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Archive for July, 2014

Old, but not that Old

31 July, 2014 at 11:06 am by belgianwaffle

A couple of weeks ago, I was coming up from Cork on the train with the children and to show them how near they were to Dublin, I wanted to point out the Wellington monument in Phoenix Park. “Look, look,” I said, “who can see Nelson’s Pillar?” Pause. Then herself said, “Mum, I think it was blown up in 1966.” Which it was.

Holidays

30 July, 2014 at 12:09 pm by belgianwaffle

We’re off to France for a fortnight from today. Hurrah. Posting may be light but a full blow by blow account will be provided on our return – something for you to look forward to.

We are house swapping for the first time. Hope it all works out for everyone. I am exhausted from tidying our house. I hope that the cat doesn’t catch too many small animals for the French family.

Productivity is Up Again, Comrades

29 July, 2014 at 10:10 am by belgianwaffle

We are house swapping this year and the children and I have been cleaning the house with an intensity rarely seen under normal circumstances. Herself and Daniel washed the downstairs windows. Here is a picture of herself making an unavailing attempt to polish the brass – very difficult – suggestions welcome.

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We also picked up all the plums that had fallen on the front path:

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And chopped up half of them:

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and turned them into jam:

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Anniversary jam:

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The rest are in the freezer awaiting inspiration.

Happy Anniversary

28 July, 2014 at 12:05 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle and I are married 13 years today. Which is ages. Go us.

Here is some dialogue to explain why Mr. Waffle is perfect.

Daniel: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Mr. Waffle: Maybe flying, that would be cool.
Daniel: If you couldn’t fly, what would you pick?
Mr. Waffle: Controlling the weather.
Daniel: Why?
Mr. Waffle: Then I could always get my laundry dry.

Seriously, what’s not to love?

Drama Queen

27 July, 2014 at 10:09 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess did an acting course last week and absolutely loved it. Mid-way through, she mentioned “Macbeth” and then did a quick twirl. “What did you do that for?” “If you mention ‘the Scottish play’ it brings bad luck and we have our performance at the end of the week. The performance was great fun and she is now full of enthusiasm for drama.

Will this end well?

Evangelical

26 July, 2014 at 10:09 pm by belgianwaffle

I live close to town and I usually cycle in, if I have errands to run. Last week, the children did summer camps in town and I drove them in. Then I was kind of stuck with the car in town and found myself driving around doing errands which never normally happens. It is really inconvenient and expensive to boot. I did drive home one day and cycle back in to collect the children but that was not a success as they were hot, tired and hungry and did not welcome the walk home. It’s really too dangerous for them to cycle with me, so we were stuck.

It would be so fantastic if we could have safer cycle lanes in Dublin. If they can do it in Cork, surely they can do it here. Perhaps we need our own pedal on parliament.

Unrelated: The cat has just hauled in a dead bird – delighted with herself. Mr. Waffle and the Princess are out bat watching so I have just had to dispose of the carcase myself. Woe.

Unfit

26 July, 2014 at 10:52 am by belgianwaffle

Our greatest achievement of the academic year 2013/14 was to start walking to school every day. The journey is a little under two kilometres and it takes us between 23 and 25 minutes. We started in November which was hardly a propitious moment but the children had been to a talk in the library on saving the planet and Michael insisted that we start walking. The great advantage of beginning in November is that the weather is unlikely to get worse. Between November and June, there was only one day where the weather was so wet that we decided to take the car. We also discovered that lots of the other children who lived locally were walking in too. It was all very positive. Between walking in in the morning and cycling home in the evenings, I was, if not fit, then at least used to moderate exercise.

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Since the end of school and the beginning of my parental leave, I have largely spent my time sitting down. I cycled out to my friend’s bookclub on Sunday (about 35 minutes each way on the bike) and arrived with legs like jelly. We climbed up to Prince William’s Seat the weekend before. I note it is tactlessly described as a “short easy walk” by the tourist authorities. All I can say is that I panted all the way up and spent the next two days stiff as a poker. Great views though.

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I suppose that the only comfort I can take is that if I get unfit so quickly, then maybe I can regain my mild previous fitness levels with relatively little effort. Sigh.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

25 July, 2014 at 3:36 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself loves Shakespeare. This did not come from her parents who, frankly, can take or leave Shakespeare and think that laughing at his comedies is the sign of a sick mind.

Her best friend’s father has a theatre company and I think she may have got encouragement from there. Anyhow, she has learnt off large chunks of Shakespearean plays for her own entertainment which makes me feel proud, obviously, but also baffled. At her age, I found Lamb’s “Tales from Shakespeare” pretty dull let alone going near the source material.

Anyhow, for 6 nights there is a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” running in the grounds of Dublin Castle and she and I went along on Wednesday night. Tickets were only €6 each and, frankly, I have spent far more on less satisfactory theatrical experiences. My only quibble was that visibility at the back was pretty poor and herself spent most of the show perched on my knees. On the plus side, the evening was beautifully warm and clear and it was lovely to be outdoors.

I was unfamiliar with the play but herself gave me a summary and some of the quotable lines at the start (“I don’t want to ruin it for you” – “Never mind, I’ll be alright”). It was billed as Shakespeare and Glam Rock but the emphasis was pretty heavily on the Shakespeare. Herself is still pretty new to theatre going so was amazed and entranced at how 9 actors managed to play all the characters. She laughed at the jokes and was generally absolutely enthralled (although she told me some parts had been dropped – since that kept it under 2 hours, that was fine by me).

One of the great pleasures of parenthood is enjoying something through your children. I think I would have been bored had I been there alone but with her, a little of the magic and enchantment rubbed off. Nevertheless, philistine that I am, one of the highlights for me (and for the Spanish kids sitting beside me) was the menacing behaviour of a number of seagulls, one of whom sat on Titania’s bed as she slept looking at her balefully. It was clearly aware that it had a reputation to maintain.

Cork

24 July, 2014 at 10:27 am by belgianwaffle

I have been up and down to Cork a bit with the children.

On our last visit we donated a possibly interesting document to the city archives. I found it in a box at my parents house with random tat including postcards, school essays and the like. I suggested that I might drop it into the national archives but, my father, roused to vehemence, said he did not want it to go off to Dublin and it was to go to the Cork archives.

The city archives are not particularly central but they are near where the man who did my mother’s upholstery had his workshop. I saw a chaise longue on the footpath and pulled up on a whim. The boys sat resolutely in the car but herself came in with me for a look. It turned out that the upholsterer (Mr. Nodwell – an unforgettable name, you would think, but I had forgotten) had operated out of the premises next door but was now dead. The Princess and I had a look around the bric-a-brac shop with the chaise longue. I suggested that she look out for coins to add to her growing collection. The shop owner overheard us and made her a present of a big box of coins and a cheque from 1961 from a butcher’s shop on Castle Street (now gone) which specialised in crubeens. We had to explain to her what crubeens were. Burdened down by her gifts she whispered to me that she felt she ought to buy something. Her eye fell on a 1970s picture of a foxglove.

Her: Excuse me, how much is that picture please?
Him: €3.
[She opens her purse]
Him: Are you paying for it yourself? You should always haggle. Look, I’ll do it for you. Will you take €2, go on, it’s hardly worth €3. Alright so, you can have it for €2.

Giggling, she handed over the cash and left with her treasures clutched to her chest.

Then we went into the North Cathedral where I had never been before.

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The children found the cathedral unutterably dull but I was surprised how attractive it was inside. It is also the burial place of the bishops of Cork. The Victorian bishop is on the left – no false modesty there. The other graves get progressively plainer until we get to Bishop Murphy who confirmed me whose tablet is flush with the ground. There’s a metaphor there but you’ll have to work it out for yourselves.

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We strolled down to Shandon where I had promised the children a chance to ring the bells. Alas, the bells were being repaired and were unavailable to ring. The children sat in the Belfry dolefully for some time and we got chatting with the young man fixing the ropes.

Him: Where are you from?
Me: Cork.
Him: Do you know where Griffith College is?
Me: No, probably after my time.
Him: What?
Me: I haven’t lived in Cork for more than 20 years.
Him: You’re not from Cork at all then.
Silence.
Me: Where are you from?
Him: Leap (West Cork).
Me: Is there much money in the whole bell repair thing? It must be quite a niche job.
Him: I don’t know, I was a gardener until the day before yesterday.

I hope that works out for you Shandon.

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Then, gluttons for punishment, we went to the butter museum. Of only mild interest, but having been there before, the children knew what they were signing up for.

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I took them to the South Chapel as well. Because I can. But look, catholic church from 1766 and a famous sculpture. What’s not to love?

Waffles

23 July, 2014 at 11:53 am by belgianwaffle

The Princess got a present of a waffle maker from her aunt. She made waffles. We are all very impressed.

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Email from Husband

22 July, 2014 at 12:33 pm by belgianwaffle

Subject: Wretched Cat

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It’s like a morgue here.

There’s a Rat in my Kitchen

21 July, 2014 at 1:41 pm by belgianwaffle

Well not actually in the kitchen but lying outside the kitchen window. It was so enormous and sleek and healthy looking in a fetching shade of grey that I thought it was a soft toy which the children had left out overnight.

Closer inspection revealed that it was a huge dead rat stretched out in rigor mortis. I can only assume that the cat caught it but decided in her infinite mercy not to bring it into the kitchen or under the stairs. How did I deal with this? Well, I called my husband (rather shrilly) to dispose of the corpse and ran to get my phone to photograph it for you but by the time I came back, the body was gone and Mr. Waffle was washing his hands. He’s a fast operator. It’s in the bin out the front but I don’t think I’ll be fishing it out to pose for pictures.

And how has your day been so far?

Unrelated: Happy Belgian National Day!

Very Green

19 July, 2014 at 11:31 pm by belgianwaffle

We went to Clara Lara fun park on Monday. Rain notwithstanding, the children had a good time. Very many of the other families in the park had northern accents and I assume that they had made their way out of Northern Ireland for a holiday during the July marching season.

For no reason that I can tell, other than, perhaps, the subliminal impact of all the northern accents, Michael attracted the amused attention of other diners by saying loudly at lunch, “When oh when are they going to give us back Northern Ireland?” At least Daniel didn’t say, “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.” This is his usual automatic reaction to any mention of the North [reasons unknown – suspect school] but possibly my outraged hushing of Michael made him decide to hold back.

Some briefing may be required before we go to Belfast to see the Titanic exhibition.

Five go to Smuggler’s Top

18 July, 2014 at 11:31 pm by belgianwaffle

Last year, some friends from Brussels came to Dublin and we agreed that we should all meet again this year.

I mentioned that it would be lovely to go to Rye and little faerie hands went and made it happen [pause to regret that I no longer work with the organiser who is spectacular at getting things done]. So on the first Friday in July, I flew to Gatwick leaving my little family to fend for themselves. In what can only be called a spectacular organisational débâcle, that morning I drove the 250kms from Cork to Dublin with the children sitting resignedly in the back. My appetite for driving from Gatwick to Rye at 9.30 that evening was, therefore, even less than it might otherwise have been. However, my trusty phone navigated me safely there. Very cheaply also as the new lower roaming rates had just been introduced. Let us pause for a moment here to think positive thoughts about the European Commission and all who sail in her.

The drive was a bit hair raising. Due to it taking forever to get the rental car, it was 10.30 before I set off and midnight before I arrived. The whole journey was busy, lots of cars even in the rural parts and I was struck anew by how very full England is, particularly, the south east. The accommodation was terrific – my first airbnb experience and I would recommend it on the basis of this place.

It has been years since I have been away with a group of friends and I was delighted with the novelty of not constantly worrying about meals which is a feature of travel with my children and also, nobody said, “I’m bored”. There were five of us who used to work together in Brussels on this weekend and although we are a somewhat disparate group we get on really well and, of course, have the delightful luxury of reminiscing about our time working together and what happened to our least loved colleagues.

Rye itself is delightful. I was reminded how pretty England is and, as my friend J pointed out, this part of the world has had money for at least a thousand years, and it shows. Rye is a hilltop town looking out over marshes to the sea. It’s all steep little winding lanes and half-timbered cottages. Tiny and perfect.

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Rye

I had wanted to visit since my friend J told me that it was the town on which Tilling in the Mapp and Lucia books is based. If you haven’t read them, I really recommend them. They are set in the 30s and describe two middle aged women vying for social dominance in a small English town. I re-read the books in preparation for my trip and was slightly appalled to discover that I am now older than Miss Mapp who is only 43. Alas.

They were filming a TV series while we were there so I was able to take this picture from the church which was rather appealing, to me at least.

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I also climbed the church tower from which Lucia’s garden is visible.

Rye

Rye is awash with literature. Lamb House which is the model for Mallards in the novels was where EF Benson lived but Henry James also lived there for many years as did Rumer Godden (unknown to me in advance of my trip but now will try her – suggestions welcome). Radclyffe Hall also put in time in Rye but not at Lamb House I think. Entirely coincidentally, I had taken “The Well of Loneliness” out of the library recently to give it a go but I am not entirely convinced that I can face it, enthusiasm for Rye notwithstanding. Anyhow, here is a picture of Mallards and it is entirely clear on seeing it why Lucia wanted to get her mitts on it.

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I had forotten that this part of England was also the setting for one of my favourite Georgette Heyer novels – “The Unknown Ajax”. Since I almost know it by heart from repeated re-reading, I was able to recognise the landmarks referred to in the book and was suitably delighted to see the cage of the murderous butcher referred to in the novel when I visited the little museum. Rye is also, apparently, the inspiration for “Five go to Smuggler’s Top” which I am also about to re-read. Your point?

The local supermarket was called Jempsons and it was, insofar as a supermarket can be, charming. Everything about Rye is charming. J bought a ceramic hen for keeping eggs and my soul was filled with envy but as I had travelled hand luggage only, I was not going to be able to buy a ceramic hen as well as a biscuit barrel [why am I obsessed with biscuit barrels?]. Happily, in Cork this week, I found a ceramic hen [someday I will post a picture of my mother’s enormous range of china] and, with my parents’ blessing, brought it safely to Dublin and it is even now surveying the kitchen with a beady eye from its perch.

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We also went to Camber Sands which are very beautiful but very full of people and built up right to the coast in a way that reminded me of Scheveningen in the Netherlands which is also very full of people. This inspired my friend N who is from Northern Ireland to suggest that next year we might visit the Antrim coast which is also full of beautiful beaches but boasts considerably fewer people. So next year will see us going off to Northern Ireland. Isn’t it well for us?

Overheard

13 July, 2014 at 9:54 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael: Dan, ma man, what’s up?
Daniel: Nuttin’ just chillin’.

The Americans have a lot to answer for.

Summer

12 July, 2014 at 9:53 pm by belgianwaffle

The children and I are on summer holidays and it is delightful. In my never ending endeavour to promote culture in the face of some dubiety from the children we have visited the following:
St. Michan’s where we shook hands with the mummified crusader in the crypt;
Christ Church where we inspected the view from the belfry
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and rang the bells
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(only some of us became air borne); and
the Casino Marino which is the best and the cleverest neoclassical temple you will ever see, if that is your thing
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We also went to Cork where 3 of us swam in the sea at Garretstown and the fourth sat on the towels on the beach proclaiming dolefully that he does not like sand. We had the obligatory trip to Blackrock Castle Observatory which continues to be much loved by the troops.

We also purchased a new toaster the excitement of which outstripped by some distance all other events since the holidays began. Daniel got to watch a football match while we were choosing.

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You can toast four things at the same time.

And I have also visited Rye (more details to follow – hang on to your hats etc.).

Cycling

11 July, 2014 at 12:16 pm by belgianwaffle

Last time I was in Cork, I borrowed my sister’s bike. I cycle most days in Dublin but I haven’t cycled in Cork in 20 years. I was struck by the effort that the city council seems to have put into cycling infrastructure – loads of bike parking spaces, conta-flow lanes! On the minus side, it was raining. And I saw no other cyclists while I was out. I suppose that these facts might not be unrelated. In Dublin, at every junction you are likely to be joined by half a dozen other cyclists and nothing makes cyclists safer than lots of other cyclists. I hope that “if they build it, they will come” works out in Cork as it is a compact city with loads of students and it seems like a natural place to cycle to get around.

Meanwhile, back in Dublin, while during the year, all 5 of us cycled to school one morning, it was a bit hair raising in parts. There was a certain amount of pushing bikes on busier roads but we made it there (and back in the afternoon). We didn’t repeated the dose though. Much more pleasant was a trip we did on the bank holiday Monday along the banks of the Royal Canal from Phibsborough to Ashtown a round trip of about 10 kms which, in places, feels as though it is out in the country although it is very much in the city.

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While the other two were happy enough (lovely cygnets, terrifying nesting swan, chance to accidentally cycle into the canal, quaternions), Michael was not enthused cycling gloomily and rather slowly along while muttering darkly. In part this was due to his refusal to use 5 of the 6 gears he has on his bike. He was peddling along in first gear with all his might but, as I unavailingly pointed out, the route was along a canal and, in consequence, almost entirely flat so he would have done better to have tried 5th or 6th gear. It’s a pity Michael was not keen as I would like to do it again but I fear that a very significant bribe would be required to persuade him to entice him out. Alas.

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He did cycle into town with his father and brother the following weekend to play war games in a shop that sells expensive, small pieces of plastic, so I suppose that is something. While they were doing that the Princess and I cycled in to see the Fat exhibition in the Science Gallery (I sometimes wonder whether the Science Gallery regards part of its mission as being to revolt) and then went for a restoring tea and a bun before cycling home, all uphill. She and I have been on a number of cycling adventures in the warm weather which has all been very pleasing. If Dublin City Council get their way on cycle lanes in the quays, there will be lots more of this. Not news that has been greeted with unequivocal enthusiasm, but, go them, I say.

Final, bike related news: one lunch time, I arrived home late, locked my bike to the railings outside the house, leapt into the car, collected the children from school and brought them to the library. As we were leaving the library, I looked for my library card only to discover that my purse wasn’t there. When I got home, there it was, sitting happily in the bottom of my basket; untouched after a whole afternoon outdoors.


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