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Archive for September, 2012

Confidence Boosting

28 September, 2012 at 10:14 pm by belgianwaffle

Strike 1

I was recounting to Mr. Waffle in the car how I dreamt that when I arrived at my office it was occupied by a young whipper-snapper and I was confined to a desk in a dark windowless cubbyhole. “And I didn’t even protest,” I said mournfully.

Strike 2

Herself pipes up from the back, “That was a dream? But it sounds like exactly the kind of thing that would happen to you in real life!”

Strike 3

I was telling a friend in work about this and she said, “Gosh your daughter knows you really well, doesn’t she?”

Busy Day

27 September, 2012 at 10:14 pm by belgianwaffle

Today is:
Google’s 14th birthday;
The feast day of Saint Vincent de Paul;
And of Saint Michael;
The feast of the French Community of Belgium (for details, I refer you here);
My parents’ 45th wedding anniversary;
And Daniel and Michael’s 7th birthday.

Update – 24 October
And I finally got around to writing a birthday note.

Thank You for Pushing my Boundaries

25 September, 2012 at 8:38 pm by belgianwaffle

That’s what my husband said to me in tones of mild bitterness earlier this evening. We went to see “The Boys of Foley Street” in the Dublin Theatre Festival. It was very hard to get tickets. This difficulty was explained when the tickets arrived with an explanatory note that there were only four audience members for each show. I was unnerved. Mr. Waffle said acidly, “I bet there’s going to be audience participation.” He was right.

Then I got this email:

Dear Anne,

Thank you for your recent booking of tickets to The Boys of Foley Street as part of Dublin Theatre Festival.

I am getting in touch with you now to let you know that since you made the booking we have learned that the production contains scenes of sexual violence. As this is a new piece and constantly evolving, we were not aware of this at the time of your booking. We want our audiences to enjoy every Festival show they attend and we felt it was important to update you so that you would have all the information available on the production.

We advise that The Boys of Foley Street is not suitable for patrons under 16 years of age, and that the production contains material that some may find disturbing.

Should you have any queries or concerns on the content of this material I would be happy to discuss these further with you.

Kind regards,

Box Office Manager
Dublin Theatre Festival

I have to say that my enthusiasm levels hit record lows. As Mr. Waffle and I trudged through the rain to the venue, I feared the worst. We were led to a car across the road and told to sit in. This documentary was playing on the radio. An alarming looking tramp with a bottle of cider under his arm came and knocked at the car window. Actor or local? Hard to tell but I suppose that this was part of the attraction. I rolled down the car window cautiously. He began to ramble but he seemed more likely to be an actor.

Then we were driven around this very depressed part of the city to a housing estate like this only not as pleasant. There were some locals drinking in a huddle in the corner (not actors) and we went into one of the flats where, alas, we were separated. The actors (lots of them) acted very dysfunctional lives just for you – all by yourself. It was really cleverly done, though intimidating. That was kind of the point, I suppose. I did find myself looking at the actors’ teeth showing fine orthodontic work and saying mentally, these people are not really alarming, violent, alcoholics. No they’re not.

I used the same technique in a back alley while a drug dealer was beaten up and I was holding the IRA man’s coat. [I subsequently found a picture of the actor on the internet drinking prosecco with his friends. My conscience is clear] Mr. Waffle was in a shed sitting in an old car while a dead body slid up and down the roof. Frankly, I wouldn’t have minded having him to hand as that would have stopped the actor playing the alarming tramp giving me a kiss (peck on the cheek, but still) because I was his girlfriend. We finished up in a meeting room where pushers were being denounced having been brought there by Macker the reassuring IRA man. When he left, we noticed that our pictures were on the walls. Possibly because we were on “the list”.

Still and all, highly recommended; there are no dull bits.

Running against the Tide

16 September, 2012 at 8:19 pm by belgianwaffle

On Saturday I took the children to the Phoenix Park to find that it was closed to cars because there was a half marathon. We parked outside the gates and walked while carrying mountains of kit (me), cycled (Michael deploying new found skills), roller-bladed (herself) and solo-ed (Daniel) 2 kms into the playground at which point we were only fit to turn around and soldier back to the car so that we could get home for lunch.

Then, this morning we dropped Mr. Waffle to the airport (he’s in exotic Finland for work) and went on to a playground in the grounds of a big house nearby. The car park and grounds were full to overflowing. Yes, indeed, another wretched run ruining our weekend.

Some further indications of the national interest in running: the Irish Times is now doing special running articles; lots of my relatives run including ones you might safely assume were a little old for this kind of thing; my colleague who started running a couple of years ago got a bunch of people at work interested and now they’ve gone and won a race – they have a trophy, it’s unmissable; and further the stand-up comedian we went to see the other night is running. I am a little concerned that I may be the one person in Ireland who isn’t running. Look, I had shin splints in 1989 and I’m not going to risk that again.

New Glasses

15 September, 2012 at 10:21 pm by belgianwaffle

Did I tell you that Daniel got new glasses in August? Well he did. Note how he has already managed to bend the frames. He has decided that he doesn’t want the little round ones any more as he is a big boy who is nearly 7.

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I suppose that the round ones were a bit babyish. He first got his round ones when he was 2 which doesn’t seem quite as long ago to me as it does to him:

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Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

14 September, 2012 at 8:05 pm by belgianwaffle

Some things grew in my garden this year. Town Mouse who is in the semi-pro category when it comes to gardening and once, if memory serves me, won a prize for her vegetables, had a spread sheet calculating how much she spent on her garden and comparing her prices to those in the supermarket. I seem to remember that the calculation was that growing your own was definitely not cheaper. If this was the case for Town Mouse, it is much more so for me. Things fail with monotonous regularity (slugs devoured this years pumpkin crop when it was two tender leaves poking above the ground). I spend hours in vain trying to weed out brambles, dandelions and bindweed. My crops are small. As Town Mouse points out, they do taste slightly nicer than things you buy in the shops but, you know, they are still, vegetables. But yet, I find it all very enjoyable. Oh middle age, thy name is gardening. This season’s triumphs are detailed below. And I haven’t even mentioned the sweet peas.

The ever-reliable gooseberries providing enough for two harvests and four pots of jam:

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The small, but successful, turnip and carrot harvest:

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Providing enough for dinner for five (if three of the five don’t eat vegetables).

The pea harvest; the Princess demonstrates using “women laughing with salad” for inspiration:

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Every year, I have loads of lettuce. I think it must be the easiest thing to grow. If you’re going to start, start here:

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Healthy head of lettuce in the sink with entire potato crop. Let us draw a veil.

Our two apple trees have not been particularly successful producing one apple between them. On the plus side, we have 11 pears on our pear tree. Yes, I have counted.

Reading

10 September, 2012 at 11:51 pm by belgianwaffle

“The Beginner’s Goodbye” by Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler writes beautifully and I have really enjoyed all of her previous books. This was a lovely read, if a little slight. It’s about a man whose wife dies and how he gets over it. It reminds me a little of Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” though it is not as good a book. It is a much more enjoyable book though with a happy ending.

“Memoirs d’une Jeune Fille Rangée” by Simone de Beauvoir [New Year’s Resolution]

Simone de Beauvoir remembers a lot about her childhood. A little two much, if you ask me. 120 (densely printed pages) in, she was still under ten. I felt it would be good for me to read this in French. I wasn’t so sure by the time I’d finished. Though I do now know what a hobereau is. Your best guess in the comments, please. Googling will disqualify. One clue, the author’s aunt married a “hobereau”.

So, when she was under ten, i.e. before 1918 she didn’t really notice that there was any lack of equality between the sexes. She seems to have been deliberately obtuse. She seems much more interested in the question of where her family fitted in the social structure. It’s a bit complicated but I think, in summary, they felt that they were at the top but they weren’t really and they didn’t have a great deal of money compared to everyone else. Though, of course, they still had servants. I do love the bit where she describes her guardian angel who is devoted to her service, just like Louise, her nanny.

She was a voracious reader and her mother used to pin together pages which were unsuitable for the young Simone’s eyes. The Princess, when I told her this, was incredulous, as I was myself a bit. However, Simone did tell this story that the priest preparing them for first communion told her, which may explain her obedience. He told them that a young girl, with indifferent parents, was allowed to read everything including, gasp, improper books. The girl came to the priest in some distress but he was too late to save her so she committed suicide. It’s hard to see where Simone would have come across a more inappropriate story for young ears, frankly. It was quite odd to see her waxing lyrical about “Little Women” and identifying with Jo. Hands up if you knew Simone de Beauvoir was a passionate fan of Louisa Alcott as a child.

She is very good on the intensity of girls who are best friends in their early teens. Her description of her friendship with Zaza rings very true. I bet Zaza and her family were less than entirely delighted by this book, though. Do you want everyone to know that your father had to propose several times to your mother before he was accepted and then only with great reluctance?

She starts off a very devoted daughter and her father’s favourite but she becomes disillusioned with him. At one point she is reading about voting being restricted to those who pay more than a certain amount in taxes. She is outraged by this. Her father’s response is to smile and say that as a nation is the sum of its goods, it is to be expected that those who own them should administer them.

“Papa sourit. Il m’expliqua qu’une nation, c’est un ensemble de biens; à ceux qui les détiennent revient normalement le soin de les administrer.”

She sees the hypocrisy of this as her father has become poorer and poorer as his career failed. Did he think he should be deprived of his rights?

We spend a good 100 pages when she starts in the Sorbonne inside Simone’s head. She may be one of the great French intellectuals of the 20th century experiencing existentialist angst or she may be a cranky teenager. It’s a bit hard to tell. Things definitely start to look up once she starts hitting the bars though. She is still living at home and her mother thinks she’s off at some club to help the poor in Belleville but in fact she has found alcohol and she likes it. The gin-fizz is her drink of choice. She does the oddest things to get attention. Herself and her sister arrive in bars separately and then pretend to fight – pulling hair and slapping. Why would you do that? Frankly, given what she gets up to, her parents seem to have been entirely justified in keeping her on a tight rein.

I did not expect to get my first sniff of Sartre only at page 383. Was it for this etc? We learn a lot more about her other friends and Zaza is a constant presence. SPOILER ALERT – stop now, if you think you will ever read this. Zaza dies in the end and suddenly you realise that really the book was all about her and it seems like quite a lovely tribute to their friendship.

Another friend who gets quite a bit of coverage towards the end is Stépha and her lover Fernando. As I was reading this book in France, I was also reading the death notices daily in Le Monde (look, we all have to have a hobby) and I was quite touched to see this one: “Mon ami, Tito Gerassi ne parlera plus de ses parents, Fernando, le peintre, parti se battre avec les républicans espagnols, Stepha, venue d’Ukraine, Berlin les années 20, amie de Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, un intime.”

Because I can:
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“The Temptations of Saint Anthony” by Flaubert translated by Lafcadio Hearn [New Year’s Resolution]

When I came across the following sentence in the introduction to this book, I nearly gave up there and then:

“But works like the Temptation were far less common, in their appeal also to a kind of voluptuousness of the life of the mind, a … self-indulgence within a seemingly infinite library, where meaning is at the heart of the book but understanding is challenged on every page. In the twentieth centrury we had to wait for writers like James Joyce and Samuel Beckett to give us something similar.”

Please note that this is the easier of the two introductions. The other, by Michel Foucault, is a harder read although he did say one thing that I found, much to my surprise, to be true – “The visible sequence of scenes is extremely simple…” And, actually, it is. In fact, it’s a much easier read than Foucault’s introduction and at no point does Flaubert have to resort to diagrams to show how the reader should appreciate the work.

This book was a present from this man who when reproached (after I had read the introduction but before I had read the text) said that he didn’t remember much about it but at least it was short. This also turned out to be true.

Before turning to the text proper, I must point out that this is the version translated by Lafcadio Hearn of whom I was dimly aware as an Irish man who spent time in Japan. Thanks to the more intelligible of the two introductions, I now know a lot more about Lafcadio. Unusual life story.

This is a weird, weird book but, as advertised, quite easy to read. I found it easier going than “Madame Bovary” mind you, my expectations were pitched far lower. It describes how Saint Anthony was tempted. It lingers on the heresies of the early church in loving detail. It’s a bit dull but very understandable. I liked the glossary the best. Did you know that Sheba is in the Yemen? How about that Sartor is an agrarian god of the Romans who presided over the weeding of gardens?

“The Fall of Paris” by Alaistair Horne [New Year’s Resolution]

This is a history of the siege of Paris in 1870. Guess what happens in the end. I read a good review of this once and it spent about 15 years on my shelf waiting to be read. It assumes a knowledge of French history which I do not have, alas. The author assumes that the main figures in the drama are well known to the reader and are old friends who need no further introduction. It also has quite a bit about military tactics which I always find very dull.

On the plus side it is filled with entertaining incidents and contemporary comment on the siege. I liked the bit where one of the contemporary accounts talks about a newspaper from Rouen which arrived during the siege bringing some news from outside: “whoever had said 3 months ago that a Provincial paper a fortnight old arriving in Paris would cause a sensation would have been laughed at; however such was the case”

The whole thing is made worth while by the chapter on hunger. What did the Parisians do when the food ran out? Well, all manner of things. They began to eat horsemeat. Then the signs “Feline and Canine Butchers” made their debut. By December one man was commenting in a matter-of-fact way “I had a slice of spaniel the other day.” Another man was “fattening up a huge cat which he meant to serve up on Christmas Day, ‘surrounded with mice, like sausages.'”

The passage below appeals:

As more and more of the two traditional domestic enemies became reconciled in the cooking-pot, Gautier claimed that they seemed to grow instinctively aware of their peril:

Soon the animals observed that man was regarding them in a strange manner and that, under the pretext of caressing them, his hand was feeling them like the fingers of a butcher, to ascertain the state of their embonpoint. More intellectual and more suspicious than dogs, the cats were the first to understand, and adopted the greatest prudence in their relations.

Rats, you will be delighted to hear were essentially a rich man’s dish “on account of the lavish preparation of sauces required to make them palatable.” They also ate the animals in the zoo.

The whole chapter is full of hilarious and very odd anecdotes. The whole book is strong on primary sources which is its great virtue though the comment on the back of the book that “[o]ne lives through the siege of Paris and the Commune as much as those who were on the spot” is certainly overstated.

I don’t think it’s a good introduction to the period as it requires to much detailed knowledge but I still found it really interesting. Even though the commune were idiots in many ways – making decrees about administrative matters in squabbling committees when the Versaillais were marching determinedly on the city – and bloody, it’s hard not to admire them a bit. The influence of the short lived commune was huge. The last line in the book is “In 1964, when the first three-man team of Soviet comonauts went up in the Vokhod, the took with them into space three sacred relics; a picture of Marx, a picture of Lenin – and a ribbon off a Communard flag.”

“Sister Morphine” by Catherine Eisner [New Year’s Resolution]

This is a bit odd. I bought it ages ago. I thought that it was about women and insanity and it is a little bit but mostly it’s short stories about women’s lives. Some are more successful than others. I loved the fairy tale feel of Isolde and her sister which is partly set in a forest with a hint of wolves but the one about the girl in the catholic day school really annoyed me. It had a sort of gothic view of catholicism which, for someone who comes from a country where catholicism is still the religion of the majority, just seems idiotic and over written. The stereotypical Irish nun didn’t help either.

I thought the whole device of framing this as the case notes of a psychiatric nurse was a red herring and it didn’t add enough to the text to make it worthwhile. I suppose it did mean that you regarded the narrator as unreliable and that put you off balance. The final story is deeply annoying. It is narrated by the psychiatric nurse herself who, wouldn’t you know it, has her own problems. It analyses and links the cases identifying them by patient ID and also from time to time by name. As none of the stories is identified by this in the table of contents one is constantly flicking through the book trying to make out who on earth she is talking about. She also throws in a couple of other cases not mentioned in the book (I think). I nearly threw the book in frustration.

What’s particularly annoying is that I do think that this writer is talented but I found the format to be over-indulgent and in serious need of pruning. Snort.

“The School at the Chalet” by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer

I picked this up at the library on the basis that it might appeal to herself. I was never much of a Chalet school girl but I read a few of them. I started reading this and it’s alright. I think it’s very dated and deeply improbable but I suppose it’s not really fair to read it from an adult perspective. It was published in 1925 which is why this piece of dialogue appears that amused me:

“Start a school!” He stared at her. “My good girl, that sort of thing requires capital; which we haven’t got”
“Yes, I know that as well as you do!” retorted his sister. “At least it does in England but I wasn’t thinking of England.”
“Then where were you thinking of?” he demanded, not unreasonably. “Ireland? Shouldn’t advise that! You might wake up to find yourself burnt out!”
“Of course not! I’ve got some sense!…”

Elinor loves the Tyroleans and the Southern Germans but the Prussians are horrible. I found the attitudes just that bit too dated to feel any enthusiasm for handing it over to herself but I suppose, if she fancies it, she can read it, she’s read worse.

“Le Voleur D’Ombres” by Marc Levy

I got desperate in France. Ouest France said that this man was a bestseller. I thought that this would mean it would be an easy read. It was. That doesn’t mean it was good though. It’s a coming of age story with a twee supernatural angle that the narrator can read people’s thoughts by stealing their shadows. I am not against science fiction but I just found this cloying.

“Westwood” by Stella Gibbons

She didn’t just write “Cold Comfort Farm” you know. This is not a particularly funny book though it is funny in places. It is the story of a plain young teacher who is dazzled by the glamour of a family who live in a big house nearby. It’s set in London during the Second World War. It has loads of characters and because it is quite long by the time you’ve finished, you really feel you know them. Even the characters who are almost caricatures have some depth. I was sorry to say goodbye to them without having any particular affection for any of them. This book is very long on character but short on plot. The big incident that the book leads up to [signalled from early on] is too slight to sustain the whole novel. The characters are great but you have to give them 200 pages of your time to warm up which is a lot. I’d try another of her books all the same.

“Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” by Jeanette Winterson

I like Jeanette Winterson and I’ve read a lot of her stuff. I liked this too. It’s well written and it is heartfelt. It first part covers much of the same ground that was covered in “Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit” and the second part is about her search for her birth parents. This book is so sad. It seems to underline that you can’t escape a damaged childhood. Despite her success, she is a deeply disturbed and unhappy woman. Only read it, if you’re feeling very cheerful.

Are You the Kind of Vegetarian who Eats Ham?

6 September, 2012 at 9:06 pm by belgianwaffle

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Eh?

5 September, 2012 at 12:41 am by belgianwaffle

Daniel was filling in a children’s worksheet at mass. It asked him to circle the disciples’ names from the following list: Simon, William, Dylan, James, Matthew and Brandon. He played a blinder. It then asked him to list any other disciples he knew. He wrote diligently. I looked over the list: Judas, John, Thomas, Percy. Really, Percy? To what can we owe this?

Kerry – Part 2

4 September, 2012 at 9:37 pm by belgianwaffle

Thursday, August 23

My sister-in-law who had been stuck in Dublin for work had joined the party the previous evening and we really needed her because it was pouring rain and fresh, enthusiastic recruits were essential to keep the children cheerful. We made the obligatory trip to Daniel O’Connell’s ancestral home which is, crucially, an indoor attraction. It was fine though not precisely new to any of us.

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It was, mercifully, the last day of pirate camp. I suppose we could have baled out but the rain held off in the afternoon and I felt that the objection was more to the wet suit than pirate camp itself. They went. When we went to collect them, Michael was frozen. He had fallen into the water getting out of his kayak and this did nothing to improve his mood. He also had to stay in his wetsuit and pirate gear for a group photo which I can’t see them being able to use as Michael is in the front row bawling his eyes out. Oh well, we live and learn.

Friday, August 24

We decided to go to Valentia. We repeated all the things we had done the previous year but this time it didn’t rain. There was candle making.

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There was the pet farm. This is the closest you are ever likely to get to being a farmer in west Kerry.

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We fed lambs from bottles. We fed chickens and horses. We fed the lizard, the ferrets (with care) and the hamsters. We did not feed the pigs.

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The children love this place and though it’s a bit rough and ready I can see us visiting here every year.

Then it was off to the ice cream shop, into the bookshop in Knightstown and back to the mainland on the ferry. Duration 2 minutes.

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All in all very satisfactory and that was before the adults all escaped for dinner in Waterville leaving the babysitter with 6 children, one DVD and an encouraging word. I did drive her home afterwords to the scenic part of the Ring of Kerry where she lives (read very windy drive in the dark and the wet) so it wasn’t all bad.

Saturday, August 25

When the landlady came to take the keys back, she said that we had had the best week of the summer. What could be more gratifying?

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Kerry – Part 1

3 September, 2012 at 11:47 pm by belgianwaffle

Saturday, August 18

My saintly parents-in-law regularly take a house in west Kerry to which their children and grandchildren are invited. Veterans of the long drive after their holidays in France, the children were very good on the 6 hour journey. We broke the journey for a cup of tea at my parents’ house in Cork which was, surprisingly, not very much out of our way. The best route for the journey from Dublin to SW Kerry continues to be a hotly debated topic.

Sunday, August 19

We had the fastest mass of the year in Caherdaniel coming in at just under 20 minutes. The church was packed confirming my view that the greater the number of the faithful the shorter the mass. We strolled down to the beach which though damp was greeted with enthusiasm by the children who all rolled up their trousers and waded into the sea. Inevitably, they all got soaked, but they were cheerful.

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Later in the day we paid the inevitable visit to Staigue fort where it was, as ever, cold and damp. We got chatting to a Scottish couple with two small children who were exploring the damp fort also. Why, if you were Scottish would you choose to holiday in west Kerry? Madness.

Mr. Waffle’s uncle and aunt and a grandchild – a 10 year old boy, R, – were also staying nearby and we went to visit. R had an x-box. The boys nearly died of happiness. The Princess, her grandmother and I went to explore slightly twee but yet appealing ceramics. The Princess and I bought some Christmas tree decorations. The potter was next door in her workshop and she was lovely and very patiently answered the Princess’s many questions on her work.

And then, that evening, the first cousins arrived from Dublin. Oh joy.

Monday, August 20

It was a beautiful day. This was surprising. This summer in Ireland has been pretty awful and West Kerry is notoriously wet even in a good year. We went to the beach. I swam, the children swam. It was bracing. After a bit, I took the small ones back to the house (the boys and their two cousins). They went haring along and I panted after carrying various bits of gear. While holding the hand of a small child walking on a wall, I stepped in a big dollop of dog poo while wearing my very flat, very open sandals. The result was as might be expected and I asked them all to stop while I took off my shoe and tried to remove poo from my foot, the sole of my sandals and, particularly appealing this, the inside of the straps. They got tired of waiting and I found myself sprinting up the road after them clutching my shoe and laden down with various bags, not my finest moment.

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The afternoon was to bring relief in the form of pirate camp. This was a sea sport camp for children aged 4-8 that my brother-in-law had spotted on the internet. We were delighted. We all felt that being together would make for greater enjoyment for the cousins and we could all relax in our various ways (reading the paper with a cup of tea or running up mountains or whatever). I took myself to the tea rooms in Caherdaniel a new and very welcome addition to the village. All was rosy. Upon collection, the children were less happy with the arrangement. “Pirate camp is boring,” said Michael. Oh dear. And 3 more afternoons to go. Sigh.

Tuesday, August 21

Another beautiful day dawned. We held our breath.

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The Princess and I drove in to Kenmare which is full of things tourists like; it’s pretty, it has a bookshop, a tea room, several nice cafes, an antiques shop, a shop full of expensive pretty useless things and so on. We had a terrific time patrolling the town. We also achieved our objective of getting birthday presents for cousin R. On our way there we dropped my father-in-law in Sneem from whence he ran back to Caherdaniel. For fun.

When we got back after lunch we poured the unwilling pirates (Daniel stoic, Michael and his cousin requiring a combination of bribes and threats) into their wetsuits and took them to camp. We spent all the time they were at camp having a restorative cup of tea. Pirate camp was more successful as they had gone exploring rock pools with Captain Vinnie. Even Michael, grudgingly, conceded that this was quite good. He maintained his position, however, on the general undesirability of pirate camp.

The Princess was briefly, to her intense joy, adopted by a small dog. It followed us to the beach where one woman said loudly and pointedly, “There’s that dog that bit Amy.” I have to say that the dog was lovely with us and didn’t seem at all yappy. I said, “That’s not actually our dog.” But as the dog was at that point enthusiastically fetching sticks for the Princess I felt that this was not particularly credible. The dog’s owner turned out to be the woman who had rented the house to us who was unperturbed by her dog’s wanderings.

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That evening all the children went to R’s house for his party and had a sleepover under the supervision of his saintly grandparents. The rest of us promptly went for dinner in the pub.

Wednesday, August 22

Another nice day. Quite astounding.

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I took the four smaller children to visit an open farm. The farm itself was perfectly acceptable (and a very welcome addition to the frankly slender local tourist offerings) and the people who ran it were extremely kind but the children were not in the mood to be pleased. No sooner had we arrived than they all needed to go to the toilet – always welcome news to the adult in the party. They were all feeling somewhat tired from the excitement of the previous evening and they showed it: they broke the door to the fairy tree by over-enthusiastic hammering; the pigs were smelly; the digging was boring and all in all nothing was any good and could they please go home. Oh dear.

After lunch it was again time to pour the boys into their wetsuits for pirate camp. Michael’s reluctance reached fever pitch and when we got there he pointed in a pained fashion to the sign on the wall which read “Sea Sports”. “I don’t like sea and I don’t like sports,” he said bitterly, “when will you find me a summer camp, I actually like?” His brother continued unenthusiastic but resigned. Sharper than a serpent’s tooth etc.

Did I mention that Mr. Waffle got ticks while climbing the hills earlier in the week with herself and young R? I thought that you might like to know.

I think we’ll save the rest for part two now. Hang on to your hats.

Escape Velocity

2 September, 2012 at 9:33 pm by belgianwaffle

We came back from France on a Monday and went to Kerry the following Saturday. In between, Michael learned to cycle. Just like that. Note anxious squeak from his mother half way through.

Daniel was very noble – not having quite managed to get the hang of it himself, he patted Michael on the shoulder and said, “I’m proud of you.”

France – Part 4

1 September, 2012 at 10:33 pm by belgianwaffle

Thursday, August 9

Another beautiful day made more beautiful by the certain knowledge that our fellow citizens at home were continuing to struggle in damp conditions. We went to the beach to celebrate.

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Friday, August 10

The Princess and I went for a last trip to the beach.

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Ever game, she went to pony camp in the afternoon but the boys bailed out and the four of us went to Doëlan where they enjoyed themselves more than you might expect paddling in the small harbour.

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Saturday, August 11

Is there anything more depressing than cleaning a holiday home? It took three hours. Our kind landlords gave us caramel sweets and hydrangea to speed us on our way but we were left shadows of our former selves.

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We went to Saint-Malo where we were spending the night before going for our ferry. It’s a very pretty, touristy walled town. It’s also almost entirely reconstructed having been bombed to bits during the Second World War. We went aboard a pirate ship which, surprisingly, turned out to be a mistake. The bare footed man in pirate dress treated us to a detailed talk on the historical role of corsairs and buccaneers [much nodding and smiling at us as the historical opposition of English and French interests was discussed – in vain did we protest that we were Irish and, historically, even less in favour of British naval supremacy than the French]. The children went careering around the deck in a spirited attempt to throw themselves overboard or at the very least hang themselves from the rigging.

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A trip into the town led to Michael falling in love with a small bear in a tourist shop which he promptly named “Pooky the Second”. I said that if he still wanted him in the morning, we would buy him. Michael spent the remainder of the evening saying disconsolately “Pooky the Second” and a considerable portion of the next morning until, inevitably we purchased him. Yeah, go on, despise me.

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Sunday, August 12

We shunned the breakfast buffet in the hotel on the grounds that it would have cost €50 for the five us. We had a lovely breakfast at a cafe inside the walled town instead. Since this cost €47 our saving was not as significant as we had hoped but on the plus side, it meant we were in town early and the tourists were fewer as we walked around the ramparts.

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Also, of course, we were re-united with Pooky the Second. And his friend Jojo who had to be purchased for parity of esteem reasons.

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Then, onwards to the ferry. Mr. Waffle brought the children to the cinema while I dined in solitary state in the waiter service restaurant with a copy of Saturday’s Irish Times. Oh the virtues of a kind husband.

Monday, August 13

The return. We were all glad to get back. We stopped for lunch in the Courtyard in Ferns where the food was fine and we were reminded that Irish people really are very friendly. The bar staff were lovely after a fortnight of slighty haughty French service.

Stay tuned for our trip to Kerry. Go on, you know you want to [insert hollow laugh here].


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