had a lovely time with the beach and the garden and your grandparents and your cousin and your aunties and uncle. Tell me, what did you like the best?

Her: The biscuits.

Home alone

2 October, 2006 at 9:19 pm by belgianwaffle

Last week while Mr. Waffle was away, I had to mind all three children overnight. Our babysitter came and helped me to bath them all and put the boys to bed. When she left, I fed the Princess and put her to bed. And she got up again and again and again. As it got later and later I realised that the interval between her finally going to bed and the boys starting to wake up was likely to disappear. I got desperate and called her father in Luxembourg to talk to her. He threatened not to bring a present unless she was good. She treated him with laughing disdain. Finally at 10.30, I said to her that I was going to bed. She was absolutely exhausted and lying on the bean bag playing in a desultory way with the boys’ toys but she gamely said to me “you go off to bed Mummy, I’ll sit here and play quietly on my own”. So I conceded defeat and asked whether she would like to sleep in my bed thereby, as my mother and sister both pointed out to me, rewarding poor behaviour. As she climbed into bed beside me, she said “ring Daddy in Luxembourg and tell him I’m a good girl”. “I will not ring Daddy in Luxembourg, he’ll be asleep”. “No, he won’t, he’s working in Luxembourg”. She should meet my former boss, they have such similar ideas on working hours. In any event, on his return from foreign parts, Mr. Waffle brought no present. The Princess expressed neither surprise nor indignation.

As ill-luck would have it, my esteemed husband is away this week also. Tonight, not only are we all home alone but the babysitter couldn’t come at the last moment. I got home about 6.30 and put them all into the bath which I had let run a little deep which they all enjoyed very much. Hysterically so, in fact. Nobody got hurt but I got very wet. Then I got out the two boys who instantly began crawling around the bathroom dragging their little towels behind them (making for the bin and the potty respectively). I got out a somewhat reluctant Princess also. I corralled all three of them down towards the boys’ bedroom where the Princess jumped up and down on the large bed, somewhat taking from the soothing end of the day quiet I was aiming for. I wrestled the boys into nappies as speedily as I could and nobody weed on the floor. Result, as I understand the young people say. At a somewhat more leisurely pace I got them into their pyjamas and sleeping bags allowing Daniel time to try once again his trick of trying to catch his finger in the drawer while Michael invested his not inconsiderable energies in pulling himself upright and falling back on his bottom. He performed this trick for the first time on Saturday but, so far, it shows absolutely no sign of palling. They were both in bed sucking on bottles by 7.10. Did I hear a peep out of them thereafter? No, I did not. Let us hope and pray that Daniel will equal the feat of sleeping 12 hours which he managed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night but most certainly did not last night. Since Michael has yet to wake up fewer than three times in any given night, I suppose it would be futile to hope that he might sleep through. Let us pray also that the Princess does not wet the bed. In the past week she has taken to wetting the bed half an hour after going to bed. This is some feat since she always goes to the toilet before going to bed. We think she does it on purpose because a) she has confessed to her father that she finds it funny and b) she wails when we put her back in her own bed “but before when I wet the bed, you let me sleep in your bed”. Just once. Never again. Mind you, friends of ours who came to the boys’ bash at the weekend pointed out that things could be a lot worse. Their little girl has only just been toilet trained and she tends to poo in ther underpants (which the Princess never did, mercifully) and then poke around in there (ditto, especially mercifully). Her father says that the other day it was like a dirty protest in their bathroom. Lovely.

I do feel a little bad that this evening I spent exactly 40 minutes with my sons, time which they had to divide with their older and somewhat demanding sister. Oh well, I daresay they will have plenty of time with me during the night. On the plus side though, the Princess was phenomenally well behaved. While I made dinner for us, she tidied away all the boys’ toys (by tossing them into the playpen which has become a vast untidy toybox rather than somewhere to put the boys) and we sat down and ate together and she said to me “Now Mummy, isn’t this pleasant?” Yes, indeed. And then she went to bed. No problems and she asked me “can I get up, if I want to do a wee?” ” Absolutely sweetheart”. And, finally, just before I turned out the light she said anxiously “Daddy will bring me a present, won’t he?” That’s my girl.

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