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Michael at 9

30 November, 2014 at 6:02 pm by belgianwaffle

Obviously, being twins, Michael and Daniel celebrate their birthday on the same day. So, Michael’s birthday post is two months late also.

Michael is skinnier than 99.7% of children his age in Ireland. That’s what the doctor told us so we know it’s true. He has soft brown hair, beautiful skin and a really amazing ability to look cute like the cat in Shrek. He is the shortest child in the family and often points out that he is the youngest and the smallest. He is only the youngest by 20 minutes but that does not stop him entirely inhabiting the role of youngest child.


Things Michael will eat/drink: Knorr Chicken noodle soup, rashers, sausages, rice krispies and milk, Tayto crisps, orange flavoured chupa chups lollipops, Yorkshire puddings, pizza, Club Orange, water, chicken (leg only), innocent smoothies, cheese, sliced pan, popcorn.

Things Michael will not eat/drink: everything else including sweets and chocolate.

There is a reason why he is thinner than 99.7% of children in Ireland.

Regrettably, he has recently stopped saying “May you cut my pizza?” which I used to really enjoy. Ndow thanks to the efforts of his sister he says “Oh no, grammatical error, can you cut my pizza?”

Michael hates to leave the house. If he was left to his own devices, he would spend all his time at home. It was only recently I noticed that unlike his brother and sister he participates in no extra curricular activities. This has been rectified as of this month; I am cruel like this. He is doing an art class. It is alright apparently.

He has clothes that he likes to wear and he wears them until they fall apart. Last Christmas he got a long-sleeved green stripy t-shirt and a fleecy blue Gap jumper and he has worn both constantly only changing into something else when they were in the wash. The Gap jumper disappeared in mysterious circumstances but he is still wearing the green t-shirt. He is very faithful to his clothes and toys and they can never under any circumstances be recycled or given away. He is very keen to watch “The Muppets’ Christmas Carol” in the run up to Christmas, just like we did last year. He still reminisces about the old house. His father says that he is the world’s most nostalgic nine year old.

Michael is an extraordinarily sensitive and charming child. He is much more likely to think of what others than you might reasonably expect from someone his age. When I am about to lose my temper, he comes up and pats me on the head. This is surprisingly disarming. When he wants something he asks winsomely and he takes rejection manfully not crying or even looking put out. In consequence he is much more likely to get what he wants than his siblings and is often put up to ask for joint treats. He is generally very biddable, falling in easily with other people’s plans and wishes. However, occasionally, he does not want to do something and then it is absolutely pointless to try to persuade him. He has a will of iron and it is extraordinary to see someone so willowy possessed of absolute and unwavering resolution. If Michael is determined to do or not to do something then generally the rest of us fall in with his wishes. It’s a power he uses relatively rarely but we all recognise it when we see it.

He has no real interest in school work and thinks it is largely pointless but he does it because it is harder to resist and he is, as I say, easygoing. He generally doesn’t make much of an effort. It is pointless to indicate what other people might expect as he is absolutely indifferent to the views of others. He does care about their feelings but he is not working to anyone’s agenda but his own. He has an independence of mind which I find amazing and very admirable.

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I do worry sometimes that his lack of interest in school may be because he is the youngest in his class (only by 20 minutes and my control sample indicates that this is not necessarily an issue). After his brother the next youngest child is three months older than him and some of the children are a full year older than him. His teachers have always said that he is fine though so I suppose it is a bit of a spurious concern but something has to keep me awake at night.

Michael is not interested in Irish or French and has made far less effort to engage with both than either of his siblings. He doesn’t really see the point. Although he did offer to read a book in French the other day in exchange for some monetary reward, so he may be beginning to see a use for languages other than English. When I think that when we came back to Ireland first he used to speak French to Daniel rather than English. Oh well.

He absolutely loves to read. At the moment he is working his way steadily through Terry Pratchett’s offerings and since we have all read these we can talk about them together which is not the case for “Spy Dogs”. He still loves picture books and Asterix and Tintin remain firm favourites as well as Snoopy, Big Nate and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. He re-reads books over and over again.

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He also loves playing Minecraft and watching endless instructional videos on the computer. He is fond of playing Skylanders on the x-box also. He loves the social aspect of interacting with other children (I hope) on these games.

He is extremely affectionate and unconditionally loves his mother. Once I inadvertently turned off the x-box and lost loads of progress on some game and he was really cross. I was very contrite but he remained cross until after lunch. I am not unused to his siblings being cross with me but it struck me forcibly that this was the most extended period of time that Michael had been cross with me. In general he is never cross with me. He is unashamed, nay delighted, to hold my hand or hug me in public.

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He is the family peacemaker and is generally trying to broker compromise between warring factions. He can, however, tease his brother and then assume a look of saintly innocence which is known, to his great chagrin as his “mischief face.” He and his sister hardly ever fight. He is not much inclined to go in for confrontation. When asked to help around the house he tends to slip quietly away. “Michael, will you unload the dishwasher please?” “No thank you,” he says sliding out the kitchen door. Alternatively he will do what you ask. He will never say, “No! It’s not fair.” He has seen that approach fail elsewhere and uses his own much more successful methods.

He is very concerned about the future of the planet. He is always turning off lights, trying to conserve water and generally environmentally conscious. In November 2013 he made us start to walk to school. Before this we drove in every morning. I am enormously grateful to him for this as walking in to school with the children in the morning is generally one of the nicest parts of my day. Without his determination, I think this would never have happened. Some way before we get to the last traffic lights before the school, he kisses me goodbye and says, “If the traffic lights are green, goodbye.” And I watch him running down the pavement, his rucksack bouncing on his back, weaving between office workers and tourists looking small but infinitely self-possessed and a part of my heart travels with him.

Daniel at 9

29 November, 2014 at 2:10 pm by belgianwaffle

It’s just over two months since Daniel turned 9 so this is not exactly a timely birthday post but never mind.

Physically, Daniel is the sturdiest of my children, the other two tending towards willowy/super skinny.  He is taller than his brother and nearly as tall as his older sister (a source of some distress to her).  He still has the most beautiful white gold hair and occasionally I will say to him at dinner, “Your hair is lovely this evening.”  A remark which he invariably treats with withering contempt.  He really needs his glasses and reaches for them first thing in the morning without fail.  He now has grown up square glasses which is what he wants but I pine for the adorable round ones he used to have.


Daniel is very sporty.  Unfortunately for him, no one else in his immediate family is.  He always wants to be kicking a football but there is nobody to kick a football with.  He has GAA training twice a week and a match every weekend but he is still very keen to begin rugby and soccer training (which we have steadfastly resisted on the grounds that it is hard enough for us to meet his existing sporting commitments).  He plays his heart out every time.  Last weekend, I went to watch him play.  One of the players on the other team was as broad as he was tall.  He was enormous in every way and also quite a skillful player.  Although Daniel is sturdier than his brothers and sisters, he is still on the skinnier side of average and he must have been only half the size of this child.  He marked him with unrelenting fervour.  When this boy had the ball, Daniel stuck with him like glue.  Daniel went in with his shoulder (standard GAA instruction) but it was like a pebble hitting a mountain.  Still Daniel never gave up for the whole game.  He was “man of the match”.  I was filled with pride.  One of the other parents is always a bit cross with me and Mr. Waffle as we don’t give Daniel sufficient support at home; this is true, we are never to be seen in the garden tossing around a sliotar.  Poor Daniel; cursed by his family’s uselessness.

Sports photography is very challenging – this is the best I could do.

He is very thorough in his school work which is quite spectacularly neat.  The work is easy for him I think but he is anxious to do everything right and in this he reminds me of myself as a school girl.  He worries about lots of things.  I am a constant high risk as without the slightest warning I may kiss or hug him in public possibly even near the school.  As we approach the school in the morning, he usually has a hand out to stop any unwelcome and embarrassing physical contact.

He has high standards for all of us, a developing sense of duty and a very kind nature. That can be quite a frustrating combination for him on occasion and I think he sometimes despairs of his family. This can make him quite cross and inclined to leave in what Myles na gCopaleen called that “lofty vehicle, high dudgeon.”

He is very polite and will always ask solicitously at dinner, “How was your day?” He hasn’t totally got up to speed on appearing interested in the answer yet but that will come. On the phone, he always asks, “How are you?” And waits politely for your reply.

He is thorough at home also and if asked to do a job around the house will usually do it well and complete it – perhaps not happily – but resignedly.   His instincts, I think, are tidy.  However, he leaves his shoes wherever he decides to take them off which drives me to the brink of madness as I find them by tripping over them again.  Also, his socks never seem to make it to the laundry basket and I find them in a range of unlikely places.

He loves Minecraft and plants v. zombies.  He is only allowed to play the x-box at the weekends and even as I write he is blowing things up in the room next door.  During the week when not allowed on the x-box, he uses his computer time to watch videos about minecraft of which there seem to be an everlasting supply (Dan the Diamond Mine Cart anyone?).  He and his siblings have spent the last month building Harry Potter’s world in Minecraft and on the walk to school this is sometimes all they talk about.

He likes to read but it pales in comparison to the excitement offered by electronic devices. On television, he is very taken with Dr. Who and Father Ted.  He loves Fr. Jack whom I find very dull but each to his own.  It is lovely to see him laughing hysterically because he can sometimes be a very serious child who takes injustice to heart, particularly as it relates to time on electronic devices.

He continues to be very good at picking up accents.  Five minutes with someone with a different accent and he will be speaking like that person.   He is fond of Americanisms and many things are “awesome”.  His Irish seems pretty good and he can still understand French and make the fiendishly hard vowel sounds. He has a really lovely singing voice which he largely refuses to use.  He joined the church choir for a bit but had to give up as it clashed with GAA practice.  He sings in the school choir and I think he quite enjoys it but he does find the spotlight mildly alarming.  He often says the prayer of the faithful at mass and he speaks very loudly and clearly.  I really admire his courage as he is quite nervous about speaking in front of a church full(ish) of people but grits his teeth and does it anyway.

He is interested in all kinds of things.  Last night he came down to tell us that the cat was throwing up in his room and while Mr. Waffle went to kindly deal with this domestic disaster, Daniel and I looked at maps showing the origin of European words which Mr. Waffle and I had been perusing prior to his arrival (hello, and welcome to nerdville).   Daniel seemed genuinely interested although I conceded it may just have been better than the cat getting sick but I don’t think so.  He is a strong reader of fact books and I know a lot about “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” facts thanks to him and I think this fell into a similar category.

He continues to resist eating most savoury foods.  There was great rejoicing here in Waffle Towers when the sausage was recently added to the list of acceptable foods.  Usually for dinner he has crackers or toast.  Fortunately, he likes milk, porridge and bread so I hope that this keeps him going.  After all, it worked for the medieval peasants. He also has hot chocolate which is his favourite thing.


Like all children, he fights with his siblings, particularly his sister. He and she are quite alike and since she is two years older, she often wins by dint of superior knowledge and cunning which drives him bananas.  He is more inclined to fight physically with his brother giving him a shove rather than a verbal dig but mostly they get on very well as they have so many interests in common. I often find their conversations utterly incomprehensible as they discuss arcane aspects of Dr. Who or the advice of eyeballistic squid (?).

Despite his unwillingness to appear related to me in public he is an affectionate child in private.  It is nice to get a hug from him as like everything he does, he really puts his heart into it.  He is so keen to grow up and be big.  He can’t wait to be sixteen so that he can get “HALO”.   I hope he will still be hugging me then.

Memento Mori

28 November, 2014 at 10:40 pm by belgianwaffle

Before I brought my table back to Dublin, my father was reminiscing about having breakfast at it with an English friend many years ago.   This man used to say, I understand without irony, “I’m not conservative, but I’ve never had it and I’m quite sure I shouldn’t like it.”  This became a catch phrase in our house when I was growing up (something of a dangerous game on my parents’ part, I realise in retrospect but usefully deployed in relation to the introduction of new foods) so even though I last saw this man when I was a child, I hadn’t forgotten about him and when my father mentioned him, I knew who he meant.

We talked for a bit about this man, his family and his habits.  “Where is he now?” I asked.   My father didn’t know; they had lost touch over the years.  I found his obituary after two seconds on the internet.  As I read it out, my father he nodded sagely there was a lot he knew already but there were also all kinds of facts my father hadn’t known at all, including that this man’s first wife died tragically.  He never spoke of it.  I’m not quite sure what point I’m making here; the amazing qualities of the internet which can tell you facts about old friends that you never knew when they were alive; the end of privacy; or the fact that when you are very old (my father is 89), if someone has slipped off your radar, odds on he or she is likely to be dead.  It’s all a bit depressing.  On the plus side, I was at the dentist the other day and he tells me that his mother (also 89) who was in college with my father is very well thanks for asking.

All Drama

27 November, 2014 at 9:29 pm by belgianwaffle

Did I tell you about when my sister-in-law came to visit last month?

She got the bus and it took ages. It turned out that she had been caught up in an unannounced Ebola test run: closed streets, guards, hazmat suits. She said it was very exciting and mildly alarming as nobody told the bus passengers that it was only a trial.

Today is, of course, Thanksgiving, in far off America. I was thinking of doing one of those winsome “I’m thankful” posts that Americans go for but although I am thankful for many things, I don’t have the energy to be winsome. I’m thankful that no one in Ireland has Ebola. Really, I am. That will have to do.

This whole NaBloPoMo thing is killing me. How are you finding it?

Domestic Administration or Would You Care to Watch Some Paint Dry?

26 November, 2014 at 10:15 pm by belgianwaffle

Achieved this evening:

  • Updated excel spreadsheet and printed off childminder’s payslip.
  • Filed away bills and bank statements and notice of derisory dividend arising from unwise share purchase of many years ago.
  • Signed up to electricity supplier’s online billing on the basis that I would get €20 off my shopping.  The voucher does not appear to have materialised.  Signed up to electricity supplier’s rewards scheme.  Apparently, I will get money off my electricity bill just by shopping in my usual supermarket. On both occasions I needed to give them my name, account number, meter number, date of birth and two different passwords, lest anyone hack my account and pay my bill for me or take away my exciting rewards.
  • Tried and failed to work out what is covered as set out in my healthcare cover renewal letter and filed it away lest it become clearer at a later point.
  • Did online shopping for delivery on Friday.  Noted that I have shopped in my usual supermarket and no electricity money off voucher appeared to be forthcoming.
  • Agonised about the use of full stops in a bulleted list.
  • Realised it was NaBloPoMo and posted this.

And how was your own exciting Wednesday evening?

The Advantages of Bible Study

25 November, 2014 at 10:22 pm by belgianwaffle

They had a quiz in the Princess’s class at school. They were asked who is the disciple who is called “doubting”? Conversation in her team of 4 went as follows:

Child 1: It’s Judas.
Children 2 & 3: Yes!
Herself: No, it’s Thomas.
Others: No it’s definitely Judas. Who is Thomas, anyway?
Herself: The one that’s known as Doubting Thomas. I swear I am right. I know I am, I really do.
Others: Nah.
Herself: I totally am right, please, please can we put Thomas?
Others [reluctantly]: Alright, but it’s wrong.

I despair. She was quite pleased though, her team won the quiz.


24 November, 2014 at 10:30 pm by belgianwaffle

We went to see the small Greek orthodox chapel in Arbour Hill. Who knew that there were sufficient members of the Greek orthodox community here to support a church? Mr. Waffle and I went in, the boys sat outside expressing zero interest and a strong desire to go home and commune further with the x-box. The Princess was at a party.

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The Princess and I saw a pebble dash house constructed in the yard of the museum to make us think about house design.

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We also got to see the Anglo-Irish bank sign. When it came down, it was saved for the nation. To inspire bitterness in current and future generations, one can only assume.

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Mr. Waffle and I finally watched “What Richard Did“. Beautiful cinematography; my sister calls that the kiss of death for a film. People loved this film which came out in 2012. It had the potential to be interesting and plot driven but instead it was boring though beautiful to look at.

Mr. Waffle and I also went to the opening film of the French film festival, “Bande de Filles“. It’s about a group of young, black female friends in the Parisian suburbs. It’s very good on the limited options open to these girls and how hard it is for them to escape from various unhappy destinies but it doesn’t really have a narrative arc and could have ended at a number of different points. One of the actresses was there and it was so strange because in the film she is the leader of the gang, quite intimidating and fills the screen whereas in reality she is tiny and seems very self-effacing though quietly confident.

Yesterday, the Princess and I went to a musical interlude in the new(ish) theatre in the docklands where I had never been before. I had written about this at some length but failed to save it. Here is a summary: It was musical, it was short and it was mildly enjoyable.

The Right Reason

23 November, 2014 at 11:09 pm by belgianwaffle

Someone pointed out to me that in the romance languages, when you want to say that you are right, you say you have reason -j’ai raison, ho ragione – but that in the Germanic languages you say that you are/have right – ich habe rechts, I’m right.

I was charmed by this insight into how language makes our world view different, so, of course, I decided to tell the internet.

Can you believe how much NaBloPoMo is still left?

Eco Warrier

22 November, 2014 at 11:08 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Michael, stop turning off all the lights. I don’t want to be fumbling around in the dark whenever I go into the hall.
Him: Electricity is very expensive.
Me: I know, I pay the bills.
Him: We will all be paying the bills.

Don’t Judge Me

21 November, 2014 at 10:58 pm by belgianwaffle

On Wednesday night I came in late. Daniel had made cheesy shapes in the afternoon and one of them was lying on the kitchen floor. I picked it up, blew on it and ate it. I did have some qualms but, you know, the floor was clean, I had blown on it [protection against all known germs], I was hungry and otherwise the cheesy shape would have gone in the bin. I noticed it seemed to have lost its cheese on the way to the floor and was mostly cheese flavoured dough.

I came back to the kitchen ten minutes later and there was another cheesy shape on the floor without its cheese. How could this be? Everyone was in bed. Who could have taken a cheesy shape from the plate on the counter, put it on the floor and eaten off all the cheese? That’s when I realised I had shared the previous cheesy shape with the cat. I put the next one in the bin.


20 November, 2014 at 7:25 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess is taking drama after school [no better woman] and is to star in a modern version of Beauty and the Beast* where Beauty is a spoilt older sister.

She reported that she was told the news thus by her drama teacher [of whom she is very fond]: “You are the spoilt, bossy Beauty, you [pointing to small winsome child] are the lovely little sister and I am a casting genius.”

* Her father tells me that the play is called “Beauty is a Beast”.

Literary Holidays

19 November, 2014 at 4:46 pm by belgianwaffle

You will recall that we had a very successful house swap last summer (successful for us anyhow, I’m hoping it was successful for the French people also). We are now on this house swap website and people keep offering us their houses. So far we keep saying no as it’s a bit early for us to know what our plans are. Sample conversation.

Mr. Waffle: We don’t want to go to Brighton, do we?
Me: No, I don’t think so.
Herself: Oh Brighton, I must go to Brighton, I shall die, if I don’t go to Brighton.

No more Pride and Prejudice for her.


18 November, 2014 at 10:14 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: What are you reading?
Herself: Ross O’Carroll-Kelly in the paper.
Me: Oh, a fan of the Rossmeister, are we?
Her: No, I read it for Honor.

A Moment of Smugness Poorly Disguised as Helpful Advice

17 November, 2014 at 10:12 pm by belgianwaffle

When we left Belgium, the Princess was 5. At that time, in my office in Brussels, there was a very annoying intern. His mother came to visit. She was a primary school teacher. I told her that we were moving back to Ireland and she asked about the Princess’s reading ability. I confessed that she couldn’t read. The intern’s mother was shocked and pointed out that the intern had been able to read well before starting school. She commented that the Princess would be miles behind and would never catch up. I was concerned, of course I was. I spent hours with herself, trying to teach her how to read which was torture for both of us and a completely wasted effort.

Back in Dublin, she started in senior infants [the second year of Irish schooling] and had a lovely teacher who assured me that she would be fine and was utterly unfazed by the Princess’s inability to read. At the start of the year the Princess could neither speak Irish nor read, by the end of the year, she could do both. A triumph for the virtues of the Irish education system. The fact remains that she was nearly 6 when she learnt to read which is on the late side of the spectrum. But she loves to read. Recently I asked her, “What are you reading?” and she replied “I’m re-reading Little Women as a palate cleanser between Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice.” Never catch up indeed, hah! I might add that she is reading aloud Georgette Heyer’s Arabella for my mother whose eyesight is not good. Hah again!

What was the advice, you ask? Don’t worry, when your child starts to read, it is, in my experience, no indication at all of future reading habits. So there.


16 November, 2014 at 7:36 pm by belgianwaffle

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

I was quite charmed by this as I read it but in retrospect, it feels a bit like the kind of thing that a parent might give to a child to try to make maths fun and fascinating. I’m ambivalent.

Prenez Garde by Terence DeVere White

I quite enjoyed this book written in the voice of a precocious child during the War of Independence. Like Elizabeth Bowen’s book written about the same period, these upper middle class people are very preoccupied about the social status of the Black and Tans. It is entertaining and enlightening though. Herself read it and enjoyed it also.

A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Oh Lord, this nearly killed me. Unless you live under a rock you will be aware that this is part one of a several volume autobiography which has been outrageously successful.

Until the author’s father actually dies, whole chunks of this book are unbearably dull. You feel like you are an adolescent in a small town in Norway. In other words, you hover on the brink of death from boredom. Notwithstanding that conveying this is a form of genius, it’s a really useless form, in my view. The book really picks up after the father dies (I’m giving nothing away here, it’s on the cover) and I was so engaged that I am almost thinking of picking up volume 2. Almost.

If you are thinking of reading this book, you will need to consult this link. Also, in terms of the language regime, it may help you to consider what Mr. Waffle said to me when I was questioning him on this point: “When a Norwegian says he speaks 5 languages, you can bet 3 of them are Norwegian.”

A Spanish Lover by Joanna Trollope
A Passionate Man by Joanna Trollope
The Choir by Joanna Trollope

I’m tired of Joanna Trollope now, I need a little break. The Choir is the best of these three for my money but none of them really worked for me.

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobsen

I thought that this would be laugh out loud funny. It’s amusing in parts. I have learnt a lot about what it means to be Jewish. It’s complicated.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I found the start of this book really fascinating and very moving. I thought it lost focus a bit towards the end and I’m not sure I would read all the other volumes but the parts about her early childhood were beautifully written and gave extraordinary insights into what it was like to be black in the American South less than a century ago.

Armageddon Outta Here by Derek Landy

Collection of shorter extracts/stories etc about the skeleton detective. About as successful as these things normally are.

Skulduggery Pleasant and the Dying of the Light by Derek Landy

The last Skulduggery Pleasant book and a triumphant return to form for the skeleton detective after a couple of lacklustre outings. Or so the boys and I thought, Herself didn’t like it much.

In the Woods by Tana French

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It’s a detective story and a page turner but also very well written; quite lyrical in places without ever being dull. The author has written quite a few books and I plan to read them all.

by Enrique Vila-Matas

The title tempted me to read this. It’s about a retired Spanish literary publisher who comes to Dublin for a holiday. Really not for me. Literary fiction in translation can be very tough going and this was a good example. To be fair, I don’t think I would have liked the book in Spanish but the translation did it no favours. Frankly, when you read the excerpts from Ulysses in the text with relief because they are less hard going than the rest of the book, something has gone very wrong.

Roscommon is Lovely in November

15 November, 2014 at 6:48 pm by belgianwaffle

My colleague (from Roscommon) uttered these, slightly sarcastic words when I told him that Mr. Waffle and I were going to the Midlands this weekend.

We went for a walk on a peninsula that sticks out into Lough Ree. The start of the walk was a bit unnerving:


It was really lovely though and the cattle were peaceful. There was an abandoned castle which was full of romance and reminded me of Cair Paravel when the Pevensie children returned at the start of Prince Caspian. We had the peninsula entirely to ourselves.



Roscommon? Lovely in November.

Together at Last

14 November, 2014 at 10:40 pm by belgianwaffle

Table leg brought from my parents’ attic to Dublin a fortnight ago:


Table top brought from the back of my mother’s wardrobe to Dublin tonight:


Reunited table for the first time since 1982:

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Tiny First World Problems

13 November, 2014 at 11:53 pm by belgianwaffle

Tiny Problem 1

I went out for dinner with an old school friend last night. This was the culmination of many months of planning. Over the months I had booked the restaurant three times and cancelled twice. The day before yesterday, the restaurant people left me a voicemail asking whether I was still coming [you can see why they might be concerned]. I rang them back and explained that I was. Then, yesterday morning my friend texted and said that she wanted to go somewhere local and later. So, I rang the restaurant at 4 and cancelled again. At 5.40 my friend telephoned and said, “Actually, I’m making much better time than I expected, have you cancelled the restaurant?” “I have,” I said arcticly. “Why don’t you ring them, they may not have given the table away yet.” I bit my tongue and I rang. “We can’t give you a table in the restaurant but we can give you a table in the gastobar.” [Far from gastrobars we were reared etc.] “Fine,” I said. In the pair of us went. “Oh,” said my friend, “it’s such a pity we’re not in the restaurant, it’s far nicer.” I glared at her and she added hastily, “And it’s all my fault, of course.”

TP 2

Mr. Waffle took the children to school today as I was going to a conference in the opposite direction. They trooped out at 8.30 and I didn’t need to leave until 9. For the first time, I contemplated breakfast alone at home. I tidied up the breakfast things and put on the kettle. Just as the kettle boiled, I heard a cheery voice say, “Hello, hello!” as the cleaner let herself in the front door.

TP 3

I cycled to the conference in driving rain. As I was locking my bike it tipped over neatly sending the contents of the basket into an enormous puddle and emptying out my handbag entirely. I fished out flattened, floating scraps of paper and electronic devices as best I might but not before leaping backwards to avoid the falling bike and landing in the puddle up to my knees.

TP 4

The base of my thumb was a little sore and reading Dooce’s blog, I thought I might have injured myself from constant candy crushing. Dooce obviously acquired her injury while earning a living so that made it more glamourous. So this morning I took candy crush off my phone to save my thumb. This evening I got the train to Cork. When I went into the newsagent at the station, they were sold out of the Irish Times so I was left to entertain myself as best I might with no candy crush, no wifi and a very dull work related book which I have been carrying around in my handbag fooling myself that I will read. It was also, obviously, still damp after its morning dip.

Please tell me your stupid problems so I don’t feel utterly shallow or, at least, not utterly alone in my shallowness. And there is some fundamental problem with the syntax of that last sentence and I am too tired to fix it. Is that TP 5? I think it might be.

Simple Pleasures

12 November, 2014 at 4:21 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess is doing a course after school on Wednesdays so her father and I decided that she could make her way home on her own. She has previously got the bus home alone but since we put her on the bus and collected her from the bus stop, I’m not sure that it really counts.

She set off this morning with her travel card in her hand and a great sense of anticipation. I picked up the boys at 2.30 and we headed home in the car. She came home at 4. She was absolutely delighted with herself. She had walked to the bus stop with two other children from her class who stopped off on the way to get hot cookies in subway [she has made a mental note to bring cash next week] and met one of the classroom assistants at the bus stop but then she was on her own. She said that she felt very sophisticated upstairs all by herself. But, alas, when it came to her stop, although she pushed the stop button the bus did not stop. It didn’t stop at the next stop either, she was beginning to panic and decided that if it didn’t stop at the following stop, she would say something to the driver even if she had to pay a fine. Discovery: 11 year olds are the only people who believe that sign by the bus driver saying ‘talking to the driver may lead to a fine’, I have told her not to hesitate in future. Anyway, she trekked back the couple of stops on foot and made it home without further incident and she is feeling very capable.

Lenore Skenazy would be proud.

Stairway to Heaven

11 November, 2014 at 11:25 pm by belgianwaffle

My father remarked when I was in Cork recently that I had become “very houseproud”. These words were not uttered in an approving tone; not a disapproving tone either, more mildly startled.

As regular readers will know, I love my house. Over the summer we got the hall floor re-varnished and my sister gave me a present of a rug that she bought in India for me. Is it not beautiful?

2014-09-27 001

And we got the front door painted as well. And, then, I felt that it would be a good idea to polish the door furniture [yes, that’s what it’s called, who knew?] which was a much more challenging undertaking than you might imagine but surprisingly pleasing.

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I then had the bit between my teeth and decided that I would polish the stair rods, a task which I had previously scorned as something that you would want to be insane to tackle [you may draw your own conclusions at this point]. I did them at a steady rate of about one per evening. They took an hour or so each and there were 30 in total. The effort. But the effect is so pleasing for me and I hope that when I need to do them again, the grime of ages will not have set in and it will not take me so long. Note in the picture below the shiny brassiness of the lower rods while the upper rods are very tarnished. It’s very hard to take a good picture of the whole staircase so you will just have to trust me that they are now all done.

2014-09-09 002

I picked up a pitch black coal bucket in my parents attic [speculation that it came from my paternal grandparents’ house but really nobody knows] and spent ages attacking it with flour salt and vinegar which confirmed that it was copper but I failed at making it the shiny, beautiful copper in the internet instructions. It’s just very hard to get a coal bucket in the kitchen sink.

2014-11-08 14.42.13

You will note from the picture above that I have not yet turned my brass polishing attention to the fender. I think it may just be too big a job for me. The best is the enemy of the good and all that.

Then I turned my attention to the family silver.

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Polishing silver is so much easier than copper and brass. And it is so shiny.

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Here is our entire family silver collection. Maybe didn’t take hours to polish now. Those with larger collections may find it more challenging.

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Also, I love my wedding presents – those coasters? Wedding presents. Two Georgian silver serving spoons [out of shot]? Wedding presents. How delightful it is to be conventional in middle age.


10 November, 2014 at 9:56 pm by belgianwaffle

My colleague organised a table quiz at work to raise money for guide dogs for the blind. After the picture round, the quizmaster hissed at my organising colleague, “You do realise that there is a table of four blind people.” I think that she died a little bit. On the plus side, she raised a lot of money for the guide dogs.

21st Century Parenting

9 November, 2014 at 6:46 pm by belgianwaffle

We went for a walk on the west pier in Dun Laoghaire this afternoon. I said to the children that we might see seals, which we did. My evil genius prompted me to ask, “Does anyone know what the French for seal is?” They didn’t. It’s le phoque. I thought that Daniel was actually going to choke with laughter when he heard.



This by way of background to conversation on the way home in the car.

Mr. Waffle: If we’re going to listen to your music, we’re going to have to listen to some of mine also.
Daniel: Oh French seal!
Herself: Bruce Springsteen? Is this part of your mid-life crisis again?

How We Amuse Ourselves at Work

8 November, 2014 at 10:58 pm by belgianwaffle

Email 1
From: Boss’s Boss
To: Me
Subject: FW: Invitation to launch
[No content or message – just forwarded invitation]

Email 2
From: Me
To: Boss’s Boss
Subject: RE: Invitation to launch
Am I to take it you wish me to attend, o cryptic one?

Email 3
From: Boss’s Boss
To: Me
Subject: RE: Invitation to launch

The boss’s boss is heading on to pastures new, regrettably. I think it is unlikely that the new incumbent will have the same laconic sense of humour.

A Hairpin

7 November, 2014 at 8:55 pm by belgianwaffle

When I was little, if I was a bit too smart, my father’s relatives would call me a hairpin. I’m not sure whether that is unique to Cork or unique to them. It came to my mind when I discovered that the Princess has made a complete list of all of her Halloween loot which she is carefully checking against the remaining items every morning. No unauthorised mini malteaser packs for me.

In other hairpiness, consider this.

Me: Would you like a grape?
Michael: No, you know I don’t like grapes.
Herself: It’s hard for Mum to remember because we spend far more time every day with school and the childminder combined than we do with her.

And this example of metahairpiness.

Her: NabloPoMo is so hard.
Me: Why do you say that?
Her: I have to keep thinking of witty things to say so that you can write about them.

I await the teenage years with interest.

The Kids are Alright

6 November, 2014 at 7:56 pm by belgianwaffle

I was cycling along a quiet road while also using my phone. A passing motorist stopped in the middle of the road and got out of her car to upbraid me. Feeling slightly guilty, I stood there by the side of the road meekly apologising as this threatening middle aged woman roared at me.

To my amazement, a passing young woman in her little beanie hat interposed herself between me and the driver and said, “Leave her alone, stop shouting at her.” Then she turned to me and said, “Are you alright?” as the vanquished dragon drove off still seething. I was very touched. As someone pointed out to me later she probably thought I was a little old lady who needed to be defended.

Abuse about cycling while phoning in the comments please.

A City Child

5 November, 2014 at 4:56 pm by belgianwaffle

We have been visiting secondary schools with a view to finding somewhere the Princess might like to attend next year which would also have room to have her. More challenging than you might imagine.

She and I went to see an establishment set in the middle of several playing fields. “Ah,” I said inhaling, “the smell of school: grass and chalkdust.” She sniffed dubiously, “I don’t think so, school smells of tarmac and spit.”


4 November, 2014 at 8:30 pm by belgianwaffle

Due to the works to which, apparently, the whole of Dublin city centre is subject indefinitely, the children’s school has no water tomorrow and will have to close.
Time this information was conveyed to the school: 2.00 pm
Time that Mr. Waffle and I learnt this information: 6.30 pm
Number of meetings Mr. Waffle and I have tomorrow morning: 1 each
Number of days which the children had off last week: 5 (mid-term)
Sentiments of children: Overwhelming delight
Sentiments of parents: Distinctly less delight

Any domestic crises yourselves?

Learning by Example

3 November, 2014 at 9:24 pm by belgianwaffle

I do not like to keep things in the attic. My parents’ attic is full of stuff. Mr. Waffle’s parents’ attic is full of stuff. He said that when he was growing up, broken things were put in the attic to “self-heal”. I know what he means. I have never been in the attic of my house and, as far as I know, it is entirely empty. And I’d like it to stay that way.

I love things to be tidy. Colleagues have been known to recoil when entering my office. It’s tidy. My family are not tidy. If you don’t give things away, you cannot be tidy. I am like a changeling. I have been trying, with absolutely no success, to make the Princess tidy. She suffers from the twin issues of loving stuff and believing that it is not a problem, if you let stuff lie where it falls. She and I fundamentally differ in this regard.

For some time she has been waging a campaign to get into my parents’ attic. I have been a regular visitor as I have been looking for the leg of a table, the top of which is at the back of my parents’ wardrobe and the whole of which I am hoping to get to my house in due course. You would think that a large Victorian table leg would be easy to find, but you would be utterly wrong. I looked – several times; my sister looked; even my brother looked. To no avail.

On this last adventure, the Princess finally got her heart’s desire and came up to the attic with me. Her objective was to retrieve my Great Uncle Dan’s gas mask [given out during the war and definitely in the attic – but where?]. I didn’t hold out high hopes as, if a whole table leg could disappear, then finding a gas mask was a practically insuperable problem. We did not find the gas mask. We did, however, find the table leg under the eaves on the left. Rejoice. Here’s a picture of the table leg [currently residing in the utility room until the top can be brought up from Cork].


I stood there in the attic looking at the mountains of stuff and I said to my daughter, severely “Look around you; this is what happens, if you never throw anything out.” Then, I realised that her eyes were shining and the attic was possibly the most magical place she had ever been. She brought back to Dublin: an old dial phone, a mug with a rose, two boxes and a china bowl with a hole in the bottom. She is desperate to get back up. I may not quite have conveyed to her the message I was hoping to get across.

2014-10-27 16.32.28

Cork News

2 November, 2014 at 6:47 pm by belgianwaffle

Last weekend I went to Cork with the children. We left at 11 on Saturday morning with a view to arriving about 2 for a late lunch. We all had a bite to eat before we left but we were going to be hungry when we arrived. My saintly sister said that she would have lunch ready for us.

Regrettably, the Jack Lynch tunnel which guards the entrance to Cork from Dublin* was operating a contra-flow system due to works. Apparently the bank holiday weekend was the best time to do this. It took us two hours to cover 6kms and we arrived into my parents’ house at 4 starving and cranky.

My father, rather tactlessly, said, “Oh yes, I knew about that, it was in the Examiner.” “You didn’t think I might be interested?” I asked bitterly. Of course, this was the kind of news item that was never going to be covered in the Dublin Intelligencer. Anyhow, we recovered. I was amused to receive a, somewhat contrite, letter from him during the week with a cutting. The Dublin Intelligencer continues to be above matters in the second city so no news likely from there.



*Obviously, very easy to seal off when the revolution begins.

Healthy Halloween!

1 November, 2014 at 9:40 pm by belgianwaffle

For dinner last night I had:
1 packet of Monster Munch
1 packet of chickatees
1 packet of crisps
3 fangtastics
1 miniature packet of love hearts
1 bite of wagon wheel [turns out they are revolting, who knew?]

We have three large shopping bags full of loot in the utility room.

For costumes, we had Wally:


and a bat:


and an elusive third child.

What excitements did you have?

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