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Reading

29 June, 2015 at 6:56 pm by belgianwaffle

“An Utterly impartial history of Great Britain” by John O’Farrell

Funny. Accurate, I am sure. I have now almost entirely forgotten all the details. So it was good that I enjoyed it as I read it because the improvement in my historical knowledge is nil.

“The Moonstone” by Wilkie Collins

Um, very famous and an early example of the detective novel but, if you ask me, only alright and not half as good as the “Woman in White”. Apparently its fame is in part due to the fact that it features opium addiction and was written by an opium addict. Those Victorians.

I enjoyed this quote on page 488 of the edition I read, plus ça change and all that.

“In our modern system of civilisation, celebrity (no matter of what kind) is the lever that will move anything. The fame of the great Cuff had even reached the ears of the small Gooseberry. The boy’s ill-fixed eyes rolled, when I mentioned the illustrious name, till I thought they really must have dropped on the carpet.”

“Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” by Winifred Watson

Heartwarming, entertaining republication by Persephone Press. Life has been cruel to Miss Pettigrew. It perks up when she falls into (what her clergyman father would almost certainly have considered) a depraved circle.

“Consequences” by EM Delafield

If you have read and reread “The Diary of a Provincial Lady” and all of its sequels and you love it, approach this book by the same author with EXTREME caution. It is a very good book. It gives a very clear account of the misery of depression. But wryly humourous? Frankly, no. Set your expectations to extreme, relentless misery.

“Sense and Sensibility” by Joanna Trollope

I quite enjoyed this. It updates the Jane Austen classic and uses the same plot and the same characters. I went back and re-read the original afterwards and I was very impressed by how very closely the Trollope version stuck to the Austen novel. What was intriguing was how this was entirely a Joanna Trollope novel; her voice, the characters, the situations, everything.

“The Buried Giant” by Kazuo Ishiguru

I quite enjoyed this in a mild way. It has divided reviewers. It’s about two Britons going on a quest in a magical post-Arthurian Britain. Harmless. Not as good at all as “Never Let Me Go” though.

“The Secret Place”
by Tana French

I think Tana French is a wonderful writer. This is another detective story set in Dublin. This one revolves around a murder in a girls’ boarding school. I am not normally a great fan of the detective novel but I plan to read everything this author has written.

“A brief History of the Smile” by Angus Trumble

I was a bit disappointed by this. It does what it says on the tin. There is an original angle on history, there is lots about art but yet, I found it a bit dull. Also the black and white illustrations in my edition were not great for looking at the reproductions of art through the ages.

“Us” by David Nicholls

I know lots of people were enchanted and delighted by this novel but I was not. I found each of the three main characters very annoying and tedious in their own particular ways. It follows a family on a Grand Tour of Europe, father, mother and son about to leave for college. I did not like the characters and the plot left me cold. It’s very readable, I suppose. For my money, his best novel continues to be “Starter for Ten” which combines excruciating embarrassment and hilarity.

“Solace” by Belinda McKeon

I didn’t really expect to like this book, but I did. It’s a bit overwritten (you know the kind of thing, nobody ever hops up and opens the door but walks through the treacly sunlight filled with dancing dustmotes to answer the insistent tolling of the doorbell). The author patronises her main characters a bit. But, that said, it moves snappily enough. Though there are some strands that could usefully have been got rid of (what was that philosophy lecturer doing?) I was engaged and interested. I was genuinely quite shocked by the twist in the middle and that was really well handled as was the aftermath. I would definitely try another.

Demands

28 June, 2015 at 6:48 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess is staying at a friend’s house tonight. I found the following in the notes on my phone. Something to mull over:

Hello! Some of your priorities SHOULD be
1 talk to [Mr. Waffle] about extending [Princess]’s bedtime
2 talk to [Mr. Waffle]about extending [Princess]’s pocket money
3 Resolve to value [Princess]’s privacy as she becomes a young adult and talk to other family members about this
4 Praise [Princess]more for eating everything on her plate
5 Do not be swayed by Michael’s “cuteness”

I think, internet, we can agree that I am doing well on number 3.

Some Highlights from the Week so Far – Or the Dawn of a New Era

27 June, 2015 at 1:29 pm by belgianwaffle

Monday – Scouts for Michael. Daniel skipped GAA. Felt very rebellious. This is the last week of training of the year, we’re exhausted.

Tuesday – Princess went to scouts, theoretically 7.30 to 9.30. Phone call at 9.15 to indicate that they were in Howth (distant Northern suburb by the sea) and wouldn’t be back until 10. As I was standing outside the den at 10, this text message arrived:

Due to unforeseen circumstances (the ice cream machine broke) we are running late hoping to hit the den for 10.20.

They were eventually disgorged from the scouting jeeps at nearly 11 full of excitement and chatter. As the Princess and I cycled home in the twilight (welcome to Ireland in summer) she told me all about it and the wonderful time they had and she was completely delighted with herself and her enthusiasm was infectious and we arrived home full of good humour and bonhomie even though it was very late and a school night.

Wednesday – Mr. Waffle had to work late. That evening Daniel and Micheal had to pack their bags for their school tour (complete change of clothes, hat, suncream, rain gear etc. – when I checked their bags later I found that they had both packed winter woolly hats rather than summer hats which I presume was what was intended). Herself announced that she planned to rollerblade to school on Friday, her current rollerblades were too small and she had sourced a pair online which I had to reserve for her to collect on the morrow. The boys informed me that the following day was the last day for the school book rental form and money to be returned. Much consternation. The Princess then said that she had to go to school the following day dressed as Annie Moore. She looked pretty good considering we started preparing at 6.45 the evening before. She was finally able to get some use from her massive coin collection. She brought in a number of coins from the 1880s and her classmates were suitably impressed.

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Thursday – The boys had a fantastic school tour. The Princess picked up her roller blades and then proceeded to bake like there was no tomorrow. She made brownies, flapjacks, lemon drizzle cake and fairy cakes. We discovered that the clutch in the car had gone.

Friday – This was the scene which met my startled gaze when I came down for breakfast at eight.

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As we filled a large bag with baked goods, she said, “What was I thinking, why did nobody stop me?”

She decided not to roller blade to school in the end. We had a ceremony at the school at lunchtime and sixth class got to say goodbye. I am, obviously, partial but I thought she did a great job in presenting her part of the show. The school is in an old Georgian building and the drawing room, where we had the event, was clearly not built with acoustics in mind and it was very difficult to hear most of the speakers.

Obligatory photo of ceiling stucco.

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She had a really great time in primary school and made friends and was happy. She liked schoolwork and was good at it. I hope, that when she starts secondary school in the autumn, it all works out for her. I know that she will really miss primary school, and I think I saw her wiping away a furtive tear in the course of the ceremony.

So then afterwards she got her shirt signed by all her friends (which is, apparently, what you do):

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I wish the shirt had been cleaner to start with as I realise that I will never be able to wash it again.

And she and her class went off to the cinema. I was going to meet her afterwards but when I rang her, she had already hopped on the bus home by herself, she hoped I didn’t mind. I didn’t but when I got home I also gave her her first set of house keys. Big girl.

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Yesterday evening we ignored the blandishments of the school parents’ social night and Mr. Waffle took Daniel to his first soccer match. The local team lost. Naturally. Apparently you can read about it in today’s paper but as Michael said, “Why would he want to, he was there.”

Today – Mr. Waffle got up at 6 to go to Cork for a funeral (non-Irish readers, no one particularly close to him, mother of a friend, Irish people specialise in funeral attendance) and will be back mid-afternoon to grace the street party with his presence in his role as chairman of the residents’ committee. It was beautiful this morning but, inevitably, it is clouding over now. We need to do more baking for the street party. Sigh. Meanwhile in the absence of a car, a kind neighbour picked Dan up for a GAA match in Malahide at 8.45. This is his last outing until September. Rejoice.

Also, this week, because it was quiet (hah), we got a couple of the windows repaired. Here is the girl of the moment sitting in front of her new window in an utterly unposed (ahem) image. She is genuinely pleased to be able to open her window and also that the crack across the top, through which the winter wind used to whistle, has been repaired.

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And how was your own week?

I Have a New Bike

25 June, 2015 at 5:48 pm by belgianwaffle

The first fancy bike I got when we moved to Dublin in 2008 was stolen. My sister gave me her old bike to replace it and it served me faithfully for a number of years but it was showing signs of wear and the back wheel was buckled by opportunistic thieves (who didn’t get it) and straightened (by a passing French tourist who took pity on me) and still wobbled. And the gears were shot. And it was designed for a flat country (it was my sister’s bike when she lived in the Netherlands). And I cycle every day around town and I felt it was time. Here is a picture of my new bike; taken partially for this blog and partially so that I can use the picture to try to retrieve it if stolen.

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Weekend Round-Up

24 June, 2015 at 8:21 pm by belgianwaffle

More GAA for Daniel and Mr. Waffle on Saturday morning. Meanwhile, Michael and the Princess and I cycled into town which went very well. We got sandals for herself and dropped in to the Chocolate Factory which was having “A weekend celebration of an emerging design community“. Herself and Michael regarded this with the deepest suspicion but it was very successful. They made origami frogs.

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There was a “create your own den” thing which they loved and it was manned by a young woman who had done something on art and philosophy with Michael’s class a couple of years ago and, amazingly, remembered him. While they were playing with the designer den, I was looking at the exhibition. I didn’t buy anything but there were some really lovely things.

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Downstairs in the inevitable pop up shop, the children bought wooden key holders for €5 each. It took them a very long time to decide and they explained at some length to the nice woman on the cash desk their difficulties in choosing. “You know, I think the artist wants to get rid of these anyway,” she said, “Why don’t you have another one each for free?” Great rejoicing.

Buoyed up by this success, I said I would buy an ice cream for the trip home. While waiting outside the shop for the children, a child no older than Michael threw a Lucozade bottle at the bin and missed. “Pick that up,” I said smartly (oh yes, I am now that woman) but he didn’t hear me and sailed in to the safety of the shop. Herself put it in the bin for me.

Then we began the long trek home. I discovered, belatedly, that my children are not capable of cycling and eating ice cream. In fact Michael can’t push a bike and eat ice cream. So I pushed my bike and his and we essentially walked all the way home. I sent the Princess (speedy ice cream eater) on ahead but Michael and I trudged on (it felt like for miles) while he enjoyed his almost endless Calippo. This deeply unsatisfactory progress also gave me the opportunity to mortify my poor children.

A gang of four young children (aged, say 8-12) came up to me as I was pushing the bikes and pointing at Michael’s said, “Hey, can I have a shot of that?” “No,” I said shortly, and recognising the Lucozade culprit, I added “I saw you throwing a can of Lucozade on the ground, don’t do that, it’s not nice, we all have to live here and we don’t want rubbish on the ground.” Him, startled “It wasn’t a can, it was a bottle and I picked it up on the way out.” “No, you didn’t,” I said, “it was gone when you came out because I asked her to pick it up [indicating Herself]” Insert here, the sound of the ground opening and swallowing the Princess and the reproachful words “Why did you have to bring me into it?” The culprit said gamely, “I must have put another bottle in the bin” and so, admiring his resourcefulness, hostilities were suspended and we spoke a bit more generally about where they were from and what they were up to before they took themselves off. I feel like some kind of caricature; should I have just said nothing?

After mass on Sunday morning [herself did a reading which went fine but also sang the alleluia before the Gospel from the altar for the first time, possibly needs work] we were all back at the GAA. If I never see Gaelic games again, it won’t be too soon and, as Mr. Waffle, points out, he actually does almost all the ferrying and sideline standing. On Sunday he also took Daniel’s broken hurley to be fixed notwithstanding the fact that we have already bought a new one. The hurley man indicated that it was irreparable. I wanted to throw it out but Daniel resisted on the grounds that it had “sentimental value” which is an attitude which explains why attics across the land are full to bursting point.

We all cycled up to the GAA club for the blitz to support Daniel in his endeavour and then we cycled to the pub where we had a triumphal drink to celebrate his medal and then home again. Only hair raising in parts.

On Sunday afternoon we had our first barbecue of the summer and it didn’t rain although was threateningly cloudy. Then at 7, Mr. Waffle and I went to a midsummer party and finally home at 11 to face into a new week, refreshed.

There’s a Moral Here Somewhere

20 June, 2015 at 5:43 pm by belgianwaffle

In the Princess’s class, there is an elaborate system of incentives. Good behaviour earns you a ticket; eight tickets get you a free homework pass. Herself decided that she would earn and save up homework passes so she could use them to get off homework every night for the last fortnight of school. Initially, her plan worked perfectly but then last Wednesday with 8 nights of homework to come, the teacher announced that there is to be no homework for the rest of the year.

I am not quite sure what the moral is; possibly, don’t trust the system it will betray you.

Surprised by June

15 June, 2015 at 10:45 pm by belgianwaffle

Every year, I am astounded by June.

It’s bright almost 24 hours a day and the weather is lovely. All the roses come out. The garden becomes out of control.

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Disclaimer: This is not my garden but look at the verdant foliage. It’s on the way to school in the morning.

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Further disclaimer: This is manifestly not my garden and is, in fact, in Cork. But it makes the verdant foliage point strongly.

Meanwhile, at work, I realise that I am taking leave over the summer and throw myself into all the things that must be completed by end June. The bitter discovery when I return in September that they are no further advanced is not foremost in my mind in June. This June is worse than usual as I am supposed to be moving to a new role in September. Then we have a cyclical high profile event in June which requires constant vigilance and somehow, no matter how well prepared for (and, trust me here, it is really well prepared for), June itself always throws up a couple of crises.

Locally, the church garden party and the street party always happen in June. We had the church garden party at the weekend. I manned the sumo wrestling stand. No joke I can tell you.

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The street party is yet to come but I see a starring role for the Waffles as Mr. Waffle is chair of the residents’ committee.

Sort of related, herself has been baking like a demon. She made pretzels and brownies for the church garden party (the cream of the latter reserved for her London aunt who was in town for the weekend).

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Recently she has also made grissini, brioche and, only this evening, crumpets. What are we to make of this?

Meanwhile, at school, there is frenetic activity: school tours, school sports day, graduation (from primary school!) and obligations like finding pillowslips (for the sack race) and funding in coins of small denominations at short notice. In fact, herself had an overnight school tour last week. They went to an adventure centre in Wicklow and had an amazing time: swimming, canoeing, midnight hiking; and just running around. Unfortunately, I forgot to tell the childminder that she wouldn’t be coming home on Thursday and he and the boys waited patiently outside the school for her until he got hold of Mr. Waffle who was able to clarify. For the amusement of non-Irish readers, see items 1 and 2 on the list of what she had to bring.

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Also associated with the end of the school year are various presents which must be purchased and offered to teachers as appropriate.

The GAA goes into overdrive with a summer mini-tournament almost all the time. Poor Daniel is practically always running out the door with a hurley in his hand or returning pink faced and exhausted. Nor are scouts showing the slightest sign of let up. Michael went to the park this evening and returned filthy but happy.

And poor Mr. Waffle is away again, so I am keeping the home fires burning (metaphorically only, it is sweltering for Dublin, it may have been 20 degrees today).

All this to say, posting may continue to be light in June.

Oh, and happy Bloomsday, if that is your thing. Maybe, this year I will finally read “Ulysses”. If you have done so, please indicate whether you found it even slightly readable.

Meal Planner Challenge

8 June, 2015 at 11:02 pm by belgianwaffle

Email
From: Mr. Waffle
To: Me

Can you think of anything that involves feta, watermelon, ham and chorizo?

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Something went very wrong with our shopping order. On the plus side, I gave away a watermelon to my bookclub hostess this evening. She seemed somewhat surprised.


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