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Archive for December, 2014

Christmas Round-Up

26 December, 2014 at 9:51 pm by belgianwaffle

On Christmas Eve, we went to midnight mass which starts at 9. Baffling, I know. The Princess had to sing a solo and carry the baby Jesus to the crib. Before doing the latter she had to hold him up for the congregation to view and part of me was very afraid that the porcelain baby Jesus would tumble on to the steps of the altar and break but, mercifully, no.

Christmas Day itself passed off peacefully, you will be pleased to hear. We had various in-laws for dinner and it was all very pleasant. We played some games after dinner with varying degrees of success. Least successful was “Articulate” where due to a lack of attention during team formation, the three adult men in the room were put playing together and wiped the floor with the rest of us. The object of the game is to describe a word which your team mates try to guess. My own personal triumph was when Michael, who was playing with me, said, “They used to oppress us!” “England!” I shouted triumphantly pointing at my sister-in-law’s husband who is English but is not personally responsible for 800 years of oppression etc and is, on the contrary, a charming dinner guest. The answer turned out to be “Europe”. Clearly, the anti-troika rhetoric has had an impact on Michael. After the less than happy “Articulate” experience, we played a charades type game which involved holding the Princess’s Christmas phone up to your forehead. Oh yes, she got a phone from Santa and is very pleased.

Finally we passed to playing cards where the London contingent cleaned up and between them won pretty much everything – they had complementary skills. They made up for this by inspecting several Minecraft worlds which the children had created with every appearance of interest.

Today we went for our now traditional St. Stephen’s Day orienteering trip in the Dublin mountains. Although Christmas Day was beautiful, even when we set out this morning it was overcast and shortly after leaving home it began to rain and expanding on that theme it rained more and more heavily. We got there and we ran through the mud. The children were pretty cheerful considering that they got their feet wet and were frozen.

2014-12-26 11.51.18

I think we have had pretty bad luck with the weather at this event given that it almost never rains in Dublin. Really. Cork, now in Cork, it rains. Speaking of which, we are off to Cork tomorrow so fine weather beckons. I wonder whether they might like left over turkey.

And how was your own Christmas?

Where There’s Muck, There’s Brass

22 December, 2014 at 10:48 pm by belgianwaffle

Do you remember that I mentioned my obsession with brass polishing? And that I was nervous about tackling the fender? Well, the month of December has seen me turn my attention to this particular labour of love.

I would like you to know that shining a brass fender is a deeply rewarding activity. Also I would have made a fantastic scullery maid.

2014-12-09 11.11.49

Cultural Differences

21 December, 2014 at 10:28 pm by belgianwaffle

One of my sister’s best friends has married a Swede and moved to Sweden. One evening she found herself explaining the concept of the draught excluder to a group of his friends. They were absolutely baffled by the idea. After a long silence one of them asked, “Why don’t you build proper houses?”

Alas.

The End of the Recession

20 December, 2014 at 10:27 pm by belgianwaffle

I went for afternoon tea with some friends in early December. One of our number had been deputed in October to book us in to the Westbury in town. No dice, the Westbury was booked out for afternoon tea as were the Shelbourne and the Merrion [in October!]. We eventually got the last seats in the house in the Four Seasons in Ballsbridge. When we arrived it was heaving. Afternoon tea was pleasant but prices began from an eye-watering €38. And there was no shortage of takers.

Gasp, frankly.

Questionable Wisdom

19 December, 2014 at 10:18 pm by belgianwaffle

They had a Christmas quiz, in English, in the Princess’s class. One of the questions was, “What did the wise men bring to the baby Jesus?” Mostly, the answers the teams came up with were the standard ones: gold, frankincense and myrrh. One table, however, came up with “gold frankincense and fingers”. If you speak Irish no further clues are available as to why they reached the unlikely conclusion that the baby Jesus received a gift of fingers.

If you do not, you should know that the Irish for gold, frankincense and myrrh is ór, frankincense agus myrhh [our celtic ancestors, I suppose, not having much experience of or need for the last items, there are no particular Irish words for them]. The Irish word for finger is méar. Do you see where we are coming from here?

Christmas Disasters

18 December, 2014 at 9:15 pm by belgianwaffle

The other day the Princess and I were working on the composition of a poem about the Titanic [do they learn anything in school but information about the Titanic? All three of my children have far more information about it than might be thought necessary for a generalist] when an unpleasant smell assaulted my nostrils and I was off to the kitchen like a coursing hare leaving the Titanic to fend for itself (insert your own joke here).

Not only had the pot in which I was gently steaming my plum pudding boiled dry but the metal steamer on which the pudding bowl was sitting had lost a leg and the plastic at the bottom of the bowl had melted through the holes in the steamer rendering pot, steamer and pudding a lost cause.

I made cranberry and orange sauce and gave my sister a jar to take back to Cork. She packed it carefully with a camel coloured coat. Do I need to say that the jar lost its lid? I think not.

On the plus side, the teacher was taken with the Princess’s poem on the Titanic and stuck it up on the wall of the classroom.

Share your own mild Christmas disasters. Please.

Haircut

17 December, 2014 at 9:11 pm by belgianwaffle

I have had my annual haircut.

The children took pictures; this may explain my slightly manic look but, maybe that’s the way I look all the time.

Before:

2014-12-03 16.00.59

And after:

2014-12-07 12.59.37

It’s shorter. Herself reported to me that on observing that she was wearing nail varnish the childminder reproved her. He pointed out that her mother wore no make up and had preserved her “jeunesse naturelle”. “And,” as I said “he’s French which makes it even better”. He said that before the haircut, mind you.

Naughty or Nice?

16 December, 2014 at 7:13 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael: Are the Santa traps in place?
Daniel: Yes.
Michael: Don’t say what they are, he might hear us.
Daniel: What will we do if we catch him?
Michael: We’ll tiptoe up and then…boom, a knife straight to the heart!
Me (yelping): What?
Michael: He’s a stalker, “he knows when you’re asleep/he knows when you’re awake” and then he goes creeping around people’s houses at night.
Daniel: And those elves, they don’t get paid and if they don’t work hard enough, he tosses them out in the snow.

What are we to make of this, gentle reader?

Party On

15 December, 2014 at 9:44 pm by belgianwaffle

Yesterday we had a Christmas party from 4-7 for friends and neighbours. The invitation specified that children were welcome. We discovered that not only does everyone we know now have children but they are also quite big – 5-10 age range. Babies were few on the ground which was very odd.

We paid two local teenagers to help out and although that definitely helped, I was still a shadow of my former self at the end. Of course, no one arrived until 4.15 and between 3.45 when the teenagers arrived and 4.15 we all sat looking at each other and feeling excruciatingly awkward, as well as friendless (us, not the teenagers). However, people more than made up for it and vast numbers came and it was actually quite pleasant, if busy. As a bonus, we now have enough chocolate and alcohol to take us through the Christmas season in exchange for some tepid mulled wine and a soggy mince pie for everyone in the audience, so, a win all round, I guess.

Saint Nicolas, Patron des Ecoliers

14 December, 2014 at 7:12 pm by belgianwaffle

Did I mention that, on the 6th of December, Saint Nicolas came to our house? We did think that since it is now 6 and a half years since we have lived in a jurisdiction where he has authority, he might give us a skip but the children were adamant that no, he should come. I blame myself. I offered Daniel 50 cents to read a French book aloud. He picked “T’choupi fête Noël” which had the dual advantage of being seasonal and short. As he read aloud the doings of the festive mole, it all came flooding back.

So, in fairness to him, at quite short notice, St. Nicolas came in line with expectations. He just brought some chocolates and crisps in accordance with his reduced obligations in this jurisdiction. This did not stop Michael sleeping on the floor beside his bedroom door in a state of advanced excitement or him waking me at 6.30 in some distress as Saint Nicolas had brought him the wrong type of crisps.

Culture

13 December, 2014 at 7:07 pm by belgianwaffle

We all went to see “Minuscule” as part of the French film festival and it was delightful. Highlight was small child speaking clearly and crossly in a gap between adults laughing hysterically, “C’est pas rigolo!”

Last night the Princess and I went to see Oliver Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer” in the Abbey. It was our Christmas outing and while nothing will probably ever match the thrill of her first theatre outing (“Little Women” in the Gate in 2011 or so the internet says) this was pretty good. Our expectations were on the low side which is always helpful. The set was amazing and as we walked into the theatre she clutched my arm in delight at the sight of the stage. The costumes were also superb. The whole thing was played hugely for laughs and almost like a pantomime in places but really entertaining for both of us. Brilliantly done and we loved it. There were no other children in the audience that I could see which was a pity because, it was very suitable and really funny. It was her first trip to the Abbey (“our national theatre” as the portentous voice before the play told us) and it was great but she was lucky as it is not always thus. In fairness to the Abbey, since the revamp there doesn’t seem to be a bad seat in the house. We were in the front row and, although we were, inevitably, slightly looking up the characters skirts, visibility was really good. Tickets were as cheap as any I have had, €13 each. When you consider that it costs €11 to go to the cinema, I think this was really good value for a lovely experience. You should go, if you live in Dublin, and bring your children aged 11+.

More Adventures in Public Transport

12 December, 2014 at 10:37 pm by belgianwaffle

One morning Michael was sick and Mr. Waffle had to stay home with him. I had an early meeting. We struggled to work out how herself and Daniel would get to school. In the end they took the bus into school together without any adult supervision. It all went fine, thank you very much. This whole public transport thing has a lot going for it.

Drama!

11 December, 2014 at 11:15 pm by belgianwaffle

For the past month, herself has been doing an after school drama class and getting the bus home afterwards on her own which she really enjoys.

Yesterday, at about 4.10 when she should have been coming in the door, I got a call from a mobile number I didn’t recognise. A man with a foreign accent said, “I have your daughter, do you want to speak to her?” “Yes!” You will be relieved to hear that she had not been kidnapped. Due to the water charges protest there were no buses running and she went to a phone/internet shop to call me and tell me that she would be late as she was going to walk home. She tried to use the shop system but it didn’t work for her and the man behind the counter just let her use his phone which was very kind. But I didn’t want her to walk home as it would soon be dark and told her to wait outside the school and I would come and get her. It should only have taken about 10 minutes to get in but between getting out the door with the two boys and the remaining water charges traffic chaos it was nearly half an hour later and almost dark when I pulled up outside the school and picked up a frozen little figure from the top of the steps. She looked so small and cold outside the big locked door – all on her own in the city. It was grim for her and a number of passers by had inquired whether she was alright which is can be unnerving when you are small and alone although I am sure that their intentions were good.

It was all a bit upsetting but I am very proud of how she acquitted herself. I wish I had thought to tell her to wait in the nearby library which was warm and familiar but I hadn’t and, since she has no phone, couldn’t, of course, call her to tell her or to tell her about the traffic.

The campaign for a Christmas phone has just stepped up a notch.

Again?

10 December, 2014 at 10:52 pm by belgianwaffle

Every trip I make to the altar seems destined to be fraught with difficulty. One Sunday the Princess did the second reading and the psalm without a hitch. She, Daniel and Michael sailed through the prayers of the faithful. Why oh why did my two lines at the start go wrong? I despair. I started. The priest looked at me making frantic eyebrow gestures, I turned on the mic and started again. His eyebrows became even more contorted. The verger came and switched on the mic. It had been on originally. I understand that the third time is a charm. I am not cut out for this.

Seasonal Break

9 December, 2014 at 1:21 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel is sick. Since Mr. Waffle was home with sick children on Thursday, Friday and Monday, today it is my turn. While I am not saying that this is how I would have chosen to use a day’s holiday, it is surprisingly restful. I have been keeping an eye on work emails and it is not restful in the office but they seem to be soldiering on without me.

The patient is much improved and, in retrospect, could possibly have gone to school today though he is barking like a seal so I suppose not entirely better. I brought him breakfast in bed and the Beano arrived so, frankly, it has been a pretty good day so far from his point of view. I have been sunk deep in domestic administration. Aside from standard issue stuff like tidying up the house, putting on a wash and steaming plum pudding [standard for this time of year], I have also telephoned photobox to tell them that they sent me some of my photos and some of someone else’s. Photobox has been my photo printer of choice for a year and I have never had a problem until now. They only allow email by contact form and, bizzarely, my problem wasn’t one of the choices which were listed. So, I turned to the telephone. 25 minutes on hold. That is a LONG wait. When the phone call was answered, the person was gratifyingly on the ball and apologetic. But still, 25 minutes. The call centre person sounded like she might have been from the Far East which is why I forgave her for her one faux pas in our conversation: “Please tear up the other photos. Normally we ask you to mail them back but we only have freepost on the mainland.” If there is one expression more than any other guaranteed to irritate someone from Ireland it is English people saying “the mainland”. As I say, she didn’t sound English, I rose above it.

Other non-standard tasks included the insurance cheque. My husband is, as you know, a saint. He renewed our house insurance but then got a better offer so wrote to the original company and cancelled their policy and they promptly refunded a large cheque made out to both of us but, let’s call a spade a spade, paid over by him. The other night he endorsed it and said to me, “You might as well have this.” Oh the thrill and at such an expensive time of year. I lodged it gleefully and promptly spent it. It was therefore with some regret that I received a letter from my bank this morning [written on non-headed paper with hardly any details, is this not odd?] returning the cheque and pointing out that since it was “account payee only” it could only be lodged to a joint account. In a very 21st century way, we don’t have a joint account except, as Mr. Waffle pointed out, the mortgage account. I rang the bank to ask whether we could lodge the cheque to the mortgage account. I left a voicemail message and had very little hope that they would get back to me but, bonus points for Bank of Ireland, they did and gratifyingly promptly. Yes, they could lodge it in the mortgage account. My cheque (note how possessive I have become in the space of one short paragraph) is now about to be spent (again) in the most boring way known to man. Woe. Though logistic convenience, I suppose.*

Final non-standard task was library book renewal, I am astounded at how easy this was to do (normally my husband takes care of these things) – Dublin city libraries, I take my hat off to you. This afternoon, I have a further range of exciting administrative tasks to achieve in my unexpected day off. Honestly, could this blog be any more exciting?

*Updated to add: An inspection of my bank account this afternoon indicates that my saintly husband has decided to make good the deficit. Hurrah, Christmas is back on. Also, I was able to pay the plumber who has just gone, leaving hot water in his wake.


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