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Reading

26 April, 2012 at 8:35 pm by belgianwaffle

“The Pretender” by Mary Morrissey [New Year’s Resolution]

I quite enjoyed this but, I can’t quite say why, it reads a bit like a book written in translation. It’s about Anna Anderson, the woman who claimed that she was the Grand Duchess Anastasia. It’s a mix of fact and fiction and I think it does a good job of trying to imagine the motives of the woman who spent a lifetime pretending to be someone else.

“Just So Stories” by Rudyard Kipling [New Year’s Resolution]

Despite their moments of imperialism these are really great stories to read aloud to 6 year old boys. Also, they made me realise that I had never said the word “sagacity” aloud before as in “a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity”. So we’re all learning. You will be delighted to hear that the man of “infinite-resource-and-sagacity” was a “Hi-ber-ni-an”. You can read this particular one yourself here. You may think it dull but find the requisite 6 year old boys and you will be surprised by their delighted reaction.

“The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling [New Year’s Resolution]

I quite enjoyed this. Despite the title, it’s not all jungle. I was inspired to read it by “Riki-Tiki-Tavi” which I read when I was eight in one of my favourite books of all time. I’m not sure whether it was because I read this story at just the right age or because it really was the best but I still liked it best of all the stories. I feel that I have had enough Kipling for a while now though.

“33 Moments of Happiness” by Ingo Schultz [New Year’s Resolution]

I sort of knew from the cover of this book and the font that the 33 moments of happiness in the title would be set in hours of misery. This must be why it’s been awaiting attention on my bedside table since sometime in the 1990s. Why is literary fiction so bad at happiness? These are short stories set in St. Petersburg. There is much gloom, some confusion, and, yes, alright, arguably the odd moment of happiness. I think of the 100 odd books in my New Year’s Resolution pile, this must have been one of the hardest reads. It’s magical realism, written by a German and set in St. Petersburg; can you imagine?

“Ferno” by Adam Blade

The boys love this book. It is volume one of the Beast Quest series. There are 60 (!) volumes and counting. Given that my sons are working their way through the series at a rate of knots, I thought that I should read volume 1 so that I could understand some part of their convoluted explanations of plot. The plot is not complex. Tom goes to free a beast from enchantment. He does it in a very pared down version of every fantasy novel you’ve ever read. But to be fair to the four people who write these books (Adam Blade, is, alas, a fictional character and the copyright to these volumes is held by Working Partners Ltd.), it’s fine. The writing is very accessible for small children and every page is a new cliff hanger. It’s spectacularly limited when it comes to character development and the plot is clich├ęd but, not if you’re six! Every old trope (missing father, faithful companion, exciting map) is a stunning new development to them. They talk about the books non-stop. Honestly, six year olds could have the best book club ever.

Weekend Activities

23 April, 2012 at 9:40 pm by belgianwaffle

On Saturday we went to Four Knocks. Mr. Waffle refused to believe that such a place existed. But it does. It comes from the Irish, na Fuarchnoic which means the cold hills. It’s a passage grave but it’s not a particularly well-known site.

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You get into it by picking up the key from a local.

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We didn’t tell the children what it was but as we approached it, the Princess said, “It’s a passage grave, isn’t it? Like Newgrange.” Some people are very smart.

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When we got there, we opened up the door in the hill with our key.

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We went in and closed the door. As our eyes grew used to the gloom the light shining through the roof illuminated the neolithic carvings on the lintel stones.

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Unlike, Newgrange, the children were free to run around with the torch (essential piece of kit for this outing) and shout and roar. Obviously, this kind of thing is off putting if there are other people about. But we were all on our own.

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And then afterwards, they could roll off the top.

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It was really excellent and appealed to all members of the family in slightly different ways.

And then we went to Ardgillan Castle for a cup of tea and a look at the playground. And that was very pleasant too.

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Siri

22 April, 2012 at 8:26 pm by belgianwaffle

These new ads make Siri look pretty good:

This is what she’s like, if you have an Irish accent. Siri does not support Irish accents:

Don’t Make Me Go Over There!

20 April, 2012 at 9:25 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself: Mum, you were mean to me on purpose!
My Sister: No, that’s not fair, I think your Mummy’s a little too lazy to be malicious.

Out and About

19 April, 2012 at 9:23 pm by belgianwaffle

We went to the zoo. We invested in an annual family membership. At the cost of it, we will be frogmarching them to the zoo at regular intervals from now on.

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We went to visit Castletown House. I got excellent value for my heritage card this year, I think I will renew it. Can this post get more fascinating? You may well ask.

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The children were virtuous. Even though I insisted on reading to them long passages from this book.

Unrelated: I got a quite spectacular migraine yesterday. As well as classic symptoms (for me – aura, nausea, headache), I also got pins and needles in my fingers which I never had before. It was most unnerving. I took to my bed. I am slightly fragile today but otherwise well. Thank you for asking.

Alas

18 April, 2012 at 9:09 pm by belgianwaffle

I am a reasonably good cook. I am not brilliant but I think I have attained the status of solid. I can roast most things. I can make stew. I can make cake. I can make biscuits. I can make pastry. Yet, despite this, I cannot make Rice Krispie buns. The mortification. I was at my sister-in-law’s house the other day and she spoke lyrically of the ease with which she could melt chocolate in her pyrex bowl.

I came home, I looked at the glut of Easter eggs on our shelves and the boys and I set to making Rice Krispie buns. I used the pyrex bowl. The chocolate melted but not enough. It clumped together. The Rice Krispies and chocolate failed to mix. They were horrible. I just threw them out this evening.

What, oh internet, am I doing wrong?

Nine!

12 April, 2012 at 9:11 pm by belgianwaffle

Today is the Princess’s ninth birthday. I have to say, I am surprised. It seems only yesterday etc.

Her aversion to ball games seems to have solidified. She likes to walk and she likes to climb but she has no interest in running after anything that bounces. She used to like swimming but we haven’t been so much recently.

Her love of reading remains constant. Mind you, although she still speaks French she refuses point blank to do any reading in French. Otherwise, she reads what is to hand. The other day she arrived downstairs and announced to me, “I was reading Daddy’s Economist and there is an article about passwords and I am concerned that mine aren’t secure, particularly when, for example, the Monster High site allows you unlimited attempts.” Yes, I know, day and night they are out there trying to hack into her Monster High account.

She had a Monster High themed birthday party before the Easter holidays.

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She found it all a bit tense, as did I. Don’t mock the afflicted.

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But in the end it passed off alright although there was a stormy moment when doors were banged and tears were shed. Next year, we’re taking her to the cinema with some friends.

But my goodness she is getting big. She spent a week at my parents’ house in Cork over the Easter holidays every second of which she tried to spend watching television. She came back imitating a range of sarky American teenagers (Selena Gomez, I’m looking at you) and she seemed very grown-up. Mostly she looked at us like this:
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She knows lots and lots of things. And she is not shy in coming forward with information at home though I understand that at school she is more reticent. She likes school and seems to be very settled in her class and comfortable in her surroundings. She bosses her brothers about unceasingly and mostly they knuckle under since, in compensation, she comes up with good games.

She is developing tastes like mine (reading, cake shops) and others which are completely different (Bruno Mars). A lot of the time I find her easy to be with; but sometimes everything I say annoys her and vice versa. This is where having two parents comes into its own. Sometimes it seems like she’s a teenager already. Which she loves.

She is a great arguer, she is a champion arguer. Take the following, for example:
“I understand that you hold me to a higher standard than the boys as I am older. As this is the case, why do I not also get greater rewards for my good behaviour?” She is constantly vigilant that she receives her due in all matters.

She can be very kind, even to her brothers. She is often obliging and helpful. She loves animals and is the only one of the children who is still interested in the cat. She is now very brave when it comes to petting strange dogs (including a huge doberman on a chain in France, which we found disquieting).

Today she was a heroine. We went for a long walk in the Wicklow hills. She thanked us for taking her. She admired the scenery. She galvanised her brothers not just to action but to enthusiasm. We all had a lovely, lovely time.

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Until the very end when Michael stepped up to his knees in a pool of bog water and cried lustily for the 20 minutes it took him to squelch to the car. He was somewhat restored by soaking his feet in a bucket of warm water at his grandparents’ house while playing on the DS.

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If she were to see this, the Princess would say that it is typical that a post about her birthday would include information about the boys. So I should conclude by saying that she is lovely, we love her very much and we are so lucky to have her. Happy birthday Princess. And here are some old photos, because that’s what you do on birthdays.

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A Youth of Extreme Privation

11 April, 2012 at 8:13 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: When I was little, we had no computers.
Mr. Waffle: And there was no such thing as a DS.
Me: Or a mobile phone.
Michael: Did you have scissors?

Not Metaphorically but Literally

4 April, 2012 at 9:20 pm by belgianwaffle

We have sown new grass in the back garden. It is growing very slowly. There are still large bands of brown earth. As I looked up the garden from the kitchen, I commented to Mr. Waffle, “It’s definitely greener over there at the end of the garden.” “Famously,” said he.

Reading

3 April, 2012 at 8:54 pm by belgianwaffle

“The Child that Books Built” by Francis Spufford [New Year’s Resolution]

This is an intellectual look back at reading in childhood and adolescence. It’s divided into four parts: the forest (stories for younger children – fairytales and picture books); the island (fantasy for the 7-12s) the town (books set in communities, again, for 7-12s) and the hole (books for adolescents with a strong focus on science fiction). I found this a bit underwhelming at first but I really started to enjoy it when he began to talk about books I had read as a child. Here’s a bit on Narnia:

So from the moment I first encountered “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” to when I was 11 or 12, the seven Chronicles of Narnia represented essence-of-book to me. They were the Platonic book of which other books were more or less imperfect shadows. For four or five years, I essentially read other books because I could not always be rereading the Narnia books.

He has a lot on Narnia and Little House on the Prairie which is fine by me but I wonder how engaging it would be to those less familiar with the books. I suppose it is aimed at people who were bookish children and it’s a rare bookish child who wouldn’t have read these.

He mixes up his reading with some limited information about his personal life and I’m not sure how well that works. I think he would have been better with more personal life or none at all.

“City of Thieves” by David Benioff

A book club book. Alas, it did not appeal. Though a mild page-turner it is pretty poorly written. It’s about a hunt for eggs during the siege of Leningrad in the second world war (though so much more than this, universal themes love, friendship etc – write your own blurb). They get their eggs. Yeah, I know, I’ve ruined it for you. My friend D, who is a country girl, tells me that hens are very fussy about laying eggs and she thinks that the chance of them not being off their eggs in war torn Russia in the middle of winter is nil.

“Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage” by Alice Munro [New Year’s Resolution]

Famously beautiful short story writer writes beautifully. I prefer my stories with more zing and less quiet gloom but these are good stories.

“The Beautiful Changes” by Molly McCluskey [New Year’s Resolution]

I read this collection (a novella and a collection of short stories) at the same time as I was reading the Alice Munro collection and it didn’t do this author any favours. She covers much of the same territory as Alice Munro, small lives and tending towards the gloomy and she’s really very good but not as good as Ms. Munro.

“The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes

Clever. And very short. Something of a page-turner. But I was left a bit dissatisfied either a) that wasn’t much of a twist or b) I didn’t get it. You can see why neither of these options appeals.

“Carry Me Down” by M.J Hyland [New Year’s Resolution]

Nicely written somewhat disturbing account of an 11 year old boy who is teetering on the brink of insanity. Wouldn’t exactly rush back for a second dose but I can see its merit.

World’s Most Nostalgic Six Year Old

2 April, 2012 at 11:48 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael: I don’t want those socks, they’re too small and prickly.
Me: OK, we’ll get you another pair. Maybe it’s time to retire these.
Michael: NO, no don’t retire them. My socks! My beautiful socks! Don’t throw them out.
Me: But Michael, they’re too small what do you need them for?
Michael: To look at in the drawer.

If it were up to Michael, nothing would ever leave the house.

Hungry

1 April, 2012 at 8:06 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael eats nothing at dinner. Now he says he can’t sleep at night. When we go into him he announces dolefully, “I have a hunger problem.” Tell me he’ll grow out of it.


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