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Big Day

31 May, 2012 at 10:20 pm by belgianwaffle

As Michael told us last night, today is a big day: the new edition of the Club Penguin magazine is out, it’s the day before school sports day; and it’s referendum day.

I brought the children with me to vote. The nice girl at the desk gave them jellies. “Who’s the youngest?” she asked. “Me!” said Michael. The girl gave him the ballot paper. “Only by 20 minutes” said Daniel. “You can put it in the box, then.” He promptly proceeded to do so and only quick reflexes on everyone’s part stopped a spoilt vote.

The secrecy of my ballot was compromised by Michael roaring at me in the booth: “Why did you put an x there and not a tick; you want to vote yes!”. This gave everyone in the room a laugh. The attendants looked pretty bored. I’d say turnout has been atrocious.


30 May, 2012 at 11:58 pm by belgianwaffle

Things the Waffles did last weekend: we had my sister to stay; I went out with her on Friday night; Daniel played football on Saturday morning; simultaneously, herself and her father cycled into town so that she could participate with the school choir in the first communion excitement; we took in a cousin for a sleepover and handed over herself in exchange; on Sunday the boys played in a tennis tournament in the afternoon in a difficult to find and inconveniently located tennis club; on Sunday evening we reversed the exchange. In a dreadful moment, we thought we had lost the cousin’s DS but after 24 painful hours, it turned up under the passenger seat of our car.

Game On

30 May, 2012 at 10:20 pm by belgianwaffle

I was trying to buy quails at the butcher’s but he had none and, in a moment of weakness, I was upsold. He pulled a pair of pheasants from the freezer and sold them to me with the novel line that they were only a bit larger than quails.

I retained dim memories from my youth of my mother’s cousin, a farmer, turning up at our front door with birds he had shot but didn’t fancy eating which my mother subsequently hung in the attic. I feel they were nice when we got them. They were not, however, frozen. The non-frozen pheasant may be the better bird. On the plus side, I didn’t have to pluck them myself. [Aside, once my sister’s friend, the vegetarian, called to the house and my mother answered the door in a lab coat covered with feathers while holding a largely plucked pheasant by the neck.]

The pheasants lurked menacingly in the fridge for a bit but tonight I decided to cook them. I feared that the outcome might be reminiscent of the great wild boar disaster of ’07. Certainly, pheasant is not seasonal at the moment. I decided to create pheasant stew. I lashed in the root vegetables, bacon and red wine. I couldn’t easily source chestnuts, what with it being May and everything and substituted mushrooms. It cooked happily all evening filling the summer air with toasty winter smells in a disconcerting and ultimately unsatisfactory manner.

It’s just out of the oven and there is masses of it. The stew is actually quite tasty in an ideal for mid-winter kind of way but the pheasant itself is, alas, deeply unpleasant, stringy and tough. Alas. Still, that’s dinner for tomorrow ready all the same. Hurrah for me.


27 May, 2012 at 7:43 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel: I don’t want to go to bed. I want to play desert soldiers.
Me: It’s bed time. You had all afternoon to play desert soldiers.
Him: But I only thought it up now.

Litter Watch

26 May, 2012 at 10:24 pm by belgianwaffle

The other day, I saw two teenage girls walking along the street. One asked the other whether she wanted some Lucozade. When her companion said no, she just tossed the bottle on the ground. I was outraged. Particularly since there was a bin only about a metre away. I toyed very hard with the idea of saying something but my nerve failed me. We live in quite a rough part of town, you will recall.

Mr. Waffle tells me that our neighbour, who was born in her house around the corner and who is quite elderly is more than a match for the local young people. He, she and other virtuous members of the residents’ association were out cleaning up litter (thank you Lucozade girls) which they do a couple of times a year. As Mr. Waffle and our neighbour were working away, a boy of about 14 came by with a girl. He threw some rubbish on the ground. “Pick that up,” said our elderly neighbour. “Ah feck off, missus,” said he or words to that effect. At this point I would have abandoned in fear and mortification. Our neighbour is made of sterner stuff. She reached up and clipped him round the ear and said firmly, “Pick that up now and none of your nonsense.” He picked it up.


25 May, 2012 at 10:16 pm by belgianwaffle

So, then my trip. I haven’t been on a plane in about two years. Imagine. There was a time when I used to fly weekly for work and think nothing of jetting off for a weekend but now I almost never travel for work and haven’t flown for holidays since we’ve moved home from Brussels. I haven’t missed it.

I took myself off to the airport in very good time for my midday flight and it all passed off uneventfully. The plane was, as predicted entirely full of Leinster rugby fans. Travel by train and tube to my city centre hotel was lengthy but straightforward. But yet, on arrival, I was absolutely exhausted. And I had not even travelled with a child. Partly, I think I was so tired because everything was just a bit different from when I had done it last and the novelty made it tiring and partly because it IS tiring and you don’t notice it so much when you have to do it regularly.

Our hotel was free thanks to my sister’s travel points (hurrah for her) and we were upgraded (hurrah again). Once recovered from my journey, I went to the National Portrait Gallery which was having an evening thing. Then on Sunday, we both went to the National Gallery. My friend Michael says that going around the National Gallery is like constantly running into old friends – my goodness, are you here too? And I have to say, both the Portrait Gallery and particularly the National Gallery have the absolutely superb collections. I had never been to the Portrait Gallery before. As Irish history and English history is very closely entwined before 1922, the Gallery is full of people who had a very significant effect on Irish history also. But Ireland gets scant reference – at least it features in the description of Cromwell who plays a very large role in every Irish history book.

We met my sister’s friend and my sister-in-law the author (have you bought her book yet? Have only been paid cup of tea for this endorsement) and her boyfriend who is from London. We met then in Fortnum and Mason and he had never been there before. “Well,” we said to the Londoner, “what do you think?” He looked around him at the ridiculously expensive stock and said in slightly disapproving tones, “Pretty much as I imagined.”

After some thought, we decided that we would go to see “The Mousetrap”. This was a mistake, I fear. Longevity is the only thing that is keeping it on the stage. I was, however, smug as I guessed who the murderer was before the interval.

As far as I could see, London’s attention was equally divided between the Queen’s jubilee (who knew?) and the forthcoming Olympics (yes, we all knew that). And it was much fuller than I remember from previous visits. The homogenisation of shops in Ireland and the UK meant that there wasn’t much point in going shopping as all the shops were the same (insert your own text here about globalisation, demise of independent retailers etc.)

The best thing about the weekend was having a chance to talk to my sister which is surprisingly difficult most of the time. She’s busy. I’m busy. I hope to make a weekend away with her an annual event, if my loving family can face it. My domestic credit is currently close to zero as while I was away, Mr. Waffle nobly spent the weekend ferrying children to various events (including an early morning GAA match in Meath which nearly sent him to an early grave) and keeping them from murdering each other. All this takes its toll. He’s almost recovered now but, somehow, I see this weekend being a busy one for me.


24 May, 2012 at 9:42 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Would you like me to bring you something from London?
Herself: Yes, please, can I have a tarte au citron from the Pain Quotidien?
Me: Ah no, it’ll be crushed in my bag.
Herself: Well then I’d like some lemon curd from Fortnum and Mason.

Hook, Line and Sinker

23 May, 2012 at 9:41 pm by belgianwaffle

Last weekend, I went to London. I planned it a long time ago with my sister. We booked the tickets at the end of April. I then had this supremely irritating conversation with my brother.

Him: Mum says you paid a fortune for your tickets to London.
Me: Yes, I was really surprised how dear they were. I had no idea what the going rate was but I really didn’t expect to pay more than about €200.
Him: How much did you pay?
Me: Nearer 400.
Him: WHAT? When are you going?
Me: The weekend of the 19 and 20 May.
Him: That’s the Heineken cup final weekend!
Me: What?
Him: Leinster are playing Ulster in the rugby final.
Me: Oh right.
Him: HOW could you not know that?
Me: Some of us go our entire lives without knowing rugby fixtures.
Him: It seems a waste not to go to Twickenham since you’ll be there anyhow.
Me: But yet I am not tempted.
Him: But when you saw it was dear, why didn’t you check other weekends to see if they would be cheaper.
Me: But we’d agreed this weekend.
Him: But why didn’t you check?
Me: Look, it’s booked now, why are you torturing me this way?
Him: I’m trying to teach you how to fish.

Further Weekend Activities

15 May, 2012 at 10:37 pm by belgianwaffle

Yes, it’s just non-stop. This weekend, Daniel played football on Saturday morning, climbed the Sugar Loaf on Saturday afternoon, went orienteering on Sunday morning and played tennis on Sunday afternoon. Yet he is not exhausted. A mystery.

The rest of us partook of a sample of these activities. The children and I climbed the Sugar Loaf which is according to our guide book the second most climbed mountain in Ireland. It was certainly busy on Saturday afternoon. “Tourists,” said the Princess disdainfully. And though she felt it was a bit too easy, it was certainly hard enough for me. Part of the problem is that she and Michael are very nimble but Daniel isn’t (he’s the best at running and ball games, so it’s good that he doesn’t triumph at everything, I suppose). We got to the top and admired the view:


Then herself and Michael scrambled down with admirable speed but a less than entirely admirable consideration for their mother. They got to the car park a good three quarters of an hour before Daniel and I made it down. I, of course, worried that they would fall and break their necks but had to stay with Daniel who was afraid of falling and therefore the most cautious of the lot. There were some recriminations. Still, it’s a great mountain to have climbed because the shape is so distinctive and you can see it every time you drive into Wicklow.

Then on Sunday we went orienteering with the cousins again and all the children seemed to really like it. This week, they hared round the course and might have made quite good time had they not had to wait for me.

I am exhausted after all this outdoor activity. I think I will stay in for the rest of the week nursing my tired limbs.

Weekend Activities

14 May, 2012 at 10:35 pm by belgianwaffle

The weekend before last, we went to the Science Gallery but couldn’t face the queues. As I had never seen the Book of Kells, we trotted off to have a look. On the way in Michael looked around and said, “I’m going to be really bored, amn’t I?” He was correct. I did see the Book of Kells but only for a moment. I thought that the Long Room was absolutely beautiful but, the children were underwhelmed. Even when I pointed out that it was the model for the Jedi archives.

We took ourselves to the college bar and the children had the most fun of the day playing on a sculpture which I trust, given that it is adjacent to the bar, is robust.


We also had ice cream. Note how the toasty children frolic in the warm May sunshine.



Queen of Post-its

13 May, 2012 at 11:00 pm by belgianwaffle

Example 1:
We had a bad day with herself recently. She was cranky, we were cranky. When he put her to bed, Mr. Waffle said, “Tomorrow will be a better day.” She glowered at him. “I don’t think so,” she growled and pointed at a post-it on the wall. He peered. It said “SULK”. A note to herself for the morning, lest she forget.

Example 2:
We are still making our way through the Easter egg chocolate. The Princess suspects me of eating it. I did once but only the once because it’s quite vile. She was unconvinced. “Right,” she said, “I am going to take precautions.” Mr. Waffle found her in the kitchen weighing the chocolate. She then wrote the weight on a post-it and stuck it to the remaining chocolate in what can only be called a marked manner.


10 May, 2012 at 10:22 pm by belgianwaffle

On Wednesday evening, 9 May herself fainted, briefly and for the first time ever. I rang my father for advice. “Get a doctor round,” he said. The out of hours doctor service said, “Take her straight to A&E, I’ll call the ambulance, if you like.” So, the Princess – slightly miserable and headachey but otherwise ok – and I drove to A&E in the children’s hospital. In driving rain, of course.

By the time we got there, the Calpol had kicked in and she was fine. The triage nurse put us in category 4 – meaning she was ok really but the nurse insisted that she should see a doctor. Category 4 means – I can tell you now – that all smaller and/or sicker children would have to be seen before her. Between 7.30 in the evening and 3.30 in the morning, we saw every child with a broken limb in North County Dublin and a lot of sick babies.

We had left home before dinner but in the solidarity of the waiting corridor, a nice woman shared bananas with us. My phone ran out of juice about 11.30. Herself pleaded with me to pay €2 to recharge it for 40 minutes. “What,” said I, “would be the point, we’ll be out of here in half an hour.” Oh how we laughed. We had brought one book each and in desperation we swapped about 1 in the morning which was unsatisfactory for both of us. I went through the various leaflets – how to be safe in the water, permission for surgery, breastfeeding – and corrected the spelling and grammar errors. Look, each to his own.

When we eventually saw the doctor, she was very thorough but found nothing. But she was less than entirely comforting – if it happens again, we’re to bring herself in for an EEG. You need to pass out more than once before they’ll do that apparently. The doctor had been on since 9 the previous morning and a part of me sympathised and was v. impressed by her thoroughness but another less worthy part of me thought, mmmm, yes but you will be off tomorrow and I will be going to work and it is now 4 in the morning. Yes, it’s all about me. Your point? A bill for €100 is winging its way towards us in respect of the 30 minute examination and 8 hour wait.

Anyhow, herself has been absolutely fine since, so I trust that all will be well but you find us all still somewhat unnerved. Our families have been suitably supportive and caring. Anyone else I have told has been enormously comforting – it used to happen to me, I know a girl who always fainted etc. etc. There has been one notable exception, namely her teacher. He is a native Irish speaker from the Kerry Gaeltacht and, he glows with the irrepressible pessimism that is sometimes associated with the region. When we told him the story, he instantly said, “Ah, I noticed she wasn’t well in herself recently.” “In what way?” we asked nervously, “Was she tired, distracted, not concentrating?” “No,” he said, “I just felt she wasn’t learning.” Oh Lord above. We have decided to discount this evidence on the grounds that she seemed quite alright to us recently.

Reasons to Visit the Midlands

5 May, 2012 at 10:54 pm by belgianwaffle

Out of the blue last week, Michael expressed a desire to go orienteering. Ever obedient to our children’s whims, last Sunday we took them to Mullaghmeen Forest with their cousins (expert orienteers, their parents have been known to run around courses).

It was freezing (6 degrees at the end of April, what is happening to the weather? I digress) but once in the forest out of the wind, it was fine. Mr. Waffle had been very excited on the way down as it is one of the very few forests in Ireland which does not consist almost entirely of fir trees. I couldn’t work up any enthusiasm myself until I saw it. And he was quite right, it is lovely.


And then we went to visit a friend of mine from college who lives in the Midlands. She has her own business, her husband commutes from his job in the UK and she has three children, 8, 6 and 3. I always feel that staying sane in these circumstances is a very significant achievement. Anyway she tells me that she has decided to up the ante and that she is expecting another baby. She seems calm and cheerful in a manner that may indicate that she has finally tipped over into insanity. One can but gasp in awe.

Zoo Again

4 May, 2012 at 10:53 pm by belgianwaffle

We went to the zoo again because now that we have an annual membership, I am determined to drag them there whenever possible.

As ever, we spent ages in tiny and, as far as I can see, not particularly attractive playground:
Feis and Zoo 012

We lingered to look at not very exotic pigs:

But I didn’t care because I hadn’t paid €50 for us to get in. So then we saw the tigers close up and the sea lions did amusing things. This only happened because I didn’t care.

We Laughed, We Cried

3 May, 2012 at 10:06 pm by belgianwaffle

We had the school Feis last Saturday. The Princess won second place with her rendition of “An Tíogar” by Máire Ní Ghallchobhair. She was very pleased.


And she got cake.

Neither of her brothers won anything (“An Seilide” by Gabriel Rosenstock for Michael and “An bhfaca tú mo Shéamaisín?” Traditional for Daniel). They both cried. Not in the course of their performance but on hearing the results of the independent jury. Alas.

Lingually Erupting Mandibular Incisors

2 May, 2012 at 10:06 pm by belgianwaffle

Look, Daniel has shark teeth.

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