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Archive for November, 2010

30 Days Hath September, April, June and, mercifully, November

30 November, 2010 at 10:48 pm by belgianwaffle

I’ve used that title before, what of it? Another month of posts complete. You may congratulate me, now maybe, this year I will win one of the prizes.

In completely unrelated news, did I mention that my kind sister is minding the children this weekend so that Mr. Waffle and I can trot off? We booked our weekend away in a balmy September. Where would be nice we said to ourselves? How about Edinburgh? Excellent choice.

In Perfect Harmony

29 November, 2010 at 10:27 pm by belgianwaffle

The weather around here has been snowy and everything is looking beautiful.

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This inspired me to start singing Christmas songs. I was half way through “O Holy Night” over the breakfast table (my family have to put up with a great deal) when Daniel said, “I know that one.” I stopped and smiled encouragingly, “You sing it then, sweetheart.” He began at once, “Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier.”

Maybe Not Entirely Wasted

28 November, 2010 at 10:27 pm by belgianwaffle

The phone rang and the Princess answered. I heard her end of the call. “Yes” she said tersely followed by an equally terse “no”. Then she handed me over the phone. It was my sister calling from America. “Did you feel that your niece was overjoyed to hear your voice?” I asked. “Was it exciting to be greeted by someone so audibly delighted to pick up the phone?” The Princess looked at me balefully and said, “Sarcasm is wasted on the young, you know.”

Reading – Very Short Reviews

27 November, 2010 at 9:27 pm by belgianwaffle

“One Day” by David Nicholls

Not as good as “Starter for Ten”.

“A Hatful of Sky” by Terry Pratchett

Unchallenging. Readable children’s fiction by the man who brought you Discworld.

“Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen

I did not like “The Corrections” very much but I was surprised to find myself really liking this. And there’s nothing like really enjoying a book about middle class middle aged angst and realising that it runs to over 500 pages. Do they not have editors in North America?

Can’t Linger

26 November, 2010 at 10:41 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess and I are up late watching the Late Late Toy Show, along with the nation’s twitterati: I see #LateLateToyShow is trending. Well, it beats the bailout.

Some Thoughts on Race

25 November, 2010 at 10:08 pm by belgianwaffle

When I lived in Brussels, I was once walking in Matonge during the evening and a black woman spat at me. It was a bit disconcerting but I assume you could write it down to madness rather than racial tension.

In the Princess’s class in Belgium, there was a little black boy called Charles. She once said to me that she was one of the Belgians in her class but he was not Belgian. When asked where he was from she couldn’t say but she was adamant that black people couldn’t be Belgian. As she was an Irish child talking about a Belgian little boy, there was some irony there.

Once a Chinese baby looking at the Princess started to cry. “He probably wishes he had Belgian skin like me,” she commented.

I’m sure that racism is alive and well in Ireland but I am glad that it seems to have completely stopped appearing in my daughter’s conversation in the way that it did in Belgium and never appeared on the boys’ radar at all as far as I can see. It’s not all bad here, you know. Though being the centre of European attention as a bush fire that may lead to contagion is about as much fun as you would think it might be. I was at the National History Museum with the kids yesterday (near the Dáil and Government buildings) and the place was heaving with foreign camera crews. If you saw small children in grey uniforms waving behind the reporter who carried the Irish story in your country, they were mine.

Tempting

24 November, 2010 at 9:55 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael does not like much. The long list of foods he will not touch includes sweets. For special occasions he likes crisps (or cwisps as he refers to them).

This morning I got this email from my husband.

From: Husband
Sent: 24 November 2010 12:37
To: Wife
Subject: Sounds like one for Michael

From the journal:

TAYTO PARK: The world’s first theme park dedicated to the humble crisp, Tayto Park, opens today. Launched on 55 acres of Meath farmland by crisp king Ray Coyle, the park will create 85 jobs and offer children the chance to visit Santa, experience a Native American village or, er, eat Irish crisps.

I thought you would like to know.

High Tech – A History

23 November, 2010 at 10:45 pm by belgianwaffle

1970s – That tennis game where you moved a cursor up and down to bounce a tennis ball to your opponent at very low speeds. Also, my cousins’ very exciting video recorder. You could make people go backwards. At speed.
1980s – A pointless course on COBAL in school. My sister’s acquisition of an Apple MAC.
1990 – My first job. The partner with a computer the size of a house on his desk who the other partners all laughed at. The phone that needed its own suitcase when you lugged it on business trips.
1993 – Traineeship in a large organisation. We had some kind of convoluted internal email. All of our usernames consisted of first four letters of surname followed by first two letters of first name. This led to some amusing nicknames. Look, we were trainees.
1995 – Real email in a real job. Windows 95 – Where do you want to go today?
1997 – The boyfriend who said that his Finnish ex-girlfriend said that everyone in Finland has a mobile phone. Complete refusal to believe this was so.
1998 – Become aware of internet shopping and the intranet is hot.
2000 – Marvellous new search engine called hotbot.
2001 – Online travel booking. Put directions to my wedding and other stuff on a website (arranged by technically gifted brother-in-law). Feel like the bees knees.
2002 – First googled, I think. Apparently, Arthur C. Clarke said that trying to get information from the internet was like trying to get a cup of water from a waterfall. He meant before Google.
2003 – Buy a computer for home use. Set up blog. Buy a digital camera.
2004 – Discovered the joys of RSS, I think.
2005 – Joined Flickr.
2006 – Joined Youtube.
2006 – Got my own domain name as my blogging host sinks beneath the waves.
2007 – Joined Facebook.
2007 – Joined Twitter. Gmail, maybe.
2008, 2009, 2010 – Nothing that I can think of. I may be getting old or else I don’t notice the new things any more.

Do you remember when you first googled?

Fat

22 November, 2010 at 10:42 pm by belgianwaffle

Chris Cactus was thinking about fat children on his blog over the summer and contrasting the current crop with his own experience. He got quite a nasty reaction to what seemed to me an uncontroversial post, so I am treading softly here.

Chris’s post started me thinking about the fattest girl in our year in secondary school. One day a group of us were sitting around talking about clothes sizes and she was there. I was fascinated – what would her clothes size be? She was enormous. When she told us her size, it was all I could do not to gasp in amazement. In fact, I was so surprised that I remember to this day what size she said she was. She was a size 12 (that’s 8 in American sizes) and, obviously, in retrospect, not enormous at all. But it makes me realise how skinny we must all have been. It was just normal that teenagers were skinny. That was just the way it was. It wasn’t good or exciting to be skinny, it was normal, ordinary, under-whelming and certainly nothing to be pleased about.

A lot of us cycled to school but certainly not all of us. Cork’s first McDonald’s opened when I was 16 and it was a source of great excitement and interest but I think I only actually crossed the threshold once. I only got sweets and crisps at the weekend, and only then, if we visited my granny who had a stash in the kitchen. Stopping for an ice cream was hugely exciting.

I think that a big part of the problem is that we are so much more affluent in Ireland now than we were in the 70s (although that may be about to change, of course, so watch this space for skinny children) and children expect to get a lot more of everything. Also, I feel that we are not half as good at saying no as our parents were. And our children are getting fatter as a consequence of their expectations and our anxiety to please. What do you think?

Mass Appeal

21 November, 2010 at 3:39 pm by belgianwaffle

In his sermon this morning, the priest told us a story about how he was sitting in the grounds of All Hallows when he was approached by a well dressed woman. She told him with great frankness about her relationship with a married man. And then explained that he was about to be sent abroad by his company. She said that she did not think that she could live without him and asked the priest to pray that he would not be sent abroad after all. Two questions occur. Firstly, why would she think that this was a good line to take with a priest? Secondly, why would the priest think that this was a good story to tell at the children’s mass?

Later there was a collection for the Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers Society. Daniel got a pile of change from his father but kept back 2 coins for himself to buy sweets after mass. I pointed out that the collection was for people who didn’t have enough food or clothes. “Alright,” he said reluctantly, “I’ll put one coin in the collection.” I suppose we have to consider this to be the equivalent of the widow’s mite.

Ireland’s National Sport

20 November, 2010 at 11:16 pm by belgianwaffle

I think I have written before about how surprised I was to come back from 5 years abroad and discover that rugby had become Ireland’s national sport. It suffered from a number of difficulties in the past, namely, the GAA used to frown on “foreign games” and it’s dangerous – particularly for amateurs. On the plus side, it seems to be the only team sport where we do well in international competition. Now the GAA doesn’t care and my sons are coached by Daddies in rugby shirts. It’s still dangerous though.

Regular readers will recall that my children go to an Irish language school. For historical reasons, one might not expect that to be a bastion of rugby. Further, the Princess’s teacher is from Mayo. Insofar as there is national expertise in rugby, its seat is emphatically not in the West of Ireland. This has not deterred this teacher who is an avid rugby fan. During gym, my daughter’s class have been practicising the haka. She has taught her brothers. They look deeply alarming when they do this. We all sat and watched the New Zealand players doing their haka this evening before Ireland proceeded to lose to New Zealand. As I have previously mentioned, the Princess knows all the words to Ireland’s call and sang along with gusto. Where will it all end?

More Customer Service

19 November, 2010 at 10:17 pm by belgianwaffle

When I first got my own car, about 15 years ago, I went to my father’s insurance broker for cover. The broker is based in Cork and I live in Dublin and, from time to time, I have considered changing to a Dublin broker but I never got around to it. Today, I called the broker to check something on my renewal quote. Our conversation went like this:

Me: Hello, I’d like to check etc.
Him: That’s Anne, is it? I’ll get your file.

I haven’t spoken to him in a year or more and he still recognised me on the phone straight away. He didn’t need my insurance number, my surname, my date of birth, my phone number or a six digit activation code to find my file. I don’t think that his brokerage will be losing my custom any time soon.

And in completely unrelated news, the Princess lost her front tooth last night (a dramatic event I completely missed since I was out winning the office pub quiz with my crack team). Now she looks like this.

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I’ve been saving this

18 November, 2010 at 11:01 pm by belgianwaffle

My friend J who sometimes sends me things from Brussels sent me an email about an event in Anderlecht. Anderlecht is an urban cutting edge commune (some people might call it rough but, as someone who lives across the road from a boarded up house, I wouldn’t).

The event is called “Action « crottes de chiens » ce samedi à Anderlecht”. No, you have not misunderstood – it’s called “Action “dog poo” this Saturday in Anderlecht.” I suppose I should contextualise this by saying that there is more dog poo on the pavements of Belgium than there is anywhere else in the developed world but it still doesn’t stop it being odd, I think you will agree.

For any francophones among you, the full text is reproduced below. Let me translate some highlights:

This is a festival to make dog “poo-poo” owners aware of their responsibilities.

On the agenda for the day is a “Poo parade” [which will open with] a float with a giant dog poo which the students from the local school have designed…

People often ask me whether I miss Belgium – well, I think you would only get the crotte parade in Belgium; it’s the home of surrealism for a reason, you know.

*******************************************************************
[L]es comités de quartier des Etangs et Frans Hals à Anderlecht organisent une opération festive de sensibilisation des propriétaires de chiens baptisée « Crotti-Crotta ». Le but: leur rappeler leurs responsabilités (chiens en laisse et ramassage des crottes) de manière ludique. Cette action a été initiée par la cellule de sensibilisation Propreté de l’échevine Monique Cassart en collaboration avec la Maison de la Participation dans le cadre de la campagne RéapPROPRiez vous votre commune.

Au programme de cette journée, une grande « Parade de la crotte », qui débutera à 14h rue Frans Hals. Un char avec une crotte géante, réalisée par les élèves de l’école P18, ouvrira le cortège. Des flyers et des sacs à crotte seront distribués aux propriétaires de chiens par les habitants du quartier et les élèves de l’école.

Cette parade se rendra place Bizet avant de rejoindre le terrain Marius Renard où une démonstration de la brigade canine est entre autres prévue à 16h. Cette journée, qui se veut avant tout festive, se clôturera par un barbecue au parc Marius Renard.

Par ailleurs, ces deux comités de quartier ont convaincu deux grandes enseignes commerciales des environs de vendre du matériel de ramassage. En effet, ce n’est pas tout d’obliger les propriétaires de chiens à ramasser leurs crottes, encore faut-il que ce matériel soit facilement accessible au public, et pas uniquement dans les magasins spécialisés.

Bicycle Racks are a Feminist Issue. Maybe.

17 November, 2010 at 8:19 pm by belgianwaffle

I go to a number of conferences in the course of my work and there are always more men than women on the podium and, regardless of the gender make-up of the audience, there are always more men who ask questions than women. Why should that be? And why is it that that would be true pretty much in any line of work, even in professions like teaching which are female dominated? And is it only women who ever notice this? Why do I spend all my time counting? I see over on twitter that Suzy Byrne has made a campaign of counting the number of female panellists on Vincent Browne’s current affairs programme (not very many, if I might summarise).

The other night I was unlocking my bike from the rack and two (male colleagues) were there with their bikes also – I have a child seat on the back and they commented that they had been wondering who owned it. “I do,” I said, “bringing gender balance to the bike rack.” “Eh?” they asked. “Haven’t you noticed that there are never any other women’s bikes on the rack?” I said. They looked at me in surprise and amusement, no they would never in a life time have noticed. Could it be that I am overcounting?

Do you spend your time counting?

Brave New World

16 November, 2010 at 8:06 pm by belgianwaffle

The boys’ teacher tells me they were doing animals at school. “We had F [whose father is German] tell us the names in German; then R [recently returned from Italy with parents who speak Irish to him at home – Irish and Italian good, English possibly shaky] told us the words in Italian and I said twinnies [mental note that despite her protestations she does not always recognise the boys’ individuality, also, is twinnies an Irish word?] what are these animals in French?”

Apparently Daniel was quicker off the mark than Michael which may explain why Michael, who usually is the most anti -French, reproached me for not teaching them more French.

It’s all very different from when I was in school and the most exotic girl in the class was half-Dublin.

Reinforcing Stereotypes

15 November, 2010 at 9:39 pm by belgianwaffle

I came into work this morning with a nasty head cold. I whined about my misery to my boss, a sober, pleasant woman of a certain age. “Would you like a hot whiskey?” she asked. “You have whiskey in the office?” I asked. “Of course,” she replied, “for medicinal reasons.”

Would any other office worker who has been offered whiskey by a superior at 9 in the morning please put up his or her hand? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Time is the Enemy

14 November, 2010 at 1:29 pm by belgianwaffle

I am just about to leave my parents’ house to get the train back to Dublin. My poor husband and children have not seen me all weekend. My mother is sad to see me go – my father is too, in his own way, I’m sure though I suspect it is a mild relief that no one will leave the doors open once I go. I hardly saw my beloved aunt who lives next door to my parents. I did not get to tidy out my old room (task list from 1993) or sort out my poor sister’s broken car window. And I have work papers in my bag that I will have to read on the train because staying late at work is a luxury I no longer enjoy. Sometimes it feels like there just isn’t enough of me to go around.

Home Alone

13 November, 2010 at 10:50 pm by belgianwaffle

I am not quite sure how I managed to swing this but I am in Cork with my parents and without my children. Mr. Waffle is at home minding the fort with the aid of the Dublin relatives. I found a reference to my father-in-law’s company on a techie site and sent him the link asking whether he recognised the company and he replied:

Some fly-by-night outfit: however, one of their founding members is with a hot new start-up, providing new concepts in grand-fathering, child avoidance for stressed parents, etc.

A sure-fire winner-invest all you’ve got, even putting off the garden shed project.”

I hope that this doesn’t mean part of the crack baby sitting team is tiring.

This morning I did not get up until TEN O’CLOCK. Imagine that. I went into the Crawford Gallery and saw a very interesting, and very beautiful exhibition of 17th and early 18th century Irish portraits and had some deep thoughts about Irish identity and how it is intertwined with that of our larger neighbour but they have seeped out of my head in the course of the day. Many of the portraits had detailed descriptions, some of which assumed a knowledge of 17th century Irish affairs which, in my case, at least, was not warranted. The syntax was also occasionally mangled. The whole effect was enlightening just not, perhaps, as enlightening as the curator might have hoped. I remain confused about how Wentworth died and why his daughter’s marriage might have made matters better for him. Particularly since he was dead. Perhaps I need to go back and have another look.

On returning home, I noted that my sister’s car which was parked outside my parents’ house had had its rear window smashed in. The guards came (my, aren’t they getting younger?), sympathised, identified the problem as someone “running the car” pointing to the large footprints on the bonnet and roof. A whole new world of vandalism. I asked them whether my sister would be getting a letter from them asking whether she, as a victim of crime, needed counselling to come to terms with her experience as Mr. Waffle had when he had reported his bike as stolen. They snorted and said, “probably”. I feel they may not be completely on message about the standard letters which issue to the victims of crime.

Then, I went out in the rain and taped on a black plastic bag. I left a doleful message on my sister’s voicemail which I am sure made her morning in Chicago (where she is on holidays, try to keep up).

Then, my mother and I went out for an elaborate and expensive afternoon tea and did some mild shopping. It was all very pleasant aside from the nagging guilt about Mr. Waffle at home minding the children. Even with team in-law fully deployed – the boys are sleeping over with their cousins tonight – two days full time sole parenting while also very busy working is trying. I feel his domestic credit is in the stratosphere.

Reading

12 November, 2010 at 8:17 pm by belgianwaffle

“Started Early, Took my Dog” by Kate Atkinson

Another Jackson Brodie adventure. I love Kate Atkinson. I think that she is one of the best living authors. Great plots, beautifully written – a rare and wonderful combination.

“Yeah, Right Get a Life” by Helen Simpson

A series of short stories that, in some cases, capture more accurately than anything else I have ever read, the relentlessness of caring for small children. Very good.

“Ship of Fools” by Fintan O’Toole

This is a very depressing read. It’s by an Irish Times journalist who is pretty annoyed about the particular way Ireland chose to blow the boom. It reminds readers of old scandals and weaves a pretty convincing thesis that these are linked to the Irish psyche and the kind of mess we got ourselves into. On the minus side, the book doesn’t have any kind of bibliography or sources which is, I think, pretty poor for this kind of book. He excuses this at the beginning by saying: “Since this book is intended as a polemical, rather than a historical or academic work, it does not have an apparatus of references and footnotes. All of the facts and statistics used here, are, however, easily available online…” Frankly, this is a bit of a cop out, isn’t it? Nevertheless, it’s very readable. It’s main conclusion is that Ireland’s jump from pre-industrial to post-modern which we all thought was terrific was actually a big part of the problem. He argues that we fitted globalisation on 19th century structures and ideas and they just couldn’t bear the weight of the 21st century world. There are certainly plenty of holes to pick but he maks a good argument which, is, I suppose, the point of a polemic.

Tomorrow, I will be buying lottery tickets

11 November, 2010 at 10:34 pm by belgianwaffle

This week:

The revenue finally admitted that, yes, we were right about our tax affairs and refunded two large cheques;

While going through cards I had kept (wedding, christenings, birthday) for many years but finally decided to throw out due to space restrictions, a crisp €50 note floated out of a christening card for the Princess where it had been waiting for 7 years to surprise us (belated thanks, Aunty Pat);

At work, a measure which I had strenuously resisted when initially decided upon in the summer and which, despite my objections, I have had to work hard on intermittantly ever since, has been dumped;

An emergency job which had to be finished for noon tomorrow and threatened to ruin many evenings this week, turned out not to be an emergency, allowing breathing space and bedtime stories;

A report which I wrote, and which has languished for an ominous length of time on the desk of the capo di tutti capi, has been approved for issue without amendment;

The man from the cable company rang up saying he had to put a cable underground through the overgrown side passage. I sighed mildly at the inconvenience and he said, there’s no point haggling, my best offer is free cable tv and internet for life. Really. I’m going to ask him to put that in writing.

Would you care to touch the hem of my garment?

A Project for the Long Winter Evenings

10 November, 2010 at 10:46 pm by belgianwaffle

We have an art deco table that Mr. Waffle brought to our marriage. He had it when I met him. He picked it up cheap from a charity shop in Brussels. When I first met it, I didn’t like it and I regarded its entrance into my life with considerable misgivings but after ten years of eating at it, reading at it, doing homework at it, working at it and telling children to stop standing on it, I have grown fond of it. It is both too big and too dark for our tiny house but I wouldn’t think of saying goodbye to it now.

But, it was old when Mr. Waffle bought it, and, though sturdy, ten years of family life have taken their toll on its surfaces. I saw this article over on design sponge and thought I would try to “refresh my table”. And now, let me tell you about my progress.

First, Design Sponge says, get the following materials:

* Murphy’s Oil soap
* Watco Teak Oil
* Howard Feed-N-Wax
* fine sand paper (super fine can be used, as well)
* lint-free rags

So, after GAA on Saturday morning, I took the boys to Woodie’s DIY superstore. Michael refused to remove his studs and tripped up and down the aisles sounding like a manual typewriter on overdrive as I tried to find my materials. Unsurprisingly, Woodie’s didn’t have the American products the names of which I had printed out and I looked for alternatives. The woman at information was able to point me in the direction of teak oil and wax but she was baffled by the oil soap. We were unable to explore this in the detail I would have liked as the boys were tugging at me, anxious that I should not miss the display of 50 swaying Santas in aisle 3. As I hovered anxiously over different types of teak oil, Michael announced, “I want to do a wee,” seeing my face like thunder, he added nervously “but I can wait.” I wasn’t sure how reliable that information was so I swept up everything I could find and began to hunt for a substitute for oil soap. In desperation, I approached a man who looked like a builder and he kindly pointed me towards sugar soap and I decided to give it a go.

Last night, I decided to begin the process hauling my materials out from under the stairs. This is step 1:

1. Map out the “trouble” areas on your piece, such as stains, water damage, ink and scuff marks and sand them lightly. When working with wood, always remember to sand with the grain. If you start sanding like a crazy person, you will ruin your finish!

So, I started with the paint marks. Our childminder had let the children paint on the table without covering it with paper with predictable results. She also let them wear their school uniforms. When her idiocy was pointed out to her, she shrugged her shoulders and said that it would come out. The disadvantage of having a French childminder. I have never sanded before. I was a bit unclear as to what sanding lightly might consist of. The table has a diamond in the middle made out of four pieces of wood, this is set in a larger diamond, which in turn is surrounded by four pieces of wood and then another 4 and then the whole has a rectangular wooden frame. This means that the wood grain on the table top goes 24 different ways. This is not where the amateur sander should start. I have also discovered what “sanding like a crazy person” means and it is not at all as enthusiastic as you might think.

On to step 2:

2. When you’re done sanding, clean the piece with Murphy’s Oil soap. This gets all the dirt, dust and grime off the piece and leaves a nice, clean surface for you to work with.

The sugar soap seemed to do a good job and, aside from a mild concern about the apocalyptic warnings on the side of the packet as to what would happen to people who didn’t wear gloves when applying it, I felt very pleased with myself. Onwards to step 3:

3. Apply the Watco Teak Oil. Soak your rag and rub the entire piece down. Wait 10 minutes and with a clean rag, wipe off the excess oil. Depending on how thirsty the wood is, you can do two or three coats of the oil. One of the great things about using oil to refresh furniture is that it restores the color and grain and seals the finish from the inside out.

The teak oil was great stuff. I soaked my rag (finally a use for that torn sheet of Great Aunt Cecilia’s which was in the back of the hot press) and applied liberally. The warnings on the teak oil bottle were even more alarming than those on the sugar soap. Particularly the one about using it only in a well-ventilated area. As I sat down to watch the second half of the nine o’clock news, the table started to give me a headache. Obviously, the wood, which hadn’t been oiled in the 10 years we owned it and possibly not in the 70 years before that, was thirsty. On the other hand, the teak oil bottle announced that I could not reappy for 4 to 8 hours. I think Design Sponge’s instructions may have been designed for someone who a) could take the furniture to a well-ventilated area and who b) wasn’t relying on that furniture to be available 10 hours later for family breakfast.

I decided one coat of teak oil was enough which even at the time, I suspected might be a fatal mistake. I took Great Aunt Cecilia’s torn sheet and laid it out flat in the back garden where it could be rained on. Mr. Waffle felt I was taking too much to heart the instructions which warned of spontaneous combustion if the teak oil rag wasn’t dried flat but still, is that something you would want to store under the stairs?

I decided to be first up in the morning and see how matters stood. As it happened, I was up with one of the children during the night and I was tempted to go down at 5 in the morning and apply another coat of teak oil. Two things deterred me, firstly, the fact that my teak oil rag was out in the storm and secondly, I still had my teak oil headache from earlier. Needless to say, I was not first up and even, if I had been, I don’t really think I would have applied another coat of teak oil just before the children started in on their corn flakes.

So, on to step 4:
4. When you’re done oiling and the piece is dry to the touch, you’re ready for the final step. Apply the Howard Feed-N-Wax generously with a rag and after about 20 minutes, wipe off any excess.

I had to go to work after the cornflakes. On Wednesdays, I collect the children from school but today, Mr. Waffle kindly took on that task while I waxed the table. Depressingly, it looked a lot better before the wax went on. The wax seemed to highlight some old scars I hadn’t noticed and also the crazy person sanding. And the fact that two corners are really very worn. I regret not going for the second layer of teak oil now.

Epilogue:
Mr. Waffle washed the teak oil rag because he is a good kind husband. Unfortunately, he threw it in with the children’s bedclothes which now smell faintly of teak oil. This is almost certainly bad.

You do realise that this is only the table top and I still have to do sides, leaves, legs and the piece of wood connecting the legs?

Would you like to see the table top?

012“>

See what I mean about constant use?

The Night of the Big Wind

9 November, 2010 at 10:16 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess is doing a project on hurricanes in school. Her father and I told her about the Irish hurricane; probably the only hurricane which has been used to test pension entitlements. I read her out the entry on the “big wind” from the Oxford Companion to Irish History:

“big wind”, the storm which ravaged Ireland, particularly the west, north and midlands, on the night of Sunday, 6 January 1839. High winds uprooted trees, destroyed buildings, killed livestock and, in built-up areas, spread fires. Although one newspaper put total deaths at 300 or more, a suvey of contemporary reports has found about 90 documented fatalities, 37 of them at sea. When old-age pensions were introduced in 1909 memories of the storm were one of the tests used to identify persons over 70.

Herself was spectacularly uninterested in this piece of national memory but the “big wind” looms large in the national imagination, you know, as kick-starting a series of disasters: first the big wind, then the famine, then mass emigration, then the failed 1848 uprising, then the sacrifice of our first born children to the subordinated bond holders and so on. You too may be uninterested in the “big wind” especially if you live in a country that has had a hurricane since 1839 but today is day 9 of Nablopomo and I am finding it a bit difficult to think of anything to post. Never mind, only 21 days to go.

In other news, today my sister is celebrating her birthday in Hawaii. I am not envious. Personally, I find November rain invigorating. Particularly on a bicycle.

Recession, what recession?

8 November, 2010 at 10:58 pm by belgianwaffle

On a rainy Monday in November, I rang the Winding Stair to book a table for 3 for dinner. We’re fully booked but maybe we can squeeze in your group at 6 or 9.30? In the end we went to FXB’s and got the last table. If the IMF is on the doorstep, no one’s told the punters.

Compare and Contrast

7 November, 2010 at 9:48 pm by belgianwaffle

I booked tickets for the national concert hall recently and a nice man answered the phone immediately, talked me through my options, I booked my tickets and they were sent out by post.

Today I wanted to book tickets for a show in the Olympia Theatre. The Olympia has decided to dispense with the person in the foyer who takes bookings and has instead entered into a deal with Satan. Sorry, ticketmaster. So I telephoned ticketmaster and made my way through the poorly organised menu – am I going to a particular location, family event or a concert? no, a play but there’s no button to press for that, go for location and know that this is going to end in tears but nevertheless say Olympia theatre clearly into the phone. I then waited 15 minutes until a man from the North of England came onto the phone to take my booking. A perfectly nice man, I hasten to add, and it’s hardly his fault that by the time his customers come on the line they are always a bit peeved after the long wait time. But he’s not exactly a local who knows the layout of the theatre, is he? In any event, the wretched thing was booked out.

There must be a moral here somewhere.

Another Belated Birthday

6 November, 2010 at 10:03 pm by belgianwaffle

A description of Michael at 5 and a little bit.

He is very relaxed about school work. He is brilliant at cards and inclined to let his siblings win, if they seem cranky. He has an excellent memory and will, disconcertingly, bring up things you have said many months ago and demand that they be delivered now. He has a will of iron and he never lets anything go. He has, alas, started to bite his nails.

If you empty a box of lego on the table and ask Michael to find the one millimetre piece you need which is the only one in the box, he will find it in seconds.

His father sometimes calls him “bat boy” as when he gets upset or indignant his voice rises several octaves and his words are on a frequency too high for human ears. He is the smallest of the children and it sometimes feels that he acts as a punch bag for his heftier siblings, so he has much to complain about. But he doesn’t stint. He almost never resorts to physical violence but whether that is due to virtue or naked self-interest is unclear.

The other night he asked me who he could marry and whether it would be a boy or a girl. He then decided that he would marry a boy in his class and instantly began to worry that this 6 year old might choose someone else. A modern twist on a classic dilemma.

Michael demands instant resolution of all of his problems. This can be tiresome as when he grabs your chin, twists your face around and says sternly, “Listen to me.” When he puts something down, he frowns ferociously at the people in the room and says, “Nobody touch this.” Fortunately this hectoring is offset by considerable charm. He loves to chat to new people and will always be the first to volunteer when volunteers are sought from a room full of people – even if everyone else is an adult. Shyness seems unknown to him. However, for all his love of new people, he is not at all keen on new places and, when away, he pines for home. He is ferociously attached to things and watches me like a hawk to make sure I throw nothing out. The other day he said to me, “STOP, don’t throw that out!” “Michael, it’s the paper bag that your lunchtime sandwich was in.” He replied coldly, “Get it out of the bin, I could use it.”

Michael eats nothing other than fish fingers; yorkshire pudding; pasta with spinach and ricotta inside; breakfast cereal; bread and jam; porridge, Knorr chicken noodle soup and crisps. He does not like sweets or chocolate. Which is odd, surely.

And we love him.

009

Belated Birthday Wishes

5 November, 2010 at 11:02 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel was five on the 27th of September. So let me record what he’s like at 5 a mere month or so after his birthday.

He is very competitive and he howls when he loses and kind of game, including “who’ll be first up the stairs to bed ?”. He is a perfectionist and very annoyed when things don’t go just right. You haven’t lived until you have seen him explain, severely, to a younger team mate why an own goal is not as good as one scored into the opposition’s net. Since he is also the loudest child you may ever have met, if you were within a one mile radius of the pitch, you would have heard him.

Part of this perfectionism means that he is very thorough at homework and anxious to do Michael’s also to help him ensure that he has it right. But Daniel actually enjoys his homework and is working hard at learning to read which is finally beginning to yield results.

He is short tempered and inclined to bash his siblings when things don’t go his way. Though he is always very contrite, if he hurts them.

He is brilliant at accents though not always familiar with their origins. The other evening he was, for his own obscure reasons, chatting with his siblings in a strong Liverpool accent. “What accent is that?” I asked. “Spanish,” he replied.

He is a fast runner and holds himself very upright at all times including when running which makes him look extremely cute. He has good ball sense and really enjoys Gaelic games on Saturday morning. The Kilkenny hurling coach is particularly serious about the game and as players (4 and 5 year olds, remember) were being doled out one Saturday, he said to me, “Give me the guy with the glasses” and took Danny off to be a member of the elite squad while Michael tipped around with boys who could not yet pick up a bean bag with their hurleys. If he could, Daniel would spend all his time kicking a ball to a grown-up.

Daniel loves jokes although he has a very limited understanding as to their nature. He can be quite serious and thoughtful but when he laughs it is very infectious. He seems to be able to make and keep friends which is a useful skill.

Whenever I read him a story, he always wants me to put my arm around him. He is a great child for hugs and is always willing to dole them out to his mother. He often says, “I love you, Mummy” and is not discouraged by his sister saying disapprovingly “This is horribly lovey-dovey.” He is aware of the world around him and comments on my appearance, new clothes and new things in the house. He always wants to get to the bottom of things and he tries to reason out what’s happening or how new information he has acquired fits into his existing stock of information sometimes with comical results but woe betide you, if he suspects you of laughing at him. He is also sensitive to others and how they might be feeling which I think is unusual in a small child.

He eats nothing savoury other than yorkshire pudding and gravy; bread and butter; broccoli; pizza; and fishfingers and ketchup. All forms of meat are anaethema to him.

And we love him.

018

A Quarrel in a Far-away Country

4 November, 2010 at 11:51 pm by belgianwaffle

I had lunch with my friend R, the other day. He was just back from 6 weeks in Kabul. He spent almost all of that time in his hotel/office. When he left for a meeting, he went in an armoured vehicle. He was accompanied by another armoured vehicle, in case the first one exploded (though I don’t quite see how this would be useful to him) and a soft shell vehicle (what we would call, a car, I think) with four armed men. He said that he felt he was driving around shouting “target here, target here, kidnap me.” The only time he ever went out without armed support was the one time he was dropped to the wrong building. He rang the bodyguard people and they picked him up and dropped him to another wrong building. Realising that his actual destination was very nearby he decided to walk it. “Was he scared?” “Very scared.”

Not as scared though as the time he was at a meeting in the presidential compound and my friend’s bodyguard said, “We have to go now, there’s a suicide bomber outside.” He was the only non-Afghan in the building as it happened. I was a bit unclear about why the Afghans weren’t evacuated also, as was he, but he was not in a position to argue. When they got to the gate, the bodyguard told him to wait and went to get the armoured car. My friend did think, “Hey, a minute ago I was in a protected armoured building, now I’m standing at the gate, how is this better?” But all was well.

His most notable day was one when there were bombs in the morning, rats in his office in the afternoon and an earthquake in the middle of the night. In telling this story, he seemed equally shocked by each element which may, I think, show that he has been in war zones for too long. On his way back, he was stuck in Yerevan for five days [gasp of awe, if you can identify the country of which Yerevan is the capital without recourse to google]. Now, he is off to the Sudan for three months which should make a peaceful change after the rigours of Kabul. Since it’s all about me, me, me, I instantly asked whether we could stay in his house in Cork for Christmas as he will be in the Sudan and we could look after it for him. He very kindly said yes, tactfully not adverting to the fact that the last time we “looked after” his house we broke the washing machine. Good, good, good.

Correspondence

3 November, 2010 at 8:08 pm by belgianwaffle

When I got home from work this evening, there was an envelope by my bed with the words “To Mummy” on it in the Princess’s handwriting. I gazed at it fondly and then I opened it, this is what it said:

“Micel is a cruel stuck-up idiotic prig and a loser but he’s ashamed to admit it. If you are going to deal with him anser here.”

Underneath there is a line for my comments. Poor Micel, he crosses his sister at his peril.

Fiscal Irresponsibility Starts at Home

2 November, 2010 at 8:54 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael said to me recently: Money is good but credit cards are gooder. With credit cards you can buy anything you want and you don’t have to pay any money.

I tried to put him right but he explained to me that he had seen credit cards in operation in the toy shops and knew that his approach worked. I fear that he may not realise what people are saying about this attitude.

In his defence, he is only five. I hope the subordinated bond holders will let him off with a stern talking to.

Why would I do this again?

1 November, 2010 at 12:49 am by belgianwaffle

It’s November, so I will be posting every day. As I have done every November since 2006. Look at that, longevity, on the internet.


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