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Archive for January, 2008

More mornings

30 January, 2008 at 12:59 am by belgianwaffle

Last night the Princess arrived into our bed, most unusually, at 3.00 in the morning and stayed there alternately chatting and poking until 6.00.

This morning we had the usual chivying, hurrying and harrying to get out the door with an extra nugget of exhaustion for three of the main players. The Princess was, perversely, extremely good. I am not sure whether this is as a result of engaging in charades last night when she got to pretend to be each of us in the morning in turn. It was funny. She enjoyed our appreciative laughter but maybe she finally realised that we would like it, if she would just get dressed in the morning.

Anyhow, Mr. Waffle was tired, sick and short-tempered. Michael came out of the kitchen and said crossly “Daddy, a bit mean”. Daniel sat up in his chair. His lower lip wobbled. “What’s wrong darling?” “Daddy fâché, Daniel sad.” “What that noise?” “That’s the sound of Mummy’s heart breaking”. Alternatively, it could have been Mr. Waffle saying “Oh, for heaven’s sake, it’ll toughen them up”.  At least he’s not feeding them Calgonit; you will be pleased to hear that there appear to be no ill effects to date.

Landmarks

28 January, 2008 at 5:57 pm by belgianwaffle

On Friday afternoon, the Princess’s schoolfriend L came round to visit.  We had arranged that L’s mother would take both girls back to her house around the corner later in the afternoon while I went to collect the boys from the creche (Mr. Waffle being stuck late at work).  As she departed (in her Cinderella dress), L asked whether the Princess was staying in her house.  This was something L’s mother and I had discussed but not for that evening.  L’s mother said that she could, if I agreed.  Upon being importuned, I agreed and send her off with her toothbrush, doggy, a pair of pyjamas and the confident knowledge that we would have to collect her later when she realised the enormity of the undertaking.  She has only spent one night apart from both parents in her whole life.

At 8.10 we sat together on the sofa and telephoned prepared for a tearful Princess. Not a bit of it, she was having a wonderful time and would see us in the morning.  Goodnight.  We were dumbfounded.  Through the night as we got up to ply the boys with milk and to implore them to consider sleeping as a viable alternative to shouting, we passed her empty room with the curtains still drawn and we worried.  We needn’t have.  I collected her in the morning and she was perfectly composed.  Yes, she had a lovely time, thank you.

Saturday afternoon was not satisfactory.  Daniel did not nap and our normally sweet tempered middle child was transformed into a screaming nightmare.  We went to a toyshop to buy a present for a friend and Daniel fell in love with the model train.   We could not get him to leave.  In the end his father had to carry him out struggling and bellowing.  He’s a big boy, when he struggles it is not a pretty sight.  We decided to go to a café.  When we came in with our brood, the other patrons looked at us warily, as well they might.  I couldn’t get the double buggy past the tables and that was when we should have left but we didn’t.  A kind man came and picked up the various items that we had dropped on the floor very slowly.  Mr. Waffle controlled the bellowing Daniel.  Michael and herself made a bid for freedom.  Everybody stared at us.  I thanked the kindly customer while silently cursing him for not letting me pick things up myself which would have been much quicker.  We installed ourselves.  I took Daniel upstairs to change him.  He screamed.  Michael would not be separated from me.  He screamed.  I brought the two boys up the narrow winding stairs together.  I changed Daniel he perked up and stopped howling briefly.  We were on a knife edge though.  We got back to the table.  I took off his hat.  He screamed.  I put it back on and he stopped but not before, to my mortification, a kind American lady at another table had given us a book to read to him.  We decided that I had better take Daniel home.  Michael refused to countenance my leaving without him.  I left with the boys.  Daniel would only leave on condition he got back to the train.  We went back to the toyshop.  Michael was very good about leaving.  Daniel was not.  It took all of my strength to put his writhing person back in the buggy.  We went home.  All very tiring.

On Sunday morning we went to Mass where the Princess informed me in loud tones, just after the consecration, as the church was silent that she hates Mass.  While, I can sympathise, I am not yielding.  Not yet, anyway.  Also, I’m hoping to cure them of the habit they all have of shying away when I put holy water on their foreheads.  Why is it only Protestants have Sunday school?

On Sunday afternooon, we dropped the Princess off for a party at a friend’s house or, more accurately, at the house of friends of ours whose daughter the Princess could probably not identify in a line out.  I felt a bit nervous about this as almost all the other guests were from the birthday girl’s class in school but it passed off peacefully.  I am now quite impressed by my daughter’s independence.  While she was at the party, her father and I briefly regained our sanity and then woke the boys from their nap and took them to the park on their tricycles.  When we collected the Princess, I was particularly struck by the utter lawlessness of the little boys at the party.  There were two who were screaming and jumping on balloons and a number who were thumping.  I am not sure whether this behaviour is unique to boys in this school (it’s one of these schools that encourages the development of the whole child – I have a traditional view about these things, so sue me) or, as I fear, absolutely typical of four year old boys.  I can’t wait until I have two of my own to let loose on an unsuspecting world.

And finally, this afternoon, our childminder called me to say that she was sick, so I took the afternoon off and came home to mind the troops who were suitably gratified to see me.

I was in the kitchen dispensing food and I heard Daniel say not nice.  I turned around and to my horror saw that he and Michael had bitten through a packet of calgonit and ingested a quantity of same which Daniel was spitting out.  It’s not clear to me whether Michael tried it or decided against.

Much panic ensued.  The Princess was saintly and entertained her brothers while I rang their father, the  paediatrician and then the poisons helpline (he had the number to hand). The lady on the poisons helpline was very helpful (much more so than the Calgonit website which I have been scouring since) and said that it was more an irritant than poisonous.  I said that they both seemed fine but she said that the effects might not be visible immediately and to watch out if they started to cry or wouldn’t eat.  Not conclusive symptoms, I fear.

I am watching them like an anxious mother hawk.

Mícheál

27 January, 2008 at 10:18 pm by belgianwaffle

I have a good friend called Michael and sometimes I call him Mícheál and I have got into the habit of calling my son Michael Mícheál affectionately from time to time also.

In recent days, Daniel has started coming up to me and saying anxiously “Daniel Mícheál!”. I have tried to comfort him by telling him he is Dónal which is the Irish for Daniel or Danny Boy which is friendly but he’s having none of it; “Daniel Mícheál!” he insists.  His sister has, however, decided that the boy suffix is a good one and she now calls her other brother Mícheál Boy which shows that she really is from Cork.

While I’m talking about slang may I thank those who enlightened me on Australian slang – bonza sheilas.

A Town like Alice

25 January, 2008 at 2:24 pm by belgianwaffle

My parents always had a lot of Nevil Shute books knocking around the house and I saw one second hand and picked it up recently.

I have to say I tore through “A Town like Alice” though the writing is more functional than inspired. It is also shockingly racist in a very casual, unthinking way that demonstrates how racism was woven into the fabric of society more clearly than anything else I’ve read. The framing device is somewhat odd and, judging by the author’s note at the back, it’s a tribute to a Dutch lady he fell in love with.

All in all, though, I’m inclined to give “On the Beach” a whirl. Any thoughts?

On a related note, wikipedia tells me that Nevil Shute’s father was the head of the General Post Office in Dublin during the 1916 uprising and stretchered people out. Suspect possibly not the founders of the new State.

Finally, can anyone tell me whether Australians say bonza in real life as in “Alice is a bonza town”?

Conversation with a Dublin Taxi Driver or All Human Life is Here

24 January, 2008 at 11:18 pm by belgianwaffle

Him: Where to?

Me: The airport.

Him: Where are you going?

Me: Brussels.

Him: Just for the day?

Me: Actually I live in Brussels.

Him: Department of Foreign Affairs?

Me: Er, no (elaborate on current job).

Him: They speak Flemish there, don’t they?

Me: Some elaboration on the Belgian language regime.

Him: Je ne parler pas Francez.

Me : Oh well, never mind.

Him: Aber ich kann sehr gut Deutsch sprechen.

Me (surprised): Ich habe Deutsch an der Schule gelernt aber jetzt sprech ich sehr slecht Deutsch.

Him: Long and apparently fluent spiel auf Deutsch which is almost entirely unintelligible to me.

Me: Oh right.

Him (starting a new tack): Was Santy good to you?

Me: Er, alright. Was he good to you?

Him: He was good to the wife, she got a Fendi bag, an iPod nano, a big gift set of beauty care things and a diamond ring [carats specified but now forgotten by me] mounted in platinum. The wife has a few nice pieces. [Reminisces] I was in Antwerp in the diamond district once and I got two diamonds [again, carats specified but now forgotten by me] and then I had them mounted in platinum earrings by a friend who’s a jeweller here. Oh yes, the wife has a few nice pieces.

Me (reeling): Gosh and um, what did Santa bring to the children?

Him: A 28inch flat screen wall mounted television for their bedroom, a Wii (?) player, stocking fillers and the rest.

Me (reeling further): And what did you get yourself?

Him: A gun.

Me (faintly): Oh yes.

Him: Full details of the gun.

Me: Where do you shoot?

Him: Open land.

Me: What do you get?

Him: Rabbits, hares, deer, pheasants, ducks.

Me: Do you eat them all?

Him: Long description of how to gut and hang animals followed by information on some of his favourite recipes. They were having venison burgers the following night.

Me: Isn’t venison tough?

Him: Very detailed recipe.

Him: The young fella (9) had a day off school yesterday for a teacher training day so I took him shooting with me and we bagged nine hares. He’s an excellent shot.

Me (making mental note to stay off open land all the same): Good for him. How did you learn to shoot? Did you grow up on a farm?

Him: No, no, Dublin born and bred. I was in the army for 15 and a half years.

Me: Ah right.

Him: Medical discharge, got blown up in the Lebanon. Was in the Lebanon twice, Kosovo once and Somalia. [This was covered at some length, I have compressed it for you. I am merciful].

Me: What was the Lebanon like? How did you get on with the Israelis?

Him: We had this guy used to come and do our washing. We called him Paddy Joe, he called himself Paddy Joe [I doubt this somehow, not to his family and friends]; he was a nice old fella, seven or eight children. We were driving along the road one day and we saw him with all his gear on his ancient van. The CO said to pull over and we did and asked what happened. The Israelis had flattened his house that morning. We had a whip round for him; it wasn’t much but there were tears in his eyes when we gave him the money.

Me: There aren’t many Irish soldiers who have been in the Lebanon who have fond memories of the Israelis.

Him (indignantly): They were always shooting at us.

Me: Do you miss the army?

Him (a bit sadly): I do, yeah. You’d miss the old camaraderie and that.

Me (bracingly): Well, I’m sure that driving a taxi in Dublin is interesting too. Did you start when they deregulated?

Him: I did but they’ve handled that very badly.

Me: Have they? Why?

Him: Do you want the politically correct version or the real version?

Me (hopefully): The politically correct version.

Him: Momentarily nonplussed

Me: Alright, tell me.

Him: I’m not xenophobic or homophobic or anything like that. But the taxi regulator doesn’t do background checks on foreigners [or gays, clearly]. A woman is entitled to know she is safe in a taxi. I had a girl before Christmas, a big girl, who told me that a black taxi driver asked to touch her breasts.

Me: A foreign black taxi driver?

Him: They could be putting people in taxis who have previous convictions for rape or sexual assault, look at this.

He points me towards an article about a Czech national who has been convicted of raping and murdering a 37 year old mother of two.

Me: Was he a taxi driver?

Him: No, but he was a foreign national he should have been checked, the guards should have known where he was.

Me (leaving aside the questions of penal policy and its efficacy): Well, he was from an EU member state and, you know, we have the right to move freely in all the EU member states and it’s reciprocal. I mean, there could well be Irish rapists in the Czech Republic.

Him: I lived in Germany and they checked my papers all the time.

Me: And those of the Germans too, they have an ID card system. Would you like us to have an ID card system?

Him: Absolutely.

Me: Silent smugness as I feel I backed him into a corner. There is no way a taxi driver wants ID cards. It’s just against nature.

Him (new tack): Are you from the Southside?

Me: Very southside, I’m from Cork.

Him: Went to Cork on holidays a couple of years back. Beautiful place. After Dublin, I’d like to live there.

Me: Restrain myself from pointing out the error of his ways.

Him: We’re going to Majorca this summer.

Me: Very nice too, I’m sure.

Him: The wife went to book in December, do you know how much it cost for two adults and three children?

Me: No (though I am sure you are going to tell me).

Him: €3,700.

Me: Gosh, that is dear.

Him: That’s what I thought so I was down at the wife’s parents on new year’s night, just looking at the computer, right, and do you know what I found? Two weeks in a villa with a pool and a hired car and room for all of us an the wife’s parents as well. Guess how much?

Me: I couldn’t.

Him: : €3,900

Me (thinking): YOU”RE A TAXI DRIVER. WHAT DOES YOUR WIFE DO?

Me (saying): God, that was fantastic.

Him (clearly psychic): I won’t be driving the old taxi for much longer now.

Me: No?

Him: No, I’m starting my own business.

Me: What are you doing?

Him: I’ve patented a system for sorting municipal waste. My accountant has raised €5 million capital.

Me: Gobsmacked silence.

On recounting this to Mr. Waffle, he said that when the taxi driver asked where I worked, I should have said that I worked for the revenue, audit division.

The Island of Dr. Moreau

23 January, 2008 at 4:18 pm by belgianwaffle

I heard an extraordinary thing on the radio the other morning. In Britain they are debating allowing the development of crossed human animal embryos for stem cell research, though not, as one of the speakers made clear for implantation (that’s a relief then). Is it just me or is science getting a bit beyond us?

In other news, I see that the US FDA has approved cloned meat for serving up for dinner. I rest my case.

Daniel and Michael – State of Play

21 January, 2008 at 10:06 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel is increasingly speaking in sentences. He finds the formulation “can I?” very useful. Can I look? Can I see it? Can I do it? He’s beginning to get to grips with grammar. Before when he needed help he would say “help you, help you” urgently. Now he says “help you me”. Since Christmas both he and Michael have learned to say “yes” and he has a particularly forceful and sibilant yes.

He loves dental floss and reaches a chubby arm for it the second he gets into the bathroom. He will pull out metres of it, if let. He loves getting his teeth flossed as well. I would like to put this on youtube for my dentist but I cannot. The second I pull out my camera, Daniel runs around to the back and says “can I see?” Remember waiting weeks to get photos and they were all the tops of people’s heads?

He does not seem to need much sleep. This is a matter of considerable regret to everyone; particularly Michael who shares a room with him and needs lots of sleep.  Often of an evening, Daniel will be bellowing for room service (‘more milk woman, make it quick’) and Michael will be rocking in his cot moaning with his hands over his head.

Michael seems to be a born leader and Daniel is happy to follow him into whatever mischief he proposes.

A couple of weeks ago, Michael wore an underpants for the first time. He showed it proudly to Daniel and got a hug for his achievement. This was short-lived as he wet himself about 5 minutes later and we were disheartened and decided to hold toilet training for another day.

Michael is, according to the creche, ready to be toilet trained. At home this manifests itself as follows:

Me: Michael before you get into the bath, do you want to do a wee?

Michael: Yes, Michael the pot.

Michael sits on the pot. Nothing happens and I put him in the bath where he, invariably wees straight away.

Michael (gleefully): No the bath Michael, the pot!

Both of them are obsessed with sticks, Daniel particularly so and he likes to pick up a stout stick when we go out for walks and attack innocent saplings with it.

They are both counting, Daniel with rather more success than Michael – getting to 10 more or less (usually less 5 for some reason) and learning colours. This latter is proving more challenging and they constantly point to items and say a colour at random “red!” “no, sweetheart, that’s black”, “yes, black!”

They both spend a lot of time saying, “c’est qui ca?” which means (to them) who or what is that?  Mr. Waffle found himself held up for several minutes outside the newsagents identifying Johnny Halliday, Carla Bruni and the like while Daniel pointed persistently at pictures saying the magic words.  I was at home with Michael at the time confirming in response to repeated requests that each of the 16 bottles on the windowsill in the kitchen contained milk.

Our paediatrician says that we mustn’t compare; oh dear. 

Intercultural Dialogue at home or random ramblings

21 January, 2008 at 2:10 am by belgianwaffle

We had some friends round this afternoon. A Scottish-Italian couple and their two children and an Italian woman and her daughter. The children started off speaking in English but quickly moved to French as the common lingua franca. The grown-ups spoke English to each other. I felt mildly embarrassed to be the main reason why two Italian women were speaking English to each other.

One of the mothers explained in graphic detail that this year, her nine year old had asked her a lot of questions about Santa Claus. So she said to her “OK, you really want to know, OK, I will tell you”. In the face of some alarm from me and the other parent with a four year old, her husband gracefully interrupted the anecdote with “So, she said to her ‘Yes, of course there is a Santa'”. That’s a relief, then. We discovered that the Befana does not bring Christmas presents to Italian children who live in Belgium which makes her presence in our lives even more baffling. We had some questions for our guests about the Befana and her ways.

Us: So Santa Claus lives in the North Pole and Saint Nicolas comes from Spain, where does the Befana live?

Guests: Elaborate shoulder shrugging, shocking ignorance.

Me (to Princess): Well, sweetheart, if the Italians don’t know…

Princess (in tones of wonderment): Are our visitors Italians?

There was some talk about multi-lingual schools because that’s what we’re like in foreign exotic Brussels and, in particular, the European School which has sections in all of the EU languages (except maybe Maltese, who knows?). One of the Italians has an Italian friend who is married to a Pole and they are sending their twins to the European School and they have put them in different classes (as the parents of twins are often advised to do) but in a weird twist, one twin is in the Polish section and one is in the Italian section. Is it just me or is this utterly bizarre?

We tossed them all out at 7.00 (none of them put their children to bed before 9.00 – shock, horror) to the regret and ire of our children. Much though we enjoyed seeing them, we were glad to see them go as we had decided to compress all our socialising for January into one day and our dinner guests would be arriving at 8.30.

And now, dinner is over, everyone is in bed and I should be too.

That is all.

Sad

19 January, 2008 at 2:49 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess was in foul form after school on Wednesday. Her friend L was mean to her and wouldn’t play with her. All the children were mean to her (inquiry on Y, nice girl I would like her to be friends with, elicits, ‘I don’t like her, she always wants to be my friend’, truly, life is complex) and only the grown-ups were nice and she had to walk around on her own.

“L said that she would kill you,” she said. “Well, that’s a very unpleasant thing to say and I hope you would never say that to another child,” I said piously. She asked, a touch anxiously, “she can’t kill you really, can she?” “Of course, she can’t,” I said. “That’s alright then,” she said, looking distinctly guilty, “because I said she could”. My poor little mite, my heart went out to her in her efforts to get in with L who blows hot and cold. She said, “I want to see my old friends” meaning my children’s friends and I thought, well at least she has them.  Then on Friday, L came to visit and all was sweetness and light though I am touched by the way the Princess keeps giving L things to try to ensure her place in L’s affections. As L was leaving, the Princess gave L her helium balloon which she had played with all week and to which she was most  attached.  I only hope that L is a worthy object of her affection, but I doubt it.  Hold the mother-in-law jokes please.
Meanwhile, Daniel is busy reinforcing the idea that Daddy is for Daniel and Michael is for Mummy. “Who wants to come out of the bath to Mama, Daniel will you come to me?” I asked. “No,” he said firmly “Michael Mama, Daniel Daddy”. “I’m Daniel’s Mama too,” I said forlornly. “No, Michael Mama” he reiterated sternly. I was heartbroken.

My husband is very bracing and robust about these things and says, “oh for heaven’s sake, they’ll all be fine”. It’s a relief one of us has a sense of perspective, I suppose.

The FCO should watch out for hubris

18 January, 2008 at 3:55 pm by belgianwaffle

I am amused by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s estimation of itself. Reading Mr. Waffle’s Economist over his shoulder, I see that the FCO is looking for a Strategic Communications Director. All the usual requirements, blah, blah but number one on the bulleted list is “outstanding intellect”.

Apparently “[d]ynamic, high-calibre communicators will relish working in this intellectually rigorous culture”.

I’m sure they will.

Harmonious family living or the spirit of Christmas

16 January, 2008 at 4:05 pm by belgianwaffle

Chatting to a friend on the phone the other night, I was reminded of an event from the holidays the memory of which I had, for some reason, suppressed. The Sunday before Christmas, I wanted us all to go to mass. The Princess did not want to go. I insisted. She screamed roared, sulked, refused to put on her coat. As always when there is a deadline, matters went from difficult to impossible. I went on ahead with the boys. My parents-in-law live near a very busy road. Michael took advantage of a moment’s inattention on my part and nearly stepped in front of a speeding car. I got such a shock. I was very contrite as Mr. Waffle always insists they are put in the buggy but I want them to walk because they hate the buggy and walking is good for them. Not as good for them as staying alive, I have now decided. I picked them both up and wrestled them into the buggy amid howls of protest. At this point, Mr. Waffle emerged with a screaming Princess. “Why, why do I have to go?” Me (also screaming in a model of good parenting) “Because I want you to, is that too hard to understand? Can you think of anyone but yourself for just 10 seconds?” Boys form background of howling – a sort of Greek chorus to our main event on the public highway. Still in shock form Michael’s brush with death and furious with the, entirely unabashed, Princess, I join my children and succumb to tears. Evil daughter remains adamantine in her protests. Boys keep howling. Mr. Waffle says bracingly as he shepherds along his tearful flock “Will we all sing a song?”

Good question

15 January, 2008 at 9:52 pm by belgianwaffle

Her: I was glad that Santa didn’t give me a lump of coal.

Me: Me too.

Her: Who does he give coal to?

Me: Bad children.

Her: Am I sometimes bad?

Me: Well, yes, like when you had a hissy fit in the supermarket on Saturday and everybody looked at us and I was mortified.

Her: What do good children do?

Me: When their parents say they can’t have something, they don’t make a fuss.

Her: Not even a small hissy fit?

Me: Not even a small hissy fit.

Her: Are there any good children in real life?

Lille

14 January, 2008 at 10:45 pm by belgianwaffle

When you live in Brussels, people always say – oh, you can travel very easily to anywhere – this is true, but you rarely do.  However, to celebrate (ahem) the fact that the boys have decided not to nap at the weekends, on Sunday we went on a day trip to Lille in France.  We emerged from the car park into the last day of the Christmas market.  Michael instantly wanted to go on the big wheel.  We managed to put him off until we had all had lunch. The big wheel was a tremendous success as the children don’t seem to feel the cold at all.  Arrived at ground level with three happy children and two frozen parents, one of whom could only see odd square patterns out of one eye (hello, migraine, welcome to France). We bought the children a helium balloon each (18 euros, fools and their money etc.). We wandered the streets of the old town, perished.  The children were cheerful, though.  We bought the Princess a pair of boots and a pair of shoes in an expensive shop, on sale but still dear (fools and their money part ii).

We decided not to go to the beautiful chic and expensive café which was probably the best decision of the day.  We took ourselves to a creperie where we had upstairs (reached by a hair-raising spiral staircase) to ourselves once we had dislodged the unfortunate courting couple who had been there when we arrived.  We spread ourselves and our 8 balloons (3 helium, 5 non – a present from the expensive shoe shop – we started with three but then the Princess wanted more yellow ones so we had to go back and get more – sometimes I think that there is no greater humiliation than being a parent) over three tables and I put my head in my hands, glad that the migraine patterns had stopped but beginning to wonder whether they might in fact be better than the pain (slightly reduced by the application of paracetemol).  Mr. Waffle tried to stop the boys turning on and off the lights and rescued helium balloons from the ceiling.  The Princess was actually very good and quite sympathetic and I began to entertain brief hopes that she might turn into a pleasant and considerate grown-up eventually.  We finished up in the café and took children, buggy and eight balloons out the door with considerable difficulty.  I felt very sorry for the other patrons who were clearly frozen as we went in and out several times.

We decided to cut our loses and head for home.  The car park was small and narrow and there was no room to get the children in to the car because although the car park had been empty when we arrived, it was now full.  We were about to try putting them in place from the front when the large car beside us left.  I shamelessly opened the door and put in the children causing a long delay which nearly killed my husband.  We put the three helium balloons in the boot with the Princess (you know in her seat in the station wagon, we’re stupid but we’re not heartless) – one covered by a coat.  Mr. Waffle then tried to get out of the car park with gritted teeth.  Daniel who is our most sensitive child and Daddy’s boy, stuck out his lower lip and started to cry because, as he explained to me “Daddy cwoss”.   We explained in great detail to the Princess that the balloons had to stay down because otherwise Daddy would not be able to see out the window and we might all die.

I filled two bottles for the boys in the hope that they might sleep.  Much of the milk got in the bottles but a certain amount landed on me.  My mother always said that children don’t mind being warm and wet and I can now attest that this is true.  It wasn’t too bad being wet and milk soaked in the car but when we screamed to a halt on the hard shoulder of the motorway and I had to go to the boot and remove the balloon which had escaped its moorings and was floating about the car, the chill wind was deeply unpleasant on my damp jeans.  For the remainder of the journey, the Princess had to hold the remaining two balloons on her lap.  I should have taken them all into the front but I feared her wrath (grim death on motorway v. child’s wrath – which would you choose?).  The Princess was moderately successful at keeping the window clear but the whole thing was a bit of a strain and we were very glad to get home.

Gave the children dinner and packed them off to their beds.  Before collapsing into ours, Mr. Waffle made dinner for the following day and we discussed the weekend.

Him: I think the children liked it.

Me: Hmm.  They liked yesterday’s outing better.

Him: What did we do yesterday?

Me: Um, can’t remember, but they liked it.

Him: There may be a point to our complete photographic archive.

Me (checking camera): Oh yeah, we went to a farm.

Him: Have we lost our minds?

Me: Yes.

This morning, her highness donned her new expensive boots with great reluctance because “Safa at school has the same shoes and we might get confused”, could only wish that she had been inspired to raise this on the previous day.

Some thoughts on holidays

12 January, 2008 at 9:21 pm by belgianwaffle

I read that the gap between European and US productivity would disappear, if only Europeans took the same kind of holidays as Americans. Frankly, who are the winners here?

Despite nearly 40 years of marriage to my mother-in-law, my father-in-law continues to be just the tiniest bit less than right-on occasionally. This is what comes of being a captain of industry.
F-in-L (expounding): The bottom line is that if a business has to choose between somebody who will work full-time and someone who will only be able to work part-time, then they will want the full-time worker; our own personnel officer etc. etc.

Me: Useless exposition re turning around the work place, life-work balance, losing female and, indeed, some male talent etc. etc.

M-in-L (pensively): I suppose in the 19th century employers were saying – holidays, how will we run the business, if people go on holidays? And PAID holidays? You must be joking.

F-in-L (who is a big fan of holidays) blustering: Come on, now, that’s completely different..

We who are old, old and grey

11 January, 2008 at 2:43 pm by belgianwaffle

Her: Look Mummy, a Smart.

Me: Actually, sweetheart, it’s a Cinquecento. You know Mummy used to live in Rome and a lot of people have Cinquecentos there because they’re easy to park.

Her: Did you have one?

Me: No, I had a moped.

Her: What’s a moped?

Me: Like a motorbike only smaller, I’ll show you one someday.

Her: In a museum?

And how did you get over the Christmas?

7 January, 2008 at 10:50 pm by belgianwaffle

Peacefully.  Largely.  We spent a couple of days in Dublin, then down to Cork on the train for a week or so and back to Dublin for New Year.

Santa Claus played a large part in our celebrations.  When we got to Dublin airport, tired and ratty after a 2 hour delay, he was waiting in arrivals with a big sack of sweets and toys.  When we arrived at Mr. Waffle’s parents’ house, it was to discover that Santa had sent an email to announce that there would be presents in the hall (two tractors and a princess dress, since you ask).  When we got out of the train in Cork, Santa was waiting for us.  I was startled but somewhat touched to see my three children run into his arms and give him a big hug.  A number of older ladies then went up and danced with him.  The next day was Christmas day and Santa was active overnight.  Santa delivered dinosaurs for the boys and a range of things for herself including a pair of sparkly silver shoes, several sizes too small.  “Stupid Santa,” I said.  “No, Mummy, Santa has been very kind, don’t say that, we can give these shoes to a poor child with small feet,” said Pollyanna.  The rest of our time in Cork was slightly bedevilled by continued requests to find a poor child with small feet.

To fit us all in my parents’ house, my sister had moved in with my aunt who lives next door.  This was very kind all round.  There were a number of difficulties, however (not for us, as my sister would no doubt tell you, bitterly).  My sister, after long years in America, is used to houses which can be warmed throughout to the same temperature; there are no such houses in Ireland.  Furthermore, the uniform temperature she likes is very warm indeed.  My aunt has central heating but doesn’t bother using it much.  She sleeps with the window open.  She is very hardy.  Despite my aunt leaving the central heating on for days and finding herself gasping for air in the garden, my sister found it necessary to sleep in thermal underwear, wrapped in an electric blanket, covered in a sleeping bag and topped off with a hat.  She also had a portable heater beside the bed.  Actually not the bed as such because my aunt decided that she didn’t need any spare beds a couple of months ago [take it up with the professional declutterers].  She slept on an air mattress which my aunt had got from a friend.  It was very swish but, alas, leaked slightly.   We were awkward guests and, though no one complained, I couldn’t help feeling just a tiny bit guilty about the level of inconvenience that we caused to everyone.  In retrospect, the low point was probably when we commandeered the study for Daniel’s cot because he wasn’t sleeping in our room.  He lay there solemnly drinking his milk while my sister was tried to get her invoices out before the end of the month in semi-darkness.  “You do know,” my mother hissed “that your sister is trying to run a small business from that study”.

The boys will eat very little.  This was brought home to me by the sight of their cousin J dutifully devouring everything his parents put in front of him and by my mother informing me at regular intervals that ‘those children will eat nothing’.  I don’t really care about this because I am heartless.  Mr. Waffle, however, is most distressed by it and this tended to cast a pall over many meal times.

Those children also got a mountain of presents from devoted grandparents, aunts (special mention to the aunt who felt that all of them should get a present every day they were in Cork) and uncles.   When we returned to Dublin it was to find that Santa had been (again!) and left stockings for each of them.  We struggled back to Brussels heavily laden with goodies and prepared for the last day of Christmas.  Yesterday was Women’s Christmas and Mr. Waffle was nice to the Princess and me on the strength of it.  Not as nice, though, as the Befana who called to our Italian neighbours upstairs and, finding that they were both grown ups, left three long red stockings filled with treats pinned with clothes pegs to the lift outside our door.  For a while we thought that she had left lumps of coal but consultation with the neighbours revealed that they were actually an extraordinary coal like sweet.  Finally, last night we had our Galette and the Princess got the fève.  What with Saint Nicolas on December 6, Santa Claus on the 25th and the Befana yesterday, it has been a rolling Christmas treat and the return to regular arrangements this morning was greeted with mournful demeanours and protest.

Presents and family bonding aside, the highlight of the holiday for the Princess was holding a starfish at the aquarium and for the boys feeding the ducks in the Lough.  I feel that this says something but I’m not quite sure what.


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