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Random Examples of Husbandly Virtue

31 July, 2010 at 10:49 pm by belgianwaffle

Example 1.

Scene: Children and their mother sitting at the dinner table waiting for father to bring the dinner he has created from the kitchen. The cat plays happily under a nearby press. Mother notices that the cat is playing with a dead bird.
Mother and three children: Scream, dead bird, scream.
Father emerging from kitchen, grumpily, hands covered in breading: What?
Mother and children scream: The cat has a bird, the cat has a bird.
Father sighs, goes into the kitchen, washes hands, picks up a plastic bag, separates very peeved cat from the dead baby bird under the press and carries the bird to the bin. Then he washes his hands again and finishes making our dinner. You should know that it was not the father who insisted that the cat be added to the household.

Example 2.

Me: Michaela said she would never read a book by a nobel prize winner again after struggling through “The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis.”
Him: Who’s Michaela?
Me: Remember the Swedish girl from the book club?
Him: Was she the giraffe? [A reference to a particularly tall but fortunately beautiful girl, also in the book club.]
Me: No, no, you must remember her, she’s the most beautiful girl I ever met. She looks like Michelle Pfeiffer.
Him: Nope, can’t remember her at all.

Example 3.

Me: Mr. Waffle has received a sum of money for his labours and I am afraid that he will spend it on unnecessary things.
Friend: Like clothes? No, no, I wouldn’t mind, if he spent it on something nice for himself, no I mean things we don’t really need.
Friend: Like what?
Me: Well, he really wants to buy a saw but I feel he’s already chopped down six trees with the old saw and there are only two trees to go.
Friend: He cuts down your trees?
Me: Well, yes.
Friend: I’d love a husband who cut down trees. What else did he spend the money on?
Me: He bought the children’s school books.
Friend: Really, that’s frivolous? I thought they had to have school books.
Me: Well yes, but, you know, not until September. He could have spent the money on going up in a hot air balloon now or something exciting.
Friend: Anne, buy the man a saw.

Sometimes, you need friends to point out to you things you can’t quite see yourself. Tell me about your virtuous husbands.

In spite of dungeon, fire, sword and mild social embarrasment

30 July, 2010 at 10:26 pm by belgianwaffle

When a friend visited last week, our children sat to draw at the table. Daniel approached me with his picture. “What’s that sweetheart?” I asked him. “It’s a crucifixion, Mummy.” he said, which, clearly, it was. We gave it to the priest after mass on Sunday and he has promised to hang it up in the church.

Travel Plans

29 July, 2010 at 11:19 pm by belgianwaffle

No, not mine, my sister’s.

She has resigned from her job and will finish at the end of August. As she worked pretty much every day for months, she feels she needs a break. And as her pay levels reflected her commitment, she has sufficient funds not to need to look for a new job until January. In the interim she will be in the South of France, Rome and Mexico in September, in the South of Spain for October and in Chicago and Hawaii in November.

All I can say is that I hope she’ll be able to fit in some babysitting time for me at some point. No, no, of course I’m not bitterly envious.

9 Busy Years

28 July, 2010 at 9:30 pm by belgianwaffle

In 2009, we consolidated.
In 2008, we moved country.
In 2007, we were settled in Belgium.
In 2006, we barely went out.
In 2005, we had twins.
In 2004, we had only one child and we thought it was quite hard work.
In 2003, we moved country and we had a baby girl.
In 2002, we both left our jobs.
In 2001, we got married.

Happy anniversary to us.

Book Meme

27 July, 2010 at 10:10 pm by belgianwaffle

I got this from Dot.

1. What was the last book you read?

“The Help” by Katherine Stockett

2. Recommend a book.

“What I Loved” by Siri Hustvedt.

3. Recommend a children’s book.

“The Giant Jam Sandwich” Story and pictures by John Vernon Lord with verses by Janet Burroway

4. My guilty pleasure is:

Well, I wouldn’t call it guilty precisely but I am a big Georgette Heyer fan.

5. This one was rubbish:

Where to begin? “Man and Boy” by Tony Parsons.

6. If you wrote a book, what would it be? (Adapt as desired if you are writing or have written a book.)

Fiction. I haven’t really thought this through, have I?

Off you go and do it yourself.


26 July, 2010 at 10:54 pm by belgianwaffle

His and Hers

This is lovely. It’s a documentary film about women’s relationships with the men in their lives. It’s a series of interviews with women from very small girls to little old ladies. We never see the men they are talking about. It was, in a funny way, a description of everywoman. Or, at least, every Irish woman. All of the interviewees are from the Irish midlands. All of the interviews take place in the women’s homes and as well as the women, the varied styles of interior decoration favoured by the Irish public also played a supporting role. It was a little bit too long and sad at the end but still really great. I wonder will it travel? Have a look at the trailer and see what you think.


One whole evening I will never get back. This is directed by the guy who did “The Squid and the Whale”. If you liked that film, do not let this tempt you in. Really. Ben Stiller is an annoying 40 year old who is really nasty. He has a relationship (in the broadest sense of the word – or as the description in the cinema magazine put it, “he forges a connection”) with a 23 old girl who is slightly clueless. I knew that I was doomed when I found myself thinking, “My God, what would her poor mother think if she could see her lovely daughter being abused like this?”

Twilight – Latest Installment

Oh God, the tedium.

Toy Story 3D

Michael was traumatised and wept throughout but the others loved it.

Couldn’t get in to “Inception” on Saturday night. Probably for the best. We went for a walk along the quays and watched the sunset instead.

Who will import my Mariage Frères’ Lapsang Suchong Jelly from Qatar now?

25 July, 2010 at 10:56 pm by belgianwaffle

I am sad. After 18 months in Dublin, my sister is leaving. She doesn’t like her job and she doesn’t like Dublin. But I loved having her in Dublin. You only really appreciate speaking to your sister face to face when you can’t do it. Sigh. I went around to her apartment the other night and she gave me lots of things. She will be travelling for a bit so anything I don’t take will go into storage. I am a bit of a minimalist. She is a maximalist. I can fit all my make-up in a small bag. She has a walk in wardrobe filled with make-up. I now have a large plastic bag full of extraordinary stuff. I have super regenerating pseudo science serum night cream. She only gave me it on condition that I promised not to use it as day time moisturiser because then the world would end. I have 6 packets of boil in the bag rice (it was on special offer), “storage solutions”, a new coffee table, honey drenched nuts, a Wrigley’s picnic rug – waterproof on one side – and 10 other bags full of things. But I’d rather have my sister here all the same.

I am, of course, keen that she should be happy; I just wish that she had been happy here.

Staying at Home

24 July, 2010 at 10:33 pm by belgianwaffle

I have taken quite a bit of unpaid time off work this month and spent it at home with the children. Despite my fears that I would be driven up the wall, I was pleasantly surprised to find it all, well, pleasant. I got on better with the children when I spent more time with them. For the first time since I left college, I am having a real summer holiday and I like it – all those long days with nothing much planned. It’s nice too not to be shunting the children off to course after course which must be done when both of us are working.

I am sorry to be coming over all Oliver James, but there it is. I do realise that I am very, very lucky to have such an accommodating employer and not everyone is in a position to do this for financial (actually, I’m not sure I can afford it but we will draw a veil) or practical reasons. I also suspect that if this were an open-ended commitment rather than a limited stretch, I might regard it rather differently.

If it is any comfort, I have already ruined them by all my previous time working. I had a friend over during the week and her four children were completely saintly (including the baby, dammit) while mine, frankly, were squirm-makingly awful. My friend has taken an enforced break from work to go abroad with her husband and she is finding the experience very different from her previous life. As someone who worked all her life until last year, she was recently shocked to hear her two year old say to a working mother: “But mothers don’t have jobs.” The working mother riposted, “Oh, sweetie, mothers do have jobs, they just don’t have careers.” Oh the uncomfortable truth of that.


23 July, 2010 at 10:02 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel: When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut.
Me: Good for you. Do you know what you need to be an astronaut?
Daniel (doubtfully): A space ship?
Me: Well, yes, but do you know what you need to do now so that you can be an astronaut when you grow up?
Daniel: Buy a space suit?
Me: Mmm, no, I meant work very hard at your maths.
Daniel: Like what’s 1+1?
Me: Exactly.
Him: Only harder than 1+1. That’s very easy.
Me: Yes, that’s right.
Him: Maybe as hard as 8+5? That’s a very hard one, even I don’t know that.

I think I have given him the impression that astronauts are examined on their tables before they are let into a space ship.

Birth notice

22 July, 2010 at 10:02 pm by belgianwaffle

This from the book I am reading:

“[Radical publisher of Paine’s “The Rights of Man”] Rickman had loudly advertised his radical affiliations and literary affections by baptising one of his children as Paine and calling the others Washington, Franklin, Rousseau, Petrarch and Volney.”

I mean, really, I have seen nothing in the Irish Times to rival this one. I hope that they were all boys.


19 July, 2010 at 11:45 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister is just back from another couple of weeks in the Gulf. She tells me that she couldn’t take a shower in her apartment complex because the cold water was coming from outside. And, as it was 52 degrees outside, the cold water was quite a lot warmer than the hot water. And she was there for the hottest day in Doha in 40 years. Lovely.

This inspired my mother-in-law to tell me a story about her friend who lives in the Gulf and who can’t use her swimming pool most of the year as the water is too hot and they can’t afford the expensive mechanism to cool it down.

Other little snapshots from the Gulf, my sister visited a shopping centre where there are canals and gondolas, she saw a woman in a burka eating spaghetti and she visited the local Pain Quotidien where she picked up some Belgian chocolate spread for me. Odd, very odd.

Single Issue Pressure Group

18 July, 2010 at 11:35 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel: Is the Government a person?
Me: No, sweetheart, it’s a group of people who run the country and decide what to spend our money on.
Daniel: What do they spend our money on?
Me: Well, hospitals, roads…
Daniel: Traffic lights?
Me: Yes traffic lights and… schools and teachers..
Michael: I hate my teacher.
Me: Well, Michael, what do you think that the Government should spend our money on?
Michael: They should give it to the shops so that I can get a computer for me.
Me: Well, they give money to schools so that everyone can have computers in schools.
Michael: There’s no computer in my classroom.
Mr. Waffle: But next year when you go to the classroom next door you’ll have a computer in the classroom.
Michael (starting to wail): But that computer is BROKEN.
Mr. Waffle: Well, but Michael the Government has lots of things to spend money on and there isn’t enough money and they have to decide what would be the best way to spend the money they have.
Michael (mutinously): I think the best thing would be to buy a computer for me.
Me (mentally searching for what Michael might deem worthy expenditure and rejecting all school related costs): Well, Michael, there are sick children in hospitals who need medicine and machines to make them better and the Government is spending money on that so it can’t afford your computer.
Michael (crying): The sick children are taking my computer.
Mr. Waffle: That went well.
Me: Michael is clearly a believer in big government.

Michael is going to be honing his pre-budget submission tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, as he can’t write, it will have to be a picture coloured in crayon.


17 July, 2010 at 10:08 pm by belgianwaffle

Like a lot of the internet, I pasted some text into this box so that it would tell me who I write like. I appreciate that these things are not very accurate but would you say my description of our holiday below reminds you in any way of “The Godfather”? Off you trot to investigate yourself, you know you want to.

Reactionary’s Corner

16 July, 2010 at 9:27 pm by belgianwaffle

Why is it that no one has relatives who die any more?

People have “loved ones who have passed away” instead.

I heard a daft drama on Radio 4 which was set in World War II. Our heroine was in danger of losing her “loved one”. Really, was that usage common, in 1942? Speaking of one of the other characters she wondered: “What does he bring to the table?” What indeed, we will have to see, going forward.

If you would like to mention your pet irritations in the comments, feel free.

The Joy of Work

15 July, 2010 at 9:27 pm by belgianwaffle

I have a colleague who is a pleasant, down to earth woman from the west of Ireland. She is in her mid 50s and has nice clothes, pearls, grown-up daughters and her husband is an accountant. Her name is Mary. Are you getting a picture here?

This morning she got the following text message:

Thanks for another great night in bed Ann.

To which she promptly replied:

I am glad to hear that you had a great night in bed with Ann but I suggest that you tell her rather than a complete stranger. You might also ask Ann for her telephone number.

Good news for the public health authorities

14 July, 2010 at 8:01 pm by belgianwaffle

Me (peering at Michael’s feet before going to work): Bath for you tonight young man.
Michael: NOOOO.
Me (changing the subject): What are you guys going to do today?
Mr. Waffle: We’re going to the swimming pool.
Daniel: So we won’t need to have a bath.

More Holiday

13 July, 2010 at 8:19 pm by belgianwaffle


The children began to wonder how the cat was getting on in our absence.

I decided to grace my relatives with our presence. We picked up my mother and drove north to Limerick. The children were exemplary in the car. First we visited my uncle and aunt who have a shop. They each got a bag to fill with goodies. They were ecstatic. They were fantastically well behaved and I glowed with pride as they uttered please and thank you with no prompting. They did not go so far as to refuse the proferred treats (proper polite behaviour in rural Ireland – you must say no thank you several times before yielding) but as townies I think that was forgiveable. Then they settled down to watch a DVD which I had thought to bring with me which guaranteed silence and further good behaviour (some might call this bribery). Over tea, for their own obscure reasons, my mother and my aunt and uncle reminisced about pig slaughtering. “Remember,” said my mother, “how the pig used to squeal and do you remember the blood gushing out from its throat.” My aunt who is, clearly, a more sensitive soul than her husband or his sister confided to me that after seeing pigs slaughtered as a child, she can’t eat bacon or pork.

Then we went to my aunt and cousin’s farm. We had visited at Christmas when the children loved going on the tractor in the dark in the pouring rain so I had high hopes for this trip in daylight in sunshine. I was not disappointed. They absolutely loved it. They got to go on the tractor again and collect a bale of hay.


They met the calf they had named at Christmas (I was pleased to note that he had kept his name and he hadn’t been slaughtered – two worries dealt with). They brought the cows in for milking and then helped to milk the cows and feed the calves. It was fantastic. Now, Michael demonstrates milking a cow by attaching suction tubes, taking them off and spraying the cow’s teats (with water, disinfectant, who knows? Well probably Michael but I’m not going to wake him up now to check). Farm to fork – I think these children know where their milk comes from.

I was in the kitchen eating rhubarb tart with my mother and aunt. My new found enthusiasm made me go out and inspect the vegetable beds where the rhubarb was grown. They were weed and slug free with rows of healthy looking vegetables. I have not at all inherited my relatives’ green thumbs, alas. I returned to find that my mother was talking about rats. Farms are full of rats, it appears. Back on the farm where she spent her teenage years she was reminiscing happily about my grandfather’s rat trap. Apparently you run a plank up the side of a barrel of water and another down the other side. Rats are very curious and they will climb to the top to see what’s in the barrel. They think that they can jump to the other side, but they can’t and they drown in the barrel. “Who emptied the barrel?” I asked. My mother didn’t know, that sounds like a lovely job and probably why the barrel rat trap never caught on in a domestic setting.

We got home about 11 and to my horror all three children were still awake and anxious for the full bed time routine. It was midnight before I got to my own bed with herself tucked in beside me to keep her safe from Voldemort.


I woke to the sound of the Princess admonishing her brother: “You were much less trouble when you were a small boy, Daniel,” she said to her four year old brother.

The Princess got a cactus spine in her finger and howled for her father who is far more sympathetic than I am. The boys, inspired by their sister, also began to wonder where their father was. As I pointed out to him, he was only 24 hours less popular than the cat.

After the long drive of the day before, I decided to have a quiet day. The highlight was to be a trip into Youghal to have a pizza in a nice place we found last year. I starved them for the morning (no snack!) so that they would eat lunch and arrived into Youghal at 12.20. It started to rain. The restaurant did not open until one. There is only so much you can do in the rain in Youghal for 40 minutes with three starving children. I capitulated and brought them to another restaurant. It was quite, quite vile. The food was inedible, the children squirmed under the table, the service was atrocious. The Princess refused to eat her pizza and she was quite right, it was pale and undercooked. My chowder was horrible. The children insisted on having scones for desert. The three scones arrived on one plate with no jam (advertised attraction). Our main courses were not cleared away, my tea never came and when I finally managed to get someone to find the jam (my most imperative need as Michael was howling lustily for same) he brought back marmalade and said that was all there was. In the toilets, before we left, Michael managed to knock a picture off the wall on to Daniel’s shoulder. We stepped back into the rain less restored than you might imagine. There was a tourist centre. We went in. There was quite an interesting exhibition but I couldn’t look at it in any detail as the entrance to the exhibition was through an expensive tourist tat shop. The children were entranced. They had each been given a fiver by both my mother and my aunt and the amounts were burning holes in their pockets (or under the table or wherever they let the money drop for me to pick up to forestall a wail of “I’ve lost my money!”) I suggested in vain that €5 fridge magnet with a dolphin was not a prudent investment, that €8.50 for a sheep to stick to the window was both criminally expensive and a deeply unwelcome addition to our household. The Princess said, “I thought it was OUR money.” Alright fine then but you won’t be able to afford much. The shopkeeper took an interest in their travails and gave them money off the sheep and the fridge magnet. Herself lent some of her money to Daniel so that he could afford his dolphin magnet and a water pistol while she herself invested in a cut price starfish magnet. They were delighted with themselves but some unhappiness ensued when a) both magnets broke on the way home and b) Michael discovered that he couldn’t eat his sheep.

After the trials of the morning, when we got back, I got out the portable DVD player, put on Kung Fu Panda and took myself off to make tea and read the paper cover to cover to restore my broken spirit.


Mr. Waffle came back at lunch time. On our way to collect him we stopped off at the local supermarket to buy plasters. I also bought cereal for breakfast except that they didn’t have any Special K which the Princess likes so I let her have a variety pack to ease the pain. Michael asked to buy chocolate fingers. Oh alright, I said. They all asked for a treat. I weakly gave them a Kinder egg each. Michael got a water pistol (following complex negotiations, I will spare you). I got some strawberries for herself as well. As the cashier packed up my purchases she smiled at the children and said, “Are you having a party?” Yes, indeed, a new low for my shopping.

After the excitement of picking up their father we took my mother to East Cork for the afternoon where she dutifully admired our friends’ house and the sea view.


Our Hiberno-Dutch friends had their fourth and, I think, final child recently. They decided to have a big party for the christening in Mitchelstown where the Dutch Mama is originally from. We arrived early for the 12.30 christening. This was our undoing as we thought that we would have time to have a quick bite to eat in town. We did not. When we arrived back in the church at 12.50, the child was christened and Mr. Waffle was rigid with fury (it is hard when the rest of your evil family just do not care about being late). He mellowed as we met friends at the church. It was a huge group. There must have been 40 children (our pension needs will be met, hurrah). We went back to the Dutch Mama’s sister’s house where there was a marquee with enough food to feed an army, two bouncy castles and two babysitters to meet the needs of the younger members of the group. Unfortunately, it was the wettest day of the year so far and all of our children went on the bouncy castle. Afterwards, Michael sat in his underwear watching the “Princess and the Frog”. The Princess was too big to countenance this and sat wrapped damply in a towel. Daniel only went out after the DVD was over. Despite the damp, we all had a very pleasant time. I think I am finally reaching the bit I remember from my own childhood when we went off to play with gangs of children and the grown-ups sat together talking.

When we got into the car to go home, the children all stripped out of their wet clothes and travelled back naked which they hugely enjoyed. Our (childless) friends M and R were staying the night in their house and R arrived slightly before we got back. I think he was surprised to see three naked children scamper in from the car. “It’s a different world,” he said wonderingly. He did, however, enjoy watching Michael imperiously demand that all the rice be removed from his dinner plate and before going out to his party, R pointed out to Michael that quite a few grains had been left behind.


The children were up at dawn with, as far as I can see, the sole objective of waking up M and R who are unused to the patter of little feet. “Shhh,” we would hush. “We are being quiet,” they would shout down the stairs. M and R were the picture of virtue saying, “No, no, no, not loud at all.” Then a last trip to the beach on to lunch at my parents’ before driving back to Dublin where we were greeted with something bordering on enthusiasm by the cat.

Two points worth noting: Doggy did not travel with us – the first time ever he has been left to languish at home – and nobody wet the bed. Milestones, I assure you.

Offline in East Cork

12 July, 2010 at 10:58 pm by belgianwaffle

Did you miss me? No, don’t tell me, it’s probably better for both of us, if I don’t know. I have been at my friends’ house in East Cork for the week bonding with my children. No television and no computer. It was surprisingly pleasant. And the good news is that I have prepared for you a blow by blow description of our trip. Go on, admit it, you’re delighted.


We drove to Cork in the morning. I know I am becoming somewhat tedious on the subject of the new road to Cork but as a child I spent a minimum of 6 hours on the road to Dublin with my parents and now it can easily be done door to door in three hours. So we were able to have lunch in my parents’ house and then spend the afternoon in Garryvoe. Quite amazing.

On the road from Cork to Garryvoe there is a lake with swans. Mr. Waffle said to the children, “Regardez, des cynges!” “What kind of signs?” asked Daniel. I’m not at all sure this French lark is going as well as I hoped it would. “Is signes not the French for signs?” I asked. “No,” he said, “road signs are panneaux.” The French, they torture me because they can.

The children were delighted to see the beach and promptly flung themselves into the water fully dressed. Fortunately, our friends’ house is right beside the beach and we were able to drip home without suffering from hypothermia.


That evening, I taught herself how to make breakfast for her brothers in the hope that this might allow me to stay in bed a little longer. This was only moderately successful as the excitement her task generated meant that she was bouncing around until 11.30 that night and up again at 6.30 asking anxiously whether it was time to make breakfast.

Meanwhile, Daniel had gone into our bedroom to be alone. When we went up to bed we discovered that he had put to good use the key to the door and locked himself in. We began by whispering and ended by shouting and banging the door but he slept on oblivious. The Princess giggled hysterically and her father became rather annoyed and took himself off to Daniel’s bed. Using my Enid Blyton lore I stuck a piece of paper under the door and wiggled the key in the lock with a corkscrew. The key landed with a thud. Unfortunately, even, if it had landed on the paper (which it did not) it was too wide to fit under the door. Fortunately, every room in our friends’ house had a key and all of the locks turned out to be the same so all was well. The next day, we put all the keys on top of the doors.


Mr. Waffle got the train back to Dublin at lunch time and after dropping him to the station in Cork, the children and I visited my parents. I visited a cousin in hospital and we then retired to our East Cork fastness and out to the beach. The Princess was, by now, on Harry Potter book 5 and she went to bed with it. I was summoned to her room at 11 to look for Voldemort under the covers. She came to sleep with me.


I realised that part of the reason I am never normally cross with the children is that Mr. Waffle does it for me.

My plan for the day is that we will go to the beach until 11 and then on to the fleshpots of Leahy’s fun farm. A plan calculated to bring joy to the hearts of small children one would think. But no.

We have a very frustrating morning. It is a beautiful day and I try, unavailingly, to persuade the children to come to the beach. No, no, they want to stay at the house. The Princess has started on HP book 6. At 10.30, they fancy a snack. I lure them outside by promising to buy them ice cream in the shop. I plan to make it a brief stop on the way to the farm. We go to the shop. Do they have to have ice cream? I suppose not. The Princess fills a bag with what I used to call “penny sweets”, I’m not quite sure what they are now, cents sweets? I make her put half of them back. She is unhappy. We buy buckets (for reasons which are unclear we appear to have packed only one leaking bucket from the sample of hundreds available at home) and a spade (one of our three has been carried away by the tide). I end up spending 17 euros on what was a trip out for an ice cream. No one says thank you. I am unhappy. General peevishness.

It is not yet time to go to the fun farm according to my, suddenly dictatorial, timetable. We go to the playground near the beach. The weather is uncharacteristically warm and sunny. I mop up ice cream. I apply sun cream. I discover, to my horror, there is only enough in the bottle to cover two children. I suggest that we go to the shop to buy more. Nobody will come with me. I consider leaving them and nipping across to the shop on my own. I decide that I can’t, the boys are only 4, after all and herself is really too small to mind them. I sit in blazing sunshine and pray for rain. It does not rain. I try to assert myself again and fail. Michael (the un sunblocked child) assures me that he will not burn. This is unconvincing as his skin is lily white and he cannot prevent sunburn by will power alone.

The Princess suggests that we test out the new buckets on the adjoining beach for a moment. Weakly, I agree, “but only for a minute”. Once they get on the beach, the children are delighted. I am very bitter that I did not assert myself earlier in the morning and force them to come out. I sit there feeling v. warm (no sunscreen for me either) and praying for rain. It does not rain. The children are having a fantastic time. I am fretting about sunscreen. They have waded into water to their waists despite my begging them not to and will need to go home and change before we go anywhere. It’s time to go home, I say sternly. They ignore me. I sit there getting crosser and crosser. To add to my chagrin, another mother is skipping in and out of the waves with her small son clearly having a fantastic time as I sit on the rocks glaring at my disobedient offspring like some kind of archetypal malevolent step-mother.

Eventually, I lose my temper and announce enough is enough we are leaving. I march towards the car in a towering fury. No one follows. Michael is not budging, he wants to make a sandcastle in his new bucket. The buckets are those square ones with turrets and he is diligently filling it with wet sand from under the water. He ignores my angrily hissed instruction that it will not come out and keeps filling. I give up and angrily help him fill it to the brim. We turn it over, it does not work, he howls. I march off foaming at the mouth with him trotting behind me in tears. I roar at the other two to follow. Daniel, who despite his own temper is actually made very miserable when either of his parents are cross, starts to cry and say “Sorry, sorry, it’s all my fault, it’s all my fault.” I am impervious and as I march towards the car with my gloomy troops, I begin to enumerate their faults. “I am in charge,” I announce “and, in future, when I say jump, you say how high?” They are unfamiliar with this particular cliché and my temper is not improved by having to explain what it means. The Princess says coldly, “There’s no need to shout.” A triumph of parenting.

Despite this, frankly inauspicious, start to the day, the trip to the fun farm is a huge success. We arrive at 12 and do not leave until 6. Lunch appears something of a low point as the children tuck into chips and nuggets and I have an uninspired toasted special. In fact, had I known at that point how low my standards on the children’s food would slip later in the week, I would have been a great deal more relaxed.

024 Snake

018 Tractor

At the same time as we were there, there was a bunch of children from the Chernobyl children’s project. They are let in free every year, apparently as part of Mr. Leahy’s programme of corporate responsibility (though I really doubt that he would put it in these terms himself – I have met him both times we were there and he looks and acts exactly like a Cork farmer in his 60s). This is part of a project where Irish families take in children from Chernobyl for a fortnight’s holiday every summer. I couldn’t imagine doing this myself but I really admire families who do year after year. Most of the children seemed fine although there were a couple who were clearly mentally handicapped and I think many of the others probably have nasty, less visible, problems.


We went to the Observatory after a slightly annoying tour of Cork suburbs (only 15 minutes from the ringroad said the brochure, it omitted to add if you know where you are going as signs are few and far between). The children were pleased and I found myself pondering our infinitesimal smallness in the face of the cosmos. A success then until Daniel wet his trousers because he was too absorbed in moving species to their correct habitat to go to the toilet. They all sent a message to space. Michael has been driving me demented since asking where exactly his message is now. Messages travel at the speed of light and the interface helpfully indicated that it would take 1.2 seconds to reach the moon, a month to reach Jupiter and so on. Had I known I was going to be cross-questioned on this for days, I would have paid a lot more attention at the time. Anyhow, it’s going to take 122 years before it reaches its ultimate destination so I have been quoting that at him.

I deposited the children at my parents’ house and went into town to buy trousers, underpants and socks for Daniel feeling that he couldn’t stay naked from the waist down. I don’t much like out of town shopping centres and I prefer to shop in the city centre. As I have always lived near town, I usually walk. On this particular day, it was raining and I drove. I now understand why city traders complain about lack of parking. The whole thing was a nightmare. The city fathers in their wisdom had closed Patrick Street north bound, chosen to relay cobbles on the Coal Quay and have not yet repaired the wall near the Mercy hospital where the river overflowed its banks late last year leading to a lengthy diversion. Cork is small but it was nearly three hours after driving in that I staggered back to my parents’ determined never to repeat the experience. The authorities have been plugging the fact that Cork is one of the Lonely Planet’s top 10 places to visit in 2010 but, clearly, the Lonely Planet people left their cars at home.

I’m exhausted and it’s only Tuesday. More tomorrow, if we’re all feeling strong.

New national colours

2 July, 2010 at 11:44 pm by belgianwaffle

I passed three teenagers sitting on a low wall wearing short shorts.

Their legs were the only colours you see on Irish women: Sunburnt pink, tangerine orange (fake tan) and snow white. It’s quite unusual to get a sighting of these last two together. Must have been some kind of detente.


1 July, 2010 at 11:04 pm by belgianwaffle

I have become obsessed with gardening. From someone who found gardens deathly dull I am turning into someone who knows the names of plants. We have giant hogweed, how lovely.

When we bought the house in 2003, the garden, lovingly tended by a little old lady, looked like this. While looking at these pictures, I want you to reflect on why anyone with a small garden would plant seven fir trees. Answers on a postcard please.




Then we left the country and let the house to tenants. Conscious of the fact that the garden might need some maintenance and having more money than sense we offered to pay for a gardener to come every so often. The tenants said that they would rather do it themselves. Here are some pictures of the garden just after the tenants moved out in 2008.



And look at those cute little fir trees, they grow up so fast, don’t they?


This is the side passage of which I have no 2003 photo as it was then an unremarkable gravelled area. It pushed the boundaries while we were away. When clearing away the foliage below, I unearthed two bicycle skeletons.


So, much of the past two years has been spent in uprooting. I’ve hung on to the pussy willow which self-seeded, is enormous and holding one end of the washing line. Mr. Waffle feels it needs to be pollarded. He says this on the basis of some work of literary fiction he is reading. Personally, I’d like some more reliable source, like the internet. You see it on the left below, does it need to be pollarded, if so how? Note also the tasteful paving stones on the “lawn” which I have not yet removed as I know I will not be able to grow lawn to replace them.


Speaking of not growing grass, you see my problem below. On the plus side the fir tree you see is one of only two extant specimens. Cutting them down is hard work, especially when Michael cries and throws his arms around them. I am taking the children to Cork next week and I hope that the dastardly deed will be done in our absence.


While there are improvements in the side passage, I would be the first to concede that it still needs work.


Two years of hard labour and this is the result as of today.


Frankly, sometimes I despair and I haven’t even shown you the, ahem, vegetable patch.

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