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The Rose of Tralee

31 August, 2009 at 9:47 pm by belgianwaffle

Last week, like much of the nation, I sat down to watch the Rose of Tralee. It is what our American cousins call a beauty pageant, but it’s a weird one.

It started in 1959 as a way to boost Tralee and stay in touch with the Irish diaspora. Here’s how it works, women (under 28) are selected from Ireland and around the world. They must have some Irish link but it can be pretty tenuous (one Irish great-grandparent is fine). These are the “lovely girls” parodied by evil old Father Ted. The song, “The Rose of Tralee” features the line “She was lovely and fair as the rose of the summer/but ’twas not her beauty alone that won me”. The organisers constantly emphasise this line and that it’s not about looks alone. The women meet the judges several times during the week long festival. Certainly, the participants tend to be easy on the eye but they are not all startlingly beautiful and several of them were grand big girls this time round. Gratifyingly, none of them looks as though she’s starving.

So, the format is that contestant goes onstage, talks about her Irish roots (if from abroad), has a small chat with the presenter and then demonstrates a talent. In the past, almost invariably, Irish dancing (and there are still a fair few among the diaspora who can do a very impressive slip jig). They all wear evening dresses. This is most emphatically not the kind of event where there is a swimsuit round.

They are an impressive bunch all the same. They stood there in front of a big audience – no visible nerves and chatted away happily. As time has gone on the cohort has grown more and more educated and now the Roses are overwhelmingly young professionals – a lot of accountants for some reason – or students finishing their degrees (it’s the only beauty pageant you’d be happy to see your daughter participating in). A doctor Rose (Perth and obstetrics, since you ask) wanted to do some suturing as her special talent but the television people demurred as it would be hard to capture successfully on screen. She belted out a very acceptable song instead.

Some of my highlights from this year’s event.

Derby Rose
Insensitive presenter: And you have a brother who is very severely handicapped?
Derby Rose: Yes, that’s right. He has Cornelia de Lange syndrome. [She explains a bit about it and says she loves her brother.]
Presenter: It’s genetic, isn’t it, so your children could have it.
Her: It’s possible but the odds against it are huge, it’s as unlikely as winning the lottery.
Presenter: And as your parents get older, who will look after your brother? I suppose it will be you.
Her: Well, yes, but I love him very much and will be happy to care for him.

Kilkenny Rose
Presenter: So how did you become a Rose?
Her: Ray, my mother always wanted me to do the Rose of Tralee.
Presenter: And we’ve met.
Her: Yes, I was at the young scientist exhibition (she’s a science teacher) and some of my students saw you. They went running up to you and, like a big eejit, I ran after them. My mother was there too to help with the students because of the cutbacks and she ran up to you too. She told you that she had always wanted me to be in the Rose of Tralee and you misunderstood and thought I was a former Rose. So, my mother said, “If Ray D’Arcy thinks that you were a former Rose you can definitely do it.”
Presenter: And was she delighted when you were selected?
Her: Actually, Ray, she died that week.
Presenter (slight pause): And your father’s dead too, isn’t he?
Her: Yes Ray, he died when I was very young.
Presenter: So, you’re an orphan.
Her: Yes, I am.
Presenter: But there was another man who was like a stepfather to you.
Her: Yes, Tom.
Presenter: But he’s dead too.
Her: Yes, he is, he died when I was 17.
Presenter: God, you’re like a black widow or something.
Was she cast down? No. Afterwards for her talent she did a science trick that you could use in the pub – sucking liquid into a glass using matches, an ashtray and a vacuum. Personally, I was hoping that she would win.

Dublin Rose
Presenter: So you’re a trainee solicitor in Arthur Cox.
Dublin Rose: That’s right.
Presenter: Of course, they’re acting in relation to NAMA.
Her: Yes, that’s right. It’s a great indication of the excellent service which the firm provides.
Presenter: And they acted for a bank as well. Any concerns about conflicts of interest there?
Her: No, Ray, we have what are called Chinese Walls… [it was at this point that Mr. Waffle retired saying that he couldn’t face a Rose of Tralee contestant explaining Chinese Walls to him]

San Francisco Rose
Presenter: So you work in IT.
Her: Yes, that’s right. In Kaiser Permanente.
Presenter: And what do they do?
Her: Healthcare.
Presenter: Oh great, can you explain President Obama’s plans for healthcare reform.
Her: How long do we have, Ray?

The winner was the London Rose – a management consultant (who had done a stint as a Japanese weather girl). We heard that she got 6 A1s in her Leaving Certificate and was a scholar in Trinity College. As it happens, I was at dinner on Saturday night with four former Trinity scholars and I asked them whether they thought that having a Rose of Tralee among their number debased the currency somewhat. The jury was divided. The women felt that it did rather. The men were just baffled.

You can watch it on the internet next year. Go on, you know you want to.

Women in pyjamas

30 August, 2009 at 12:30 am by belgianwaffle

There was a very annoyed woman writing in the Irish Times a while back about funding for equality measures. The tone of the article is, perhaps, a mistake in the current climate. Nevertheless, I was absolutely amazed by the levels of vitriol of almost all of the (overwhelmingly male) commenters. A little bit chilling.

Who says that the tax people have no sense of humour?

29 August, 2009 at 8:34 pm by belgianwaffle


From: Mr. Waffle
To: His loving wife
Subject: Revenue and Bouncy Castle

Apparently banal request to renew my Revenue On-Line cert leads to this astonishing statement:

Renewing your ROS Digital Certificate

In order to renew your ROS digital certificate, ROS requires that you run third-party software provided by the Legion of the Bouncy Castle.
The Legion of the Bouncy Castle is a well-respected supplier of security software that is approved by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners for use with ROS.

They’re not joking.


28 August, 2009 at 11:31 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel speaks in a mixture of the accents of the South African (Afrikaans speaking), Romanian and Dublin women who were his teachers in Montessori school. It is endearing and also slightly alarming.

Michael refers to his sandals as his “ankles”. He often begins sentences with “Well..” and when enthused about something will say “oh yes indeed”. His standard introduction line is “Hello, I am Michael, we are three.” It seems to work well for him.

Both of them say “I am he” when I would definitely say, “I am him”. I am not sure whether they are grammatically correct or not but it definitely sounds wrong.

The other day, I asked them how Dublin people say “book” – source of mild amusement something like bewk – they looked baffled. You know, the way Dublin people like Daddy say it, I encouraged. “Un livre” offered Michael, “l’histoire” said Daniel hopefully. Some confusion there, I fear.

End of an era

27 August, 2009 at 9:10 pm by belgianwaffle

Today, the boys started school. It passed off peacefully.


Holiday Week 2 – Kerry

27 August, 2009 at 12:03 am by belgianwaffle

Saturday, August 15

So, you left us in Cork, now we are pressing on to the west. Very far west, Caherdaniel in fact, off the South West of the Ring of Kerry. Before we got to the distant outpost we has to endure a car journey. We played that game where one person starts a story and the next continued, it went like this:

Me: Once upon a time there was a beautiful Princess AND
Mr. Waffle: She was going on her holidays AND
Princess: She met a handsome Prince AND
Michael: Some baddies came out of the wood and attacked them AND
Daniel: Cut off their heads.

There is a reason for stereotypes, I suppose. We also played the Minister’s cat (at which Michael showed surprising facility for a boy who isn’t very sure about the order of the alphabet) and that game where one person hums a song and the others guess what it might be. Is it a sign of parenting failure that the only songs the boys could hum were the theme tunes of Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam (not v. hummable) and Postman Pat?

When we got to the tiny village of Caherdaniel in one of the most remote parts of the country, the children were delighted to see their Dublin grandparents in situ. Michael celebrated by breaking Daniel’s glasses. Inquiries in the local shop elicited the information that there was an optician’s in Caherciveen open every day and all hours. Correctly interpreting this to mean that the optician was open 9-5 (even during lunch time) Monday to Friday, we resigned ourselves to poor Danny bumbling around blindly for a day and a half.

The rest of us settled down and admired the view which the grandparents had kindly provided for us along with the house.

The Princess tried and failed to work up the courage to feed the horses and compromised by laying carrots, grass and other titbits on the wall for them to eat.

Sunday, August 16

The weather was fine. An exceptional circumstance. We went out blackberry picking which the children had never done before. The novelty wore off quickly for the boys (Daniel’s problem may well have been that he couldn’t actually see the blackberries) but herself could have gone on all day and delightedly filled half a bucket.

blckby 2

After lunch we rushed to the beach. A friend once described a holiday in Donegal where the family spent the whole time huddled in the hall with their beach gear and then when the sun came out they picked everything up and ran to the beach. Kerry is like that.

When I say that the weather was fine, you have to interpret that by local standards.

Look, it’s not actually raining.

At 4.00 we took ourselves off to a local GAA match. Michael instantly made friends with a little Kerry boy who had a ball. Young Mr. Kerry instantly began ordering around all of the little boys on the sideline and they were shortly playing away. As I commented to his mother, it is this spirit which explains Kerry’s continued success in Gaelic football (though, please note, Cork v. successful too and at hurling). She mentioned a bouncy castle and a raft race on a nearby beach so we took ourselves off there.
Bouncy castle

The children had a fantastic time wading into the water in their clothes. I was less enthused.


The rafts were constructed by the teams and there was some entertainment in trying to guess which would capsize first.

Esteemed grandfather ran into the landlord of his local pub in Dublin, because Ireland is like that. On the way home, I ran into my mother’s gardener, because Ireland is like that. Local gossip gleaned from Mr. Waffle revealed that he (the gardener) had bought land which was sold off when there was a dispute over Bono’s uncle’s will (not involving Bono because, I suppose, he has enough money already). What, you didn’t know that there are fewer than two degrees of separation beteween Bono and everyone in Ireland?

Monday, August 17

The Princess and I were up before 8 making blackberry jam because I promised her I would. There were no weighing scales and I was relying solely on my skill and judgement and this text message from my sister: “Other random jam making advice. Don’t use overripe fruit or jam will not set. Fruit and sugar should not occupy more than half of pan. Don’t use iron or zinc pans or jam will taste horrible. Setting points tests 1. cold plate. Put jam on cold plate and check if it wrinkles. 2. heat to a temperature of 220F to 222F 3. Flake test. Place spoon in jam let cool it should set and form small flakes (not recommended as not conclusive and tricky). 4. Volume test. Not even going to go there. Only for frequent jam makers in my opinion.”

You will be pleased to hear that the jam set. Though a bit too sweet. Everyone had homemade jam for breakfast. The Princess and I were very proud.

Mr. Waffle prepared to take Daniel to Caherciveen to look for the optician. His father had been snoozing gently in the porch. Ah, I thought, age is catching up with the man who runs up mountains. He woke up and asked Mr. Waffle to drop him off in Waterville so that he could run cross country back to the house (10kms). My parents-in-law like to confound me. I took the other pair off to the beach as the sun was shining.

In the afternoon we went to Staigue Fort, a pre-historic ring fort, where I had never been before.

All very interesting and the boys liked it but I was terrified that they would somehow manage to toss themselves over the edge.

Tuesday, August 18

It rained on and off all day. We used up our one indoor trip (for a wet place, the Iveragh penninsula boasts very few indoor excitements) and visited the home of Daniel O’Connell. Michael swooned with happiness when he saw O’Connell’s duelling pistols. I’m not sure how much the boys took in; their sister on the other hand is now an O’Connell expert. Afterwards when asked by his grandmother what the Liberator had done, Daniel said, “He died.” True, I suppose.

We went out to Derrynane beach where the children took the opportunity to wade into the water and get their clothers wet.

That evening, friends of the grandparents called round. They are ultra runners. Mad. Off their heads. They once ran from Malin to Mizen head (length of Ireland) in 8 days. They make my f-in-law (has only run up over 200 mountains) seem positively sedentary.

Wednesday, August 19

“It rained and it rained, it bucketed down, teeming in torrents on mountain and town,” as Lynley Dodd would say. And nothing to do. We had booked the children in for riding and they were grimly determined to do it. They were led down the road by three, understandably, gloomy pre-teens. We splashed after and the horses hung their heads. The children, though, were ecstatic. So delighted that we booked them in again for Friday despite the enormous cost.


Thursday, August 20

More rain. Mr. Waffle and I at our wits’ ends. Grandparents considering, very cravenly, bowing out early and driving off to Dublin. As Mr. Waffle put it, “Kerry has 24 hours to prove itself to my parents.” He was reminded of a girl who was at college with him and used to do bus tours around the Ring of Kerry. Obviously, half the time it was a breathtaking, spectacular view and the other half it was impenetrable mist and rain. They used to keep postcards of the views on the bus and pass them around to the poor tourists showing them what they were missing. I suppose that they have DVDs now. Poor Americans.

We spent a good portion of the day driving round looking for the Skelligs chocolate factory. I’m not sure that you could say vaut le voyage – two rooms and a DVD on how chocolate is made. Nice chocolate though. The Princess, who had been reading “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in the car was profoundly unimpressed. We investigated the Cill Rialaigh artists’ colony where we had lunch. Big city food and accompanying prices – €8 for a small bowl of kiddie pasta. At least the food was good and it made a welcome break from my staple diet in rural Ireland: toasted sandwich with salad and chips.

And it was still raining.

We went to Cahersiveen to look at the old RIC barracks, now a museum. This was my first visit to Cahersiveen and I had not previously been aware that its barracks was modelled on Neuschwanstein or as the brochure put it, it was designed in “the highly distinctive ‘Schloss’ style of architecture”. The usual story is told, Empire got the maps mixed up and the Kerry barracks went up in India somewhere and we got their Neuschwanstein. I find this a little unconvincing as this thing would be as odd there as it is here.

The literature on the barracks points out that “the major deficiency of the South Kerry tourism product lies in the lack of things for visitors to do when travelling around the west end of the Iveragh penisnsula.” They’re not kidding. I’m not sure that the barracks fits the bill though it does have a mildly interesting collection of old press cuttings, agricultural implements, Daniel O’Connell paraphernalia etc. However, we were very glad it was there and we didn’t have to stay outside in the hailstones (yes, really).

That evening we went out to dinner and left the children with saintly grandparents. Alas, another disappointment. Strike Parknasilla from the list. I was astonished at the numbers of families with small children staying in the extremely expensive hotel. Has nobody told them that the boom is over?

Friday, August 21

Bright, beautiful sunshine. The children went riding again. Everyone was much more cheerful this time. The Princess was led round by a French teenager with whom she chatted cheerily in French. I heard one of the Irish teenagers whisper to her friend, “Did you hear that little girl, she speaks Spanish and English?” To appreciate this fully, you should know that French is more or less compulsory in school from 13-15.


We then went to what my daughter declared “the best market ever”. It had the usual offerings plus some bric-a-brac and cheap second-hand children’s toys and books.

We spent the whole afternoon on the beach in glorious sunshine, made even better by the knowledge that the rest of the country was enjoying pouring rain. The sea was full of waves and children in wetsuits. My children are, officially, the only children in Ireland whose mean Mummy makes them go blue when they want to swim. I’m trying to toughen them up.

Saturday, August 22

Miserable, grim and very lengthy drive back to our nation’s capital. Sustained only by false memories of a full week of delightful sunshine in Kerry – blinded by Friday’s sunshine. This is why people like my sister-in-law believe that it never rained in Kerry in all the years she went there as a child (hollow laugh). Children ecstatic to be home and, more particularly, reunited with the television. Car has peculiar and unpleasant smell.

No more holidays until next year.

Character Building Exercise

25 August, 2009 at 11:45 pm by belgianwaffle

My school was a breeding ground for excellent hockey players (including, in a very envy inducing way, my little cousin who went on to play for Munster and maybe even had an Irish trial, I can’t remember now) and the team always did well in the Munster schools’ tournament. Part of the reason for this was that all of the effort was focussed on the first team who were drawn from across the cohort of 500 girls. The school didn’t field a seconds team and those of us who didn’t make the first team hung around to provide training practice for the firsts. Not many did but, I suppose, those of us with a fondness for ritual humiliation stuck with it. It was particularly irritating to my mother as she and her fellow parents were paying – over many years – for the all-weather hockey pitch on which the ritual humiliation took place. We were trained by an elderly gentleman (I think that he must have been in his early 60s) who was adored by the firsts and whom I pretended to adore too, ever hopeful of making the first team. Let me remove the suspense now, I never did make the first team. Let me also remove some of the pathos, when I was in fifth year, someone’s mother, appalled by the way hockey was run in the school decided to start seconds and thirds teams and my last two years were spent happily travelling to matches in lower leagues (I was wing and the heart surgeon was inner – a lifetime’s friendship founded on her constant irritated observation that ‘grass is for cows’).

But let us go back to third year when I was still hanging around the fringes hoping against hope to make the first team. I went to every practice and I really had improved quite a bit. The gentleman trainer certainly knew my face, if not my name, and he had even, very occasionally, commented favourably on my play. At the end of the season, in April or May when, really, it was too hot to play hockey and we were all leaning exhausted, red and sweaty against the wall of the bicycle shed with jellied legs, our gentleman trainer announced that he was giving out prizes for achievements during the year. I didn’t have high hopes, clearly, and, indeed, the prizes went to the most likely candidates. The last prize, however, was for most improved player. I allowed myself to indulge in a moment of hope. It couldn’t possibly go to one of the first team becasuse they were all really, really good already. But it did, of course it did. Not one prize went to anyone who wasn’t on the first team. The unfairness of it stung me at the time but it had its own logic. Excellence was rewarded; anything else, however deserving, was not. It was that kind of school.

I’m still bitter. I could tell you what brought that little vignette to mind, but then I’d have to kill you.

Our holiday – because you care

24 August, 2009 at 10:20 pm by belgianwaffle

And other people’s holiday photos are always sooo interesting.

Friday, August 7

We drove to East Cork. Over the details of the day long trip, I draw a veil other than to say that we had a wildly successful picnic en route and a stop with the Dutch Mama and family – she was visiting Mitchelstown, her ancestral home. Hurrah.

Saturday, August 8

We awoke in our friends’ delightful house which they had very kindly lent to us. Large, airy, sparsely, yet elegantly furnished, great books to read. I took in the two white sofas they had purchased and my heart sank somewhat. I spent the next week saying “No feet on the sofas; no markers on the sofas; no pens on the sofas; no food on the sofas.”


Other than that, all was perfection in the house. A text message to friend M as to bin collection arrangements on day 2 elicited the alarming response that there were none and we were to bring our rubbish home with us. This ensured that thereafter, we visited my poor parents in Cork city every second day. Meet the litter tourists.

Weather was a little seedy but we had the long beach at Garryvoe to ourselves.

Sunday, August 9

We visisted my lucky parents with our rubbish. Children delighted to be reunited with my father’s exercise bike.

Monday, August 10

Ballycotton – all very pretty. Many lifeboats. Michael ate a cheese sandwich thereby expanding the range of foods he is willing to ingest by 100%.

Tuesday, August 11

An absolutely glorious day. Again, we had the beach across the road from the house to ourselves.

Beach 2

Later we investigated the farmers’ market in Middleton. Middleton which is about 30 minutes drive from where I grew up is not somewhere I would ever consider visiting under normal circumstances but it is surprisingly charming. Mr. Waffle and I went out to dinner in Ballymaloe which was disappointing. Into every life some rain must fall, I suppose.

Wednesday, August 12

Back to Cork. Hugely entertaining trip up Shandon.
Note the way this image captures the safety headgear but not the bells. Sigh.
Here they are trying to play the bells. A number of possible tunes are given. Most people seem to go for Air Supply’s “All out of Love”. I wish I were joking. The people of Cork suffer greatly, particularly those who live within earshot of Shandon.
All out of love
Who would have thought? The butter museum, is, frankly, less than fascinating (FT says “do not miss” but I think the FT man was not accompanied by small children). I learnt a lot about the CAP from the DVD playing on a loop. Children had not seen tv since the previous Thursday and sat rapt in front of it. We brought more litter for my longsuffering parents and made them feed us.

Thursday, August 13

The culinary highlight of our holiday which on examination after two weeks away appears to be their only memory ocurred in Youghal . If you find yourself in Youghal (and I appreciate that might be unlikely), your trip is not complete without a visit to the Bay of Capri. Let joy be unconfined – the children loved this restaurant and so did we. I was keen to stroll around the town (historic little place, Walter Raleigh’s old stamping ground and all that). This wore out the troops.

They insisted on collapsing on the beach in the town which was small, stony and a little rough. This despite our attempts to persuade the children back to the car so that we might drive out to the really beautiful beach outside the town (possibly also a little rough – Youghal is that kind of town).

I am turning into my mother. At the water’s edge, a boy of about 13 was holding his little sister. This touching scene was marred by the tossing of a crisp packet in the water. Cunningly, I said to Daniel, “the little girl has dropped her crisp packet, will you pick it up for her?” He dutifully did. I felt sorry for young hoody as he was, obviously, a nice boy and it had not occurred to him that he would be called upon to take the crisp packet back and he had a bit of difficulty juggling it and baby. I, therefore, ignored further littering and, in due course, left the foreshore armed with several other crisp packets which he and his little sister had tossed out to sea. Am I unbearable? No, don’t tell me, I think I know the answer.

Friday, August 14

We took ourselves to Cobh. There was supposed to be a Regatta. We saw little sign of it. For as long as I can remember, Cobh has been a depressed, grim place. It could be lovely – it has many fine buildings but it’s not. A superliner had pulled up at the quayside and Americans were milling around filled with admirable but, in my view, unnecessary enthusiasm. I feel very disloyal writing this but there it is, I cannot understand why I keep going there hoping that it will improve. Sigh. We went to the Cobh experience. I wouldn’t exactly call it unmissable. Alright, I suppose, if you haven’t seen it before. The children watched the DVD on the maritime history of Cobh, like heroin addicts given a shot of methadone. A full week since they had seen the Power Rangers.

The trip to Cobh did give me a further opportunity to ponder the housing crisis. All around E. Cork there were loads of new housing estates. All empty or largely so. Do you think that these apartments will ever be ready?
Did these people choose a good time to sell?
Yes, really, look more closely.
Castle 2
Suit DIY enthusiast etc.

The grimness of the morning was more than atoned for by the bizarre, yet delightful, Leahy’s fun farm. This had been adapted from farm use to a centre of entertainment. Its primary agricultural use was still very visible – the indoor play area featured what had once, clearly, been slurry pits. Mr. Leahy himself turned up as we were being shown around and he was lovely. On Mr. Waffle asking him when he got out of cows and into camels he said pithily, “2 years ago.” He had monkeys, puppies, kittens, sheep, llamas and snakes too. They were able to feed all of them except the snake. He pointed us in the direction of the tiny house where he had been born and brought up which is now a haven for all sorts of old bric-a-brac and brought back memories from my youth (sacred heart picture with flickering flame, scales with weights etc.). There was a mannequin in the bed in the bedroom dressed up as an old granny and she gave me a nasty shock. God it was tiny and it must have been grim. No wonder the farmers of Ireland decided en masse to build themselves new bungalows when the CAP money came through. The children adored every moment and kept asking to go back. Am very tempted to take them again in December when farmer Eddie gets Santa in – could only be fascinating, you must concede.

Saturday, August 15

Are you still there? Very dull aside but we found out the truth about Shanagarry pottery which has been mildly peplexing me and is of no interest to you (my blog etc.). It was supposed to be closed but it was open. Still terrifyingly expensive. I spoke to one of the staff as she wrapped my tasteful offering. Apparently Stephen Pearse decamped to Spain years ago (making it most unlikely that the stuff we got as wedding presents was thrown by the master or even when the master was in the country) and the business had been going downhill. The collapse in the economy was the final kick in the teeth. The bank are now running the operation and the staff don’t know from week to week whether they will be staying or going. Poor them. The assistant said that they were hopeful as the bank have taken on an extra potter. Where will it all end? No wonder the banks won’t lend to small businesses (allegedly), they’re too busy running them.

Had very elaborate lunch at my parents’ house in Cork where Michael utterly mortified me by sitting in my father’s chair and refusing to budge. That child has a will of iron and a mother of putty. An unfortunate combination.

Lads, that was only week 1. Week 2 in Kerry follows. On the edges of your seats, I’m sure.

Nature, tooth, claw etc.

6 August, 2009 at 10:50 pm by belgianwaffle

Having just disposed of the flies, we now appear to have a wasps’ nest in the old extractor fan shaft. Home ownership is so trying.

Mr. Waffle bought foam, a mask and a boiler suit and sprayed the wasps. Now they may well be dead. The smell of insecticide foam has invaded our kitchen. Would you say that is good?

We are going on holidays tomorrow (East Cork, West Kerry, try to keep up) and as well as packing (v. traumatic), I decided that I would empty the fridge of food likely to go off. I found that we have, inter alia, smoked salmon, two eggs, a packet of sausages and most of a roast chicken as well as half a birthday cake which the children and Mr. Waffle made for the childminder. I told my loving husband that we would have a picnic tomorrow on our way to Cork. I asked him to go to the attic to get down the tasteful wicker picnic basket which we received as a wedding present but he demurred on the grounds that our luggage is already so extensive (two large bags, several smaller bags, buckets, spades, balls, hurleys, swing ball etc.) that it would hardly fit.

Contemplating my fridge findings, I decided chicken, stuffing and mayonnaise sandwiches would be nice. This is why just moments ago at 23.30, I was whisking oil and egg yolk (one egg slipped from my nervous grasp) in the insecticide foam infected kitchen. I may well be losing my mind.

Anyway, we’re off for a fortnight and posting will be limited. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back. There’s something for you to look forward to.


5 August, 2009 at 11:29 pm by belgianwaffle

Some time ago we acquired the Pevsner guide to Dublin. It has, obviously, come into its own since our return to the empire’s second city. The author, Christine Casey, is a fantastic writer. She deftly, accurately and sometimes wittily describes the buildings between Dublin’s canals.

Recently we noticed a large mansion in a very run down part of Dublin.
Aldborough House

Pevsner told us it was Aldborough House and Dr. Casey introduced it thus: “Above the portico the thoroughly misleading motto Otium cum Dignitate (Leisure with Dignity). This grandiose and yet remarkably dull house is a testament to the inveterate vanity of Edward Augustus Stratford, 2nd Earl of Aldborough.” In describing the house, she says witheringly “The main facade is a traditional Palladian composition in all but proportion.” She includes an “oft quoted but indispensable [contemporary] account by Lady Hardwicke”: “The staircase is richly adorned with paintings. Let one be in your idea a model for the rest. Imagine a large panel occupied by the “Triumph of Amphitrite”personified by Lady Aldborough in a riding habit with Minervas’s helmet, sitting on the knee of Lord Aldborough [then aged 57] in a complete suit of regimentals, Neptune having politely resingned his seat in the car to his Lordship, and contenting himself with the office of coachman to the six well fed tritons. The whole corps of sea-nymphs attend the car in the dress of Nereids! But each, instead of a vocal shell bears in hand a medallion with picture (the head and shoulders as large as life) of and admiral’s wigs, bald heads, crops etc. Think of a whole mansion decorated in theis way.”

See what I mean? Within 20 years of its completion, it was being used as a school (by a Luxemburger – extraordinary no?) and now it is, apparently, very delapidated offices having put in some considerable time as a store house. Which, for all its lack of merit, does seem rather sad.

Cork News

4 August, 2009 at 10:52 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess and I graced Cork briefly over the weekend. We went to the Lough to feed the birds. Guiltily, we brought grapes rather than stale bread – our usual offering. We were somewhat chastened by reports in the Examiner of the death of 40 swans from botulism. Unfortunately, other visitors did not seem to have read the report. Let me tell you that those swans (like the species I know best) do not know what’s good for them (I really wanted to write “what side their bread is buttered on” and I almost stopped myself). We cast our grapes upon the waters and they sank unnoticed and unloved while others got a great response from fresh bread. They even, kindly, offered some bread to the little girl who was bitterly chucking grapes in the water. We also tried some cherry tomatoes but swans and ducks don’t like those much either.

I had a look, with my parents, at the digital photographic archive of the National Library. What is really astonishing is how little Cork has changed in nearly 150 years. The layout of the streets is determined by the twisting of the river’s channels and the contours of the hills and the centre is very much the same. Although the city was burnt in 1920 by the Black and Tans, the new buildings that went up to fill the gaps fitted into the same streetscape and were not so radically different as to render the streets unrecogniseable in their previous incarnation.

Browsing through the photographs, we came across several of the papal nuncio’s visit to Cork. Specifically, several pictures which are set in a very well-known Cork institution. These are captioned “Papal Nuncio in Cork: Large crowd scenes (in grounds of Rochestown College ?) “. This building is most emphatically not Rochestown College. On seeing these my father and I laughed aloud and he said sagely, “ah yes, you must never trust anything from the great wen” as he has taken to calling Dublin. Gentle reader, can you identify the institution in this picture?

Papal Nuncio

If you can, if it is obvious, even to the internet, I think a strongly worded letter to the national library is called for. This brings me back to the problem of second cities everywhere which I always feel more acutely after visiting Cork. In Ireland, it sometimes feels that everything is run from Dublin and for Dublin. This impression is compounded by the national broadcaster, RTE, which rarely ventures outside the Dublin suburbs to report news, relying on the odd file recording to indicate national coverage (in the current climate they seem keen to show a longish queue outside the Cork dole office – same one, every time). Compared, however, to the Irish Times, RTE covers a wide range of the country. The Irish Times doesn’t even cover all of the Dublin suburbs let alone distant outposts like Cork. I note, however, that recently the Irish Times has been running articles about things to do in West Cork. Do not be deceived, this is merely to inform its Dublin readership. Certain Dubliners like to descend on West Cork en masse for their summer holidays to the intense chagrin of Cork city residents who regard it as their holiday destination. Annoyingly, the Dubliners tend to go to different places every year whereas Cork people tend to go religiously to the same place. This means that when you speak of West Cork with Dubliners, you are instantly at a disadvantage as you only know Goleen or Skibbereen after a childhood spent staring out the windows in the rain in these spots. Dubliners on the other hand speak with irritating confidence of Union Hall, Roscarberry, Skib (they will always use the local abbreviation), Clon (see, always) and Castletownbere and so on. And, to add insult to injury, they have also been in Mayo and Galway, where you have never been because you always went to Skibereen on your summer holidays. We are going to East Cork this summer, I don’t think I could stand the opprobium, if I ventured west with my little Dublin family.

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