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Definitely Maybe

30 November, 2016 at 11:37 pm by belgianwaffle

The residents’ association met for their AGM this evening and Mr. Waffle retired as chairman after two years of faithful service. Unfortunately, no one volunteered to take his place. So it is to be considered again at the next meeting. Do you think this will end well?

In other news, it is the end of November. I have made it through another NaBloPoMo. If you have stuck with me, thank you. I have to tell you, I see quiet times ahead on the blogging front in the immediate future.

And, no, I still haven’t done that 1,500 word essay. Thanks for asking.

Percentages

29 November, 2016 at 10:25 pm by belgianwaffle

Over at the other Belgianwaffle’s blog (which I nobly encourage you to read, I say nobly, as it is very good and I am very envious of her talent) she often describes herself in percentages. Let me give you my own percentages for this evening:

20% Absolutely unable to come up with anything for a blog post
20% Continuing to avoid writing my essay for this course
10% Nobility
10% Mounting anxiety about lack of Christmas preparation
20% Wishing NaBloPoMo would end
10% Keen to get back to watching “Location, Location, Location” (yeah, ok, judge me)

Tomorrow is another day.

Reading

28 November, 2016 at 7:55 pm by belgianwaffle

House of Mirth” by Edith Wharton

If you are hoping for actual mirth, go elsewhere.  A description of Lily Bart’s descent of the social scale.  It didn’t encourage me to try more Edith Wharton.

“A Dance with Dragons” by George RR Martin

If you like this stuff, it will keep you going.  I am not a massive fan but I find fantasy stories moderately entertaining in general and this falls into that camp.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” by JK Rowling

It’s a play.  If you can get over that, it’s alright.  Better on stage than on the page, I imagine.

The Light Years“, “Marking Time” and “Confusion” all by Elizabeth Jane Howard

I am loving this series of books about an upper middle class English family, the Cazalets. The first book begins in the mid 30s and I’ve just got as far as the end of the war.  I am feverishly waiting for the library to contact me and tell me that they’ve got in volume four.  I cannot recommend this series highly enough and don’t know how I managed to miss it until now.

Vinegar Girl” by Anne Tyler

This is a retelling of “The Taming of the Shrew”.  I like Anne Tyler’s books very much but this one is, frankly, a bit forgettable.

The Taming of the Shrew” by Shakespeare

I went back and reread the play after reading “Vinegar Girl”.  If you ask me, it’s nothing to write home about.

Love and Other Man Made Disasters” by Nicola Doherty 

This is a sweet, funny romantic tale for teenagers.  I really enjoyed it; not my normal cup of tea and I should caveat that the author is nearly related to me but that would not make me lie to you.  I am told it would make an excellent stocking filler for the young teen in your life.

Bedsit Disco Queen” by Tracey Thorn

A surprisingly entertaining autobiography by one half of the band Everything but the Girl.

More Weekend

27 November, 2016 at 8:49 pm by belgianwaffle

After mass this morning we zoomed back to the house for lunch and then went off to our interactive theatre or, bus tour, as the less imaginative might characterise it.

Mr. Waffle and I have been to a couple of Anú productions before and this was definitely the least scary one ever. Things started off tensely enough though. Despite our speedy early lunch we left the house a bit late and floundered around trying to find parking.

I took the children and left Mr. Waffle to park the car. The website describes the route of the tour thus:

Starting from Dublin Bus Head Office, 59 Upper O’Connell Street, this 90 minute adventure will travel through the city stopping at major sites including City Hall, Dublin Castle, St. Stephen’s Green, Four Courts, North King Street and the GPO.

Was there any sign of the bus when I got to 59 Upper O’Connell Street? There was not. Was Dublin Bus head office open? It was not. Fortunately, some idly milling people told me that a woman had just gathered up bus tour people and taken them to Cathal Brugha street which is not far away but not exactly round the corner either – good luck with finding it tourists. We managed to get on the bus. But O’Connell Street was essentially closed (the Luas tram works continue – possibly the centre of Dublin will just be dug up forever) so no GPO stop. No North King Street stop or Four Courts stop either. We survived without.

It didn’t really do it for me but the children enjoyed it – it was very interactive and herself and Michael love interactive. I’m not sure that Daniel is so keen but he seems to like theatre a lot anyhow so he was pleased too.

But with the late start and everything else, the tour took longer than we expected and pitched us up in a different location from where we had started. Daniel and I immediately peeled off to see “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”. We quite enjoyed it and Daniel showed an impressive ability to guess all the plot twists. I did not and mocked his predictions until they turned out to be true.

Meanwhile, Mr. Waffle and the others went to Eason’s to spend some vouchers and get a cup of tea. Mr. Waffle’s parents were coming over for dinner but due to a misunderstanding turned up at 5.40 and ended up spending 20 minutes waiting patiently in the car outside our door until Mr. Waffle turned up and let them in and fed them. Slightly tense times in the Waffle household but Daniel and I missed it as we were safely cocooned in the cinema with a family size pack of Malteasers.

By the time Daniel and I got home, the grandparents had, unfortunately, fled the coop. Happily, some Yorkshire puddings were saved for us.

As I type, I am conscious that not a solitary word of my 1,500 word essay has been typed and my enthusiasm levels for beginning are very low indeed. I note that this post is about 500 words and I feel some puritanical motto might apply. I think I will start tomorrow. No really, definitely tomorrow.

Busy Weekend 

26 November, 2016 at 7:40 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr.Waffle drove Daniel to his GAA match this morning (he won). I cycled into town with herself to drop her to a day long workshop for this representative organisation for young people to which she has been elected. Michael and I leafleted all the neighbours about the residents’ association agm (the chair lives with us, it brings responsibilities).

This afternoon Daniel sang in the choir at the church Christmas Fair. Mr. Waffle and I manned the poinsettia stall (completely sold out, thanks for asking). Midway through the afternoon, I went back to town to collect herself (it went fine, next meeting in January) and she came back to the plant stall with me. We released Mr Waffle who went to visit his parents. The Princess got a free muffin from the cake stall (only fair as she had supplied the sold out brownies). I got it free because they said I was a great reader.” “What did it say? Muffins for sale?” “No,” she snorted, “for my reading at mass.” It’s a small pond but among elderly, religious ladies in the area she is a star.

As I write I am on the bus into town. We are going to dinner with friends and I am meeting Mr. Waffle there. Unfortunately, he was unable to make it back to our house from the distant suburb where his parents live and I am getting there under my own steam. It’s a bit surrendered wife of me but I feel quite daring negotiating new public transport routes on my own in the evening. So far, it’s been fine, you’ll be relieved to hear.

Tomorrow, we are going to some interactive theatre and Daniel and I are going to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (his sister has already seen it with friends, his father and brother have no interest, so it’s just the two of us). And at some point I need to produce a 1,500 word essay for this course I’m doing. Mild sigh.

Also, unrelated, thanks for the good wishes for my aunt – I told her, she was pleased- she got a new hip today so I hope things will start to improve.

Context Clues

25 November, 2016 at 9:49 pm by belgianwaffle

In geography (which seems a lot more interesting than it was when I was at school), the Princess’s class are doing a case study.

It was about housing and the teacher showed them a number of pictures of a place she called “Fatima“.  As the Princess looked at these gloomy pictures, she thought, “I had no idea Portugal was so rainy.”

The motto must be, if you’re a teacher assume nothing.

An Inconvenient Truth

24 November, 2016 at 8:01 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself: Superhero comics are sexist.  Female characters wear ludicrous costumes.  Name a male character who  dresses  up in a swimsuit.

Her Friend: Aquaman wears a swimsuit.

Alas, Alack

23 November, 2016 at 6:46 pm by belgianwaffle

My favourite aunt is 87 and lives next door to my parents. She is well in pretty much every way and is still driving around and going out for lunch and looks fantastic. But she fell today. She just tripped when going from the pavement on to the road. Even as I write she is being x-rayed but it looks like a broken hip. Sadly. Oh dear. I spoke to her on the phone and she sounded cheerful but it is not very cheerful. She said that people were very kind; they helped her up and when it became apparent that she wasn’t going to be able to get up, fetched a seat from a nearby pub, got her a cup of tea and sat with her until my saintly sister and the ambulance arrived, in that order. Send cheerful thoughts towards Cork, please.

It’s Earlier It’s Getting

22 November, 2016 at 6:34 pm by belgianwaffle

I have just completed the shopping online and bought all of the ingredients to make Christmas pudding (including brandy, my God, the cost of brandy). These will be delivered on Thursday. Now, I will begin the annual hunt for pudding bowls and lids which always fails and sees me scurrying round the shops trying to find lids/bowls to match our orphans.

Despite feeling that I am well ahead of the game here – next Sunday being the first Sunday of Advent – I note, to my chagrin, that I should have begun the Sunday before the first Sunday of Advent. Next year, perhaps.

Let me give thanks that I am not from the US because I think, if we had this whole Thanksgiving thing, it would utterly tip me over the edge.

Thought for the Day

21 November, 2016 at 9:43 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself: I have a problem with baby centaurs.

Me: How so?

Her:  Well, think about it – horses can walk around a few hours after being born and babies can’t even hold up their heads for months.

Me:  Mmm.

Her: Think about it.

Burn

20 November, 2016 at 6:19 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself (who has been elected to a national student body and is talking about a workshop): One of the boys in my group was a bit mean about Irish.
Mr. Waffle: How?
Her: He said that it was a dead language and why did we bother learning through it.
Mr. Waffle: What did you say?
Her: I said that they studied Latin at his school and it was a lot more dead and he didn’t seem to have a problem with that.
Mr. Waffle: Incendiat.

Farewell Thou Good and Faithful Servant

19 November, 2016 at 6:37 pm by belgianwaffle

We sold our car. We bought it in Belgium in 2005 just before the boys were born.

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It suffered for us, taking three small children on holidays.

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It allowed the Princess to have her own private domain in the boot for many years until she got too tall for it last summer.

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We agreed to sell it just before we left Belgium, and when we went to deliver it to the purchaser the day before we left, he wanted an extra €1,000 off what we had agreed and Mr. Waffle walked away. It was a gesture I think he subsequently regretted. We brought the car back to Ireland and decided to drive it into the ground as we would never be able to sell it as the steering wheel was on the wrong side. In fact, that wasn’t half as awkward as you would have thought, except for car parks.

And on the plus side, the car served as a cat shelter in the year of the snow.

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And the cat liked to sit on the dashboard as well.

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It was spacious.

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It took many, many journeys on ferries.

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But it was made in 2004 and 12 years is very old for a car. We decided to sell it before the annual car test. We picked up the new car yesterday. Our heartless neighbour’s child with whom we have a car pooling arrangement for GAA got a lift in the new car this afternoon and pronounced it far superior to the old one.

If we hold on to the new one for as long as we kept the last one, all the children will be grown up when we get our next car which is a sobering thought.

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Identity Theft

18 November, 2016 at 11:29 pm by belgianwaffle

All this 1916 centenary commemoration has got me thinking a bit about identity.  Recently, I realised that all my grandparents were born British citizens.  At least three of them vigourously did not want to be, but they were all the same until well into adulthood. If you had asked me six months ago what nationality my grandparents were, I would have answered “Irish” unhesitatingly. I now realise that would have been only partly true and that is very strange to me.

I said it to my aunt and she said, “Ah no, they weren’t really British”.  National identity is quite the complex thing, isn’t it?

Increases in the Cost of Living

17 November, 2016 at 9:36 pm by belgianwaffle

The Princess is very pleased with her new phone but it is not without its drawbacks.  

We passed an advertisement on the street and she said bitterly “Vodafone 4g is not bringing me closer to Irish rugby it’s bringing me closer to bankruptcy.”  It’s all good preparation for the woes of adulthood.

Nervous

15 November, 2016 at 10:28 pm by belgianwaffle

I had lunch with a friend yesterday and she asked me how I had told my children about the Trump presidency. “I kind of let them draw their own conclusions,” I said.

But on foot of that I was talking to them this evening and asked them what they thought. They started to sing “Duck and Cover“. This is a song which we heard when we visited the war museum in Caen a couple of years ago and it has stayed with us for its hilarious understatement of the effects of a nuclear bomb. It’s from a US public safety video from the 1950s. Herself stopped singing and said, “But now we know that hiding under school desks is not going to save us from the nuclear bomb.”

“Well,” I said, “remember [very tall Dutch friend] who works inspecting nuclear power generators?” “Yeah,” she said, “sitting under the desk is definitely not going to work for him.” “No, no, it’s just that he said that radiation goes for the thyroid and the most serious damage is done straight after the blast. If you take iodine tablets straight away, then your chances of survival are pretty good.”

Reassuring. I thought you would like to know. I think I was right that the children had drawn their own conclusions about the Trump presidency though.

Bitter, Bitter, Bitter

14 November, 2016 at 9:45 pm by belgianwaffle

The boys found the classic “Owl Babies” on the bookshelf.  It’s the story of three baby owls waiting for their mother to come home.  Looking through it, Daniel said “They’re like us; an older girl, a middle boy and a younger boy.”  They looked nostalgically at the illustrations for a while, then Michael piped up, “Not really, because the eldest owl isn’t playing on her mobile phone.”

The Princess got a phone as an early Christmas present from her uncle and aunt and we have not determined what the rules are about usage and into this vacuum has seeped 24 hour usage by herself and an ocean of bitterness on the part of her brothers.  Not our finest parenting hour, something will have to be done.  Sigh.

Sic Transit or Slightly Glum Sunday Night Reflections

13 November, 2016 at 9:48 pm by belgianwaffle

This year for the first time in years, we didn’t go to the Dublin book festival – the children are getting just a little bit big for it. They’ve been to the book doctor (great service) loads of times. All of the events seemed to be aimed at younger children and even last year, they felt a bit old. And then, this year, culture night didn’t quite hit the spot – maybe because I had to bail out early to travel to Cork but maybe because they’re getting bigger. I am, however, forcing them all to go on a 1916 tour so some family culture is still available. Also, herself wants to go to the Nutcracker at Christmas. I am hesitating; I’m just not sure that it will be a winning family outing. A couple of weeks ago, at her request, I took her to see a thing on Shakespeare at the Royal Irish Academy. It was tough going for me but she seemed to really enjoy it. Can’t see it ever being a family outing though.

And then we are finally replacing our car which we bought in Belgium in 2005 – yes steering wheel on the wrong side but not as awkward as you might expect. As we were looking at makes, we found ourselves reflecting that this might be our last family car, if we hang on to it for 6 or 7 years as at that stage the children will all be in college which is a terrifying prospect. Looks like it does go by quickly after all.

Learning Opportunities 

12 November, 2016 at 10:22 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself: We are doing the renaissance in history.
Me: Oh yes?
Her: I know loads of renaissance sculptors and painters but I never get to mention them.
Me: And why is that?
Her: Because whenever the history teacher asks us to name renaissance artists, she says, “Remember the turtles!”

Rats

12 November, 2016 at 7:41 pm by belgianwaffle

I had a busy day at work yesterday. When I got home, about 6.30, I put Mr. Waffle and the boys in to the car. We drove into town through rainy Friday evening traffic to collect the Princess from a course, then we dropped Mr. Waffle to a dinner in his old school (he offered to sort himself out but I was feeling noble – he was a bit peeved as a) we were nearly late for herself and he hates to be late and b) having worked himself to the bone for this deadline on Wednesday, some new disagreeable, urgent thing has now presented itself, as he said, “it’s like getting arrested on your release from jail”), then I came back into town with the children and had dinner in Milano’s which I thought would be good but Michael was unhappy (tired and hungry) and he spread the love. I felt a bit sorry for myself last night but thought it was just that I was tired, so I trooped off to bed with my book and looked forward to Saturday.

This morning I woke up with the head cold which my daughter, my husband and my childminder have had all week. I wish I had been a bit more sympathetic to them. At lunchtime I dragged myself out to drop herself off to an event and hung around to pick her up. I was going to let herself and her father out to buy her some new clothes in the afternoon but my nerve failed me and I went instead. Not a blow for feminism, I concede, but she had to get a winter coat and I couldn’t face looking at something I didn’t like all winter. Go on, judge away.

I am now updating my blog while sipping a lemsip. Mr. Waffle and I are going out to dinner to celebrate reaching his hideous deadline (although this seems a little premature now, see paragraph 1) and sick or no I am going to go. Let us hope that the lemsip works.

Something for Theresa May to Reflect On

11 November, 2016 at 11:23 pm by belgianwaffle

Back when the Swedes joined the EU in the mid 90s, Mr. Waffle remembers a senior Italian Commission official commenting, “How can you negotiate with these people? They say exactly what they mean.”

Raifteirí Prepares to Hand Over the Reins

10 November, 2016 at 11:23 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself has won a poetry prize. She wrote a 1916 poem in Irish for a school competition and the teacher asked me if she could submit it to a national competition. I said that she could and herself won second prize. She was very pleased. There was an awards ceremony in Killarney last week but it was beyond us to get her down there; as she said dolefully, “This is what happens to the children of working parents.” However, they are going to send the cheque for €100 in the post. As I pointed out to her, I am sure that actual Irish language poets would regard that as a substantial part of their annual income. I am perhaps stereotyping the profession of Irish language poet as one that is not particularly well remunerated.

The boys are consumed with envy.

Surprising

9 November, 2016 at 6:06 pm by belgianwaffle

2016 is the year that keeps on giving in this regard, is it not?

I was away last night for work so I woke in my hotel room to the news that Donald Trump is to be president of the US. It seems extraordinary that the people who gave us 8 years of Barack Obama have now given us Donald Trump.

In other current affairs news, the Princess, who confidently expected her teachers to be on strike for weeks, was gutted when we got a text message at 9.30 last night saying that the school was reopening today. She is still readjusting to the new reality. Aren’t we all?

Stereotyping

8 November, 2016 at 10:55 pm by belgianwaffle

My friend from Belfast was telling me about his friend also from Belfast who has moved into the top floor of an old Georgian house. His friend has loads of books and the movers found getting the stuff up to the top floor very trying. Towards the end of the day, the man who was moving house, found one of the movers lying on the floor saying, “I can’t take it anymore, don’t make me move another box.” “Typical Belfast labourer,” snorted my friend.

Somehow, if you’d asked me what a typical Belfast labourer was like, I would have said words like, tough and hardworking. I don’t think my expectation would be that they would lie down on the floor and give up. It just goes to show that stereotyping is misleading.

Daniel at 11

7 November, 2016 at 7:59 pm by belgianwaffle

As Daniel said, I am finally, finally getting around to his birthday post. Better late than never.

He has started reading this blog with mild interest; he commented to Michael as he read, “I didn’t know Mummy was funny.” I suppose I can take that how I like. He was a bit offended to see that I said that he had a low pain threshold so I am honour bound to point out that on the very day of his birthday he got a lash of a hurley on his thumb and the coaches thought it might be broken. Daniel stoically trained through the pain. It was not, in fact, broken but it did swell up in an alarming way for a couple of days. He is now recovered, you will be happy to hear.

Daniel is definitely our sportiest child. He trains twice a week and has matches at the weekend. He usually has some kind of injury. In addition to the thumb incident above, he had to hop around the school for a couple of days the other week due to a toe injury; I think he might have some kind of floating body in his knee and as I write he has a scalded tongue (non-sport related but there is always something). He is nonetheless undeterred from his sporting endeavours and throws his heart into every match and every practice.

I am unable to find any record of his constant sportiness but have a serious shot of him as Michael Collins:

2016-03-16 07.24.38He likes to read – Horrible Histories, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, things about Arsenal. He also likes to watch youtube videos. He is a big fan of FIFA video games narrated on youtube. He also loves to read poetry and following the cull by his sister has ended up with quite a number of lovely books which I often see him flicking through.

UntitledI took the children to a performance called “Katie’s Party” during the theatre festival. It was a one woman show for children exploring the theme of moving from primary school to secondary school. Daniel really enjoyed it but he is also very nervous about the prospect of moving to secondary school. This is probably not helped by seeing his sister getting through mountains of homework and being a bit of a perfectionist himself. I think I should try to get him to the theatre a bit more as he really seems to be entranced by the couple of things he has seen.

UntitledHe gets on well with his brother but feels that he has to mind him. Mr. Waffle often says that it is like we have two eldest children and even though Daniel is only 20 minutes older than his brother, he definitely acts like he is a good year older. This is helped by the fact that he is considerably taller and broader. I sometimes think that it is a bit unfair on him that we expect so much from him but he is very responsible and often volunteers for tasks.

UntitledHe is utterly reliable and very helpful. If you ask him to do something, he will generally get it done. On Saturday mornings he can’t play on the x-box until he has unloaded the dishwasher and, faithfully, every Saturday morning, he does it. As he is usually first up, it falls to him. Just like his father, he is an early bird and he is often up early in the morning. I hardly ever need to wake him up in the morning.

2016-06-06 14.29.02He finds his sister’s access to electronic devices very galling. Now that she has a phone and an iPad, he is on the verge of expiry from envy. He has a strong sense of injustice and this drives him crazy. He also points to her trips to London and Paris with some bitterness and although we have said that these things will come when he is bigger, I don’t think that he is convinced by us. Yet sometimes, notwithstanding everything, he and his sister can be very friendly; they share lots of interests and I hear them laughing uproariously together.

169Daniel is very musical. This fills me with guilt. Have I repaired the piano? I have not. He has basically taught himself to play the tin whistle and I hear him picking out tunes on that most unforgiving of instruments with considerable success and no support from his parents. He is shy though and unwilling to play or sing outside the immediate family. He sings in the church choir and has been doing increasing numbers of readings and prayers of the faithful which he does very well and very clearly. He tells me that he is nervous but he does not sound it.

His French comprehension is still pretty good and he really makes an effort to speak as well. He needs some lessons, I think but he is a bit committed with his sporting engagements and he said to me, “It’s either music or French but I can’t do both.” I think he might be right.

609He really enjoys quizzes and answering questions but it can be a challenge at home as his sister tends to cut across him. At school though, he is really coming into his own. His table is winning general knowledge stars and he is loving it. He is fascinated by facts and it is standing him in good stead. Generally, I think he enjoys school and he is loving his teacher for this year who is excellent. He has had a really good run of teachers in primary school with one notable exception. I think he’s probably easy to teach: obliging, clever, hardworking. I understand that he helps other children in the class, if they are lost and is very patient at explaining.

UntitledHe can get distracted from doing his homework and let it drift on for hours. This drives him bananas but he seems unable to stop himself staring at the ceiling unless we prod him. He gets this from me. Another thing that he gets from me is that he is tidy. He is the only one of my children who is naturally reasonably tidy. He and I spent a happy morning organising his bookshelves by author a couple of weeks ago. It’s holding up wonderfully and every time I go into his room, it fills me with mild happiness – him too, I think.

UntitledWhen I take him out on his own without the other two, he really blossoms. He loves the attention and is so engaging and loves the mildest treat. Even when I took himself and Michael to the Sugar Loaf the other day – not his idea of an amazing treat – Michael ran on ahead and he and I walked down together and he was delighted and we had a lovely chat.

UntitledI can see the outlines of the adult he will someday become, he is in many ways a very mature 11 year old. He is moving firmly towards adolescent and a small part of me misses the adorable little boy which he is placing determinedly behind him. I suppose that this is what parenthood is all about and I am very proud of him and and how he is growing up. Seeing him change reminds me vividly how lucky I am to be his mother and how much he has grown in the last 11 years.

Michael at 11

6 November, 2016 at 7:44 pm by belgianwaffle

A belated update on my younger son who was 11 on September 27, so not quite two months ago yet.

Michael has settled firmly down into the niche of youngest, adorable child. I understand that as he snuggles up to me, he often mouths “brownie points” at his brother and sister but I don’t care and, what’s more, he knows I don’t care. I find him very easy to be with and easy to get on with; obliging, pleasant and entertaining.

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He is a total home bird and knows no greater happiness than to be left to hang around the house all day and not be forced out on some outing. Once he gets out he can be cheerful enough but it is the leaving home that he finds tiresome.

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Picture from a particularly unsuccessful expedition which his parents forced him to go out on:
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He has become obsessed with complex board games which go on for days and are utterly baffling to me. If let, he would spend all his time watching young men narrating how to play board games on youtube.

He still loves to read and his bedroom, the smallest in the house, as he will tell you with some bitterness, is crammed to the rafters with books from all ages.

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He is as fond still as looking at old picture books as of reading the latest Percy Jackson or the telephone book sized Codex of some game involving 24 dice and innumerable expensive plastic figurines.

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I caught him reading in the dark the other night. “You’ll ruin your eyesight,” I said. “That’s a myth actually,” he replied with all the dignity of someone caught reading when he should be sound asleep. His sister’s bedroom is strictly off limits to everyone in the house and boy do we know it. Michael has been caught sneaking in there to get out some of her more choice books. “Why don’t you wait until she gets home from school and ask to borrow them?” I ask despairingly as herself harangues me about her privacy. “Meh, can’t wait,” he says blithely. After a particularly painful recent discussion with his sister, I am hopeful that he will ask in future.

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Michael is a born performer. They had a contest in school involving developing a pretend radio station interview and he won hands down. His teacher tells me that the other children chant his name and beg for him to do the reading out loud. I asked Michael about this and he said, “Now you know why I don’t like it when there are so many characters in a book. It’s exhausting to do different voices for all of them.”

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He still loves scouts. This September he got made a seconder (a sixer is head of a little troop and a seconder is second in command). He was confident that this would come to pass but none the less very pleased when it actually did. He steadily refuses to join other clubs or societies, although his secondary school has a games club where his sister is already a member and I imagine he will join there when he starts next year, much to her chagrin.

He loves history and has finished off Civilisation V (history in the largest sense), is a massive fan of Horrible Histories and recently has spent a great deal of time looking at alternative histories on youtube. On the way home from his grandparents this evening we had a vigourous family discussion on what would have happened to the Home Rule Bill, if World War I had in fact been over by Christmas. Let me summarise for you, we don’t know, but everyone got very heated all the same. It beat our conversation about the Kardashians on the way out. Mildly amusing comment from Michael: “They’re real? That explains so much.”

He continues to be the peacemaker although his brother and sister maintain that he uses his charm to get away with murder and that they do much more around the house which does not entirely contribute to peace in our little household.

He has a wonderful teacher this year and is really enjoying school which is terrific.

He still does not love sports but they had a recent competition with another school and he got a medal for being best boy on his team and he was really filled with pride and delight and we were thrilled for him. He is a pretty competent cyclist now and we can cycle into town without me nearly losing my life.

He quite took to pool (or possibly snooker, I am no expert here) but I am not sure that counts as a sport.
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He is sentimental and refuses to part with anything. In particular, he refuses to part with any of his old clothes and as he is growing many of his trousers are flapping around his ankles and lots of his tops reach only just below his elbows. It is economical but I would willingly pay for new clothes, if he would wear them. Michael has appeared over my shoulder and said, “I would, if they were not itchy.” It’s just so hard to determine what will be deemed itchy. Also, he continues to be extremely skinny and as he grows taller it’s hard to find trousers that can be sufficiently tightened at the waist and are sufficiently long in the leg. Of late, he has stopped wearing the hood of his hoodie up every minute of the day. As this has been replaced by wearing his coat with the hood up until dinner time, I am not sure it can be counted as an improvement.

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This is the only pair of trousers aside from his school and scout uniforms which now fit Michael. Unfortunately, they have to be washed from time to time.
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He is soft-hearted. He is always kind and gentle with small children and very patient. We were watching the youtube clip on Jimmy Kimmel of parents telling children that they had eaten their Halloween sweets and Michael walked away because he didn’t want to watch as it was mean. Which, to be honest, it is. Though, kind of funny, if you are heartless, which Michael definitely is not.

He gets on well with his brother and sister and though they can definitely find him exasperating, they are not entirely immune to his charm. Also, he needs them for his board games as his parents are a dead loss. He continues to enjoy cards but would prefer if we went for slightly more challenging games that snap/beggar-my-neighbour. Sometimes, when I am feeling strong, we play 110 but I need to be in the whole of my health.

He continues to eat almost nothing. I’ve almost past trying at this stage. Thank God for cornflakes, milk, pizza, chips, ham, cod, yorkshire pudding and eggs. And I would like to apologise now about over-fishing.

Picture of Michael looking like a Victorian starving chimney sweep’s boy.

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We walk into school most mornings with his brother. I love it when the three of us walk in together and I am all the more conscious of it because this is our last year as next year they start in secondary school. I will miss our walks very much. I always give Michael credit for starting us walking in in the first place due to his concerns about the environment (which still continue). It has been lovely for us all, I think.

As he gets older, he is less of a daredevil. Although he continues to be a demon on the bumpers and super speedy on ziplines, I can now let him cross the road with confidence which is a huge relief to me and to him.

All in all, he is wonderful to be with: kind, caring, funny and gentle. It is lovely to watch him growing up.

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The Migraineur or a Victorian Afternoon

5 November, 2016 at 7:33 pm by belgianwaffle

I woke up this morning with a migraine and after a trip to the shops to buy bread this morning, gave up the effort and went back to bed and didn’t get up again until an hour ago. Alas. I feel alright now but not fantastic. The light of the screen is making my eyeballs a bit sore. Don’t say I’m not devoted to this NaBloPoMo. I trust that by tomorrow, I will be restored to full health. Something for all of us to look forward to.

Punishing

4 November, 2016 at 10:27 pm by belgianwaffle

I took the day off work today. This week was mid-term and the children were at home. Well, herself was on a course, but the boys were at home. I think she enjoyed her course but it was quite tiring; it was film making and it seemed to involve a lot of hanging around on set. She told me an interesting thing though. They had a make-up guy in and he mentioned that when making up women, he always makes them up to look good first and then adds cuts and bruises or skulls and blood (they were making a horror film). And apparently this is what happens when they are making real films as well which I think explains a lot.

Anyhow, it was a beautiful day. I decided to take the boys up the Sugar Loaf. They were not delighted. “Why,” said Michael bitterly, “are we being punished?” Apparently his father had told him that he could stay in bed all day – something Mr. Waffle denies. Anyhow, they came, resignedly.

It was lovely and even the boys found it moderately enjoyable. We had a picnic at the top.

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It was somewhat windy and chilly but the views were good.

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The boys are both faster and fitter than me but I made it down eventually, only slipping and falling over a couple of times (not particularly painful as on grass on the lower reaches but the mortification was considerable). Daniel was travelling at my slower pace and was very solicitous. I felt about 90. We came home about 4 and lit a fire and did nothing for the rest of the day which was pleasing for all of us.

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And imagine, today is only Friday, I have the whole weekend at home stretching out ahead of me. And Mr. Waffle who, alas, is going to have to work this weekend (his deadline is Wednesday and each member of our little family is counting the days), has promised to take time out to take Daniel to his match tomorrow morning and let me stay in bed. Oh hurrah. Yes, I know, he’s a saint; isn’t he lucky he married someone who really appreciates saintliness.

Cork

3 November, 2016 at 11:08 pm by belgianwaffle

I took the children to Cork for the bank holiday weekend. We did the usual things: bonding with relatives, lots of TV, a trip to Charles Fort and the Bulman, the traditional photo by the “caution children” sign:

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The trip down was rendered exciting by a largish piece of plastic from the underside of the car coming off on the motorway (happily it came off near the edge of the road – no damage done to anyone). Our car has been with us since 2005 and, perhaps, this is a sign that we need a change before the NCT later this month.

Herself spent a couple of hours with my 87 year old aunt Marie Kondoing her house. They found my aunt’s birth certificate. She was born in California but returned to Cork aged about 2 and has found it perfectly acceptable ever since and has never, to my knowledge, pined for sunnier climes. I suppose she got it out of her system early. They kept the birth certificate.

Later, when I came to see how they were getting on I heard her great niece addressing my aunt kindly but firmly, “Are you sure you want to keep the Meister Eckhart? Does it spark joy?” My aunt was unsure. I think Meister Eckhart was saved in the end but a vast number of other books (including a substantial collection of theological books which it turned out did not spark joy) and random items were not deemed worthy of keeping. The pair were delighted with themselves: four black bags of stuff for giving away and three full of rubbish. Then, my brother put his foot down and said that the rubbish bags couldn’t go in the bin as it was too full and would have to go after the next collection (my parents and my aunt live next door to each other and there is a complex bin sharing treaty in operation between the two households). They are stored temporarily in my aunt’s front room but I fear they may never leave. In my heart of hearts, I knew that nobody was ever going to bring the four bags for giving away to the charity shop so I hauled them into the car and brought them back to Dublin to give away. They’re gone now, I hope some of the Dublin locals enjoy reading about theology. I drew the line at bringing the bags of rubbish back to Dublin but even now, I am feeling mild regret as there is a real danger that they will never make it to the bin at all.

As though her work in her great aunt’s house was insufficient to meet her needs, herself begged to be allowed to make a pilgrimage to my parents’ attic. I permitted this, but only on the condition that she did not try to tidy it. You will be delighted to hear that “Star Trek Annual 1976” is even now upstairs in Dublin. She also found some material in a big trunk. She loves to sew and make costumes and was graciously permitted to help herself. When it came time to go back to Dublin, she and her brothers kindly packed the car for me. Once we were beyond Mitchelstown, she said, “Is it too late to go back to Cork?” “Yes,” I said. “Good,” she said, “because I brought more material than you might like.” When we unpacked the car, there were bolts and bolts of material. That night, when she dressed up for Halloween, I noted that the lace covering from my first communion dress, was getting another outing for the first time in 40 years.

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Halloween passed off peacefully enough. The children went out on their own for the first time. They liked it. More particularly as they came home laden down with sweets. Not a solitary monkey nut this year.

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In other Halloween news, the cat was puzzled, and not entirely pleased by the Halloween decorations:

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New Tricks

2 November, 2016 at 11:52 pm by belgianwaffle

This evening we were playing cards (snap/beggar-my-neighbour – all the sophisticated games) and when the game was over I picked up the pack, shuffled and started playing patience. I did this without really thinking. Herself and Daniel have seen me play before but this time they seemed more interested and wanted to learn the rules (possibly because it was bed time). Then they played a game each, very slowly. I commented that the more you played the more likely you were to get it out. In the slightly sanctimonious middle-aged parent manner which I am perfecting, I told them: “When I was a child and at home sick from school, there were no electronic devices and there was no daytime television, so when I got tired of reading, I used to play patience. By the end of a couple of days, I almost always got it out all the time. It seems impossible when you don’t practice, but there it is.” They were suitably impressed and trooped off to bed, determined to work on their patience playing tomorrow.

After they went up, I said to Mr. Waffle, “Did you play patience when you were sick as a child?” “No,” he replied as I laid out the cards. This time it came out. As I was stacking the cards in the pile at the top, he asked “Is that it, will it definitely come out now?” “Of course, it will, you know that” I said. “Actually,” he said, “I’ve never played patience and don’t know how to play.”* I am astounded. How could he have kept this from me? Honestly, it’s like only discovering your husband never learnt to swim 15 years into your marriage. How can a child of the 70s have developed without extensive patience experience? He muttered something about lego. I played with lego too but, really, who didn’t play patience? I am shocked to the core of my being.

Can you play patience? Seriously, can’t everybody? Even Mr. Waffle can now.

*Note that we were a good hour and a bit playing patience with Mr. Waffle giving the impression that he knew all about it before he came clean. There is some moral about gender there, I feel. It reminds me of my mother’s story about how when she was going to study in Germany in the 50s (when Germany was where it was at in terms of chemistry), her professor of chemistry in Cork summoned her to his office and said, “Now, they’ll have a lot of equipment that we don’t have here, but you just don’t say anything and you’ll learn what it is and how to work it fast enough.”

NaBloPoMo

1 November, 2016 at 8:28 pm by belgianwaffle

Yes, indeed, it is November and National Blog Posting Month is upon us. I checked my archives and I have been doing this since 2006. Mr. Waffle who, among his other duties, is chair of the residents’ committee is, as I write, holding a meeting in the kitchen. This means I am kneeling while typing as they needed all the chairs. Truly, my dedication knows no bounds. Herself says I am typing like a meerkat. More to follow. All month long.


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