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Archive for September, 2009

Rough?

30 September, 2009 at 11:39 pm by belgianwaffle

My brother tackled me last weekend about where we live. He has concerns that my children will end up wearing track suits all day every day and on remand in the district court. We had a robust discussion on the influence of parents versus that of peers, the nature of the local peers in what I would call a mixed area and whether it was fair to visit your social notions on your children which ended with one of us flouncing out of the room and banging the door. Isn’t it great the way when you are at your parents’ house you can revert to behaviour that was last given an airing in your teens?

Still, it all gave me pause for further thought. Our parish newsletter this week led with “The Gospel to the Gangland” which didn’t help. Then I went to a local park where F often takes the children. There were a bunch of Slovakian children there who seemed to know mine well. They were nice children and my boys were clearly delighted to see them. They were accompanied by a pleasant man (you know, not let out on their own running wild or anything) but I couldn’t help noticing that he had a tattoo on his neck. Did I not read somewhere that this is an invariable sign of gang membership? Or is it just a sign of a fondness for pain? In short, I feel that I am in territory where my mother never had to venture.

Lending my books

29 September, 2009 at 10:34 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess started reading “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”. I was thrilled but a little nervous that she would have nightmares. I did that very annoying thing of constantly asking her “where are you now?” She thought it was alright. I am gutted. On the boys’ birthday, a number of kind relatives also gave her presents. Mostly, they gave her books. “Why,” queried my little ingrate, “is everyone always giving me books?” Could her reading phase be over already?

Give me a boy at seven

28 September, 2009 at 9:37 pm by belgianwaffle

New acquaintance: And where did your husband go to school?
Me: Jesuit School X.
New acquaintance: Oh lovely, clever, sensitive boys.

I understand that Mr. Waffle’s school produced many chess champions but that they failed to star in rugby.

4 Today

27 September, 2009 at 11:38 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael and Daniel turned four today.

My mother-in-law asked me what time of day they were born and, incredibly, I had forgotten. Fortunately, I have a complete online record. It is funny to look at those old pictures and see how tiny they were. They are big boys now as they never tire of reminding me.

I suppose because they have no younger siblings, they still seem pretty small to me. If only I had lots of energy, I would write a loving and detailed post but after a day of festivities filled with guns, family and power rangers, I think I may have to compromise with some pictures and a couple of anecdotes.

Daniel is extremely articulate, speaks very clearly and he seems to have a good ear for language. The other day I heard him describe something as “upsoide dowen”. I raised my eyebrows. He said, “Mummy, I know you say upside down but at school we say ‘upsoide dowen'” Poor Daniel. As his father says, “Fluent in English, Irish, French and Dub.” He can also do an RP English accent, a Lancashire accent (where did this come from – the BBC?) and, of course, like all of his contemporaries an American accent. I was glad that, as we trooped out of a concert with other parents and children on Friday night, he chose to use his RP English accent to say loudly, “Mummy, stop hitting me with your bloody handbag.” [My handbag is heavy, when I bend down to minister to small children’s needs, it can be slightly dangerous. No one has ever been knocked unconscious. I am trying to stop saying bloody.]

Michael’s social skills continue to be unrivalled in his family. F tells me that when she waits with him and Daniel for their sister to emerge from school all of the other pupils say, “Hello Michael”. He is the soul of friendliness. He is also a stickler for accuracy. At school he is learning Connaught Irish. I speak Munster Irish. He sits at the bord dearg (red table) in his class. I pronounce “dearg” as “darug”. He pronounces it as “dya-rug”. I have had to alter my pronounciation or risk the wrath of the tiny tyrant.

27 September 2005

0

27 September 2006 – 1
1

27 September 2007 – 2
2

27 September 2008 – 3 Oh God, that terrifying haircut – the Vikings storm the city
3

27 September 2007 – 4 – We’re 4!

4
4 as well

And, as it happens, today is also my parents’ 42nd wedding anniversary which is rather nice too.

For scrabble lovers

26 September, 2009 at 9:36 pm by belgianwaffle

Headline from the Irish Times during the week: “Xilinx records Nasdaq gains.”

Grim

25 September, 2009 at 9:34 pm by belgianwaffle

Our cleaner, A, is from Latvia. The other day he commented on how well herself spoke French. “We used to live in Belgium,” I explained. “How many languages do you speak?” I asked. “Russian and Latvian; I studied German at university but I have nearly forgotten it all now.”

The OECD economic survey of Ireland in 2008 found that “[m]ost migrants are young, well educated and work, but are often in basic jobs.” They’re not kidding.

Worrying

24 September, 2009 at 9:34 pm by belgianwaffle

Her: Oh Mummy, my Mummy, I knew you were home.
Me: How did you know I was home?
Her: I could smell you.

Torturing my brother

23 September, 2009 at 6:44 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: You are the most argumentative person I know.
Him: I am not.
Me: Pregnant pause.

Kindly meant

21 September, 2009 at 9:49 pm by belgianwaffle

Comment received from elderly gentleman (therefore patronising tone must be accepted with saintly resignation) on report drafted by me:

“Well done on the writing to-date. Its [sic] very good.”

Instructions for a virtuous sister

20 September, 2009 at 6:47 pm by belgianwaffle

Firstly, we left her kit:

kit

Then we gave her instructions:

Friday 18

Come to the house for 6.30, if you are running late, call babyminder.

You may wish to call Domino’s or dine from the richness of the fridge. DVDs under the telly.

Try to get the boys to bed about 8. They need to go to the toilet and wash their teeth before bed. They also normally get a story. Suggest you neutralise M with a book from ENVELOPE. Boys will likely reappear. Resign yourself to ensconcing them in your own bed. They will eventually fall asleep. Do not hesitate to move them – once they are asleep, they’re asleep. They may wake up wet in the middle of the night but it’s not very likely. They are likely to be wet in the morning. You will be very lucky, if you do not have to strip a bed while we are gone. Spare sheets in the hot press – you will need a waterproof one and a flannel one. The boys’ pyjamas are in the bottom drawer in their room.

M same routine (apart from bedwetting) but she will probably be happy to read to herself once safely in bed. You can let her read herself but try to get her light off by 9.30.

Collapse.

Saturday 19

Morning

You have four options:
(a) Go to GAA
(b) Go to library
(c) Go to park
(d) Something else

Options (a) to (c) are described below.

(a) If you decide to go to the GAA (car key in ENVELOPE), it starts at 9.30 and the drive is about 10 mins so you will need to set off at 9.20. Bring their hurleys which are in the round plastic white container in the shed that doesn’t have the washing machine, some water (flasks in kitchen) – should they be thirsty, and some sustaining liga – should they be unhappy. The boys’ kit should be in the drawers in their room (socks top drawer, t-shirts below and shorts third drawer). Michael is Lions and Daniel Barcelona. M can wear her tracksuit which is on top of her clothes on the wardrobe and boasts a picture of Ben 10. Everyone’s runners should be in the hall.

The boys will be playing on the grass pitch near the road and M on the all-weather pitch near the club house. If you do go, call M’s friend’s mother H. I primed her that you might be coming (she is about my age with brown hair in a bob – v. nice). Drop M with her and proceed with the boys to their pitch – you will need to put on helmets – it’s straightforward. If I were you, I would beg the trainer to make sure that, in the football match, they both get to run with the ball, otherwise they will howl. It should be over about 11 – they will all be given lollipops and the like after.

(b) If you don’t go to the GAA (and who could blame you), you might like to try the library. Library cards in the ENVELOPE – library books to be returned on the hall table. Again a driving adventure. One is nearby and small. You turn left down an alleyway immediately beside it and come out in a small on-street car park. When leaving you have to take your life in your hands and go back up the same small alleyway. They like to run up and down the ramp outside the library and I let them. V. important this library closes for lunch (1-2). Bigger library is a little further away. I have never been but parking is free and I understand it’s bigger and better. In my experience, bigger is not always better.

(c) Park: the closest is a tiny bit too far to walk so we would usually drive. However, the park is just grass so you might prefer to go to the other park which has a good playground. There is ample parking and the playground has lots to amuse the kids. Even better, there is only one exit so you can sit on a bench beside it and let the children play. Beside the playground, there is a cafe (though it’s a bit slow).

Lunchtime

The kids may eat tomato soup (in Knorr packet) and (if you’re lucky) sandwiches – cheese for Michael, ham for the others.

Party: The party is at 2.30. Presents will be wrapped and up on the bookshelf – invitation in the envelope. House is about 10/15 mins drive from us. Do your best to make children respectable but do not kill yourself. Go in with them and ask parents what time you should collect. Enjoy your freedom. Collect them and go home.

Evening as per Friday but you may wish to vary the diet. Almost certainly they will eat nothing due to a surfeit of junk in the pm. Do not be downcast if they ignore your offering.

Sunday 20

Strongly suggest that you go to the esteemed parents-in-law.

Will try to be back by lunch time. Will call you when we’re on the road. Feel free to call us any time. I probably won’t notice the phone ringing but B is usually reliable.

Good luck.

We went to a wedding in Donegal with our time off. The sun shone. The bride was beautiful, the groom handsome and the guests interesting. What more could you ask?

gweedore

errigal

Really, it will be hard to be grateful enough to my loving sister…

FURTHER AND BETTER VERMIN

17 September, 2009 at 10:26 pm by belgianwaffle

The house is overrun with animals. Not nice ones. Despite forking out €243 to Mr. Rentokil, we seem to have an above average number of houseflies. So appealing in any property. This did, however, give my loving husband an opportunity to kill a fly in a most satisfactory manner. He was chasing a fly on the landing with our can of useless spray (this is the problem with everything being safe, it’s also useless) and the fly was lolling about in the air soaking up the aromas with no apparent ill effects. The fly was, however, scared of the folded Irish Times that Mr. Waffle was using to supplement the fly spray (“Help, help, the liberal Dublin media, the organ of record is coming to get me with its tales of traffic chaos in the capital”) and flew blindly into a spider’s web and was trapped. Mr. Waffle noted with satisfaction, the spider efficiently bundling up its prey – one fly down. Mr. Waffle had only recently been complaining that the huge number of spiders we have on the payroll had been failing to deliver in terms of fly catching figures and that, going forward, in the absence of improved catching capacity we might have to look at overall spider numbers with a view to effecting savings in the current economic conditions. The memo obviously leaked to the spiders and they are on their mettle.

Meanwhile, we are also fighting a rear-guard action on operation wasp. Despite laying down powder, spraying, putting out a glass of coke for them to drown in and blocking up access to their nest with a highly sophisticated barrier (a combination of an old baby’s bib and tinfoil, since you ask). They are still coming. They buzz around outside hopefully (“They used to live here, they’d never have moved without telling us…call the rest of the gang”) and, increasingly and distressingly, they also buzz around inside the house. Our reluctant conclusion is that there must be some other form of access to the nest from inside the house.

And last, but by no means least, my blog is beset by spammers. At least they can’t sting me, I suppose.

Taking my life in my hands

16 September, 2009 at 9:00 pm by belgianwaffle

When I say that I cycle in and out of work, people treat me as though I am some kind of lunatic. When I say that I do it without a helmet and a high visibility jacket (in daytime people), they decide that I am a weird freak and try to talk to someone else. Dubliners firmly believe that there is nothing more dangerous than going out on a bike. My father cycled until he was 80. I cycled in and out to school regularly as a teenager, I cycled in Brussels (ok I didn’t cycle in Rome but that was because I had a moped), I feel cycling is safe enough. I even did a bit of research on it, so phased was I by the horror and awe with which my activities were treated. It’s safe enough. In fact, having cycled to work for many years, I think Dublin is far safer now than it used to be: no juggernauts on the quays; far more cycle lanes; extended car free zones.

Recently, Dublin has put in place a free bike scheme like Paris, Brussels and Copenhagen. The Irish media being what it is, this has been a national news story for well over a week now. This has tempted cautious Dubliners to try out the bicycles. There was a man on the telly the other night who announced joyfully that he had cycled up and down O’Connell Street. Something that he could have achieved very easily even before the scheme was introduced but he had just been too scared. Still, I do feel it’s a good thing. There seem to be far more bikes on the roads which, of course, makes it safer for everyone. Every hire bike rack I pass has someone struggling excitedly with the technology. In fact, the only real danger in all this is when someone who hasn’t cycled for 20 years wobbles nervously into my way on the cycle path but this is a price I am more than willing to pay to get more of us out on the roads.

Random Tales from the Front

15 September, 2009 at 8:52 pm by belgianwaffle

As Mr. Waffle’s family are keen orienteers, we have taken the children out a couple of times, almost invariably to groans of protest. Yesterday, for the first time, we went without the cousins or other supportive Waffle family members. As Mr. Waffle signed up, I could hear the nice people saying, “Now, it’s very important to hand in your card, even if you don’t finish” and other basic bits of advice. Mr. Waffle nodded politely but as this showed signs of running on, I said, “Tell them your secret, tell them you’re G’s brother.” The effect on the organisers was almost comical. They instantly began to apologise for providing such basic information to one nearly related to G and asked anxiously where he and his esteemed father were. My brother-in-law is very popular in certain circles. Perhaps inspired by this close interest in our progress, for the very first time we put in results which did not feature in the ignominious DNF category. We also got burnt to a cinder because I did not believe we could get sunburnt in Ireland in September.

While supervising the children in the nearby playground, I was approached by a trendy young man with a beard who turned out to be a former colleague from Brussels who has just moved to Ireland to do his PhD. Just as I had been complaining to Mr. Waffle that we only knew Irish people here is my Latvian ex-colleague and his partner to add cosmopolitan student glamour to our lives.

This playground was also the site of the usual embarrassing moment that is part of any day spent with small children. I was queuing with Daniel for a particularly popular attraction when he turned to me and said in aggrieved and carrying tones, “That girl said I was a little boy.” “You’re not a little boy, you’re a BIG boy,” I said and then my evil genius prompted me to add, “Who said such a thing to you?” He pointed to a very large teenager and said clearly (he articulates wonderfully) and loudly, “That fat girl over there.” Covered in mortification, I whispered to him, “Darling, don’t say loudly that she’s fat, it’s rude.” To which he replied with disastrous clarity “But why can’t I say she’s fat, she IS.”

What do grown-ups do for fun?

14 September, 2009 at 8:53 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel: Mummy, where are you going?
Me: Out with friends, sweetheart.
Him: To a dinner party?
Me: No.
Him: To a party?
Me: No, just my bookclub.
Him: Will there be wine?

Guilty day off

13 September, 2009 at 9:14 pm by belgianwaffle

I took Friday off work and Mr. Waffle and I went walking in the Wicklow hills. The weather was beautiful and the views were beautiful. All we could hear, high in the hills was birdsong, bees and a particularly loud boy racer whizzing around the twisting road visible in the distance. I would post a picture but we left the camera behind. Oh yes, take only memories, leave only footprints. In my case quite deep, squelchy footprints. The bog hasn’t dried up much despite the extraordinarily fine weather. Regretfully, on returning home, I decided it was time to consign my Nike runners, purchased in Bosnia in 1995, to the bin.

We had tea in the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation. I cannot really say how they are at peace and reconciliation but I wouldn’t really recommend it as a tea stop. Inappropriately, it was there that we decided to dispose of our principles and buy the boys toy guns for their birthday. I thought that you should be the first to know.

We had a lovely day in the warm sunshine as our children toiled at school and, as punishment, when we got home, we found this note from the school in their bags:

swine flu

If only we hadn’t sneaked off on our own, none of this would have happened.

The ugly truth

12 September, 2009 at 8:53 pm by belgianwaffle

Children are distressingly honest. A frequent plea is “Mummy, can I play with your pizza dough tummy”. How I wish I was making this up. Frequent “Mummy, your teeth are yellow” comments led to a recent trip to the dentist for a clean and polish. Upon my return, I was told, “They’re still yellow.” I blame the Americans.

On the plus side, the other morning Daniel said to me, “Mummy you look beautiful, your dress is lovely, everyone at work will say you are beautiful. I also like your sparkly eye-shadow.”

Book club

10 September, 2009 at 8:17 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Would you like to read…let me see, I still think you’re too small for the Narnia books, “The Railway Children” is a bit hard as is “A Little Princess”…
Her: Oh “A Little Princess” is that the one with Sara and her slave Becky?
Me: Um, yes, and the nice family.
Her: And they call her the-little-girl-who-is-not-a-beggar.
Me: Yes!
Her: And she has a French lesson and she can already speak French.
Me: Yes, yes and there’s Lottie and the mean headmistress.
Her: Miss Munchkin.
Me: Um, I think that’s Miss Minchin but YES.
Her: And she is sent to live in the attic.
Me: And it’s so sad, her father dies and they are so mean to her (my eyes start to water at the thought of the many cruelties imposed on brave little Sara).
Her: Don’t cry Mummy, it all turns out well in the end. [Pause] Although her father is still dead.

The under-7s are a bit heartless aren’t they?

The new men have lunch

9 September, 2009 at 12:17 pm by belgianwaffle

My husband met a friend for lunch. The friend’s eldest child has just started school. Friend’s wife is French and, upon discovering that Irish children were not given a hot meal in school as they are in France, threw her hands in the air and declared that she would have nothing to do with this bizarre sandwich ritual. Mr. Waffle is sandwich maker in chief chez nous as he is awake at dawn and I find it, ahem, difficult to get up in the morning. He gave lunch box filling tips to his friend. When he got home, he went straight to the computer to send him a link to the food dudes healthy lunchbox programme. Very gratifying.

My new motto

7 September, 2009 at 11:17 pm by belgianwaffle

Apparently the Norwegians say “There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

I think that this might get us through the winter.

Mr. Waffle says that before I apply this, we should invest in appropriate clothing.

The Athens of the North

6 September, 2009 at 10:48 pm by belgianwaffle

I was in Edinburgh for work last week. I was unenthused by the prospect. I had been before and I retained only a vague memory of a dull castle.

When I was 17, I went to Scotland to visit a friend I had made on a camping holiday in France the previous year. We had both taken part in the Miss Campsite competition and come first and second (modesty forbids me telling you who won, ahem) and this formed a bond. There was no internet in those days and we had to keep our friendship alive through letters and the very odd phone call and, most thrillingly, a visit to Glasgow. Her parents nobly drove us to Edinburgh for the day so that I could experience the excitement of Scotland’s capital. I retain much firmer memories of driving around the suburbs of Glasgow with Alison’s schoolmates (boys, cars!). We stayed in touch for many years but finally lost contact around the time she got permanent employment as an engineer with the local council (she used to make mini-roundabouts and we didn’t have any mini-roundabouts in Ireland at the time and my incomprehending indifference was the beginning of the end).

I arrived into Edinburgh late and flicked on the telly in the rather nasty hotel. I found myself watching a programme in Gallic on breeding sheep on remote Scottish islands. I was rivetted. Not by the sheep rearing but by the language. Gallic is very similar to Irish. It was sub-titled which was a big help to my comprehension but I would imagine that a fluent Irish speaker would have very little difficulty in understanding the spoken language and even I could tell that almost all the words were the same. The pronounciation was weird though, it was like hearing a Norwegian speaking Irish, that same Nordic intonation.

My conference the following day finished at 4 on the dot (in my experience entirely unprecedented in the world of conferences) and I sailed out to take the air. My sailing was considerably impeded by the road works associated with the creation of a tram line. The local, who was my informant on these matters muttered darkly about it. “It was just as bad in Dublin when we got our tram lines,” I said sympathetically. “Aye, but you got twice as many as we’re going to get.” “You’re only getting one tram line?” “Aye,” he said dourly (I was, obviously, delighted to meet a stereotypically dour Scot).

I made my way to Charlotte Square passing several school boys wearing short pants (really, short pants? and I bet it gets chilly in Edinburgh in Winter) and bright red knee socks picking up the red piping on their blazers. Very odd.

Charlotte Square is a beautiful Georgian Square designed by Robert Adam (who was from Edinburgh, who knew? alright, alright all of you) and one of the houses is open to the public. Normally the children accompany me on this kind of expedition and the relief of not having to constantly stop them running, touching or shouting was enormous: as you know, it is part of every child’s upbringing to be tortured by parents in this way. I was able to consider the printed leaflet in each room, chat to the nice elderly lady volunteers guarding each room and, generally entertain myself. I was able to make a comparison with more or less contemporaneous houses in Ireland as, the previous weekend, I had visited a number of houses in Merrion Square which was enjoying an open day. The latter had been rendered hideous by the children. It’s hard to know which was worse, the screaming and running about at the Irish Architectural Archive, having to carry Daniel from the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland howling, red-faced and rigid with anger because he had not been allowed to sign the visitor book, or Michael gaining access to the water cooler on the second floor of the NUI building and promptly flooding the stairs and soaking himself and then trailing squelchily out of the building asking loudly to be allowed to take off his trousers. No such unpleasantness marred my visit to Charlotte Square and that of the genteel English people who seemed to constitute the bulk of the other visitors.

After that I walked over to the Old Town (challenging with the tram works) in a mood of increasing astonishment. Edinburgh is amazingly, jaw-droppingly beautiful. Almost every building in the centre is made with the same yellow stone and nothing much appears to have been built since 1900. The effect is extraordinary. I walked round entranced. The Royal Mile was described by the frank guidebook in my hotel as awash with tartan tat and, I suppose, that is true, but it is also full of beautiful buildings, fascinating sights and the whole thing is wonderfully harmonious. However, one cannot live on pre-20th century urban architecture and I was getting peckish.

A friend whose husband is from Edinburgh advised me to eat at the Witchery but, alas, they were too full to take me at 6.30 (where oh where is this recession of which they speak). Fortunately, I got the last seat in its sister restaurant, The Tower, which is at the top of one of the only 20th century buildings in Edinburgh: a museum which was closed but looked a bit dull based on what one is allowed to see on the way to the restaurant. The restaurant was full of locals which is always very gratifying for the tourist. I had lovely views out over the city as the sun set and I ate my sardines.

I took myself off to the airport absolutely delighted and quite astonished. How is it that I had remembered none of this loveliness from my last visit? It appears that at 17, I was as self-absorbed as my children are at 3 and 6. You would think that the genetic code might have better things to do.

Font News

2 September, 2009 at 10:37 pm by belgianwaffle

I was alerted by Eoin to “Typography for Lawyers“. And wordles too, but that’s incidental (I just mention it here because I thought you would like to know).

I now find myself looking at books to see what font they are set in.

And now, Jon has a post about how to create your own font. The excitement.

Whatcha think?

writing

It’s harder than you might imagine.

Is it all getting a bit weird over here?

English as she is spoken

1 September, 2009 at 9:51 pm by belgianwaffle

I am very fond of Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s books which provide delightful rhymes for the children and plenty of pictorial interest for the parents who end up reading and re-reading.

One of their books is “The Cops and the Robbers”. The following lines appear “there are toys going missing galore/what they need’s the strong arm of the law”. Under no circumstances in Irish English do galore and law rhyme. Then one of the robbers gets thrown “whoosh/into a bush”. Irish people pronounce the h in whoosh/who/which and so on. For us whoosh and bush do not rhyme.

That is all.


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