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Exchanging

31 July, 2017 at 10:35 pm by belgianwaffle

We had the Princess’s French exchange, E, to stay for 10 days. Herself was in Paris in April and had a fantastic time with E’s family so we were on our mettle. We sent them to a make a film camp during the day. It was reasonably successful. I think E quite liked it but it was a bit too full of 12 year old boys for my sophisticated 14 year old’s liking.

A comparison of Irish and French summer colouring:

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I took them to the immersive “Great Gatsby” in the Gate Theatre. You were encouraged to wear 20s dress which, mostly, people did. I attempted to shingle my hair with mixed results. They took out all the seats and moved everyone around. We learnt to do the Charleston. There was a bar in the corner and we all drank from big cocktail glasses (regardless of the drink). It was like an Anu production for the distinctly conservative middle class Gate audience. Herself adored it. Audience members moved around and went to different rooms with the cast. At one point, she found herself in Gatsby’s bedroom with just him and a few others. He was seeking advice from the audience. “Stay away from swimming pools,” she advised. “Why should I do that?” he asked, “I love swimming.” It did feel a bit like being at a crowded, quite exciting party at times which is, I suppose, was the effect they were looking for. E wasn’t so sure and when I asked her afterwards, she indicated that she preferred the kind of theatre where you sit down in pre-assigned seats so maybe not a success all round.

We also went on the Viking Splash, everyone’s favourite tour. Poor Michael was sick and couldn’t come, he was gutted. As we waited at Stephen’s Green for our bus to arrive, Daniel realised that many members of his GAA team were on the tour bus about to leave. It turned out that there was a birthday party for which he had not made the cut. He was not particularly pally with the birthday boy but there were many of his team sitting happily on the bus ahead of us. Due to dreadful traffic it sat there for 15 minutes and Daniel chatted dolefully with his friends and a part of me died. Once we actually got on board our own bus, things improved and I think everyone enjoyed the trip.

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The girls went out with some friends on Friday night and we had a quiet night in. A bit of a relief really, this living life to the full can take it out of you.

On Saturday we went for a walk up to the JB Malone memorial. The views were really beautiful and the weather was lovely. The children were resigned but perhaps not super enthusiastic. Still, we gave E a chance to experience nature. Since her own family were on holidays in the Alps while she was in Dublin, it’s possible she might have experienced even more nature had she stayed with them but we did what we could with the Wicklow mountains.

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Sunday saw us kayaking up the Liffey. Great fun actually but considerably wetter than I had anticipated. We were all sodden from the waist down and splashed all over. Both Mr. Waffle and Herself got Liffey water in their mouths. I heard a tour bus operator say humourously as he pointed us out to tourists, “You need three different injections before doing that.” I really hope no one gets Weil’s disease. We were all exhausted but filled with a sense of achievement. No photos because we didn’t want to drop our phones in the Liffey. We’ll just have to have our memories.

E went home last Monday. She took a jar of runny jam with her. We’re all still recovering from the extensive activity programme.

Always Jam Today

30 July, 2017 at 10:42 pm by belgianwaffle

This is the season when the tree in the front garden produces millions of plums.

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They make the most delicious jam. My jam making has always been very successful in the past (she said smugly).

Jam production line:

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Alas, this year, with a bumper crop of plums, for whatever reason, it just did not set for me. I now have kilos (litres?) of unset jam to reboil. Sigh. I have been making jam most evenings for weeks to use up supplies. You have to go to it reasonably speedily or they go off. You can freeze them but our freezer is tiny and our plum supply plentiful so after activities with the French exchange (more on this anon) I would find myself making jam at midnight which is a bit unsatisfactory. Particularly when it just doesn’t set.

Mostly Cork

29 July, 2017 at 10:00 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister and I did a bit of bonding in Cork in early July. We went to Ballycotton where I found a walk I had never known before but everyone else in Cork did – it’s been there forever apparently. How fortunate my children are that I have never previously been aware of it although we stayed in our friends’ house in East Cork many, many times over the years. It’s not too late.

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In an exciting development, the boys took the train to Cork alone.

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It all passed off very smoothly, unlike when their sister took her first solo train ride and they were quite proud of their independence and ability to travel unaccompanied. In a related development, we said goodbye to our last childminder. This is the first time since 2003 that we haven’t paid childcare fees and I am enjoying the resultant boost in income which I should be putting into the mortgage but am spending on riotous living. It is the end of an era. Our last childminder wasn’t a great fit; she would have been better with younger children, I think and she was never as popular with the children as her predecessors. Also, I think the boys would have preferred to travel home from school alone like some of their friends but I wasn’t entirely happy with having them manage alone in the exciting urban environment from where they had to get the bus. Daniel once described how a man slightly the worse for unspecified intoxicants came up to him and Michael and asked where they went to school. When they answered politely, the man started to rant about their school and abused it and them in pretty unpleasant terms. “Where,” I asked, “was the childminder?” Apparently she was standing a bit further away, it’s unclear to me why he didn’t go nearer to her or she didn’t see what was going on with them but at least she was there and I suppose there was a responsible adult nearby if things turned nastier. I did feel a bit that I was paying to have someone sit in my house looking at her phone as despite my very best efforts there didn’t seem to be very much interaction between her and the children which they all seemed to enjoy very much.

I digress. While in Cork, I briefly met my friend the heart surgeon in Kinsale. She was back from America with her husband and four children for a holiday. I brought the boys to meet them. Unfortunately, all of the children are reaching an age where you cannot put them in a room and say, “play together” so they ended up sitting inside watching the TV and not bonding. It gave the adults a chance to bond outside while admiring their truly beautiful view. She says that Trump is giving middle aged men all over Vermont heart failure as they lie awake all night worrying. On the other hand, I suppose they were having heart failure already as, if they weren’t, how was she gainfully employed?

I must say the weather has been lovely this summer and Cork has been particularly delightful. The boys may not have loved the visit to the Crawford Gallery

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or the riverside walk under the trees

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but they got to have pizza at Milano’s so, you know, not all bad. And it’s always good to jump on the Shaky Bridge.

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They were strangely unimpressed by the excellent window display in Liam Russell’s on Oliver Plunkett Street.

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I took them to Blackrock Castle Observatory which they always like. They also spent an enormously happy evening at my sister’s playing Risk and eating chips.

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My sister facilitated this even though she is ill. She emerged from her house in pyjamas to greet us. “Is wearing pyjamas outside illegal?” wondered Daniel. A number of years ago there was a trend in certain parts of Dublin to venture outside wearing pyjamas. I was strongly against this. Perhaps too strongly as Daniel seems to have taken it very much to heart.

Activities (Various)

28 July, 2017 at 11:01 pm by belgianwaffle

Oh lads, it’s been ages.

Herself has returned from summer camp which she loved with the passion of 1,000 suns.  While she was away, we made feeble efforts to entertain her brothers to the best of our abilities.  We took them to the latest science gallery exhibition on sound which they pronounced to be pretty good.

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Daniel plays chopsticks:
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The science gallery is the only museum they have any affection for.  We made them do a walk-through of the newly reopened wing of the National Gallery and they were not pleased.  In particular Michael was not pleased.

We went to mass in Irish which has the merit of being short and always involves a restorative cup of tea afterwards.  We took them to Four Knocks which is the best megalithic site in Ireland.  Really.  We had been there before with all of the children when they were younger.  The boys were small on the last visit and they had forgotten but it really is an amazing spot.  Much better, I think than Newgrange or any of the more famous sites.  You have it to yourself – you pick up the key from a local farmer – and it is creepy and a bit awe inspiring.  The boys really enjoyed it which is not something you usually get to say about megalithic sites. It is na Fuarchnoic (the cold hills) in Irish which is a bit more accurate than Four Knocks.

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We went for a moderately satisfactory picnic in Ardgillan castle after the Four Knocks excitement but I made us pack up good and early as I was getting the train to Cork and I was paranoid about timing.  Unnecessary.

In other summer excitement, my sister took the boys to Tayto Park and bought them three bottles of Fanta to consume in the rain while being twirled up in the air on a variety of terrifying machines. Their lives are complete and she didn’t die of exhaustion. A win then.

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They also attended a sports camp at the bottom of the road which was very successful except that they were not allowed to leave unless collected by a grown-up which was supremely awkward. Michael missed a day due to illness but otherwise they both enjoyed it very much. Daniel won camper of the week for his supreme politeness and I was filled with pride. He didn’t seem super-delighted though.

Not Biblical

11 July, 2017 at 11:54 pm by belgianwaffle

A couple of weeks ago I was cycling along in the rain and did something that I haven’t done in about 20 years. I got my bike caught in the tramlines, a deeply unpleasant experience. However, when it happened to me in Brussels, I was younger and fitter and I remember coming down quite hard. My usual cycling pace is now just faster than a walk and I knew that would be a good thing at some point. I fell over gracelessly but very slowly, sprawling full length on the damp cobbles. The only injury sustained, other than to my dignity and my coat, was a nasty bruise on my ring finger. Two passers-by rushed to help me up. As I thanked them, I recognised them as fellow parishioners.

I told Mr. Waffle about the mishap that evening. “And guess who the good Samaritans who picked me up were?” He failed to guess. I told him. “Rather, entry level good Samaritan isn’t it: someone you know from the parish, not very badly injured.” Fine.

It Never Ends

10 July, 2017 at 11:54 pm by belgianwaffle

I was in Cork recently and went into town to get some things for my father. I was out rather longer than I expected. He telephoned me.
Him: Are you alright?
Me: Yes.
Him: There’s no rush back; it’s just when you were late I was worried you might have been in an accident or something.

He is 92, I am 48. It looks like parenting is forever alright.

In other news, he told me about the college chaperone. When my father was at college in the 40s and my mother in the 50s, the college employed a chaperone; by the time I got to college in the 80s, they had thrown their hats at it. I suppose it was the 60s did for the institution of college chaperone.

Anyhow, Mrs. Madden (for that was her name – possibly the last UCC chaperone, google was unhelpful in relation to my researches in this regard) was friendly with my father and she told him this story. Apparently the students would be assigned to mind the chaperone in turn and keep her plied with food and spend time chatting to her. She said to this one young man, “This is very hard for you, I am sure you would much rather be out dancing with the girls”. Instead of mendaciously insisting that there was nothing he would rather do than spend time with Mrs. Madden he said seriously, “Yes, but I offer it up.”

My father related this tale over dinner out – my sister and I were triumphant at having got him and my aunt out for my aunt’s birthday. This involved a complex series of manoeuvres with a walker, a wheelchair, a disabled parking badge and a phone torch. This last was cunningly deployed to allow those whose eyesight was less than perfect to read the menu in the dim lighting which the restaurant favoured. You may congratulate us.

Reopened

9 July, 2017 at 10:18 pm by belgianwaffle

The National Gallery of Ireland has reopened and I went for a look around. It was so lovely to see all the pictures that have been in storage for years; not to mention the rooms that have been reopened. There’s still some rehanging to do though.

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I am fond of Fragonard and it was nice to see his Venus and Cupid back up in the Gallery. I was keen to send it as a postcard to the new mother in London but they didn’t have any; possibly for the best.

I went in on my bike and I found myself cycling to where the bike parking has always been. It was slightly obscured by a hoarding.

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And if you didn’t know, you would never have found it. As at the time of visiting, it wasn’t quite restored but, doubtless that will come.

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A Star is Born

8 July, 2017 at 11:41 pm by belgianwaffle

I got a new niece on June 15. Mr. Waffle’s sister and her husband in London had a baby girl and it is very exciting. The children are delighted to have their first new cousin in nine years. We’re all dying to see her in Dublin (we have mercifully held off on descending on the new parents in London). Our family whatsapp group which had been filled with health logistics for older relatives is now filled with baby photos; it makes a very pleasant change. It is lovely to have good news.

I am tempted to tell the niece’s parents that by the time the Princess was their new baby’s age (about 3 weeks), she had attended a wedding in another country.* Not something I would really recommend to be honest. Although, with pleasing symmetry, the eldest child of that marriage is coming to us the week after next to brush up her English. Herself and the Princess get on fine but, I don’t think they will be attending each other’s weddings although, I suppose, you never know.

*It’s usually about this point that Mr. Waffle tells me, “It’s not a competition.”

Friday Night Fun!

7 July, 2017 at 10:45 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle is out at a work dinner tonight. The Princess is mid way through her three week residential course which she is loving. Communication with her parents has been sparse. Typical exchange captured below.

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So the boys and I were home alone together this evening. In a triumph for parent and childminder alike, when I came home from work they were still in their pyjamas. “What is the point of holidays, if you can’t have a lazy day from time to time?” asked Michael. He and I have fundamentally different views on this matter.

Anyhow, as Mr. Waffle prepared to go out, I said to the boys, “We’ll have fun together, won’t we?” Daniel looked at me, raised an eyebrow and said, “Fun with pasta?” Yes, indeed, it was pasta for dinner again. There’s a boy who knows his mother.

Updated to add: the cat has just been sick on the rug in the hall.  Friday nights don’t get more fun than this.

The Garden of Earthly Delights

6 July, 2017 at 11:39 pm by belgianwaffle

We have a small urban back garden and an even smaller front garden. Notwithstanding its miniature size, until recently, it was a bit out of control. We paid a very efficient and reliable man to make it beautiful. It felt a bit profligate, to be honest, it’s not as though the garden is massive and I feel we ought to be able to manage ourselves but we weren’t. And now, joy of joys, it is delightful. Now that the weeds are under control, I feel able to buy and add plants myself. I spent €20 at the church garden party on plants (nearly flooring the delighted child on sales) and planted them all; the mild thrill. Yes indeed, the return to horticulture is complete. In other news, I was in charge of the ice cream wafer stall on the hottest day of the year with no fridge; I spent the day running in and out to the priests’ kitchen and doling out rather melty, sticky wafers. Still we sold out.

The Family Walk: An Endangered Species

5 July, 2017 at 7:56 pm by belgianwaffle

Since the children have been very small, Mr. Waffle and I have been taking them on family walks which they tolerate and occasionally enjoy in fact but despise and loath in prospect. We haven’t had so many weekends to go on family walks recently with various other family responsibilities to attend to but one Sunday recently, we had an opportunity to go on a family walk. I told them about it a couple of days in advance, the children were all bitter and Herself turned down several invitations to hang around with her friends as she told me with great bitterness. As she had been seeing them all pretty much 24 hours a day since school finished my withers remained unwrung.

On the day itself it took us forever to get out of the house. They were all grumpy and we arrived at Carlingford at lunchtime. I’d brought some baguette to keep us going but a majority of the party felt it would be best to have lunch first. I was not among the majority. I sat through lunch in the pub brooding on my wrongs. The others were cheered though but then we started on the actual walk and there was a bit of “I don’t want to” from herself and the whole thing was a somewhat tedious. We walked uphill for about 45 minutes and we saw some cows.

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Daniel and Michael recover from our epic uphill trek:

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I had hoped we would walk to a deserted village but by the time we started it was too late. A tamer route was substituted but at the top of the 45 minute uphill, the party was a little unsure about directions so we walked back down the way we had come to everyone else’s delight and my fury. The days of whinging beforehand, the one hour and twenty minute drive to get there, the lunch in the pub, the moaning when we started off and all of this for 45 minutes uphill and about 20 back down (it was quite steep). I was truly fit to be tied. They were all a bit contrite at this point and sent me off to an antique shop to browse while they scuttled away for ice cream. I didn’t buy anything but I did find a replica of my duck jug; it turns out he’s available in good bric-à-brac shops everywhere.

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When I rejoined my family they offered to drive to the deserted village; that was really not the point. God, even writing this, I am remembering how very peeved I was.

I am not sure how much longer we can keep dragging the children on walks and have me retain my sanity. In more positive walk related news, Mr. Waffle and I went for a walk together in Wicklow and it was beautiful and nobody was cross at all.

Here’s a picture.

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Yet, somehow, my ire has abated and, even now, I am thinking of making them all schlep up to enjoy this view when the Princess’s French exchange comes in July. My poor, poor little family.

Oh Cecilia, You’re Breaking My Heart

4 July, 2017 at 6:55 pm by belgianwaffle

My father is 92 and my aunt has just turned 88. When I had dinner with them recently, I asked my aunt about toys of her youth. “Well,” she said, “I remember I had a beautiful rag doll called Cecilia.” “You can’t possibly remember that after all these years,” objected my father. “Yes, I do,” she countered, “because she was named after aunt Cecilia who made her for me and you took her and nailed her to a tree when you were playing cowboys and indians.” Can I reassure anxious readers that sibling relations have improved since the early 1930s? But, poor Cecilia, never forgotten.

Mildly related: I wanted to call the Princess Cecilia after the very same aunt but Mr. Waffle put his foot down. I made her take it for her confirmation name instead because that was before she was a teenager and I had some influence; recently she has been torturing me by saying, “But did I really take Cecilia or did I just tell you that?”

Maybe Print Is Not Dead After All

3 July, 2017 at 6:42 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle has a subscription to the Economist [that’s even worse than it sounds, I got it for him for Christmas, it was that or more socks]. It lies around the house but I am never really tempted to pick it up. Daniel, on the other hand, is rivetted. He firmly believes Macron will save Europe, just so’s you know. I was talking about this unusual choice of reading material with my friend from Belfast, “I mean,” I said, “I didn’t even watch the news growing up, let alone read the Economist. Did you?” “Well,” he said, “it was the 70s and I was growing up in North Belfast so much of the news was very local, so yeah, all the time.” Well, circumstances alter cases.

I asked Michael and Daniel whether they had seen Trump and the orb. “No,” said Michael peering over my shoulder on to twitter which is now my source of all news. “Do you want to see, Daniel?” I asked. “No thanks,” he said, “I saw it in the Economist”

New Irish

2 July, 2017 at 6:54 pm by belgianwaffle

I was down in Cork a while ago and visiting my mother in the nursing home. One of the nurses said she had been in Dublin the previous day. “What for?” I asked. She’d been at the citizenship ceremony. She’s Indian and as, apparently, India doesn’t allow for dual citizenship, she agonised about whether to apply for Irish citizenship or not but in the end she did. She was delighted. The natural instinct of almost all Irish people is to be self-deprecating and I was desperate to point out all the disadvantages of her new status but it didn’t seem like the moment so I just said, “Congratulations.” The fact that she was so pleased made me feel proud to be Irish which is not really something you get a lot as an Irish person, we’re often a bit moany about Ireland and I, personally, am on the subs bench for the Irish Olympic whinging team. Maybe time to reconsider.

Turn of Phrase

1 July, 2017 at 6:14 pm by belgianwaffle

When two cars have a minor collision, I refer to it as a “tip” or even “a little tip”. Mr Waffle has said that he has never heard anyone else say this and it must be a Cork expression. Can this be possible? Everyone in Cork I checked with was aware of the expression but no Dubliners. Anyone else use this outside the Pale or further afield? Answers appreciated; I’m at the desk-based research stage of this argument.


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