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Weekend Round-Up

30 October, 2012 at 11:13 pm by belgianwaffle

In a seasonal development, we walked up to the Hellfire Club at the weekend. I am still stiff. When did my children become faster and fitter than me?

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On Saturday afternoon, Mr. Waffle took the boys out and the Princess and I stayed at home. After reading peacefully downstairs for a bit, I went upstairs to see what she was up to. She was sitting in bed reading a book of poetry which had been given to her by a kind relative. “Come downstairs,” I said. She did and we had a Victorian hour while she lay on the rug in front of the fire and read me out the poems she liked. She has also drafted two poems both of which I wanted to put up here but neither of which I have permission to circulate to a wider audience [though one of them is on the wall at school – glory!].

I was very proud on Sunday when she did a prayer from the altar at mass. If you’re 9, it’s no joke to face the entire congregation – admittedly the church was not exactly full but there must have been well over 100 people and most of them were at least 50 years older than her. Alas, as you know pride comes before a fall. My particular fall was to be nabbed by the mass organiser and asked to do a reading or an opening prayer at the next mass which does not fill me with enthusiasm but I could hardly refuse. Oh well.

And in exciting news, my sister-in-law is stranded in New York where she went for a meeting last Saturday. Unfortunate.

And why am I up at all hours writing about random items from my weekend here? I will tell you, of course I’ll tell you. I made a brack from a recipe in the Irish Times [scroll down, scroll down]. I let the raisins and sultanas soak overnight. This evening I folded in the rest of the ingredients. It has been cooking at gas mark 2 for the past 5 hours. Is it cooked? No, it isn’t. This reminds me of the great plum pudding disaster of 2011. No more seasonal baking for me thanks.

For the Purposes of Maintaining a Complete Record

27 October, 2012 at 8:51 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel lost another tooth on Wednesday. All day long around here it’s just the plink, plink of falling teeth. The tooth fairy is going to be beggared before the year is out.


26 October, 2012 at 8:09 pm by belgianwaffle

Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked” by Derek Landy

More tales of the skeleton detective and his teenage sidekick. You either like this kind of thing, or you don’t. My only regret is that it was an impulse buy in Tesco. I thought that I should wait until I got to a proper bookshop, but I didn’t. I got my comeuppance as I paid €14.50 and it was only €9.99 in Eason’s. And furthermore, herself grabbed it when I came in the door so I might as well have waited.

Biggles: The Camels are Coming” by Captain W.E. Johns

I saw it in the library. I remembered seeing at home for years a volume entitled “Biggles Flies to Work” but I never read it and I thought, when I saw Biggles in the library, that it was time. It wasn’t really. However appealing Biggles may be to the 13 year old boy, he holds no attractions for the 43 year old woman. Pity but there it is.

“An Unsung Hero” by Michael Smith

This is the story of Tom Crean, a Kerryman who served under both Shackleton and Scott in Antarctica. I read a couple of books about the early exploration of Antarctica in my 20s but haven’t really been back since. The writing in this book is not beautiful; it is alright at best but the story is absolutely terrific.

The author has written in detail about the experiences of Crean who ran away from Kerry at 15 to join the Navy and worked his way, slowly, upwards. Most books on Antarctica focus, understandably, on Scott and the party who went to the Pole. This book focuses on the men who went back. It is packed full of the most extraordinary adventures. Crean was a hero and very phlegmatic to boot. Inevitably information on men, as opposed to officers, is thin on the ground but the author has pulled together every reference to Crean he could find to create a picture of a heroic, tough, self-deprecating man. It’s a really enjoyable read. Thanks to Google maps, I was able to have a good look around some of the terrain he covered and it is utterly breathtaking that they survived at all. If you’re interested in Antarctic exploration (and who isn’t?) then I really recommend this book. I see that he died in the same hospital where I was born. That’s probably the closest I will get to Antarctic exploration.

Sept Jours Pour Une Eternité” by Marc Levy

Ah now, this is dire. I read it in French and my only comfort is that it’s good for my French. And it took me a long, long time. It’s deathly. God and the Devil send their best agents to fight over San Francisco and the two meet and fall in love. Really, do you need to know anything more? The author clearly has his eye on the film rights.

“The Mystery of Mercy Close” by Marian Keyes

The author’s well publicised bouts of depression inform this book. It is the most depressing example of chick lit you are likely to read. The author saves her skills for writing lovingly of suicide and the romance is, frankly, unconvincing. The love interest is really only there because he has to be. Not one of her best offerings but still a page turner.

First Communion

25 October, 2012 at 8:48 pm by belgianwaffle

We have been notified by the school authorities of the date for Michael and Daniel’s first communion in May 2013. A little early you might think – absolutely not. First communion has become a rite of passage in Irish society. A fortune is spent on first communion outfits for girls and parties for boys and girls.

I’m not quite sure how this happened. First communion was always a big deal – I remember my own at age 7 and 2 months. But, you know, it involved a nice white dress your mother made and family lunch in a restaurant. No one hired stretch limos or got fake tan and no one hired out a function room. This is, I think, a hangover from the Celtic tiger when expenditure on a range of fronts got slightly out of control. Unlike expenditure in other areas which has been sharply reined in, expenditure on first communion celebrations continues to be considerable. At the same time, Ireland has become a much more secular society. School composition doesn’t reflect this and over 90% of primary schools are catholic. So it’s very easy to have your child prepared for the sacraments. In the overwhelming majority of cases sending them to the school at the bottom of the road will do it.

So, essentially, you have a ceremony prepared for in almost all schools which is regarded as a rite of passage for children and their first big public celebration. These children’s parents may not be religious but overwhelmingly, they tend to opt in. A number of my friends who are not religious have let their children make first communion on the basis that it’s more trouble than it’s worth for them to opt out and they enjoy the day. As a practicing catholic my inner smugness [doubtless carrying me straight to Hell] allows me to shrug my shoulders at this approach [though I like to think that I would not do this myself – more inner smugness – doubly damned].

Bear with me, there is a point to all this context. So, non-religious parents believe their children have a right to their first communion “day out”. The church is, understandably, not entirely delighted with this approach and has insisted that children and their parents attend regular masses in the academic year during which children are to receive their communion. Hilariously, this is greeted with outraged indignation by many parents. I think that they want to remove the sacrament of communion from the church’s keeping because it’s really for the children. Seriously?

The local freesheet “The Northside People” recently reported the latest church first communion outrage under the inevitable [front page!] headline “Holy row over Communion change”. Essentially, the church is trying to lay greater emphasis on the religious aspect of the sacrament which I would have thought would be hard to argue with. I am totally wrong. Parents are “up in arms over changes being introduced”. According to the People “The new changes will involve parents, teachers and parishes working together to see smaller groups of children receiving their First Communion during Sunday mass instead of Saturday, as has been the tradition for generations.” Harmless enough, you might think. Well no, in fact “some parents believe the change will limit the amount of time their children have to celebrate the occasion and feel their children are being deprived of what is considered a traditional family day. Many families with children making their First Communion on Saturdays spend the rest of the day visiting relatives before organising a family day out on the Sunday. But under the new guidelines being introduced on a phased basis, the children will be back at school the day after they take the sacrament.”

“Saturday has always been a traditional day for children to celebrate their First Communion and we now feel that they are being robbed of that tradition” said a parent adding for good measure – “We also feel that it’s an attempt to tone down the hype surrounding First Communion celebrations, which is not very nice for the children.” This seems very odd to me, either she cares about its religious significance in which case the change of day doesn’t matter or she doesn’t in which case I think she’s daft to have her child go through what is to her a meaningless rigmarole and could give her some other kind of party.

The parent went on to say, “If it doesn’t change I won’t be allowing my daughter to make her Communion at the church. I’ll probably take her to Lourdes instead where she’ll be able to feel like the day is really special.” Oh Lourdes, be very afraid.

A certain ignorance about the nature of the sacrament is arguably also displayed in the comment “We don’t tell the church what to do so the least they could do is listen to us and stop telling us how we should celebrate our children’s Communion.”

I appreciate that this situation largely arises because of the historical legacy of an overwhelmingly catholic education system at primary level and I suppose during times of transition odd quirks are likely to be thrown up but still I find this very strange. Am I alone? Am I completely out of tune with how everyone else in Ireland feels? Is it because I’m a practicing Catholic (on the other hand very much the wishy-washy liberal wing)? Do you think this is insane as well? I would be interested to see if anyone has comments. No pressure now.

The Age of Reason

24 October, 2012 at 8:07 pm by belgianwaffle

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Daniel and Michael were 7 on September 27. The rolling birthday party celebrations included the following:
– on September 23 a trip to Quasar with 16 of their closest friends – the trip involved positively Celtic Tiger levels of expenditure but they absolutely loved it;
– on September 27 a birthday tea at home and the opening of presents from family including many posted offerings;
– the arrival of my sister bearing gifts from herself, my brother and my parents.

I’m exhausted from it all. Is it any wonder this post is rather late in coming?


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Daniel is the most boyish of boys. He loves guns, fighting and wrestling. He often says things like “Wait until you feel my fists!” of which I disapprove. I also find it mildly amusing coming from a child with the lowest pain threshold of anyone on earth with the possible exception of his brother.

He fights regularly with his sister and each of them is very jealous of the other. No privilege is too small to be fought over.

He is very sporty. He would wear vile nylon sports team tops every single day, if he was let. He will watch pretty much any sport on the television. He loves playing Gaelic games and tennis. He always wants to play soccer in the back garden. He is a very fast runner and though, with his brother, the youngest in his class in school, he is one of the fastest. He loves to play all kinds of board games/card games/I-spy but he is fiercely competitive and often howls when he loses though he tries very hard not to.

He is a prodigious reader. He read “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” while we were on holidays which is good going for a six year old (as he then was) but he didn’t seem to enjoy it much. His first loves are Beast Quest and Dennis the Menace.

He still can’t cycle (though we are making progress) or swim both of which are the fault of his parents. To be fair, I did try to start him cycling but it was hard enough going. Also, he is extremely cautious and this makes it hard for him. He insisted on wearing his cycling helmet as I ran around the back garden hanging on to him.

He loves playing with other boys and telling anyone who will listen about games he has played on the computer or on my phone. He saw his father try Super Mario for the first time the other night and he couldn’t bear to watch. Scooby-Doo is his favourite thing to watch on television.

He will eat no savoury food other than pizza and Yorkshire pudding. Every year the list of acceptable foodstuffs narrows. This cannot end well. It takes him hours to get to sleep at night and he is often to be heard padding about upstairs well after ten.

He is good at school and clever at his schoolwork. He is conscientious. He is easily embarrassed. Especially by his mother. If he thinks it is bad now, wait until he’s a teenager.

Even though he’s only 20 minutes older than Michael, he’s quite a bit bigger than him and people often take him for the older brother. We treat him like that ourselves (he is really our middle child) and sometimes, I think, most unfairly, he gets away with less than Michael because our expectations for him are higher.

He is, still, a great hugger when not in public. He is affectionate in a very practical way. He got a fob to clean his DS screen on one of his birthday cards. The other night when I went to bed, it was sitting on the hall table with an explanatory note from him “Use this to clean your phone.” Practical and kind.



I’ve never met a child as indifferent to the opinions of his peers as Michael. He is always happy to go his own way. I really hope that this lasts for him because it is a great way to be. He is very friendly and always happy to talk to strangers. He is fond of describing games he plays with his friends and games he plays on the computer. Fortunately for him, his delivery can make the dullest material sound entertaining.

On weekday mornings, his father carries him down to the couch swathed in his duvet clinging to his pillow. This arrangement is know as “Mikey’s flying bed” and he is fond of it. He drags himself and the duvet to the table to eat breakfast (only using spoons with plastic handles) and then takes himself back to the couch where he dresses under the duvet.

He likes to read now that he has finally learnt and this has stood him in good stead at school. Both the principal and his teacher have commented to me on how well he is doing. He is the youngest child in the class [by 20 minutes] and almost a year younger than lots of the other children and I worry that it was a bit tough for him socially and academically but he seems fine. Although he does loath going to school.

Michael does not like ball games much but he loves to cycle. At every opportunity he is up on his bike. He only learnt recently so I hope it will last. He loves the DS, the phone and the computer. When not playing one of these he has a tendency to mope around the house saying, “I’m bored” which is deeply annoying. He always thinks that he knows the rules of any given game better than you do.

He is quite persistent. His grandmother, foolishly in my view, said that she is considering getting a tree house for the garden. He is very taken with this idea and quizzes her on progress every time he sees her. To date he has drawn two complete sets of plans. I fear that this may not end well.

He eats very little. He has a cheese sandwich every day at school and that’s pretty much his main source of nourishment. He doesn’t even like sweets much and will usually refuse anything that’s offered. For his after dinner treat he usually has 2 cream crackers or a water biscuit, if he’s pushing the boat out.

He gets on well with his brother and sister and often stands up for them in the face of what he perceives to be parental oppression.

He was the world’s most nostalgic six year old – a characteristic I expect to continue. He still speaks fondly of his old crèche though not the food which they made him eat. He regularly recalls the day that the electricity broke down in the crèche and they all had croissants. Each one of his possessions has value including any wrappings they may have come in. He lost another tooth recently. I’m really surprised that he’s willing to give them up even for cash. Last night he waxed nostalgic about his cot (obviously gone for some time) and recalled in loving detail its colour and place in the room and how he was able to get out of it and Daniel wasn’t able to get out of his. “I helped him even though he’s bigger than me.” Deep sigh.

He really knows his own mind. He was invited to the cinema for a friend’s birthday. “It’s Hotel Transylvania, I won’t like it, I’ll be scared.” “Nonsense, you’ll have a great time,” we assured him. At 3.18 I received a call from the birthday boy’s mother, “Michael is scared and he wants to go home, can you come and collect him?” By the time Mr. Waffle arrived at the cinema, Michael had been persuaded to go back in but had come back out again, saying reproachfully to the birthday boy’s mother, “I told you so.” He’s very, very sure of himself.

I continue to be his favourite person in the whole world which is gratifying. I suppose I should enjoy it while it lasts.


23 October, 2012 at 10:59 pm by belgianwaffle

We went out on the town on Culture Night a couple of weeks ago. The overwhelming disaster of the evening was that the sweet shop in Temple Bar was closed when we got there. The children were very mournful. On the plus side, we all quite enjoyed our trip to Dunsink Observatory where we got to look at the old observatory with the moving roof. The grandmother of the man giving us the tour had worked in the factory that built the telescope which was rather nice. We all got to see the moon though from a small modern telescope rather than the impressive old one but still, the moon, quite big when you see it close up, isn’t it?

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West and East from Frank Sherwin Bridge

22 October, 2012 at 10:16 pm by belgianwaffle

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12 October 2012

West from Mellows Bridge

21 October, 2012 at 10:08 pm by belgianwaffle

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October 11, 2012

East from O’Connell Street Bridge

20 October, 2012 at 10:06 pm by belgianwaffle

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October 9, 2012


19 October, 2012 at 9:31 pm by belgianwaffle

I saw this talk about the Liffey on youtube and I thought that it was fantastic. If you live in Dublin, you should watch it too.

I love rivers in cities. In Brussels, they covered up the river in the 19th century. I really missed living in a city with a river. My husband always says that Dublin turns its back on the river and he’s right. I cross over the Liffey most days and I almost always pause to look up and down the river. And now I’m going to take a photograph every time.

Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth

18 October, 2012 at 9:28 pm by belgianwaffle

Her (cannoning in to me on the stairs): Ow, I’ve been stopped by a wall of flesh.
Me: Is this how you refer to your mother?
Her: Yes.

It is early in the morning, Michael is woken for school by his father. He looks at his parent blearily and says, “You are amazingly annoying in the morning.”

Observing the Proprieties

17 October, 2012 at 9:09 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael: Will I have to go ON MY OWN?
Herself: Oh no, you would never be allowed to go unchaperoned.

She’s working on her first novel and it’s set in 1801. She has been doing research. Do you think I am making this up?

Letting Go – A Bit

16 October, 2012 at 8:33 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess got the bus home from school alone the other day. She managed it without difficulty. And she was absolutely delighted with herself.

When I was her age, I was frankly not delighted to get the bus home from school as it was a dreary part of my routine [not so much the bus ride really but waiting forever for it to arrive]. But when I was her age there were a gang of unaccompanied children getting the bus home every day. Furthermore, on my bus route the chances of meeting alcoholics or strung out junkies was close to nil. Her bus route on the other hand does offer these options from time to time. On the other hand, people are kind and she is sensible. I asked whether anyone spoke to her. “Yes,” she said, “the bus driver asked me whether I was on my own and a nice woman talked to me when I sat down upstairs.” What you might expect really.

This daring action was inspired by Mr. Waffle who felt (correctly) that she was well able for it and I was sustained by thoughts of this woman who described her child as being “ecstatic with independence” after riding the New York subway. Well, that’s how my girl felt too though I don’t think that she’s ready to tackle the NY subway just yet.

You are My World, My World, My World

15 October, 2012 at 8:56 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael has started to keep a diary. He writes in it every day. Entries tend to be on the short side. Last week I couldn’t collect the children from school on Wednesday as I usually do. He read me his diary entry for that day: “Mummy didn’t collect us from school.” I was home a bit early on Thursday. His entry for that day was “Mummy was home early from work.” No one except my children will ever love me quite like this.

Age related query: Will that Communards song be stuck in your head all day now?

Healthy Exercise

14 October, 2012 at 8:53 pm by belgianwaffle

The weekend before last we climbed the Sugar Loaf again. The children ran up and down. I struggled behind them as best I could. I was still stiff on Wednesday. Views from the top are still lovely though.

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Losing My Mind

13 October, 2012 at 8:19 pm by belgianwaffle

Last Friday, my sister was in Dublin and very kindly gave me a lift home from work. On Saturday, Mr. Waffle was due to take Daniel to GAA training. He went out to put the gear into the car and then rushed back into the house. “Where’s the car?” he asked. It came flooding back to me. I had [unusually] driven the car into work but, alas forgotten to drive it home again. Worse, I have form in this regard.

More Theatre

12 October, 2012 at 8:18 pm by belgianwaffle

We went to see “The Last Summer” at the Gate. Oh the disappointment. As my mother-in-law said it was like amateur dramatics. Certainly as a tale of what was happening in 70s Dublin it was infinitely inferior to “The Boys of Foley Street“. Nobody was harrowed.

We ran into a glamorous friend of Mr. Waffle’s and went for a drink after the show. We were chatting about houses. I remembered that the last time I had seen her (about a year ago) she had been talking about how she had got her drawing room painted in various shades of red and that really it looked like a womb. This was fresh in my mind as I asked, “How is your womb?” Obviously, the conversation from last year wasn’t as fresh in her mind as in mine. She looked at me as though I was slightly insane. There was a nasty lull in the conversation. “Fine, thank you,” she said, a trifle coldly, I thought as I rushed to clarify. Oh dear, oh dear. [This woman was last mentioned in this blog here – under Saturday. Great to see that my levels of embarrassment are consistent with those of June 7, 2004.]

Miscellaneous Cork News

2 October, 2012 at 9:52 pm by belgianwaffle

I went to Cork for my parents’ anniversary. I was alone. Very exciting. My mother and I went for a walk in Kinsale. The weather was beautiful.

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We had a family dinner where my aunt told us about how, as a young woman, she and a friend went to Torquay on holidays. They were desperate to see the News of the World which was not then available in Ireland. They promptly went the newsagent’s and bought the News of the World, the Observer and the Catholic Herald. As the newsagent said, that’s not a combination you see very often.

We bought my parents an iPad for their anniversary. So far they seem wary but broadly positive.

I decided to bring my Great Aunt Cecelia’s Persian rug back to Dublin with me as my parents have taken it up to stop themselves tripping over it and killing themselves. Given my reputation my mother said anxiously, “You can have it, but you’re not to throw it out.” I promised not. I imagined it transforming my room, a bit like in “The Little Princess”:

This is what she saw. In the grate there was a glowing, blazing fire; on the hob was a little brass kettle hissing and boiling; spread upon the floor was a thick, warm crimson rug; before the fire a folding-chair, unfolded, and with cushions on it; by the chair a small folding-table, unfolded, covered with a white cloth, and upon it spread small covered dishes, a cup, a saucer, a teapot; on the bed were new warm coverings and a satin-covered down quilt; at the foot a curious wadded silk robe, a pair of quilted slippers, and some books. The room of her dream seemed changed into fairyland– and it was flooded with warm light, for a bright lamp stood on the table covered with a rosy shade.

It didn’t quite meet those, admittedly stringent, criteria but I like it as does the cat:

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That is all.

Confidence Boosting 2

1 October, 2012 at 10:18 pm by belgianwaffle

The childminder was talking to me about the children’s homework. “Daniel keeps reversing his “b”s and “d”s,” he said. “Not to worry,” I said, “I used to do the exact same thing myself.” The Princess piped up, “I didn’t know that you were dyslexic Mum.”
– I’m not dyslexic, it’s just that when I was little I reversed by “b”s and “d”s.
– Dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of Mum.
– I know it’s not, it’s just that I’m not dyslexic.
– It’s alright, lots of people are dyslexic, you know.

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