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Simple English Campaign

30 October, 2010 at 8:45 pm by belgianwaffle

Message from IT:

In order to upgrade and enhance the efficiency and stability of our Network environment, IT Networks are currently undertaking a project to virtualise our Network.

Disruption to services during this project will be kept to an absolute minimum. However, as with all projects of this nature there will be some down time for users. A separate e-mail will issue from your local Network team in the coming days informing you of when down time is anticipated. When you receive those details, if there are any reasons why you think the period of downtime might have an adverse affect on your areas work, please contact us immediately.

Translation kindly provided by Mr. Waffle:

Your PC might stop at any time without warning. If you think this might be a problem, tell us.

Two dreadful events

29 October, 2010 at 8:41 pm by belgianwaffle

Dreadful event 1: Mr. Waffle’s bike was stolen from the back garden. To do this, the thieves had to toss it over an eight foot gate. It’s a big bike and it has a child seat. Mr. Waffle is bereft. I will be locking the back door more carefully. And, yes, we will be getting a shed.

Dreadful event 2: When we went to bed last night, we heard the cat mewing pitifully. An exhaustive search of the premises revealed that she was trapped in a drawer in the boys’ room. The idiot cat likes to climb into small spaces and one of us had accidentally shut her in while she was sleeping peacefully on the boys’ trousers. I can see this leading to difficulties in future. The cat was most reproachful and we were guilt-ridden.

On the plus side, the roof no longer leaks.

Bleeding Heart

28 October, 2010 at 8:40 pm by belgianwaffle

I have long been ambivalent about smacking children. I don’t smack my own children but I was dubious about any proposal to make smacking of children illegal.

Then two things changed my mind.

I heard a speech a couple of years ago. The speaker said that in the past a man could hit his wife, his servants, his animals and his children. Hitting children is the only one of these still allowed. This has been knocking around at the back of my head ever since. The more I think of it, the more I believe that it is never legitimate to hit a child and, really, the fact that it’s your child doesn’t matter at all.

I read an article about how we are only just starting to acknowledge and vindicate the rights of children. Just because their voices are less coherent and less audible than those of adults does not mean that their rights as human beings should be ignored. Making it illegal to assault children puts down a marker for society generally as to what is acceptable and what is not.

So, I would be in favour of making smacking children illegal including, yes, a slap across the back of the legs of a small child because he ran across the road without looking. What do you think?

Updated to add: The Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has commissioned a study on “Parents’ Perspectives on Parenting Styles and Disciplining Children” which is worth a read, if you’re feeling enthusiastic. It’s a small enough sample but for what it’s worth, some 25% of parents reported using physical punishment in the previous 12 months and 42% of respondents said that smacking should be made illegal. Interestingly, 28% of respondents thought it was illegal already.

Health warning: You would want to be enthusiastic as it runs to over 100 pages.

Cross-Channel Soccer Action

27 October, 2010 at 1:34 am by belgianwaffle

Princess: Everyone in my school wants to know whether I support Manchester United or Liverpool. What should I say?
Me: For personal reasons, I’d prefer if you said that you supported Preston North End. Would you do that?
Her: No.

Out of the Mouths of Babes and Sucklings

26 October, 2010 at 11:39 pm by belgianwaffle

Princess: Daddy, how do cheques work?
Him: Well, essentially, it’s a promise to pay. A long time ago, money was made of metal which was the actual value of the coin; but that was awkward to carry over long distances. So, they gave a piece of paper with a promise to pay and people trusted other people to pay out on that and that’s how banks came about.
Her (dubiously): People trusted the banks?
Him: Yes!
Her: But people trusted the Titantic not to sink.
Him: Well, funny you should mention that…

Oh frabjous day

26 October, 2010 at 8:21 pm by belgianwaffle

When the Princess was 4, on Wednesday afternoons I used to haul her to a private pool for very expensive private one-to-one swimming lessons. She looked technically beautiful as she went along – grenouille, avion, flèche – but, crucially, she wasn’t actually able to swim. She resisted lessons after that initial foray. All last summer I thought that she would get the hang of it but she just didn’t. And then, today when I had no hopes of anything but that nobody would drown in the pool, she started to swim. Just like that. I am pleased.

For Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven*. Allegedly.

26 October, 2010 at 12:46 am by belgianwaffle

An old friend of mine was in Dublin briefly. I met him on Sunday. We went for a walk in the Park which was pleasant. Alas, it did not stop there. Because he is a brother (religious, not related) and he expressed an interest, I thought that I would have him to dinner and we would eat at the same time as the children. I would never do this to anyone else. I think, I felt because he was in a religious order, he needed more exposure to small children and he would enjoy it. WHY would I think that?

So, it started off auspiciously enough, the boys played boardgames with the guest, the Princess read her book and ignored him but was not actively disagreeable. After a particularly contentious game of snap/beggar my neighbour when Daniel swept the cards from the table and collapsed sobbing and red faced on the floor, Mr. Waffle thought it would be better to turn on the television to calm the troops. Because we live in one room, this meant that my friend had to watch Elmo too. He was polite, but I suspect that this was not what he was used to in the lofty circles in which he moves in Rome. Certainly, the Princess shushing him was toe-curlingly ghastly.

Dinner was just dreadful. The children were all quite excited by the guest. They manifested this by shouting over him. Daniel, for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, spent much of dinner leaning back on his chair and howling like a wolf. Earlier in the day they had seen this video and it made a profound impression on them. The first time they performed it, it was mildly amusing but by the 25th any entertainment value had pretty much evaporated.

Our friend was, as becomes an American and a religious man, polite about his welcome and saintly with our children. You can read his, frankly, untruthful account of his visit here. In fact, the only truthful thing he said is what he said when we apologised for the children’s “high-spirited” behaviour: “Don’t worry, it strengthens my vocation.”

I tried to upload to youtube a taster of what he faced. It wouldn’t work. You would have to imagine it over dinner and louder. Much louder. And I couldn’t quite face showing you where the paint has been knocked off the wall behind the couch by the children standing on their heads and kicking it.

*For the religious: Mark 10:14, not Matthew 5:3 or Matthew 5:10 although, if the matter were put to them, the children themselves would unhesitatngly plump for Matthew 5:10.

Possibly Some Confusion

23 October, 2010 at 7:55 pm by belgianwaffle

I was reading a story to the boys this evening in which a character was left unconscious. This led to the following exchange.

Michael: What’s “knocked out”?
Daniel: I know, I know, I know.
Michael: What?
Daniel: It’s when you fall down like this [collapses on bed] and sort of go to sleep.
Michael: What?
Daniel: Like France did to Ireland in the world cup when it put out its hand and knocked us out.

A Father’s Work is Never Done

22 October, 2010 at 7:55 pm by belgianwaffle

This morning Mr. Waffle rose at 5. He did some work, sent it off to the lucky client, made brown bread for the family breakfast and disposed of the remains of a small mouse which Hodge left lovingly at his feet.

Happiness

20 October, 2010 at 10:41 pm by belgianwaffle

I have paid an efficient man to update my blog. You can have no idea how happy this makes me. Inept, perhaps, but happy. Also, it now shows people who linked to me. If I didn’t do your meme, I’m sorry, I just never knew. A vast new universe yawns before me, lads.

Reading

19 October, 2010 at 10:12 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel is just on the verge of reading. The other day he read his first words cold and completely unaided, they were “no disc” followed shortly by “play all”.

The Irish Times Fights Back

17 October, 2010 at 9:57 pm by belgianwaffle

From Saturday’s paper:

“Since the advent of digital cameras and camera phones we’ve all been snapping away to our heart’s content. But who actually tidies up, prints out, stores and captions this plethora of images? Unless you’re frighteningly anal-retentive, or have shockingly little to do, the chances are that your digital photos languish in your computer in an unloved and untended electronic heap.”

So if I have, tidied up, printed out, stored and captioned my pictures and do not have shockingly little to do, what is it that the IT is implying about me?

The Thief of Time

15 October, 2010 at 10:51 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Did you read that terrific article on procrastination in the NYT?
Him: No, I haven’t got around to it yet.

Reading

14 October, 2010 at 9:24 pm by belgianwaffle

“The Kindness of Sisters: Annabella Milbanke and the Destruction of the Byrons” by by David Crane

If you were planning to read this book, it would be very important that you had an intimate knowledge of Byron and his love life. And no, reading a biography several years ago does not at all cut the mustard. This is for people who have Augusta’s middle name tattooed on their upper arms.

“Skippy Dies” by Paul Murray

This is terrific. It’s a school story set in a very recogniseable Dublin. It is hilariously funny at times, it has plot and it has character. I liked it a lot and I think that this is the first time ever that Eileen Battersby (literary editor of the Irish Times) and I have both enjoyed the same book. I liked the nod to the Dublin readership – the two spinsters in the staff room were Miss Birchall and Miss McSorley – named after two well known pubs across the road from each other in a Dublin suburb. If you want more analysis, try my esteemed sister-in-law.

“Carter Beats the Devil” by Glen David Gold

About a magician and a little too clever for its own good but quite entertaining in parts.

“Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide” by Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof

Very readable book about the oppression of women. The authors describe the kind of oppression that everyone can sign up to (women sold into slavery for sex) and deliberately doesn’t address the kind of oppression that might be arguably less clear cut (women driven to prostitution for economic reasons). The authors also suggest that there is merit in making the citizens of Western democracies intimately aware of issues in third world countries as that then has a huge multiplier effect even if it may lead to larger overheads on some occasions. They also ask what we thought Chinese workers were doing before they worked in sweatshops? This is, of course, not to justify appalling labour conditions but to point out that these workers, particularly women, weren’t having a terrific time back on the farm. Again and again they point to examples of the benefits of investing in women’s and how that money goes back into the family and, in particular, education. So, anyhow, in our bookclub, we decided to go off to one of the recommended websites and fund a female entrepreneur. We haven’t actually organised ourselves to do so yet so this is something of a mental bookmark.

“Skulduggery Pleasant Book 5 Mortal Coil” by Derek Landy

Skeleton dectective and sidekick. Book for teenagers set in Dublin. Very good. Yes, your point?

“The Hunger Games” (All three volumes) by Suzanne Collins

Tightly plotted and competently, if not brilliantly, written. Very moreish. Did you know that I had a weakness for teenage science fiction? Well, you do now.

“Unseen Academicals” by Terry Pratchett

Not a classic perhaps but a perfectly acceptable volume of adventures in Ankh-Morpork. Makes soccer palatable.

Written in the stars

13 October, 2010 at 9:49 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel: Mummy are we vegetarians?
Me: No, sweetie we eat meat.
Daniel: No, no, veg-et-tar-ians.
Me (moment of inspiration): Sagittarius?
Daniel: Yes!
Me: No.

Cooking with Children

12 October, 2010 at 9:35 pm by belgianwaffle

The other day I made ginger nuts with the children. This is a very easy and, hitherto, failsafe recipe.

Because our kitchen is somewhat smaller than your kitchen table, I brought the bowls and ingredients into the other room and sat the children around the table to weigh them out. I left Daniel creaming in the butter while I went into the kitchen to get the golden syrup.

The texture was a bit odd when I added the golden syrup but I chucked the biscuits into the oven happily enough. That evening when my brother came around, I offered him one, “Are they undercooked or something?” he asked. I tried one myself, they were utterly vile.

Close cross-questioning of the children revealed that Daniel had eaten the butter.

Pressing Matters

11 October, 2010 at 9:46 pm by belgianwaffle

On Saturday, I went to see number 10, Henrietta Street as part of the Open House weekend where all sorts of places are thrown open to the public. Number 10 is a beautiful former townhouse which has been a convent since the start of the 20th century. It was restored in 2003 and an architect involved in the restoration gave a fantastic tour.

I have fallen in love with Henrietta Street and want to live there. It is quite beautiful to look at with the King’s Inns forming the end of the street and very large early Georgian houses on either side. The area is very urban and edgy (what some people might call rough and dangerous) and the houses are beautiful, listed, huge and, in many cases derelict. As recently as 1974 they were tenements with 36 families living in one of the houses. Hassett and Fitzsimons has one for sale with the fantastically engaging description “unique refurbishment opportunity”. €1.85 million before you have at all begun your unique refurbishing. When I told Mr. Waffle all this with shining eyes on my return, he started to bang his head against the fridge. I suppose my only hope of moving there is either a) win the lottery or b) become a nun.

During the week my brother brought us up an enormous quantity of apples from my parents’ house in Cork. We took ourselves off to West Wicklow on Sunday morning where a look branch of the slow food movement were making an apple pressing machine available to those with plentiful apple crops. This was terrific. There were lots of children to play together while the grown ups made apple juice. Those attending ranged from bohemian couples with children with unlikely names to elderly protestant ladies. Although we were a bit outside the general demographic, it was great fun and I am contemplating shelling out some of my income to be notified of future events where I will be able to overhear more conversations along the lines of “I knew, just by looking at them that your children had to be homeschooled…” and “Have you met …, she’s a herbalist.” Also the Princess made a friend. They discovered that they were both from Dublin and arranged to meet at the Spire. I knew she had met a soulmate when the new friend said to her father, “Daddy, I am meeting my new friend at the Spire, when would be an appropriate time for us to meet.” [Emphasis added] To her great chagrin, her father replied “In about 6 years.”

Architecture 101

11 October, 2010 at 8:29 pm by belgianwaffle

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I See Dead People

10 October, 2010 at 10:01 pm by belgianwaffle

The Town Mouse delegation, being tourists, had been to visit the National Museum and spoke animatedly, if not enthusiastically, about the bog bodies. I think the words TM used were, “Someone should give those bodies a decent burial.”

Not having set foot inside the door of the National Museum since 2008, I decided it was time to bring the children to investigate. I keyed them up the night before, I made popcorn and gave it to them sitting on steps adjacent to the Masonic Hall before going in so that they would not be hungry. We passed through the shop safely and saw two bog bodies which were holding everyone’s interest nicely before Daniel announced that he needed to go to the toilet. This inevitably involved passing the cafe and after that, all was doom and gloom. Michael wept for crisps and did not stop until we got back to the car. The nice Garda who tried to cheer him up was treated with tears for her pains. The Princess ran off twice in a huff.

Culture is very tiring, I find.

Raise your Game

9 October, 2010 at 9:56 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael: The battery on my solar powered lamp needs to be charged.
Me: Well, we’ll put it out in the sun.
Michael: Put it out in the sun, NOW.
Me: Sweetheart, it’s night time, the sun doesn’t shine at night.
Michael (imperiously): Make the sun shine at night!

Pumping

8 October, 2010 at 9:38 pm by belgianwaffle

I was speaking to some new mothers who have recently returned to work and they were speaking about pumping breast milk in the office.

In the case of one, her company had moved to swish new offices while she was on maternity leave made entirely of glass. “Where,” she asked her partners “am I going to pump?” They looked at their feet and suggested a glass room off reception. When she had withered them with a single glance, they suggested the bathroom. She reduced them to little piles of dust and they finally found the one room in the building that was not a toilet, not made of glass and came with a lock.

My other friend travels around for work and has to ask for a room where she can pump. Her favourite was when she was given a room with a CCTV camera.

None of this can cap the story a Finnish friend told me in Brussels. She worked for a very right-on development NGO. One day, while she was pumping at lunch time, her (female) boss came into the office and started talking to her about work. My friend said that this wasn’t a great time for her. Her boss said, “Oh I don’t mind,” and kept talking until my friend pointed out that she DID mind and asked her boss to leave which the boss duly did saying there was no need to be embarrassed.

The whole thing is fraught, I tell you, fraught. Share your own story, ah go on, do.

The Fate of the Number 10 Bus

7 October, 2010 at 9:33 pm by belgianwaffle

Since there seems to be some mild interest in the full page article in an allegedly national daily on the renaming of a local bus route in Dublin, here it is.

Looking on Twitter the other night when I should have been in bed, I see that on Thursday, September 30, Fiona McCann, Irish Times Journalist tweeted as follows:

RT @urchinette Urgently need to talk to people who regularly travel – or used to – on Number 10 bus on Dublin. Please RT, Dublin people!

Who pray is @urchinette? To be fair, she, at least, that this is something only likely to be of interest to Dubliners.

Ah well, here she is, the author of the article:

Twitter people who talked to me about the Number 10 bus – you are brilliant. The piece is in today’s Irish Times: http://bit.ly/9Dpv8O

Lads, is this journalism, really? I don’t mean to be unfair to the author and I suppose it’s a fluffy lifestyle piece that she was asked to do but still and all is it for the likes of this that I fork our my €2 (incl. VAT) of a Saturday morning?

Proud Moment

6 October, 2010 at 9:15 pm by belgianwaffle

Childminder: She wanted to walk home from school rather than take the bus, so she jollied the boys along and we did it.
Me (awed): How long did it take?
Childminder: About 45 minutes.
Michael: Yes, and I’m sore at my leg.
Childminder: She made it a game for the boys.
Michael: And then she threatened to take away my bunny, if I didn’t keep walking.
Princess: Snort.
Me: Well done, sweetheart.
Her: I led the way.
Me: Good for you, how did you come?
Her: The opposite way from how we drive to school..you know we kept walking straight and then turned right by the “video’s, pool, games” shop where the apostrophe is improperly used, then….

Brazen it out

5 October, 2010 at 10:52 pm by belgianwaffle

Colleague: So, despite everything I said, they have moved to this dreadfully rough part of Dublin.
Me (slightly coldly): Actually, that’s around the corner from me.
Her (enthusiastically): Well then, you know how bad it is.

Weekend Round-up

4 October, 2010 at 10:51 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess and I went to the National Gallery on Saturday morning to inspect the Baroque rooms. She has developed an enormous interest in Greek mythology thanks to the Percy Jackson books and I thought we’d have a look at some paintings of Greek gods. Unfortunately, this outing of supreme middle class smugness was spoilt by the fact that they are repairing the roof in that wing. So, instead of looking at art we went up and down in the glass lift several times. When we emerged there were two patient English tourists waiting outside, one of whom was Emma Thompson. Being Irish, I pretended not to notice. Being 7, the Princess didn’t notice but I thought you ought to be told.

On Saturday afternoon we walked in the rain in the Phoenix Park. I seethed that Saturday’s Irish Times, allegedly a national paper, devoted a full page to the discontinuation of a Dublin bus route (the number 10, if you’re asking, in fact, its functions will be taken over by the 46A so it was really more a change of name of a Dublin bus route). That was fun for everyone, as you can imagine.

Saturday evening saw us leaving the children in the hands of an older woman who had moved to Ireland to be near her daughter. For 20 years, she worked for a surgeon in Cannes and she lovingly described his spotless operating theatre. I can’t help feeling she must have been appalled at our bathroom. Sigh. We went out and had dinner in a place specialising in Irish beer. Mr. Waffle tried O’Hara’s on the basis that I used to regularly lunch with one of the co-owners who worked in Brussels at the same time as me. I tried to identify him to Mr. Waffle. “You must remember him,” I said. “He worked in the same office as that fellow whose parents live around the corner from my parents in Cork.” To which, Mr Waffle replied, “This country is far too small, isn’t it?”

On Sunday afternoon, Mr. Waffle had to work but the children and I went out to the parents-in-law and, on the assurance of my mother-in-law that their neighbours had said to help ourselves, hopped over the garden wall and stripped the neighbours’ raspberry canes. This morning we had homemade jam for breakfast made from raspberries which were, only yesterday, basking in the South Co. Dublin sunshine. Oh the unbearable smugness of being.

Last night, I cycled into town to go on a blind date. Town Mouse was visiting and had suggested that we might meet. I’ve only ever met one person through the internet before and so this is all a bit new to me. It is a very odd relationship when you know a lot about what a person chooses to put on his or her blog and not a lot about anything else. Like say, her partner, who is a very distant background presence on the blog but, you know, much more rounded when you actually meet him over dinner. There was so much to talk about and I feel that I didn’t get even half of it in. I feel a bit sad now, that, realistically, unless they start making a habit of coming to Ireland, I will never really know TM and her young man. Still, maybe I will go and visit her and insist on inspecting her vegetable garden which fills me with envy. Though she did cast a pall over my evening by mentioning that she, like my children, was a picky eater when young and now she eats most things “except vegetables beginning with C”. We’re doomed.


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