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More blogstreaking tomorrow

31 December, 2006 at 12:39 am by belgianwaffle

PARIS (AFP) – The Internet has given birth to a quirky range of modern addictions and maladies, the British weekly New Scientist says in its Christmas issue.

They include these:

– EGO-SURFING: When you frequently check your name and reputation on the Internet.

– BLOG STREAKING: “Revealing secrets or personal information online which for everybody’s sake would be best kept private.”

– CRACKBERRY: “The curse of the modern executive: not being able to stop checking your BlackBerry, even at your grandmother’s funeral.” (A BlackBerry is a popular handheld device that can be used for phoning, emailing and web-browsing).

– GOOGLE-STALKING: Defined as “snooping online on old friends, colleagues or first dates.”

– CYBERCHONDRIA: “A headache and a particular rash at the same time? Extensive online research tells you it must be cancer.”

– PHOTOLURKING: Flicking through a photo album of someone you’ve never met.

– WIKIPEDIHOLISM: Excess devotion to contributing to the online collaborative encyclopaedia, Wikipedia. (Wikipedia even has a page where you can test whether you’re an addict: (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wik…ic-Test)).

– CHEESEPODDING: Downloading of a song “so cheesy that you could cover it in plastic wrap and sell it at the deli counter.” Cheesepodders are especially vulnerable to soft-rock favourites from the 1970s.

I emailed my sister and told her she was a crackberry. Her instant response was “Yes, I know, blogstreaker”.

Baby boys – update

30 December, 2006 at 11:57 am by belgianwaffle

Daniel says “that” and points when he wants something. At bath time he says words which his loving mother interprets as “the bath” but his loving father refuses to concur. I feel he is getting closer and closer to talking. He repeats sounds all the time He loves to be read to and is constantly crawling up to me holding out books hopefully. He continues to maintain his bulk while eating nothing. If you’re dieting, may I advise? That full fat milk is a killer. He is normally solemn but has a lovely chuckle when he laughs.

Michael will eat almost anything. On Christmas day, after dinner he slumped in his seat looking sated with his little belly hanging over the straps. On the train to Cork he ate two large slices of ham. He’s unstoppable. He cruises and stands and flies up stairs (whereas Daniel is more ponderous at all these things – he has more weight to carry and gravity to maintain). He is immensely charming and smiles winningly at people holding him (random strangers in the airport, family members) when he is not biting them or hitting them on their heads. He is really excellent at throwing a ball, a skill his sister has still to master.

Yesterday, the boys and I took the train to Cork together leaving the Princess and Mr. Waffle to spend an extra day in Dublin. I was amazed how well it went. They were very good on the train. They took arrival at another new establishment in their stride and patiently let themselves be passed around various relatives. A number of friends visited that afternoon also and again, all was calm as they were passed from stranger to stranger. I am surprised. It was not thus with the Princess. But then that night they woke every half hour – Daniel, in particular was a nightmare – perhaps not so relaxed after all.

Louse update

29 December, 2006 at 11:26 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle pulled 18 dead bodies from the Princess’s head yesterday.  This is the third application of the patented remedy. They love her.  It’s mutual.  On Christmas morning, she asked anxiously  “will there be presents for the little animals that live in my hair?”  Alas, no.  Just death and destruction.  Lice get very little of the Christmas spirit.  My sister-in-law the publishing exec who has glossy hair reaching well below her shoulders was a little alarmed to find the Princess poking and peering at it and only mildly relieved to hear her highness announce “I’m looking for animals in your hair but I can’t find any”.
On Christmas morning, with considerable effort, we managed to get the whole family to mass.  Mr. Waffle looked round dolefully and said “I know these people, they look like me, they sound like me and I know what they’re thinking, they’re my tribe; I can just never afford to live near them”.  Since you ask, yes, the Dublin housing market continues buoyant.  The children’s mass also presented the spectacle of a number of kiddies on the altar whose birthdays were in December.  Girls too; I’m sure the pope would be appalled, if he knew.  The priest asked “what’s your name?” “Jack” said the scion of the middle classes. “And when’s your birthday?”, he continued “I don’t know” said Jack who obviously hasn’t been hothoused as much as other candidates.  The next child did a little better, his name was Adam.  “And when’s your birthday?” asked the priest. “I was born tomorrow” said Adam proudly.  Do you think they all got lice for their birthdays?


24 December, 2006 at 7:39 pm by belgianwaffle

We travelled back to Ireland yesterday and the journey was utterly hideous.  Huge queues in Brussels airport meant that we were still edging through security at the moment our flight was due to take off.  The Princess was difficult, casting herself on the ground sobbing thus creating the very real risk that we would lose our place in the mob or queue.  Mr. Waffle was grinding his teeth and the boys were howling.  When we got to security, we had this liquid in plastic bags business and we had to fold the buggy and put it through the machine and I had to take off my boots (stupid footwear choice).  Ah yes, the war on tourism, continues.

Safely through security we legged it to our flight, me carrying herself, Mr. Waffle pushing the boys and our mountain of handluggage.  Once on the plane (yay!), the flight was full without a single empty seat.  We were sitting in 3A, 3B and accross the aisle 3D.  We can’t sit together as there are only 4 oxygen masks for every three seats.  I asked the matronly immaculately dressed woman in 3C whether she would like to sit by the window “No, I prefer the aisle and I’ve already had to move to accommodate you”.  Not entirely sure why this should be the case but it meant that we had this large cranky lady sitting in the middle of our family group.  At one level I sympathise, but would it have killed her to have smiled?  For the duration of the flight, I had to keep Michael and the Princess from disturbing her (near impossible) and Mr. Waffle and I had to keep passing supplies across her, which she clearly enjoyed immensely.  If it hadn’t been for a lovely woman in the row behind distracting Michael and the Princess with the odd game of peekaboo, I might have lost my life.

While I was balefully contemplating the large newspaper reading, perfectly coiffed, mohair clad, ray of sunshine at the end of the row, something caught my eye.  Dear God in heaven, oh yes, those were enormous lice wending their merry way up and down the Princess’s fringe.  My immediate comfort was the knowledge that they were very likely to be attracted to the large mohair lady.

The flight finally ended and the mohair lady turned to the Princess and said “you were such a good little girl on the flight, would you like this?” and gave her an enormous gingerbread heart and I felt so mean for judging her and also for probably giving her lice for Christmas.

We are now holed up with my marvellous in-laws for the Christmas season.  It is babysitting heaven here.  And following a full inspection of the Princess’s head which was teeming with life, we have bought anti-lice shampoo (“Lice n’ easy”) and a fine tooth comb.  I also regret to report that adults do get head lice.

I would like to wish you all a safe journey, if you are travelling, and a wonderful and louse free Christmas.  You know that they only like clean hair, don’t you?


22 December, 2006 at 2:03 pm by belgianwaffle

A while ago, the fair Dooce was assailed by her many nice middle class readers for laughing at the concept of free range chicken soup. At this point, I would like to remark that I am not in favour of hurting animals, I would like them to lead full happy lives right up to the moment they killed painlessly for me to eat. I sound like I’m being sarcastic, but I’m not.

What struck me forcibly about this is the superior tones that people like to employ when reprimanding on this topic. I regard them as fellow travellers with the green lobby. Yes, I would like to save the planet, really. No, I am not going to stop sending Christmas cards or wrapping Christmas presents because it’s more sustainable. Nor am I going to give my children Christmas presents of goats in Africa or artificial limbs for amputees. It’s not that I don’t think these are good causes, I just don’t think they are good Christmas presents. Dear God, to hear people’s reactions I might as well be advocating the reinstatement of the death penalty. When I drive to work, I get reproving looks. Only the fact that I have two small children to deliver to the creche, saves me from complete disgrace. And sometimes, when I leave the room, I let the light on, oh yes I do.

Do you remember the 1980s (those born since 1983 need not respond) when greens were all people with socks and sandals? Well, now they’ve all been proved right. The London intelligensia love green issues. They fill the papers with it. UK government policy is full of it. EU policy is full of it. Al Gore made a wildly successful film about it. And boy are the environmental lobby (increasingly, I concede, beginning to look like everybody except me, George Bush and a couple of Texas oil billionaires) condescending in victory. They’re always offering patronising tips to the less enlightened like “make sure that you always use all the ink in your biro; if everyone did this then the ice caps wouldn’t be melting”.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to wrap my Christmas presents.

What happened to you?

17 December, 2006 at 9:38 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister is here for the weekend. She’s visiting from India. It’s the first time I’ve seen her since April. So, you know how it is, I wanted to make a good impression. This must be why the gods saw fit to bless me with conjunctivitis in both eyes. They were hideously bloodshot but, on the plus side that wasn’t very visible because my eyes were mostly obscured by under eye puffiness. The icing on the cake came when Michael decided to head butt me in the eye, thereby giving my right eye puffiness a range of exciting colours. We had a number of Christmas parties this weekend where the first inevitable question was what happened to you? Even the beggars outside the church asked me what happened to me. Alas.

In other sister news, she brought an avalanche of presents, cooked us dinner, minded our children and was generally wonderful. Ah, the joys of outsourcing our childcare to India. She’s finally growing to love India despite her best efforts and, to my utter amazement, she’s thinking of buying a flat near Chandigarh.

She also brought a number of brochures to explain what she does to our mother when she goes on to Cork. These were a source of immense amusement. My sister works for a well-known company that makes a well-know confectionary item which I am sure you have all tasted; let’s pretend it’s called Yummy. She is in charge of a project to bring a particular computer system to the Indian branches of Yummy.  This is how the project logo is described in the newsletter:

“The logo has the colors of the Indian flag (orange, white and green). These are arranged like 3 rivers meeting the Yummy globe. Sangam is a Sanskrit word and signifies the confulence of three most sacred river in India – The holy Ganges, the Ymuna and the mythical Saraswati. This is represented in the logo. Sangam not only signifies the meeting of holy rivers, it also signifies the meeting of millions of people, of ideas and of ancient wisdom.

Sangam also marks the confulence of Yummy India with the rest of the Yummy world, binding the two organisations together with the same culture, processes, policies or in one single religion viz the Yummy way. By virtue of this great objective, this project assumes the same paramount importance for the Yummy world as Sangam for Hindus and hence the title.”

If you ask me, that’s hoping for a lot from sweeties.

And finally, I forgot to mention, my third blogging anniversary passed earlier in the month. Who’d have thought I had the staying power? This must make me a blogging grandmother.

Can we add some more Spring, Mr. Hardy?

14 December, 2006 at 10:12 pm by belgianwaffle

When I was last at home in Cork, I picked up a second-hand poetry anthology which I keep by my bed. It was originally owned by a 14 year old girl who has annotated the poems which she had to learn for school. The poems are divided up by theme. In the section on seasons, there is a poem by Thomas Hardy, “Weathers”. I feel it’s fair to say that Thomas Hardy is not the most obscure of poets, he pretty much says what he means.

The first stanza of “Weathers” goes as follows:

This is the weather the cuckoo likes,
And so do I;
When showers betumble the chestnut spikes,
And nestlings fly;
And the little brown nightingale bills his best,
And they sit outside at ‘The Traveller’s Rest,’
And maids come forth sprig-muslin drest,
And citizens dream of the south and west,
And so do I.

Beside this in rounded, firm handwriting, our student has written the word “Spring”. Indeed.

Clearly, our receptionist had been at the gingerbread.

13 December, 2006 at 10:13 pm by belgianwaffle

Email from a good friend describing a telephone call to our house:

Princess: Hellooo?

Me: Is that the Princess?

Her (delighted): Yes!! It is!!
Me: Is Mummy there, Princess?

Her: Emm, yes. Who are you?

Friend tells the Princess her name.

Her: What? I don’t know that name…(mumble, sings a little)

Me: I’m a friend of Mummy’s. Is she there? Can you get her?

M: I don’t knoooow.
Me(trying new approach): Is Daddy there?

Her: I don’t know. Bye.

She hung up in boredom at around that point. But she sounds very like you when she says hello.

The very thoughtful and suspicious way in which she said she didn’t know that name was rather disturbing (no, that name is not on our records, do you have a file number?)I see a future as a visa officer in the Dept of Justice…or the Indian Embassy perhaps.


12 December, 2006 at 9:49 pm by belgianwaffle

I try to always answer the Princess truthfully. Insofar as possible, given my ignorance of the world and her relatively limited comprehension, I also try to explain to her everything she asks.

This is a random list of things I have attempted to explain to the Princess:

why a watched kettle never boils;

what a microscope is and how it works;

how to try the patience of a saint (in this regard, I have been a little too successful, the other day she said to me “Jaysus, Mummy, you’d try the patience of a saint);

why cold taps are blue and hot taps are red;

why it is rude to comment on the appearance of others, unless you want to say something nice;

what a passport is for and why it would be bad to lose one;

how Jesus was crucified (we had a Thomas like inspection of the holes in his hands and feet on the pieta in the church, peering at the blood on his chest the Princess pronounced, in her penetrating tones, somewhat to the surprise of nearby worshippers, “he has blood where his breasts would be, if he was* a woman but he’s not a woman, so he doesn’t have breasts to give a baby milk like I will when I’m a grown-up and I have a baby);

why eggs go bad, milk goes off and bread goes stale;

why it is important to tell the truth but not necessarily important to tell guests, when they ask whether Mummy made the biscuits, that no, she bought them in IKEA;

why it is inappropriate to arrange a crib so that the baby Jesus is watched over tenderly by Mary and an ox while Joseph is relegated to the background, thereby giving the erroneus impession that the baby Jesus’s stepfather was an ox.

Honestly, it’s like trying to answer the British citizenship test. Except, I suppose, you don’t get deported, if you don’t have the detail of how the whips’ office works.

There are only two exceptions to this rule:

exact details on where babies come from; and

the truth about Santa Claus.

*Look, I know we both know that it should be “were” but she’s not perfect.

Twin Hierarchies

9 December, 2006 at 1:27 pm by belgianwaffle

There is a distinct pecking order in twin esteem among those who like to peer at children. Rankings are as follows:

  1. Identical twin girls (they’re identical, and they’re cute little girls, probably in pink)
  2. Identical twin boys (ok, they are boys, but they’re still identical)
  3. Non-identical twins, one boy one girl (they’re not identical but at least they’ve done something interesting with one boy, one girl)
  4. Non-identical twin girls (ok,they’re not identical but still, they’re cute little girls) and then, finally
  5. Non-identical twin boys (I bet they’re IVF and that’s bad, it’s cheating really).

You think I am kidding? I regularly get asked whether the boys are “real twins”? I say “yes, they were born at the same time”. Then the querier likes to clarify “est-ce qu’ils sont monozygote?” “No, they’re not monozygote”. Then they look like I’ve been lying to them. One day I was waiting, with the boys, for Mr. Waffle and another woman was waiting for someone as well and she had twin boys too, born on the same day as mine. Hers were identical. A little old lady came zooming over to us and ignoring my beautiful boys, she peered at this other woman’s children quivering with excitement “did I hear monozygote? Est-ce qu’ils sont monozygote?”

Irish legends for children

8 December, 2006 at 3:24 pm by belgianwaffle

The GPmama is rather disapproving of the depressing nature of many fairytales – think “Babes in the Wood”, “Snow White” and so on. Myself, I’m not too pushed by the violence and misery depicted, mostly because the Princess seems to enjoy it so much (sort of like you might enjoy watching a scary film through your fingers) but even I draw the line at Irish legends. She, however, does not.
The Princess received “Irish Legends for Children” from friends of ours and she absolutely loves it. It features, inter alia, the following tales:

The children of Lir

Lir’s wife dies. He remarries and his new wife hates his four children. She turns them into swans for 900 years (leading incidentally to this poem which we learnt in school – just thought you’d like to know). Then when they hear a church bell, they turn into very old people and die.

Oisin in the land of Tir na n-Og (apologies to Irish purists for lack of fadas – accents to the rest of you).

Oisin meets beautiful Niamh on a white horse, she invites him back to her place. Off he goes promising family and friends to return shortly. He falls in love with Niamh in Tir na N-Og and marries her. After a couple of months he wants to go back to Ireland for a visit. Niamh begs him not to but eventually lets him go stipulating that he must not get off his horse. If I tell you that “Tir na n-Og” means land of youth in Irish, I think you can see where this is going. Back he goes to the old sod only to find that all his friends and relations are dead, it’s 300 years later and the new generation of Irish people are nothing like as strong and generally fabulous as their ancestors which is why he gets off the horse to help them move a heavy stone (the eejit). Guess what? The horse gallops off, he turns into an old, old man and dies. Are you beginning to see a theme here?

Deirdre of the Sorrows (I think we are forewarned by the title that this is unlikely to be a happy story)

Deirdre is born, the druids say kill her, she will bring great sorrow to Ulster. King Connor says, no, don’t kill her, send her off to be raised in isolation and I’ll marry her when she’s old enough. Just before ancient King Connor marries her, she meets a nice young fella called Naoise, they fall in love and after various travails, King Connor finds them and kills Naoise and his two warrior brothers and Deirdre dies of a broken heart. This unfortunate incident leads to a lot of unhappiness in Ulster and war breaks out (you will note that they’re still at it) as predicted by the druids (Cassandras for Northern climes). In the version I read in school, trees grow from Deirdre and Naoise’s twin graves and entwine but the Princess’s version rigourously eschews that kind of ersatz sentimentality.

Do you want to hear one of the more lighthearted stories where the only dead body is that of a faithful wolf hound? An English friend says it sounds like “Greyfriar’s Bobby”. I am not familiar with that work, but I somehow doubt it.

Email received at work

7 December, 2006 at 10:19 pm by belgianwaffle

Subject: Not urgent – Good home needed …..
Importance: Low

Item description:

1 careful owner

Good condition

Must be seen

If anyone wants a banana, I have one.

We’re going to the Labour Court or does anyone remember the 1980s?

6 December, 2006 at 9:52 pm by belgianwaffle

In negotiations, the union side has again raised the vexed issue of “mashed potatoes” or “purée”. Management is accused of stalling on this despite the issue being raised repeatedy, first at local level and then as a formal complaint (“Waah, I don’t want!) Assurances from management that the new year would see a full and final resolution of this issue by the introduction of a daily sandwich in substitution for the hot meal offered by the school were characterised by the union side as “too little, too late” (or words to this effect). On the more general issue, the stand-off between unions and management on the question of productivity and time-keeping continues. The unions threaten a walk out if management insists on the proposed frequency of school attendance (“Do I have to go every day Mummy?”). In its opening offer, management has suggested parking the issue for two weeks over the Christmas period. The union side has not yet given an official response but early indications are that this will be insufficient to stop drastic action.

Middle management fears that if school starts up again in January without any agreement, industrial relations will become stretched to breaking point. The union side could retaliate with, at best, a go-slow and, at worst, an all-out cessation of co-operation in the matter of morning dressing. A work to rule is already in operation (e.g. the Union side refuses to wear jumpers as these are not part of the basic clothing package; the union wishes to go out clad only in underpants and vest). In this explosive context, the slightest friction (e.g. over shoes) can quickly get out of hand.

Negotiations are scheduled to continue indefinitely with neither side showing any willingness to compromise on the core issue. Management maintains that ongoing schooling is essential to the viability of operations and without daily school attendance, the future of the project is at serious risk. The union side, for its part, chastises management as being “a big meanie”.

Did you miss me?

4 December, 2006 at 10:30 pm by belgianwaffle

I know, three days away from the computer, I’m amazed. Let me share all the fascinating things I did with you.

On Friday afternoon, I decided that the Princess and I would go to IKEA. I picked her up from school at 3.15 and when, at 4.00 we still hadn’t reached the motorway, I should have realised that we were doomed. Once on the motorway, I took the wrong exit and found myself driving despairingly round deepest, darkest Anderlecht.

Me: Insert swear word here, we’re insert swear word here lost.

Princess: Mummy, say “oh dear, we’re lost” and there’s no need to worry, just stop and look at the map or maybe we can ask someone for directions.

Following the three year old’s sage advice, we got there eventually at 4.40. This left us just time to buy the bar of chocolate I had promised her in return for her good behaviour in the car and a small selection of Christmas baubles. I was saved from buying further tat (including obligatory nightlights, pog) by my daughter who put her chubby hands over my eyes and said “don’t buy anything Mummy, we have enough stuff and, if we buy it all, there won’t be enough left for everyone else”.

At 17.08 we left IKEA to pick up the boys from the creche, the Princess munching contentedly on her large bar of chocolate. By the time we reached town, she was begging me for water. “Mummy” she said desperately “promise me, you’ll never buy me chocolate again”.  We stopped in a shop for an emergency bottle of water which she immediately spilt all over herself.  She spent the remainder of the journey to the creche elaborating on how wet she was “Mummy, my vest is wet.  And my t-shirt.  And my socks”.

Saturday was spent admiring Saint Nicolas in the Grand Place.  The Princess managed to secure five plastic packets of sweets by looking pathetically at the acolytes of Saint Nicolas as they went past while hastily stuffing the fruits of her last pathetic glance in my pocket.  If you want to know who Saint Nicolas is, may I refer you to this charming story?

Sunday saw the Princess at a concert.  It was Sleeping Beauty done for kids.  A bit of Tchaikovsky, a bit of story, a bit of general classical music for kids and a bit of looking at musical instruments.  Mr. Waffle told me that the ex-pat middle classes were out in force and  you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a brilliant, multi-lingual international tot (including ours, of course).   It transpired that we have, however, let her down badly in the Peter and the Wolf stakes.  While  all the other kids in the audience bellowed out the answers to which instrument is which part, our girl was baffled and silent.  And we have the U2 boxed edition as well (of course, we do).  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea massima culpa.

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