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Another Year Over

30 June, 2010 at 11:31 pm by belgianwaffle

Today was the children’s last day at school before the summer holidays. The boys are finished their first year of school which is a big landmark.

We have school reports. They are all clever little bunnies, insofar as it is possible to tell at this young age, but Daniel is the only one with any application. The Princess’s report begins with the rather ominous pronouncement that she “has the ability to excel in all subjects”. She got top scores for reading and maths on her standardised tests. She doesn’t try because she doesn’t have to. Unfortunately, I can’t see this working indefinitely. Her teacher this year is lovely but perhaps not very strict, the teacher and I enjoyed the following conversation recently:

Me: I hope that she doesn’t read under the desk at school.
Teacher: Under the desk?

Don’t they crack the whip any more in primary schools?

Daniel got top marks in everything except punctuality (which isn’t really his fault) and writing (his lack of success there is not, I assure you, for the want of trying). In her written comments, the teacher said that he is very good at his work and he always tries really hard, even when he finds things difficult. “He likes to do his work properly.” She enjoyed teaching him and he is a lovely child. He is his father’s son.

His brother and sister on the other hand demonstrate something more of their mother’s laissez faire attitude. While the teacher’s written comments about Michael were very positive also, they were positive in a different way, he is ” a lovely, funny, caring boy who loves to make people laugh. He has a great sense of humour.” She also comments on his elephantine memory.

Oh well, they’re all small and they have a lot of growing and changing to do yet. I think we’re all looking forward to the holidays.


29 June, 2010 at 10:34 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess was sick during the night but completely restored in the morning. We let her stay at home because we are merciful. She was unaware of our decision to be merciful and was dragging herself around saying, “I’m too ill to eat.”

She came into the kitchen and said to me, “What’s 4+4+1?” “9,” I said. “Oh, I couldn’t work that out, I’m too ill to do maths or to read, I’m going back to bed.

When I went up to check on her she shoved “Horrid Henry” under the bedclothes but realising that she had been spotted she said, “I’m still too ill to do sums, but I can read now.”

No sooner had I departed with the boys than herself conceded that she was not, in fact, sick at all and she spent the morning happily reading.

One of her brothers is to get a school prize for attendance. I think she has her eye on a different prize.

Weekend Round-Up

28 June, 2010 at 10:21 pm by belgianwaffle

Yes, yes, I know that this is very dull for you but, if I don’t record it here, how will I ever remember what we did with our lives?

So, on Saturday we went on the church outing. I never thought that going to mass was going to help me to get to know my neighbours but it seems to be an unintended consequence. We went to an adventure playground, the sun shone, the children played with each other, we sat in the shade and chatted and the whole thing passed off peacefully except for an incident involving herself and the water slide (she wanted to get on it, we wanted to have lunch first).

Then today we had friends around for lunch and the weather was so clement that we were able to sit in the garden. Surely this is not what the Irish summer is about. Rain is forecast.

The Irony Continues Unabated

27 June, 2010 at 10:07 pm by belgianwaffle

I had to mind the children and was unable to attend a talk entitled “Assessing Unequal Treatment: Gender and Pay”.

Specifically, the paper which I missed (but a copy of which I have in my sticky little paw) covers several enticing areas including “measuring the gender pay gap: quantile regressions and the glass ceiling” and “measuring the ‘family gap’: evidence on maternity breaks”. It will come as no surprise to any woman who has ever had children that the author, Professor Mary Gregory, says that “the emergence of a substantial gender pay correlates closely with women’s childbearing and childcare years” and that “family status directly explains 40-50 percent of the gender gap in the US and the UK, with a further 30-40 percent attributable indirectly, through the effect of employment interruptions on human capital”. The author comments that in “a number of countries, but not universally, the market has generated its own response to women’s wishes to combine work with family, in the form of the growth of part-time jobs.” However, alas, in Britain (though who knows what the situation is here – I’m sure its all good on this side of the Irish Sea) “..while women in full-time work have been narrowing the gender pay gap through their rising educational attainment, labour market attachment and occupational diversity, women working part-time have conspicuously failed to match this progress.” “occupational downgrading [is] an important concomitant of the switch to part-time work in Britain, with major adverse implications for future earning trajectories, even following a return to full-time employment.” Oh I can’t stand it any more. I’ve picked out depressing highlights, there are encouraging trends in..um…Sweden. You can read the lot here.

Hot, hot, hot

23 June, 2010 at 11:01 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister is in Qatar for work. It is 48 degrees. She was outside for ten minutes and a) got sunburned and b) had to take off her watch as it was starting to burn her wrist.

Weekend Round-up

22 June, 2010 at 10:39 pm by belgianwaffle

I’m exhausted. We had GAA mini leagues on Saturday morning. Then we had our street party on Saturday afternoon/evening. The sun shone, the bouncy castles bounced, there was a barbecue, a clown, and a trail of small children in and out to our bathroom. We had two local TDs and the Lord Mayor in attendance (Jason has quite a good post on why this kind of thing happens). Sunday afternoon saw us back at the mini leagues for two more matches and the handing out of medals and miscellaneous prizes. And then on Sunday night we had a dinner party. I feel a glowing sense of achievement tempered by the knowledge that it took a lot out of us.

Naming Policies

20 June, 2010 at 9:19 pm by belgianwaffle

When I was in school there were lots of Niamhs, Orlas, Ciaras, Maeves, Sinéads, Deirdres and Aoifes (it was a girls only school). I suspect these names seemed a bit odd to my grandmothers’ generation of Kates, Hannahs, Noras, Mollys, Bridgets and Ninas.

The latest generation have gone for even more challenging spellings; how about Orfhlaith (pronouned Orla), Maebhdh (pronounced Maiv), Rudhán (pronounced roo awn), Eoghan (pronounced owen), or Sabhdh (pronounced sive – rhymes with drive)? Irish is all about extra consonants. Also, the currently favoured boys names? They often end in a – try Setanta, Barra, Fiachra or Fachtna.

We also have reimported names from America. Kathleen is an anglicisation of the Irish name Caitlín (pronounced Kathleen, trust me here). Caitlín emigrated and became Caitlin which the Americans, as anglophones, pronounced Kate Lynn. That’s fine by me but really, I think there is nothing dafter than an Irish child, born in this jurisdiction being called Caitlin pronounced Kate Lynn. There, I’ve said it. Other American imports that leave me very cold are the range of Irish surnames being used as first names: Casey, Riley, Brandon, Ryan. This is just wrong, I tell you, wrong. Whatever might happen in far off America, it’s just odd here. So there.

Please do put your least favourite names in the comments. Ah go on.

Religious Affiliation

18 June, 2010 at 9:29 pm by belgianwaffle

Me to colleague: So on Sunday, while we have the readings, the children go off to the sacristy for a Sunday school thing.
Colleague: Gosh, that’s brilliant, isn’t it?
Me: Yes, and there’s a church outing, on Saturday week – all of the families are going to some kind of park. And, wait for it, the church are going to pay for us to get in.
Her: Um, are you Protestant?

And this is funny because a) I am Catholic (I have a Catholic name, Irish people can spot your religious background at 20 paces) and b) she’s right, all these luxurious family friendly initiatives were traditionally a feature of the minority faith in this jurisdiction. A powerful church does not need to woo its members; at least that’s always been the tradition here. No longer.

Something I may regret

17 June, 2010 at 9:47 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess started “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” last night. She finished it this morning between mouthfuls of cornflakes. Just now, I definitively turned off the light on “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”. I can’t see her stopping until she’s finished the series and started waking up screaming in the middle of the night.

More snacking between meals

16 June, 2010 at 8:14 pm by belgianwaffle

The children, the childminder and I arrived home this afternoon to find the cat sitting by the sofa, pointing a proud paw to another small dead bird. That’s the second one this week.

Suggestions to stop the carnage?


15 June, 2010 at 9:19 pm by belgianwaffle

“George III: A Personal History” by Christopher Hibbert

I found this lying around the parents’ house and thought I would give it a go. It’s alright. It feels a little bit like history by numbers. The author finds the pertinent facts, orders them and gives them to us with extensive references at the back.

Despite being described as “a personal history”, much of it deals with George III’s public life. Aside from the loss of the colonies, we get the Gordon riots, and lots and lots of politics. Prime Ministers (or First Lords of the Treasury) come and go with monotonous regularity – though lots of Pitts was a big feature. Forming governments appears to be a very vexed issue.

The author seems to sympathise with the king’s concerns about catholic emancipation (on coronation he had taken an oath to uphold the protestant faith and not promote any other and he took it seriously) but this view isn’t really likely to go over well with an Irish reader. Ireland gets pretty short shrift and apart from the question of emancipation which was particularly relevant to Ireland, I think the only reference to Ireland was when the Prince of Wales asked to be made Lord Lieutenant and was, mercifully, told no. Despite the many wrongs visited by England on Ireland, the authorities drew the line there.

I expected a bit more about George III’s family life. There is quite a lot about Queen Charlotte (of Mecklenburg after whom the most notorious street in Dublin was named – it was the core of the red light district in the 19th century – I throw in this fact, not covered by our author, for free) but all of his many sons and daughters (15 children of whom 13 survived to adulthood), other than the Prince Regent are largely dealt with in two chapters at the end. He seems to have mostly sent the boys abroad and not let them come home (odd, when he himself never travelled abroad) and kept the girls locked up and unmarried. I can’t help feeling that his relationships with his children deserved a bit more attention. I know far more about the King’s relationship with the Pitts than with his children. Surely, the wrong way round for a “personal history”.

All in all, it’s a pretty sympathetic portrait of a monarch who is mostly remembered for going mad. To paraphrase Johnston (who has a cameo in the book), worth reading but not worth buying to read.

“The Blue Afternoon” by William Boyd

I very much enjoyed “Any Human Heart” and “A Good Man in Africa” by this author. I quite liked “Restless” and I thought that I would give this early work a go. Apparently it won some prizes. He is a good writer and his research seems to be pretty good – although given what I know about the fields he covers in this novel (architecture on the west coast of America in the 30s and surgery and aeronautics in Manila at the turn of the last century), I suppose he could fool me pretty easily.

The story is essentially about a surgeon in the Philippines in the very early years of the 20th century. It is unnecessarily framed by a meeting in the 1930s. The first part of the book deals with an architect in 1930s America. It’s engaging, a whole lot of interesting plot lines are set up, then the architect meets this man who claims to be her father and we’re whisked back to Manila in the 1900s. None of the early plot lines are resolved and you’re wondering what they were there for in the first place other than to give you the author’s views about 30s architecture (v.interesting but perhaps for another place).

The main storyline looks at a number of things. Early 20th surgery is one strand. If I might summarise – very nasty but very interesting. Early 20th century aeronautics is another. If I might summarise – very dull and a completely unnecessary subplot. This story has more unresolved storylines than any other work of this kind I have read. It is littered with red herrings that are never dealt with – who murdered the Americans? who indeed? was the other murder related? what nefarious role did Dr. Cruz play? We will never know. Now, I know it’s all high literary concept to have lots of uncertainty but to my mind, when you write it like a detective story, it’s a complete cop out not to resolve it. That said one of the things that I really enjoyed about the book was the description of social strata in Manila, the sense of place and the history of the war with the Americans.

The final piece is set in Lisbon. This read very much as though the author had had a good holiday in Lisbon and was determined to do a piece on it. Some of the earlier strands were resolved but by no means all. It was by far the weakest part of the book and I think it was written as the author was staring at the disparate bits of his novel and losing the will to live. It knots things together in a desperate, inconclusive kind of way.

I would try another William Boyd. He shines in two areas – nice writing and excellent research brilliantly conveyed.

“The Last Weekend” by Blake Morrison

Blake Morrison is terrific. He is a poet and he writes beautifully. I can find the language in poets’ novels a bit overwhelming but this is not the case here. You read this feeling that each word was chosen with care and is just right; not demanding attention but conveying perfectly and sometimes lyrically the author’s meaning.

And then, as though this were not enough, it’s really cleverly plotted. It’s narrated by Ian who seems like a slightly chippy everyman who is indulging in a mid-life crisis. Not an entirely promising narrator and he is never appealing. I can’t really tell you what it’s about without ruining the story but it is creepy and quite brilliant. Highly recommended.

“Life in Georgian England” by E. N. Williams

I picked this up in the parents’ house. It was written in 1962 by a “senior history master in a leading public school” and it reads that way too. The preface contains the rather endearing line “Above all, I must thank my pupils, who teach me my history.” The preface also contains the lines “Since it has not been thought suitable to quote sources in a work of this nature, my first duty is to thank (and apologise to) those authorities whose works I have ransacked. To one of these I am especially grateful and that is Dr. J. H. Plumb, whose criticisms have been invaluable and whose kindness, inexhaustible.” This may make the review from the Sunday Times on the dust jacket less impressive “Mr. Williams has produced a first-class boook, packed with vivid incident; wise, well-balanced and revealing.” So says Dr. J.H. Plumb.

Aaannnyhow, there is lots of information and the book tries to give a general appreciation of the era across the social spectrum but at 170 odd pages it’s all, of necessity, rather superficial. I found the statistics at the beginning really fascinating (which, I think, makes me officially sad). England and Wales grew from a population of some 5.5 million in 1696 to just over 9 million at the time of the battle of Waterloo. That’s a lot of growth over 100 odd years. The chapter on the upper classes covers a lot of ground that is, I would have thought, pretty familiar to most readers. I did enjoy the chapter on lower class life though. How about this little piece on the Vagrancy Laws:

“..the pauper after whipping and/or imprisonment, was not ‘removed’ but ‘passed’: that is, trundled in a cart from one parish boundary to the next till he was home…Professional beggars, like some of the Irish returning home after the London hay-making season, found it a convenient mode of transport.”

This is, I think the only reference to Ireland in the text. As an Irish reader, it’s a little bit surprising to see 1798 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Rebellion_of_1798 and 1801 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Act_of_Union_1800 pass without even a slight reference to momentous events across the water. To an Irish person, late 18th century revolutions go like this 1. America, 2. France, 3. United Irishmen.

This book explicitly refers to 1798 thus: “But with the excesses of the Terror and the aggressions of French nationalism, the dream became a nightmare….Their disappointment was intense, Coeridge wrote that he had withdrawn from “French metaphysics, French politics, French ethics and French theology”. In the same year, 1798, he and Wordsworth published the first edition of their Lyrical Ballads….”

Surprising. I suppose that this is the problem of the colonised, we always think our misfortunes are foremost in the coloniser’s mind but really, they are worrying away about the romantic poets.

It is interesting that this book goes on quite a bit about the French revolution and its profound and shocking impact on late Georgian England. Did the author/the English forget that they themselves had form on regicide?

Still, I rather liked this neat little volume covering the basics; I see it is part of a series and am mulling on acquiring some more, assuming they are still in print.

Something for the Weekend

14 June, 2010 at 9:43 pm by belgianwaffle

Very busy. Dinner party at my sister’s on Friday night; GAA mini-leagues from 9.30 on Saturday morning; quick change into uniforms for the school Feis at 12 (no medals won, Daniel forgot the words to his rather difficult choice, Gugalaí Gug, the judges didn’t go for Michael’s Halloween number and herself refused to take part); then back home to greet a friend and her three children for lunch. I had swooped up the remains of my sister’s dinner party, so at least we were able to feed our guests though, the house, never tidy at the best of times, left a great deal to be desired. When they left, I spent several happy hours weeding. Tragic, I know. Sunday was spent recovering from the excesses of Saturday (including a nasty shoulder ache from my work with the pitchfork in what might as well be called the weed patch) and peering at the rain. Ah, the Irish summer.

Can only help weight loss as part of a calorie controlled diet

13 June, 2010 at 10:35 pm by belgianwaffle

Saturday morning when I came down to breakfast, we had the following scene:

Michael (dancing around the floor and pointing): The cat has got a dead bird, the cat has got a dead bird.
Mr. Waffle (not looking up from the paper): Really, well fancy that.
Me: Eeek, dead bird, dead bird, dead bird.
Mr. Waffle (leaping from the table): Bloody hell (or words to that effect).

To the cat’s intense chagrin, he removed the corpse from her clutches and put it in the bin. All weekend, we’ve been finding tiny, downy, baby bird feathers under the presses. The killer in our midst doesn’t care.

Regular readers may recall that the cat has been put on a diet. She’s fighting back.

25 Years Too Late

11 June, 2010 at 10:03 pm by belgianwaffle

When I was in school, the acme of cool in Cork was Benetton. There was one tiny Benetton outlet on Patrick Street and that was where all the cool girls went to get their cool scarves.

I never went in there myself because I was too scared of its stacked neat shelves and the trendy girls looking through them. Also, I think my mother would have been reluctant to fork out a fortune for a Benetton scarf when I could have got a perfectly nice one much more cheaply in Dunne’s.

The summer of first year in college, I went to Italy to work as an au pair and I was horrified to discover that all the shops in Italy boasted rows and rows of folded tops and t-shirts. I had to overcome my nervousness of this layout or not shop at all. The mother of the child I was minding was, to my complete astonishment, dismissive of Benetton – “I suppose it’s alright if you want something cheap and cheerful,” she said. Cheap? Obviously, she had never been to Dunne’s.

But the years passed and, now, increasingly, I find myself picking up things in Benetton – you know, it’s handy and, if not cheap, not exactly expensive either, and cheerful. Next year, I will be out of school 25 years. There may be some sort of reunion, I feel. I suppose all the cool girls are shopping in Prada now though.

Modern Mores

10 June, 2010 at 11:29 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Lioness.
Daniel: Girl.
Me: Knight.
Michael: Boy.
Me: Princess.
Daniel: Girl. That’s right because a Princess can’t marry a Princess.
Herself: Yes, she can. Men can marry each other.
Me: Well, yes but only in certain jurisdictions.
Daniel: They can get married, but it’s unusual.
Me: Yees.
Daniel: But they can’t have children.
Me: Well..
Herself: Yes, but they can only have girls.


9 June, 2010 at 11:47 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael: Can I have a jam sandwich after my porridge?
Me: OK.
Daniel: Me too.
Me: OK, do you want them cut or folded?
Both: Folded.

I produced the jam sandwiches (yes, yes, I know, for breakfast)…cut. It was an accident, I wasn’t concentrating.

Daniel and Michael: We wanted them folded.
Me: Are you sure?
Them: Yes.
Me: Well, it’s cut or nothing, I’m not going to throw those out just because they’re not folded. They taste the same, you know.
Them: Tears.
Me: What is it cut or nothing?
Michael: I asked for it folded.
Me: Sometimes in life you can’t have everything you want.
Michael: Sometimes in life you can. I want it FOLDED.
Me: It tastes the same.

Boys stomp into the kitchen and pull down all the fridge magnets from the fridge in protest. This is VERY annoying. I send them, still weeping, to sit on the stairs and think about their sins.

Me: Are you ready to say sorry?
Daniel: OK. Sorry.

Daniel sits up to eat the cut sandwich and asks whether, if he eats it, he can have another one, folded. I reluctantly concede – going half way to reward him for his capitulation. Michael pauses his howling.

Michael: Can I have another jam sandwich folded, if I eat the cut one?
Me: Yes, ok.
Michael (unanswerably): Then why can’t I have the folded one first?
Me: Because you have to eat the cut one before you can get the folded one.
Michael: I have to eat two jam sandwiches to get the folded one?
Me (in some difficulty): Yes.
Michael: Why do I have to eat two jam sandwiches?

Found out

8 June, 2010 at 10:29 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself said to me shyly the other day that she “couldn’t help” seeing something about our trip to Cork on the internet.

Her: Is it like a diary on the computer?
Me: Yes, it is.
Her: Why wouldn’t you want to keep a diary secret?
Me: Well, I suppose I don’t believe in secrecy.
Her: Why don’t you use my real name?
Me: For secrecy.

So far, she remains in ignorance of my archives but she did seem rather charmed by the idea that I am tracking her every move. Cross-questioning revealed that my loving husband had left my homepage here open while searching for club penguin. Oh well, I suppose she had to find out at some point. She doesn’t seem scarred by the knowledge. Yet.

Wash out

7 June, 2010 at 10:17 pm by belgianwaffle

It was a bank holiday weekend here. On Saturday morning, the boys spent the morning playing football and hurling in glorious sunshine. On Saturday afternoon, I took the children to Newbridge where, despite the website’s advice to the contrary, the farm was open and full of young things. The children saw chickens hatching, piglets feeding, fed baby goats themselves, patted shetland ponies and generally had an excellent time. It was a good job that we took full advantage of the sunshine on Saturday as after this the weather was unremittingly gloomy.

On Saturday night, Mr. Waffle and I went to see “Arcadia” at the Gate (voucher a birthday present from my kind sister). It’s all about maths and rather long but quite enjoyable all the same. However, we met a man Mr. Waffle knew from school and he and his wife had an 8 week old baby at home – it was their first night out and they found it rather heavy going and ran away at the interval. Never mind.

On Sunday, we went to see the Tall Ships. This was a spectacular success for us last year but this year, it was not to be. It poured rain with particular intensity and fervour. The Princess was pretty cheerful but even a cup of tea and juice on a Dutch boat could not cheer up her brothers. They trailed along miserably muttering rebelliously about the rain.



When we got home, we all had to strip to our underwear and we huddled in front of the television watching Sponge Bob and making pathetic sniffing noises. I understand from the weather forecast that Dublin was alone in receiving a biblical soaking and the rest of the country basked in sunshine. I wish we had gone to the attempt to bring together the largest number of twins in Ireland in Carrickmacross instead.

Nothing daunted, today I prodded my reluctant troops out of the house and we went to Newgrange where it also poured rain. It all passed off peacefully enough initially. We had lunch in the visitor centre, we saw a DVD, we wandered round the interpretative centre.

Then we went to Knowth and it poured. It was dull. The guide was cross with us as the children climbed on the mounds (a misunderstanding on our part, you are only allowed to climb on one mound – the one with a path).


043” Top of Knowth

We were not helped by the fact that there were no other children on the tour. The other tourists were very kind, saintly, elderly people (Canadians, Mr. Waffle thinks) who seemed to have a far higher tolerance for small children than the site guides. I suppose it wasn’t their job to worry about Ireland’s neolithic culture being destroyed by the under 8s and this made them more carefree.

The bus back from Knowth to the visitor centre (only 5 minutes, mercifully) was particularly hideous as two of my three children wanted to sit beside me (Michael didn’t care) and only one of them could. The Princess wept bitter tears. Then, on the next bus to Newgrange, she sat beside me and Daniel cried very loudly. Newgrange, however, was quite good value. It was short. The guide spoke in terms the Princess could understand and she was fascinated and, best of all, given the weather, it was underground.

They did an exciting simulation of the winter solistice – they turned off all the lights and then when it was pitch black, they shone a light down the passage. Obviously, not as exciting as the winter sun illuminating the chamber but not bad all the same and we all enjoyed it. Our standards had been suitably lowered by our drenching at Knowth.

So maybe not a fantastic day but, you know, very worthy. To my intense delight when I asked the children what they liked best about the day, they didn’t say “the crisps we got after lunch” but the moment when they stood under the mound in Newgrange in the pitch dark.

First Communion

5 June, 2010 at 10:21 pm by belgianwaffle

It’s May, it’s the season. I wondered where the children in my daughter’s school made their first communion. Upon enquiry, we were told that they were likely to change the venue as this year the church had been double booked for a funeral. I’m not sure whether you have to be catholic to find that funny.

Table manners

4 June, 2010 at 10:23 pm by belgianwaffle

Our daughter eats with her fingers. The boys aren’t actually too bad, and she has good days, but, broadly speaking, her dining habits leave a great deal to be desired. This drives my husband bananas. Mealtimes are rendered hideous by his desiring the Princess to use her cutlery (in increasingly cross tones) and her subsequent ire. She firmly believes that attack is the best form of defence.

The other night she had a friend at dinner. A friend who is a full six months older than her. The friend startled us all by eating rice with her fingers (something, even the Princess wouldn’t try). I am hoping that witnessing these exciting table manners will make my loving husband a little less exacting on the whole table manners front. Tell me, do your children use their cutlery?

Sweet Pea Carnage

3 June, 2010 at 9:54 pm by belgianwaffle

I bought sweet peas in March and grew them on the windowsill. They thrived. I planted them out two months ago and put up netting using garden staples. I was assisted in this process by three small children with hammers so it was more traumatic and less effective than I would have liked. The sweet pea all died. I was gutted, but then, some, miraculously, came back to life; they climbed, they thrived, I watered them and cooed over them. I got excited at the prospect that I might actually have flowers.

This morning, I drove into school with the children and Mr. Waffle. When I got there, I realised that I had, idiotically, left my briefcase at home. Mr. Waffle dropped me back home. I decided that I would cycle back into work. Mr. Waffle went about his business. I went in the side gate to pick up my bicycle. I cast my eye over the garden and, to my horror saw that the netting had come adrift, decapitating my sweet pea and leaving them trailing miserably on the ground.

Time was marching on but I felt it was vital to attempt to repair matters. Whether my employer would have shared this view remains, thankfully, a moot point. The back door was bolted, so I thought it would be easier to reattach the netting with the heel of my shoe than going round the front, letting myself in and getting a hammer. This is why, when I should have been in my place of work, I was standing one legged in the mud hammering with a shoe. There is a moral here somewhere. You will be pleased to hear that, as of this evening, the sweet pea is recovering.

Also, and unrelated, email from my husband as follows: “I see a letter in today’s Irish Times suggesting that we are a sitcom (Single Income, Three Children, Outrageous Mortgage).”

Oh, the guilt

2 June, 2010 at 10:13 pm by belgianwaffle

Attentive readers will remember that out childminder is leaving us in the middle of June. In our wisdom, Mr. Waffle and I have decided to try to mind the children ourselves until September. If we hire someone now, we will have to pay the person for August when we will be on holidays, so it is almost cheaper for me to take a couple of weeks unpaid parental leave and hire somebody new in September.

My very obliging employer has allowed me to work full time until our childminder leaves and take the one half day I would have taken each week (more parental leave) later in the summer. Are you still with me? So, normally, on Wednesdays I collect the children from school. They have a shaky grasp of the days of the week (regular morning question – is today a school day?), so I thought that they would not notice when I didn’t appear today. Well, it turns out that the Princess has a very good grasp of the days of the week and she was expecting me and, boy, was she upset when I didn’t turn up. She was gutted the childminder tells me. She told me herself – “Mummy, I trusted you, how could you lie to me? I cried and cried and turned into a tomato on the street. I was so sad and it was so embarrassing.”

In other heart-rending news, she took me aside and whispered, “Mummy, we have a school tour but it’s very expensive.” “How much?” I asked filled with foreboding. “I know that you are very worried about all the money we have to give to the banks, Mama (a reference to the collapse of the Irish banking sector about which I have been complaining rather than our mortgage repayments to which I am resigned) and I saw that Daddy had to pay €100 to the school this morning for the creche (after school care for the boys who finish an hour earlier than herself), so, if we can’t afford it, it’s ok.” “Oh sweetheart, of course, we can afford it, how much is it?” I said. “Mama, it’s [dramatic pause] €24.” The poor mite, I do feel sorry that she worries about these things though, it doesn’t really seem to have given her an appreciation of the value of money.

And in slightly related news, this popped into my inbox this afternoon:

ESRI Research Seminar: “Part-time Working and Pay Among Millennium Cohort Study Mothers”
Venue: ESRI, Whitaker Square, Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2.
Date: 24/06/2010
Time: 4 p.m.
Speaker: Prof Shirley Dex, Professor of Longitudinal Social Research, Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS), Institute of Education, London.

How interesting, I thought to myself, I might take a couple of hours off work and go and have a listen. Except of course, I can’t because, ironically, I will be minding the children. Perhaps you’d like to go yourself.

2 degrees of separation

1 June, 2010 at 9:37 pm by belgianwaffle

I live in a small country. Pretty much everyone in Ireland knows everyone else.

Whenever my husband and I watch the news there is always at least one pundit/reporter/other person whom one or both of us knows. This evening, for example, there was a man from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign talking angrily about the Israeli attack on the flotilla coming into Gaza. “Oh” said my husband, “he was in college with me.” Pause. “He’s Jewish.” However, Mr. Waffle’s moment of the match this evening came when his bicycle (tied to a railing) was visible behind a reporter for several seconds.

Let me tell you another story. I met some new people through friends one evening. We were all chatting quite happily when one of the women I hadn’t met before (v. glamourous, pretty, beautifully made up, terrifying heels, long blonde hair) asked me what I thought of a topical political issue. I gave my view. She gave her diametrically opposed one. We discussed. She got crosser and crosser. Though her concern was legitimate, many of the facts she adduced to support her argument were wrong and I told her so (ever tactful). Our common friend, seeking, I thought, to give the conversation a safer direction, asked what we thought about Bono telling Ireland to meet its development aid targets while moving part of U2’s business to the Netherlands to avoid tax. As my friend said, “Where do they think governments get their money from? They get it from tax revenue and it is hypocritical of Bono to preach that revenue should be spent on development aid and then moving his tax payments elsewhere.” Although this was old news, I felt that it would give us some common ground as who would defend U2 in these circumstances. But no, this other woman mounted a spirited defence of U2’s tax affairs. They gave huge amounts of money to charity, they still paid a lot of tax here, other companies outsourced to minimise their tax liability, Ireland used the same trick to draw in revenue from other countries. My friend remained implacable, I was with my friend. Feeling that matters were getting quite tetchy, I jested “Ireland is full of begrudgers.” “Are you one of them?” she snapped at me. Of course I am but, you know, nobody likes to be called a begrudger. “Do you work for U2?” I joked. “Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.”

Have I mentioned before that everybody in Ireland is only 2 degrees of separation from Bono?

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