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Summer Timetable

31 July, 2009 at 9:17 pm by belgianwaffle

Fresh from our experience of Belgian summer “stages”, in the spring we started looking for ways to entertain our daughter in the month of July when she would be on holidays but we would not.

In March I signed her up for a week at the National Concert Hall. It cost €150. The week before the course started in July, they were advertising places for €75. The early worm gets the bird. The course started at 10 and none of the other aspiring musicians appeared to be the offspring of two parents who worked as there parents were able to drop them off and collect them. A task which we delegated to C, a nice French girl on our books. Nevertheless, it did run for more or less the duration of the school day and herself learnt to conduct and to sing:

Haydn’s Great Surprise
SURPRISE SYMPHONY – JOSEPH HAYDN
Listen very carefully/To this noted symphony/Maybe you will recognize/Haydn’s Great Surprise
Though it’s slow make no mistake/This piece will keep you awake/With a trick that typifies/Haydn’s Great Surprise
Did that outburst startle you?/Well that’s what it was meant to do/Don’t forget its name implies/Haydn’s Symphony’s the Great Surprise
Oh there’s that burst again/You will hear it now and then/Every time that we reprise/Haydn’s Great Surprise
And if you think you’re smart/Try to learn this piece by heart/See if you can memorize/Haydn’s Great Surprise
Just be careful goodness knows/While list-e-ning stay on your toes/Heed this warning to the wise/Haydn’s Symphony’s the Great Surprise

Then the next week, it was off to the Municipal Gallery which, for €60, undertook to entertain her from 10.30 to 12.00 for four days (closed Monday). On day one she spent the whole time “staring at just one painting, can you imagine how boring that is?” On inquiry, it transpired that the painting was Waterloo Bridge by Monet:
Waterloo Bridge.

I don’t think that she’s going to like the Impressionists. In any event they’ve got off to a rocky start. Day 2 was better; they made a drum and didn’t look at any art. Day 4 was rendered hideous, for me, by having to tackle the much loved babysitter C, in relation to the (unknown to us) boyfriend whom my husband met on returning to the house unexpectedly at lunch time on Day 3. She was contrite.

Weeks three and four were due to be spent in the Alliance Francaise for an eye watering €450. I hope that she will thank me one day when she can properly roll her French rs. In the first week she really seemed to like the course and it made French seem much more real to her to be speaking in French to children her own age again. In the past month, she had stopped speaking to her father in French though he has nobly kept us his role and suddenly she was back speaking to him in French again. I have to record, in proud parent fashion, that as her English reading has improved her French reading has come along in leaps and bounds and she is now at a stage where she can (more or less) read age appropriate comic book material which means that she is doing a lot more of French reading than when she could only read baby books. Anyhow, I felt very warm towards the Alliance until late Friday evening when we discovered an email telling us that the course for the following week had been cancelled. I fail to see how a two week course could have enough children in week one but not in week two. On finally, after many irritated hours on hold, getting through to reception on the following Tuesday afternoon, I was greeted by an outstanding member of staff. My irritations were many but she soothed them wonderfully by making noises of competent contrition. She made no excuses. She apologised with gratifying thoroughness. She asked me to send in my complaint in writing (something I have been itching to do) and she promised that she herself would see my refund cheque was issued that evening. I felt distinctly less chilly towards the Alliance than I had done over the weekend. Emergency arrangements were made as follows: the Princess went to her loving Dublin grandparents for a couple of days and I took part of yesterday and today off to whisk her down to Cork for the end of the week. My loving husband is off from today until the end of the summer; remaining holiday cover falls to him to deal with. And there’s plenty of it since the boys finished Montessori today (something you might think would merit a post on its own – I’m getting to it) and herself is now officially finished all her courses. Thank heavens we are all off on August 8 for a fortnight. Mr. Waffle might otherwise collapse from the strain.

IKEA

30 July, 2009 at 9:02 pm by belgianwaffle

IKEA has opened in Dublin. The first branch in the Republic of Ireland. The Irish Times ran several articles, there was a play (“Waiting for IKEA” – I am not joking) and the city is filled with those IKEA poster ads. You know the ones I mean. The nation is beside itself with excitement. It was discussed extensively at a dinner party in our house last Saturday night. I flaunted my superior knowledge of IKEA and its products (the Billy bookcase, the Expedit shelves, the Malm drawers, the inedible meatballs) until my husband glared at me and said “Yes, Anne knows all about Swedish flat packed furniture” and I was suitably quashed. I was also slightly amazed that none of our other guests had been to the establishment which supplied a depressing quantity of our furniture. They were excited and enthusiastic about IKEA and its works. Not quite as excited as the Irish Times on Saturday which observed:

Those who have not before ventured into an Ikea outlet are likely to be gobsmacked by their visit. It’s not just the scale of the store, but the sweep of its ambition. Ikea stores have more in common with attractions such as zoos or large garden centres than shops; they are destinations for a day out, where cheap and cheerful eating and putting the kids in the creche are as important as the shopping.

Still, I understand the enthusiasm from my superior perch. When I moved to Belgium for the second time in 1998, I had to buy furniture. I fell in love with IKEA. So cheap, so handy, so beautiful. As the years went by, I fell out of love, so cheaply made, so challenging to assemble and so exactly like what everyone else has. As my ultimate ambition becomes to get rid of all my IKEA furniture and replace it with slightly more unusual things I can find elsewhere, my contemporaries are desperate to hand over their hard earned cash to the Swedish giant. I am enjoying the feeling of smugness that accompanies me everywhere. I said proudly to my husband the other day, “I will never cross the threshold of IKEA in Dublin.” “Mmm,” he said, “did you say that we needed a big plastic box on wheels to store the boys’ train sets in? I wonder where we would find something like that?” “Trapped like a trap in a trap,” as Dorothy Parker would say.

Reading

29 July, 2009 at 7:44 pm by belgianwaffle

The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd

This is on the new Leaving Cert English syllabus and I had never read it. It’s a beautifully written book with lots of interesting themes: race relations; family tensions; religion; gender roles; chance; and bees.

Count Karlstein” by Philip Pullman

I picked this up in the library. I found it to be a slightly dull offering for younger readers. Disappointing.

The Moronic Inferno” by Martin Amis

I do like the way that Martin Amis writes but this is a dull collection of old, old journalism dragged together, rather unwillingly, under the unifying theme of America. The best parts are the pieces on authors but, frankly, there is only so much that I want to hear about Saul Bellow whom he worships. The article on Truman Capote was much better. His articles on Norman Mailer and Philip Roth are alright. Norman Mailer sounds like a pain. I’ve read a lot of Philip Roth and I thought that the article suffered quite a bit from having been written well before Roth’s most recent spate of books from the mid-90s onwards. The political and current affairs stuff dates very badly. The article on AIDS is a mildly interesting insight into the height of hysteria in 1984. Current affairs in a mobile free/internet free world is just weird. There is one very good essay on child murders in Atlanta but that and a flashy cover is not enough really. So disappointing when I consider how much I enjoyed “The War against Cliche” (another reheated journalism collection).

The Clothes on Their Backs” by Linda Grant

I quite enjoyed the themes explored in another book by Linda Grant, “When I Lived in Modern Times” and I bought this on the strength of it. I found “”When I Lived in Modern Times” full of plot and incident and interesting background but not very well written. I think that this book is a much better written book but I found it less engaging. Perhaps this is because I know more about Jewish refugees living in England (not a lot but more) than I do about the State of Israel. I am fascinated by Israel as a State more nakedly founded on an idea than any other. I was a little disappointed by this book. On the plus side, the author has a blog about clothes.

The Northern Clemency” by Philip Henscher

It took me ages to get into this large tome and I had to incur a 50 cent late fine from the library upon returning it. I am very glad that I persisted. It’s an excellent book though I remember thinking that the author was having his own little joke when he wrote at page 482 “she’d been reading The Far Pavilions for four weeks now, persevering with it; handling seemed to have incresased its bulk by half as much again”. Also very true of this 738 page book; Sheffield all week long. It’s a sprawling family epic (my favourite), competently written and more slice of life than plotted but it works reasonably.

Brooklyn” by Colm Toibin

This is a book about emigration. Emigration is a big theme in Ireland. If I may present a potted history of Ireland since Independence, you will see why this is so (I can’t face going back to the Famine).

Ireland Since Independence – A Potted History

1920s: War of Independence/Civil War, continuing emigration
1930s: The Losers get into Power and, with brief interruptions hang on to it ever after, continuing emigration
1940s: The Emergency (this is how WWII was known in neutral Ireland), continuing emigration
1950s: Comely maidens dancing at the crossroads, continuing emigration
1960s: The modern era, the Whitaker report, free second level education and continuing emigration
1970s: The oil crisis and continuing emigration
1980s: The IMF is on the doorstep and continuing emigration
1990s: Jobless growth and continuing emigration
2000s: The Boom (when we lost the run of ourselves) and net immigration and then the Bust.
2010s: OK, any predictions?

My children have two parents, four grandparents and two great grandparents who have lived abroad and come home. They have innumerable relatives they will never know at all who emigrated in the past: their great-grandparents’ and grandparents’ brothers and sisters and their children. The phrase “American Wake” was coined to describe saying goodbye to someone who was going to America and who you knew that you would never see again.

Colm Toibin’s book taps into the banal misery of emigration. It highlights how you can never go back (the “returned yank” syndrome). Initially, I found it gently and persuasively sad. He is convincing in small town Ireland; he fails in Brooklyn. Also, I got very tired of the heroine who is a pain, frankly. I have two further reservations. Firstly, I went to see the Man Booker International jury talk about their deliberation process and Colm Toibin chaired the session. For a man who writes thoughtful, inward looking (in a good way) books he is a very annoying, mouthy chair. He and Jane Smiley, the chair of the jury, clearly didn’t get on and he talked to much and didn’t let the interesting Ukrainian man get a word in edgeways. I suppose, if disliking the author put one off a book no one except Kingsley Amis would ever have read Philip Larkin. Secondly, I read this for bookclub and everyone thought that it was distinctly underwhelming. The author was writing as a woman and they felt that he was unconvincing. I am not sure about that myself. It’s just that the character was shy and reserved and kind of annoying.

Updated to add: I see the Booker jury does not share my views.

Happy anniversary

28 July, 2009 at 8:59 pm by belgianwaffle

On 28th of July 2001, my husband and I got married. And now, eight years later, we have three children and, a real triumph this, are still happily married. Rejoice with me.

It is also the first anniversary of the day we left Belgium. I am surprised how little I miss it. Although I do miss some things as do the other members of the family. The other day the Princess asked whether I would be going to Brussels for work at any point. No. Why? “I miss the tarte au citron from the Pain Quotidien“.

Close but no cigar

27 July, 2009 at 9:52 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Doggy’s cousins have arrived.
Her: You said Ian was Doggy’s brother.
Me: OK. Doggy’s brothers.

She treated them with utter indifference. The boys, on the other hand, were delighted to see them both and exclaimed “Doggy’s back”. Obviously, Doggy was a big figure in all of our lives.

Daniel and Ian

Pop

26 July, 2009 at 9:41 pm by belgianwaffle

The computer died. It went pop and smoke came out from behind as I was sitting playing with it at 2.30 am when I should have been in bed. I feel quite nostalgic. We bought it in 2003 cheaply, second-hand from the people downstairs. I had wanted a cool apple computer but my husband reined me in. I am quite pleased that he did. It was not beautiful but it was functional. And now it has died at a very opportune moment because we have been thinking of getting a new one for some time but felt we couldn’t justify it while the old one worked fine. We have a new one, twice as fast, half the size and half the price and amazingly silent.

We discovered that in the privacy of her bedroom, the Princess has been working on some alternative models:

Laptop lid

Laptop 2

Do this child’s parents spend too much time playing with the computer?

Tough job

25 July, 2009 at 2:24 pm by belgianwaffle

The other day while I was languishing at home on my sick bed, two lovely old men from the Legion of Mary called to the door. God help them, the catholic religion is a bit of a hard sell in Dublin these days.

In the spirit of the new economic circumstances – tourism at home

24 July, 2009 at 8:31 pm by belgianwaffle

Recently I took a day off and the Princess and I explored the delights of Dublin.

I took her for a bun (queen of tarts), then to Marsh’s library (where she was allowed to write with a quill and elderly Protestant ladies smiled at her with unmerited indulgence), then to St. Patrick’s Cathedral where she chanced her arm, then to Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street where I brought her two books and then to Milano’s for lunch. I am the best mother in the world. While I am writing of the joys Dublin has to offer residents and tourists, can I mention that we went on the Viking Splash again recently and it was very successful. The best bit is roaring at innocent passers-by. I am not making this up.

Temple Bar is Dublin’s “cultural quarter” (insert hollow laugh and any number of pubs here) and is almost entirely filled with tourists. Irish people do not go to Temple Bar except as a short cut to elsewhere. However, we were lured into Temple Bar recently for a free outdoor circus. As it was bucketing rain, we also took in Temple Bar’s “The Ark“, a cultural centre for children which, if you ask me, is a bit dull. As well as not going to Temple Bar, Irish people do not wear raincoats either (bear with me, I have a point). They are a sign of weakness. On looking out at the weather, the normal Irish reaction is either “it’s definitely clearing” or “it will hold off”. Regular readers (she said hopefully) and relatives will be aware that my husband was born in Canada and this can out in his use of rain gear. We were wandering around Temple Bar in the rain looking for the outdoor circus (found, incidentally, and, because it was in Dublin, pictured in the Irish Times subsequently) and the children and Mr. Waffle were all bundled up in their rain gear. As a proper Irish person, I was soaking in my non-waterproof summer coat. A Polish woman with leaflets approached us encouraging us to go for the early bird special in La Caverna. As she wasn’t a native English speaker, she couldn’t tell we were Irish by our accents. It is odd to be treated as a tourist at home but clearly, her instincts were spot on, wandering Temple Bar in rain coats, we could only be tourists.

The Value of Money

23 July, 2009 at 10:30 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess invited twins to her birthday party in April and each brought her a fiver inscribed “Happy Birthday love from..”. It struck me as an odd kind of present and I wasn’t sure whether it wasn’t some kind of offence to deface notes of the realm, but who am I to knock other mothers of twins. The Princess preserved her treasures carefully regularly asking about their purchasing power (she’s holding out until the economy hits bottom and she can get a house). Last night she decided unbeknowst to me that her treasures should sleep under the stars; under the brambles in the back garden to be specific. This morning she learnt a valuable lesson about minding her money. I suppose that kind of knowledge is worth a tenner.

Oh very good

22 July, 2009 at 10:51 pm by belgianwaffle

From xkcd

XKCD

Overheard

22 July, 2009 at 3:29 pm by belgianwaffle

Princess: Mummy is very nice to us today.
Michael: Yes, she is.
Princess: Normally she doesn’t give us this many meals.

Just us and 300 Belgians

21 July, 2009 at 10:55 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle decided to check whether there were any activities planned in Dublin for Belgian national day. Don’t laugh, Mr. Waffle and the children got free sweets and some rousing songs in the park on Norwegian national day and they’re not even Norwegian.

Of course, technically, we’re not Belgian either but, since all the children were born there, he thought that it would be nice to stay in touch. He rang the Embassy and the secretary (Flemish sounding) puzzled for a time over his query. Then, having discussed matters with the Ambassador, she came back and said that there would be activities with lots of fun for children also. A couple of days later this arrived in the post:

Invitation

No it doesn’t say fun for children to me either but I was touched all the same and this evening we dressed ourselves up in our best clothes and pushed off to the Belgian Embassy. All of the excitement was in the back garden of the embassy which was huge and was, prudently, covered in army tents. After some initial unfortunate incidents (I saw the boys running wild on the grass and they nearly knocked over an eminent judge who didn’t look as though he enjoyed indulging young children – in marked contrast to all the other punters who were extraordinarily relaxed and kind) we headed down to the far end of the garden where there were some other families with young children. This was quite pleasant, the sun shone and, finally, after many years of effort, we met some Belgians.

There was beer and cheese but, alas, there were no chips. There were Leonidas chocolates. The children found out where they were coming from and attacked the caterers at source:

Caterers under attack

I suppose we’ll be back next year. Lucky old Belgians.

Flag waving

Films

20 July, 2009 at 10:03 pm by belgianwaffle

Push

Oh dear, come on lads, you can do better than that.  Not recommended.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I liked this. If you like science fiction (surely my sister and I can’t be the only women who do), you will like this.

In the Loop

Very funny. West Wing meets BBC thingy. Full of clever one liners and a cast of thousands; all of them very good.

Syecdoche

I quite enjoyed this. It was a bit long but very clever. Honesty compels me to add that my husband thought that it was utter rubbish as did my friend L who commented that the experience was made worse by pretentious idiots pointing out that it was very clever.

Ice Age 3D

I took the children and the childminder along to see this. They all enjoyed it (seriously beginning to wonder whether F is really 25). I found it a bit dull myself but I had the unalloyed pleasure of taking each of the children on a toilet break during the screening. Daniel was first. He announced “I want to do a wee” and then had to be dragged away from the screen. He had a touch of diarrhoea and when I took him to the bathroom he had done a poo in his underpants. I stripped them off and cleaned him up with toilet paper and water and put on his trousers with no underpants. I then washed the underpants. I tossed out some cinema sweets from their bag and put the underpants in the sweet bag and popped it back into my handbag. There was a time when I might have jettisoned the underpants but there’s a recession on, you know. Michael was next. Due to some poor planning on my part, he had been in the pouring rain with F for some time before the film started. This necessitated a quick dash into Penny’s for new trousers and socks (€4 for the trousers, €2 for 6 pairs of socks – fear child labour – extraordinary contrast with the cinema trip which cost €40 in tickets and €15 (!) in popcorn and ill-fated sweets). He too was anxious to get to the toilet but equally anxious not to miss a minute of screen time: a love divided which led to damp trousers. I noted gloomily in the bathroom that the trousers were wet before we had got all the labels off – surely some kind of record. The Princess’s bathroom trip was only remarkable in that no sooner had she left the auditorium than she hauled out her book (Daisy) and started reading it as she walked. Today at work, I found the sweets which had been tossed into the base of my bag to make room for the pooey underpants. They were a bit fuzzy and I had a mild worry about poo contamination but, reader, I ate them.

The Hangover

I appreciate that I am not the target audience of this film about three men on a stag night in Las Vegas (what can I say, everything else was full) but I did find it anti-woman. The female parts were small but they were: uptight bride to be; harridan girlfriend and hooker. Funny in parts all the same.

Pointed

20 July, 2009 at 12:21 am by belgianwaffle

My husband has quoted me an article in the about how Americans spend all their time working in front of little glowing screens so that they can afford to go home and sit in front of little glowing screens in their time off.

Reminiscing

18 July, 2009 at 11:22 pm by belgianwaffle

My favourite aunt turned 80 recently and we had dinner to celebrate. We considered a bit what the world was like in 1929 when she was born. Obviously, she was able to contribute little to this conversation from personal experience but my father, who was 4 at the time had some further contributions to make. My aunt was born in South Pasadena where her parents had emigrated a couple of years earlier (some unhappiness for my grandfather at home in the wake of the civil war, I understand).

My father remembers that they had to turn off the lights for 5 minutes after Edison died (1931) to see what it was like without electricity (dark, he reports). There were talkies and cars (but also horses) . There was an ice man. My father remembers nothing of the Wall Street Crash and both of them felt that my grandfather had not frequented speakeasies despite my brother’s hopeful assertions that he surely had. They did remember, though, small bottles of whiskey being sent from home wrapped in newspapers and my grandfather brewing his own stout (terrifying thought). My father remembers that when my aunt was about 2 she was rescued from drowning by a Californian lifeguard (turned upside down and patted on the back while howling). If you knew my father and my aunt and how entirely from Cork they are, you would find this startling.

Stereotyped at 3

17 July, 2009 at 11:56 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Worry, worry, school, boys, blah etc.
Husband: Don’t worry.
Me: But I do worry, school, big children etc.
Him: Look,they’ll be all right, Daniel is clever and Michael, Michael has street smarts.

Please note: 1. They are both clever (of course they are, my children etc. etc.), 2. Neither of them has street smarts (they’re three).

Party organiser

16 July, 2009 at 11:45 pm by belgianwaffle

The other morning, Michael asked could he bring a bag into Montessori school. He and his sister had been whispering about this earlier in some excitement. In a moment of weakness, I said that he could and in he trotted with a pink poodle bag strapped to his back.

When he got in, he could contain his excitement no longer; he opened up the bag and, to my intense astonishment, began distributing envelopes. “We’re having a party,” he announced to his classmates. I managed to get one of the invitations from one of the other children. It said, in his sister’s handwriting “We are having a ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ party”. It gave a date (aha her request for a calendar explained), time and address and included a drawing of Thomas.

Invitation

I was impressed by her organisational powers. She had said that she wanted to hold a party for the boys and I had fobbed her off saying that we would have something for their birthday in September and we couldn’t afford to throw parties at the drop of a hat. She was undaunted and said that she only wanted a party for playing games not for food which might, she could see, be expensive. I resorted to the grown-ups’ favourite phrase and help in ages past “We’ll see.” Clearly, she felt that she needed to take matters into her own hands. The teacher rescued all the invitations from the boys’ classmates and the Princess and I had a discussion about the power of the written word.

Not so homogenous as all that

15 July, 2009 at 11:30 pm by belgianwaffle

By default, I tend to think of Ireland as a country with a very homogenous population until the recent wave of immigration. A recent conversation with my parents made me rethink a little.

They were talking about Hadji Bey’s Turkish delight (a Cork speciality) and it occurred to me that it was unlikely to have been the brainchild of an Irish native. They moved on to talking about a family (from Iran) with whom my father’s family had been friendly. They spoke about the “old lady” who spoke broken English and the children who became fully integrated (always a particular challenge in Cork).

Then there were all the Lithuanians in Cork (which my husband says boasts some of the most unusual surnames in Ireland). They were going to America but stopped off in Cork for reasons which are unclear to me and probably to them too. And then there were the Dutch butter merchants from the 18th century. And come to think of it, my mother is probably a Palatine (her grandmother’s maiden name was very germanic and a bit odd). There were Hungarian refugees in my mother’s class in school and one of them subsequently had a very handsome son who was a couple of years ahead of my brother in school. There were Vards the furriers who were very exotic, probably Jewish, I reckon (my mother remembers one of them in college arguing strongly against going to fight the communists in Hungary – he felt there was no point and thus the Hungarian uprising of ’56 was denied the assistance of a bunch of UCC students).

Perhaps, immigration is not the recent phenomenon we’ve been led to believe.

Outings

14 July, 2009 at 11:08 pm by belgianwaffle

Often our excursions with the children are unsuccessful (see, for example, our trip to Leinster House recently) but last week we went to the Dead Zoo at large and it was excellent. The Natural History Museum has been shut for a number of years following the spectacular collapse of its staircase (nobody injured but a number of attendants and tourists were shocked). It’s a great museum. It has cabinets filled with excitingly posed stuffed animals; things in bottles; insects on pins. It’s all very 19th century. Pending its re-opening (works clearly approved before the economy fell over a cliff), a part of the collection is being housed in another museum. We went to visit. It was wholly successful. The factors were as follows:

1. What we wanted to see was right inside the door. How many times have I been to places where the children have used up all their energies on the wrong thing and I have had to drag them away from the amphora at the entrance to see the enchanting puppet show. They have then spent the remainder of the time whinging that they want to go back to playing hide and seek with the amphora.

2. The (large) space was enclosed with only one exit.

3. The attendants were pleasant, chatty, helpful and tolerant of running children.

4. The exhibition was fantastic. Nothing like an enormous crystallised slug with spikes to appeal to the under 7s.

On a very wet Sunday, in a brief interval between showers we took ourselves to Play Day in Merrion Square. It was billed as a chance for children to play with normal, cheap, easily available things. The children absolutely loved it. The rain continued with enthusiasm all afternoon. They couldn’t have cared less. There were army tents filled with clothes for dressing up, puppet theatres, tea sets, drums made from saucepans and chopsticks to bang them. There was a large piece of cloth which the children could run under (remember running under sheets when they were being folded – like that only on a grander scale); there were bubble blowers the size of sieves (apparently glycerine in the water makes for superior bubbles); there were footballs and large inflatable yokes you could roll down the hill on; there was plasticene (made gooier and better by the driving rain), there was a cornflour/water/food colouring mix which had a bizarre and deeply satisfying consistency; there were pillow fights; there was a microphone where Michael sang several verses of “London Bridge is falling down” with great confidence and verve. There were no sweets on sale anywhere but they were giving out free fruit. I found it an enormous relief not to have to spend my afternoon fending off requests for ice cream, sweets and crisps. I spoke to one of the organisers and he told me that the previous year, it had been standing room only. The advantage of the rain was, I suppose, that our children had unimpeded access to the blue goo.

Martine goes incognito

13 July, 2009 at 11:06 pm by belgianwaffle

Martine features in an iconic series of French children’s books. Sometimes she gets to hang out with Jean-lou and Sophie. The pictures in the books are very recognisable.

The other day, in the parents-in-law’s house, I saw Martine or possibly some of her friends lurking at the bottom of a pile of children’s books. This was unsurprising as their house is filled with classic French children’s books which belonged to my husband and his siblings when they were little. What I expected to see was something like this:

Jean-Lou et Sophie découvrent la mer

What I actually saw was:

Liam agus Brídín cois farraige

I’m hoping that someone else out there will find this as odd as I do. My mother-in-law used also pick up a lot of books for her children from the Irish language publishers “An Gúm”. Apparently the Irish rights for translating foreign language publications were cheap. I still find it hard to believe that anyone was convinced that the scene below was typical of an Irish beach in summer:

Typical Irish beach scene

If you want more Martine and friends in Irish, you need only say the word but I fear it may be a minority interest.

Tús maith, leath na hoibre

12 July, 2009 at 10:33 pm by belgianwaffle

A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with a friend in his 50s who has never married or had children. Over lunch he laughingly described a sum of money as being insufficient “to keep you in nappies.” “Of course,” he corrected himself “they must all be out of nappies by now.” “Actually, they’re not,” I said. As a single man with no children (therefore not possessed of the exquisite tact of fellow parents in relation to advice) and distinctly firm views on the rearing of same (in his 50s), he yelped in horror “Three and not out of nappies.”

This made me think and I determined that the time had come to attempt to move the boys out of nappies. For a couple of weeks I trailed the idea of only one bottle at bedtime. When that was successfully executed I moved on to trailing “no bottle, no nappy” which the boys greeted with great excitement. On Friday night we had no bottles and no nappies. On Saturday morning, they were dry. Hurrah. “Tús maith, leath na hoibre,” opined my husband. “What’s that ‘doucement’?” I enquired. “No, it’s Irish, a good start is half the work,” said he. And we had another dry night last night. Could it possibly be that easy?

Plugging

5 July, 2009 at 11:09 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister-in-law, the publishing exec, has a new blog. Who knows how long she will be able to keep it up, if someone doesn’t go over there and have a look. This is a woman who put all her clothes in her mother’s washing machine in Dublin before her planned return to London that evening. It was only after the wash cycle was complete that her mother discovered that the new washing machine did not have a dryer incorporated. About the same time my sister-in-law realised she had lost her keys. She dolefully packed up a bag of wet clothes and travelled to London to cast herself at the mercy of strangers until she could get copies of her keys. Blogging gold, I think you’ll agree. I have high hopes for her blog.

A friend’s daughter has recently moved to Africa to work in a Commission delegation there. I am really enjoying her account of being a junior cog in a distant outpost.

Odd child

4 July, 2009 at 11:39 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael was recently forced by cruel circumstance to eat something sweet. He chose a rich tea biscuit.

Oh dear

3 July, 2009 at 10:37 pm by belgianwaffle

I was talking to my mother-in-law about the school play. She said that afterwards as she was waiting outside she saw some of the other parents and she thought to herself “I’d be quite scared of you, if I hadn’t seen you inside.” It’s probably the tattoos that are unnerving her.

Belated weekend round-up

2 July, 2009 at 11:40 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself went for a sleepover with her saintly aunt. It was a bit traumatic for both of them. The Princess burnt her lip by applying a scalding sausage roll to it and crushed her fingers in a heavy fire door. She still has a scab on her lip but, at least she can write again. My poor sister is exhausted from it all, her niece, however, is undaunted and keen for a rematch with the door.

Perhaps in part due to her various injuries and the fact that she had stayed up until 1 the previous night on her sleepover, the Princess was an unmerciful pain when we went to the Leinster House open day. I was mildly keen to be guided round our legislature by one of the ushers who won the lottery (a syndicate won the lottery, though I understand from one of the ushers in question, it worked at 18,200 each and his share has already gone on internal plastering work at home) but the royal mood was such that we felt that it would be unwise.

I was a bit disappointed overall, I thought that there would be more in the way of family fun and less in the way of re-enactments of the debates on the Treaty. Also, I was a little surprised to see lots of vans selling random wares on Leinster Lawn (or the car park as it now is). I suppose I hadn’t really psychologically prepared myself to beat off requests for popcorn and ice cream and I am not sure about whether the marriage of politics and commerce sends out quite the right signal. We were met on arrival by a man on stilts who assured the children that there was free candy floss. Though I assured them he was joking, it was not until we had carried out an extensive search and double checked with the apologetic stilt walker that we were able to abandon the candy floss hunt. We got the children’s faces painted and called it a day.

To my intense chagrin, the event was reported in detail on the radio as I drove to do the shopping later that day (one hour in the car, the hunt for a decent supermarket nearby that is not Tesco continues unabated and entirely unsuccessfully) and everyone other than us seems to have had a spiffing time. I like other people to share my misery.

Transitional object: Doggy October 2003 – June 2009

1 July, 2009 at 11:32 pm by belgianwaffle

Still no sign of doggy. Either of them. Mr. Waffle consulted the cleaner and he manfully confessed, upon being shown a picture of the missing doggy, that he had found something under the couch which was very old and very dirty and he had thrown it out. He has offered to buy a new one but we all know that is no good. I think he’s afraid to confess that he chucked two of them. On the plus side, herself pulled down the curtain rail in our room and we got home to find that the cleaner had fixed it; obviously, the guilt is getting us an impressive service.

The Princess got doggy before she turned one and he was her faithful companion every night he could be found. He and his friends gave us great concern over the years. He was practically a member of the family. Unlike travel doggy (who enjoyed trips abroad and has, whisper it, been replaced from time to time), home doggy, the original beloved doggy, never left the house. I had imagined doggy enjoying a privileged retirement on a high shelf in her room to be shown later to children and grandchildren, not thrown out like the remains of yesterday’s dinner (though, in fact due to the complex waste collection system now in operation in Dublin, he should not, under any circumstances go with organic waste; sometimes I worry that the cleaner has not got the finer distinctions of that system).

Since buying travel doggy mark II from Messrs. Zooscape, I have been inundated with junkmail from them. A small price to pay when I was going to get home doggy mark II, or so I thought. When I went to Zooscape today, this is what I found:

Luv Pets – St Pat’s Pups – Dugan / 6″ Beanbag puppies with embroidered accents, holding fabric shamrocks. 4 styles.
UNAVAILABLE. DISCONTINUED BY MANUFACTURER.

Discontinued. How could they? Mr. Waffle says that it is all for the best, but he’s wrong. I think she finds it hard to sleep without him and, in consequence, is roaming the house at midnight. I still have his shamrock that I hadn’t got round to sewing back on. It’s sitting in the drawer in the hall, the last remnant of doggy. I should put it somewhere safe, I suppose.

Mr. Waffle and I sat around the other night exchanging doggy stories: the very high attrition rate; the response of Aer Lingus to our loss; occasional travel soiling; how in surveys she consistently rated him as her favourite family member; the time he was lost in the Netherlands; and, of course, the time I fused the stuffing in his leg by trying to speed dry him in the oven.

I am heartbroken. Of course, I always knew that I would cry when we finally lost him. I guess that she wasn’t the only one with a transitional object. I’m not quite ready to let go, I have just accidentally bought three Ians.


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