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Crushed

27 February, 2015 at 10:44 pm by belgianwaffle

Me, looking at Michael’s novelty rubber (eraser, Americans, eraser), “Is that a hedgehog?”
Him, coldly, “No, it’s a stegosaurus.”

Cork Limerick

26 February, 2015 at 6:35 pm by belgianwaffle

As written by herself:

There was a young girl from Cork

Whose rhymes just wouldn’t work

She tried to write verse

But each day she got worse

Her last line never would rhyme.

Reminding Us Why We Left Eircom in the First Place

25 February, 2015 at 6:04 pm by belgianwaffle

While I was off gallivanting in Cork, Mr. Waffle was interacting with our internet service provider. We were with UPC but when the rates went up, we decided to go back to Eircom, being the savvy, 21st century consumers that we are. While I was in Cork with the children, Mr. Waffle copied me on the following correspondence. I think that they may have broken us.

From: Mr. Waffle

To: Me

Latest from Kafkaseque world of Eircom.

 ———- Forwarded message ——–From: Mr. Waffle

Date: 19 February 2015 at 22:35
Subject: Fwd: Confirmation of your cancellation request

To: phonecancellations@eircom.ie
Cc: getmore@eircom.ie

 Dear Sir or Madam

 I received an e-mail from Eircom (below) asking me to contact you to cancel an order. I am not sure why this is necessary, so I will explain the background.

 Until recently I was getting phone, broadband and TV from UPC. I decided to switch to Eircom and signed up with you on-line on 2 February 2015. It is now over two weeks later and I have no idea when I will actually receive any service from Eircom.

At present, UPC supplies phone, broadband and TV through a TV cable. There is no telephone socket in my house. This fact seems to have caused a lot of difficulties for Eircom.

 As I mentioned, I signed up on-line on Monday 2 February.The form allowed me to designate an installation date and I asked for the first available date, Monday 9 February.

After a few days I had not heard anything from Eircom so I called on 4 February to enquire when the installation would be. I was told the installation would be 24 February. I explained that we had no telephone socket and I was told that this required two separate appointments: a first visit to install the telephone socket and a second to install the remaining equipment. The person I spoke to said this first visit would be scheduled for 16 February.

Shortly after that call, I got an email confirming the installation date of 24 February.

I never got any written confirmation of the appointment for 16 February. On the morning of 16 February I called Eircom to confirm the appointment – I was told the technician would come between 9 and 6. I arranged for somebody to be in house all day. In fact, the technician never came.

At around 6.30 pm I called Eircom again to ask if the technician was still coming. I spoke to two people. Neither was aware of the appointment. The second person (O*) said my telephone line was active. I explained that the existing line was UPC cable, but we had no phone socket. O said the order had to be cancelled and a new appointment set up – this could take 5/10 days, but she would see if this could be done faster. She said somebody would contact me the next day (17 February) to give more information.This did not happen.

 Yesterday (18 February) I called Eircom and explained the situation to various people (F who passed me on to K, who hung up, and B who passed me on to A) with long intervals on hold. My last conversation that day was with A of the loyalty team – I explained the situation to her again, and she said the account needs to be closed.

The computer system would not allow this for about 24 hours but I should call again today (19 February). She told me that my home phone number which was formerly with UPC has been transferred to Eircom and is listed as active on the Eircom system. Since there is no telephone socket, I cannot actually connect a telephone to the line. (In fact, the phone no longer works, presumably because UPC is no longer providing this service). The fact that the line is listed as active is apparently an obstacle to having the telephone socket installed.

 I called today and explained the situation again to V. She said I would have to cancel all of the order (including the telephone line) and start the ordering process all over again. I asked if this meant I could decide to abandon the order with Eircom and go (for example) to Sky. She said yes, as I am not currently in contract with Eircom. As yesterday’s conversation involved the loyalty team, they would have to cancel the line. She passed me on to P of the loyalty team. After I explained the situation again, he said that he would cancel the telephone line and have a sales agent call me so a new order could be placed. He said that cancelling the order would take 24/48 hours. I explained that my aim was to get a service from Eircom and that ideally I would like to have the first appointment (to instal the telephone socket) in time for the second appointment (scheduled for 24 February). P said he could not give me precise dates but that he would do his best to resolve the situation.

 I assume that this is why I received the message below. I am not sure why there is a reference to 30 days’ notice (this might make sense if I was currently receiving a service from Eircom but I am not, and indeed V today told me that I am not even in contract with Eircom.)

I still want to sign up for phone, broadband and TV from Eircom as I first requested on 2 February. If the telephone line has to be cancelled to resolve an internal Eircom computer problem, I am happy to do this. However, I do not want to be sent to the back of the queue and miss my current appointment of 24 February. That date is three weeks after I first signed up with Eircom, and if I have to start again this implies waiting six weeks to get service.

 I would be grateful if you could advise me on how best to resolve this problem. If you wish to discuss, please feel free to e-mail me or call me.

——– Forwarded message ———-  Date: 19 February 2015 at 14:20

Subject: Confirmation of your cancellation request

To: Mr Waffle

We spoke to you today in relation to cancelling your bundle service with us. As advised, you are required to give 30 days notice in order for this to happen. Below is a list of instructions which will allow us to progress your cancellation.

Please send an email, including your eircom account number (detailed above) and phone number(s) that you wish to cancel to phonecancellations@eircom.ie or please write to eircom Account Administration Unit, Unit 6B Westgate Business Park, Ballymount, Dublin 15.

The cancellation of your eircom service will be carried out after 30 days upon receipt of your email. If you have already sent an email to cancel but have changed your mind, please contact us on 1800 503 303.

Thank you,

eircom  Limited.

As of today, do we have our eircom service up and running?  What do you think?

*Names redacted to protect the guilty

Mid-Term

22 February, 2015 at 6:43 pm by belgianwaffle

I have just returned from four days in Cork with the children. It was very wet but moderately successful.

On Thursday we went out to Charles Fort; a familiar walk. The children did not look forward to it. In fact, only the day before, they had refused to leave the house with the childminder on the grounds that they would be forced to go to Charles Fort the following day.

Despite the rain, it was reasonably successful. We stopped for lunch in the Bulman and got coveted seats by the fire. From there we had an unimpeded view of the lashing rain and grey sea.

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After eating, it had eased to heavy drizzle and we went on. The fort itself was successful.

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The boys played with imaginary swords and herself bonded with a small dog. The pair of them went running around the grass together; both delighted.

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The walk back to the car was damp but mostly downhill and they got to play with the “caution children” sign.

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On Saturday we traipsed in the rain up to Elizabeth Fort. This has been tarted up a bit since I was last there (about age 10 with my mother picking up coal from the coal merchant tucked in under the ramparts; still there, you will be pleased to hear) and there are walks around the ramparts; some statues; a damp man from the city council handing out leaflets and demonstrating commendable enthusiasm; and stocks.

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Pushing my luck, I also took them into the Protestant Cathedral as it was on the way. I remembered it as being small on the inside but it’s much bigger than I had thought. Still a lot smaller than you might expect given the size of the outside. They had a child friendly two-page brochure which engendered some mild enthusiasm on the part of herself and Michael but Daniel continued to make a strong case for retreat.

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Aside from that, we rarely ventured out. Much of the children’s time was spent working their way through their Uncle’s change mountain and bagging it for him in exchange for a share of the profits. He had more than €600 which is really quite extraordinary and made a tidy profit for the children who had sought 10% of the total. They were subsequently forced to amend this to a lower percentage but it was still very satisfactory. Arguably not as satisfactory as their encounter with my aunt who gave them a small shopping bag full of change and told them to keep it.

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The children also played cards with my family. I am regarded as a guru here in our little family group in Dublin so I think the children were surprised to hear how my play was regarded by my cruel siblings. Herself said, “I’m worse at cards than Mummy and Daddy.” To which her aunt responded bracingly, “Don’t be ridiculous, nobody is that bad.” Indeed.

Finally, my brother has been clearing out the attic (I think, because he wants his head examined) and has found some wonderful family photos including a lovely studio one of my aunt and my father in the mid 30s. He has also found loads of press cuttings. It’s a bit difficult to work out why some of them were kept. “Why,” I said to my brother, “have we kept the Evening Echo from 1986?” and as I flicked through I came across this photo of me at my debs. I must say that I look very cheerful considering that I found that particular rite of passage a rather grim experience.

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And finally, my aunt gave me a lovely coffee table which used to belong to her aunt (a glamourous photo of that aunt from 1921 was also found in the attic) and I am very pleased.

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Activity

20 February, 2015 at 8:05 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael has steadfastly resisted all attempts to lure him into any extra-curricular activities. Just before Christmas, however, he expressed an interest in joining the scouts. He had seen them fundraising at the local supermarket and been impressed.

It took until last week for us to get around to taking him. I dropped him to the hall at 7 and was told to come back for him at 8.30. I was mildly filled with dread as I thought, what if he hates it, he will be so cross.

When I came back at 8.30 he was absolutely delighted. He knew one of the other boys from a summer course they had done together. He was adamant that he also knew another boy from playing x-box live; that strikes me as a bit improbable but he adduced a great deal of evidence to support this contention. I got to be one of these parents shocked by the extent of their children’s activities online.

Michael is not really a joiner but the scouts seem to be set up for the likes of him. The first session was free as a test and after that he comes with 4 euros in his paw per session. On Tuesday morning he announced, “Only 6 more days to scouts!” I think we’ll be back.

It’s his first activity without a sibling – I think it will be good for him.

Rockin’ the Suburbs

15 February, 2015 at 7:48 pm by belgianwaffle

Last week, I was having a cup of tea with a colleague and she mentioned that she was going to see Ben Folds perform at the American ambassador’s residence. Who was he? Did I have any idea?* “Oh yes,” I gushed, “I love Ben Folds!” I was slightly overstating my enthusiasm, I mean I had bought an album and I’d been to a concert but that was before my children were born. And then, I’m not really a music person (insert gasp of outrage here).

Anyhow, my colleague was adamant that I should go and went to the trouble of asking her contact in the embassy to send me a ticket. It seemed churlish to point out that the night of the concert, last Friday, really didn’t suit me. Mr. Waffle was away and I was busy at work. I arranged for a babysitter to come to the house at 5.45, intending to peel off early from work and be at home at 5.30 to see off childminder and ready at 5.45 to welcome babysitter.

Regrettably at 5.45, I was sitting in a meeting, squirming in my seat. Meanwhile the babysitter had arrived at home and finding the house in darkness (childminder and children late home from school, not part of my calculations), texted Mr. Waffle (at that point in Heathrow) and me. Mr. Waffle texted me and generally, I was feeling a bit under pressure. My boss of bosses, who is a kindly soul with young children asked whether I needed to leave. Gratefully, I said that I did and he said we could talk on Saturday which, frankly, didn’t fill either of us with joy, but was very welcome at that moment.

As I was going down to the garage, the babysitter called. She and the childminder were exchanging posts. I spoke to the childminder, “Would he pick up the timetable for his hours for mid-term on the hall table?” He would. I got home, kissed the children, ordered Domino’s pizza and ran out the door again.

So, frankly, Mr. Folds would really have to deliver the goods to make it all worthwhile. And it was so worthwhile. The Ambassador’s residence is lovely. The President and his wife turned up from their house across the road, adding to the sense of occasion. There were only about 100 of us there. It was recorded live for the radio (listen here, if you fancy) and the session was delightful. Not just the live part but the impromptu tunes in the commercial breaks and the numbers that Ben Folds did afterwards for the audience. I was enchanted. I don’t know when I have enjoyed a musical occasion more. I had to leave immediately after the performance as I was collecting Mr. Waffle from the airport so, just pausing to cram some of the ambassador’s delicious canapés in my mouth (insert your own Ferrero Rocher joke here), I ran out the door. I gave up an opportunity to chat to the great man, but Mr. Waffle was suitably grateful. And I got a signed poster which I am half thinking of framing and putting up on the wall like a teenager.

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*Obviously Ben Folds, not the American ambassador. Don’t be pedantic. Although that is what I love about you.

Reading

13 February, 2015 at 11:00 pm by belgianwaffle

“We are all Completely Beside Ourselves” by Karen Joy Fowler

Nicely written with clever interesting ideas. Better if you don’t know the twist, which I didn’t.

The Woman who Stole my Life by Marian Keyes

Something of a return to form for Marian Keyes. Finally a heroine over 40. A bit dull in places but made me laugh out loud a couple of times.

Dear Committee Members” by Julie Schumacher

A slight, funny epistolary novel. Our hero is a university lecturer who spends much time issuing letters of recommendation.

“The Likeness” by Tana French

This is the second book of Tana French’s I have read and it is just as good as the first which is really saying something. She writes beautiful, atmospheric, plot-driven detective stories.

“Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande

This is a bit depressing, if you have elderly or sick relatives. Atul Gawande is a doctor who thinks a lot. He is very interesting and always writes beautifully. Bits of this book originally appeared elsewhere and it doesn’t hang together as well as it might but overall it is very good.

“The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande

It turns out that checklists are really useful in complex situations. A convincing and very entertainly written book on this point.

“‘Tis Earlier it’s Getting” by Colm O’Regan

The Christmas book of Irish Mammies. That’s probably all you needed to know. Quite hard to sustain the humour over an entire book. Easy reading though and very funny in places.

“Unravelling Oliver” by Liz Nugent

I enjoyed this story of a murderer’s motivations and backstory. The writing is only alright and there are plenty of cliches but I found the plot really moved along and held my attention.

“Divergent”by Veronica Roth

I had great hopes for this book. I am a fan of young adult fiction set in dystopian worlds. It was a New York Times bestseller that had been made into a film. What could go wrong? Alas, a great deal. Although the premise was clever. The book was boring. It combined violence and teenage romance (something done very successfully in the Hunger Games Trilogy) with an absence of any significant plot developments. I won’t be trying any further installments.

“The Thrill of it All” by Joseph O’Connor

I am not a big fan of Joseph O’Connor’s fiction (his “Irish male” non-fiction books, I enjoyed). I didn’t enjoy this story of a washed up rock star much either. Maybe I should stop reading his fiction. A friend of mine, rather cruelly described him as “an almost great writer” and that’s it. There are really wonderful passages but the whole fails to deliver and there are some, frankly, dire bits also.

“Interesting Times” by Terry Pratchett

Slightly dull Pratchett which I may have read before but of which I retain no recollection whatsoever. On balance, probably not a win.

Christ’s Entry into Brussels” by Dimitri Verhulst

This book, presumably inspired by the painting and Belgium’s labyrinthine administrative structures appealed to Mr. Waffle and he recommended it to me. There is something exquisitely Belgian about it. It brings back the weird, surrealism with which Belgium is far more amply supplied than any other country I have visited. Still and all, a bit slight and perhaps of less interest to those without a Belgian connection.

Who Knew?

13 February, 2015 at 10:44 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister was at a 40th birthday party at the weekend in a small town in Co. Limerick (pop. 500). Her friend had invited to the local pub a wide range of people of all ages; friends, neighbours and relatives (a goodly percentage of pop. 500). My sister found herself chatting to an older pleasant, gentleman called Michael. The talk veered to the economy and she was very impressed with his knowledge of the euro crisis, the Greek finance Minister and related matters. Doubtless she thought to herself in her urban way that we are inclined to underestimate the elderly, mountainy men and their grasp of current affairs [this may be projection on my part].

It was only later her boyfriend asked how she had enjoyed her chat with the Minister for Finance. A neighbour of the birthday boy, since you ask.

Cycling

12 February, 2015 at 9:03 pm by belgianwaffle

Cork has got a city bike scheme like Dublin and it is extremely convenient for me as I can now zoom into town from my parents’ house. The bikes have cute gears too:

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But what really impresses is the effort that has been put into building up a dedicated cycling infrastructure around the city. There are lots of cycle lanes with a curb to stop cars pulling in with their hazards blinking. There are contraflow lanes. It is terrific. In Dublin, I cycle home from work 5 days a week by an admittedly busy route. It is served by a cycle lane most of the way and I have NEVER completed the journey without having to pull out into fast moving traffic to avoid several cars parked in the cycle lane. I would love to see greater enforcement and dedicated cycle lanes that you would need to take your chassis off to park in.

Did I tell you that I am half thinking of joining the Dublin Cycling Campaign?

Tallow Candles or Problems Which Are Likely to Remain Theoretical

11 February, 2015 at 8:49 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess recently finished this excellent book. In the course of reading it, I found her looking at the IKEA candles on the mantelpiece speculatively. “Do you think,” she asked me “that they are tallow?” “I’m not sure, why?” I said. “Well,” she said, “I was just sympathising with Emily who is trying to decide whether to give the tutor wax or tallow candles; you can imagine the difficulty.” Indeed. She added, “If you are ever going on a long trip into the wilderness and you are bringing candles, you should always bring tallow rather than wax because then, if you are starving, you can eat the tallow.”

Truly, she is a mine of 19th and 21st century information.

Civic Minded

10 February, 2015 at 9:00 pm by belgianwaffle

The other night, Mr. Waffle was due to go to the Residents’ Committee AGM. “Just try not to be elected chair,” I begged him. Half an hour before the meeting was scheduled to start, the current chair sidled into our hall and begged him to take over. She had been chairing for years, her parents were old and ill and no one else was likely to step forward. I sidled off to the kitchen, head in my hands. Later that evening, Mr. Waffle was made chair of the Residents’ Committee by popular acclaim.

Oh woe.

A New Take on the Nicene Creed

9 February, 2015 at 8:58 pm by belgianwaffle

At mass on Sunday for the first time ever, apparently, Michael listened to the words of the creed.

“I look forward to the resurrection of the dead/and the life of the world to come” the congregation intoned.

“WHAT?” said Michael, “We’re looking foward to the zombie apocalypse?”

Is There Snow in the Mountains?

8 February, 2015 at 8:35 pm by belgianwaffle

You can see the Dublin mountains from our front garden. Every morning for the past couple of weeks, I have asked the (keener sighted than me) children, “Is there snow in the mountains?” Often there is and I would so love to get up there and look at the snow but the rest of the family are less keen.

When I was growing up, my mother would often say, “I love natural phenomena.” I can remember, as a small child standing by the window in the dark after the electricity had been cut in a storm. We had lit candles and I was watching the lightening with my parents and my mother was delighted. It’s funny how you turn into your parents, isn’t it?

Last weekend I was in Cork and when I came back, herself said to me, rather heartlessly, “You should have seen the mountains, it was like the Alps up there.”

In related news, the children and I walked in to school in the snow last week. It was horrible, cold, sleety snow that didn’t stick but they twirled around in it, crowing in delight.

And it was definitely very cold:

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My Talents

7 February, 2015 at 8:34 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel: You’re no good at directions.
Me: That’s true, I often get lost.
Michael: You are no good at remembering. You often forget things.
Me: That is true also. Can we talk about what I’m good at?
Long pause.
Daniel [hesitantly]: You seem to go to a lot of meetings. Maybe you’re good at meetings?

St Blaise

3 February, 2015 at 10:24 pm by belgianwaffle

About this time last year I took Michael to Cork. It was the feast of St. Blaise. When I was a child, I was always taken to get my throat blessed. I liked the drama of it. The priest takes two candles, crosses them and puts them on either side of your throat while praying to St. Blaise that he will protect you from throat illnesses (this is his thing). After mass that Sunday when Michael and I were in Cork together, they were blessing throats. I described the process to Michael and asked whether he would like to give it a try. No. It was only on the way home I realised that I should have explained that the candles were not lit and that it was fear of being set aflame that was putting him off rather than his normal antipathy to religion.

Maybe this year.


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