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Archive for December, 2012


24 December, 2012 at 4:45 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle has taken the children out and I am sitting at home alone. I have finished the paper. There are carols on the stereo. The cat is sleeping on the rug. The Christmas tree lights are lit. Night is falling [which means that they will all be back soon because the park in the dark is no good; indeed have just received text message – ‘Park went well. In pub eating crisps. Home soon.’ All the news as it happens, that’s this blog]. All our preparations are complete. We have been so busy over the past couple of weeks and it is lovely that all is peaceful and quiet. Later all will be business and excitement laying out food and stockings for Santa; the Christmas carol service [slight nervousness]; washing children in preparation for Christmas morning; and shooing them back to bed as they venture downstairs to double check that all is in readiness.

Happy Christmas.


Failing to Walk in the Air

20 December, 2012 at 11:18 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess and I had a very traumatic choir practice the other night. The choir director for the Christmas carol service came (an important man who was far less interested in us than our normal choir director). The choir launched into various hymns (unknown to the Princess and me) in 5 parts. Sitting between the altos and the sopranos, with another three parts going on in the surrounding pews, and with no idea how to read music, I felt that I had zero chance of picking up any of the tunes. I was correct.

“Descant!” said the director. “What,” I hissed to the nice lady beside me, “is a descant?” Oh Lord.

Later one of the younger teenagers sang “Walking in the Air” alone. “That was lovely,” I said to her mother. Her mother repeated it to her and I heard her reply witheringly to her mother’s mortification “Anne, doesn’t even know what a descant is.”

The carol service is on Christmas Eve. The Princess and I are nervous. I think only prayer can help us now.

Mothers and Daughters

16 December, 2012 at 9:36 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Are you trying to drive your mother to an early grave?
Her: I don’t have to try.

Like a Trap in a Trap*

15 December, 2012 at 11:00 pm by belgianwaffle

As I was walking home from mass last Sunday I was somewhat behind the main posse as the boys had cycled ahead with their father and my sister and herself were walking ahead together. This man I knew vaguely from mass came up to me and introduced himself. I felt like a little antelope cut off from the herd. My instincts were not at fault.

“We’re having a summer party in the church,” he said. “Mmm,” I said non-committally. “Would you like to organise entertainment for the children?” he asked. Oh no, I would not. “I’ll be doing the barbecue,” he said. Of course, I’m on the wretched organising committee, of course I am. He got me in a weak moment as I had just emerged from mass with Fr. Boston who made different bits of the church shout out different things. Those in the transept had to shout “Be Ready” and my sister who lived in Chicago for years alarmed many of the congregation by shouting out with enthusiasm rather than the usual apathy which greets Fr. Boston’s efforts.

I suppose this will make me a better person.

*As Dorothy Parker would say; though not in this context.


14 December, 2012 at 10:28 pm by belgianwaffle

A Traitor’s Kiss” by Fintan O’Toole [New Year’s Resolution]

I started off enjoying this very much. It’s a biography of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. But then at 22 Sheridan wrote his first play and Fintan, our national cultural commentator, begins analysing the plays and it is tedious. Alas. However, despite what you might have thought (well certainly despite what I thought), Sheridan was quite the politico. I hadn’t realised that he had played such a pivotal role in the Warren Hastings trial or that he was quite so pally with the Prince Regent. Or indeed, that he died in debt with the bailiffs at the door. All very dramatic.

Due to my relentless reading and re-reading of Georgette Heyer, I have developed quite an interest in English history from about 1780-1820 and I have read a certain amount of non-fiction about this era as well. But it’s so complex: the French revolution, Napoleon, the loss of the American colonies, the 1798 rebellion (big in Ireland though less so in England), the dissolution of the Irish parliament and the Act of Union (ditto), not to mention the madness of George III, Fox and Pitt [did you know that Fox was a first cousin of Edward Fitzgerald?] and politics with the beginning of parties. This book doesn’t make it easy to follow even for the interested and somewhat informed reader.

This is quite an old book and I think that the author’s style has improved over the years. I still find him pretty hard going in the newspaper but I read his book “Ship of Fools” a while ago and I found it quite understandable. Some of the sentences in this are so involved that it is difficult to have any idea what the author is on about. His use of pronouns is, frankly, suboptimal.

I was slightly surprised to see the extensive references to Lord Edward Fitzgerald. Sheridan’s wife, Elizabeth Linley, famous in her own right had an affair with Lord Edward. Though I had read a biography of him relatively recently, I had no memory of this. However, on looking again at the Lord Edward biography, I saw that it got quite a bit of air time [I think my memory has finally given up]. It was interesting to contrast the attention given to Elizabeth by both authors. Fintan O’Toole gives very little information about Elizabeth and her life before she meets Sheridan but Stella Tillyard, the author of the Lord Edward book gives lots of background. It struck me that Fintan might usefully have filled in readers a bit more about Elizabeth.

However, I must say that I was in the Smock Alley Theatre recently (just restored and re-opened) and was charmed to see copies of old playbills on the wall featuring Thomas Sheridan (father of our hero and manager of the theatre in the 18th century) about whom I would have known almost nothing if I hadn’t read this.

Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela [New Year’s Resolution]

Interesting enough but a bit one thing happened after another in style. I suppose if you’re reading this, you’re not really here for the quality of the writing.

His first three children get pretty short shrift. His little girl who died at 9 months gets three quarters of a page. The birth of his second son is given a couple of short lines. His first son gets a little bit more of the action. Even by the standards of the 1940s/50s, he doesn’t strike me as a very hands on father. He admits as much. Winnie, his much more famous and clearly more loved, second wife gets a lot more air time but still plays second fiddle to his work in politics.

And there is lots about his work in politics. It’s a long, long book. By page 350 you’re still dealing with internal wrangling in ANC committees and it does strike one that organisational politics are the same everywhere and you need to be a very gifted author with very strong material to make committee wrangling interesting.

That said by about page 500, I was quite enjoying myself. I knew he was in Robben Island for the long haul and the cast of characters for obvious reasons becomes narrower. Also, he does have a quite extraordinary story to tell and when you strip out the ANC/PAC rivalry and have more about him, it becomes a lot more interesting and more human.

When I finally finished it, I did feel a little sad because by the end, I was quite enjoying the company of this rather lovely man.

The Dinner” by Herman Koch

The narrator of this book is profoundly disturbed and disturbing. I couldn’t really get past that. I didn’t find it particularly engrossing or page turnerish (which I had been promised). It’s the story of two couples who go out to dinner. The men are brothers and their sons (first cousins) have committed a very nasty crime and have not been caught. One of the brothers is a successful politician. All the ingredients are there for a very clever book but for my money, it didn’t deliver at all.

“The Long Song” by Andrea Levy

Someone at work foisted this on me when I mentioned that I had enjoyed “Small Island”. It’s fine and an easy read. But I wasn’t crazy about it. I think it’s a bit overwritten and though lots and lots happens the story is a bit slow to get going. The author has done a lot of research and she is determined to use it all. A mistake, I feel.

The Goose is Getting Fat

13 December, 2012 at 9:23 pm by belgianwaffle

Yesterday afternoon, the Princess wrote her Christmas cards. No, you’re not getting one; they are for her 27 classmates.

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She and I made cranberry and orange sauce:

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And we studded a couple of oranges with cloves:

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And we made a paper chain of angels:

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Did all this come at a cost? Well, yes, her brothers spent the afternoon playing on the computer so that we were free to do our worthy activities. Daniel did put a couple of cloves into an orange in a half-hearted way but quickly returned to FRIV (the very best free online games apparently). Look, at least the weather outside was frightful.

Good News, Bad News

12 December, 2012 at 10:24 pm by belgianwaffle

I came home from work yesterday and the Princess leapt up to meet me. “I won the class art competition! I got first place! I got a brilliant prize!” Her recital of her greatness was interrupted by prolonged wails from her brothers neither of whom won their class prize. Rejoicing in your siblings’ good fortune is a learned skill, I think.

Happy Anniversary

11 December, 2012 at 8:32 pm by belgianwaffle

My blog was nine yesterday. Which is 205 in human years.

Back in pre-history, when I began blogging, it was very cutting edge, I’ll have you know. There was no facebook, no twitter, no tumblr and no youtube. It’s hard to know how we filled the long empty days.

In a nostalgia fueled search, I came across a post from February 2006 which reminded me of how much I enjoyed a blogging community when I started off on 20six (my first platform – now defunct – none of the links on that 2006 post work now). I was quite lonely and far from home with my first baby and 20six became a support community. I remember Mr. Waffle printing off all the comments when the boys were born and bringing them into the hospital. I still follow some of the people I used to read on 20six on other platforms; a lot of them turned up on twitter.

After 20six folded, I stuck with blogging. I did miss the community but I became fascinated with the idea of keeping a record of our lives. And I loved writing text that no one cleared except me. Did you see how I started a sentence with “and” there? Also, because of the whole blogging thing, I got interested in technology and, although I am pretty ignorant by most standards, compared to some other Irish 40 somethings I am quite the technological genius. This may say more about the digital divide than it does about my abilities but there it is. I was in a position to wow the residents’ association by setting up a wordpress.com blog for them. Mind you, they never used it but that is hardly my fault.

So, happy anniversary to me and thank you for reading.

All I Want for Christmas…Seasonal Round Up

10 December, 2012 at 10:09 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel is down a front tooth…
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And in other news, did I tell you that Saint Nicolas came on December 6 – Dublin is somewhat outside his remit of the Low Countries but he came all the same.
2012-12-06 001

We went to see Santa at the Botanic Gardens on Sunday. On the plus side it was free and the children got an African violet and a gummy snake each. On the minus side, it was freezing and the queue lasted for 90 minutes.

Mr. Waffle is in Helsinki all week. He was obsessively checking the weather before he left and packed his ski gear and a pair of long johns for the expected Arctic cold. It turns out that it’s not as cold as he expected (but, you know, snowy, dark and -3). I am home alone with the children and it is now gone 10 and Michael continues to trek down the stairs at regular intervals to inform me of activities upstairs. In fact, I think I hear him now. Sigh.

Do You Think Santa Does Dispute Resolution Work?

8 December, 2012 at 11:20 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess has brought to my attention in a marked manner the first draft of her letter to Santa. As, they say in letters of note, transcript follows below.

Letter to Santa001
Letter to Santa002
Letter to Santa003

Headed on each page: Important

Dear Santa,

Over the years you have kept our family well supplied with treats. But do you realize [sic] that the sweets you graciously send are cruelly snatched away straight after mass? And used for the abominable treat-only-if-you-eat-dinner regime? I am not complaining too much about this regime for it has yielded excellent results for me. Except for one thing it is: I slave away for hours eating every single morsal [sic] on my plate whereas the boys take two bites of rice, make a tragic face and are told good boys well done for trying because of the fact that have been reaping more than they deserve. I demand that you send a quarter of their sweets into my stocking! No half! No half seems less the the fair amount for my suffering but I suppose it’s the season of goodwill. Please take into mind that if you do not want to transfer the goods I deserve into my stocking I will be perfectly happy for you to double my sweets and leave the boy’s [sic] sweets alone. This is an urgent matter!

I would also like for you to bear in mind that I shall try to bring some of your gifts onto an aeroplane so please try to make them below five kilo grams. I am sure this will not be a problem for someone of your prowess yet I feel it prudent to warn you. I have tried to make the items on my list light but sometimes you get the wrong end of the stick confused.

Holly Bough

7 December, 2012 at 11:09 pm by belgianwaffle

Every year my father reads the Holly Bough from cover to cover on Christmas Day. It’s a Cork publication and the content is, perhaps, not at the cutting edge of journalism. On the cover it describes itself as “A Cork Institution since 1897”. Its articles are full of quirkiness (the girl who was called Tanora – apparently only Cork people know what Tanora is, imagine) and nostalgia. It has several pages of pictures of Cork people in foreign parts holding aloft copies of last year’s Holly Bough. Are you getting a picture here? Nevertheless, I was really very pleased to come home and see that my loving husband had picked me up a copy. My ambition is now to get a picture in it for next year.

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Not a Complete Loss

6 December, 2012 at 11:31 pm by belgianwaffle

We went for a walk in the Dublin mountains at the weekend. It was too cold and the children were cranky. Michael managed to give himself a heavy nosebleed by hitting himself hard on the head with a long stick (also ruining the photograph below).

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On the way home, Mr. Waffle dropped me and the boys in town to pick up new shoes for them. By complete co-incidence on the way home we passed the lighting ceremony for a Christmas tree. Attractions included the count down to lighting the tree (mercifully brief), the Lord Mayor, a choir, free hot chocolate and a free merry-go-round. This was populated in part by bused in middle class children wearing mustard hats and pink tights and swaddled in red coats and their anxious parents and in part by entirely unaccompanied local children in track suits having a terrific time on the merry-go-round and milling through the hot chocolate like there was no tomorrow. All surprisingly pleasant though bitterly cold. I think that we may say that the Christmas season has begun.

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New Perspectives

5 December, 2012 at 11:04 pm by belgianwaffle

An old friend from Brussels came to visit last week. We offered him tea but having spent two days at meetings in Dublin, he uttered words to the effect of “God, no, please, no more tea.”

He is a very kind, gentle English man and as we took him around our neighbourhood he became visibly concerned for us. I pointed out the house nearby where there was a particularly nasty murder some years ago (now part of a derelict terrace). Earlier Mr. Waffle had taken him to a famous public building where he was able to enjoy those special lights in the toilets which stop people being able to see their veins (think about that for a minute there). We talked him through the history of nearby former penal institutions. He remained determinedly upbeat and said how these fine old Georgian structures could be very successfully re-developed citing an old prison in Oxford which is now a chic hotel. We took him to a local pub which is very, ahem, traditional. I think, however, something may have snapped when he nearly stepped on a surprisingly large dead rat which was frozen on its back in rigor mortis (or perhaps cold) with its little paws still in the air.

It’s lovely here really. Very urban.


4 December, 2012 at 11:13 pm by belgianwaffle

Could I be losing my mind? Really?

The Princess and I have joined the church choir. Rehearsals are at 7.15 on Thursday. Last Thursday, I hared home from work. I stopped off at home and picked up herself and we ran up to the church. The choir is composed of two elements. The first element consists of those who were auditioned and joined many years ago when the catholic church was a force to be reckoned with and the choir director was a successful professional singer who was never ever addressed by her first name. They can all sing and read music and are quite elderly. The second element consists of more recent additions who are willing to come to rehearsals.

I scurried into the pew. The nice lady beside me said, “You know, I think you’re an alto; the altos sit over there”. I went to the next pew where three rather frail but charming ladies made me welcome. “Are you sure you’re not a soprano?” they asked. “No,” I said with quiet confidence. I buried myself among them and tried to sing along. In case you don’t know this either, let me tell you now; the sopranos sing the tune and the altos make them sound nice by singing something completely different. I was all at sea and the lady beside pointed helpfully to the alto line in the music. I was forced to whisper, “I’m afraid I can’t read music.” She was visibly startled but said kindly, “I’m sure you’re doing the best with what God has given you, dear.” She had to run off at 8.00 to go home to her husband who had a carer until then. I was then doomed as she had a nice strong voice I could row in behind. The director had me come and sing near the piano. Never a good sign, I think you’ll agree.

The Princess meanwhile was doing fine by dint of standing beside her friend who has a really lovely voice and, like me, rowing in behind but with considerably more success. She was quite pleased with herself.

We got home about 9. Mr. Waffle said to me, “Did you remember the car?” “No,” I said, “we actually walked up.” “No, remember you drove to work?” he said. Oh woe. And I had had to fly home on a Dublin bike in the wet and would have loved to take the car which was waiting patiently in the office car park. I had to get the tram back in and rescue it. Can you believe that this is the second time I have done this in six weeks?

By the time I came home with the car, the Princess had been sick. She proceeded to get sick repeatedly until 4 in the morning when she dozed off. The poor child was actually green. I have never seen that before in real life. I stayed at home with her the next morning and she was almost recovered and by that evening she was fine. But really it made for a somewhat stressful 24 hours.

Is it any wonder I’m losing my mind?

Guilt as Standard

3 December, 2012 at 10:44 pm by belgianwaffle

When we took the kids to Milano’s recently, the children got little activity books while they were waiting for their food. They were asked to identify their favourite places and Michael wrote “the swimming pool”. What useless mother has not yet arranged swimming lessons for her children? Who only manages to take them to the pool once every two months, if that? Oh dear.


2 December, 2012 at 11:05 pm by belgianwaffle

I found this taped to the boys’ bedroom door the other night:

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There’s an obscure joke to be made about this and this post on the Schengen area on Jon Worth’s blog; I’m too tired to make it. Fill in the gaps yourselves there now.

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