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Archive for May, 2010

In Tents

31 May, 2010 at 10:18 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess and I graced Cork with our presence this weekend. We travelled down on the, very expensive, train and came back by the newly constructed motorway. Well actually, only a stretch of motorway was newly constructed but it completes the Cork to Dublin motorway. The journey, door to door, took us under two and a half hours. When I was young, it used to be easily five hours. As a friend once said to me – whatever they take away from us, they can’t take back our roads.

It’s always nice to go to Cork. I settled into the old familiar routine, leaving the doors open to irritate my father, refusing to let my mother feed sweets to my daughter, stealing my sister’s moisturiser at bed time – do you think she left a tube of leather shoe cream on top of her make-up case on purpose? It’s only harmful, if ingested, but, frankly, it is also sub-optimal when applied to the face.

The Princess and I went to the market to buy dinner and were charged with getting a rack of lamb from Ashley. I was mildly pleased that though I haven’t been there for 20 odd years, he still recognised me and when I consulted with my mother on the telephone, he beckoned me and said “tell her that I have a leg of lamb for €25”. “Are you still in Belgium?” he asked. “No, I’m in Dublin.” He shook his head sadly at the error of my ways. I ran into our fishmonger’s son last time I was back. They had been going for something like 100 years but when Mr. Sheehan retired, none of the children fancied taking it on. There’s a parable there somewhere but I think it needs an Irish Times columnist to develop it fully.

We went into the Crawford for a look at the sculpture and a cup of tea. I made her walk around the plaster cast of the Torso Belvedere but she was much more taken with a 19th century statue of Hibernia. I once attended a lecture on sculpture and the lecturer said two things which have given me much pleasure and I will now share them with lucky old you: 1. sculpture is three dimensional, always walk around a sculpture to appreciate it fully, 2. sculpture is heavy and often, the sculptor will have to put something behind the subject’s legs so that it is not too heavy to stay upright. At its most uninspiring this is a tree stump or column – visible in this statue on Dublin’s main street but it can also lead to more exciting flights of fancy. On this occasion, our reward for circling Hibernia was to find her dog’s tail sticking out the back of her chair.

When we got to the cafe, I felt peckish. There was a full Irish breakfast on the menu. I ate it. I regretted this. No sooner did we get back to my parents’ house than herself announced to everyone that her mother had eaten more than she had ever seen consumed in one sitting and proceded to enumerate the full contents of the Irish breakfast. This led to all manner of anxious questions. “Was I not being fed properly at home?” “Was there something that should be bought in anticipation of my arrival?” So impressed was my child with my enormous intake that she also reported it to her father when she returned to Dublin the following evening. I feel like some kind of circus performer.

On Sunday afternoon, we were scheduled to drive back to Dublin with my sister. The question of my little family inheriting the parents’ tent has been canvassed (ha ha) over the past number of months. On Sunday afternoon, my sister said, “You should take the tent, it’s now or never.” Why did I believe her? Bits of the tent were everywhere – in one wardrobe, on top of another and – insert drumroll – in the attic. As I stood at the top of the attic ladder holding a bunch of poles while my mother’s and my daughter’s anxious faces peered up at me, I knew that I had made a mistake. My sister had disappeared to deal with some particularly intractable problem related to the start-up menu on the parents’ computer. Mercifully, she came and rescued the poles, only slightly hindered by her niece who had lodged herself on the bottom steps of the ladder. As well as the tent, my mother pressed upon me two sleeping bags and two fold up beds. There was a lot more kit that I wouldn’t let her give me. Partly because my sister’s car is a Golf and there is only so much camping equipment you can fit in a small VW. Partly because I worried my husband would kill me. I then realised that I had no idea what the tent looked like up. My mother suggested that we should pitch it in the garden so that I could see. Two principal objections presented themselves: 1. It was raining; 2 I was hoping to get home before nightfall. My father searched his files for instructions and though I saw directions for putting up the trailer tent over his shoulder (sold ca. 1995 – a real pain to put up), but of the instructions for the, I am assured, 6 man tent I took away yesterday, there was no sign. The only information I have is that the two longer poles go into the ground first and after that it is all intuitive. Mr. Waffle and I are going to try pitching it next weekend and I fear that it will not prove intuitive as rain threatens and three small children ask repeatedly “Can I help?” My mother who, in her heart of hearts, cannot believe that I am a grown-up, said to me anxiously “You won’t be foolish enough to put it away wet, will you?”

And in other news, the cat had her adolescent health check. Yes, really. The vet says that the cat needs to go on a diet. She is not going to enjoy that.


25 May, 2010 at 10:14 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael: I’m going to kill my sister because she’s a big meanie.
Daniel: Yeah! Me too!
Me: Hang on a minute, sometimes she’s very kind to you; she reads you stories and she makes up games for you to play.
Daniel (reflectively): And sometimes she lets us in her room.
Michael: If we killed her, we could go in her room all the time.

Busy, busy, busy

24 May, 2010 at 11:02 pm by belgianwaffle


I am godmother to the child of conservative catholic parents. He made his first holy communion on Saturday and we were invited to the house for tea, buns, sandwiches and the use of a bouncy castle. Off we went and very pleasant it was too. Largely because of bouncy castle which allowed the grown-ups to chat peacefully while the children exhausted themselves.

Obviously, as it was the home of very devout catholics, we were the most wishy-washy people there. Aside from the relatives, who, I think, were largely lapsed. Dramatis personae, aside from ourselves and relatives consisted of the local priest (young by priestly standards, mid 30s, I’d say), a friend and her six children and another couple and their child.

The priest and the communicant’s mother had recently been on a pilgrimage to Turin with a group. We relived highlights of this which was absolutely hilarious. The church in Ireland attracts eccentrics and they had their fair share of them on their trip to Turin. In particular, one elderly lady became obsessed with getting two young men whom she knew on the trip. They were in Italy and she felt that they would love to join. The priest told her firmly, no, (as they hadn’t paid) but she managed to smuggle them into her room and persuaded some unfortunate nun to let her double up with her. She then smuggled them in to see the shroud of Turin also. The priest announced that she would be barred from the next pilgrimage. “How?” I asked. “We’ll give her name to the tour operator and ask them to tell her it’s full, if she calls.” The deviousness of the clergy. They’re used to dealing with odd people, I suppose.

Talk turned to the first communion ceremony itself. For historical reasons, first communion in Ireland is a little like weddings in other countries; people who would never go near a church under normal circumstances, take part in this religious ceremony. This means that often parents have only the vaguest idea of what to do during a church ceremony (the expression unchurched, which I only came across for the first time recently, was tossed around like snuff at a wake). According to my informants the parents spoke throughout mass and took calls on their mobile phones. One father assumed that the bringing up of the gifts was the start of the first communion moment and leapt in front of the procession and held it up while he started photographing madly. Amusing all the same.

The woman with six children was home schooling them (yes, really, because Irish schools aren’t catholic enough) and was married to a man working as a eurosceptic in Brussels. Not, prima facie, my cup of tea. We did not touch on politics and this was probably a good thing. But I have to say, she had six lovely, polite, confident children and she herself was charming though pretty tired looking. As you would be, I imagine, if you home-schooled 6 children aged from 12 to 9 months and your husband worked in Brussels, five days a week. I know that there is lots of home schooling in the US but almost nobody home schools in Ireland and I was fascinated by how she was getting on. She said it worked for them but she wasn’t at all pushy about it. I was filled with admiration. Particularly as, while her six, SIX, children were being polite, charming etc. my eldest was lying on the sofa explaining to the first communicant’s grandmother why he was vile (there was an incident on the bouncy castle).


Sunday was the nicest day of the year so far and we had a plan. We went to Ireland’s Eye which is an island off the North coast of Dublin.

We had a slightly rocky start as our ferryman was abused by a rival who flounced off with the words: “I wouldn’t travel with him, he has no licence and he’s an alcoholic.” The red face and shaky hands of our captain lent some colour to the latter accusation but he navigated the 300 meter chasm between Ireland’s Eye and the mainland without difficulty. The Princess was entranced. She had never been on a small boat before and hung over the edge peering into the water. The island has a martello tower and she exclaimed, “It’s like Kirrin Island.”

Ireland's Eye 069

Everyone was pretty peckish by the time we got to the island, so we had our picnic. I picked an idyllic spot which turned out to be right in the centre of a circle of nettles and thistles. Alas.

Ireland's Eye 047

However, it did mean that we got to see some seagulls’ eggs. Until the seagulls came back and dived and flapped at us while we ran for safety.

Ireland's Eye 046

Then we went down to the beach and swam and played with buckets and spades while the rich arrived in droves in their yachts.

Ireland's Eye 055

Then, it was time to gather all our gear and get the ferry back.
Ireland's Eye 074

At the end of the pier, the children and I got ice cream while Mr. Waffle went to get the car. Daniel dropped his and the Princess very nobly gave him the end of hers instead. She repented of this kind gesture and began lobbying me for another ice cream. I resisted. She stomped off in a huff. This is something she does when she gets very cross. It was difficult for me to go after her as I had the two ice-cream besmeared boys and mountains of kit. When her father came, I was peeved. I stomped off with him and the boys up to where he had parked the car leaving her hiding behind a sign, reasoning that I could collect her in a moment and haul her off when I had disposed of my encumbrances. When I went back, I knew something was wrong when I saw her with two older Americans whom we had passed earlier. Yes, indeed, she was in floods of tears and thought we had gone without her. I don’t think that I have ever seen the poor mite so happy to see me. The kind Americans were, understandably, relieved and pleased to see me. The whole interlude lasted no longer than five minutes but she was very woebegone. Sometimes I forget how small she is really despite her will of iron. She confided to me that she didn’t trust the Americans and had planned to slip away and go back to the ice cream shop and tell them that she was lost. I was pleased to see her instincts were so sound as I have always told her to go to a shop and explain her predicament, if she is ever lost. On the other hand, I hope she will grow better at guessing which grown-ups are likely to abduct her (something she has been warned of in school, I fear) and which are not for it is hard to imagine a more innocent looking pair than the kindly Americans. All’s well that ends well. Another learning experience for both of us.


Mr. Waffle and I did not work today and went on one of our occasional walks in the Wicklow hills. Mindful of previous reprimands by readers of this blog, despite the cool and misty weather, I did not wear jeans. I was very grateful as the clouds blew off and it got warm during our walk. I wish I had brought suncream, though, as now my face is like a tomato. Alas.

We went on our longest walk yet. Three hours. Snigger not, hikers. The first half of the circuit was delightful. Warm, but not too hot, downhill to a lake with mountains on either side and not a soul there but ourselves. We saw loads of deer. The undergrowth was full of bluebells. God was in his heaven all was right with the world. We forgot the camera but here are some internet pictures.

The way back was uphill and hot and we got lost and we trekked for miles. To our intense surprise we emerged just by where we had parked the car. We left a small sacrifice to the god of lost hikers and high tailed it to Hunter’s for afternoon tea in the garden before coming home.

Lovely. And I managed to finish the weekend papers too.

I got nothing

20 May, 2010 at 10:04 pm by belgianwaffle

Email received from husband:

The Criminal Assets Bureau is on Facebook. Orwell meets Oprah.

Weekend Round-up

18 May, 2010 at 9:54 pm by belgianwaffle

On Saturday afternoon we went to the Botanical Gardens. It was full of little first communicants in regalia which filled me with envy. On Saturday night, Mr. Waffle and I went to see Date Night. This, although entertaining, was a very poor choice. It’s about a married couple in mid-life who work full-time, have small children, are well-meaning and are constantly exhausted. Mr. Waffle and I are that couple. We winced as each joke hit home. In an example of life imitating art, after the cinema we went to an edgy new restaurant. Happily, no one tried to shoot us.

The restaurant is run by a man called Conrad Gallagher who is famous/notorious in Ireland. An acquaintance had recounted investigating his new restaurant and I was curious to go myself after hearing her description. She described the service as pert. Before she arrived, they rang several times to remind her that they only took cash – no credit cards. On arrival, the waiter interrupted her to tell her she was wrong about something. My acquaintance, who is formidable, was not pleased. She was also right.

My own experience of the service was similar. When I rang to book for 8.30, I was asked whether I played the lottery. I was baffled. I was told that I had as much chance of winning the lottery as getting at table at 8.30. How about 9.15? Oh how we laughed. 9.15 it was. Which would have been fine, if we had been seated at our table at 9.15 as promised, instead of 9.45. There is no waiting area so we stood just inside the door feeling deeply unwelcome.

Dinner is a tasting menu and you opt for one of 4, I think, set menus. We opted for the €34 a head menu which, I have to say is pretty good value. Courses 1, 4 and 5 worked very well. Dessert was particularly good, I thought. On the minus side the second course of curried crab reminded me of the curry tuna orange paste that is such a staple of the Belgian lunch time sandwich market and the third course asparagus risotto boasted woody asparagus and, bafflingly, a duck confit topping. Not a marriage made in heaven. Still, I think that all would have been well, if the service had not been so unbearably slow. By 11.45 when we finally got the bill, I was practically asleep on the table. My mood was not improved by the waiter saying smarmily to me as he handed over the bill and pointed to my husband “Is he boring you?” Yes, certainly you will endear diners to you by insulting them/their partners. All in all, I’m not sure I will be rushing back.

On Sunday afternoon, we went to the park to celebrate my niece’s 2nd birthday. I was very dubious about this outing as a) it was likely to rain and b) my children were unlikely to eat anything offered in the market. I was wrong on both counts and a very pleasant afternoon was had by all. We were able to let the Princess encounter commerce – she went to buy herself some sweets. I deeply regretted giving her a €20 note (smallest I had) as she arrived back with a €9 box of artisan fudge rather than a 50c bar of chocolate. A learning experience for all of us there. However, she was able to run and play in the playground on the far side of the park on her own which made her seem very big and grown-up and I think she was quite pleased with herself.

When we got home, herself ran upstairs to finish off “The Horse and his Boy” and Mr. Waffle played ball games with the boys in the garden while I made dinner. It was all very suburbia in the 1950s but none the less pleasant for that.

Then, yesterday, disaster, my childminder’s boyfriend can’t find a job and they are moving back to France. Alas.


14 May, 2010 at 9:33 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess has been reading the Narnia books. The other night, I begged her to let me read the first chapter of “The Silver Chair” aloud to her. She very rarely lets me read to her these days as it is, of course, much slower than reading to oneself. The story begins in “our world” in a nasty boarding school. “Will they go to Narnia?” she asked me anxiously. “Yes, I imagine they will,” I say. They do. She interrupts me again, bouncing up and down on the bed in excitement “Do they meet Aslan, do they?” “I think they do,” I say. It was almost like reading the books yourself for the first time but with the added thrill of seeing something you love prove a delight to someone you love.

I told this to a woman at work the other day and she said to me: “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard you say something nice about having children.” I was somewhat abashed and I record it here in an attempt to balance the books.

It’s either C.S. Lewis or Enid Blyton’s fault that she said to me “Mummy, haven’t these hols gone on for ages?” Hols, hols? “Was it for this the wild geese spread/The grey wing upon every tide?”

My Vocation

13 May, 2010 at 10:49 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister often asks me for advice as to where she should eat in Dublin. I sent her to Alexis in Dun Laoghaire and got this text message “Hi, restaurant was great. Give up current job and provide restaurant recommendations. There is where you skill lies.” Having just had a report I wrote massacred by a committee, I am inclined to think that she might be right.

Grave Concerns

12 May, 2010 at 10:47 pm by belgianwaffle

I never told you about the Sunday that I made everyone go to the museum in the cemetery. Here is an extract from the museum guide to “Ireland’s Necropolis”:

“The glazed Prospect Gallery offers a breathtaking panorama of the cemetery, along with information on its marvellous array of historic graves.”

I bet you wish that you’d come too.

Much as I love cemeteries and tea rooms, I am not sure that I would have had the audacity to combine the two. This is what the brochure has to say: “As part of the visitor experience Glasnevin Museum has provided a 70 seat cafe for your enjoyment. Serving morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea, this is the perfect place to meet your friends or take the family.”

To clarify, the cafe is in the cemetery. You can see people being buried from the window as you eat your chocolate muffin. It is mildly unsettling. I am not sure that I would call it the perfect place to bring the family.

Though I am being sarcastic at their expense, it was all mildly entertaining (15 euros to get in, mind you) and the cafe was pleasant with futuristic bathrooms which the children enjoyed.

I thought you should know, in case you ever find yourself at a loose end in Dublin.

Weekend Round-up or the Concerns of the Middle Aged

10 May, 2010 at 10:34 pm by belgianwaffle

I spent a very happy afternoon on Saturday in the back garden digging up things and poking at things I had planted. I was slightly appalled by this but as a friend of my mother’s whom I met for lunch today said “you have to grow up some time.”

On Saturday night I attended a joint 40th birthday party and dissipated all of my zen happiness by encouraging a friend to tell me all about her beautifully renovated large house. Envy is such a corrosive emotion. Was slightly soothed by getting a lift home from another friend in his porsche which he (hilariously) enjoys driving around underground car parks at speed. I think that Mr. Waffle who was sitting in the front, enjoyed it a lot less. On a negative note, while the 911 is built for speed, it is not built for back seat passengers and getting in and out was not a dignified exercise.

I then brought our lovely, but slightly neurotic and highly strung, French babysitter home and said that she looked tired. She is very confiding and told me a long and complex tale about her boyfriend’s perfidy, intertwined with her difficulties in getting a summer placement for her course. I sympathised as effectively as I could. I was somewhat hampered by the fact that all of this was confided to me in French and I wasn’t entirely clear what the perfidy was.

On Sunday at mass, the children got given plastic rosary beads and miraculous medals. Daniel insisted on wearing his blue beads around his neck all day and, combined with his peaked cap and baggy tracksuit, he looked like a little wannabe rapper. The Princess ate her miraculous medal.

In the afternoon we went to Dollymount beach which could be pretty but suffers from the following, not insignificant, drawbacks:

a) it is smelly;
b) it is rough;
c) there are horse races with little buggy things;
d) large ships pass nearby;
e) it was low tide (not a permanent drawback, I concede);
f) a large husky kept escaping from his very tattooed masters and barking at the small children;
g) the car park is on the beach – yes on the sand – I am not making this up;
h) motor bikes drive up and down the beach.

Despite the above, the beach has beautiful golden sand which kept the children amused for several hours when they were not cowering behind rocks in fear due to c), e) and h) above. It also has beautiful views of the Dublin mountains which are lovely so long as you keep your line of sight above the industrial buildings that litter the coastline.

Small World or I am allowed to be as pretentious as I like here

6 May, 2010 at 10:33 pm by belgianwaffle

Sometimes at lunch time I go to the National Gallery. It’s peaceful there. Following my trip to Paris and my new found love for Largillière, I have been working my way around the two (very small) French rooms. I looked at the picture of Richard Wall by Van Loo. It’s a good picture and I spent a while imaging Mr. Wall, who has a face made for meetings, chairing a very dull modern committee without a wig or a skirted coat. He was described as Spanish Ambassador to England and I thought that was a little odd and perhaps it should be the other way around. Wikipedia, as ever, was my friend. Richard Wall was indeed Spanish Ambassador to England although he was more commonly known as Ricardo Wall. But he was of Irish origin, in fact his people came from Kilmallock in Co. Limerick (where, as it happens, my mother grew up and my cousins still live). Wouldn’t it be worth mentioning this in the description and perhaps even moving Ambassador Wall to the fledgling Irish portrait gallery on the ground floor?

Post-feminist volcano

5 May, 2010 at 9:57 pm by belgianwaffle

My loving husband was in Luxembourg (glamourous foreign destination revealed) for work. Ireland continues to be cut off from the rest of the world by the machinations of the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano. So, my loving husband flew to London from Luxembourg this afternoon, is currently standing on a train from London to Wales and later tonight will be getting the night boat which will bring him into Dublin at 6.55 fresh as a daisy. Irish airspace will reopen at 4.00 am.

The reason for the planes, boats and automobiles extravaganza is that the children are off school this week and I minded them today and yesterday and it is Mr. Waffle’s job to mind them on Thursday and Friday while I return to work. I pointed out that he would be in no condition to mind them tomorrow morning and I am putting off my return to the afternoon. I asked him with some asperity whether it would not have been better to stay in Luxembourg rather than martyr himself in this way. He pointed out straight back that he rang me this morning when the decision had to be made and I didn’t answer my phone. This is, alas, my “especial foible” so I retired in disorder.

There is a point to this narrative so bear with me. It illustrates my husband’s highly developed sense of duty. This sense of duty combined with an excellent upbringing and, I am sure, his own innate virtue, means that my husband and I share all domestic tasks: child minding, cooking, cleaning, laundry, bill paying, you name it, we share it. I have absolutely no complaints. But here’s the thing. We’re both stretched and exhausted. Yes, I am sure that it would be worse for me, if my husband were useless, but it’s no bed of roses either. I say this in some distress for I often see things to the effect that when men do their share, it will be all better. Well, based on my experience, it won’t be as much better as people seem to think. I suppose you can dispose of those tedious arguments people seem to have about laundry and hoovering and use the extra time to watch BBC 4. The traditional model works well for the working spouse (almost always the husband). The two parents working model where all the work is shared is exhausting for both parents. I can’t tell you how much it annoys me to have to concede this but there it is.

And today, the children and I went to the newly re-opened Natural History Museum which we all enjoyed very much. I thought you would like to know. If you ever find yourself at a loose end in Dublin with small children, I recommend it.


4 May, 2010 at 10:57 pm by belgianwaffle

I took the boys to Cork for the weekend. The train journey was horrific due to overcrowding but fellow passengers were kind and the boys reasonably good so it passed off peacefully enough. The weekend was largely uneventful which in itself is remarkable. The boys were saintly at mass with my parents (front pew – the anguish) and my father gave them a fiver afterwards for good behaviour. Enormous largesse which they promptly disposed of in the scout hall jumble sale across the car park.

In fact the only eventful thing that happened was in the park on Sunday afternoon when a small child (maybe aged 6/7) armed with a water pistol (machine gun sized, pump action – I have to say, letting your child bring such an object to the playground, is a poor decision) started spraying my children from the top of the slide. Reluctantly, I heaved myself up from the seat where I had been happily chatting to my mother and went to intervene. Although the boys were clearly enjoying themselves, I didn’t feel that water down the backs of their coats was going to make them or me happy in the longer term as the weather continues cool (alas). I went to the bottom of the slide and wagged my finger at the young man at the top and said “No matter how much they ask you to spray them with water, don’t do so because I will be displeased.” Suddenly, this woman approached me like a fury from where she had been sitting on the sidelines.

Her (livid): Did you hold your finger up to my son?
Me (surprised): Yes, I did, you see he is spraying my sons with his water cannon…
Her: (still livid) I’ve been watching those boys, they were running around underneath encouraging him to spray them.
Me: (placatingly) I’m sure they were and I’m sorry about that..but I don’t want him to spray them and…
Her: (still absolutely livid): Then keep them away from him and don’t you ever raise your finger at another woman’s child again. And you should chill, it’s only water.

I kept them away and shortly after departed as her son was very keen to play with my boys and his form of playing involved spitting mouthfuls of water all over them (which I admit, they enjoyed) and I was too scared to reprove him or approach his mother.

I was really upset. She was so unpleasant. I didn’t want to go to war over the water pistol and did everything I could to diffuse the situation but to absolutely no avail. On subsequently recounting this to a number of people, they said I was wrong not to approach the mother in the first instance. I didn’t see her but I suppose I didn’t particularly look for her. It didn’t occur to me for a moment that I couldn’t say to this child, stop soaking mine with your water pistol. My tone was jocular (though firm, like supernanny) and the child smiled mischievously at me – he didn’t look at all upset and I didn’t mean him to be upset, just to make less free with the water pistol.

If the boot had been on the other foot, I honestly think I would have rushed to apologise. My sister says that this is because of my constant desire to please. I really don’t think so or, at least, not entirely. My experience is that when there are grown-ups and small children around, the grown-ups are the ones who are rational and reasonable and, if they are reproving my children, then they are most likely to be right. I have never in seven years of intensive playground frequenting in various jurisdictions encountered anything like this woman. She scared the bejaysus out of me. I hate to come over all Daily Mail here but what is the world coming to when, in a playground, with your children, you cannot say to another child “stop that”? Actually, to be honest, I think you probably can. But I won’t be doing that again, I will be frantically looking around for parents and saying really apologetically, “Look, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but your child appears to be [soaking mine/strangling mine/thumping mine] and while I know it’s my child’s fault, I wonder whether you’d mind asking yours to stop before he exhausts his [trigger finger/delicate hands/little fist]?” And they will be apologetic and think I am insane, but at least I won’t be scared rigid.

In other news, the children are off school for the week and today I took them to Glendalough for the day. It was chilly and despite having seen the Secret of Kells as a prelude to exploring one of Ireland’s most famous monastic settlements they remained unmoved. The Princess was, however, in a position to toss words like scriptorium about with authority, if not with accuracy: “It’s the scriptorium.” “You know, I really think it’s a church.” “It’s not.” At the end of the day, both boys when questioned separately identified getting an ice cream cone as the highlight of the trip. In response to the same question, the Princess said that the picnic would have been had it not been so cold and had I remembered to bring the buns. Not a disaster then, but not exactly a success either. Tomorrow we’re staying at home.

Mr. Waffle is supposed to be back from his glamourous foreign location tomorrow night and M, the babysitter, is supposed to come back from France. They may both be foiled by the cloud of volcanic ash which is currently scheduled to sit on Ireland. In which case, the children and I will be spending more time together than we had planned. What do you reckon, Newgrange?

It begins

3 May, 2010 at 10:41 pm by belgianwaffle

Only the other night, Mr. Waffle was expressing the mildest affection for the cat. Of course, that just invited what follows.

Shortly thereafter I was dropping the babysitter, M, home. “How was it?” I asked. “Fine,” she replied, “there was just one thing.” Apparently, as the Princess was playing Club Penguin, the cat came into the room with a pigeon clutched between her jaws. M saw the cat playing with something but didn’t notice what until feathers began to float around the room. With great self-possession, M did not squeal, as I would certainly have done. She left the Princess playing Club Penguin and unaware of the drama and, to the cat’s consternation, picked up the bird with a cloth (note to self – where is that cloth?) and chucked it out the back door. The cat followed and continued to play with the corpse outside. M was force to put the dead pigeon in the bin in a plastic bag. Apparently, it was a fully grown pigeon. Since Hodge is not a fully grown cat, I do wonder whether she would be able to bring down a big pigeon. I can’t help fearing that she found a dead pigeon somewhere and this is not going to be good for her health or ours.

The following morning when I came downstairs, Mr. Waffle had thrown the sofa cover in the wash. Apparently the cat had coughed up a hair/feather ball on it. Lovely. When I left for work the cat was lying on the Princess’s bed enjoying the morning sunshine looking like pigeon wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

The Angst of the Wishy-Washy Liberal Parent

2 May, 2010 at 10:39 pm by belgianwaffle

Part I

Daniel: Look Mummy, a Jew, a Jew!
Me: WHAT??
Daniel: A JEW, Mummy.
Me: Sorry??
Daniel: Over there, behind that girl, it’s a Jew.
Me: I beg your pardon?
Daniel (pointing): Look, you can see it now! On that man’s arm.
Me: Oh, do you mean a tattoo?

Part II

Recounting this incident to my husband over lunch, herself asked why it would be wrong to say “a Jew”.

Me: Well, sweetheart, there was a time when people were really mean to Jews and so it’s important to be sensitive to people’s feelings..(feeling a bit overpowered by the prospect of having to explain anti-semitism, I turn to Mr. Waffle) Help me out here.
Mr. Waffle: You see a person is more than just one characteristic, you can’t just identify someone as one thing – how would it be, if you were only described as blue eyes.
Princess (confused): People would be mean to me because I had blue eyes?
Me: Well, I suppose, they could be. They could decide that blue eyes are bad. Maybe, if blue eyes were very unusual. Sometimes people are scared of people who are different or do things differently. For example, a long time ago, English people were mean to Irish people and they put up signs saying Irish people couldn’t stay in their houses.
Princess: English people don’t like me because of my blue eyes?
Me: No, no, that’s not true any more – remember we had lots of English friends when we lived in Brussels.
Her: English people like blue eyes now?
Me: No, no, forget the blue eyes.
Her: But Daddy said…
Me: Never mind what Daddy said. Look, it’s rude to comment on people’s appearance.
Her: Do Jews look different?
Me: No, of course not.
Her: Well, then why…
Me: Look, just don’t categorise people by their appearance or their beliefs – everyone is different and should be judged on his or her own merits, now would you like more soup?
Mr. Waffle: That went well, didn’t it?

Too much Enid Blyton

1 May, 2010 at 10:36 pm by belgianwaffle

I overheard the Princess saying to her brother – “Daniel, if you find the cat, I will give you a shilling.”

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