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Archive for March, 2010

Nah Nah Nah NAMA

31 March, 2010 at 8:09 pm by belgianwaffle

The country is seething today as details of the sums that will be poured from our pockets into the banks were analysed. The Irish Timessummarises it thus:

“In reality, nothing that could have been said yesterday would have altered the fundamental risk associated with Nama. At its most simple, it is a calculated gamble that the all-in upfront cost to the State of bailing out the banks will be less debilitating than the wider costs of letting them fail. That upfront cost is still not clear but based on the information that was released yesterday it could involve capital injection of up to €31.8 billion in fresh capital and close to €40 billion in debt issued to the banks to pay for their discounted property loans.

The cost of having let the banks fail is unquantifiable and is inextricably linked to the impact on the State’s own credit worthiness and ability to borrow. Ultimately the view was taken that standing behind the banks and their obligations to international debt markets was preferable to letting their bond-holders suffer the consequences of the banks’ greed and stupidity.”

As my loving husband said, if the banks can transfer their loans to the State at a 60% discount then why can’t we transfer our mortgage with a 60% discount too. I guess the bottom line is that the international bond-holders are a lot more important than we are.

The Princess and myself watched a news report on NAMA and she asked me what it’s all about.

Me: Well, the State has pledged a lot of taxpayers’ money to the banks to keep them from failing.

Her: Who’s he?

Me: Who’s who?

Her: The taxpayer.

Me: Well, everyone who has a job and pays taxes to the State to run it. And everyone who is going to have a job in the future. You’ll have to pay for this too, sweetheart.

Her: Really?

Me: I’m afraid so, honey.

Her: You’d better up my pocket money then.

A Mother’s Lot

30 March, 2010 at 8:23 pm by belgianwaffle

A (very religious) friend said to me that he thinks that some people take their children to mass like they take them to swimming lessons – it’s something useful for them to know. I felt a distinct twinge of guilt. Especially when I recollected my maternal pride on hearing that the Princess had collected an Easter egg at her Sunday school thing by identifying the man who helped Jesus carry the cross. Your best guess in the comments below please. No googling.

The Princess has dropped out of her holiday course in the Alliance Française. Due to her idiot mother’s assumption that the course would be for bilingual children, she was forced to spend the day learning to count in French. Although she explained to the teacher (in French) that she could already count and even say her name in French, she was not let out (well where would they send her?). She was very cross. I was very guilt ridden. On the plus side, the Alliance say that they will give me my money back. Hurrah.

As I entered the house after a long day at work, the childminder was leaving it. “What’s it like in there?” I asked her. Normally she is resolutely upbeat. “It’s murder,” said she, “they are all tired, cranky and whacking each other.”

Michael wants a Nintendo DS. He can’t have one. “Why? Jack has one.” “Because you’re four and I say no.” A river of tears follows.

The country has given all its money to the banks. In fact, money that it hasn’t got. Every public servant in the country got pay cuts of between 10 and 20 per cent and it saved the exchequer 4 billion. Apparently we’ll need 30 billion to keep the banks going. Do you think that the public servants would like to work for nothing? I am annoyed with the banks. I am also unclear who benefited from the reckless lending. Not the shareholders, not the taxpayer, not the banks and, it appears, not even the developers who took out the massive loans we and our children will be paying back. Unless the developers all have Swiss bank accounts. Aha. Of course, now that the State effectively owns the banks, we can regard the forthcoming increase in interest rates on our mortgages as a saving really.

And it’s snowing today. Appropriate.

More good news for working mothers

28 March, 2010 at 9:04 pm by belgianwaffle

You will be unpopular mothers-in-law also. The Irish Times says that your sons’ wives will suffer.

Vignettes from the babysitting dungeon – in case you were wondering how my sister got on last weekend

27 March, 2010 at 9:02 pm by belgianwaffle

A phone call.

Me (sitting on a chair by a pond in the Tuileries): Hi, how is everything going?
Sister (in Dublin minding offspring): Not great, I am making pancakes, the smoke alarm has gone off, the children are screaming and the cat is pooing in the kitchen. How are things in Paris?

A further phone call

Me (sipping tea in a Parisian cafe): Hi, how is everything going?
Sister (at the side of the road in the car): Not great. Your daughter won’t stop saying “church in a church” and it’s driving me and the boys insane so please will you talk to her.
Daughter: Church in a church, church in a church, church in a church..
Me: What does that mean?
Daughter: Church in a church, church in a church, church in a church…
Me: Unless you stop saying that straight away, there will be no Club Penguin for a week.
Daughter: Eek.
Sister: Thank you that seems to have worked.

Motivational Speaking

26 March, 2010 at 9:02 pm by belgianwaffle

Me (upstairs putting on make up): You are the leader, go and inspire your brothers to get dressed.
Her (voice penetrating from downstairs): Mummy made me the leader, you must do what I say. (Noises of protest off)
Me (loudly): Come back up here.
Her: Did you hear that?
Me: Yes I did.
Her: Rats.
Me: That’s not what a real leader does, a real leader inspires her team to follow her through her own example like Jake the Red Ranger in Power Rangers SPD.
Her: OK so.
Moments later she returns.
Me: Are the boys dressed?
Her: No.
Me: I thought you were the leader, I thought you were going to inspire the boys to get dressed.
Her: I passed on the job to Daddy.

I suppose real leaders know how to delegate too.

Not a round number

25 March, 2010 at 10:13 pm by belgianwaffle

“I recollect nothing that passed this day, except Johnson’s quickness, who, when Dr. Beattie observed, as something remarkable which had happened to him, that he had chanced to see both No. 1, and No. 1000, of the hackney-coaches, the first and the last; ‘Why, Sir, (said Johnson,) there is an equal chance for one’s seeing those two numbers as any other two.’” From Boswell’s Life of Johnson

My father is fond of this anecdote. He is against numerology. All the same, he has now reached the age where people start to say “that’s a great age” so surely a cause for celebration. Happy birthday, Daddy.

What does fancy mean?

24 March, 2010 at 10:41 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself asked me this question this morning. “Well, it’s an old fashioned way of saying imagination or it could mean ‘like’ as in ‘do you fancy a cake?'” “What does it mean when they say at school that everyone fancies J?” They’re SIX, six, is this normal?

I see that the Irish Times using its extensive research arm (SOURCE: The Voice of Young People – A Report on Attitudes to Sexual Health, commissioned by Pfizer Healthcare), reports on the matter thus: “Despite the introduction of the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme in schools, the study found that children still learned about sex outside the classroom, mainly from friends and older siblings. Most young people surveyed were critical of the sex education offered in schools, saying it was often “too little, too late.” Well since, it appears to be needed from age 7, I’m not hugely surprised.

The organ of record continues: “The primary fear for parents appears to be that they might shock their child or ‘steal their innocence’, something they are very mindful to protect,” the report said. What innocence?

Card Sharp

23 March, 2010 at 10:37 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael is very good at cards. So far he has only played memory, happy families and snap/beggar my neighbour but he has shown remarkable competence at all of them. He is capable of beating his brother and sister hollow. If he loses a trick, unlike his siblings, he is unconcerned and never leaves the table in a huff. The other day, I came in from work and he replayed for me a losing hand of beggar my neighbour explaining how he had, very unluckily, lost his jack (the most valuable card) as his sister had put a queen on top. I see a career in bridge beckoning. Next time I go to Cork, I think I will get my mother to initiate him into the mysteries of 110.

Planning for my husband’s 40th birthday

19 March, 2010 at 4:34 pm by belgianwaffle

September, 2009

Swear sister to secrecy and check whether she would mind the children the weekend of March 19-21. She has only recovered from her previous weekend in their company but she is game. Hurrah.

October, 2009

Book flight to Paris, leaving at lunchtime on Friday, March 19 and returning late on Sunday, March 21.

Find out from Mr. Waffle name of pretty hotel in the centre of Paris which we have often passed but where we have never stayed. I do this on the pretext that my sister is going on one of her many exciting weekends away. He is fooled and gives me the details. Am charmed with myself – cunning! Start saving money to pay for pretty but expensive hotel. Am charmed with myself – saving!

November, 2009

Swear brother to secrecy. Ask him whether he can help sister with babysitting. He cannot. He already has a previous engagement. He suggests I swap for the weekend after which would suit him better. I point out that Mr. Waffle is 40 on the 19th and I have already booked and paid for the flight. “How much did it cost?” said my affluent brother. “You could abandon it and book for the following weekend.” I think not.

December, 2009

Book swish hotel in Paris. Almost expire from strain of not telling husband.

Discover that Aer Lingus may have expired before we can get to Paris at all. Am anguished.

Purchase nice present for sister who will need it after exertions with children. Put it in large bag on chest of drawers in our room. Wonder idly whether husband will notice that it does not depart with usual flock of Christmas presents. As of March 18, he has not. I think we can take it, I’m safe. Daughter on the other hand has several times enquired as to contents and had to be fobbed off.

January, 2010

Ring insurers to put sister on car insurance for the relevant weekend, thereby aiming to prove that I am competent in ways my husband doubts. Insurance company is, alas, less competent and tells me that I can only put her on the week before. Make mental and diary note. Conceal all this from him – am becoming mistress of skulduggery (and Bridget Jones’s poor relation). Begin drafting extensive instructions for sister.

January 11 – Email reliable friend in Brussels looking for advice on Parisian restaurants. She reminds me that it has been 12 years since she lived in Paris (digression here on how old we are) but she will ask reliable colleague for tips. Artlessly try to discuss with husband which restaurants he liked when he lived in Paris. He points out that he was a student and didn’t eat at all for the year he was there due to lack of funds.

January 17 – Tell mother-in-law that I have a secret I want to tell her. She is so relieved to hear that I am not pregnant (may be projecting here), that she rashly promises to support sister in babysitting endeavour by having her and children around for the day on Sunday, March 21.

January 19 – Father-in-law calls me to tell me he has been appraised of plan and has sent me link to a number of Parisian restaurants. Panic as email has not appeared in work and a quick trip to an internet cafe reveals not in gmail either. Could it have been inadvertently sent to husband? Remember sister’s reference to mafia dictum, if you have a secret, only tell one person as then you will know who to kill, if it gets out.

January 19 – Receive this email from brother-in-law:

“We’ve decided to prolong and deepen our bank debt and go skiing en famille in March to Austria, and the folks have said they’d be interested in joining. Dates: 13th march, all other details: TBC. While it’d be great if you could make it, I know you guys have much on your plates, so thought I’d put it out there.”

Feel enormous enthusiasm for skiing trip which also features other children our children’s ages and think about how much deeper in debt I would like to be (recent budgeting exercise has revealed that after all essential expenditure and very mild saving, monthly sum available to me for entertainment, clothes etc is €6) and how I will persuade loving husband to embrace the debt, the enforced absence from school and the various leave problems we might have. Realise, to my horror, that the skiing week is the week of his birthday surprise. Agree with Mr. Waffle that we cannot afford to go skiing (certainly true in any event). He is surprised how easily I fold on this point. Realise that parents-in-law may not be available to help out on Sunday 21, March, if they are flying back from Austria. Express unusual bitterness to Mr. Waffle about ski trip. He is surprised and says – if you really want to go… Am hamstrung by secrecy and turn away muttering “no, no, it’s alright.”

February, 2010

Swear babysitter to secrecy. Pay her to mind the children on Saturday afternoon, March 20, to give my sister a sanity break.

February 12 – Tell husband, who is gloomy, that I have something special planned for his birthday and he is to be sure not to schedule anything for March 19. He seems cheered.

February 18 – Sister calls to tell me that work want her to go to Bahrain (they work on Saturdays there, the misery) but she has resolutely put them off pointing out that she had said that she had something on this weekend in September. “Could you not change?” they persist. “No,” she said, “it is my brother-in-law’s 40th birthday, my sister is taking him to Pairs, they have three small children and they never get away and I have said I will mind the children.” Colleagues wilt in front of this pathetic scenario but she still has to leave at 5 on Sunday afternoon March 21 to fly to Bahrain. Ring babysitter anxiously, will she be able to cover Sunday evening from 5 to 11. She will. Wonder mildly whether my savings will cover all of this.

March, 2010

March 2 – Pick up random present for husband. Dust down set of ornamental bookmarks showing maps of the world which have been sitting in the bottom of my handbag and wrap them with same.

March 3 – Inspect savings to see whether they will cover dinner and hotel. Hurrah, it appears that saving works. As someone new to the world of saving, I am surprised how effective it is. Resist urge to splurge savings on new clothes.

March 4 – Realise to my horror that have still not booked nice dinner in Paris despite extensive research. Spend maddening length of time being tortured by the flash websites all restaurants in Paris seem to favour. Pick restaurant I was originally going to go to making extensive research and inspection of maddening flash websites entirely redundant. Call them. They are closed that weekend. Oh wait a minute, no they’re not. Make my booking for Saturday 20 with some trepidation. Decide that on the Friday night we will wander around until we find a nice brasserie. Wonder will I come to regret this decision when we are wandering around Paris ravenous.

March 5 – Book into online airport parking. Ring husband and employ subterfuge to get car registration number which I have entirely forgotten. Realise husband is very trusting as he swallows my most unlikely fictitious reason for needing same without a blink. Am appalled at cost of airport parking. Clearly, vast savings are going to be insufficient to cover all of my needs.

March 7 – Attend nephew’s 4th birthday party. Attend is perhaps not entirely the correct word as early in the proceedings I slip off to the pub with the papers and the esteemed parents-in-law. Discover that they will not be skiing on Sunday, March 19 and are, au contraire, ready, willing and able to provide baby sitting services – “it’s in the diary” says my father-in-law the captain of industry (retired) reprovingly. My heart soars but not half as much as my sister’s when I tell her the glad tidings.

March 8 – Check hotel still has my booking. Supercilious French woman confirms that, yes, she has. Remember to put sister on car insurance. Glow with organisational pride.

March 10 – Write to savings account people (same very old fashioned requires stamp, envelope and signature) and ask that my savings be transferred to current account. Make regretful mental note not to spend BEFORE travelling. Receive extensive supply of travel sized skincare from my sister for my birthday. This sparks the following reflection: how will I persuade my husband only to pack stuff in his washbag which contains less than 100mls and not give away that we are flying somewhere. Ponder this.

March 11 – Run into my husband while going out for a sandwich at lunch. Brilliantly and cunningly bring conversation around to hand luggage for men. He tells me that most bottles of shaving foam don’t hold more than 100mls. He says that the real problem is razor blades. Decide that we will have to buy disposable razors in Paris. Go out to birthday dinner with siblings, receive gifts gratefully including sinfully large voucher from parents which will meet my clothing needs for the foreseeable future. Hurrah, savings are safe. Realise that cat will still be wearing lampshade (following spaying earlier) and require quiet and will not be allowed outdoors when sister is babysitting. Break news of this unfortunate complication to her as tactfully as I can.

March 12 – Father-in-law calls. They are off skiing the following day. He wants to check when he and m-in-law can hand over birthday gift to their first born. Agree that I will dispatch him out to their house on Thursday evening when he will receive 1) present and 2) sealed envelope NOT TO OPEN but to hand to me which will contain various press cuttings on Paris my parents-in-law have been hoarding. Agree that we will speak again on Wednesday 17 when they return from their conquest of the slopes.
Scour house for maps of and guidebooks to Paris of which my husband will approve and secretly squirrel them away in an overnight bag. Wonder whether I should tell him our destination as he will certainly have random metro tickets which he will be disappointed not to have the opportunity to deploy. Decide that surprise is better – may be projecting at this point.

March 13 – Tell misfortunate sister that she will have to bring own food with her for children as, if I start buying excess fish fingers/pizza etc. in weekly shop, husband may suspect we are abandoning children (part of our parenting contract is that they are filled to the brim with junk food whenever we go away). Unlikely, as he has proved remarkably unsuspicious to date but, better safe than sorry.

March 15 – Text super-reliable babysitter to confirm that she is still on for w/end. She takes a worryingly long time to respond. But she is.

March 16 – Take day off work for walk in the hills with husband to celebrate my birthday (extended celebration, is there a problem with that?) Tell him that we are actually going away for the weekend to a secret location for his birthday. Encourage him to pack for two nights and three days. Tell him that he can only use nice bag as destination very smart (nice bag is small enough to be hand luggage – admire my cunning) Do not reveal destination. Put him off the scent by saying we will be driving north when we leave the house. Am beside myself with excitement. He is delighted at the prospect of time alone together. In fact, he says he would be happy, if our destination were the B&B at the top of the road. Then he wonders who will bring back the library books, curse myself that I have not thought of this. Inform the children that we are going away for the weekend and they will have – drum beat – their Aunty Helen to mind them. They are delighted.

March 18 – Phone call from esteemed parents-in-law freshly returned from their skiing holiday. Husband is to go to them for dinner tonight and they will hand over a present and, possibly, a sealed envelope for me containing further Paris information. Warn mother-in-law that if she or f-in-law breath a word to husband about w/end I will murder them both. She promises not but says that as soon as he is out the door, she and f-in-law will hug each other and say “Paris, Paris”. Acquire random books which sister can use to placate daughter on the weekend, if she tires of Club Penguin. Acquire small gifts for children to hand over to their loving father. Print out boarding passes at work. Print out hotel details. Remember to bring these home with me. Filch husband’s passport from drawer where it is kept. Hope he will not notice and assume it has been stolen. Paranoid fear of his. Remember to leave car keys in envelope for sister along with extensive instructions and books for herself. Exhausted from remembering effort. Realise that we do not have travel insurance. No longer care. Panic briefly that the clocks are going to change on Sunday and confuse me. They are not. Pull out something from the freezer for sister to tempt childish appetites tomorrow. Finish off this post and put it on the internet to come up tomorrow afternoon. Shortly, I will print it off and put it in my overstuffed handbag.

March 19 (this part is guesswork) – His birthday. Children hand over cards and mild presents. Deliver children to school. Return home, change sheets for sister (very important, will not forget under ANY circumstances) pack everything into the car. If we have time, head to local cafe for breakfast and hand husband random small present. Back into car, as it becomes obvious that we are driving to the airport, ask husband to speculate where we are going. Try not to crash the car in advanced state of excitement. When he cannot guess, hand him the print out of this post and hope he likes it. Fingers crossed.

Club Penguin Friends

18 March, 2010 at 10:04 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess has become addicted to Club Penguin. When we signed her up, it asked for a username and she said “I know, someting really unusual, I am going to call myself Kate”. Club Penguin said “Sorry, Kate is no longer available, would you like Kate59004?” No, she wouldn’t and several (painfully picked out on the keyboard) tries later she had understood how to pick a sufficiently weird user name. There’s a valuable lesson learnt early. Her best friend at school, B, is on Club Penguin also and, although they see each other five days a week in the real world, they are keen to meet in the virtual one also. So popular has Club Penguin become that this weekend we started using it as part of our disciplinary armoury. She starts the day with 10 Club Penguin minutes, she gets additional minutes for good behaviour and loses minutes for bad. We lost 20 minutes leaving the funfair on Saturday. Now, she’s learning about negative numbers too. It’s all educational.

B’s Daddy is finishing off a Ph.D in meta-computation (who knows?). I suppose that this means that they are expert in computer safety as B seems to have a great deal of freedom to wander the internet. When B’s father dropped him off at the weekend to visit, I asked “Is it true that B has set up a website for their club*?” “Yes, I think so,” said his father, “on blogger or something.” “Really?” I squeaked, “What’s the address?” “I don’t know,” he said, “but I think he emailed it to his mother.” “He has an email address?” I yelped. “Yeah, since he was 4.” Am I out of touch do all the other 6/7 year olds have email addresses?

B is very interested in “mythical beasts” – the chimera, Pegasus and so on – he traipses into school with a copy of Greek myths under his oxter. The Princess asked me the other day whether mythical beasts are only for boys. “Certainly not,” I said. “Is that just what you say or does everyone say that?” she asked. “But I’m right,” I protested. “But is that what everyone says? You never say that things are for boys or for girls, you always say that everything is for everyone. Now, does everyone say that mythical beasts are for boys?” I pondered this for a while and went with the following: “Well, some people might say that the prettier end of mythical beasts, say unicorns, are for girls and the scarier end, say dragons, are for boys.” “FINALLY,” said herself. The problems the children of feminists have to face.

And in other news, just after its finally grown back after the scalping she gave herself last year, the Princess has cut her own hair again, I despair.

*He and she have started a club at school.

Hail Glorious Saint Patrick

17 March, 2010 at 11:35 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess and I went to 8 o’clock mass this morning. We were the youngest people in the congregation by some distance. We arrived late (just as the priest was starting into his sermon) and scurried to a pew. The priest gave a rousing sermon about evangelising in our daily lives. He pointed out crossly that the church was nearly empty on St. Patrick’s Day. Apparently 83% of the population of Dublin is unchurched (what I previously referred to as “lapsed catholic”) and this represents a rich seam which we, the faithful must mine. Every time we go to a restaurant, coffee or to the pub we should try to work the conversation round to whether our companion has found Jesus. Personally, I can’t help feeling that this is a recipe for driving away friends rather than converting them, but maybe I am just craven. The Princess asked me nervously whether she was too young to evangelicise and I reassured her that she was. Though doubtless the priest would be furious, if he knew. It was all fire and brimstone round our way. We finished up with “Hail Glorious Saint Patrick” which he commented, surely everyone must know. Only the first verse, it turned out.

There was very little real shamrock in evidence today, apparently the dreadful winter has been tough on shamrocks and the best of it was exported to foreign dignataries. I could extend this into some kind of metaphor but I will spare you.

We all then went to the parade. I had considerable misgivings about this but it all passed off very well with all five of us getting a view. Have some pictures, why don’t you?

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Hope you passed a happy Saint Patrick’s Day too.

Day out

16 March, 2010 at 10:19 pm by belgianwaffle

Today Mr. Waffle and I both took the day off work and went walking in the Wicklow Hills leaving the children to the care of school and childminder.

It was very pretty:

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But rather cold:

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And boggy:

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We spent some time recovering by the fire here.

Old Testament and New

16 March, 2010 at 9:04 pm by belgianwaffle

Princess: What’s Passover?
Me: Why?
Her: It’s on my Lenten calendar.
Me: Oh right, well you know the plagues of Eygpt, locusts, frogs, rivers of blood and so on?
All three children: YES!
Me: Well the last thing was that God said he would kill all the first born children of the Egyptians, if they wouldn’t let the Israelites go.
Daniel (in shock): GOD WHO LOVES US?
Me: Well, yeees…
Daniel: Really?
Me: Weelll, you know, it’s um, anyway, moving on, the Jews ate a special meal and put a mark on the door so that the Angel of Death would pass over their houses, “pass over” get it? Hence Passover.
Daniel: Maybe God was joking and he wasn’t really going to kill them.
Me: Um, yes, maybe he was.

Falling out of Love

15 March, 2010 at 9:03 pm by belgianwaffle

I used to love the Dublin Bikes. So handy, so clever, but I’ve gone off it. Today at lunch time I tried to park my bike on Chatham Street (full) Molesworth Street (full), then on to Nassau Street (full), around the corner to Merrion Square (closed for St. Patrick’s weekend fair) and finally berthed my steed on Stephen’s Green (two places). 15 minutes late for luncheon engagement. The weather has improved, I think I will be taking my own bike out of its winter retirement; I can always find a parking spot for it.

Trauma

14 March, 2010 at 9:03 pm by belgianwaffle

The cat got spayed on Thursday. We were all a bit disturbed to see a big patch of her fur shaved, a nasty cut with stitches on her flank and a lampshade on her head. She was miserable last night and mostly quiet except for the frantic run around the house when she managed to get her lampshade off and we got it back on again. Mr. Waffle, who pretends not to like her, bought chicken specially for her and she was tempted to try a little bit. She was a bit chirpier on Friday. By today she was pretty much back to normal, but she has to be kept quiet and indoors for 10 days with the lampshade on. Frankly, I can see this proving challenging, she’s taken to sitting by the (temporarily locked) cat flap and mewing pathetically. Poor Hodge.

Before:

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After:

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This charming man

11 March, 2010 at 7:27 am by belgianwaffle

Daniel knows “The Giant Jam Sandwich” off by heart. And, after spending all night getting youtube to upload the video, you too can see him and be entranced. Particularly, if you are related to him, I suppose.

In other Daniel news, recently he has taken to using the Irish form of Mummy which is Mamaí. Since he invariably addresses me in the vocative, this becomes “A Mhamai” which is pronounced “awahmi” which is, frankly, rather odd for me, but charming all the same.

Happy Birthday to Me

10 March, 2010 at 11:04 pm by belgianwaffle

I am 41 today. As I have been exploring in recent posts, I am feeling my age.

I was in a school last week and, visiting a classroom, the principal asked whether any of the children had any questions for the visitors. The principal pointed to an enthusiastic hand waving child. The child looked at me and said “I want to ask that lady a question.” I smiled in encouragement, “What would you like to ask?” “How old are YOU?” “Why thank you for asking, I’ll be 41 next week, how old are you?” “Six.”

Later in the yard, I saw an older child looking after a younger child who had cut his knee. “Shouldn’t a teacher be doing that?” I asked the principal. “That IS a teacher,” he replied.

Meanwhile, at home Mr. Waffle had the boiler checked. The immediate consequence of this was that the heating wouldn’t work that evening. We called the boiler checking man and Lloyd (really, Lloyd?) left his partner and family and came immediately to our aid. I opened the door to a young person not entirely unlike the child in “Up”. “Hello,” he said, “I’m Lloyd.” “Hello,” I thought “you’re 12, are you allowed to fix our boiler?” Apparently, he left school six years ago. Even if he left school early, he must be at least 22. Is this what 22 year olds look like?

My mother, however, has not been concentrating. “I couldn’t find a card to send you, cards for 40th birthdays are all dreadfully vulgar.” “Mum, I will be 41!” I said. “Will you really?” she replied. You would think that she, of all people, might remember.

First World Problems

9 March, 2010 at 11:26 pm by belgianwaffle

When my sister goes to London, she likes to spend all her money in Fortnum and Mason’s. Because she is kind and generous, she brings me presents. Last time she went she brought me back lapsang souchong jelly. I like lapsang tea but I was dubious about its crossover appeal as something to spread on your toast. The first time I tasted it, I didn’t like it but I persisted and now I like it very much. It’s clearly an acquired taste. This morning I finished the jar. I am regretful. Where in Dublin am I likely to get lapsang souchong jelly we ask ourselves?

Would you like to submit your own example of what a friend’s brother calls “my bourgeois hell”? Go on, you know you want to.

Outraged etc.

8 March, 2010 at 11:10 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess has been singing “Ireland’s Call” around the house. This is the song which is played when the Irish rugby team takes to the field. As our rugby team is an all-island affair, both the Irish national anthem and God Save the Queen were not allowed for fear of offence. “Ireland’s Call” is an unhappy compromise. Herself learnt it at school – ours is not a rugby household. So, with St. Patrick’s Day approaching and in the middle of seachtain na Gaeilge (technically caicís na Gaeilge but inflation is everywhere) there was the anodyne “Ireland’s Call” ringing in my ears. “Do you not know the Irish national anthem?” I asked her. No, apparently not. “But it’s in Irish, you go to an Irish language school and they teach you a poppy meaningless rugby song in ENGLISH and they don’t teach you our national anthem in Irish?” I squeaked. She was gone before I’d finished, singing happily to herself “Come the day. And come the hour. Come the power and the glory. We have come to answer. Our country’s call..” I trust that that Amhrán na bhFiann’s days aren’t numbered.

Meet the Neighbours

5 March, 2010 at 10:16 pm by belgianwaffle

I was at a residents’ dinner recently and I was sitting beside a charming elderly lady. She had an Italian surname and I asked her about it. Her mother had emigrated from Italy when she, the mother, was a little girl (about 100 years ago) and her father had emigrated from Italy to Ireland when he was 17 and married her mother. Then she herself had married an Italian boy and brought him home with her. What’s more, she has four children and three of them have married Italians. The fourth married a Quebecois, for variety I suppose. All of her grandchildren have Italian names and are busy, like proper ambitious migrants, climbing the social ladder working as lawyers, doctors and accountants.

All of her generation were in what she referred to as “the business”. On closer investigation, this turned out to be chip shops. There is a very odd phenomenon whereby the majority of chip shops in Dublin are run by Italians from Frosinone. They have an association: the Irish Traditional Italian Chipper Association. Not you will appreciate, adjectives that you expect to see running together. One of our other neighbours commented that she had been to Italy and it was impossible to get chips. Given her Dublin background, she had expected the Italians to be chip specialists. All Dubliners recognise the names: Cafolla, Morelli, Fusciardi Borza, Macari (though my neighbour doesn’t think much of the last two families – Johnny come latelys apparently).

She spoke about working in the shop with her husband while bringing up her family in the flat upstairs. She speaks Italian as do her children and grandchildren. I was a little curious about whether they spoke dialect and Italian or just the former but lacked the nerve to ask.

She was the most charming person and I wished she lived on our road. However, she has assured me that several of the residents on her road are very elderly and a house should come on the market just as we are able to afford to move. She will be watching like a hawk on our behalf.

Very miscellaneous

4 March, 2010 at 11:04 pm by belgianwaffle

Last weekend we split the children up between parents on Saturday and had the most successful Saturday on record. No more family outings for us. I took herself to a cafe in the morning while the boys were at the GAA with their father. I bought her a magazine and me the Irish Times and the pair of us sat and ate our tea and buns and read our newsprint. Really, very satisfactory. In the afternoon, she was at a party and I took the boys horse riding. While I am mildly concerned that the Princess is eschewing all forms of exercise, it is much less tiring not to have to drag her unwillingly to the GAA and watch her sulking on the sidelines.

The children and I planted two apple trees, a pear tree and two gooseberry bushes on Wednesday week. At first, I was bitter that the garden centre had forgotten to pack the 10 raspberry canes I ordered but once I had dug five holes in the ground for the other plants, I was relieved. My efforts were somewhat hampered by 3 eager fellow diggers with plastic spades and a bag full of compost. When asked to hold the tree upright, Michael let go, saying it was too tiring. All of the children inadvertently stood on the plants as they lay flat, roots on the ground waiting to be dug in. The cat joined in the excitement also and added her mite to proceedings by hopping into the holes as they were dug and having a look around while the children and I tried to insert the trees and plants. I am not entirely optimistic about this adventure.

A woman from Junior Achievement visited the Princess in primary school. The Princess is unimpressed by the stickers they are offering. She and her extraordinarily named friend have invented their own stickers for their own club and are developing an online forum for their work. She is convinced that this is far superior to anything that might be offered by a well-meaning NGO. Who knows, maybe she is right. Her friend is a boy and this has been a source of some unhappiness to her. Although her school is mixed, she and this boy appear to be the only people in her class who have made friends across the gender divide. The other children tease them and that old classic “K-I-S-S-I-N-G, A&B up a tree, first comes love then comes marriage etc.” has been getting an outing. Does 6 seem a little young to you for this kind of behaviour to manifest itself?

We had parent teacher meetings with the school last week. I raised the Princess’s difficulties with her friend with the teacher and she said that she thought that sometimes this class were like teenagers. She had seen something in the past but thought that on foot of teacher disapproval, it had stopped but she will keep an eye out for it again. Otherwise, they’re all fine although only one of my three children appears to have any degree of application. Still, they are all under 7, they have time, I trust.

Multi-modal

3 March, 2010 at 10:20 pm by belgianwaffle

Sometimes I cycle to work; sometimes I get the bus; sometimes I drive and sometimes my husband drops me off. This is how I was able to have the following phone conversation on the bus home the other night.

Me: Where are you?
Him: On the way home.
Me: I’m running late. Could you ask the childminder to stay a bit later and take the cat up to the vet.
Him: I could take the children with me, oh no, you have the car with the child seats.
Me: I have the car? [Reflective pause] Oh feck, yes, I have the car.

That is why after bedtime, I had to take the bus back to work and rescue the car from the car park at work.

Smart Economy

2 March, 2010 at 10:10 pm by belgianwaffle

Email received by my sister, who works in the cutting edge of the knowledge economy [at least I think she does, I can’t understand what she does and that’s often a sign], from one of the people who report to her:

Hi,

As you know X and I have just moved upstairs today. I am unable to see my computer screen clearly due to a lack of daylight which is straining my eyes. Can some of the blinds in the room be opened? Thanks,

[Team member]

The author of this plaintive plea is a graduate in her mid-30s. Words fail me.

Testing

1 March, 2010 at 10:14 pm by belgianwaffle

I sometimes cycle home past a row of very mean little houses which sit permanently in the shadow of a large apartment complex. There are no signs of incipient yuppification on this terrace. No bay trees clipped into circles, no plain white blinds and repointed brickwork. No, there are sad little bits of grass with terrifyingly ugly garden ornaments overlooked by elaborately patterned net curtains. One day, I saw a young woman sitting on a bench in a front garden. She looked dreadful. Skinny, sickly white, dirty, listless and trembling. She was clearly coming off something and she wasn’t enjoying it. She personified in her skinny person the misery associated with drug addiction in the poorer parts of Dublin and there was something scary about her.

How did I feel when I saw her waiting to pick up her child outside my children’s shool? Not very happy at all.


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