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29 April, 2015 at 11:05 pm by belgianwaffle

I took the Princess to London for her birthday. It’s not as extravagant as it sounds. We stayed with one aunt (they have TWO spare rooms, in their flat in London – as she said, “we live like oligarchs”) and another paid for our flights using her air miles. But still, it did feel rather decadent.

We were due to fly out the Thursday afternoon before her birthday but, very suspiciously, our flight was cancelled due to the air traffic controllers’ strike in France. Since we were flying direct from Dublin to London, it’s hard to see why that should be but doubtless BA had its reasons. My letter of complaint has, as yet received no response. We ended up flying out at 9 that evening which was fine although some of us were a little hyper at the airport.

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The flight, excitingly, boasted free crisps and, annoyingly, an article in the magazine about Dublin. We got the Heathrow Express into London and a taxi to Islington and everything went as speedily as it could have done but we still didn’t arrive until nearly midnight. I also nearly had a heart attack when I took out £200 at the airport and discovered just how weak the euro is against sterling.

The next day, Friday, we were off to Harry Potter world near Watford junction. We put ourselves in the hands of my sister-in-law who, in her own family enjoys a reputation for vagueness. Before I first met her, I asked my mother- in-law what her daughter was like and she said, “Very kind and very clever but, a lot of her time spent with us on this earth is taken up with looking for her other shoe.” So I was a little tense but I can report that her reputation is entirely unmerited. She whisked us painlessly across London in exactly the predicted time and the delightfulness of being in a foreign city and just following someone else cannot, in my view, be overstated.

Harry Potter world itself was a huge success. We all enjoyed it very much; even those whose expectations were extremely high.

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The props are amazing and the work that went into them is breathtaking. I would definitely go back (and I may have to as the boys have put in strong arguments for their rights).

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You can wander up and down Diagon Alley and we did, happily, for ages.

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The next day was a fresh new adventure. My sister had arrived in London and I went off with her, leaving the Princess to enjoy the company of her aunt and uncle. They went to the Tower of London which is excellent, I am informed.

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Willing to bet that it was a superior option to the British Museum where I ended up going. Wonderful collection and so on but very tiring. Sister-in-law had given directions to all kinds of attractions near where we were staying (my sister and I peeled off for a fancy overnight in London – more free thing, hotel points this time – what’s not to love?). Both restaurants she recommended were excellent. And, again following her directions, we went into Persephone Books where I bought the Princess a small birthday present. I think that if only I had stuck to sister-in-law’s recommendation and gone to the Foundling Museum instead of the British Museum, I would have been a happier woman.

Meanwhile, the Princess and her aunt were preparing to go to a West End show (Matilda – very good since you ask) for which her aunt had v. kindly procured tickets.

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The next day we all met for brunch, then back to Islington for cake and home. We were supposed to travel to Heathrow via the Heathrow express but alas, the line was down and there was no indication when it would be re-opened. When I asked if I could get my ticket refunded, I was told, only if I had bought it in the last 20 minutes. As herself pointed out, only a moron would do that as the line had already been down for an hour. My letter of complaint has as yet received no reply. We had to take a taxi to the airport. I would rather not talk about how much that cost but suffice it to say that we could easily have flown back to Dublin for half the amount. When we did get on our flight though, the Princess got a window seat due to the efforts of BA (as her feckless mother had only checked in that morning and there were no window seats to be had) and she is still an infrequent enough flyer to be entranced by the view over the clouds and the lights of the cities below.

Aside from our transport difficulties (on re-reading this, I note that they loom rather large but I have just described them in graphic detail in letters of complaint, so they are very fresh in my mind), we had a fantastic weekend. The boys are consumed with jealousy, as well they might be. I shudder to think what we will have to do when they turn 12. However, Daniel is an Arsenal fan and his aunt lives very near the Emirates stadium so I think the London relatives should prepare themselves mentally for a further onslaught.

A Mountain to Climb

23 April, 2015 at 7:23 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself: What are you watching?
Me: Hilary Clinton’s video launching her campaign for the US Presidency.
Her: Oh my God, is she still alive?

A Misapprehension

22 April, 2015 at 7:21 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael: What do the Jews believe?
Me: Well much the same as us but no New Testament, just the stuff in the Old Testament.
Him: So, no Jesus.
Me: Yes, broadly.
Him: No Jesus! Their mass must be so much shorter!

Easter Holidays – Part 2

20 April, 2015 at 7:19 pm by belgianwaffle

We drove back from Cork late afternoon on Holy Saturday and arrived back at about 7 with everybody tired, cranky and hungry. It was in this joyous mood that we made our way up to the Easter vigil in the Church at 9 that evening.

The vigil mass is a really beautiful service but spectacularly lengthy. The church was in darkness and we all went outside to light candles from a brazier. As we filed in to the dark, neo-gothic church with only our candles lit, it was really spectacular. Mr. Waffle, clearly feeling the weight of his role as chair of the residents’ committee, hissed to me, “Who’s taking in the brazier? Some of the locals could do real damage with that.” In the other ear, Michael sighed, “Mass isn’t even started yet, is it?” I was forced to confess, it was not. The music was really beautiful but it was hard to enjoy the service until Mr. Waffle peeled off with the two boys about 10. The Princess and I stayed until it ended at 11 but all in all probably not an experience I would repeat for a while.

On Easter Sunday we had my parents-in-law around for lunch and it all passed off relatively well although my father-in-law had left his lights on and there was some fun with jump leads before they could leave.

Easter Monday was a beautiful day and we decided to go into town to look at the various activities associated with commemorating the 99th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Town was heaving and O’Connell Street boasted a number of attractions which would have been all fine and dandy if there hadn’t been huge queues and a constant fear of losing a child.



In the afternoon, we decided to take a drive to somewhere quieter and went to walk up the Hill of Slane. We discovered that there is no walk up to the Hill of Slane. The car park is about 200 metres from the site but it was tranquil and relatively empty after the chaos of the morning.

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We went into the town looking for a cup of tea and ended up having dinner in the Conyngham Arms which was lovely. We sat outside in the walled garden in the sunshine feeling very pleased with ourselves. On the wall, the hotel is described as having the best service in Leinster and I’m not surprised. Our waitress was a heroine meeting our endless ketchup demands with extraordinary cheerfulness.

More soon. Maybe.

Easter Holiday Round-Up – Part 1

19 April, 2015 at 6:59 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle is a shadow of his former self. As the self-employed parent, he tends to do a lot of the childminding during the holidays. As it happened, these holidays he was very busy and it was all a bit tense. Not for the children, but for him.

At the start of the holidays, I took the children down to Cork for a couple of days. Having been to Kinsale so recently, the children avoided a trip to Charles Fort. Other improving activities included a trip to the ever popular Blackrock Observatory and a visit to the Cork City Gaol Museum which was moderately successful.


Undoubtedly, a highlight of the trip was a walk on the Marina. This was the subject of much unhappiness. A deal was brokered whereby we would walk 10 minutes from the car and 10 minutes back. In those 20 minutes, the children spotted that there was a funfair and begged to be let go.

I yielded. I felt mildly bad that on Good Friday while their 90 year old grandfather was up in the church doing the stations, they were flying through the air on a variety of dangerous machines. I also bought the obligatory fairground goodies.

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It being Good Friday, I did not have anything to eat myself which, frankly, did not improve my enjoyment of the whole experience. When I got back to my parents’ house, I was ravenous for my dinner. My brother who regards my eating regime with a sardonic eye (he believes firmly that people and women, in particular, should watch what they eat, I do not watch what I eat, we have had spirited exchanges of views on this point in the past) commented, “It’s harder for your mother as she is so unused to deprivation.” Quite.

I can’t quite recall what else we did. I do remember a trip to the park and overhearing my daughter and my brother having the following conversation:
Him: How did your day go?
Her: Terrible, don’t ask her or she’ll kill us all.

So, you know, only good in parts. Michael dropped my father’s iPad and I attempted to repair it by banging it on my knee as advised by the internet. This did not work and I managed to break the screen. The repair of our combined depredations cost a fortune.

Maybe more tomorrow.

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