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Holiday Continued

29 September, 2014 at 11:51 pm by belgianwaffle

Let me take you back to August. So we got off the ferry, back in Ireland and we were going directly to Kerry without passing through Dublin for fear of mutiny by the troops if we got home and then turned around the next day and drove straight to Kerry.

We had an unscheduled stop in Dungarvan when we got a flat tyre. As it could have happened while racing for the ferry in France in torrential rain the previous day, we felt that a flat tyre in Dungarvan had much to recommend it. After lunch we pushed on to Cork where we stayed overnight with my loving family.

For complex reasons we had a spare Cork parking disk which we didn’t need and as Mr. Waffle was going into the house he saw these French people with a Finistère registered car trying to work out the parking regime in Cork. Feeling warmly towards the people of Finistère he went up to them and in impeccable French offered them the parking disk. Were they surprised by a) his French or b) his kindness to strangers? Did they engage in general conversation which allowed him to remark we had just returned from our holiday in Finistère? Didn’t I tell you they were French? I do love the sang froid of the French.

17 August

Our first full day in Kerry was a Sunday so began with a trip to mass which the troops greeted with their customary enthusiasm. We were staying in Dingle in ludicrously enormous holiday houses outside the town. The cousins, grandparents and aunts and uncles were staying across the road from us and there was a swing and a green area between the houses which the children played in happily.

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We went to the beach in the afternoon but didn’t swim as the place was alive with jellyfish. Global warming apparently. The children were delighted to play in the sand with their cousins so all was well.

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That night the parents of the children went out together. My sister-in-law and her husband from exotic London took all the children to the fair. Madness, but we were very grateful, as were the children.

18 August

We had a mild climb up Clogher Head and looked at the beautiful view. For his own obscure reasons, an Italian man was sitting at the top playing a flute so that was nice, if a little odd.

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We had a lovely lunch in Ballydavid; a further swim with a jellyfish and a visit to Dingle’s excellent library. For the price of €2, you can get a temporary membership and borrow from your holiday address. Is that not wonderful?

19 August

My sister-in-law took her husband to the airport. This was not entirely without difficulty as, despite being over 30 and having lived in London for 13 years and looked after herself perfectly well, she is a youngest child and is therefore assumed by her parents to be incapable of the mildest adventure. I was startled when my mother-in-law asked me whether I thought my sister-in-law would be alright on the shortish drive to the regional airport. I felt she would. Apparently an offer by her mother to sit in the back seat to ensure that she was safe had been vigorously rebuffed by my sister-in-law. Youngest children also have their crosses to bear.

The Princess, her young cousins and her uncle and aunt climbed Mount Brandon. The boys, Mr Waffle and I baled out somewhat less than half way up. There were still great views.

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Including, impressively, of my brother-in-law running up the mountain ahead of us.

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Back at ground level we forced the boys to speak Irish in a local shop. It passed off peacefully.

20 August

We had a lovely dinner out leaving the children to the tender mercies of a teenage babysitter. She seemed fine on our return despite minding five young children. This was the last night for both sisters-in-law before they went off to London, so nearly at the end, alas.


21 August

The girls went for a trip to the acquarium with their London aunt before she left for the bright lights. A certain gloom overtook the party on the departure of the aunts. We all went on a very damp cliff walk.

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There is nothing like Kerry in the rain. The children were cheered by a further trip to the funfair with a view later.

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22 August

This was our last full day in Kerry and the weather was amazing. We spent all day at the beach in Ballydavid and had a beautiful lunch in the nearby pub. It was a lovely, lovely day and, handily enough, obliterated the rain soaked memory of the day before.

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23 August

The end of the holidays; a long drive and finally we were home.

Last picture of Kerry from the road home:

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So, excellent, I have finished my account of the summer holidays before the beginning of October, do you enjoy the immediacy of this blog?

They Also Serve Who Only Stand and Wait

28 September, 2014 at 9:07 pm by belgianwaffle

So we ran mass today. The woman from the parish council who normally does it was off in Siena on holidays. We had the intro (me), the prayers of the faithful (all the children) and the second reading (Herself).

She read beautifully. As she was reading, “There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself..”, I was whispering to her father, “She’s so good at this, she really is superb at reading aloud much better than anyone else.” So very much taking the message of the reading to heart, then.

They all did fine for their prayers of the faithful but after delivering his, Michael went to the back of the altar where he appeared to believe he was invisible and began rotating in circles.

But what, you ask of my couple of lines of introduction, well, I went into the sacristy and told the parish priest that I would be doing the introduction. “Fine, fine,” said he. When mass actually started, I was surprised to see that someone else entirely was saying mass but I assumed that the parish priest had passed on the message. I went up to the altar and stood at the lectern opposite the priest. The elderly priest opened mass with a welcome. Then he pressed on completely ignoring me. I stood there opening my mouth like a landed fish and failing to get a word in edgeways. Eventually I slunk off the altar without saying anything still completely unnoticed by the priest who was well into his stride at this point. Why do these things always happen to me? Predictably, the children thought it was hilarious

A Momentus Day

27 September, 2014 at 11:19 pm by belgianwaffle

My parents are celebrating their 47th wedding anniversary.

Daniel and Michael are 9.

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Also, the internet tells me, George Clooney got married and Google is 16. It’s just non-stop this whole 27 September thing.

It’s also the feast day of the Brussels region. I can stop any time.

Updated to add: very belated birthday posts for Daniel and Michael finally done.

Suffering for Art

21 September, 2014 at 10:14 pm by belgianwaffle

I went to see a revival of “Borstal Boy” by Brendan Behan in the Gaiety earlier this week. It is very long and contains more song and dance numbers than you might expect but it has its moments.

On Friday night it was culture night so, we had book doctor prescriptions from CBI in the Writers’ Museum [your children tell adults who are experts in children’s books what they are reading and they recommend what they might like]; we went to the Mendicity Institution which was really interesting and where we got soup made to the original 1818 recipe (very glutinous); and we had a stroll around Merrion Square which was mildly interesting. There was a very long queue to get into number 29 Fitzwilliam Square – a Georgian House Museum so we skipped that and I promised to take Herself another day. We went yesterday and had the place largely to ourselves – entrance fee €6 for both of us – so I feel that was money well spent.

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Last night, Mr. Waffle and I went to see “The Belle Bottoms” in the Fringe Theatre Festival – an hour of funny songs inspired by the 70s. It was written by Eoin Colfer who writes really terrific books for children. I had hopes. They were dashed. Mr. Colfer was in the audience. I nearly went up to him and cried, “How could you do this to us? Do you know that we paid for a babysitter to be here?” I didn’t. I did manage to lose my keys on the cycle home though. Alas.

Consequences

18 September, 2014 at 8:40 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself: If Scotland votes yes to independence can I get a Scottish passport?
Me: No, why would you be entitled to a Scottish passport; you weren’t born there, you haven’t ever even visited Scotland and you have no Scottish relatives.
Her: I thought maybe because we were all rebels against England together.

Yes, We’re Still in France

16 September, 2014 at 11:38 pm by belgianwaffle

9 August

We went to another lighthouse. Lighthouses are quite the tourist attraction in Brittany. This was followed by a mild walk along the coast to admire the view. Children can be somewhat indifferent to the glories of nature, can’t they?

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10 August

We found a church that offered a shorter mass. The Princess and I then cycled into the brocante where we spent a happy, happy hour and €5.

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Then we drove off to Ile Tudy which is actually a peninsula. You can either drive or take a ten minute ferry ride from Loctudy. We took the ferry. Then we took it back again. The excitement.

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And there was more – we went to the most amazing beach nearby. A long, long beach with huge rolling waves. The children and I had a fantastic time. Mr. Waffle was too busy being lifeguard to relax fully. We then had dinner in Pont L’Abbé in a restaurant which offered both pizza and moules frites but neither entirely successfully.

11 August

We went and investigated the port museum. This is a massive museum dedicated to the history of the town and a more general focus on marine matters complete with a number of restored boats floating on the quayside which you can visit.

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It is inconceivable that a town of 16,000 people in Ireland would have an equivalent museum. It really brings home the French commitment and public investment in culture and the arts. The museum featured sardines heavily.

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After the excitement of the port museum we took ourselves up to the neighbouring town of Locronan which is as beautiful as it is filled with tourists. It was very rich up to the late middle ages/early renaissance – making a fortune in hemp, no, really – and then suffered a rapid decline which meant that no one subsequently did any building work. It’s really lovely.

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It’s actually prettier than that but you have to balance getting pictures of heaving throngs and quaint streets.

It has great, though slightly mysterious saints in the church.

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We also saw a man walking a racoon on a lead. Not a great photo but you understand my difficulty.

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I was persuaded not to spend €150 on an art nouveau overmantle clock (not working, obviously) by my daughter’s uproarious laughter when she saw it. Probably for the best.

12 August

We went back to the great beach near Loctudy. It was great.

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We also took in Concarneau which as fortified towns go – that’s a ville close to you – is very appealing. You can walk around the fortifications and look out to sea or peer through the lanes to the very crowded main street. Have a sea view.

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13 August

Our last full day in Brittany. We went to the beach at Kerlaz which was partly closed due to the “algues vertes” but was a nice spot for a stroll. Even the children thought so.

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14 August

We locked up and left the house. It poured on the drive to the ferry. We stopped for lunch in a restaurant on the way and got soaked. After the Princess had ordered her lunch, the waiter said to Mr. Waffle “Votre fille parle très bien français.” Her father turned to her and said, “Treasure this moment, this may well be the only time a French person ever compliments you on your French.”

And then, we were gone.

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Tune in for the next installment when our heroes find themselves in Kerry.

Public Service Announcement

15 September, 2014 at 10:26 pm by belgianwaffle

I won free tickets to Woody Allen’s new film, “Magic in the Moonlight” from the Dublin Theatre festival. Mr. Waffle and I went this evening. It was unremittingly awful. Don’t go. Ironically, it might make a better play.

More holiday soon.

Aaand We’re Back

15 September, 2014 at 12:07 am by belgianwaffle

Actually we have been back some time but my evenings have been filled with brasso and stair rods (more of this anon). So three weeks of holidays and you are desperate to know how it went. I know, I know. A full account begins here. There could be days of this, so pace yourself.

30 July

Our heroes leave home. The house is immaculate for the French family with whom we are swapping houses. We turn on the dishwasher one last time. The Princess asks innocently, “Why is there water coming out from under the cooker?” Why indeed? The dishwasher had leaked behind the presses and litres of water were slowly seeping out from underneath. When we pulled out the dishwasher there was a flood. We mopped it up as best we could. We had a ferry to catch and all we could do was leave a note to the French people apologising for the smell and asking them not to use the dishwasher. A poor start. It also made us a bit later than expected so instead of pulling off the main road to have a nice picnic on the grass, we ate our sandwiches in the car in a small lay-by with juggernauts hurtling alongside us. In addition, Mr. Waffle had to field a number of work calls. Still we made the ferry. All in all, not a triumph though.

31 July

We arrive in La Belle France. Happily we are staying relatively near the ferry port. Mr. Waffle reaches for his immensely detailed map of Finistère (scale 1:1) to find that he has forgotten it. All we have is a tourist map of Brittany. Alas. A text comes in from our next door neighbours: “Do the French people have a chubb key for the door? You have only given us the latch key and you have double locked the door. Don’t worry, the cat came into us to be fed.” There followed much anguish as a) Mr. Waffle tried to remember whether he had posted both keys to the French people and b) we realised that the only spare chubb key in Ireland was inside the house.

Things began to look up when we arrived at the house. It was in Douarnenez which is a very red town. It is twinned with somewhere in Palestine and it’s history is one of industrial unrest.

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The house looked promising.

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It was great. It had a laptop in every room (except Daniel’s – source of great grief), table tennis in the basement, bikes, scooters, surf boards, snorkeling gear and all the accoutrements of family life.

The children instantly sat up on the swivel chairs at the breakfast bar and began to swivel.

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They stopped but not before one of them fell off and broke a chair. Then another child broke a mirror in the basement while playing table tennis. Attempts to remedy both of these were unavailing. The only glass maker in the greater Finistère area was on holidays until the end of August and he wasn’t about to come back for us. This led to great anguish until we gave up and phoned the French people and confessed our sins. They were very kind and not at all put out – apparently.

1 August

Daniel and Herself went out together to the boulangerie in the morning to get bread and croissants and were pleased with the success of the venture. They got us breakfast every morning for the remainder of the holiday. Later we walked into the indoor market, in the centre of town. In the afternoon we went to the beach and then went to Pont Croix for a cup of tea and a tour of the oldest house in town. The top floor was kitted out as an old fashioned school room and the children acted as you might expect.

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2 August

We went to the Pointe du Van which is pretty and not filled with tourists. While I was waiting for the children and Mr. Waffle to catch up, I overheard a French grandfather filling in his grandson on the actions of his grandparents in the second world war (one killed in the fighting). Then a group of German tourists went by chatting away. It’s still a little strange, isn’t it; although I assume that the French are used to it.

And then on to Pointe du Raz which is beautiful but has far more tourists per square inch than Pointe du Van. Arty shots below taken to give the impression we were alone when, in fact, we were practically surrounded on all sides.

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As the afternoon wore on, it got a little less busy and it was more possible to take in the beautiful view without jostling other tourists.

3 August

We went to mass. Mass in French. Long mass in French. The children were appalled. In the row in front of us there was a French family with many children. I hissed to mine that they were to admire the behaviour of the French children and emulate (what I assumed would be) their general air of resigned saintliness. My children were quite saintly actually but the children in front were dreadful. I have never seen such poorly behaved French children. Two of the boys who were about the same age as mine began to have a vicious sotto voce argument and then one smacked the other sharply (and loudly). We were amazed; especially when the father started to laugh. As Michael observed sagely, there was no way his father would have laughed if he and his siblings had been smacking each other. At the end of mass, the mother turned around and started chatting to us and asking us where we were from and whether we were Catholics. Really, you need to ask?

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Across the road was a graveyard where the man who invented the stethoscope was buried; in the interests of family harmony we decided not to investigate.

August 4

I had not really thought through the implications of the Princess having a laptop in her bedroom. Inter alia we heard about: the extent of the British empire at its height; the patron saints for everything; the time it takes to fly to Scotland and six historical events that never happened.

We went out to the brocante in desperation. She bought herself a t-shirt from a man from Harold’s Cross in Dublin (relocated to Brittany) who turned out to be a cousin of a colleague of mine. Then we saw a friend’s sister and her family in the supermarket. Small world and all that.

We also had the obligatory summer Breton experience of Jeux Bretons [inevitably disappointing games played with things hewn from wood – a low light here was throwing the stone in the clog].

August 5

We went for a cycle in the park at the top of the road and had a look at the Roman fish factory. Your point?

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The bicycles which the French people had left for us were a little tired and as we cycled into the park, a very tattoed French man emerged from his house near the entrance and tut tutted about our state of readiness. He turned around Mr. Waffle’s wheel which apparently was back to front and pumped up my bike and Mr. Waffle’s. We were a bit taken aback by all the French friendliness. Our previous experience of French people had not led us to the conclusion that they were a warm, friendly, welcoming bunch. They have other strengths. Possibly being a communist town makes you friendly – maybe tourists are a novelty? We remained baffled.

I nipped into town later in the afternoon and to my intense astonishment there browsing in the shops was my friend the Glam Potter. The Glam Potter and I had been very friendly in Brussels as the Princess and her daughter were born within six weeks of each other. We saw an awful lot of each other but then I moved back to Dublin and she moved to England and we lost touch a bit – it was such a shock to see her. It was even more of a shock to see her daughters who were six years older than when I had seen them last. They were on holidays for a couple of days and I invited them all round to dinner the following evening.

August 6

We went out to visit the island – Ile Tristan – from which the town gets its name. Apparently Douarnenez means land belonging to the island. It was pretty and mildly interesting but an hour and a half is a long time to spend learning about the flora and fauna on a small island. Our only saving grace was that the GP and family turned up also and the children were able to inspect each other with mild interest.

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That evening we had our friends for dinner. It was so nice, we were all very nostalgic about Brussels and got to canvas the Scottish independence question. She is as Scottish as someone who grew up in Antigua can be. They pointed out that the house was just like millions of bohemian houses in Saint Gilles (slightly arty Brussels suburb) and it really was. More nostalgia.

August 7

We were recovering from our dinner the previous evening and we had a mild trip to the beach and I went for a cycle round the town but that was largely it.

August 8

It rained and rained. We went into Quimper and got rained on all day.

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Mr. Waffle heroically volunteered to take the children on the tourist train that drove around the town while I went to see a very beautiful exhibition on Japanese art and its impact on French painting. He had his reward, however. We have been to Brittany loads of times and while we are there we read Ouest France every day. It is the most local of local newspapers. It is tailored for each town and, you know, “library gets 6 new books” could easily be a half page feature. We have attended innumerable fest-nozs and we have never featured. Our wait, however, was over. The next day, Mr. Waffle and the children were on the front page of Ouest France, true, the picture was small but, if you knew what you were looking for, you could see them, sitting patiently in the train in the rain waiting for it to depart.

That’s probably enough excitement for today. More in a bit, if you’re good.


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