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Old News from the Internet

20 July, 2011 at 1:25 pm by belgianwaffle

Didn’t I say that this would become a regular feature? More from 2009:

It’s all Greek to me; for those interested in the odd relationships between languages.
A baffling presentation.
– For those who are marking scripts.
– I’m an asker, Mr. Waffle is a guesser, what are you?

That’s enough, the internet is tired now.

Kerry – Concluded

14 July, 2011 at 12:11 am by belgianwaffle

Tuesday, July 5

On Thursday morning, we visited Daniel O’Connell’s house. While the younger children played around the grounds, the Princess and I went for our annual inspection of the Liberator’s house. As we crossed the courtyard, she said “40 shilling freeholders”. “I beg your pardon?” “Catholic emancipation, the 40 shilling freeholders got the vote,” she sighed. In the house, I pointed to a cabinet saying, “Look guns!” “Yes,” she said, “the duelling pistol with which he killed a man, and there beside it is the black glove he wore for the rest of his life.” When we arrived downstairs, the nice woman on the door said, “Is this the young lady who I heard speaking so knowledgeably upstairs?” The Princess glowed with delight.

That afternoon, my cunning sister-in-law suggested that it would be nice, if the ladies of the party had an opportunity to go for a cup of tea together. The three of us ran out of the house like coursing hares leaving the men in charge which they took stoically, if not enthusiastically. We went into Sneem (great name, no?), past some of the most beautiful scenery in the country; we had a cup of tea and cake and it was all delightfully peaceful.

Wednesday, July 6

In what was, alas, to become the leitmotif of the week, the day dawned rainy. My sister-in-law suggested a nature walk. The children were quite extraordinarily excited by this prospect and rushed out of the house. I became fascinated myself. Daniel and I collected a bucket full of different flowers. I would never have thought that there was such a diverse range of flowers in the hedgerows. Our destination was an artist’s studio up the road. On arrival, we met the artist’s wife (our babysitter for the evening) and son leaving the premises which were closed. Our troops were undaunted and continued back to the house reasonably cheerfully. Except, Michael, of course, who objects to walking and was hopping on a point of principle as, he maintained, his socks were wet. Daniel and I had a serious conversation about ferns and how they were around when the dinosaurs were there.

Daniel: And fossils were made while God was resting?
Me: Well, well, not exactly..
Daniel (seriously): Is the Bible true?
Me: Well, not literally true no, well some parts of it are true, well, it’s all true but some parts of it aren’t literally true.
Daniel: It’s not true, is it?

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Michael went upstairs and stood on the windowsill of our bedroom, fashioning himself a cloak from our curtains. “Who are you?” I asked. “I am super-deluxe man,” he replied. What powers do you think super deluxe man might have?

That afternoon, we spent on the beach at Derrynane which is, possibly, one of the nicest in the country.

The Princess amused herself by gathering jellyfish and discovered empirically that these particular dead jellyfish don’t sting.

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The adults oversaw a vast engineering project and had all the children hard at work.
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No sooner did they get a chance than the little barbarians stamped out civilisation with every appearance of enthusiasm: “Nothing beside remains: round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,/The lone and level sands stretch far away.” As the children finished their stomping, my three year old niece rushed up to the adults and said, winningly, but clearly untruthfully, “It wasn’t us.”

That night the adults went out to dinner leaving the children in the hands of the artist’s wife. It was a really lovely evening – we have a lot in common and we don’t often get to speak uninterrupted by children for more than 5 minutes at a stretch.

Thursday, July 7

This day was, in my view, our greatest triumph. As the Princess said, “It rained like bullets all day”. The parents-in-law went to Waterville where they sat in a car park overlooking the sea with their newspapers. The younger members of the party went to Valentia island, westernmost and almost certainly wettest point in Europe on, possibly, the wettest day of the year. It was the point at which America and Europe were linked by cable and the guide book says that for years Valentia enjoyed better, if not cheaper, communication with New York than with Dublin.

Our first stop was a “pet farm” for which my sister-in-law had picked up a brochure earlier. When we arrived, it looked unprepossessing. The rain was bucketing down. “This,” said Mr. Waffle bitterly, “is an Irish holiday, driving miles in the rain to see things you wouldn’t cross the road to see at home.” An inauspicious start. But, it was absolutely terrific. The place had only just opened and the owner was a lovely man. Hugely welcoming. The children got bottles to feed the lambs, biscuits for the ponies, rubbed rabbits, held tiny baby chickens and terrapins. Saw lots of chickens in fact. They were able to rub all the animals and name the goat (Lucy, since you ask). As a parent, I have a lot of exposure to petting farms, and I really would give this one the best of the bunch award. It was particularly appealing the way the owner kept urging us to come back another day when it was sunny and he would let us in free; he also encouraged us to have a cup of tea in the house (again, no charge, just a ‘you must be miserable from the rain offer’). I only hope he can keep going because these are not particularly commercial attitudes and the season is short. If he lasts, then I can guarantee that he will have clients every year we go back to Kerry. If you find yourself in Valentia with a small child, go to the pet farm, you will not be disappointed. Alas, no website to link to, as yet. My brother-in-law, who is technical, hovered over the test site and offered the best advice he could – if it goes live, watch this space for an exciting link [updated to add – the brother-in-law came good; here is the exciting link].
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After the pet farm, we went to lunch in Portmagee. The food was fine and the children were all really great. Nobody misbehaved and everyone ate something. The shape of things to come, D.V. (as my mother’s teacher used to write in her letters to her – I will be suitably impressed, if you are not Irish and know what it stands for. Clue: teacher was a nun).

After lunch, sister-in-law was keen that we go to a candle place. I was not keen, nor did I feel that the troops would be keen. However, they got to make their own candles and they loved it. There was also, for reasons that are not at all clear, a car racing track which Michael, in particular, found irresistible.

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Please note, that the rain continued relentlessly throughout. As the children left with their (€4 – excellent value) candles clutched in their paws, we announced that we were going to the Valentia ice cream company. The Princess said in tones of genuine delight, “Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better!” As we sat in the slightly glum parlour (lovely, I imagine, on a sunny day looking out across the Atlantic) eating really excellent ice cream, two young men sidled in the door and asked for a cone each; the sons of the house. The older boy, about 8 went outside with Daniel and me and we patted another rabbit. When I asked the rabbit’s name, the boy lifted it up in the air, examined closely and said, “It’s the girl.” Ah, young farmers. Upon enquiry, he confirmed that the damp cows in the field between us and the Atlantic had supplied the raw material for our ice cream. No food miles there.

Then we went into Knightstown. I am beginning to feel that my husband and his family are wilfully hiding aspects of this part of Kerry from me. The first year I went, I was only allowed to see Derrynane beach on the last day; the second year, Staigue fort was revealed to me, on the second last day; this year the charming Knightstown was revealed to me on the third last day having been concealed on all previous trips. It’s a really pretty planned little town full of the kind of upmarket tourist tat that I love – look, it has a stained glass shop. We took ourselves into a lovely cafe/bookshop. Daniel, perhaps a little tired of our attempts to stay dry, said, as we went through the cafe to the book shop, “Not another little bite to eat” which drew a grin from the waitress.

And then we took the ferry across to the mainland. It was “the best day ever”. Despite the rain like bullets.

Friday, July 8

“You know the cousins are leaving this morning,” I said to Daniel. “I know,” he said, and started to cry, “and they’re going to take their great ball game with them.” Despite the wrench of parting with the cousins’ ball game, the children recovered sufficiently to go to the beach for a last afternoon. It was overcast with sunny spells, during one of the sunny spells, I swam. Oh God, the bone crushing cold. Even the memory of it makes me shiver and my ankles start to shrivel. We then departed to partake in that most classical of Irish summer entertainments, drinks in the pub with crisps for the children. When we got back to the house, the grandparents gave us pictures of Derrynane which they had got from the local artist, which was rather lovely of them, particularly considering they were already paying for everything, even the hot water.

Saturday, July 9

We handed over the keys to the lady who manages the house. She commented that we had had “the wettest week of the year” and that she never remembered it being so wet in July before. I found this strangely uncomforting. And, frankly, this which I found online tonight, adds insult to injury.

And then, we broke the journey to Dublin with the Dutch Mama and her family in Mitchelstown (it’s complicated) which was great. There is something very appealing about visiting other parents – they are less alarmed, if your children eat nothing. The Dutch Mama had a bag of hand-me-downs which the Princess was initially – mortifyingly – outraged by (not being aware that she had had hand-me-downs in her wardrobe before) and subsequently charmed by as she found an exciting bag full of pretty things which, essentially, now constitute her summer wardrobe. The Dutch Mama has been investigating her ancestors and how they got through the famine. As she put it “it ain’t pretty”. Perhaps material for another post. Survivor guilt.

And then, onwards to Dublin and home. Did I tell you that we’re off somewhere else next week? It’s non-stop chez Waffle.

First World Problem Wednesday

13 July, 2011 at 9:41 am by belgianwaffle

I interrupt my detailed day by day description of our holiday in Kerry to offer the following two problems for your sympathy:

1. Herself had an appointment with the dental hygienist a couple of months ago which, unprecedentedly, we forgot. They phoned us, we grovelled. We re-set a suitable date. It was yesterday. Did I remember to take her? Alas, no. Even though Mr. Waffle’s last words before leaving the country (for work, not anything more sinister) were, “Don’t forget the dentist.” My mortification knows no bounds.

2. Our new childminder who hasn’t started yet but who was perfect because
a) the children liked her;
b) she has lived in Ireland for a long time and is unlikely to leave in the middle of the year;
c) she was doing a course (childcare) in the mornings which allowed her to keep her benefits, if she worked fewer than 20 hours a week so had every incentive to stay
has texted to say that her course hours have changed and she can no longer work for us. I could weep. This, of course, is Nemesis in action as only yesterday I said breezily to the new father up the road, that finding a childminder would be no problem. And, also, I had told everyone how terrific this was going to be. I think that this is the first person who has left before she started. Back to the drawing board.

Oh yes, and Irish bonds have been downgraded to junk. It’s always worrying when your personal credit status is better than your country’s.

Updated to add: Also, we have woodworm.

Kerry – A Successful Experiment in Communal Living

13 July, 2011 at 1:10 am by belgianwaffle

And we’re back. You will recall that I spent last week in the wilds of Kerry with extended family. My very kind parents-in-law rented a house and invited us all to stay. They got a crop of 2 sons, 2 daughters-in-law and 5 grandchildren.

Saturday, July 2

The journey to Kerry was, as ever, horrendous. 3 hours to County Kerry and then a further three hours to get to Caherdaniel at the extreme end. We stopped for a picnic outside Adare having crawled through the town due to some exciting festival. The spot was considerably less idyllic than this picture might make you think as cars were whizzing along the main road opposite us having just broken free of Adare.
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We were also somewhat delayed by the Ring of Kerry cycle – 1000s of insane people cycled round the Ring of Kerry (112 mountainous miles) that day and we met most of them on our journey. The road was windy and poor Daniel was sick (out the window – those are narrow, winding roads with no hard shoulders). All in all, we were tired people when we pulled into the holiday house that evening. Once we had been restored by tea. Grandad Waffle suggested that Mr. Waffle might like to go the pub – he was, nobly, reluctant but overborne. Mr. Waffle’s mother suggested that we walk to the beach – a suggestion which was greeted by her grandchildren with immense enthusiasm and by her daughter-in-law with none at all. However, my mother-in-law was proved right and no sooner did we get to the beach than the children threw on their togs and, oh the delight, proceeded to completely ignore us. Children are so hardy. Please observe what your correspondent wore to the beach. The item wrapped around my legs is my daughter’s jumper. You may well ask what exactly I am wearing and why a dead animal appears to be sitting on my head. I cannot say. Keep this image in your mind – this is how I looked all week, except sometimes I was wetter.
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Late on Saturday night, the cousins arrived together with their parents, Mr. Waffle’s brother and his wife. Think of how I look above. You should know that my sister-in-law, who is a delightful person is, however, tall and willowy – furthermore, she is half Italian and her sister is a stylist. I’m only saying. I would post a picture of her doing yoga on the beach but the contrast would be too painful.

Sunday, July 3

Oh the delight of the cousins on seeing each other on Sunday morning – particularly the boys who are very close in age. The addition of cousins stops Daniel and Michael hitting each other for reasons I don’t fully understand but it is so welcome.

The trip to the pub quickly proved its merit. It allowed Grandad Waffle to chat to an old friend of his with a speedboat. Grandad Waffle kindly used up his credit with his friend to get us all a spin on this boat. Sunday morning saw us sitting hopefully on the pier. Michael was curiously resistant to this treat. Close questioning revealed that he believed that having driven to Kerry the previous day, we planned to get the ferry to France that morning. His plaintive bleats of “Can’t we go on the boat another day?” were explained. I suppose we big people are so odd, this was just the kind of thing we might do.

The weather was glorious. I had never been on a speed boat before and, I have to tell you, it is excellent. The children and I had a fabulous time and the Princess confided to our captain that it represented the high point of her life to date. I told her that her kind grandfather was the supplier of this treat and that, in fact, the grandparents were paying for the whole holiday. “Even the hot water?” she asked awed.

I might digress here to explain that, unlike in other countries, hot water does not come readily from Irish taps. You need to remember to turn on the immersion at least half an hour beforehand and, crucially, also to turn it off. Otherwise you will be scalded when, innocently, a couple of hours later you turn on the hot tap expecting it to be tepid at best and it is near boiling. Parents become somewhat obsessed by the immersion and particularly turning it off which not only saves everyone from death by boiling but also saves money and, possibly, stops the immersion exploding. I know a woman who, as a child, left the immersion on accidentally and realising that this was the case knew that her father would be furious. So, surreptitiously, she went to the bathroom, turned on the hot tap in the bath and poured a whole tank of hot water down the drain rather than suffering the consequences of his discovering the dreadful truth. This explanation by Irish American comedian Des Bishop, is perhaps the best way for non-Irish residents to understand the ramifications of the system.

Monday, July 4

We took the children horse riding which ours enjoyed mildly and the cousins rather more (first outing). Although Daniel seemed to be quite happy while riding, on dismounting, he complained bitterly that his horse sneezed and put him off. Given the weather, it would be hard to blame the horse. About this point, I became aware that my brother-in-law (who is immensely outdoorsy – maps, running up mountains at night, orienteering) was getting spectacularly accurate though unwelcome weather predictions from the Norwegians (www.yr.no). I offer you this, lest some day you too would welcome hour by hour predictions of rainfall levels in South Kerry. Your search is over.

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The weather gave Michael an opportunity to hone his card playing skills and he defeated each of his relatives in turn at Happy Families until he could find no one to play with. Daniel meanwhile read,
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and read
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and read.
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His reading has been improving for ages but he really got the hang of it in Kerry – he read to his brother and cousin, he read alone, he read road signs. He loves to read. Michael still doesn’t think much of it: he’s focussing on becoming a professional poker player.

We made our annual visit to Staigue Fort which is really a most astounding structure but as I stood there in the damp July weather, I did think that our ancestors must have had a pretty miserable time.
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More tomorrow. Possibly a little less dull, possibly not.

Another Year Over

1 July, 2011 at 7:21 pm by belgianwaffle

The children (one of whom is checking this as I write under the new censorship system) got their school reports this week. They’re all very brilliant, as ever, though I note, thanks to my OCD filing system, slightly less brilliant than last year. Six trophies were given out in school and three of them were claimed by my children, admittedly for perfect attendance rather than genius at Irish (two trophies – these went to other families) but you can’t have everything. [Boastful Mum – signed the ever-vigilant censor WHAT? evil mum!]

The Princess’s teacher commented as follows on her report:

“She has shown great skill in her story writing throughout the year and equally in her oral accounts of these stories.”

A sample of this work is quoted below:

My Pet

My pet’s name is Hodge. She is a cat (or a pig cleverly in disguise). The longest time she was ever away from a can of cat food was ten seconds, she probably died of hunger. She is MEANT to eat dry cat food but I don’t think that the next door neighbour understands the word “cat diet”. She is MEANT to drink water out of her bowl but she prefers Dad’s bedtime glass of water. Note to self, close the toilet lid.

A picture of the subject of this story is below.

Legal fat cat:

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[“I’ve been checking the authorities and there’s no law against being 6 kilos” says Hodge]

The schizophrenic nature of this blog under the new regime is proving trying for me. So much so that the Princess may shortly have her own blog. She is pushing for the title “Comments of an 8 year old” to redress the perceived wrongs in this blog. It’s hard to regard this development with any great enthusiasm.

In less controversial news, we are all on summer holidays now – hurrah! Tomorrow we decamp for a week in Kerry. Let us pray for fine weather. Full account to follow when we get back. There’s something to look forward to.


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