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Archive for November, 2015

November: The Month of the Dead

30 November, 2015 at 9:42 pm by belgianwaffle

Earlier this year, my colleague’s husband died. It was a complete shock; he died at his desk. She had spoken to him about curtains at lunch time and by 8 that evening he was dead. It was absolutely horrible. I went around to her house the day after the news and I was in floods and she was in floods and I said to her, “If there’s anything I can do, anything at all, just let me know.” Unexpectedly, she replied, “There is something, actually, will you sing at the funeral mass?” Oh gentle reader, the horror. I can sing, but you know, to row in behind a choir, not on my own or anything. What could I do but say yes? I spent a deeply uncomfortable few days learning Tantum Ergo which was a favourite number of the deceased and wondering what on earth I was going to do. I needn’t have worried; the extended family had a number of accomplished singers and I was able to happily row in behind.

Then, in the autumn, a man with whom I shared a house years ago died. He had been ill for a long time. He had a secular funeral which was odd. The sound system was dreadful and his musical choices were, ahem, quirky. I did like that he chose “First Born Son” by the McGarrigle sisters, which was very typical of him. In fact his whole funeral was very typical of him and one of his friends gave a hilarious and moving speech which reminded me strongly of what he was like in life.

Earlier this month, I sent a flippant email to a friend suggesting lunch and, somewhat to my surprise, got no reply. A couple of days later she emailed me to say her father had died and she was away. I had missed the funeral. Her father was an elderly gentleman but it is funny how the knowledge of his death surprised me and made me think “We are all going to die”. When the Princess was born, I remember looking at passers-by and thinking, “You, yes you, were once a baby.” While I had known it in theory before, now I understood it to be real. I am moving to a similar position with death. Whereas once my knowledge was theoretical, now I find myself looking at passers-by and thinking, “You are going to die, yes you.”

Today, it lashed rain. At lunch time I went to the funeral of a colleague’s brother in a distant southern suburb. The funeral was in one of those modern churches like a barn (it was in the shape of a dove, I am informed by fellow mourners) built when the church felt its congregations would only get larger and it was invincible. The traffic was so heavy that we parked a distance away and walked to the church without hoods or umbrellas. Every spout was gushing out water, the road was a river. We were sodden by the time we got into the church. The man who died was relatively young with two small children aged 3 and 5. He came from a large and close family. The church was full to the rafters; standing room only. The dead man had been a biker and there were people in biking leathers everywhere. There were two funeral orations, one by the dead man’s brother and one by his friend. The latter was unusual. It was more like a best man’s speech than a funeral speech. The priest said afterwards, “I wasn’t sure for a while there whether I was in Love/Hate.” I knew what he meant but the congregation who knew the dead man far better than me, loved it. Another colleague saw several big men in biking leathers crying and laughing simultaneously.

The priest himself was a cousin of the dead man, he told a funny story which I repeat here because, why not, I suppose. He met a man from Ballaghaderreen who as a young teenager went to a funeral mass in the cathedral in the town. As the 13 year old was walking up the aisle after mass to sympathise with the family, he realised that it was his first time attending a funeral on his own. He also realised that he had no idea what to say to the family of the deceased. He lent back to the man behind him in the aisle and asked, “What should I say to the family?” Rather than advising him to say the traditional “I’m sorry for your trouble” this man advised him to say “Condolences”. The word was strange to the teenager and he went up the rest of the aisle repeating to himself in his head, “Condolences, condolences, condolences”. When he reached the top of the church he sympathised and it seemed to go alright. It was only when he was outside that he realised that he had turned to each member of the bereaved family in turn and said “Congratulations.”

“In the midst of life we are in death.” I felt it today.

Perhaps Not Entirely Positive

29 November, 2015 at 5:53 pm by belgianwaffle

You will recall the whole piano moving trauma.

The piano tuner has got back to me after reviewing the photographs of the piano I sent him. In fairness, he seems to be able to tell a lot from the photos. This is what he said:

Thanks for your photos.

Sadly your piano, which is at least 150 years old, is in a very distressed state. It is a wooden frame piano with a sticker action, that has the moving parts glued into position. This will make servicing the action almost impossible. In addition, it has had some moth infestation which have been nibbling on the felts and leathers over the years. The missing ivory keys can be replaced but not matched to the others.

However, all the above issues that I can see, pale into insignificance because of the broken strings and the oblong tuning pins. At the very least the piano needs restringing, a replacement set of tuning pins which would have to be specially manufactured and this piano does not justify any investment to try and improve it.

Finally, due to the age of the piano, we would expect to find significant weakness in the original timbers and possibly it may have had a woodworm problem during its life.

I particularly enjoyed “pale into insignificance”. I think I will call him and say that it doesn’t have to be perfect, just alright and can he do anything for me. Do you have any advice, internet?

Home Thoughts from Abroad

28 November, 2015 at 10:16 pm by belgianwaffle

I was briefly in Cork. I went down last night and am back in Dublin tonight.

It occurred to me that I am 46 and I have spent more or less half of my life in Cork and half out. Those first 23 years make all the difference, I can tell you.

I went to the Crawford Gallery this morning and they had a small exhibition on commerce.

James Barry – From The Triumph of Commerce (The Thames or The Triumph of Navigation)

It reminded me of something that has increasingly struck me over the years since I have left Cork. Cork is all about commerce. Dublin has government and public servants and Cork has commerce. Look, of course, Dublin has lots of commerce too and Cork has teachers and doctors and nurses and so on but the way Cork thinks of itself is fundamentally commercial.

Ireland has traditionally been a very centralised country and still, the machinery of government and governing is overwhelmingly in Dublin and this, in my view, gives Dublin a lot of its identity. Cork on the other hand, had the merchant princes, local businessmen who invested in the city. Even the Crawford Gallery is named after Sherman Crawford, brewer and philanthropist. There were all of the fortunes made in the butter trade and the Quakers and the Dutch merchants. Some of the largest supermarket chains in Ireland started off in Cork (Dunne’s – now in Dublin, Roche’s – now defunct and Musgrave’s – still in Cork). Cork is a city of commerce and proud of it.

Names like Barry, Crosbie, Murphy and Beamish and Crawford are woven into the civic fabric of the city.

When I was in secondary school in the 1980s, commerce let Cork down pretty badly: Ford’s left, Sunbeam closed, Dunlop’s left, unemployment was through the roof and things were pretty grim. But things seem to be back on an even keel now, even after the 2008 recession. The chemical industry in Cork harbour (mmm, I know) is a really good employer, the city feels prosperous. Whereas the boom spread Dublin and made it slightly monstrous, it just improved the centre of Cork and left it compact but revamped (notwithstanding that there are still some closed shops on Patrick Street). It is a delightful place to visit now.

I love living in Dublin, but I will always miss living in Cork. This Cavafy poem about leaving the city is not entirely apt but the idea that wherever you go –

“This city will always pursue you. You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
will turn gray in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city.”

You never really leave your home behind, you carry it with you in your head for your whole life.

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Let It Go

27 November, 2015 at 11:09 pm by belgianwaffle

I am sitting here in wonder. My brother has never heard of the song “Let It Go”. He’s firmly refusing to believe it’s famous. I’m refusing to believe that he hasn’t heard it. I’ve sung it for him in English, French and Dutch (that’s how I roll). Very reluctantly, he has conceded that the fact that the version he looked at on YouTube has 450 million likes might mean that some other people are aware of this obscure number.

Plumbing and Logistics

26 November, 2015 at 8:11 pm by belgianwaffle

Our toilet is blocked. Mr. Waffle is upstairs deploying a plunger. The bathroom floor is covered with newspapers. He’s been at this since we got home at 6.30 this evening with only a brief respite for dinner. I feel I am setting a poor example for my children by making plumbing a gendered space but I just can’t face it myself.

We are facing into a logistically complex 48 hours with me going to Cork, herself going to a friend’s house miles away to sleep over (needing to be collected on Saturday morning), Michael doing a thing with scouts and Daniel with his usual Saturday morning GAA match. Today, I have made appointments with doctors and dentists and committed to sending photos to a piano tuner. A number of Christmas events are bearing down on me and I am in no position to be either a host or guest due to complete lack of organisation. Have I laid in any small tasteful presents to dole out at the appropriate moment? I think we both know the answer to that question.

Oh yes, it’s approaching the most wonderful time of the year. You will excuse me, I need to sit quietly in a darkened room while listening to peaceful suctioning noises emanating from the upstairs bathroom.

And to the Americans, happy Thanksgiving. I can only rejoice that this is not an Irish celebration. It might tip me over the edge.

Pedants’ Corner or How We Amuse Ourselves at Breakfast

25 November, 2015 at 10:56 pm by belgianwaffle

From: Herself
To: Me
Re: Girls’ and women’s
Sent: 07:51 (14 hours ago)

When your last hope for humanity is the cereal box.


I think herself is concerned that she may be one of the only people now living who is familiar with the correct use of the apostrophe.

Also, does everyone else read food packaging labels when there is nothing else available? I think it is hereditary; my father still knows off by heart all the labels which graced his parents’ table in the 20s and 30s.


24 November, 2015 at 10:15 pm by belgianwaffle

As part of what we are calling “The Decade of Centenaries” every primary school in the country is being given a national flag in a formal ceremony. Representatives from the Defence Forces turn up at the school; the proclamation of independence is read; and the children learn about the protocol for looking after the national flag (handy, on all sorts of occasions, I am sure). I think they then use this knowledge to hoist the flag up over every school for Easter 2016.

The boys had their flag visit today. Three of the children from the school got to read out part of the proclamation of independence during the ceremony and Daniel was one of the chosen few. He was very proud. The Irish was quite hard too. He had the bit about “cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past”. No prizes for guessing to whom the alien government refers. It’s all peace and reconciliation now, of course.

As part of the celebrations, they got no homework tonight. I am sure that the signatories of the proclamation would be delighted.

Romantic Text Messages in Middle Age

23 November, 2015 at 11:06 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle was putting out our bins this evening and he ran into our next door neighbour putting out their bins. Her husband travels a lot for work but she said that no matter where he is or in what time zone, he always texts her to let her know which bin* to put out when.

Unrelated: it was lashing here this evening but Daniel still spent an hour out at GAA training getting damp and filthy. The Gaelic Athletic Association is not for the faint hearted. Also this evening, Michael got his first scout badge; great rejoicing.

*Green for recycling; black for general and brown for organic (only Mr. Waffle and Mr. Next Door can remember which bin goes out on which night).

Last Sunday of the Liturgical Year

22 November, 2015 at 5:00 pm by belgianwaffle

I woke up this morning feeling miserable. I felt progressively worse as I had my shower and ate a solitary slice of toast for breakfast. I crawled back into bed at 10.15 with a hot water bottle and wet hair (too ill to dry with hair dryer, yes, I know what you’re thinking) only briefly rising again to stand over the toilet feeling like I was going to be sick. I was convinced that I had flu. I’ve had it once before and I was very afraid.

I woke up again at 2.30 feeling largely fine. A bit of a headache and haven’t had anything to eat yet but I am dressed and walking around and my legs no longer feel wobbly. A mystery. My hair leaves a bit to be desired though.


Anyhow, as well as being the last Sunday of the liturgical year it is also what our Church of Ireland friends call Stir Up Sunday, (who knew that this was going to be an ecumenical post?). Showing positively Protestant levels of organisation, I had left lots of fruit soaking last night in stout and brandy. I went and bought new pudding bowls yesterday as, by some bizarre process they always disappear from one year to the next (or, at the very least, the lids do). I was therefore, this afternoon able to tip in the remaining ingredients all of which I had acquired earlier (chopped hazelnuts – yes, ground almonds – yes, chopped walnuts – yes etc). I was totally on a roll and filled with smugness until I got to juice and rind of an orange. I mean, really, we always have oranges, there was no need to get them in. But, oh no, not today. The Princess and I went out to the corner shop and as far as she is concerned, it was a total win as she got chocolate to melt for her chocolate moustache mould (every house should have one).



So my plum puddings are made and now all that remains to do is steam them for a fortnight. This is hard won experience over my five year plum pudding making period; there was a time when I thought two and a half hours would do it. Hah. I am genuinely expecting to be steaming these puddings all evening for at least a week.



Australia Vanquished

21 November, 2015 at 9:44 pm by belgianwaffle

It’s freezing here today. Ireland were playing Australia in some kind of game that is half way between Gaelic football and Australian rules football. Mr. Waffle and Daniel went to watch in Croke Park. As Mr. Waffle is a very prepared kind of person, they both had multiple layers and were reasonably toasty throughout. Daniel even had a flask of hot chocolate which his thoughtful father had brought for him. I just picked them up and to add to their happiness, Ireland managed to beat Australia.

On the down side, as I type, Mr. Waffle is upstairs taking off his long johns (purchased many years ago in the Canadian winter and still proving their worth) and even from downstairs I can hear him sneezing and coughing. Alas.

New Terminology

20 November, 2015 at 9:58 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: How did the science test go today?
Her: OK, I think, I did some intensive short term memory file saving in advance.
Me: Is that what we used to call cramming?

Only Thursday?

19 November, 2015 at 9:25 pm by belgianwaffle

I feel like I have put in well over a week already.

Mr. Waffle and I went to see a worthy French film last night. I am not sure that this was an appropriate mid-week outing; it’s the kind of thing you need to be in the whole of your health to sit through. The hero was called Malony. This is an Irish surname which went to America and became an American first name (because Americans seem to like that) and now because of the pervasive influence of American culture, it was picked by the film as the perfect name for the juvenile delinquent character. Which is a bit weird, if you’re Irish.

That’s all I’ve got for today, I fear.


18 November, 2015 at 9:56 pm by belgianwaffle

“A God in Ruins” by Kate Atkinson

I think Kate Atkinson is a wonderful writer. This new book is superb. The ending is really clever and stays with you. Slightly too much information about flying planes in the war for me, but that is a minor quibble.

“Faithful Place” by Tana French

Another Tana French novel. She writes detective stories which are not normally my cup of tea but I love the way she writes and I find the plots really clever also. This one is about a detective from the wrong side of the tracks whose past comes back to haunt him.

“Broken Harbour” by Tana French

Another beautifully written, clever book by Tana French. It’s a detective story with all the detective elements in place but also an extended meditation on the boom and the bust and the people who were left high and dry when the Irish economy collapsed.

“Mrs Bradshaw’s Handbook: Travelling Upon the Ankh-Morpork & Sto Plains Hygienic Railway (Discworld)” by Terry Pratchett (2014)

Sorry, but this was awful. It wasn’t even funny. I think Terry Pratchett can only have been marginally involved at best.

“The Brandons” by Angela Thirkell

More super conservative 1930s social comedy from the mistress of the genre. I suppose you either like this stuff or you don’t. I do.

“Man at the Helm” by Nina Stibbe

This was quite good. The author’s first book about being a nanny in a publisher’s house in London. That was factual, but this is sold as fiction. I have a feeling, however, that it is strongly based on fact in which case I can only gasp at the horror and misery of her childhood and the rather stoic good nature which she and her siblings demonstrated in the face of adversity.

“Sisterhood” by Curtis Sittenfeld

This is very good. Not a lot of plot but the writing and characters are brilliant enough to get you over that. And even though it features psychic twins it is not at all clichéd. Truly.

“Death of a Policeman” by MC Beaton

I still read MC Beaton even though a part of me really disapproves of her. This Hamish Macbeth novel is, doubtless, an insult to Scottish people everywhere.

“The Moscow Option” by Jeremy Duns

This kind of thing is not really for me. If you like spy novels with double agents, deeply improbable plots and a certain amount of confusion, this is for you.

“Don’t Know Much About Catholic History” by Diane Moczar

A friend lent me this. The author is very keen on the 13th century and anyone who says it was anything other than amazing is anathema. She has strong, conservative Catholic views. Not for me though unintentionally entertaining in places.

“The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Cathecism” by John Zmirak

Lent to me by the same friend. Profoundly annoying, rendered the more so by the fact that there were some really interesting ideas in there which I could have done with having explained without heavy handed humour.

“Barbe Bleu” by Amélie Nothomb

Meh, not bad. A clever enough retelling of the traditional Blue Beard story. I didn’t love it but it was fine.


17 November, 2015 at 7:06 pm by belgianwaffle

It was wet and windy today. I had a half day. Michael was home sick. Mr. Waffle minded him in the morning and I had him in the afternoon. I abandoned him to drive into school and pick up Daniel (bike in the boot) and then when I had dropped Daniel, I went in search of herself (communication continues to be challenging – the phone Santa got her for Christmas is unsatisfactory). I found her almost home, her little helmet bobbing along as she walked by the nearby shops. She had been blown off her bike. She had a bloody knee but no serious injury was sustained except to her dignity.

Mr. Waffle arrived in at 6, also windswept and disappointed that his soccer was called off. There’s enthusiasm.

45,000 homes are without electricity though thankfully not ours (although we did lose the internet there for about an hour, so, you know, we could empathise). I lit the fire and made biscuits. Now we are about to eat them.

It’s a day for staying in.


That’s Not Right

17 November, 2015 at 6:51 pm by belgianwaffle

At the book festival on Saturday there was a little girl about 8 or 9 behind the tea counter with two adults. I’m not sure whether they were her parents; they looked a bit on the young side but everybody looks on the young side to me now.

I asked her whether she was in charge of giving out the brownies and she said that she was. “Are they nice,” I asked, “have you tried them?” “No,” she said, “I’m on a diet.” I laughed because she was a tiny slip of a thing and only 9 to boot. She did not look amused and said to me seriously, “I’ve cut out carbs as well.”

That Girl has Leadership Potential

16 November, 2015 at 9:34 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Where is the e-reader?
Herself: I have it.
Me: I was reading something on it, can I have it back?
Herself: I’m reading something.
Me: What?
Her: I’m re-reading “Lean In

Weekend Round-up

15 November, 2015 at 6:56 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself has decided to enter a cookery competition. She made moules marinières on Friday with her own homemade bread rolls as practice. Pleasing.

2015-11-13 20.03.40

On Saturday, we went to the Dublin book festival where the boys quite enjoyed seeing Alan Nolan and Sarah Webb joke about animals. Although the event was billed 8-12, most of the children fell into the 6-8 or younger category. Our two 10 year olds and one 12 year old knew all the answers to the questions the authors asked and had to sit on their hands which was a less satisfactory aspect of the adventure.

Then the Princess decamped to stay overnight at her friend’s house and the boys and I went to get new shoes for Michael who discovered that his current shoes have holes in the course of a very damp and gloomy walk to school during the week.

On Saturday night Mr. Waffle and I went out to a surprise dinner (his surprise to me) in a newly opened local restaurant. I was pleased with my loving husband. Alas, although the food was good, we found the restaurant rather noisy; clearly showing our age.

This morning, mass was all about the archangel Michael which Michael rather enjoyed.

In the afternoon, we went to Dun Laoghaire where we had a walk on the pier.

2015-11-15 15.00.48

2015-11-15 15.21.15

2015-11-15 15.18.01

Usually there is ice cream available at the end of the pier but not today. We were all bitter, particularly Daniel:

2015-11-15 15.13.34

Undaunted we took ourselves to the local ice cream shop where there was quite the queue notwithstanding that today is November 15:

2015-11-15 15.56.28

Then we went to visit the grandparents and met the cousins. Now I am typing this and as soon as I have finished, I have promised the children that we will watch Dr. Who.

How was your own weekend?

Oh, the City of Light

14 November, 2015 at 6:50 pm by belgianwaffle

I spent all day thinking about the Paris attacks. It reminds me of the Irish news in the 70s and 80s. This Paul Durcan poem about the 1974 Dublin bombings is apt for today, I think.

And here is a shot of Paris in happier times:
2015-08-11 14.57.56

Usual service resumes tomorrow.

Domestic Challenge

13 November, 2015 at 10:04 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle and I like to watch University Challenge. He likes it a lot more than me as he knows more of the answers. I have forbidden him from shouting them out if he thinks I might know them and I seize control of the remote so that the bright young things on the telly can be paused and not get there before me. That way, I get to enjoy it too.

Sometimes I like to make this a family viewing opportunity. This is always a mistake. There is usually at least one round where the children know the answers and this is pleasing for them [there was one on the Horrid Henry books the other day, they are also very solid on Greek legends which is always a help]. So that is a plus. As against this, the following things usually happen:

The children can answer no other questions and get bored;
One of them starts to make noise by tossing something around the room [balloons have been a recent favourite];
Mr. Waffle gets annoyed with a child for making noise during the questions;
The child he is annoyed with stomps out of the room;
The offended child has to be lured back into the room;
The show has to be paused again so that one of the children can tell a random story from school;
Mr. Waffle gets annoyed;
The whole thing has to briefly be suspended to allow for the “everyone be quiet now and be good or it’s straight to bed” speech;
The remainder of the show is watched in surly silence by all of us.

Somewhat related: one evening Queen’s were on and I said, “We have to support the Irish university”. One of the children said, “Well, maybe they wouldn’t want us to support them, are they the English Irish or the Irish Irish?” This is why they say that Irish identity is complex.

Godwin’s Law IRL

12 November, 2015 at 10:04 pm by belgianwaffle

Picture the scene, we are all in the car driving to Cork.  We pass Kildare Village off the motorway, lit up for Christmas.

Herself: What’s that?

Me: It’s one of those outlet shopping places where they sell off things cheaply.

Her: Like a shopping centre?

Me: They can be but this one is like a little town with streets and fingerposts.  Except it’s got nothing that a real town has except shops.  It’s a bizarre, sterile environment; a monument to the triumph of capitalism.  I really disapprove of it in principle although, I have to say that, in practice, your aunt took me here once and it was quite pleasing.  I got those navy cords.

Her: How do you mean sterile?

Me: Well, nobody lives there, every shop is a chain, there are no museums or pubs or monuments, it has no history and no identity beyond commerce; it’s soulless. It’s in the middle of nowhere, so people have to drive there in their cars.  There are no beggars, no buskers, no…

Her: They round up the beggars and take them away?

Me: Well, no, I assume not, it’s just not very handy to get to if you haven’t got a car.

Her:  Hmm.  They’re like Nazis then aren’t they?  Rounding up the beggars, that’s how they started.

Me: That may be a little harsh.

Dispatches from the Classroom

11 November, 2015 at 10:02 pm by belgianwaffle

As part of the new dispensation at secondary school, herself has got an iPad (I know). This has brought unexpected benefits. Before the iPad came into our lives, I used to send emails to my children and they went into the void. Now at least my emails to her are answered and she sends me some of her own.

I got this from her today.

To: Me
From: Herself
Subject: Rosa ist nicht eine Mädchenfarbe

Rosa ist eine Mädchenfarbe

It’s from her German textbook. I was pleased that my consciousness raising work has not been wasted. I showed it to her father this evening and he said, “In this context it would be Rosa ist keine Mädchenfarbe“. Arguably, he is missing the broader point. I must, however, concede that here in the house of pedantry we regularly interrupt compelling arguments to point out grammatical errors which often goes over poorly with those making the compelling arguments.

In other news from herself, she has a new gym teacher (part of the general rotation of teachers and subjects, apparently). They did yoga today. She tells me that it is “extremely physically taxing”.



10 November, 2015 at 8:47 pm by belgianwaffle

Tá an Banphrionsa ag labhairt Gaeilge ar feadh 24 uaire. Chuala mé í ag caint ag ceathrú tar éis a 7 ar maidin agus tá sí ag caint trí Ghaeilge fós.

Níl fhios agam cén fáth go bhfuil na dathanna don t-léine cosúil le Ryanair. Ní cheapaim go bhfuil seirbhís trí Ghaeilge le fáil ar Ryanair.


Bhí sé deachair go leor dúinn.  Níl fhios agam conas a d’eirigh le na 500 duine sa Mheiricá a rinne an rud ceana (sin a deirtear, ar aon nós).

Níl sé easca scríobh as Gaeilge agus tá Daniel ag seinm an feadóg stáin ag an am cheanna agus cúpla noiméad ó shin dúirt Michael dom go bhfuil foiche suas staighre agus tá orm rud éigean a dhéanamh.   Sin é i gcomhar an blog Gaeilge.

Beidh an seirbhís trí Bhearla ar ais amárach.

Happy Birthday

9 November, 2015 at 10:27 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister is 40 today. She had a party at the weekend in Cork (when all of my children were clean at the same time) but today is the actual day. When your younger sister turns 40 it doesn’t seem as old as it once was.

I was six when my sister was born and for years, I was just way older than her and had no interest in her concerns. When she was six, I was starting secondary school. When she was twelve, I was in college. She and my brother were great buddies uniting in opposition to my will. I was loftily above their concerns.

When she was very small, she was quite hard to understand and I do remember that my brother and I – who understood her with no difficulty – undertook to translate her utterances to our parents. This was a very frustrating experience for her as we said “No, she doesn’t want any cake, she says we can share it.” Perhaps as a consequence of her siblings being so vile, she became very good at hoarding things. Her sweets lasted longer than ours. She was a great saver. It was a running joke in the family that she still had her communion money – until quite recently, actually. But she was always really generous. She shared her sweets when we had finished ours.

She was very stubborn. Once on a camping trip to France when she was a small girl, she announced that she was going home in response to some spat with my parents. She stalked off furiously. My father looked up from his paper and, pointing in the opposite direction said, “Cork is that way.” She turned on her heel and walked determinedly that way. I am not quite sure how my parents got her to come back. She was also very responsible. She learned to cook early and she is still a really wonderful cook. From a very young age, she was in charge of cooking and shopping when my parents were away. I might have been in college but she was competent (though when the cat had kittens in the hot press while my parents were away, I was still the one who had to deal with it – I didn’t abrogate all responsibility).

Nearly seven years is a big age gap until your 20s but then we started to do things together. We went on holidays. I visited her in Plymouth where she had her first job. I remember having a lovely time. We took a sea tractor and went to Burgh Island for dinner. We had cream teas and we went swimming a lot [she hates going to beaches but she is very obliging].

As the years have gone on, I have appreciated her more and more. I speak to her almost every day. She gives great advice, she is really helpful and kind. My children love her and not just because she is extraordinarily generous to them. She is immensely reliable and obliging.

I know that people who haven’t sisters lead perfectly happy and fulfilled lives (like my firstborn) but I think I am very lucky to have my sister. I love to see her, I love to talk to her and I have great fun with her. We have a lifetime in common and a shared understanding of all kinds of things. She has a unique position in my world and it would be so much poorer without her.

So a very happy birthday to my wonderful sister and may she have many, many more of them.

Unusual Social Media Problems

8 November, 2015 at 9:16 pm by belgianwaffle

I have a colleague who is on Wikipedia; it’s all glamour where I work, I can tell you.

I was chatting to him about this the other day and he told me how he was talking to his cousin and his cousin asked whether he had checked his Wikipedia entry lately. He had not. He went to read it and going through it anxiously saw that it covered his career and accomplishments accurately. It finished up: “He is married with four grown-up children: Anne, John, Mary and Jane*. Jane is his favourite.”

I think she’s mine too.

*Not their real names. Protecting the guilty here.

Let the Buyer Seize the Day

7 November, 2015 at 9:48 pm by belgianwaffle

Business teacher:  It is well known that buyers must be careful.  There’s even a phrase “let the buyer beware” or “carpe diem”.

My first born:  Sir, I think you mean “caveat emptor”. “Carpe diem” is “seize the day”.

She is rotating from Business to Woodwork on Monday.  Probably just as well.

Long Day

6 November, 2015 at 11:17 pm by belgianwaffle

I woke up in Athlone this morning.  I got the train to Dublin this afternoon.  I drove to Cork this evening.  I haven’t even the energy for a haiku.  More tomorrow.

A Misunderstanding

5 November, 2015 at 11:21 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael: Oh no, next Sunday, is going to be a long mass.
Me: Why do you say that?
Michael: Whenever it says on my calendar that it is a special occasion, there’s always a long mass.
Me [puzzled]: What does it say on your calendar?
Him: Remembrance Sunday.
Mr. Waffle: Ah, you’ll find that’s not celebrated here.


4 November, 2015 at 9:24 pm by belgianwaffle

It all passed off very peacefully. The children dressed up.


They received extraordinary quantities of stuff.


Top prize goes to the couple across the road who noticed that our children hadn’t turned up at their door [they only had the stamina for one and a half sides of the street] and turned up at our door on Sunday with a bag of goodies for each of them.

Nuacht an Lae

3 November, 2015 at 10:00 pm by belgianwaffle

I collected the boys from school today. As I shepherded my precious children along on their bikes, I was conscious that I was more than usually precarious on my own. Features for my added comfort included:

A basket which was very wobbly [I tried to get it fixed on Saturday but local bike shop had only one basket in stock and he didn’t recommend it – why, we ask ourselves] and liable to tip out its contents [in this case, one loose set of keys, one handbag, one long cylinder of wrapping paper and one bicycle lock] on the slightest provocation; and

Two heavy children’s schoolbags tied, reasonably securely, to the back carrier.

As I was turning right into heavy traffic my bike stopped moving. As the traffic was more or less at a standstill this wasn’t as awkward as it might have been and, happily, I didn’t fall over. I lifted up my, heavy, steed and moved to the side of the road. A strap from one of the school bags had got caught in the chain. As the bike is one which has a back pedal brake, extracting it was quite difficult and lengthy and made me and the strap absolutely filthy.

Once extracted, we then went home like the wind. I had undertaken to Herself that I would collect her from school at 3.35 in the car but warned that we might be a little late. This was before I realised that the boys’ extra-curricular courses started today [tin whistle and art, respectively, so far so good, tin whistle supplied, mercifully] and that they wouldn’t be out of school until 3.30 rather than 2.30 as usual. And then they took ages to emerge and I did not speed our passage home with my bicycle related difficulties.

I had no way of communicating with my first born other than by email [though as she informed me, a trifle coldly, I thought, I could have phoned the school] and although I sent her a mail saying that I would be late she only got it after 4 at which point she had been waiting for a while. I finally turned up at 4.15 the picture of guilt. How well I remember my mother doing the same thing to me.  Alas.

Then this evening is filled with a different flavour of guilt (procrastinator’s guilt – are you familiar with this?) as I am avoiding packing for a trip to Cork with the family at the weekend for my sister’s birthday and for a work trip on Thursday and Friday. The plan is that my loving family will collect me at the station on Friday evening and we will drive to Cork. The logistics of packing for both events simultaneously is too much, so I have put it off until tomorrow which I know to be a mistake. Don’t mock the afflicted. Also, I have requirements for the children’s clothing for their aunt’s [significant] birthday party. I think everyone will need more information than, “Pack something nice to wear” or I will be sadly disappointed. And, of course, I have nothing to wear myself.

Still it could be worse, poor Mr. Waffle is at the AGM of the Residents’ Committee. He went off this evening looking very glum.

This is the kind of exciting news that posting every day brings.  For completeness, have a picture of my sons disappearing into the fog on their bicycles this morning.


I’ve been to Paradise but I’ve never been to Meath*

2 November, 2015 at 11:19 pm by belgianwaffle

Yesterday, Mr. Waffle’s brother and his wife took our children and theirs to Tayto park. The park named after a potato crisp which proves that stereotypes are there for a reason.

It’s in Meath just on the outskirts of greater Dublin. The original plan was that we would rendez-vous at Tayto Park. Mr. Waffle and I spent quite a while trying to work out what to do near Tayto park in November and rapidly came to the conclusion that our best option after dropping the children would be to turn tail and go home. Happily, the cousins came in two cars and collected our children from home and dropped them back.

With a whole afternoon on our hands, we decided to go out to Howth for lunch and a walk. We went to the pier for lunch. Recession? It is over. We went to Aqua; next available table for two? 3.45.

[Conversation about Aqua at my bookclub this evening:

Friend A: It’s amazing.
Me: Maybe, but we didn’t get in.
Friend B: Yeah the food is fantastic.
Me: Yes, but we didn’t get in.
Friend A: And the view out is wonderful.]

We eventually found a table at another spot after queuing for a bit. Yes, really. We had to fight off some queue jumpers but, egged on by the woman behind us in the queue, we secured our table eventually. The minute we finished, about 2.15, two other enthusiastic diners hopped into our chairs.

The place was awash with tourists. Really, who says, “Long weekend in November, let’s go to Dublin!” Lots of people it transpires, almost all of them French, and fortune definitely favoured them, the weather has been delightful and yesterday it was so mild and sunny that lots of people were wearing shorts.

We then went off for our walk around the Hill of Howth which was pleasant but definitely busy. It was misty but pretty.


As we went around, a solitary Dutchman approached us from the opposite direction.  He began declaiming.  Initially, we thought he was speaking to someone else, but no he was addressing us.  He said, irritably “If you go on, maybe six headlands, all the same, misty and then a lighthouse.  About an hour’s walk and all the same.” Then he stalked off.  “Was he comparing it unfavourably to all the cliffs in Holland?” we thought nastily.  In any event, he clearly had no idea what the weather is normally like in Ireland in November or he would have been just delighted with his lot.

The children were returned to us at tea time happy to have done all manner of terrifying things including eating their own weight in crisps.

A satisfactory Sunday all round.

*If you are unfamiliar with the Dustin the Turkey number which inspired this title, may I direct your attention here.

It’s November 

1 November, 2015 at 8:11 pm by belgianwaffle

Another Nablopomo is upon us.  I will be posting every day in November.  This post would be longer except I am unwell and going to bed early.

Let us hope that the quality of posting for the rest of the month will improve.  As they say on “This American Life” – stay with us.

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