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Archive for May, 2007

I am heartless, I only care about our holiday

29 May, 2007 at 10:58 pm by belgianwaffle

We had planned to go to Spain tomorrow for a week for M and R’s joint 50th birthday parties which will be held in the little town where they have a house. I was very much looking forward to the trip. What do you think my sentiments were when I got a phone call from the creche mid-afternoon telling me that both boys were sick with high temperatures. Mr. Waffle wants to cancel, I want to go. We’ll see how the night goes.  The poor mites were very warm this afternoon and, I suppose a 2 hour flight followed by a nice long drive might not be ideal, if all they really want to do is lie in a darkened room, bleating feebly. Keep your fingers crossed.

Poor Daniel

29 May, 2007 at 10:47 pm by belgianwaffle

Belgium in May is a cruel place. Weekends consist of one bank holiday after another and loving parents run out of ideas as to what their delightful offspring might like to do. On Monday afternoon, we decided to go to the pool. We rang to check it was open on the bank holiday, it was. We herded our children into the car. Half way there, Daniel vomitted copiously getting himself and his seat. We pulled in, in front of a garage and stripped him down to his nappy while the other pair complained vigourously. We wrapped his vomitted on seat in a towel while he sat in the front seat, turned on the radio and waved his arms around happily to the music and the man waiting to get out of the garage (of course) waited. We then went home to change him and regroup amid howls of protest. Then, we set out again, all smelling somewhat of vomit, though, only one of us had to sit in the vomit covered chair wrapped in a towel. Poor Daniel looked a bit pale and interesting as he was driven around the back streets of Brussels inhaling at very close quarters the odour of the regurgitated contents of his stomach. We got to the pool and disgorged everyone. Do I need to tell you that the pool was closed due to a technical fault. What do you think that might be? We drove to another swimming pool. All the roads round it were sealed off but eventually we found the one road which was open. Unlike the pool. Closed for the bank holiday. We all nearly cried on the way home after a singularly unproductive hour and a half in the car.

Michael

29 May, 2007 at 10:41 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael is very sociable. On Sunday we went to a christening and while the other two stayed near us, other than for forays to the cake table, Michael went everywhere. Feeling increasingly flustered, we found him in the back garden worming his way into the middle of a group of small boys poking the hedge with a stick; we found him chatting up the caterers; we found him poised to try that trick of pulling a tablecloth off a table while leaving all the glass ware in place, in fact he was only too anxious to abandon his loving parents.

I’ve noticed this before. I remember once going to the sandpit and establishing myself, the Princess and the boys in one corner with all our stuff to see Michael striding out to the opposite side to ingratiate himself with the children over there. The combination of this sociability and physical daring bordering on foolhardiness reminds me of both his uncles, in a slightly unnerving way.

No prizes for guessing which boy is busy trying to imitate the Princess in her death defying leap; this despite the considerable handicap of not actually being able to jump yet and also the added difficulty that when he falls over on his back he has to lie there waving his limbs in the air like a stranded beetle until someone comes and rescues him. In this house, that can take ages. I have no video evidence of his jumping, partly because somebody has to catch him and partly because the moment he hears the camera being switched on, he comes haring over to have a look at old photos of himself.

Yesterday afternoon he drank a cup of cold tea I had left on the coffee table (the very one that features in the death defying leap) and last night he woke at 2.00 and stayed awake chatting manically until 5.22.  Mr. Waffle watched some telly with him but he kept flicking and I tried to talk to my sister in Chicago but he grabbed the phone from me and repeated excitedly “hello, hiya” until we both gave up.  I hope Michael never encounters stronger drugs than caffeine.

Birth announcements

28 May, 2007 at 12:55 pm by belgianwaffle

From Saturday’s Irish Times:

“Hello World! I’m Jamie Duke Callaghan and I arrived on May 1, 2007. My sister Molly Mae and Mum and Dad…are thrilled. Momo, John, Momo, Donal and loads of other people have been really good to me and I am looking forward to a great life. Bring it on…”

In the unusual names segment of competition:

“…A treasured sister to Fulton, Sofia, Mia and Sabastine…”

Yes, prime minister

26 May, 2007 at 10:33 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Can you believe Michael McDowell lost his seat?

Her: What, what, WHAT are you talking about?

Mr. Waffle: Well, sweetheart, you know there are people who make laws and decide what’s legal and illegal?

Her: Yes.

Him: Well, in Ireland they were picking people to do that and…

Me: They go and put a cross on a piece of paper beside the name of the person they want to win.

Him: Well, technically that’s a spoiled vote.*

Her: WHAT? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

Him: Anyway, this man wanted to be the boss but not enough people voted for him and now he’s not going to be working with the other people making laws in a big building, called the Parliament.

Her: Why did he want to be the boss?

Him: Well, some people do. Your mother and I wouldn’t like to be in charge in that kind of job but some people would like it.

Her (smiling): I would like it, I would like to be the boss.

No surprises there.

*Mr. Waffle on reading over this has said that I should explain that in Ireland we have a  list system but one where you must rank the candidates in order of preference.  Further he says that he is not sure that marking a cross against one of the candidates is definitely a spoiled vote as it may be taken as a clear indication of preference.  Finally, he says that it is easy to use but hard to explain.

Stupid Ads

24 May, 2007 at 10:46 pm by belgianwaffle

Has anyone else seen the ad for some accountancy body featuring a man wrestling with some enormous shark thing? There he is reeling in the enormous fish looking delighted with himself but, the advertisement claims, it wasn’t as exciting as the time he got his accountancy qualifications.

[C]reative creatives creating creative creative” indeed.

Excuse me?

23 May, 2007 at 9:37 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: If you knock that off the table the carving knife might fall too and hurt me.

Her: And would you have to go to hospital?

Me: Possibly.

Her: That would be terrible.

Me: Yes.

Her: Dinner would go cold.

Wicked

22 May, 2007 at 11:58 pm by belgianwaffle

I have just finished my first Jilly Cooper novel. Words cannot express my disappointment. No sex until page 431. What is going on here? Also a cast of characters so vast that they are listed over several pages at the start. There’s a special page for all the animal characters. It’s just as well. “Rowan had a whip round”. Hang on, who’s Rowan, is she Hengist Brett-Taylor’s greyhound or the school secretary? Or is that Brett Hengist-Taylor? Furthermore, never having read any of the Rutshire (Rutshire, honestly, has she no shame) novels, I am less than interested in the fate of Rupert Campbell-Black’s (or should that be Campbell Rupert-Black?) offspring and marriage.

Her characters are largely unashamed tories. I quite enjoyed Hengist saying that he worked in a private school so that he could avoid the dead hand of the “Council of Europe”. If you know nothing about the EU or could conceivably confuse the European Council with the Council of Europe (different, utterly different, trust me here), then this may not provide you with the same amusement value as it did me.

She has, however, some of my prejudices which is always welcome in an author.

Hideous, sandal wearing, doubtless eco-clothing clad, new agey, know it all aggressive breastfeeding character (rejoicing in the unlikely name of Poppet): I know you’re hurting.

Paris Alvaston (equally unlikely name of leading handsome male student): I’m not and hurt is a transitive verb.

I did read it until two in the morning a couple of nights running but that really says more about my lack of self restraint than the entertainment value of this tome.

I am just back from bookclub where we read “Mother’s milk” which I absolutely loathed and all the others loved.  I could not abide the main character, Patrick, who whined and whined because he had been disinherited.  I could see that it was well written but I couldn’t really get over my desire to shake Patrick and tell him to cop himself on. The others saw his whininess as symptomatic of his upbringing and were fascinated by the wider theme of how unloving mothers can damage their children and whether we are destined to repeat our parents’ errors.  Alas for all the nuances I missed.  I won’t be rereading all the same.

Quote of the week

20 May, 2007 at 9:15 pm by belgianwaffle

“We campaign in poetry, but we govern in prose”. So, apparently, said Mario Cuomo. Judging by yesterday’s Irish Times, there’s not a great deal of poetry in the Irish election campaign either.

Voting takes place on May 24. Everything appears frenzied back in Ireland. As an emigrant I am completely disenfranchised. The only thing I can vote in is the Belgian communal elections which are, of course, fine in their way but perhaps lack the excitement associated with national politics. Then, of course, there are the Belgian federal elections on June 10 which I can’t vote in either. Poor Mr. Waffle has bought a comic strip book outlining the main issues. You think I’m joking? I’m not.

Is this what they call challenging behaviour?

18 May, 2007 at 3:13 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess can be trying these days.
The other night while putting the boys to bed, she said to me “Will you read me a story?”

“Yes, honey, when the boys are in bed.”

“You said you cared about me” she said flouncing off.
When she is cross and one of us picks her up, she glares balefully at the offender and says ” you hurt me, you hurt me on purpose.”

We are approaching our wits’ end in the matter of discipline. The “coin colere” has been devalued through constant use. The other day, I said to her “you have been so bold, that I am going to take something you really like and put it out of reach for a while” while frantically thinking what that might be.

“That’s a good idea, Mummy” said she “let’s think what might be a good thing to put out of reach, I really like my tea set” she offered.

I was torn between laughter, admiration and desperation. Suggestions please? As she doesn’t watch television, we can’t use banning it as a threat but I’m half thinking of introducing half an hour a day for that sole reason.

Big boys

16 May, 2007 at 10:57 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel puckers his lips to be kissed but Michael puts his upper lip under his lower. They do this a lot. It is very endearing. They are so straightforward. As yet, there is no sign that either of them might have his sister’s iron will. Michael is even sleeping through the night but it’s hard to appreciate this as much as we might because Daniel is still waking up four times a night. He only drinks milk and he likes it all at night. Michael, though svelte of figure, (unlike Daniel who is sturdy: he walks like John Wayne after a long day in the saddle and has a pot belly) will eat almost anything. He has a particular fondness for protein of all kinds and earlier this evening I pried a chicken limb from him to put him into the bath and he cried piteously throughout the bath, the tooth washing and the drying and putting to bed, stretching into the air for the chicken leg his cruel mother had well, cruelly, taken from him.

How they love to go out. When I say “let’s go”, they run to the front door and stand leaning against it until the rest of us catch up. They then go out and sit on the stairs together while waiting for the lift to arrive. I have tried to photograph this charming sight on many occasions but they get up the minute they see the camera, again frustrating my efforts to photograph their every moment etc.

Sunday was mother’s day. I had to travel and it was an inauspicious omen leaving my three children bawling on the floor behind me. I had already been the lucky recipient of various hand made gifts: a bowl from the Princess made in secret (“Mummy, I have a secret in school – hands over mouth – I can’t tell you!”) over many weeks in school, and two night lights from the boys constructed in the creche. I had been told that the petals on the flowers on the night lights were made from the boys’ fingerprints. Even if I hadn’t been, I would have guessed as they cooed over the finished product, stuck their fingers on the petals and then inspected their fingertips hopefully for traces of paint. Isn’t it odd that what your mother always told you is true? It is much nicer to have something your child made than something he or she bought.

The boys are talking. We can recognise lots of words. “Hors jeu!” they say accompanied by a finger pointing to the place where bold children sit and think about their sins. Daniel says “shoes, chausseurs” and names many of the books he would like me to read though the poor mite knows that much of his time has to be spent wistfully turning pages on his own beside the bookshelf. He particularly adores his father and will go up to him and touch him as though he can’t quite believe he’s actually there saying lovingly “Daadee”. This is as well for Mr. Waffle as, at present, relations with the Princess are poor. This evening, on returning from a day labouring for his family, he was greeted by his first born with the words “méchant, va t’en”.

Michael continues to be fond of all animals which he now refers to generally as “ack acks”. While initially covering only ducks this now extends to dogs and cats as well. I think he suspects cows are different – he tends to point at their pictures and say sniffily “moo”. There is a duck on the mantelpiece and he points at it enthusiastically every meal time “ack, ack”. Both of them are very good at doing the gestures that go with the relevant pages of their favourite books “No, Pat, no don’t sit on that” is accompanied by violent head shaking and finger waving to let Pat know that sitting on a cactus would be a huge mistake.

They are often kind to each other. This evening when Michael was having his chicken wing meltdown, Daniel went up and patted him on the cheek. With their sister, there is generally no quarter given or asked for. The three of them have, however, just started to play together. They chase each other round the house and when caught scream “I gotcha”. The Princess has taught them to scream at the top of their lungs when we say shush. Daniel is a particular adept at this game. I can’t tell you how much we’re enjoying it ourselves.

That’s enough for today.

Cheese eating surrender monkeys slammed

11 May, 2007 at 10:16 pm by belgianwaffle

A bunch of MEPs went to the US to hear about CIA renditions. They heard Mr. Michael F. Scheuer, Former Chief, Bin Laden Unit, CIA describe us lot as follows

“effete sanctimonious Europeans who take every bit of American protection offered them while publicly damning and seeking jail time for those who risk their lives to provide the protection”

He added:

“If the Rendition Program is halted, we will truly be able to say, by paraphrasing the late film actor John Wayne, that: War is tough, but it is a lot tougher if you are deliberately stupid”

Hmm. He has a way with words.

“On the issue of how rendered al-Qaeda leaders have been treated in prison, I am unable to speak with authority about the conditions these men found in the Middle Eastern prisons they were delivered to at President Clinton’s direction. I would not, however, be surprised if their treatment was not up to U.S. standards, but this is a matter of no concern as the Rendition Program’s goal was to protect America and the rendered fighters delivered to Middle Eastern governments are now either dead or in places from which they cannot harm America. Mission accomplished, as the saying goes.”

I feel I’ve heard that before somewhere. Mission accomplished, mission accomplished, why does it ring a bell?

“Finally, I will close by saying that mistakes may well have been made during my tenure as the chief of CIA’s bin Laden operations, and, if there were errors, they are my responsibility. Intelligence information is not the equivalent of court-room-quality evidence, and it never will be. But I will again stress that no rendition target was ever approved or captured without a written brief composed of intelligence information that persuaded competent U.S. government legal authorities. If mistakes were made, I can only say that that is tough, but war is a tough and confusing business, and a well-supported chance to take action and protect Americans should always trump other considerations, especially pedantic worries about whether or not the intelligence data is air tight”.

The full text of Mr. Scheuer’s testimony is here. I think it speaks for itself, really.

Shoes

11 May, 2007 at 10:06 pm by belgianwaffle

The boys love to go out. Michael often follows me round the house clutching his shoes and looking at me hopefully.

The boys have one pair of shoes each and one pair of sandals each. The weather has turned nasty and we have discovered that one of the shoes has disappeared. In rotation, our unfortunate sons have been guilty of the fashion solecism of wearing sandals with socks. Also, more worrying, they have taken my keys and hidden them. I foresee vast expenditure.

When my father was a student in the 1940s, he had a friend who was a physics student. His friend said to him one day “I can’t wait for the Summer when I can get out of shoes again.” There is something about the juxtaposition of not wearing shoes and physics that appeals to me.

More random odd stories from the kingdom of the Belgians

8 May, 2007 at 8:41 pm by belgianwaffle

Belgium is a country divided by languages, namely French and Flemish (nobody seems too worried about the German speakers).

Belgian Friend: L is a Leo (lion in French).

Me: Ah, like the symbol of Belgium.

BF: No, that’s the symbol of Flanders.

Me: I think it’s also the symbol of Belgium.

BF (darkly): I wouldn’t put it past them.

The Belgian army is divided along linguistic lines.  Batches of troops (companies, battalions, divisions, who knows?) are put in the same linguistic groups.  So, when they meet doing NATO manoeuvres, they speak to each other in English until they have established the language regime applying to the other troop.

Finally, Belgians are given a licence plate at the start of their driving careers and they keep those numbers forever.  Given developments in licence plate numbering, you can tell the really old drivers by their plates.  I find that strangely satisfying which makes me wonder whether I have been married to my husband for too long.

Procrastination is the thief of time

8 May, 2007 at 1:23 am by belgianwaffle

Him: You know it has to be in by Tuesday?

Me: Yes, absolutely but let’s go to this European Open Doors thingy this morning.

We live in the capital of Europe, it is a thrill for us to enter its institutions. We went to the Committee of the Regions (don’t ask, you don’t need to know) where the Princess sampled sweets from 41 European regions and the boys were wafted to the ceiling by armfuls of helium balloons. We all came home with a lot of pins. We had intended to go to the Berlaymont and inspect the farm animals, face painters and Beatles tribute bands imported to make the head office of the European Commission seem open and approachable but our children were too light headed from their Committee of the Regions treat to face it. A friend told us that though enjoyable, it was an excellent introduction to bureaucracy as children wanting to participate in the fun had to colour their badge, laminate it and then tick a form before they could fish for treasure.
Him: You know it has to be in by Tuesday?

Me: Yes, absolutely, but it’s F’s birthday party this afternoon.

Him: You know it has to be in by Tuesday?

Me: Yes, absolutely, but we have a babysitter coming. Let’s go to the cinema. Spiderman 3 or La Vie des Autres? A high budget Hollywood blockbuster, predictable fare yet strangely enjoyable or a film about the Stasi in East Germany in 1984, in German (obviously) with French and Dutch subtitles by the outrageously named Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck?

So, we went to see The lives of Others and it was absolutely brilliant and I see it has won all sorts of awards so you’ve probably all seen it already but, just in case not, well worth seeing. Truly, despite the obvious handicaps of subject matter.

Him: You know it has to be in by Tuesday?

Me: Yes, absolutely but I’m going to the toy museum this morning.

Him: You know it has to be in by Tuesday?

Me: Yes, absolutely but the barbecue this afternoon?

Him: You know it has to be in by Tuesday?

Me: Yes, absolutely but I’m exhausted after the weekend’s activities.  And there’s the laundry.  No, no, I’ll do it. I  WANT to do it.
Him: You’re going to end up doing it tomorrow night after your work dinner, aren’t you?

Me: Yes.

A touch of OCD

3 May, 2007 at 11:08 pm by belgianwaffle

When my family moved house when I was 11, I put all my parents’ books on the wall of shelves in the spare room in alphabetical order. It is for this reason that, more than a quarter of a century later, the Rex Stouts and Georgette Heyers are always to hand when needed.

When we moved to Brussels before the Princess was born, I put all of our books in alphabetical order on shelves as well. I wage a continuing battle with our cleaner (who believes they should be ordered according to height) and our youngest children (who believe they should be kept on the floor in a pile).

The bottom left hand shelf of our bookshelf is devoted to children’s books. Every day the boys pull them all out and every evening I put them all back. Not in alphabetical order; that would be stupid. I order them by publisher, like in Hatchards. As every night I gather together the Ladybirds, the Puffins, and the others, I begin to get a feeling for what kind of book the publishers go for. So here based on my experience are what the publishers publish.

The ladybirds: I had lots of these when I was little. The little ladybird logo is, for me, as much a reminder of my childhood as Clark’s shoes. We have a couple of classics from the 70s and 80s that I picked up second hand which seem very dull but Daniel really goes for the baby’s first picture book (“ba, bah!” – ball, clearly, you fools) and the Princess has a fondness for a book showing what children do at school and a nursery rhyme book. The more modern ladybirds we have are all lift the flap books. You have to be a very tough flap to withstand my children and most evenings I sellotape back on elements of “Night, night baby” and “Peekaboo baby”. I would characterise the offerings as solid but unimaginative.

Then we come to Usborne books. The books for younger children seem to be something of a one trick pony. They have “That’s not my dinosaur” and its sister publications including “That’s not my pirate”, “That’s not my tractor” and so on. They know a good thing when they see one, there is a long list of these titles. Aside from that, we have a reasonably attractive book of nursery rhymes and three fabulous fairy tale books for the Princess. These are lovely books to look at and reasonably entertaining for grown-ups to read which becomes important from the 150th bedtime repetition . We have “The Princess and the Pea”, “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and “Rapunzel“. My personal favourite is “Rapunzel” but they are all very cleverly done.

Moving on from left to right we come to the Dr. Seuss family. The cat in the hat logo appears on a number of books that are not penned by the good doctor himself but they are all strong on rhyme and adored by my children. We have “The Cat in the Hat comes back”, “Hop on Pop” and “Go Dog Go” from when I was little. “Go Dog Go” and “Hop on Pop” are approaching complete disintegration. Daniel and Michael can pick both of them from the bookshelf and bring them to me when I ask them. Daniel can even make hopeful sounds approximating to both titles. We have, as they say, “too many to mention” from the Seuss stable. We like some better than others. “Snow” and “I”m not going to get up today” work quite well for the Princess but, personally, if I never had to read “Red Fish, Blue Fish” again, it would be no loss. Daniel is a big fan of “The Foot Book” which is, at least, short. We all love “The Cat in the Hat”.

The Puffins were, I always felt, the intellectuals of the children’s book world. They may have shed this image slightly with the publication of “Princess Smarty Pants” and “Tiny Rabbit” both of which the Princess is keen on but I find tedious. We also have a great version of “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse” that I had when I was little. It is lovely to reread it now because I knew it by heart then but phrases like “The cheese was the finest Parmesan and they wetted their whiskers with exquisite champagne” didn’t mean a lot to me and it’s like putting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle in place. The older members of the family are fond of “Sam Jam Balu” although the Princess has gone off it a bit recently which is a pity as her parents are still very keen. I have just discovered Janet and Allan Ahlberg. I like the classic “Each Peach Pear Plum” which was, until recently, unknown to me but I am enjoying even more “The Baby’s Catalogue” which is the cleverest picture book I have ever seen. All the children love it and I find it very entertaining also. I seem to find something new on every reading which is saying a lot about a book that has mostly one word per page.

Onwards. Walker Books have a stupid slogan along the lines of “for high quality look for the book with the bear”. Nevertheless, I have to concede that Walker Books are all pretty popular with the Princess. I find the “Little Bear” series almost unbearably twee myself but the Princess is a big fan. Lines like “Big Bear said to Little Bear ‘jump into my arms Little Bear'” go down really well with the target audience but are a bit of a trial for the grown-ups. They have the “bear hunt” people and a lot of their works which are good value. They also have Shirley Hughes who has some of my favourite pictures in any children’s books (an extremely competitive field) but whose words are quite dire. Her stuff does not scan. It’s not that hard. Ask Dr. Seuss. I have, however, a special place in my heart for Shirley Hughes because she illustrated “Stories for Eight Year Olds” which may well be my favourite book of all time. Overall, to be fair, the Walker book slogan is accurate.

We then move to Red Fox books who appear to be unknown to the internet. They have Daisy of whom the Princess is very fond. Her parents can take or leave Daisy. They also have the classic “Where the Wild Things Are” They have the very useful “Mummy laid an Egg” where the author of the annoying “Princess Smarty Pants” does an excellent job on the vexed question of where babies come from. Is it possible Red Fox do re-editions of things which have already appeared and been successful elsewhere? It makes them a safe bet, I would have thought.

Little Tiger Press does not do it for us, but perhaps with only three books on our main shelves, we do not have a large enough sample to judge.

Macmillan have the Gruffalo and all of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s immensely successful works. Lucky old them. I do like the Gruffalo, you can’t help it, really. The Princess knows chunks of it off by heart as do most children as far as I can see.

I have not touched upon the French books or the books in the Princess’s room, although I do put together the T’choupis, the Juliettes and the Camilles of which there are many, my systems seem to fall down there. And she has lots of lovely books that I have forgotten because they are not in proper order and we don’t think to read them. Though “The Wild Girl” and “The Dancing Tiger“, are both beautiful and make me cry (which is very easy to do, just try upsetting my filing) and I know this though, offhand, I can’t tell you who publishes them. Tomorrow, clearly, it behoves me to organise the Princess’s bookshelves.

Tell me, what are your favourite books for young children?

Variation on a theme

2 May, 2007 at 1:10 pm by belgianwaffle

We bought the Princess a large helium Dora balloon some time ago for reasons I will not bore you with (comments along the lines of, don’t stop now, are as tactless as they are unwelcome). This was very unwise. Scenes of bloody chaos ensued as the Princess held it above her head and beat off her little brothers who desired the Dora balloon with every atom of their beings. “Take them away” she screamed as she whacked them in the face and they cried with mingled shrieks of pain and desire. Wouldn’t you love to live in our house?

Princess: So, if Dora dies, her heart will stop beating and the blood will stop pumping and all her limbs will die and she will turn black underground.

Me: Well, yes, except she’s a balloon.

Also, she’s a very creepy balloon. For evidence of how she follows one round the house, please see here.  Yes, I know, it’s sideways.  Is that a problem?

It turns out you can brainwash your children

1 May, 2007 at 10:04 pm by belgianwaffle

When I was a small girl, Ireland converted to metric. From imperial not from catholicism, clearly. This presented no difficulties for me as my parents are both from the science side of the great divide and, from earliest youth, my father, in particular, had banned the use of feet, inches, yards, miles, pints and other such measures and insisted that we use the far more useful and comprehensible centimetres, metres, litres and so on. Mind you, our milk was still delivered in pints which presented some problems “would somebody get an approximately half litre of milk from the fridge” does not trip off the tongue. The other day, the Princess asked me what an inch was and I explained that it was the measure that they use in the UK and the US. “And what all your relatives in Ireland use” added Mr. Waffle. “Not my relatives” I said startled and told him about the strict ban on imperial measures in my parents’ house (also on hopefully in its non-adverbial form). “I see” he said thoughtfully “I had noticed that you were much more metric than me”. “Isn’t everyone in Ireland metric?” “No”. “Oh”.


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