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Archive for January, 2016

New phone

31 January, 2016 at 6:30 pm by belgianwaffle

I have got a new phone. Rejoice with me as the new battery lasts more than five minutes and I will no longer have to go everywhere with the charger in my handbag.

I gave the boys my old one to share. It is an iphone 4S with a broken screen and a very short battery life. Despite its obvious drawbacks and the fact that they have to share it, they were touchingly pleased. They have been downloading apps to beat the band. The current favourite seems to feature platypuses. I suppose we will have to reach an agreement about how much screen time is allowed before their little backs seize up as they hunch over the tiny screen.

New Job

30 January, 2016 at 2:23 pm by belgianwaffle

I am starting a new job at the end of February. I am somewhat daunted at the prospect but reasonably pleased. I must say, I have been feeling considerably more pleased since telling my colleagues at work and getting congratulated by all and sundry. On the other hand, I have also been feeling sadder about leaving the current job where I have interesting work and lovely colleagues. On the third hand, I could probably do with a bit of a change. I see challenging times ahead though. Wish me luck.

Books of the Year 2015

29 January, 2016 at 6:25 pm by belgianwaffle

It’s still time for round-ups; 2015 was not a fantastic year for me on the reading front but I did read some books I really enjoyed. Here are my top five with my review at the time and any comment in italics:

“A God in Ruins” by Kate Atkinson

I think Kate Atkinson is a wonderful writer. This 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

I read four Tana French novels last year and they were all superb. I would read any of her books and, alas, I have read all of her published novels to date. They were all equally good, really but I just picked this one as representative as I came across it first when searching the archive.

Tana French 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.

“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.

“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.

“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.

Review of 2015

28 January, 2016 at 7:22 pm by belgianwaffle

January isn’t over yet, I can still review.

Let’s have the first line from the first post of every month and a photo and the odd comment from me in italics, something I last did with 2012 but I feel a revival is timely.

January

My mother always says that the people you end up being friends with are the parents of your children’s friends.

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Picture is the Long Room Library in Trinity which we visited in January.

February

About this time last year I took Michael to Cork.
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It was also pretty cold in February.

March

I was late leaving work this evening which often happens because I am busy and constitutionally ill-adapted to being on time.
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Carlingford again in the picture.

April

Mr. Waffle is a shadow of his former self.
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Herself turned 12 and went to Hogwarts for her birthday. It was a success.

May

I went to see the Anu production about Gallipoli with herself in Collins Barracks.
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The Princess was confirmed. I went to Antrim with some friends and have been desperate to get back there with my little family ever since. It’s beautiful. The picture is taken near the Giant’s Causeway.

June

Can you think of anything that involves feta, watermelon, ham and chorizo?
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I got a new bike! Herself finished primary school. It was all go.

July

I seized the day.
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The photo was taken on one of our many trips to Charles Fort. Uniquely, on this trip, the sun shone.  We also went to Kerry in July.  Mostly, the sun did not shine there.

August

On Wednesday evening I went for a walk in Dalkey at the southern end of Dublin Bay.
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The picture is from Ireland’s Eye near Howth at the opposite end of the bay. At the end of August, herself started secondary school. Very exciting if a bit startling.

September

We left the house in good time.
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I posted on our August holiday in France in September. The picture is from Caen. The boys turned ten this month – officially into double digits.

October

We come back from holidays in late August and it is heritage week, then there is the fringe theatre festival, then the theatre festival, then culture night, then open house, now there’s the Dublin festival of history and something called gallery weekend as well and by mid-October we are so exhausted that we can face no cultural events for the following twelve months.
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November

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.
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My sister turned 40 and we all went to the party.

December

Last night the Princess asked me whether I was a Jo and Laurie person or an Amy and Laurie person.
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I didn’t post a single picture in December which seems a mistake but here’s one taken in December anyhow.

Resolutions for 2016

27 January, 2016 at 10:55 pm by belgianwaffle

Last year I resolved that we would a have a dinner party every month. This was a spectacularly poor resolution which was only intermittently successful and nearly sent us to an early grave. We made a list of all the people we wanted to have over but far fewer of them than expected made it off the list.

This year, I have two more modest and, I hope, achievable resolutions. The first is to try to meet again people I have lost contact with – I have already had a notable success in January finally managing to meet an old friend with whom I soldiered in the salt mines as an apprentice solicitor more than 20 years ago. She lives in a distant southern suburb of Dublin and mostly doesn’t work outside home. But I went as far south as I could and she came north and we managed to meet for an early lunch in the city centre before she had to go and collect her youngest from pre-school. I was pleased. She is from Cork and it was nice to compare notes with another exile married to a Dubliner. Her marriage is further mixed in that she is Protestant and he is Catholic and both of them seem to care (which in my experience is rather unusual). She tells me that they alternate between Catholic mass one Sunday and Protestant service the next. This is an arrangement which I imagine is not entirely satisfactory to either and somewhat confusing for the children but marriage is all about compromise and I suppose it is all part of life’s rich tapestry. Anyhow, I digress. 2016 will be the year for digging up long lost friends and I already have January sorted.

My second resolution is to try to spend more time alone. I am mostly with people: working, lunching, bonding with my loving family. But I love to be alone. I am aiming for half an hour a day, we’ll see how that goes.

I am not fooling myself that my third resolution will be easy but I want to try to do something about the piano this year. Wish me luck.

The Perils of Public Transport

26 January, 2016 at 9:32 pm by belgianwaffle

It was windy and wet this morning and Mr. Waffle gave herself a lift to school. She rang me just before she got the bus home. Later she told me that this was the last moment before her life changed irrevocably (slight exaggeration but prepare yourself mentally).

She sat beside her friend and realised that she was feeling a bit damp. She hopped up and discovered that there was a distinct tang of urine from the plush seat and, now, her school skirt and tights were wet too. Some incontinent Dublin bus customer had pre-enjoyed her seat. As she said to me later when she had emerged from a lengthy shower and the skirt and tights were through the wash, “I know it’s an odd thing to say but I think it was worse that it was the wee of a person who would wee on a bus.” I totally know what she means.

I’d say she will be keener on the bike tomorrow regardless of the weather.

Rug

25 January, 2016 at 6:15 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister was in India for work last week and bought me another new rug, She got me a lovely one for the hall a couple of years ago and it is lasting beautifully.

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This new one which is winging its way from India as I type is much bigger though. I am filled with excitement and suitably grateful.

She said to me that she had bought the rug but I wouldn’t get any big presents until I was 50. I was cast down (though still very grateful) but then cheered at the thought that 50 wasn’t as far away as it once was. And then cast down again at the thought that 50 wasn’t as far away as it once was. It was a roller coaster, I can tell you.

I am going to Cork at the weekend to rescue the rug and bring it back to Dublin. Photos to follow. Hold on to your hats there.

Updated to add – it arrived in Cork yesterday, impressively packed.

Annual Haircut

24 January, 2016 at 2:05 pm by belgianwaffle

I got my hair cut last week. My hairdresser says that in 32 years of cutting hair, he has never met anyone whose hair grows more slowly than mine. I had my last haircut in December 2014.

In the 13 months since it was last cut, it had grown out to look like this (including slightly askew glasses because now I need them to watch the television, sigh).

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A bit unruly. I wanted the hairdresser to cut it shorter than he did but he resisted. I think that, sadly, he thinks that I am too old for very short hair. He referred cheerily to the fringe he was cutting as “nature’s botox”. My hairdresser is  very trendy so I think the cut might be a bit fashion forward.  Or at least I thought so when I emerged from the hairdresser.  I only took this picture after I had washed it myself.  Is it just me, or does it look a bit early Aha?

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Well, it has a year to grow out, anyhow.

Always Watching or How We Amuse Ourselves in the Digital Age

23 January, 2016 at 1:51 pm by belgianwaffle

I brought some papers home from work recently and when they came back into the office, this scrap of paper floated on to the desk:

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It was written to emphasise that the writer did not want to miss out.

I sent an email reply as follows:

From: Me
To: Herself

Subject: Yes

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Modern Mores

19 January, 2016 at 10:06 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael is a scout and his uncle got him a penknife for his birthday. Or a pocket knife as he calls it because, apparently, we are all Americans now.

His uncle, observing the success of Michael’s penknife got one for Daniel for Christmas. He too was very pleased notwithstanding having given himself a nasty nick when he first used it.

The other morning, just as he was about to trip into school, Daniel mentioned that he had brought in his penknife to show to his classmates. I felt best not. “Don’t you trust me?” he asked mournfully as I put it into my bag. “It’s not you, it’s all the other children,” I reassured him.

Am I being an overprotective hovering parent or am I cutting down on knife crime in schools? Who knows? At least nobody will lose an eye, I suppose.

The Glamorous Home Life of the Working Parent

18 January, 2016 at 10:57 pm by belgianwaffle

I arrived home from work the other night to be greeted by an urgent demand from Michael. Somehow, a DVD and a book had fallen behind the radiator and could not be got out. Before sitting down, before removing my coat, I began work on this important quest. I discovered that the bottom of the radiator was flush with the skirting board and there was no way to get them out from the bottom. Daniel, enterprisingly, got me a stick which had previously been used for flag waving. I poked unavailingly at the DVD and the book. Michael got tense. It was a library book. But of course. I got hotter and sweatier toiling in my coat over the boiling radiator.

The front door banged, Mr. Waffle had come in from work. “Come and help me,” I called. “Never mind your coat,” I added. I explained the problem but he had to establish the parameters of the issue himself (I find that this is always the case for both me and Mr. Waffle, there is no learning from experience in DIY type problems in our house, we both want to try and fail in the same way ourselves). Daniel produced another stick. Slowly, carefully Mr. Waffle and I poked the book with a stick from each end and dragged it to the top of the radiator. Just as we almost got there, it slipped free and fell down to the bottom again. Slowly, painstakingly we tried again, both pushing inwards and upwards with our sticks over the toasty radiator while wearing our coats and being egged on by the boys. About half way up, Mr. Waffle’s stick lost its grip on the book but maintained its vigourous upward trajectory and hit me smartly on the eyeball. Very painful, I can tell you.

At that point, we took a break, took off our coats and had a cup of tea. You will be pleased to hear that later in the evening both items were rescued. My eyeball is fine too. Thanks for asking.

Surprisingly Successful

17 January, 2016 at 10:41 pm by belgianwaffle

We went in to see the Science Gallery exhibition a while ago and it was closed unexpectedly. Alas. I had paid for 90 minutes parking and it was lashing rain. I cast around for some alternative suitable cultural institution nearby with a cafe and a bathroom. We stood gloomily in the rain and I suggested that we could go through Trinity to the National Gallery.

It wasn’t that near and, I couldn’t help thinking, as we trudged through the rain, they weren’t going to like it much either when we got there. Much of the gallery is closed for extensive building work but the Turner exhibition was out for January and many of the gallery’s most famous paintings are crammed into a couple of exhibition rooms. I brought the children in for what I promised was a very quick look before getting a cup of tea. But the boys, in particular, were so interested, looking at the paintings and reading the captions and asking about them, that we stayed for ages.

It’s been years since I’ve brought them to an art gallery and perhaps I have left it too long. Or perhaps all the years when they were dragged unwillingly at a young age have prepared them to be engaged viewers at ten. Or perhaps, it was still lashing outside and we had nowhere else to go. Still I was very heartened and I see a whole new world opening up.

Cat News: Red in Tooth and Claw etc.

16 January, 2016 at 10:24 pm by belgianwaffle

The cat is constantly starving. I do feel for her. As my sister pointed out, just because she is fat, doesn’t mean she isn’t hungry. But the vet says she has to have a waist and we have to limit her food intake. We are conscious that she is already supplementing her diet with random rodent snacks so are trying to feed her relatively limited amounts. She does not find that pleasing and she prowls around the kitchen whenever we are eating or preparing food in the hope of leaping up and stealing something from the table. It’s a constant battle and despite our vigilance she often gets away with stuff; scurrying off delightedly with a leftover chicken bone or the ham from one of the children’s sandwiches or some other delicacy.

Recently, we inadvertently and, I confess, foolishly left the fridge open. Quick as a flash, the cat got in and grabbed the cold roast beef left over from Sunday dinner. It was an enormous piece and she scooted under the armchair set aside for her use with it clutched between her jaws which were stretched to maximum capacity. She stayed under the chair making the most extraordinary growling noise at all comers. I picked up the chair and the Princess bravely picked the cat up. Then, I began to attempt to wrestle the roast beef from the cat’s jaws of death but to no avail. She clutched it firmly growling the while and struggling against the Princess’s iron hold. I was afraid to pull too hard as I really thought that she would let her teeth be pulled out rather than yield her piece of beef.

The Princess eventually managed to prise it from her and like the lion in Jim, “she slunk reluctant to her cage/snarling with disappointed rage” or, in her case, the armchair in front of the fire. She had the last laugh, of course, for what could we do but feed her roast beef until it was all gone.

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As though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

In Praise of Milano’s

15 January, 2016 at 11:57 pm by belgianwaffle

I am a little tired of Milano’s; there is only so much pizza one person wants to eat. It is the only restaurant that the boys regard with enthusiasm and so when we go out, we tend to go there. But it’s reliable and it’s reasonably priced and you could travel further and fare worse.

I liked this story of my sister’s about a colleague who arranged a surprise trip to Disneyland for her three children aged 9,7 and 5. She had everything packed in secret. To persuade the children to leave the house, she told them that they were going to Milano’s. When they were all in the car, she told them that she had to go to the airport on the way to collect someone. When she arrived at the airport, she said, “Surprise, we’re going to Disneyland! Your bags are in the boot! We’re getting the airplane!” At this point the nine year old asked whether this meant that they would no longer be going to Milano’s. Upon being told that the trip to Milano’s was being deferred in favour of Disneyland, they all started to cry. Now, that’s dedication.

Quote of the Holiday Season

14 January, 2016 at 11:55 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself, upon being required with her brothers to unload the dishwasher in her grandparents’ house having just done so in the house we were staying in in East Cork: “I was not put on this earth to unload the dishwasher.”

Crushing

13 January, 2016 at 11:50 pm by belgianwaffle

Me [painting bauble for reasons which are too dull to go into]: I wish I had more colours in this paint set.
Her: Like what?
Me: Well, purple. You can’t make purple from other colours. [Under my breath: Richard of York gained battles in vain]
Her: Is it possible that you are mixing up rainbow colours and primary colours?
Me: Um.
Her: Try mixing red and blue there and see what happens.

Toujours Carlingford

12 January, 2016 at 11:46 pm by belgianwaffle

On Sunday, the rain stopped for the first time in months. Inspired by this, I suggested that we go to Carlingford. Trips to Carlingford are always regarded with some suspicion by the troops as I continue to be unable to lay the ghost of the worst outing ever.

However, the omens were propitious. With only a brief stop off at the church to see whether the Princess’s handbag had been handed in (the sacristy was closed, I will now remove the tension she enjoyed all afternoon – highlight facing the prospect of telling the woodwork teacher that she had lost her locker key – by telling you that the bag had in fact been handed in and we were able to pick it up after evening mass) we made good time. It’s always a bit longer than I think – I timed it this time, it took 80 minutes which is 20 minutes longer than I always announce the drive will be.

We were well prepared with boots and wet gear. One of us, and not the one you might think, packed one hiking boot and one city boot.

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However, he is not a complainer and although he fell over (source of great amusement to the children) and had to walk up a path that had become a stream, he was cheerful.

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We have really become much better at walking. We had a map of the looped walk. It was perhaps a bit on the short side but everyone was cheerful. The views were absolutely amazing. There was snow on the Mourne mountains across the Lough.

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And after our walk up the mountain, we went back into the town and had dinner in the pub.

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I think the children might go back voluntarily but perhaps I am indulging optimism too far.

In other weekend news, the Princess made risotto for dinner on Saturday night and it was delicious.

Christmas and New Year

11 January, 2016 at 11:22 pm by belgianwaffle

We went to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. For the first time, all of us managed to last until the end. This is not the achievement it might be given that it starts at 9pm (notwithstanding the inaccurate title). I must say that our parish priest makes every effort to extend the ceremony but we did manage to get home by 11.

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Herself and Daniel were in the choir and were also selected to carry the baby Jesus to his crib after the Gospel. This filled me with fear as I couldn’t quite see how they were both to carry the porcelain figure. However, it transpired that Daniel was following with a candle rather than carrying the arms while his sister carried the legs. They were both clean and wearing their new Christmas clothes and they were suitably solemn. I was very proud.

On Christmas Day, Santa came and, I think, was reasonably successful. He didn’t get everything on Daniel’s list but it was a long list. We had my parents-in-law around for Christmas lunch and then afterwards, we all went briefly to visit the cousins before returning to collapse at home in exhaustion.

On the 26th we went orienteering with the cousins. As always, it absolutely lashed rain. Obligatory photo of damp children in the rain on St. Stephen’s Day:

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Afterwards we went to the usual pub in the Dublin mountains for lunch. This was not a success. I waited for 70 increasingly bitter minutes for them to deliver to me a small breakfast. All of the food was slow but mine was the slowest. The service was appalling. Each time we asked where the food was they said it was coming but it did not come. And then they said we hadn’t ordered it. And then when my small breakfast finally appeared, it was nasty. I am still bitter but I suppose we will go back there next year as it is not as though there is a lot of choice in that neck of the woods. Sigh.

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On the 27th we drove to Cork. My sister gave the children an enormous bag of presents each. Joy was unconfined. There was personalised nutella.

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And Minecraft t-shirts:

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We were staying in our friends’ house in Garryvoe in east Cork. The flooding made the Cork-Garryvoe drive quite dramatic and exciting but we survived.

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We went to Kinsale and had lunch at the Bulman.

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The view was a bit gloomy.

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But, as nothing, compared to the weather they saw later the same week – although I did notice that there were some sandbags against the wall of the pub. I hope they helped in the face of this.

Alas, Charles Fort was closed for the holidays.

Despite our walk in Kinsale, outdoor activity was pretty limited due to the more or less constant lashing rain. Herself got to stay overnight with her aunt and go ice skating with her uncle both of which she very much enjoyed. We took the boys to Milano’s.

And then we scuttled back to Dublin. The countryside was absolutely sodden but we were safely on our elevated motorway. I started to get sick (again, for heaven’s sake) on December 30 and spent the remainder of the Christmas holidays snuggled up by the fire.

I appreciate that this is a late Christmas entry but I have only tonight eaten the last mince pie in the house (best before January 6) so not, you know, that late.

Happy new year.

Job’s Comforter

4 January, 2016 at 5:23 pm by belgianwaffle

On Saturday night I coughed and I coughed. As I went upstairs, the boys came rushing from their bedrooms to hug me and say, “Mama, are you alright?” Herself emerged to say, “I hope that this isn’t contagious.” Sometime later I went upstairs again. She emerged from her room and said, “Look, stay upstairs or stay downstairs but this ominous approaching coughing is really disturbing.”

On Sunday morning, I had to leave the church to cough in the porch. One of the neighbours came out and asked me was I alright and would she go to the shop and get me cough medicine. The mortification. Herself told me that all that could be heard in the quiet contemplation after communion was me hacking away in the porch.

So, you know, I’m improving.

It’s the Most…Socially Demanding Time of the Year

3 January, 2016 at 12:56 pm by belgianwaffle

Between illness and the general social whirl, I have not updated you on December’s activities. Fear not, that, somewhat delayed, update is coming.

The boys had their annual Christmas performance with the school. Daniel who has been learning the tin whistle since November played a solo Christmas carol. We were very proud. Poor Danny, however, was a bit too nervous to enjoy it. Although we couldn’t tell that he was nervous and he played perfectly, he did not enjoy the experience, I think.

He was scheduled to play at the church Christmas fair but, unfortunately I had booked tickets for us to see a production of “A Christmas Carol” the same evening so it was not to be. He and his sister who was to sing at the event were not entirely delighted with me. Fortunately, Daniel quite enjoyed “A Christmas Carol” so I trust that that may have helped to deal with the pain. I decided that we would go to Milano’s for dinner in advance as a treat. I did not book. This turned out to be a poor idea, as it was full, and we ended up walking around Temple Bar trying to find an acceptable substitute. For the boys, there isn’t really such a thing. Oh woe. It is hard when what was planned as a “delightful Christmas outing for all the family” does not quite materialise as hoped.

We had people around for Christmas drinks on the day after the play. I may have mentioned that I was ill (ahem) but, really, we couldn’t pull back on all the invitations. My sister came up which was lovely but overall, I could not be said to have hugely enjoyed myself.

Later in the week we were scheduled to go to another friend’s Christmas drinks. Unfortunately, it coincided with the Christmas concert in the Princess’s school. We told her we couldn’t make it. She replied

Oh that’s a shame. I was in London at the weekend so didn’t make yours; in contrast I understand to [mutual friend] who thought it was on this coming weekend. I am up to date with [mutual friend] as she arrived to my house last night, for this evening’s party. We are all at the top of our respective games.

Oh yes we are. The Princess’s Christmas concert featured her singing “Silent Night” solo but it was, alas, a bit difficult to hear her due to the enthusiastic amplification of the keyboard which accompanied the singing. Some of the students put on a very clever and quite funny Dublin version of “Romeo and Juliet”. Honestly, I have paid for productions I enjoyed less. I am really going to have to do some work on my Irish though. Although “Romeo and Juliet” was in English, everything else was in Irish and a lot of it was quite baffling to me.

By the time I finished work on the 23rd, I was, at last, recovered but really a shadow of my former self between socialising and coughing.

More Christmas news to follow.

Updated to add: Today, January 11, Mr. Waffle had lunch with a friend who hadn’t made it to our Christmas drinks. She confessed that she and family had turned up on the following day and seen us all through the window sitting around not partying. Realising that they had mistaken the date, they tiptoed away. Mr. Waffle expressed regret that they hadn’t come in but personally, I can only thank them from the bottom of my heart.

Happy New Year

2 January, 2016 at 12:54 pm by belgianwaffle

I have another cold. On the evening of December 30, I got a headache and by new year’s eve, I was so miserable that I went to bed at 11 unable to make the party to which we had kindly been invited or even to stay up to listen to the bells ringing in the new year. Frankly, not an auspicious start to the year. Yesterday, I didn’t feel up to going to the new year’s day party to which we were invited. We spent the day at home. My sister-in-law and her husband from London came for lunch and stayed for a couple of hours. They are very soothing, undemanding guests, while also being entertaining so it was quite pleasant for me. Mr. Waffle felt that they might have been a bit bored by spending an afternoon listening to me recounting my various ills but I am sure that they had a lovely time. The boys went off to a birthday party and stayed over with the birthday boy, so the evening was very peaceful. I was very sorry for myself. Today I feel alright but not fantastic, still mainlining lemsip and somewhat fed up. The boys will be home shortly from their birthday extravaganza to tend to their sick mother. I am sure that they are looking forward to that. And back to work on Monday. Sigh.

More news to follow. In the interim, I trust that your Christmas was satisfactory and wish you every happiness for 2016. As you know, every reader is precious to me.


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