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Archive for June, 2011

Old News from the Internet

29 June, 2011 at 11:01 pm by belgianwaffle

I have nothing to post. So, for want of something better, I’m going to share with you, some links I thought were entertaining in 2009. Don’t all rush at once.

So, here they are:
– my perennial favourite topic, child rearing;
lecturers’ sins as confessed by an academic;
– my favourite, the obsessive French person’s holiday planner;
– and, for aficionados only, Beaker sings Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy“.

There could be more of this.

Ask the Internet

28 June, 2011 at 9:12 pm by belgianwaffle

Email to seed vendor:


I bought your suburban garden seed pack and something is flourishing in my back garden. Unfortunately, I lost the packet and I have no idea what it is. Do I dig up the root and boil it or put vinaigrette on the leaves, or is it some kind of cabbage? I attach some photos and would really appreciate your advice.

Thanks very much.

Picture accompanying image:

info@irishseedsavers.ie 001

Google image search unhelpfully offered this.

In fairness to the seed people, they got back to me:

Sorry to have taken awhile getting back to you, I have showed your photos to a few of the guys here, and we are all under the impression that it may be a cauliflower or cabbage, but whatever it is you should thin it out and leave to it grow a bit longer. I’m sure you can eat the leaves lightly steamed would be good, if there looks to be a good root growing it may be a swede or turnip. Sorry I can’t be of more help and we don’t have any set of seed we give out in those starter packs just easy to grow varieties.

good eating
All the best

But I don’t think it looks like any cauliflower or cabbage I have ever seen, although I take the point about thinning. Any ideas? I’m looking at you townmouse.

What’s it like when you get home from work?

27 June, 2011 at 10:15 pm by belgianwaffle

I steel myself slightly as I walk in the door. The troops are always delighted to see me as each has been storing up grievances since earlier in the day which he or she would like to share, ideally, before I take off my coat.

The children accost me from all sides with competing tales of their activities. If I am first home, I try to hear from the childminder how the day went but it is always “fine”. I am, in any event, constantly interrupted by the clamour of children demanding to tell me their news and physically pinioning me to the couch. The boys have no sense of timing and always choose this moment to ask for a story or that I superglue some broken toy. Often there are offerings of colourings or drawings. The fight for my attention sometimes breaks down into open warfare. I know what Oliver James would say about this but I am humming with my fingers in my ears.

If Mr. Waffle is home before me, the childminder has gone (good) and he is in the kitchen making dinner (also good). Homework has to be done after we return from work and is invariably tedious and takes a great deal longer than might reasonably be expected due to resistance from the staff side.

Dinner follows. This exercise invariably depresses both parents as, pretty much regardless of what is served up, the boys will refuse to eat it. Consequently, I suppose, the boys desire to sit at the dinner table is somewhere around nil. Much of dinner is spent saying “Please sit down” through gritted teeth.

After the children clear the table and receive a biscuit reward, we begin the long slow slide to bedtime. Teeth, toilet, pyjamas, smiley face [elaborate and probably over-generous reward system for good behaviour] for the boys. And then, my favourite part of the evening with them, reading a story. I am reading “The Folk of the Faraway Tree” by Enid Blyton at the moment. My mother said that this is the book that taught me to read as she simply couldn’t face reading it aloud. I am finding it delightfully nostalgic though I can perceive dimly why she might have been nauseated by the cast of pixies, brownies, elves and cute little bunnies. And the boys enjoy it so much. Michael is agog with excitement. One night, I went upstairs at 10 and he was still awake staring at the bottom of the upper bunk. “Why are you still awake?” I asked. “I’m thinking about Connie and hoping she gets back to the Faraway Tree.”

And then smiley face for herself, and then upstairs with her to see her into bed. She is always slightly hysterical in the bathroom; I assume from exhaustion. Then she hops into bed with her book and I retreat warily downstairs. The boys then have to be supplied with cuddles and hot water bottles.

On a good night, nobody comes downstairs and our work is done by the nine o’clock news and we sit in front of it with tea and feel middle aged. On a bad night, one or two children come down. Daniel, very virtuously, never comes down. Michael often comes down to allege violence. The other night he arrived down weeping because he had dropped a €2 coin in his eye. He now has a crescent shaped bruise on his eyelid.

At 10 o’clock, having seen to the laundry, Mr. Waffle often retires. He believes that, if he left the laundry to me, we would never have a clean stitch. I like to believe that this isn’t true. Sometimes I sit up late into the night playing on the internet.

Everything is better on Wednesdays as I don’t work on Wednesday afternoons and the house is tidy, homework is done and dinner is ready at 6.30 [which is when we usually get home]. Unfortunate but there it is. I am [Americans please look away] taking 2 months off this summer between holidays and parental leave [unpaid, but my husband has promised to keep me] and it starts at the end of this week on July 1. Rejoice with me, if you can stand to. I feel it will make for a much more serene home life. And the children won’t have to go to course after course, a less than satisfactory solution to school holidays employed in the past. I wouldn’t describe my colleagues as ecstatic about this development but they are resigned.

And now tell me, what do you do of an evening?

A Broad Church

26 June, 2011 at 10:08 pm by belgianwaffle

Our local church has an annual trip to a outdoor play area for children and their parents. It was held yesterday and, as we sat there in the drizzle, getting sunburnt (welcome to the Irish summer), I was chatting to another mother about what secondary schools our children might go to – a topic that fills me with gloom and dread as I continue to do nothing about it.

Her: What about school x?
Me: Mmm, not sure.
Her: You’re probably too late anyhow, unless you’re Church of Ireland?
Me: For heaven’s sake, of course I’m not C of I, we’re on the [catholic] church outing.
Her: Actually, I am C of I.
Me: But you go to mass every Sunday.
Her: Yes. Well, it’s a trek to a C of I church.
Me: And your daughter’s an altar girl.
Her: Yes.
Me: In fact, I thought you were a particularly devout Catholic.
Her: Well, I am devout, I’m just not picky.

Dragging the Devil by the Tail or A Sad Litany of Failure

24 June, 2011 at 10:04 pm by belgianwaffle

OK, this happened months ago but the pain is still fresh. I appreciate the post is stale.

12.00 – Go to meeting.
17.00 – Meeting ends. Return to office to find all kinds of urgent messages. Urgent, urgent, urgent matter must be attended to. Ring husband to say I will be late home. Find text message from him that he is in a meeting and can I be home to relieve the babysitter. Tackle urgent matter at great speed.
18.00 – Urgent matter dispatched in record time while eating lunch. Go multi-tasking [faintly Bridget Jonesish] me.
18.05 – Hop on Dublin bike.
18.20 – 18.45 Cycle around looking for a rack to park my bike. Fail to find one.
18.50 – Arrive home. Stash bicycle in the back garden. Husband is there before me, face like thunder.
19.00 – Announce I will cancel dinner out. Am told not to. Slink out in disgrace.
23.00 – Decide not to drive around city looking for place to stash Dublin bike.
9.00 – Regret previous evening’s decision on discovering that charges for keeping the bike overnight are astronomical. Alas.

The Arts

23 June, 2011 at 11:28 pm by belgianwaffle

God, this is going to sound like something Fintan O’Toole would say. But, why are we always so down on the arts?

We always want engineers and doctors and lawyers and accountants but nobody points out how much we need artists and actors and potters and all the people who make places worth living in, in the first place [except Fintan O’Toole, of course].

Why is studying maths in school taken so much more seriously than art? I mean, to do the arts well, like, say, a good play, don’t you need to be very disciplined? Don’t you need all the skills that employers are apparently crying out for in the workplace like creativity and teamwork and communication? Why do I feel though that if employers are given a choice between a candidate who got an A in maths and one who starred in the school play, they’ll always go for the maths guy. Is that unfair?

Have a poem by Wendy Cope which is not quite on message but does also juxtapose the arts and hard science.

Engineers’ Corner

Why isn’t there an Engineers’ Corner in Westminster Abbey? In Britain we’ve always made more fuss of a ballad than a blueprint … How many schoolchildren dream of becoming great engineers?
Advertisement placed in The Times by the Engineering Council

We make more fuss of ballads than of blueprints —
That’s why so many poets ends up rich,
While engineers scrape by in cheerless garrets.
Who needs a bridge or dam? Who needs a ditch?

Whereas the person who can write a sonnet
Has got it made. It’s always been the way,
For everybody knows that we need poems
And everybody reads them every day.

Yes, life is hard if you choose engineering —
You’re sure to need another job as well;
You’ll have to plan your projects in the evenings
Instead of going out. It must be hell.

While well-heeled poets ride around in Daimlers,
You’ll burn the midnight oil to earn a crust,
With no hope of a statue in the Abbey,
With no hope, even, of a modest bust.

No wonder small boys dream of writing couplets
And spurn the bike, the lorry and the train.
There’s far too much encouragement for poets —
That’s why the country’s going down the drain.


22 June, 2011 at 11:26 pm by belgianwaffle

“The Hare with the Amber Eyes” by Edward De Waal

A bit of a slow start. Lots of art history, and I like art history but there is only so much of Paris in the late 19th century that I can take. “Persist until he gets to Vienna,” said my friends. I persisted. The story follows the history of small carved Japanese figures called netsuke from when they came into his family in the 1870s. This device is used to tell the story of his family, the Ephrussis, an extremely rich banking family of Russian, Jewish extraction. Vienna works better for a range of reasons. Paris is too long ago and the author’s link is too indirect. His grandmother grew up in the Viennese family and it is much more immediate and, of course, over this fin de siecle Viennese tale hangs the reader’s and the author’s knowledge of what happens to European Jews over the following 50 years. It’s fascinating and very direct and moving. Also, I now really want to visit Odessa.

The author was in Dublin a couple of weeks ago and I went to hear him speak but he only spoke of pots. Alas. He is a famous potter as well as an author.

“I Feel Bad about my Neck” by Nora Ephron

This book is sinful. The publishers and the author pulled together a couple of slight, previously published essays from a variety of sources, added a couple of new ones and foisted them on an unsuspecting public. Or maybe I’m just bitter because I have only three years before my neck collapses. Very mildly funny in places.

“The Tiger in the Well” by Philip Pullman

For my money the best of the Sally Lockhart novels. The author is still concerned about women’s rights but this time he’s showing how married women had a very raw time when they fell out with their husbands. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. And also quite exciting in spots.

“The Tin Princess” by Philip Pullman
[New Year’s Resolution]
Slightly tedious fable set in a doomed statelet in Mittel Europa with the now familiar cast of Lockhartian characters (Jim’s turn to star). All action but it never really leads anywhere. The conclusion is feeble and gives the impression that the author just ran out of energy and couldn’t be bothered tying up the loose ends.

“Georgette Heyer’s Regency World” by Jennifer Kloester [New Year’s Resolution]

This was a present and one which I might have been imagined to like but I found it very tedious until about three quarters of the way through when I stopped trying to read it as a kind of narrative and started reading it like a dictionary. I finally know what “boxing the watch” really means.

“Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden [New Year’s Resolution]

Can’t see what the fuss was about really. I suppose, culturally, a bit interesting though hard to know how accurate it is. I met the only Irish person I know who speaks fluent Japanese for lunch today and asked her whether it was true and she said, as far as she knew, yes and also, it’s pronounced gaysha not geysha [this information is free to you, I had to buy her lunch]. Also, I had to explain to my daughter what a geisha was, as she saw the book around the house. And in the same breath, she said, “And what’s a lesbian?” Parenting is very tiring.


21 June, 2011 at 11:10 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself has insisted that she clear any references I make to her here. Good job that she doesn’t know about the archives yet.

Matters Domestic

17 June, 2011 at 11:37 pm by belgianwaffle

Exhibit A


Exhibit B


Awkward Moment

13 June, 2011 at 10:37 pm by belgianwaffle

I was at bookclub tonight. The talk turned to modern media.
Attendee 1: I just don’t understand twitter.
Attendee 2: Why would anyone join facebook?
Attendee 3: What is it with people wanting to broadcast what they did for the weekend to the world?
Attendee 4: Anne, do you still have your blog?

Weekend Round-up

8 June, 2011 at 11:53 pm by belgianwaffle

Yes, I know it’s Wednesday, but I’ve been busy.

Last Thursday, I went to Leiden to visit my sister who is working there for a couple of months. I left the children with my kind husband and snuck off. My sister met me at the airport and we took the train to Leiden. Within 5 minutes of arriving we had hired a bike for me as my sister deemed it impossible for me to survive without. I have never seen as many bikes as I did in Leiden. The potent combination of students and a small Dutch city made for bicycle heaven: everyone of all ages cycling in their normal clothes [no fluorescent jackets], young kids in front and behind on all the parents’ bikes, excellent cycle lanes, very flat [though windy]. Behold the bike parking at Leiden centraal. My sister says that they always know the tourists because they’re snapping the bike racks so I didn’t myself; I regret that now.

So we cycled back to her house and then back into town where we went on the obligatory boat tour. After cycling, boating seems to be the preferred way to get about in Leiden and later when we cycled through the suburbs, we saw boats tied up at the end of almost every garden. Leiden has more canals than any city in the Netherlands except Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a lot bigger than Leiden. Leiden is essentially entirely canal.
We went to the cinema that evening, expecting confidently that X-Men, First Class would be in English subtitled in Dutch. Well, it was subtitled in Dutch but you would be surprised how much of that film is in Russian, French and German. Listening to Kevin Bacon speaking Russian while trying to interpet Dutch subtitles is a surprising and unsatisfactory experience.

The next day we saw all the shops I hadn’t seen since we lived in Brussels: Hema, mon amour; Dille & Kamille; stop laughing at me. Then we went to the Mauritshuis in the Hague which I have wanted to visit for years. It’s really well worth a visit. It’s a small museum with a lot of very famous pictures so you wander from room to room saying, “Oh look, look, look!” This may be mildly tedious for other visitors.

On Friday evening we went to dinner to Mr. Waffle’s friend the Dutch Mama [confusingly, she’s Irish, it’s her husband and children who are Dutch] and her family whom my side of the family have now appropriated as our friend [this is what you get for being hospitable, this was my sister’s third dinner at their house]. We had a really lovely evening. We spent much time discussing the Dutch psyche. The Dutch Mama feels that they are all very anxious that everyone should stay part of the group and to be ahead is just as bad as to be behind. I suppose this might be very useful, if your country might sink, should anyone step out of line. I always feel that the Dutch are smug; my views possibly influenced by having lived with a very annoying Dutch girl for a while about 20 years ago. But, I must say, after my trip to lovely Leiden, I do feel that they have quite a bit to be smug about.

On Saturday we cycled to the North Sea. The beach was heaving with people and I ventured in for a swim which was pleasant though industrial [plane overhead, tanker in the distance]. And then we cycled back. And then I thought that maybe I was starting to fall out of love with my bike a little bit. My sister is fit as a fiddle from her Leiden cycling regime and I found myself panting along in her wake on the 14 km round trip to the beach. All in all, I wasn’t entirely sad to say goodbye to the bicycle that evening. Sorry to say goodbye to my sister though.

So, on Sunday, I was back in Ireland and feeling that Mr. Waffle had done Trojan duty, I took the children to see Kung Fu Panda II [not as good a Kung Fu Panda I, you will be unsurprised to hear]. For the duration, Michael sat on my lap, weeping and trembling with terror. On the way out from the cinema to the car park, there is a games arcade where, weakly, I allow the children to play whenever we go to the cinema. I don’t give them any money though as I am too mean. Michael ran straight for a zombie game where he hoisted a gun on his shoulder and pretended to shoot disgusting zombies who exploded all over the screen. He was delighted with himself. He said that the exploding zombies were not scary. “And Shen, the peacock is?” “Oh yes!” The power of narrative, I suppose.

On Monday, which was a bank holiday, we woke to glorious sunshine and I told the children to throw on their shorts and sandals, packed a picnic and we all drove to Trim castle. I really plugged the castle to the children. And they were quite excited when they got there. Except the weather had turned overcast and they were freezing. We had to wait 15 minutes for the guided tour.

Once we got in, I knew we were doomed. Firstly, there was no way in or out except with the tour guide; secondly, the tour guide was slightly gloomy; thirdly, the tour was scheduled to last 45 minutes; fourthly, the tour was aimed squarely at adults and there was really very little to see except stones and spiral staircases and finally, and not insignificantly, the castle was slightly colder inside than out. The children dragged themselves around whining [quietly, mercifully] and we prayed for the tour to end which it did, eventually. Then we ran out and had our picnic in the car. Not content with this failure, we went in search of St. Patrick’s where the “Rough Guide” promised us an echo and an interesting tomb. Even had these things been available, they might not have been sufficient to hold the troops’ interest. In the event the church was closed. We had a look around the graveyard where we considered the grave of Sir Hercules Langrishe who died in the late 90s. We wondered how he got on in the local primary school. Hercules is such a difficult name to carry off. [Apparently, it’s a family name. Mr. Waffle tells me that the first baronet was a pal of James Burke and an open letter to him (on Catholic emancipation) is mildly important though long.]

Michael got bored and started walking around with his eyes closed and walked into a pole giving himself a very nasty bruise on his cheek. We went home. All in all, not a triumph.



3 June, 2011 at 9:24 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel: Guess what I heard a boy say in the park?
Me: What sweetheart?
Him: “Fook off, stop touchin’ me bag.”
Me: Oh dear, that’s not very nice. Don’t say that.
Him: But that’s what he said.
Me: But it’s not very nice, we don’t say that.
Him: Yes, we say my bag.

Positive Press

2 June, 2011 at 9:23 pm by belgianwaffle

Look, the Economist says I’m healthy.

What are we to make of this?

1 June, 2011 at 11:47 pm by belgianwaffle

Pushed under the door the other day:


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