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Archive for June, 2012

I Wouldn’t Say the Battle is Won but it isn’t Lost Either

30 June, 2012 at 11:36 pm by belgianwaffle

This article by Anne-Marie Slaughter has been doing the rounds on the internet and I’m sure you’ve already seen it somewhere else.

It’s an interesting article. The author is clearly surprised that she wasn’t able to juggle teenage children and working at a very demanding job in another city. This was because she had always been able to manage children and a demanding job before. Personally, I think it was really the commute and time away that killed her. She’s clearly very clever and ambitious. I think her thesis is, if it can’t work for me, then it can’t work for anyone. But, ironically, it is working for her. She has an important, influential job as an academic. Yes, she gave up an even better and more influential job and she is annoyed that she couldn’t make it work. I think it is true that she would have been less likely to give up, if she were a man but I still think that feminism has brought us a long, long way. So, I wouldn’t exactly call it a good news story but it isn’t quite the disaster for feminism that that she’s painting.

While my own work-life balance isn’t perfect, I can see it is far better than my mother’s was. I enjoyed paid maternity leave after my babies were born. I don’t work in a world where children only get sick on weekends or one where only their mothers can take them to the surgery. I have a job that is interesting and that I enjoy. I am also going to take July and August off work in a combination of unpaid parental leave and holidays so that I will be with my children for a very long summer break. Also, today my boss of bosses summoned me to his office and said, “You do a great job. We don’t say that enough here. You deserve your break. Enjoy yourself.” Hurrah for work. Hurrah for feminism. Hurrah for my summer holidays also.

School Reports

29 June, 2012 at 9:55 pm by belgianwaffle

The children’s school reports have come in. They are good; we are pleased; they are pleased. The reports acknowledged the most impressive feat of the year – Michael who could barely read last September is now an excellent reader. And better again, he loves to read. Although not as much as he likes to play on my phone.

The Princess took the explanatory leaflet on standardised scores to bed with her so that she could work out what her results really meant. She’s going to be debriefing me later.

Daniel continues to marry ability and hard work in a manner that I can only hope will lead to great things in later life. Or, at the very least, employment.

Obsession

28 June, 2012 at 11:43 pm by belgianwaffle

A colleague of mine likes to cycle. This is a much more expensive hobby than the uninitiated might expect. 600 quid for a set of bicycle wheels. And that’s a bargain. He would come in from lunch with a bicycle saddle under his arm having done a deal with someone on the internet. Anyhow, he made his bike. He brought it into the office one day. Literally, as he felt it wasn’t safe in the garage. I lifted up his super-light, titanium, immensely expensive, fairy-dust sprinkled bike. “It’s not that light,” said I. “Ah,” he said, “you need to take off the water bottle.”

Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth

27 June, 2012 at 10:05 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess and I went rollerblading on the road this afternoon. It was toasty, I was wearing shorts. When the Princess saw me in my rollerblades she became hysterical. “Your legs are so fat and wobbly,” gasped she. On seeing that I was far from pleased by this artless confidence, she sobered up and said, “It’s just that fat legs are so jolly.” Indeed.

Vignette from this Morning

26 June, 2012 at 9:43 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Time to get up, it’s your last Monday, in third class!
Her: Mum, it’s Tuesday.

Unwelcome

25 June, 2012 at 10:22 pm by belgianwaffle

At 6.19 the other morning Michael came into our bedroom fully dressed. “Surprise!” he said, “I’m ready to go to school.” We were surprised.

In All Fairness

24 June, 2012 at 10:03 pm by belgianwaffle

Like the middle aged mother I am, I stood staring at mobile phone covers in the Vodafone shop for a long time trying to work out what would suit me best. A shop assistant came up, advised, put me out of my misery and switched on my roaming for me. I could feel that the people behind me in the queue might have been a bit tense on their lunch breaks but I was a happy woman.

And then, you may recall that Mr. Waffle got me a new phone for Christmas. Part of the rather generous deal was that he would cover the bills. From time to time, I would hear him muttering darkly as he wrestled with the internet billing system. To no avail. Between January and June, no bills came. He began to get concerned. He went to the Vodafone shop. “Oh sorry sir” said they [or words to this effect – does anyone say sir anymore?] “Entirely our fault; there’s a problem with our billing system. We won’t charge you for the period between Christmas and June.”

Am I feeling warm and fuzzy towards vodafone, oh yes I am.

The Letter of the Law but not the Spirit

23 June, 2012 at 8:07 pm by belgianwaffle

Me (bending to pick up): How many times do I have to say it – where do shoes go?
Michael (indignantly): They’re not shoes, they’re sandals.

A More Innocent Time

22 June, 2012 at 8:37 pm by belgianwaffle

I know someone who took three weeks off work to nurse her children through the State examinations which ended today. I seem to remember that my parents went on holidays before I finished my Leaving Certificate. My sister maintains it was the matric (now abolished), but you see my point.

This brings me to a story. When I sat down in the Lee Maltings (now a trendy research institute) to do my matric in 1986 (yes, alas, neither today nor yesterday), I was young and considerably less knowledgeable than I thought. The invigilator who talked us through the form on the first day said, “Where it says place of birth, put Cork; they’re not interested in the competition between the Bons and the Ville.” As I had my pen poised to write that I was born in the Bons Secours Maternity hospital, his warning was timely.

That’s enough exam nostalgia for one day.

The Longest Day of the Year

21 June, 2012 at 10:45 pm by belgianwaffle

Today is my favourite aunt’s birthday [or possibly not, this was a matter of some dispute between the American authorities and my grandmother; to be fair, you would think she would know]. When I was forced at age 11 to move from a larger house to a smaller one, the only comfort was that my aunt lived next door. And she still does and now when we visit Cork, my children wander into her house and eat her food, watch her television and play her piano just like my brother and sister and I have been doing for 30 years. I had better not tell the children that in summer she played soccer with us in the back garden until it got dark.

Jam Today

20 June, 2012 at 10:33 pm by belgianwaffle

Here are the gooseberries from the back garden:
2012-06-04 002

Here is the jam:
2012-06-04 008

Also, please note, I finally persuaded the Princess to get a haircut. I am suitably pleased with the result.

Conspiracy

19 June, 2012 at 8:35 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael: I tried to go to sleep but my tummy hurts.
Daniel (doubling over): My tummy hurts too.
Michael: Boy, sleeping is dangerous.

Test

18 June, 2012 at 10:39 pm by belgianwaffle

I went to see Wendy Cope at a poetry reading. I thought that she was surprisingly tetchy for someone who writes a lot of funny verse but maybe it was just the weather. There’s a joke to be made there somewhere – talk among yourselves and get back to me.

She was reading with Dennis O’Driscoll who was a lovely man and rather cowed by her, I thought. Though perhaps he did provoke her slightly.

In discussion afterwards, Dennis O’Driscoll said that Ireland was a great place to be a poet and Wendy Cope said that in England, nobody could name three contemporary poets. Both of these comments seem a bit unlikely to me but reader, tell me, can you name 3 contemporary poets? Googling will disqualify. Answering will restore my faith in humanity. No pressure now.

J’accuse!

17 June, 2012 at 10:25 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Who went upstairs in muddy shoes?
Princess: I don’t know.
Me: Then why does a trail of footprints lead to your bedroom door?
Princess: That is rather incriminating, isn’t it?

Yes, indeed.

Very Louche

16 June, 2012 at 9:18 pm by belgianwaffle

Tintin is rough in Dublin, I see. Why might that be? Your thoughts? Is the Hergé estate happy with this? A mystery.

Tintin

Nationality

15 June, 2012 at 10:52 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Am I the best Mummy?
Michael: Yes you are!
Me: In the whole wide…?
Michael: Google?

Me: You are a digital native.
Herself: And what are you?
Me: I’m a digital traveller, no wait, a digital stranger, a digital visitor..oh I forget.
Her: A digital sieve?

Guilty Conscience

14 June, 2012 at 10:29 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle is going to a 20 year college reunion on Saturday night. 20 years ago, he paid a classmate a fiver for a class photo but she never delivered. He had written it off some time ago but he remembered the incident, if not with bitterness then definitely with…rememberedness. This was, of course, “when money was money” as my parents would say and a fiver would buy you an entire summer’s worth of entertainment.

Anyhow, he clearly isn’t the only one who remembers because she contacted him the other day and said, “I still have your class photo.”

Stalked by Illness

13 June, 2012 at 8:35 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael (loudly from upstairs): There’s something disgusting in my room.
It turned out to be cat vomit. Isn’t it enough that I have children who start to vomit the second they feel ill?

The Best Hobby in the World

12 June, 2012 at 9:23 pm by belgianwaffle

I found an old Agatha Christie upstairs and I gave it to herself saying that she might like it. It lay around on her desk for ages but the other night she had nothing else to read and she picked it up. She is completely hooked. I remember how much I loved Agatha Christie when I was about her age. I am delighted for her. And for us because there are loads of them out there and they might last her a bit longer than the My Sister the Vampire books.

Then, when I went in to turn off the boys’ lights, Michael was reading a Spongebob book and Daniel was methodically working his way through stories of T’choupi, the world’s dullest mole. “What are you doing?” I asked. “I’m teaching myself to read in French,” he said.

004

Running a Loose Ship

11 June, 2012 at 7:36 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Michael, will you come upstairs and wash your teeth?
Michael (wrestling with his brother): NO!
Me: Michael, you know how annoying it is for me when you ignore me.
Him (indignantly): I didn’t ignore you, I answered the question.

Language AND Culture

10 June, 2012 at 11:08 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess got new sandals. They have a large shiny diamond in the strap. “Are they,” she asked me, “very bling-bling?” “Eh?” I said. “You know,” she sighed, “like Sarkozy”.

Reminder to Self

9 June, 2012 at 8:55 pm by belgianwaffle

Do not cycle in a wrap dress.

Perspective

8 June, 2012 at 9:48 pm by belgianwaffle

What we see: Brown Bin for food waste.
What our cat sees: Source of occasional treats.
What our neighbour’s cat sees: Guest buffet.

What I see: new seeds just sown in freshly turned earth.
What our cat sees: A spot for rolling.
What our neighbour’s cat sees: A new latrine.

Reading

7 June, 2012 at 11:17 pm by belgianwaffle

“The Big City or the New Mayhew” by Alex Atkinson & Ronald Searle [New Year’s Resolution]

This is pretty slight. I think that I may have picked it up in my parents’ house and I suspect one of them may have bought it when it was fresh collected journalism. It’s a collection of columns from Punch. The idea was that they would interview and describe the poor of the 1950s (the encyclopedia seller, the elderly actress etc.) as Mayhew had the Victorian poor. It may have been funny at the time but like much of this king of thing, it has not aged well. The cartoons are, however, very appealing.

“City of Djinns” by William Dalrymple [New Year’s Resolution]

I think my sister bought this when she was living in Delhi. If not, I am at a loss as to why the price is in rupees. I know that she expressed considerable dislike for the author and all his works. This put me off slightly. However, she hated Delhi and yet another Westerner waxing lyrical about its virtues was unlikely to appeal to her. I thought this was a terrific book about Delhi: erudite, enlightening and entertaining. The author loves the Mughals and that’s where most of the book stays. He’s fine also on the British occupation of India but the last part of the book deals with Delhi before the Mughals came and that’s a little disappointing.

Overall, however, it made me regret very much that I decided not to visit Delhi while my sister lived there. Have a read yourself. I would say that I knew almost nothing about Delhi before reading it so it did strike me that, those who knew something about Delhi might find it a bit basic – in any event I thought it was an excellent introduction at the very least. I would be very willing to read another of Mr. Dalrymple’s works.

“Woodbrook” by David Thompson

I loved this book. It’s about a big house in the West of Ireland where the author spent a lot of time in the 1930s. He loves the house, the family, the place and the people and it comes across very strongly. It’s a sad book as it’s set in the Anglo-Irish twilight and the family lose the house in the end, though he seems almost more affected by it than the family themselves. But it’s not just about the family, it’s about the people who work for them and place where they live as well. He has a great feeling for the place and it’s a lovely, gentle book.

“Clayhanger” by Arnold Bennett [New Year’s Resolution]

This was published 1910 but it is set earlier and has a somewhat Victorian moralising feel. Early on, I almost caught a whiff of Silas Marner [one of my least favourite books]. Mercifully I was mistaken. This is my favourite kind of Victorian novel. It’s lengthy so there’s no danger you’ll reach the end any time soon and you can sit back and enjoy it. He’s quite like Mrs. Gaskell, I think, though not as good.

I was only dimly aware of Arnold Bennett before and possibly confused him with Matthew Arnold. I remember, in “Testament of Youth”, Vera Brittain refers to him in awed tones. The back page of my edition of “Clayhanger” concludes its description of him in these glowing terms:

When he died in 1931 he was one of the best-loved figures in literary London, had great fame abroad, and was acknowledged to be one of the most celebrated men ever produced by his native count, or, indeed, by his country.

I think it would be fair to say that his reputation hasn’t survived particularly well. Or is that just my ignorance. Anyhow, I wouldn’t mind giving his masterpiece a go “The Old Wives’ Tale”. Or perhaps something else but not “Hilda Lessways” which, by definition would feature lots of Hilda whom I didn’t like much in this book and seems to have been a much less loved book. Details of your favourite Arnold Bennett book in the comments please.

“Skulduggery Pleasant: The End of the World” by Derek Landy

A book written for 9-12 year olds about a skeleton detective and his teenage sidekick. 128 pages for world book day. Very enjoyable. Your point?

“Jazz” by Toni Morrison [New Year’s Resolution]

I find Toni Morrison’s writing deeply confusing. Even though I know the overarching story, I am always confused by the details. This is my second Toni Morrison book, I now feel qualified to comment. One of the things that really puzzled me about this book was that I couldn’t work out who the narrator was a lot of the time. That said, it’s a very clever book and it rewards you for sticking with it. There are lots of characters and they all have a very clear identity and, in a relatively short book, you learn a lot about all of them. But it’s not a quick read or a light one – the overarching story is of a married man who kills his 18 year old lover; his mad wife then goes to attack the corpse at the wake. But that’s really just a device – if a pretty dramatic one – to explore all the background to the people involved and why they are the way they are and it’s really interesting, if a bit opaque at times.

On balance, I think I’d try another.

Am I only Dreaming or is this Burning an Eternal Flame?

6 June, 2012 at 7:36 pm by belgianwaffle

The Olympic flame travelled through Dublin this morning. The school took the children out to see. As Michael said, “It was the first time I saw Jedward in real life.”

Comparisons are Odious

5 June, 2012 at 10:58 pm by belgianwaffle

For their homework, Daniel and Michael were asked to list the names of books they had read on a sheet of paper. They had to fill in the date they had read the book and the author and review it by means of a sad face or smiley face.

Michael said, “It is only for books in Irish you have read at school”. He filled in the details of his Irish textbook, closed up his books and zoomed off about his business.

Daniel assured me that it was for all books you had read that day and was determined to fill in all 10 spaces. He wouldn’t cheat either. He gathered around him a selection of books (all of which he had read before), including even an Irish one, and dutifully re-read through them all before carefully noting down the details on his list. It took him forever.

I noted that all of his reviews were positive as was Michael’s. My children are uniformly positive when asked for their views by authorities outside the family. I tackled Michael later. “Why did you give Féasta a smiley face? You hate Féasta.” “Oh, I like the bit where they have the party,” he said.

Confusion of Ideas

4 June, 2012 at 10:48 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself: What are we having for dinner?
Me: Steak.
Her: Great, are you going to do it on the newt?

Moving in Mysterious Ways

3 June, 2012 at 10:35 pm by belgianwaffle

For reasons which were unclear – unless it is the general odour of sanctity which pervades the school in the wake of the first holy communions – Daniel started saying the Hail Mary in Irish one morning. He was doing fine until he got to “pray for us sinners” where he began to mix it up slightly with the second part of the Our Father from “give us this day our daily bread”. The net result was that he said, “Tabhair dúinn ár bpeacai inniu”. In other words, he asked the Virgin to “give us our sins today”; I suppose that would ensure that all sins were at the venial end of the spectrum.

Ancient Wisdom

2 June, 2012 at 10:32 pm by belgianwaffle

Me (to my sister): I’m so ancient, I’m still exhausted after our trip to London.
Princess: Everyone is ancient in some way.
Me: Well, you’re nine, I don’t think you’re ancient in any way, to be honest.
Herself (coldly): I am wise beyond my years.

Language

1 June, 2012 at 10:27 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael reads and re-reads a lot of Asterix and Tintin. This has had an impact on how he talks. Sometimes he says “By Jupiter!” and also “By Toutatis!” [which he pronounces “by tortious”], “Blistering barnacles!” and “Thundering Typhoons”. He also says, “Fiddlesticks!” when baulked. The other day he answered the door to the babysitter and I heard him say to her, “Do come in.” When you ask him to do something he says, “As you wish.” He says “That’s quite alright”, if you apologise for something. When you make an observation with which he agrees, he says, “Very true” or “I’ll say!” Hilariously, whenever he is cross with anyone he says, “You bingbong!”; he also has a slightly baroque line in insults – “you bald baboon”, “you half-headed monkey” and other made-up expressions of that nature. He refers to me as “My beloved Mummy.”

The other day, we deployed the paddling pool. As is often the case, the water from the garden hose led to a cooler experience than expected. I got a kettle full of water to put in the pool and Michael leapt up in delight and said, “Hot water, Allah be praised!”

Recently, he had to sit in my office for an hour which he did very quietly. Only looking up from his DS occasionally to say, “That’s a bad word, Mummy” as I muttered curses.


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