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Archive for January, 2013

A Snowball’s Chance at the Hellfire Club

31 January, 2013 at 8:04 pm by belgianwaffle

We went up to the Hellfire Club in the Dublin mountains last weekend to see the snow but alas, it had almost, but not entirely, melted.

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On Punctuality

31 January, 2013 at 12:03 am by belgianwaffle

Me: You see, we weren’t late this morning and Daddy wasn’t cross.
Her: But he would have been, had we tarried.

“Had we tarried” really? What is she reading?

Science Fiction Channel

21 January, 2013 at 10:18 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel had to plan an evening of (fictional) television programming as an exercise at school. This is what he came up with. Transcript follows below.

clar ama004

4.00 Skyrim
5.00 a Dark beginning
5.30 a Ninja’s last test
6.30 a battle won by a daydreamer
7.00 Shang-hu vs Shang-hei
7.30 The dragon and the warlord
8.00 Death of an army
9.00 The boy who killed an army

I would guess that the girls in the class came up with a rather different schedule.

Library Thing

21 January, 2013 at 10:02 am by belgianwaffle

I was just going through old visa bills. I throw them out after 6 years to make room in the folder. You see my contractual liability expires after 6 years and I won’t need them in court in the event of a disputed bill. Full disclosure: early training as a lawyer can lead to filing difficulties in later life. I see that I paid €19.53 on 16 February 2007 to become a lifetime member of Library Thing. Money well spent, I think.

2012 in Review

20 January, 2013 at 10:09 pm by belgianwaffle

This review consists of the first line from the first entry of every month and a photo from each month and the odd comment from me in italics. It’s very thrilling, now, so hold on to your hats.

When going through my posts to make yesterday’s list, I was slightly surprised to discover that I read 37 other books which were not on my bedside table in 2011.

Ah, yes, still the best new year’s resolution ever.

We’ve given up watching the news in the evenings; so, in fact, we’ve given up watching television altogether because all our TV watching consisted of the news and an hour of vain channel hopping thereafter.

Actually, we’re still largely off the news but we have acquired a number of box sets – Outnumbered and the Big Bang Theory. Don’t judge. Photo of first of many trips to Charles Fort this year. The children are tired of it.

We went to visit the President’s House.

We also laid in extensive supplies for the Princess’s birthday.

Michael eats nothing at dinner.

Michael eats even less now. The view is taken from our most successful family walk of the year.


Look, Daniel has shark teeth.

Michael reads and re-reads a lot of Asterix and Tintin.

Michael:Is there mass on Sunday?
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Not the attitude you would expect from a small boy who loved bible camp in Garryvoe.

Mr. Waffle was restored to us.
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And we went back to France where this photo was taken.

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

This is a bit out of synch because I wrote about August in September. As you do. That line was written when we were in France. That photo was taken when we were in Kerry.

The childminder was talking to me about the children’s homework.
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Me: You know that Thursday is November 1.
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A post every day. And the Dublin Book Festival, where I took the photo.

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

In case you are wondering, they had taped “passport needed to pass this point” on their door. It’s still there.


19 January, 2013 at 10:30 pm by belgianwaffle

As I was walking past the GPO, I heard an Australian say to a woman who was posting a letter, “Do you by any chance know what the Easter Rising is?”

That is all. Maybe you had to be there.

Timing is Everything

18 January, 2013 at 10:27 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Well done everyone, we’re in good time today. We’re going to be early for school. [Glancing at the dashboard clock] Well, maybe not early but we definitely won’t be late.
Herself: It’s called “being on time” Mum.

Life’s Rich Tapestry

17 January, 2013 at 10:51 pm by belgianwaffle

I am pulling together a pub quiz team. My friend R and his wife have said they will come though he has warned me “our knowledge is more likely to be largely congruent rather than complementary.” I am keen to get a sporting expert for our team. R asked could he bring his [adult] children? By all means, bring offspring, said I, particularly if sound on Gaelic games.

His reply: “Believe it or not, S played on the Hanoi team at a South-East Asia Gaelic football tournament in Saigon. I don’t think I would have regarded this as a likely prospect when I was reading about Viet Nam in Time Magazine every week in 1968.”

Mildly Disturbing

16 January, 2013 at 10:51 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael [apropos of nothing at all, I assure you]: Mummy, do you know how chemotherapy works?
Me: I do, I suppose, if somebody has cancer, it kills the cancer cells but it kills other cells too. So it can make people really sick.
Michael: No, it kills the fast growing cells; that’s why all their hair falls out. Would you like to know about GHD?
Me: Um, no, that’s ok. Have you been reading the Medikidz books again?

For When He’s in Therapy

15 January, 2013 at 10:22 pm by belgianwaffle

In the middle of the night, Daniel started to cry [aside from illness this has never happened before]. I went in to comfort him and he fell back to sleep. The following evening I asked him whether he remembered his bad dream. “Yes,” he said, “I went to a rugby match with Daddy and Uncle G and my cousin. Daddy and Uncle G were chatting and I interrupted them so Daddy took me home and I cried all the way. Except when we got there it was the library and Mummy was waiting. And then she took a picture of me. Because, Mummy, you’re always taking pictures.”

Impressive Customer Service

14 January, 2013 at 11:41 pm by belgianwaffle

We have to transfer the electricity in the new house from the vendors to us. The task of ringing customer service in the electricity company fell to me.

Them: Ring, ring, ring. Thank you for calling Airtricity customer service. Please input your account number. Please dial 1 etc etc. Eventually a human being comes on the line.
Me: Hello I’m ringing about moving an electricity account.
Him: You must be Anne.
Me: Sorry.
Him: Aren’t you Anne?
Me: Yes.
Him: I was talking to [the vendor] this morning and she said that you would be calling.
Me [faintly]: Oh right.
Him: Do you want it in your name or Mr. Waffle’s?
Me: How do you know my husband’s name?
Him: Did I get it wrong?
Me: No, no, you’re right, I’m just a bit surprised. Eh, my name please.
Him: Do you want to pay by direct debit?
Me: Yup.
Him: Give me your bank account and sort code details there.
Me [Give numbers]: But don’t you need me to sign something?
Him: No that’s grand. You’re all set up now from December 18th. That’s the day you closed, isn’t it?
Me [by now unsurprised]: Yup that’s right.
Him: I have the readings from the vendor; do you want to double check them or are you happy enough?
Me: That’s fine. I really hope that they are recording this conversation for quality purposes.
Him: Ah you’re very good Anne.

Utterly painless: Airtricity, I salute you. Although, if I ever acquire a stalker you will be the first people I will put on my list of suspects.

The Trials of the Cat Owner

13 January, 2013 at 11:27 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael yelled in alarm from downstairs, “A mouse! A mouse!” Mr. Waffle rushed downstairs. The Princess and I cravenly hid in a bedroom with the door firmly closed. Mr. Waffle finding the cat with a live mouse clamped in her jaws at the bottom of the stairs tossed both out the front door. It was a wet day so the cat did the sensible thing and ran straight to the cat flap at the back door and let herself in with the expiring mouse still clamped firmly in her jaws. Mr. Waffle threw them out the front again and rushed to the back door where he put his foot against the cat flap. The cat, with the, now dead, mouse in her mouth succeeded in getting in despite his efforts. He managed to separate her from the mouse and throw it out. She was very peeved. Rather disturbingly, she spent the remainder of the day with her head buried in the back of the bookshelf. What rather unwelcome conclusions may we reach from this?

Post-Script – House Hunting Part 5

12 January, 2013 at 10:45 pm by belgianwaffle

I finally saw inside our new house on December 20. There was a charming card from the vendors, a bottle of wine and some chocolate polar bears. It is a lovely, lovely house.

We decided not to tell the children until after Christmas because I knew Michael would be upset. On St. Stephen’s Day we took them to see it. The Princess was pleased; Daniel was indifferent; and Michael was distraught. He spent the duration of the visit sitting in a fetal ball crying. When we got back to our own house, he threw himself on the stairs and said, “Goodbye stairs”, then he turned to the wall and said, “Goodbye wall.” “Sweetheart,” I said “we won’t be able to take the walls and the stairs to the new house but we will be able to take all your things.” “Will I be able to take my pear tree?” he asked.

Over Christmas, however, Michael became resigned to his fate and even began to run around the new house as though he might be able to contemplate living there. He has a couple of months to get used to the idea because we won’t be moving in until we get central heating.

The vendors have left a book of old postcards in the house with cards dating back to the 30s sent to this address. The house hasn’t changed hands much since it was built in 1890 [I find the title deeds fascinating in a way I never did when I had to deal with them professionally – I’m going to get copies and read the title] and I really hope that we will be there for a long time too.

Wish us luck.

Next Year in Jerusalem – House Hunting Part 4

11 January, 2013 at 10:45 pm by belgianwaffle

On November 12 the estate agent confirms that his clients are still interested. There may be a pre-Christmas closing date. An old friend of mine from college is doing our conveyancing. We sign documents with her on November 23. I have no idea what is needed. I am in a position to definitively confirm that any slight acquaintance with conveyancing I may have had 20 years ago is utterly gone.

That very evening I have the following conversation with Michael:

Michael: Daniel is always throwing his socks down on me from his bunk.
Me: Oh dear, would you like to have your own bedroom where Daniel couldn’t throw socks on you?
Michael [mournfully]: Yes. [Short pause]. But that does not mean I will ever move house, so don’t even think about it.

I gaze lovingly at photos of the house on my phone. Mr. Waffle points out that it won’t be half as nice when we move in as it will only have our beaten up IKEA furniture. I say this to a friend of my mother’s who says, “Nonsense, your mother will be so delighted that one of her children finally has a house with room for some of her furniture that she will give you lots.” I sincerely hope this is true.

In advance of closing, we go to the house with our architect. The estate agent, annoying to the last, meets us there with the wrong set of keys. When the architect gets in he is very positive. Is it wrong to feel optimistic?

That evening there is a knock on the door. Mr. Waffle answers it. “Do you know who that was?” he asks. “It was the vendor who grew up in the house – apparently our post has started arriving there [Ulster Bank being perhaps a little over prompt]. He said that they had been very happy there and he hoped that we would be too. We start to hear things about the vendors [the children of the deceased]. He is a magician. When she was young, she was so pretty that she would stop traffic on the road. She was the envy of the local girls.

Finally, finally we close on Tuesday, December 18. With a certain inevitability, our title deeds are briefly mislaid by the courier. Never mind. It’s ours. We’ll spend next Christmas in our new house.


10 January, 2013 at 11:10 pm by belgianwaffle

Despite the misery that January is supposed to bring, I feel very happy at the moment. Everything is going my way. Lots of things are working: my childminder is great and the children love her; the children are happy; we have enough money; we might even buy a new house; I have a loving, kind and supportive extended family. My wardrobe is adequate. My work is interesting.

I wrote this in January last year. And it’s still true in part. The children don’t love the new childminder as much. And we are skint because of the new house. But new house!

Lucky me. Largely.

Schrodinger’s House – House Hunting Part 3

10 January, 2013 at 10:44 pm by belgianwaffle

On June 20, we see a house that is perfect. We both love it. I am very depressed as I feel we will be outbid and doomed. By June 29 there are no other offers. The estate agent says our offer is too meagre, however, the family of the deceased is considering it. Yet again, I am filled with unwise hope.

On July 3 there is another bidder. We bid in increments up to our limit. We are outbid. On July 10 we said goodbye. I nearly cried. “Right,” I said to Mr. Waffle, “I am ringing the birthday house people and putting in an offer.” “Give it a week,” he says. On July 11, the estate agent for the perfect house is back on. The other bidder had some objection. I hand over to Mr. Waffle as I can no longer stand the trauma of the negotiations. I begin listing to myself the disadvantages of the perfect house so that I am not too depressed should it all fall through: planning permission extant for flats behind the laneway; no central heating; no side passage; east as opposed to west or south facing back garden. I am clutching at straws here.

On July 12 we are sale agreed! Mr. Waffle is a tower of strength. We agree not to tell the children as there might yet be a slip twixt cup and lip. I feel great excitement and also a vague sense of anti-climax. I feel that my greatest ambition of the past 18 months is achieved. Really? This is it, this is all that I wanted in life, a larger house? Oh for heaven’s sake. I am all shallows and no depth.

On July 23 we are on holidays. Michael is desperate to get home to Dublin. He lies in bed weeping at the prospect of waiting until the following day. Herself comments darkly, “This is just a taster of what you can expect, if we ever move house.” The guilt.

Our holidays in France in August are mildly blighted by an estate agent shaped cloud as he keeps ringing to know where we are at in getting the survey and so on. On our return to Dublin, we sign contracts subject to finance. Given our great age, our life insurance involves a physical exam from a nurse. Apparently we are fine. We pay our deposit.

We are on holidays in Kerry in August, the surveyor rings us to say that he has given his survey to the bank. Since the bank wanted it before releasing funds we are happy. He then says casually that he has valued the house at considerably less than our offer. The bank refuses to release more than 90% of the valuer’s estimate. We are in despair and have no idea how to make up the shortfall. We are also furious with the idiot valuer. House prices in Ireland are a bit “make up your own figure”. We know that a house up the road sold at the height of the boom for twice what we are proposing to pay. We offer a number of potential solutions to the bank all of which they reject but in the waiting time, I filled with hope. The vendors’ estate agent is incandescent with rage. The only good thing is that we put him in touch with the surveyor and they had a free and frank exchange of views. Someone comments, accurately but unhelpfully, that if we were to get the house we would be in negative equity before we started.

The estate agent suggests that we go to a mortgage broker. We are not optimistic. When the bank with whom we have banked all our lives refuses to give us credit [thank you Bank of Ireland] we think it unlikely, what with one thing and another, that any other bank is likely to give us credit. The mortgage broker is more optimistic. We do after all have another survey [also from a surveyor on the bank’s approved list valuing the house at what we want to pay for it – in fact, he tells Mr. Waffle that it’s a great buy- kind, good surveyor]. In early October we sign forms with Ulster Bank. The Bank manager is full of bonhomie. On no, wretched optimism again. A fortnight later there is still no news. We drive past the perfect house. I sigh. “Schrödinger’s house” says Mr. Waffle.

On October 16, the vendors put the perfect house back on the market. On October 18 we sign more forms for Ulster Bank. They want a statement of our mortgage payments from Bank of Ireland. This is not available online. It is impossible to get through by phone. I resort to ringing customer complaints. I go through two menus and finally reach a human being. They can only send me a hard copy of the mortgage statement. As this is lunch time on Friday, it will be printed this evening and posted the following Monday. No chance of an electronic copy? No. Can I call in, perhaps? No it is not sent from here. Slightly sarcastically, I asked, from where then, a secret location? Yes, that’s correct. By the following Wednesday there is still no sign of the statement. I ring the bank. Allow 3-5 working days, they say.

On October 31 in the early evening we get news that Ulster Bank have approved our loan. Who would have thought? On November 9, to our amazement, confirmation of the loan offer arrives by fax. Ulster, atypically, says yes. Shortly rivers will begin to run uphill.

Concluding scenes in this stirring drama will follow shortly.

Hope Springs Eternal – House Hunting Part 2

9 January, 2013 at 9:35 pm by belgianwaffle

We kept looking. Mr. Waffle suggested that we might want to escape the “crime and grime” of our current location. I regret to say that by March 2012 we had not moved. Woe.

In April 2012 we put in a bid on a property in Rathmines on the opposite side of the city. The auctioneer sneered at our offer. “Make it higher,” she said. “No,” said Mr. Waffle considering the bulge in the front of the property warily [only needs to be strapped she said cheerfully]. “We’re the only bidders,” said Mr. Waffle, “we’re not going to bid against ourselves.” “You wouldn’t be bidding against yourselves,” she said airily, “you would be bidding against the vendors’ expectations.” We walked away.

At the end of April we saw a lovely house. This would be the one. It was in good nick. The children came with us. They liked it. We sent them off to sit in the car while we made an offer to the estate agent. When we came back to the car only two of our three children were in it. In the driving rain, Daniel had gone in the opposite direction to his siblings and was lost in the streets of identical redbrick houses. We ran around shouting for him. It took quite a while to find him and I don’t think he has ever been happier to see us. As well as having trudged gloomily for quite a distance in the rain, he had put his wellingtons on the wrong feet. I carried him back to the car overcome with triumph and relief.

The next day at work, I discover, to my chagrin, that a colleague has viewed the house and she too is thinking of putting in a bid. “I didn’t even know you were looking,” she said. “How could you not?” said another colleagues sardonically, “Anne’s house hunt has its own page on facebook.” We are outbid but, fortunately, not by my colleague because otherwise I might never have been able to speak to her again. In any event our surveyor’s report identified the attic bedroom as a fire hazard. I might mention that this entire process has been part of our attempt to ensure that Irish surveyors survive the bust.

In May we see a nice place with a big garden on a busy main road. I wonder is it a bit rough [you will appreciate the irony of this when you read the next paragraph]. My sardonic colleague asks wisely, “Is it near a chipper?” It is near a chipper. We go to see it anyway. Twice. When making the first appointment, I say to the secretary in the estate agent’s “I recognise that agent’s name I think we saw something with her before; is she pregnant by any chance?” “Oh no, her baby will be 1 in July.” We have officially been looking forever. This house is big and in reasonable order. And not too dear for us. I am filled with hope. Again, oh for heaven’s sake.

Meanwhile, the council has seen fit to park a container across the road from our house just outside the abandoned terrace. In next to no time it becomes party central and not in a good way. When I come home at 6.30 in the evening and find a number of drunken people using the container as an outdoor toilet, I get very annoyed and ring the council and the body responsible for re-developing the site and complain to their voicemails. As the party goes on into the night, I have ample opportunity to enjoy it. Mr. Waffle is away for work and the Princess in her upstairs front room overlooking the party is scared and so am I. I ring the guards and they send a squad car to disperse the cider drinking revellers. I enlist the help of the council workmen to get the wretched container moved and it does move. But I am all the more determined to move house.

In June, I go back to see my birthday house. I tell Mr. Waffle either we buy this house or the big one on the main road but we are going to get one of them.

Denouement to follow.

Suit DIY Enthusiast – House Hunting Part 1

8 January, 2013 at 8:38 pm by belgianwaffle

Did you know that we started looking for a new house at the beginning of 2011?

We had previously house hunted at the beginning of the boom [in 2002]. This is dispiriting because the house you turned your nose up at last week is sold this week for more than your budget and next week all you can afford is a large broom cupboard.

But hunting in a bust is no fun either. As we looked at many, many houses, it became abundantly clear that when the property market collapses, three things happen:
a) Nobody who can possibly avoid it sells a house so there are very few new properties on the market;
b) Most of the sales are executor’s sales [see (a) above re avoiding selling, if you’re dead, then selling is pretty unavoidable] and the houses are in need of considerable care and upgrading [central heating, for example]; and
c) Landlords who regard new regulation of rented dwellings with dubiety will put their properties on the market [“Ideal for conversion to family home, currently in 10 units.”]

We saw lots of houses. 16 in six months. That’s more than one every second weekend. But still I went to every viewing filled with hopes destined to be dashed.

I remember going around a small house with a nice garden in one of Dublin’s southern suburbs. An older woman wandered around the rooms confiding to her companion: “This is a very dark house. Somebody has been ill here, I sense bad feelings and unhappiness” while the estate agent audibly ground his teeth.

I had the greatest difficulty getting to see another house as the estate agent assured me it would not suit. “But I want to see it,” I protested. Reluctantly, he conceded. He was right, it didn’t suit.

On my birthday, in March 2011, we saw a great house. In my heart of hearts I felt that this would be the house for us. Mr. Waffle said, “Let’s agree to have moved by this time next year.” We hummed and hawed over the birthday house. It needed a lot of work. Work is not our strong point. We are no good at dealing with workmen.

My mother asked me whether we were ever likely to have a drawing room where she could have tea. I felt not. [Aside, advising on furnishing, she told me that she bought the carpet which furnished the drawing room when she lived in a big house and, subsequently, two bedrooms and a study in a smaller house at an auction of the contents of the grand hotel in Cork. Possibly the best carpet investment ever. Do you think that hotels still auction carpets or is it all polished hard surfaces? Recent experience has shown that they certainly still go into liquidation.]

End of 2011.


7 January, 2013 at 10:38 pm by belgianwaffle

Yesterday we took down the tree and put away the decorations and the crib after the children had gone to bed. It struck me that this was a sorry contrast to the gleeful decorating before Christmas. All the preparations are family affairs but the dismantling of the Christmas paraphernalia is done by parents and Christmas sneaks off like a thief in the night. And then, the next year it is re-discovered when the boxes come down from the attic. Like magic.


6 January, 2013 at 10:32 pm by belgianwaffle

Christmas brings out the occasional mass goer and our local church was thronged on Christmas morning. As our parish priest launched into his sermon [a long one] in front of his largest congregation of the year, a mobile phone began to ring loudly and insistently from the pew behind mine. A number of people looked around in irritation. An older gentleman began to systematically pat down his various pockets. Eventually, to sighs of relief, he found it. Not being familiar with mass phone etiquette, I charitably assume, he did not hang up. We were instead treated to a quick conversation in a stage whisper:

“Hello, Julie…No, I’m at mass…. No you’re alright, go on… and a happy Christmas to you.”

I told this story to my sister. “That’s nothing,” she said, “one Sunday at our church a phone rang while Sr. M was doing the first reading. In time it became clear that it was her phone, ringing from her pocket on the altar. It didn’t really matter though as most of the congregation is quite hard of hearing.”

O tempora o mores etc.

Belated Happy New Year

5 January, 2013 at 11:43 pm by belgianwaffle

“What news from the Waffle Christmas?” I hear you ask anxiously. You have been consulting this website daily in hopes of an update. And, then again, perhaps not.

Well, Michael spent Christmas morning in tears as he got nothing he liked from Santa. He went to a lot of trouble to write a list including items such as a “sleep bomb” and a “spy plane” and, of course, “an x-box” but he didn’t get any of them. Great was his wrath. Alas. On the plus side, his brother and sister were quite pleased with their gifts.

On St. Stephen’s Day, we went orienteering in the Dublin mountains. This turned out to be a poor choice for reasons which are, I think, abundantly clear from the photographs below.

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On the 27th we went to Cork where the boys got an X-box. We didn’t see them for the remainder of our time in Cork as they spent it on the couch wielding virtual light sabres.

We returned to Dublin on December 30 with the two boys and the x-box. Herself stayed in Cork for a couple of days bonding with her Cork relatives.

I went into the office on December 31 and the place was like a morgue. I cannot believe how much work I got done. I was delighted with myself. Mr. Waffle said that I was on a bureaucratic high when he dragged me out at 6.15. Very kind friends had a new year’s eve dinner party where we stayed until nearly 4 in the morning (and we were the first to leave). Mr. Waffle drove to his parents’ house to collect the two boys in the morning and I was able to sleep in. I still had to go to bed at 9 the next two nights. I am, frankly, not as resilient as I once was.

As a reward for reading this far, may I refer you to a rather more entertaining tale of Christmas celebrations from a monastery? The whole world is on the internet, really.

Have you any good new year resolutions? I have none. I feel that I can never successfully top my January 2011 resolution so have given up. That’s the spirit, I think you’ll agree.

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