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Tales from America

22 October, 2011 at 9:32 pm by belgianwaffle

Regular readers will recall that my brother is taunting us from his extended holiday in the US. Despite myself, I must concede he is funny. Consider this email:

Report on the trip around the S. West. I set out from San Diego in a gigantic gas guzzling SUV, got up sold in the car rental place very easily; how Mum and I are related I’ll never know. First stop was Joshua tree NP in the dessert. The ‘town’ I was staying in was Yucca Valley, like a lot of rural places in America it was basically just a strip of fast food joints, motels and stores on the highway…..no character but tell me where in Ireland could you get a Burrito at 01.30am (and 7am too probably)?

Next morning I went to the rangers station. Even with my So Cal bronzed skin I suppose it’s fair to say I don’t look like a species that’s ideally adapted to life in the dessert, however, the ranger gave me a concerned look like I was a black guy going to a Ku Klux Klan meeting. I was warned of the dangers of dehydration and hiking in a remote area. Suitably apprehensive, setting out I nearly cleared a gas station of their entire stock of bottled water. On into the park…vast haunting open spaces…it was a strange landscape. The Joshua trees were named by Mormon settlers after the biblical character, there was some reason for this I didn’t altogether understand.

It was hot but I did only short hikes. On the first hike, with the warnings ringing in my ears I loaded up on water, I was in more danger of a broken back carrying the water than I was of dehydration. The U2 album the Joshua tree was inspired by this landscape, no wonder they were obsessed by nuclear devastation. I was hoping to find the tree from the album cover, but it was take your pick from millions of them.

Next morning it was off to the Mojave desert , it made Joshua Tree look like a metropolis, there was a place with two broken down sheds that got a mention in the map (Cima check it on Google maps, seemingly the 2nd city of the Mojave). The main place in the park was Kelso, a renovated railway station, which served as a visitors centre. It was pretty cool saw a Union Pacific train passing very slowly, there must have literally been hundreds of freight containers (no passenger trains use this route any more). I enquired about hiking routes and got more concerned looks from the ranger but at this stage I was more confident of my dessert survival skills.

I was revelling in the vastness and solitude when suddenly the decision to rent the gas guzzler came back to bite me in the ass. Having passed up an option to get gas before I entered the park on the basis it was too expensive (although still half the price of Ireland) I found myself in the middle of nowhere when the display suddenly jumped from 100 miles to empty to 40 miles to empty. Night was falling (why did I ever watch that movie Deliverance) and the nearest gas station was 40 miles away. Driving style went from all action 4 wheel driving to Driving Miss Daisy. After a long and stressful hour, (no radio just in case…I didn’t want to get stranded in the desert due to listening to Country and Western music), hoping that Sat Nav was correct in its identification of a gas station, and that it would also be open, eventually just as the message on the dash came up saying ‘you’re rightly fucked now’ out of the vastness came the magnificent sight of a Neon sign with a yellow shell. Phew!!! I pulled up to the pump and fed my thirsty chariot. As soon as the relief of not dying alone in the desert had faded I was mightily miffed at the price of the gas (…5 dollars a gallon, I suppose I’m related to Mum after all) and as well in my panic I filled up much more than I actually needed to get to Las Vegas where the tour was starting from.

I proceeded from there to Vegas without further incident. No roulette table for me though, early night was needed as I was up at the crack dawn to kick off my tour……to be continued, my hopeless editing skills have meant that my email about the tour has gone over the max before I even started talking about the tour……

Take it easy,

PS Before all the pedants get back I freely admit I’m not sure if spelling of desert is correct it could either be a harsh dry landscape or something sweet to be consumed after dinner (but rarely found in the parents’ house), it should be clear from the context which is intended.


21 October, 2011 at 8:55 pm by belgianwaffle

I’m going to do the NaBloPoMo thing again in November. I know, you can hardly wait.

This year, to take part, you have to sign up to Blogher. I did. As I invented yet another password, the screen kept flashing imperious messages at me: not long enough; not secure enough; include a number; mix small letters and caps; include a punctuation mark. Really, to keep my immensely valuable Blogher account safe? Oh good grief.

Bad News/Good News

20 October, 2011 at 10:36 pm by belgianwaffle

My bike, my beautiful expensive bike with a child seat on the back, was stolen.

I’d taken the lights off though.


19 October, 2011 at 10:28 pm by belgianwaffle

We were out the other night. We left the children in the hands of our very competent middle-aged child minder. When we returned, she had a tale of adventure to relate.

The cat had brought in a small mouse between her iron jaws [an event which, alas, is only too common] and the child minder had squealed and looked away. The commotion brought the Princess downstairs. Leaving the child minder quivering in a chair, the Princess got out the dustpan and brush, reproved the [v. peeved] cat, swept up the corpse and covered it in tissues for safe disposal by the child minder. She then sailed back to bed having spread peace in her dominions.

In the morning, when complimented on her daring, she said, “It was only a small mouse; and it was dead.”


18 October, 2011 at 10:08 pm by belgianwaffle

Granta 114

I borrowed this from a cooler friend. Really, who subscribes to Granta? Honestly. But it was a feminist issue and I am interested in feminism. And it was excellent and very easy going [not to be confused with easygoing, which it wasn’t]. Who would have thought?

“The Female Eunuch” by Germaine Greer [New Year’s Resolution]

This is Mr. Waffle’s edition. I’ve never read it before. It was interesting in places, still, alas, current in some, very dated in others. Her chapter on work is of historical interest only. Her chapter on romance could not be more relevant. Except she has a dig at Georgette Heyer, which I resent while acknowledging the fairness of her argument. I don’t think I’ll be able to look at advertising in quite the same way in future. She has completed for me a process begun by women laughing alone with salad. On the other hand, I think she is fundamentally wrong about violence against women; largely wrong about children; and mistaken about marriage. I wonder what she thinks now?

“9th and 13th” by Jonathan Coe [New Year’s Resolution]

Very short book of 4 short stories. Jonathan Coe is always worth reading but this is slight in every sense.

Accordion Crimes by E. Annie Proulx [New Year’s Resolution]

A history of the new world told through the travels of an accordion (or possibly several, I got a bit confused). Beautifully written and engaging enough but each individual vignette stood on its own and the overarching theme of immigration to America and accordions did not turn it into a novel.

“The Factory of Facts” by Luc Sante [New Year’s Resolution]

This was a present on one of the many occasions when I left Belgium definitively. It’s a memoir by a Belgian/American and has an insider/outsider view of Belgium. It’s interesting enough in its own right, I suppose, but for someone who lived in Belgium for many years, it’s very appealing. I have pressed Mr. Waffle to read it, but I’m not entirely sure that I would press it on everyone.

“Green Lantern: Rebirth” by Geoff Johns, illustrated by Ethan Van Sciver

I include this for the sake of completeness. I know you care. Daniel spent all of our holiday in France reading and re-reading it. As we took it out of the library, I felt a twinge of guilt as the librarian said, “You know that this is an adult graphic novel.” Eventually, in France a combination of a shortage of books and mild interest in what my then 5 year old was consuming made me turn to this. I am fond of science fiction and I like to think of myself as able to follow a plot, but I had no idea what on earth this was about and had to turn to Daniel for advice and guidance which he very willingly gave. I was pleased to note, however, that unlike the X-men graphic novels which he has also been perusing with interest, there were no scantily clad women; this was somewhat offset by the random violence, of course. Not recommended.


13 October, 2011 at 7:04 pm by belgianwaffle

Princess: What does virgin mean?
Me [cravenly]: Um, it’s a woman who hasn’t had a baby.
Princess: I mean in the context of olive oil.

Obviously the Cool People Were Waiting for us to Leave

12 October, 2011 at 7:57 pm by belgianwaffle

Look, the NY Times loves Brussels .

Husband’s email on being sent this link:

Brussels “is definitely not a city where everything is obvious, announced and organized,” explains Dimitri Jeurissen, the Belgian creative director of BaseDesign.



11 October, 2011 at 7:20 pm by belgianwaffle

We ordered cereal bowls from Kellogg’s at the request of the children. Our old friends, Snap, Crackle and Pop arrived a couple of weeks ago but there was no sign of the figure whom Messrs Kelloggs refer to as “Cornelius the Cockerel”. Michael was becoming increasingly agitated on this point but, today, it arrived. “Cornelius the Cockroach!” he cried happily clutching it to his bosom.

Another One

10 October, 2011 at 10:47 pm by belgianwaffle

At a certain stage, the Princess started reading and saying things backwards. Now Daniel has started. Could it be because they’re left handed? Or do all children do that?

Finding the Old Homestead

9 October, 2011 at 10:02 pm by belgianwaffle

My brother is on an extended holiday in the US [because he can] and he sends us the odd update [because he believes we should suffer].

Not a lot of people know this but as a child, my father lived in Southern California. His parents came back to Cork in the 30s and people used to ask him to talk – “Let’s hear the little yank”. He remembers the ice man, and seeing a film being made at night but that’s pretty much all we’ve ever heard of his sojourn in America. My father is not a great man for nostalgia.

Latest missive from my brother includes the following:

Hey folks how,s the form…..whoever sang that song it never rains in southern California has seriously misrepresented the reality. It,s been raining here solidly all day, it,s like the west of Ireland with Palm Trees thrown in. I,m in the apple store in Pasadena near Los Angeles, trying to use the iPad 2, have to admit it,s well cool though ridiculously overpriced. It is pretty cool despite the fact I can,t find the apostrophe on the key pad. It,s also the childhood home of [our father], the directions I was given to the actual house from the man himself was that there was a machine that sold nickel sweets on the street corner sometime in the 1930s. With these pinpoint directions I have only my ineptitude and terrible sense of direction to blame for failing to find the landmark building.


8 October, 2011 at 8:46 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael: Who are you?
Daniel: I’m Ben 10!
Michael: Never heard of you, you must be from a different channel.

The End of Culture

7 October, 2011 at 9:42 pm by belgianwaffle

I am not organising any further outings. On Sunday afternoon, we were supposed to go to a worthy theatre offering. When this treat was announced, the children were unenthusiastic. Daniel and Michael howled, “no”. Due to a series of accidents, we arrived 5 minutes late and latecomers were not admitted.

Oh I was cross. I have announced that I am organising nothing further and that the children might therefore miss seeing some architectural gems during the Open House weekend. They were gutted, as you might imagine.


6 October, 2011 at 9:28 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Did you meet [the notoriously handsome man]?
Him: Yup.
Me: Well, what did he look like?
Him: Um, tall, brown hair.
Princess: Oh come on Dad, does he have a square jaw, does he have a six pack?

I blame Meg Cabot.

Was it for this the wild geese spread/The grey wing upon every tide?

5 October, 2011 at 9:28 pm by belgianwaffle

Things the Princess no longer believes in: Santa Claus, God, the GAA, the Irish language.

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