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Mr. Waffle’s quotes of the week

28 March, 2008 at 2:24 pm by belgianwaffle

They must be very excited in the Canaries.

On being told by his wife that the Spanish government plans that all major Spanish cities would be only two hours by rail from Madrid and that no place in the country would be more than an hour by rail from a major city (information which she had on the authority of the 22 year old trainee who clearly hadn’t thought it through either).

Not only have you endorsed this weird new religion, but you’ve made her its high priestess.

On discovering that despite the fact that the Easter bunny never came to Cork or Dublin, he is now a feature of our lives brought home by the Princess from school and necessitating a panicked run to the video shop to buy up egg shaped sweets at 10.30 pm on Easter Saturday.

I guess, [pause] I mean, I suppose.

On being asked whether he thinks our daughter has started speaking in an American accent because we let her watch too much television.

There’s never a good time to start toilet training but I would have thought 3,000 metres up in the Alps would be a particularly bad time.

On being told by his loving wife that we really must start toilet training Michael now as he goes into the bathroom and takes off his nappy when he wants to do a wee. Have I mentioned that we’re going skiing tomorrow for a week?  There will be no blogging until we get back unless all the snow melts. How much are we looking forward to the 6 hour train ride?  Yes, that much.

Will our new Government last beyond the Summer?

28 March, 2008 at 2:12 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Which Minister is that older man there in the middle of the picture? He’s the only one who looks happy about the new government.

Mr. Waffle: That’s the king.

Me: Oh right and is this the woman who is Yves Leterme’s protegee?

Him: God no, that’s Joelle Milquet, she’s known as Madame Non because of her position during the negotiations.

Woe is me

27 March, 2008 at 10:57 pm by belgianwaffle

Every time I am left on my own with the children for an evening, it turns into a disaster. Witness tonight.

6.30 Arrive home. All is well.

6.35 Telephone rings, it is the children’s father ringing to say goodnight. Daniel wants to answer the telephone, the Princess gets it. He bites her hard. I remonstrate. He cries, she cries and Michael says placidly into the phone “Papa”.

7.00 Michael decides he wants to go to bed and starts wandering around the house with his doudou, nounours and a bottle clutched between his lips. Daniel gets into the bath which due to his insistence that the taps remain on is sufficiently deep for him to swim in and therefore requires my anxious presence.

7.05 The childminder and her two children come back looking for something she has forgotten. The children are perplexed but excited. Daniel gets out of the bath and drips around the house after them. The Princess gets into her pyjamas unbidden, I am delighted. All is under control.

7.30 The boys are in bed. The Princess and I go to make our dinner (the boys have eaten earlier with the childminder, I am not a bad mother).

7.45 The boys begin to howl. The Princess goes and gives them a bottle. They are clearly all enjoying this.

7.50 I sing to the boys in their darkened room while the Princess makes the noise of a cackling witch outside. Our mood is interrupted and I go outside and yell at her highness. All is silence except for a hysterical giggle.

8.00 The Princess brings the boys their third bottles of the night.

8.15 We eat. Well, I eat, the Princess refuses my offering and has salami from the fridge instead. Shortly after she brings a record fourth bottle to Daniel.

8.20 The Princess goes to wash her teeth and I hear an anguished roar from the boys’ room. Apparently a litre of milk is Daniel’s upper limit and he has got sick. I carry him to the parental bedroom while he liberally bespatters the corridor, me, the clean clothes in the basket and himself with vomit.

8.30 The Princess is a bit of a star and brings water and sponges as I mop up and change Daniel and put him in our bed. She then goes to wash her face while I change Daniel’s bed clothes and clean up the vomit with the aid of several floor cloths and some wipes to try to get out the bits between the floorboards. For the duration, Daniel burbles happily from our bed, where he is feeling much better and Michael screams bitterly from his bed that he wants to get up. He feels that there is fun elsewhere. Sensing that I am implacable, his screams turn to “Méchante Maman!”.

8.45 The Princess’s face washing has been over-enthusiastic. She is soaked to the skin. We put on new pyjamas but while doing so doggy falls into the toilet. He will have to be washed. This news is greeted with displeasure.

8.50 The Princess is finally in bed. Michael appears to have fallen asleep in exhaustion but Daniel is still wide awake. I offer to read the Princess’s story. She wants an Angelina book with a stage. She starts moving the cut out Angelina and friends around the stage and insists that I stay to watch. After ten minutes of this, I abandon her to it. As I leave her room I hear Daniel chatting hopefully to the by now comatose Michael “Where hibou, Michael, MICHAEL?”

9.00 I put on the washing machine. I clean up after dinner, I tidy up a bit. I go to turn off the Princess’s light. She is dutifully snuggled up to bed with the Angelina characters put away but she refuses to let me turn off the light. I decide to leave it as she will be asleep in a minute anyway.

9.15 I go and try to get Daniel to sleep. He is delighted to see me and very chatty. I sing to him, he talks to me: “Mama singing”. The phone rings: “what’s that”. “It’s the phone never mind.” We both hear the Princess getting up to answer it: “what’s that”. We hear the sound of the Princess padding round the flat. I put Daniel back to bed. He howls, Michael stirs. The Princess is starting to cry.

9.30 I go out to the Princess: “I thought I was all alone”. I comfort her, put her back to bed and assure her that we would never leave her all alone. She looks at me balefully – and you haven’t washed my doggy yet either. I go and wash doggy.

9.40 She’s asleep, the boys are asleep. I start typing.

10.00 My husband returns from his labours. I think he might like a cup of tea but he’ll have to read this first.

Easter Weekend

26 March, 2008 at 4:24 pm by belgianwaffle

The positively American shortness of the Easter break (two holiday days only) was something of a relief as we had nothing planned and our inner resources are very limited.

On Saturday, we went to the town hall where there was a children’s festival. What a wonderful way to spend our taxes, arguably, less wonderful if you have no children but the beauty of it is that, if you have no children, you won’t even have noticed it was on. There were local functionaries dressed up as wizards and witches trying to explain in an amusing way to young children what the commune does. There were real magicians. There were three bouncy castles (not quite clear what services these represented), there was a storyteller (library services), a place to draw and paint where you were asked very easy questions (creche services), witches testing your five senses using phials and boxes (unnervingly, services for foreigners), a quiz on the rules in relation to hygiene – apparently there is a rule that dogs can’t poo on the street, personally, I’m amazed (environmental services), a free photograph of your kiddy sitting in front of the gates of a castle dungeon (some wit had set this up outside the mayor’s office), face painting (social services, I think, I’m a little confused), free candy floss, sweets and the like (in the salle des marriages) and a magic show to round it all off (in the salle du conseil). Aside from being a very pleasant way to spend a cold, wet Saturday with the children, it did strike me as a very good introduction to local government and its management for little citizens.

On Easter Monday, I decided we would go an outing. Given that it was absolutely freezing, we felt an indoor attraction would be best. We took ourselves to the Sea Life Aquarium in Blankenberg, most famous, in my mind for providing a sandy beach for English people to duel after it became illegal in England (thank you Georgette Heyer). We thought that it would be deserted like its sister aquarium outside Dublin. As we queued in the snow and the children bleated we had cause to rethink that assumption. When we got in, it was fine, if a little crowded. When we emerged, the driving snow had not abated and we scurried to the car where we ate our cold roast lamb sandwiches. (I cooked lamb for Easter Sunday  – aren’t you impressed ? The children refused to touch it on Easter Sunday on the grounds that this might be the tool they needed to drive their mother over the edge). The Princess said that the beef sandwiches were very nice. I was forced to point out to her that they were lamb. A real lamb? Yes, but it’s dead now. “Oh” she said and continued eating.

Since we were at the coast, we decided we would have a look at the beach. We went to a café first and, if you and your offspring are ever stuck in Blankenberg and looking for somewhere for a cup of tea near the seafront, you could do worse than take yourself to the Kiwi café. Despite the name, it’s done in traditional Flemish style with heavy beams and big dark furniture. Ideal for a cold, cold day. I wouldn’t recommend it for lunch as the apple tart I ordered, though inordinately large, was quite, quite vile, but definitely a good tea and pancake location. Fortified by our experience in the Kiwi we went to the beach which was absolutely perishing. The children were unaffected by the weather but we were frozen and miserable. The children wanted to stay and stay but we eventually managed to tug them back to the car with Daniel squirming and yelling (and that boy can yell) that he wanted to go SWIMMING.

Yesterday, we woke up to 5cms of snow, so Mr. Waffle took the children out to play on the road before we all went to our various places of detention. They were all wearing their moon boots and Mr. Waffle was wearing his hiking boots. The zip broke on my faithful black boots and as the ideal pumps to wear in the snow, I chose a pair that I had bought last Summer in America. I had never worn them before because I just never found anything to match them properly (don’t look at me like that, I’m not that kind of person at all) but I decided that they were the most likely to be waterproof. I was wrong. The soles are made of tweed. No, really, tweed. Why? By the time I found out, it was too late but I was not a happy bunny yesterday, I can tell you. The snow has melted today but my boots are still broken and my tweed soled shoes are still damp.

Being an expatriate

21 March, 2008 at 3:07 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: We have a new government, I heard it on the radio on the way home.

Him: We who?

Me: We Belgium.  And there’s a woman Minister for Foreign Affairs, Karen something or other.

Him: Karel De Gucht?

Me: Yes, that’s it.

Him: He’s a man and he’s the one who was Minister for Foreign Affairs before.

In other news, the Princess and all her little friends wore their pyjamas to school yesterday and got dressed and had breakfast in the classroom. It was the best thing ever.

Hubris

19 March, 2008 at 3:38 pm by belgianwaffle

I am constantly in search of presents for Mr. Waffle because he is difficult to buy for and Christmas and birthdays come round every year with monotonous regularity.

A couple of months ago, I saw that he had cut out from the paper a book review so, stealthily, I went to the bookshop and ordered the book.   I paid for it, I had it gift wrapped and I stashed it in the bottom of the wardrobe.

A short time ago, we were going through our piles of stuff on the desk and I innocently picked up the review and said: “ooh what’s this?”

“It’s a review of a book set in Brussels and I thought it looked interesting” he said.  Cue much inner glee and outward indifference on my part.  “But you can throw it out, I looked at some sample pages of the book on the internet and it’s really dull”.

He got it today anyway and expressed suitable (but, presumably, utterly feigned) enthusiasm.

It probably wouldn’t be so bad, if he didn’t keep buying me perfect presents.

Mistaken Preconceptions

19 March, 2008 at 3:28 pm by belgianwaffle

We have a new English trainee in the office; a pleasant, bright, confident, articulate 22 year old man who doesn’t read any fiction and who likes going out drinking with his mates. Are you getting a picture here?

Me: Do you belong to the generation of English children who were not taught grammar in school?

Him: Yes.

Me: Alas.

Him: I know we should really have been taught Latin as well.

Me: You laugh…

Him (indignantly): I am not laughing, it’s a disgrace that they don’t teach Latin in schools any more, it’s dead useful for learning grammar rules and stuff.

Me: Are you serious?

Him: Of course I’m serious. It’s a disgrace.

Me: Are you channelling my father by any chance?

There are times when I hate this job

18 March, 2008 at 12:40 am by belgianwaffle

My mother and brother came to visit for the weekend (my father steadfastly refusing to fly since he retired and doesn’t have to any more). There were many presents and there was much delight. All this love-in stuff is very tiresome for the blog reader so I will get straight to the only blog worthy incident of the weekend.

Due to my sister’s enormous carbon footprint and many years spent in hotels (insert here bitter mumbling from my brother about expense accounts – he is a lab rat and has never had one and absolutely refuses to believe that eating out can be torture as well as pleasure), she was able to book my brother and mother into a swish hotel in Brussels on her various points. This was, frankly, welcome as our flat is too small to accommodate two visitors who do not want to sleep together. This is relevant, bear with me.

So, on Friday afternoon, the Princess and I took my mother and brother to their hotel. My mother and I sat and chatted in her room while my brother unpacked in his and entertained her highness.

As I sat there with my mother, I heard a mournful little voice saying, “I want my mummy”, so I flew to her side. My brother was standing in his room looking sheepish. “I did a poo Mummy,” she said “and it won’t go away”. I went in to the bathroom and discovered that she had done a poo in the bidet; look, it’s the size of a kiddie toilet. So while my brother stood cowering outside and my daughter put her hands over her eyes saying, “that’s disgusting”, I took some toilet paper and transferred the poo bit by bit to the toilet.

This was not included in my original job description.

Bloodbath

14 March, 2008 at 2:51 pm by belgianwaffle

The other morning, Michael had a nosebleed. I’m not sure why though I can imagine several explanations. He wiped blood all over his face and clothes. While I had my back turned Daniel fell or was pushed and cut his lip and bled freely over his chin and onto his t-shirt. Then the child minder arrived; it’s hard not to be defensive in these circumstances.

Talking in code

13 March, 2008 at 9:25 pm by belgianwaffle

Him (wrestling children): Wonders of the peninsula later?

Me: OK.

Him: What would you like?

Me: The stockpiled rubbish town speciality.

Small prize, if you can work out what I will be having for dinner.

Technological disaster

12 March, 2008 at 10:47 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael was sick today and, this morning, he knocked over the telly while whizzing round the room on his little car. Not sick enough, clearly.

Anyhow, this afternoon when I was in charge, I promised Peter Pan to himself and his sister (poor old Daniel was off at the creche) but it turned out that the telly didn’t like being pushed over by Michael’s car and it resolutely refused to come on. It’s not like it owes us much; Mr. Waffle bought it second hand in 1995.
I moved the couch and sat them in front of the computer. Typing T’choupi into google leads to a series of cartoons on youtube about the wholesome mole. I put herself in charge of the computer and tripped in and out between the kitchen where I was making dinner and the invalid on the couch and his sister. All went pretty well though I had to turn off the rap version of Noddy she’d managed to click on and some fairly alarming looking anti McDonald’s stuff.

I told my loving husband later.

Him (outraged): You left our four year old to wander round the internet unsupervised?

Me (defensively): She’s nearly five.

Finally, I have taken this from Jando. I have reproduced her post below because there is a risk that you might not follow the link and this is the funniest thing I have seen in quite some time. I particularly liked the bit about the goats.

Before you decide to have children, try these 14 simple tests.

Test 1
Women : To prepare for pregnancy, put on a dressing gown and stick a beanbag down the front. Leave it there for 9 months.
After 9 months remove 5% of the beans.

Men: To prepare for children, go to a local chemist, tip the contents of your wallet onto the counter and tell the pharmacist to help himself.
Then go to the supermarket. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office. Go home.
Pick up the newspaper and read it for the last time.

Test 2
Find a couple who are already parents and berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels and how they have allowed their children to run wild.
Suggest ways in which they might improve their child’s sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners and overall behavior.
Enjoy it. It will be the last time in your life that you will have all the answers.

Test 3
To discover how the nights will feel:
1. Walk around the living room from 5pm to 10pm carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 4 – 6kg, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious sound) playing loudly.
2. At 10pm, put the bag down, set the alarm for midnight and go to sleep.
3. Get up at 12pm and walk the bag around the living room until 1am.
4. Set the alarm for 3am.
5. As you can’t get back to sleep, get up at 2am and make a cup of tea.
6. Go to bed at 2.45am.
7. Get up again at 3am when the alarm goes off.
8. Sing songs in the dark until 4am.
9. Put the alarm on for 5am. Get up when it goes off.
10. Make breakfast.
Keep this up for 5 years. LOOK CHEERFUL.

Test 4
Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems:
1. Buy a live octopus and a string bag.
2. Attempt to put the octopus into the string bag so that no arms hang out.
3. Time allowed for this: 5 minutes.

Test 5
Forget the BMW and buy a practical 5-door wagon.
And don’t think that you can leave it out on the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars don’t look like that.
1. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment and leave it there.
2. Get a coin. Insert it into the CD player.
3. Take a box of chocolate biscuits; mash them into the back seat.
4. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.

Test 6
Getting ready to go out:
1. Wait
2. Go out the front door
3. Come back in again
4. Go out
5. Come back in again
6. Go out again
7. Walk down the front path
8. Walk back up it
9. Walk down it again
10. Walk very slowly down the road for five minutes.
11. Stop, inspect minutely and ask at least 6 questions about every piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue and dead insect along the way.
12. Retrace your steps
13. Scream that you have had as much as you can stand until the neighbours come out and stare at you.
14. Give up and go back into the house.
15. You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.

Test 7
Repeat everything you say at least 5 times.

Test 8
Go to the local supermarket.
Take with you the nearest thing you can find to a pre-school child.
A full-grown goat is excellent. If you intend to have more than one child, take more than one goat.
Buy your weekly groceries without letting the goat(s) out of your sight.
Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys.
Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.

Test 9
1. Hollow out a melon
2. Make a small hole in the side
3. Suspend the melon from the ceiling and swing it side to side
4. Now get a bowl of soggy cornflakes and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon while pretending to be an aeroplane.
5. Continue until half the cornflakes are gone.
6. Tip the rest into your lap, making sure that a lot of it falls on the floor.
7. You are now ready to feed a 12-month old child.

Test 10
Learn the names of every character from the Wiggles, Barney, Teletubbies and Disney.
Watch nothing else on television for at least 5 years.

Test 11
Can you stand the mess children make? To find out:
1. Smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains
2. Hide a fish behind the stereo and leave it there all summer.
3. Stick your fingers in the flowerbeds and then rub them on clean walls.
4. Cover the stains with crayon.
5. How does that look?

Test 12
Make a recording of someone shouting ‘Mummy’ repeatedly.
Important: No more than a 4 second delay between each Mummy – occasional crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet if required.
Play this tape in your car, everywhere you go for the next 4 years.
You are now ready to take a long trip with a toddler.

Test 13
Start talking to an adult of your choice.
Have someone else continually tug on your shirt hem or shirt sleeve while playing the Mummy tape listed above.
You are now ready to have a conversation with an adult while there is a child in the room.

Test 14
Put on your finest work attire.
Pick a day on which you have an important meeting. Now:
1. Take a cup of cream and put 1 cup of lemon juice in it
2. Stir
3. Dump half of it on your nice silk shirt
4. Saturate a towel with the other half of the mixture
5. Attempt to clean your shirt with the same saturated towel
6. Do not change, you have no time.
7. Go directly to work

I smell a rat

11 March, 2008 at 9:42 pm by belgianwaffle

Over the weekend in our ongoing quest to entertain our children, we went to a farm. I picked up a flyer at some event and stored it carefully for a day when we were at our wits’ end.

We piled them into the car and took ourselves off having taken the initial precaution of ringing the farmer to check that the farm was open. When we arrived, there was a deer family grouped in front of the farm house, an ostrich and some ducks. So far, so delightfully inauthentic.

It was when I saw the duckpond that I began to suspect that this might be a real proper farm and not just a petting zoo. It was made of polythene with old tyres holding it in place. A trip into the farm yard confirmed my worst suspicions, it was a working farm.

It was slightly dilapidated and there were a lot of cows. There were also a number of dogs running about, in my experience, the mark of a real farm. The children did not like the dogs though they were unusually quiet for farm dogs and very well trained.

The farmer told us to stroll around (the grounds until we felt at home) and didn’t charge us. This was definitely a real farm. There were an extraordinary number of bunnies in cages which, I suppose, is not a standard farm feature but the rest was quite authentic, just that bit too authentic for our two boys who clambered into our arms and refused to get down. I was astounded to see the Princess patting a horse on the nose but the boys were too terrified even to approach it. She also inspected the pigs and boars (yes, really) with interest. There seemed to be a lot of bulls in reasonably enclosed spaces only separated from us by a number of troughs and I was a little concerned by this, especially since they seemed a bit annoyed.

At one point a rat sauntered across the yard. Unlike its city cousins which, in my experience, are always decent enough to scurry, this rat seemed to be in no particular hurry although there were two terriers on its tail. It may have been that its enormous bulk stopped it from moving at any speed. This may also have inhibited the terriers from trying a little harder. They sniffed lackadaisically at the shed it had strolled into but I didn’t feel that they were trying hard enough.

We decided to go to farm shop. This was a proper outhouse (no tasteful wooden decorations here) with a large vat of milk presided over by a Polish woman who spoke limited French. I was hoping for some local cheese or a loaf of rustic artisanal bread, ideally untouched by ratty, but the price list she handed us was heavy on butter and buttermilk. We bought two litres of milk from the vat, happy in the knowledge that we had met the cows that produced it and their friend the rat.

You know, I can’t help feeling that getting too close to the production processes takes from the romance of food. Also, those farmers, they deserve everything they get from the CAP.

39 today

10 March, 2008 at 9:40 pm by belgianwaffle

Do you think you can get a card with a badge on it that says that?

I think I will launch myself into a prolonged period of mid-life crisis which I might wind-up next year when I turn 40. How enjoyable for everyone. Let us do a tally of my achievements:

Marriage

Seems sound, husband is lovely. Tick.

Children

Three is a good number, they are nice little things but tiring. Why would I want more? Why? I am 39. That appears to be a full answer. Half tick.

Career

Job is fine. I am very fond of my colleagues who are a joy to work with. Yet the actual work is only moderately interesting. I feel that out there somewhere is the perfect job for me, if only I could find it. I also think that it has nothing to do with my experience to date so it’s probably quite poorly paid, at least initially, before they realise that I am a genius at it. I am a round peg in an oval hole. Imagine what I could achieve, if I could find a round hole. I think this metaphor is becoming unfeasibly stretched. A friend of mine says that there is no perfect job which is why she has focussed on her social life. There may be something to be said for that. Half tick
Family and friends

I have lots of both. I like them, they like me. Tick. At least, I hope they do. Half tick for manifest lack of self confidence at 39.

Car

I have no desire to buy a sports car. Tick.

Hobbies

You’re reading it. I also like reading. I wish I had some form of hobby that did not involve sitting on my bottom. All through my teens and twenties, I played hockey but it’s a bit demanding for a parent. Half tick.

Feeling my age

Unlike many people of my age, I do not feel like I am 20. But yet, I am very surprised to be 39. My oldest friend the Ambassador (clang) will be 40 next month, though, mind you, she is an Ambassador so I think that’s pretty good going for a 40 year old. Almost.

My mother says that having children keeps you young. Maybe this is true when they are teenagers but at the moment, I’m not so sure. I am sometimes so tired and stretched I feel like I am 60. I also find myself criticising young people’s grammar and marvelling at their odd musical taste. Oh yes, indeedy, I am cruising towards middle age. Half tick.

In other birthday news, if you were to take a day off work and leave your children with the childminder and decamp to Ghent to celebrate your birthday, you should a) remember, if it is Monday, the museums will be closed and b) bear in mind that cities built around canals are not so pleasant in stormy weather. Furthermore, when you return home and your three children rush into your arms and sing happy birthday to you, you should try not to be overwhelmed by love and guilt.

The day has also brought a birthday poem from my sister, a birthday missive from my parents, several nice emails, a present from husband and children – pretty good all round. You could make it even better by delurking. Go on, I know you’re out there. I think you’re out there. I hope you’re out there. Half tick.

Possibly, a future as a lawyer

8 March, 2008 at 6:57 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: I am furious with you, you hit your little brother in the face.

Her: He was coming into my bedroom, I didn’t want him to come into my bedroom.

Me: That is no excuse. And how would you feel, if when you came into my bedroom in the morning and hit you in the face, hmm? What would you do?

Her: I would tell Daddy and he would telephone the police.

Him: Well, should I phone the police now and tell them what you did to Daniel.

Her: No. Children don’t go to jail.

Plucky Little Belgium

7 March, 2008 at 1:39 pm by belgianwaffle

Since Daniel acquired glasses, we have been spending a lot of time and money in the opticians. I’m glad it’s a nice one near home. Mostly we are served by the owner’s daughter, an efficient pleasant woman about my age. The other night, I went in to get Daniel’s glasses repaired (he and Michael had tugged them apart at the creche, it’s nice to think of them having fun) and her father was there. He was dealing with some other people and I settled down to wait, conscious all the same that Mr. Waffle was at home with three cranky children who needed dinner and bed. Finally, it was my turn.

Me: Hello, I wonder could you fix these glasses, I think you have a file on us.

Him: That’s not a Belgian accent.

Me: Er, no, it’s not, I’m from Ireland.

Him (heavily accented): Ireland, Ireland, then we can speak English.

Me (proferring deformed glasses): Mmm. Yes, if you like.

Him: Do you know Hertfordshire?

Me: Um, no, never been, I’m afraid.

Him: My father was in England during the war.

Me: The first world war?

Him (misunderstanding, I think): How old do you think I am?

Me: Um, the second world war?

Him (at cross-purposes): He died in the war.

Me: I’m sorry to hear that. In England?

Him (baffled): No, he was in England in the first world war; when he was 13.

Me (not wanting to be unsympathetic but feeling we are getting nowhere and also conscious of my loving husband and children, home alone): I see, well, I wonder, have you got a file on us?

Him (not to be deterred): He learnt to be an optician and then set up in Dendermonde when he came back.

Me: Oh Dendermonde.

Him: No, in England.

Me: Yes, I see.

Him: He died in the second world war.

Me: I’m very sorry to hear it.

Him: Yes, I was only 10.

Me (mind reprehensibly fixed on the glasses): That must have been very difficult for you.

Him: Yes, he was betrayed.

Me (surprised): By whom?

Him: He joined the résistance straight away immediately and he was betrayed by [not clear, some local perhaps]. They ask me why I do not live in Dendermonde but I know they are traitors and I can smell corruption and racism. Though, his daughter [I think the daughter of the man who betrayed his father] is a very nice woman.

Me (genuinely interested and having put the glasses to the back of my mind): How did your father die?

Him (producing formal black bordered mortuary card showing a handsome midddle-aged man): My father was taken away by the Germans and died of typhus in the camps in March 1945. I went to see him once in prison in Ghent before he was taken away. It was a hard time, the English were very good to us, an English Major and his daughter, she is an old woman now, June, but she is godmother to my daughter.

Pause.

Him: I think we’ll have to send those glasses away to be fixed.

I forget how much these things are just below the surface in Belgium where two world wars were fought. Coming from a country that was neutral in the second world war and where (aside from Northern Ireland which is a long way from Cork and, after all, another country), the last major conflict occurred over 80 years ago, I have never, in living memory, lost a relative except to illness, accident or old age. Sometimes I forget how very fortunate that makes me.

This entry will be a spam magnet

6 March, 2008 at 9:06 pm by belgianwaffle

We have a copy of Walt Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” in book form and the boys love it. We also have a book of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and this is also much loved. I’m not sure where they came from but they are among the boys’ favourite books despite our constant attempts to plug works we prefer.

The boys, have, however, totally confused the two works. As a special treat we got out “Beauty and the Beast” on DVD and they were transfixed. At first sight of the beast, they were both terrified and sat there pointing at the screen saying “Ladybeast, Ladybeast!”

Things I didn’t have to worry about when I was growing up or saving the planet

5 March, 2008 at 5:59 pm by belgianwaffle

Princess: Michael spilt some milk and I wiped it up.

Me: Good girl.

Her: Which bin does it go in?

Me: Eh?

Her: The wet kitchen paper, which bin does it go in.

Me: The kitchen bin.

Her: Oh, not the paper bin?

Delightful

4 March, 2008 at 2:28 am by belgianwaffle

They have scabies in school. Scabies?! The school doctor has examined the Princess and declared her scabies free, but for how long we ask ourselves.

Grumpy

3 March, 2008 at 8:01 pm by belgianwaffle

On Sunday, my loving husband minded the sick children leaving me to attend mass alone, something I haven’t done in years.  This gave me the leisure and the high moral ground to criticise others.  Usually I am too busy being mortified by my progeny.

I went to Notre Dame au Sablon where the nice beggar kindly asked after the children and sent the ill mites his regards.  The church is having work done on most of the nave and is cut off at the transept by enormous, ugly chipboard panels.  It makes the church tiny with one entrance rather than relatively large with two.  As I sat there near the door a constant stream of people came in to look around ignoring the large sign in four languages asking them not to do so during mass.

They looked around, they took photos, a family ensconced themselves in the row behind me and looked at their map.  An elderly man sitting beside them put out his hand to shake hands for the sign of peace and they were baffled but gamely shook hands with all and sundry. 

Would it kill them all to wait until mass was over?

Hurrah!

3 March, 2008 at 9:27 am by belgianwaffle

Yesterday evening at 6.00, I had to take the train to England. At 3.00 with two sick children (welcome to the Leper House) who were responding well to paracetemol and one hyper girl who hadn’t been out in days, we decided that we needed to get out, but where? 

I found this very nifty website which lists all the museums in Brussels by various search criteria including by theme and by area. On Rue Paul Spaak no 7, is the Fondation Raymond Leblanc. It is five minutes from the station and it is a comic museum. Well worth a visit we felt.

As we circled around the exceptionally dodgy area (you know, adjacent train and bus station, drunks, louts, nervous visitors scurrying in the opposite direction) looking for parking we would have been sure that we were in the wrong place had it not been for a large neon Tintin and Snowy on the roof of one of the buildings.

We parked the car and navigated the children round the various hazards and made our way to no. 7. All around were closed, barred shops, internet and cheap telephone shops, money transfer places and suddenly there was a very swish comic shop but it looked closed. Beside it was an open door to what looked like a smart residential building in a very spartan style, maybe 1940s. Closer inspection revealed that this was the Fondation building. We went in, it was deserted. We pushed the button for the lift. It didn’t come. We stood there alone, baffled. I went back and checked the front door. There was a small postcard pinned up. It advised climbing by foot to the second floor. We all clumped up the spiral staircase of the beautiful empty building.

On the second floor, a pug dog emerged to greet us. The Princess fell upon him, the boys nervously asked to be lifted up. A chic young woman emerged and swooped up the dog and smiled graciously upon us. Her equally chic colleague positioned herself behind the blond wood desk, reassured us that we were in the right place, lamented the quality of the quartier and sold us two adult entry tickets (children free) for the princely sum of 6 euros. Did we know the history of the place, we did not. This building is, I think, still a working publishing house, it was there that the Tintin magazine was made for many years and it was also the home of the Belvision studio which made animated films. 

The museum consists of various comic strips, information about the publishing house and various other bits and pieces that I, alas, didn’t get a lot of time to examine because, the piece de resistance, or at least as far as my family was concerned, was a miniature working cinema with plush red seats which we had to ourselves. It was showing Asterix and Cleopatra which I think was originally made there in that very building. The seats had names on the back (Herge,) and I think they must have been original because the plush velvet was faded in places. We were all entranced. Mr. Waffle and I wandered about the exhibits outside a little bit but mostly we stayed and watched.

At about 4.45, I suggested that I would go and get my luggage from the car and come back and give him the key (you will recall that I have lost my car key and refuse to fork out for a new one as I know it is somewhere in the house) before going to the station. I went and got my luggage and came back. I stayed until about 5.15 and decided that I’d better trot along to the train. I left them all entranced with the film and indifferent to my departure (a delightful contrast to the howlfest that ensued last time I went away overnight).

Off to queue for the train, passport, baggage control, then my mobile started ringing. It was Mr. Waffle, had I taken the car key with me? Yes, I had. Back through the various layers out on to the street back to the building, up the spiral staircase, hand over key, renewed goodbyes to puzzled children, back down the staircase etc. etc. And I still had loads of time to get the train because despite two sets of passport checks and x-ray machines, it’s still a lot faster than the airport and also because this place is exactly five minutes walk from the Eurostar terminus. I know because I have recently done it three times.

If you have children, or even, if you don’t, may I enthusiastically recommend this place to you, if you find yourself in Brussels by Eurostar (or, I suppose, even if you don’t though it is supremely handy for the Eurostar). I found the whole experience to be quintessentially Belgian from the deserted beautiful building, to the pug dog and the high seriousness of the comic strip. It’s fabulous and, for my money, better value than the much more famous comic strip museum. True the latter is housed in a spectacular building but the art is more difficult for children to appreciate, since they have to muscle their way through a crowd of spectators to see it and, as far as I know, it certainly doesn’t boast a private family cinema. 6 euros well spent.

Product awareness

1 March, 2008 at 10:23 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael (pointing to label on freebie toy given out at McDonald’s): What that?

Me: It’s an M.

Him: No, is zips.

Me: I suppose it does look a bit like a zip.

Him: No, zips, sips, tzips.

Me: Chips.

Him (happily): Yes, tzips.


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