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31 March, 2016 at 8:24 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael’s scout troop had a mild parade to the church and back on St. Patrick’s Day. While it can’t be said that Michael regarded his trip to mass with any great enthusiasm, he attended with a greater degree of resignation than is typical and he brought up shamrock to the altar as part of the service.

The militaristic aspect of the scouts was strongly in evidence with a commanding officer shouting out instructions in army Irish (less intelligible than the other strongest Irish dialect – school Irish). Some of the troops marched with their hands in their pockets so clearly work to be done. Back in the scout hall, a former scout who is now something lofty in the Irish army presented a flag and spoke of his experience as a scout many years previously. Again, Michael bore it all with fortitude.

The Monday after Patrick’s Day, he had his reward. He got his first badge. He had to climb a mountain (covered some weeks previously) but he also had to write an account of it. I was astonished to see that he knuckled down and did it without any nagging (no nagging because we had forgotten, alas) and on submission, got his badge. Hurrah!

Out and About

30 March, 2016 at 8:24 pm by belgianwaffle

The weather recently has been cold but fine. We tried to go to Eagle’s Crag a couple of weeks ago but were defeated by a huge traffic jam in the Dublin mountains. A hummer and a horse box had, unsurprisingly, insufficient room to pass each other by on the narrow country road and neither would retreat. My sympathy is with the horse box. We ended up going for a walk in the pine forest instead. And that was fine too:



Still, I was pleased when, last Friday, we packed a picnic and went off to Eagle’s Crag. The picnic was, from the children’s perspective, the best part of the day. It was bitterly cold in the wind but it was sunny and clear with great views of two lakes.



Listen, I Can Explain

29 March, 2016 at 7:12 pm by belgianwaffle

Childminders are proving a bit difficult at the moment. We have our regular woman who, alas, is returning to France at the end of April. We have someone who is covering Tuesday afternoons which I cannot since I started the new job (and our regular woman cannot as she has lectures). We have the new woman who is starting in May. We have our regular evening babysitting woman who is doing some day time cover for us over the school holidays (but can only do bits and pieces as she has another job). Even with Mr. Waffle dutifully filling in the gaps, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind of interviewing and checking references and introducing new people. I offer this as an explanation for why the Princess came home from school on a Tuesday afternoon to find an unknown stranger in the hall welcoming her back. You see we’d told the boys and their school and just, somehow, neglected to tell herself, that we had someone new covering Tuesday afternoons. She was not pleased.

Once the boys start secondary school, I think there will be no more childminders.


28 March, 2016 at 7:12 pm by belgianwaffle

So, this is the centenary of the 1916 uprising. Sadly, we haven’t got an additional bank holiday as the rebels chose Easter Monday for their revolution and it was already a holiday. What, what’s your point here?

In fact April 24th is the actual day of the rising but it is always celebrated at Easter so we have had much excitement in the run up to the big day.

Shortly before the Easter holidays started, the boys announced that on the following day (it was ever thus) they had to dress up in historical costume for school.   Daniel was pretty sure that it was a figure from the Rising. Michael felt it was anyone from Irish history. So Daniel went as Michael Collins and Michael went as a druid. Their sister used all her genius to put together costumes for them at short notice. For added authenticity Daniel actually had coins from 1916 in his pocket. He knew they were there which I suppose helped him put in a solid performance as Michael Collins but he didn’t actually show them to anyone.

Michael Collins reads the papers:

2016-03-16 07.24.38

2016-03-16 07.24.01

Druid sacrifices a sheep:

2016-03-15 20.09.05

They had the flag raising ceremony on proclamation day in both the primary and the secondary school. Michael was home sick and missed it but Daniel had a starring role – he got to read the Aisling poem aloud in front of the school. The short ceremony seems to have passed off pretty well.

Meanwhile in the secondary school, they had a very long ceremony involving much singing and speech making. Herself got to read her prize-winning 1916 poem out in front of the school. “Did they think it was good?” I asked proudly. “Well,” she said” I think that they were glad it was short.” They had had to listen to Douglas Hyde’s speech on “The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland“. Originally delivered in 1892, I think it may have lacked the zing of the modern TED talk and tried the largely teenage audience quite high. Though, as I pointed out to her, if they really believed in de-anglicising Ireland, the speech should have been delivered through Irish. That got a cool enough response.

This morning we went to inspect the various organised Rising related fun in the city centre on our bikes. The Princess who had, quite nobly, dragged herself from her sick bed to come along, greeted with horror the news that we were to travel by bike but it did work well, particularly when much of the city centre was car free. O’Connell Street, heart of the Rising, site of the GPO etc. was a little dull. Michael looked scornfully at the children singing beautifully on the makeshift stage and said, “I pity them, all the practising they had to do and now they have to wear these stupid clothes [sailor suits] and sing here on their day off school.”

We had better luck in the playground near the fruit market where children were in their 1916 gear and playing authentic games from the era. Michael joined in with enthusiasm and fitted in better than many with his slender frame and slightly pinched features (he’s like a supermodel, never eats enough). Daniel sat by the monument to deceased Irish patriots, site of former Bridewell, and looked appropriately gloomy. The children in the playground had obviously been given a bit of background about 1916 and told to go out and talk about it. I particularly enjoyed the young one who said, “The Volunteers, they think they’re amazing with their guns.” She then proceeded to sashay round the playground with her imaginary gun in a contemptuous manner. I heard another girl call out, “Hey guys, what do we think of the Volunteers?” So, you know, some anachronisms but actually quite endearing.


Michael picked up a sword balloon outside the fruit market which was probably the highlight of the day for him. You see him here posing with two members of Cumann na mBan.


“You know, my granny was in Cumann na mBan,” I told him. Level of interest: zero, alas.

For reasons unknown, there were a number of tanks and soldiers stationed on Smithfield Square also and we had an interesting chat with a soldier who had been in Chad and the Lebannon. Probably a highlight for me. The children ran into some classmates who had dressed up in 1916 gear which was exciting for them. We bought them food from the extensive range of food stands. It was, dare I say it, reasonably successful.


22 March, 2016 at 10:59 pm by belgianwaffle

For obvious reasons, I have been thinking about Brussels all day. It will always have a special place in my heart. I still have lots of friends living there all of whom are safe and well for which I am very thankful. It is very chilling to see this happening somewhere you have lived and in the most banal and everyday places.


13 March, 2016 at 7:05 pm by belgianwaffle

“Funny Girl” by Nick Hornby

About a female comedian making it in the 60s. Very readable like all Nick Hornby but a bit forgettable.

“La vérité sur l’affaire Harry Quebert” by Joël Dicker

This is a story about a young author helping to solve a mystery involving an older author. I did not like it. I read it in French but the effect was disorientating as it is set in North America and it felt like I was reading an English book in translation rather than a French original. Only merit as far as I was concerned is that it may have improved my French.

“To Kill a Mocking Bird” by Harper Lee

I haven’t read this since I was in school but I reread it recently after Harper Lee died. I think it is a much better book than I realised when I read it the first time. Well worth re-reading.

“Futebol” by Alex Bellos

I started reading this when the World Cup was being held in Brazil to get a feel for Brazilian football. It’s a bit out of date and I didn’t enjoy it but over many months made my way slowly but surely to the end. Perhaps more entertaining for those with a greater interest in football.

“Darkmouth” by Shane Hegarty

These are books for children written by an Irish Times columnist I always liked. Daniel absolutely loved them. I read the first two because I was curious. They’re fantasy books where you can get into a parallel world from a North Dublin seaside town (essentially Skerries). Not for me but very acceptable for the young people.

“Lolly Willowes” by Sylvia Townsend Warner

This is a curious book. It’s set in the 1910s. It’s about a woman who never marries and lives happily in the family home with her father until he dies. Then she ends up living with her brother and his family in London and it’s all a bit grim in a reasonably affluent way. That’s about three quarters of the book. Then she ups sticks and goes to become a witch. I thought from reading descriptions it was going to be a hilarious romp but it’s not. On the cover, John Updike is quoted as saying that it is “eerie” and it is. Worth a read though.

“The Shepherd’s Crown” by Terry Pratchett

Sadly, the last Pratchett. And, it pains me to say it, not a particularly good one. It’s alright and it’s quite sad when poor old Granny Weatherwax dies (about page 2, I’m not ruining it for you).

“Career of Evil” Robert Galbraith

Third in this series about a detective and his beautiful sidekick and quite enjoyable. As good as the first and better than the second in the series. I will certainly read number 4 when it comes out.

“American Gods” by Neil Gaiman

This is a clever novel about all the gods from the old world who find themselves in America where people don’t believe in them much anymore and the new American gods (reality TV, money, whatever you’re having yourself). A bit too long (part of the problem may have been that I had the “author’s preferred text”) but clever and worth a read.

“City of Bohane” by Kevin Barry

This book is superbly written. The language is fascinating and brilliant. However, the plot leaves a great deal to be desired. It’s set in a parallel, terrifying Ireland in a city in the west. Notwithstanding the flaws in plot (i.e. hardly any) I would definitely read another book of his.

“Stones of Dublin”
by Lisa Marie Griffith

I won this book by filling out a form at a book fair. Very thrilling – it arrived out of the blue in the post. I really enjoyed it. I find generally that books of Dublin history are pitched at the wrong level for me, either much too general containing information I largely already know, or far too specific containing information I’m not sure I really want to know (you know the kind of thing – a detailed history of the lives of the inhabitants of numbers 73-75 Ranelagh Road between 1900 and 1911). For me, this book hit the rather large middle ground between these two extremes perfectly. A good history of Dublin and well worth a read.

“Disclaimer” by Renee Knight

This is a thriller with a twist. I don’t normally like this kind of thing and I didn’t like this. I thought the whole premise was utterly ludicrous and couldn’t get over that.

“Tea with Mr Rochester” by Frances Towers

These are lovely short stories about slightly neglected women. It made me remember how much I enjoy a good short story yet, I so rarely look to take them out of the library or buy them. I’m not quite sure why novels hold me so much in thrall when there are such wonderful collections of short stories out there including this one.

“The Priory” by Dorothy Whipple

This is an epic tale of what we in Ireland would call a “big house” family. It covers the lives and loves of all the members of the household upstairs and downstairs and I really enjoyed it although (spoiler alert) my heart sank when the housemaid who got herself into trouble tried to drown herself. Things more or less work out for the upstairs denizens but things downstairs are a bit grim.

“A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)” by George R. R. Martin

I can’t believe that I have started reading this series. I felt that “Game of Thrones” had captured the attention of the world and I knew nothing about it so I might as well try one of the books. 800 or so pages later, I’m not sure that I entirely see the attraction. It was fine. I will probably read the other volumes but I wouldn’t be entranced, now. The pedant in me did not like that on page 1, the author used “disinterested” when he meant “uninterested” or “indifferent”.

Maybe I need to watch the TV series to understand the attraction? Mr. Waffle is strongly against this, if this means he has to watch it too.

Somewhat reading related; did everyone in the world know this extraordinarily clever guessing game thing, Akinator? It’s amazing although very weak on Georgette Heyer heroines, I note.

Enterprising Free Range Child

12 March, 2016 at 10:41 pm by belgianwaffle

Email from a friend:

From: Him
To: Me
Subject: RE: Guess

What our [youngest child] did on Friday?

Went on the mitch all day.

Herself and a mate took themselves off to the playground, shopping centre, McDonald’s. Even brought a change of clothes!

Turned nine last week. She fessed up this morning. Panicked about not having a note [for school].


12 March, 2016 at 10:24 pm by belgianwaffle

I was 47 on Thursday. It was a bit unsatisfactory. For a range of reasons. Firstly, I was at work, having decided that it would be inappropriate to take a day’s holiday too early in the new job. I think that was a mistake. Secondly, I had arranged to meet someone for lunch when, really, I would have preferred to go somewhere nice on my own and then a couple of other people came and even though all of these people were very nice, I ended up being the conversational glue holding everyone together and that is tiring.

Thirdly, when I came home that evening, I turned around and headed out the door with Daniel who was singing at the school first confession that evening. We were there about 7. The priest was late. We only finally emerged about 9. Daniel got to sing a verse of one of the hymns with a smaller group and it all went well, so he was pleased. I had hoped to have a celebratory birthday take-away (the excitement!). But, fourthly, by the time I got home after 9 it was really too late. Then, fifthly, I trudged disconsolately to the fridge to get a birthday dinner of cheese and crackers only to find that the cat had got into the fridge and food was scattered everywhere and she was wolfing down some chicken scraps. Under the pile of chicken, inevitably really, was the cheese which I had been hoping to eat.

All in all, sub-optimal. On Friday, Mr. Waffle proposed that we go out for a nice dinner on Saturday to make up for the debacle of my birthday. Babysitter and restaurant were booked. Poor Mr. Waffle, this morning he had to do some urgent work thing and around lunch time he started to feel ill. He retired to bed. About 4 we cancelled dinner and babysitter and, as I type, he is still in bed having eaten nothing since lunch time. Oh woe.

Inauspicious, I feel. However, if you sent a card or an email, please know that this year of all years, it was welcome. Also, herself bought me Toffifees which was pleasing. Daniel and Michael made me a card. Daniel tried to give me €50 of his money and Mr. Waffle bought me this picture. So not all bad either.

Updated to add: I forgot to mention my birthday message from vodafone –

Please note you have reached 100% of your monthly data and will not be able to use data until your next allowance begins on 15-03-2016. To purchase our best value data freetext INFO to 50226 or for more details visit www.vodafone.ie/datacharges. To continue using data for the remainder of your billing period, freetext NO DATA BAR to 50226.

I moved on to a new tariff last month and the man said I had more data than I would ever need. I see.

Updated to add: My father said to me when I told him of my various woes “forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit”. I had to look it up (having only done Latin for a couple of years and never having liked it much). Possibly, it means, one day you will look back on this and laugh. Thanks Virgil, not yet though.


6 March, 2016 at 8:10 pm by belgianwaffle

Hello, cruel world. A fortnight into the new job and I am absolutely flattened. I have gone from knowing everyone and everything to knowing no one and nothing. It’s very tiring. And I lost all my swipe cards on Friday night, so I may not even be able to get to my desk tomorrow. Quite the achievement.

So what news, I hear you ask. Well, the boys and I went to Cork. We went to Charles Fort and the Bulman for lunch. It didn’t rain on us. I call that a success. Then we saw a seal near the slip way beside the car park. Very exciting.


Nevertheless, probably the highlight was passing a shop selling holy statutes. Daniel looked dubiously at Padre Pio and asked, “Is that Obi Wan Kenobi?”

While the boys and I were in Cork, herself was in Rome for the week. Actually, Rome, Pompeii, Sorrento, Montecassino and Naples. Notwithstanding the exhausting programme, she had a wonderful time. She liked the Trevi fountain and the Map Room in the Vatican Museums the best.

Early on in proceedings, I got this email.

From: Herself
To: Me

Have successfully ordered McDonald’s in Italian. Forgot to ask for ketchup and was thrown by the choice between mela and kiwi but all in all quite successful.


Clearly, the trip was not entirely about expanding culinary horizons.

The boys and Mr. Waffle featured briefly on Irish language television talking about house swapping. I was at work and the Princess was at school but the boys were off being minded by their father so they got to star. Actually every word they spoke was edited out so they were a bit crushed. Former colleagues of mine (husband and wife team) saw it and when they saw the photo albums (to show the TV people the houses we had stayed in), carefully labelled they said in unison “That is so typical of Anne.” My filing fame has spread and in the most positive way, I’m sure.

Last Monday night was a bit hideous. Daniel had GAA, Michael had scouts and herself was in a massive Dublin archdiocese concert. They were bringing 600 secondary school students together every night last week to sing a range of hymns. 2,000 years of liturgical music and the focus was very strongly on those pieces composed for saxophone and guitar. Sigh. Some of the pieces were composed for the event. I particularly enjoyed the combination of jazzy upbeat music and the very old testament type lyrics “If the just strike me down, it’s done out of kindness” and “Let all that stray from what is good, be thrown a rock of judgement”. I did not get any dinner but I did have a large packet of maltesers at the concert.

On Friday night, Daniel and herself had speaking parts at some ecumenical event. The service was “prepared by the Christian women of Cuba” and it was held at the local Protestant church. Michael refused point blank to attend saying that he was not going to Mass on Friday and Sunday. The booklet giving the details of readings etc. also featured a couple of prayers like our prayers of the faithful. This one caught my eye:

” We recognize that we did not lift up our voices sufficiently to denounce an injustice like the economic blockade that affected the Cuban people for more than 50 years. We recognize our responsibility in allowing walls to be built up which destroy community.”

In the end Michael had to go as I couldn’t and Mr. Waffle brought them all. Daniel and the Princess carried out their roles with aplomb but attendance was poor. Elderly local Protestants and Catholics turned out but not many of them. Mr. Waffle feels that the women of Cuba may have been expecting a different kind of congregation when they decided to put the butterfly hymn on the programme. Apparently, you haven’t lived until you have heard a group of elderly people singing: “If I were a wiggly worm I’d thank you Lord that I could squirm/ If I were a fuzzy, wuzzy bear /I’d thank you Lord for my fuzzy, wuzzy hair”.

Daniel got to deliver the immortal line: “We will now collect our butterflies and bring them to the Scared Prayer Space”.

I was, alas, not in attendance at the Cuban prayer gig, because on Tuesday morning, my poor father fell and broke his hip. My parents are now the proud possessors of four plastic hips. I went down to Cork to see him on Friday night. He was remarkably cheerful given that a) he had a newly inserted plastic hip b) he is nearly 91 c) he spent about 24 hours on a trolley in A&E, and d) he has acquired the winter vomiting bug while in the hospital. My sister and I left him with the paper which he read and my sister tells me he has started to eat again today. He is remarkably resilient.

Final news items. We had parent-teacher meetings for all three children. They are all fine. All of the secondary school teachers told us that herself makes regular announcements over the school intercom. They were more impressed by this achievement than any other as far as I can see. All to the good, I suppose. Also, unrelated, she has won a 1916 poetry competition.

That is all.

Updated to add: I forgot – the dishwasher is broken. A new pump is said to be coming but in the interim we are washing the dishes by hand.  The novelty has worn off.

That really is all.

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