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Mompromise

22 October, 2017 at 9:45 pm by belgianwaffle

The boys went off today on all day birthday hike with a friend. This left myself and Mr. Waffle at home alone with our firstborn. We decided to go for a walk together. She was not keen. “Let’s try for a compromise,” I said brightly. “When you say compromise, what you mean is that we’ll still do what you want but you’ll be miserable and long-suffering about it,” said herself. Oh the blinding moment of clarity; I did recognise that person. “I call it the mompromise,” she said.

We took her for lunch before we made her climb up the Sugar Loaf. Her mood was not improved by the woman at the table beside us leaning across and saying to us, “I’ve never seen a more similar mother and daughter than you two.”

She was somewhat gloomy on the walk and although the views were beautiful,

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they did not entirely melt her hardened heart.

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She went up and down at a ferocious clip. Exhausted from the ascent at speed, we let her travel down ahead of us and she was waiting, only slightly impatiently, in the car park when we arrived back. She was finally partially appeased by an anxious offer of tea and a bun in Enniskerry.

When her brothers arrived back at 9 from their day long hike, which they quite enjoyed, I asked whether their walks in the mountains with their parents (usually about two hours) had prepared them for this, they said, “No, not at all.”

Alas.

Zen Master

21 October, 2017 at 6:23 pm by belgianwaffle

I worry a lot, about all kinds of things. Over the summer, herself said to me, “That’s a problem for today.” “What?” I said. “Well,” she said, “tomorrow, that won’t be a problem because it has to be dealt with today.” Although, obvious, like all self-help advice, it’s a formulation that works well for me. “A problem for today,” I mutter to myself as I deal with my nasty head cold, a dull meeting or whatever it may be. I offer it here for free because I’m generous that way.

Busy Week

16 October, 2017 at 1:19 am by belgianwaffle

This week nearly killed me. We did a lot of stuff and I’m not counting school/the day job. It will have to stop or we will all keel over.

Monday
GAA for Dan; cubs for Michael (he is going to both cubs and scouts during transition to scouts); and bookclub for me.

Tuesday
Herself attended a “Zeminar” in the RDS. Neither myself nor Mr. Waffle could take her due to work commitments so she had to go herself on the bus which we weren’t crazy about but she managed fine. She visited stands from three Irish political parties at the conference. For Irish people, see whether you can guess which they are:
Party 1: Extremely earnest young man explained all their policies in excruciating detail.
Party 2: “You have no information about your policies up,” she said to them, “all you have is stuff about Game of Thrones”. “Ah,” they say, “you don’t want to be putting people off with the old policies.” “But,” she protested, “you are a political party, people expect you to have policies.”
Party 3: “We can help you to get ahead. We can introduce you to the Taoiseach.”

When she came home she went to the school open night so that she could impress possible incoming students and their parents with her prowess with a bunsen burner.

Michael went to scouts.

Mr. Waffle went to football.

I got sodden cycling in to work and resolved to get new rain gear at the weekend.

Wednesday
Herself was back at the Zeminar and afterwards she went to Bray on the Dart to see a play in a friend’s school. Daniel had training after school and I had to drive to Bray (very far away, people) to collect herself at 9.30

Thursday

Herself had games club followed by a debating tournament after school and had to be collected at 8 (bitter defeat, thanks for asking). Daniel and Michael had their booster vaccinations and sore arms. On the plus side this meant Daniel didn’t go to scheduled GAA training.

Friday
The boys had games club. All three children were supposed to have French but T, our faithful tutor, was sick. Poor T, but it was a relief to have something cancelled. Mr. Waffle and I went out to see Class in the New Theatre as part of the Theatre festival (herself babysat, part of a quid pro-quo for the 90 minute drive I had to bring her safely home on Wednesday night). I thought it was only alright but I was a definite minority. It’s about working class parents meeting a middle class teacher as part of a parent-teacher meeting. Class in two ways, you see.

Saturday

Daniel had a GAA match in the morning. I had a migraine. Unsurprising, frankly. Michael had drama in the afternoon. I dropped him in and bought myself a new waterproof coat while he was being dramatic. By early evening I had recovered sufficiently from my migraine to play “Capture the Flag” in a local park. I wanted to know how it worked before having 8 boys round for Daniel and Michael’s birthday and learning on the hoof (no date set, thanks for asking).

Sunday
Mr. Waffle and Michael went to mass at 10 and hockey at 11. I marched the other pair up the road, running late for 11 o’clock mass. We were half way up the road when herself said, “What time is it?” “It’s already 11, we’re going to be late” I said trotting along. “But mass doesn’t start until half past.” Good point. They had choir and she did the second reading. It was a reading from St. Paul. Even after 2,000 years, his personality still comes across very clearly. Favourite line which I think will become a running joke in this family: “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships.” [Emphasis added]. The first holy communion class were there for the prayers of the faithful and so, the prayer for the dead, always a bit of a tricky one, was doomed. The child did not realise that she had to pause to allow the priest to list the names of the dead and so she ploughed on with her prayer and he ploughed on with his list until he realised there could be only one winner and let her continue. He read the list afterwards but he was clearly ground down by going mano a mano with the 8 year old at the lectern and when it came to a complex name he said, “It’s Áine Ní..M..no I can’t pronounce it, it’s something like that.” He’s not a native English speaker and it was all too much for him.

Mr. Waffle’s parents, who are very prompt, came for lunch and were sitting in their car outside the door when Mr. Waffle and Michael came back from hockey and the rest of us came back from mass. After they went home, I took the boys to see “We come from Far Far Away” which was a play for children about refugees. It was quite good actually but the boys were a bit too old for it and didn’t really enjoy it. Also, we had to sit cross legged in a yurt for the duration which is not very comfortable it you are a grown up. Or maybe that’s just me.

After this we went to Milano’s in Temple Bar for dinner as, for a birthday treat, their father had bought them tickets for the live show of “Impractical Jokers“; they are very fond of the deeply unsuitable TV show. We managed to lose the tickets between dinner and the car and had to tramp around looking for them (in vain) and then go home and reprint them which made punctual Mr. Waffle extremely tense. They arrived at 8.05 for an 8 pm start and, in fact, the warm up act still had ages to go. It was even more deeply unsuitable than the TV show but the boys loved it.

Meanwhile herself and myself were at home. A couple of her friends came round and I was able to give all of them the happy, happy news that the Department of Education had decided to close every school in the country due to the oncoming hurricane. Not a standard Irish weather feature. Then, with growing horror the realisation dawned on me that there might be an impact for grown-ups also and that my office might have to close for the day. I spent the remainder of Sunday evening consulting with colleagues, looking at weather warnings and reading runes while we collectively tried to decide whether the office should close or not tomorrow and how best to get the word out to everyone. You will, I am sure be rivetted to hear that the office is, in fact, closed tomorrow or, at this stage (it is late) today. Mr. Waffle has have brought in the bins and I have parked the car as far away from trees as possible on our tree-lined street. I have my new, guaranteed waterproof coat. My work for the week is done.* How was your own week?

*Actually, it was Open House this weekend and we usually go to see something but this year we didn’t; I’m not even sure I’m sorry.

Despicable Me

14 October, 2017 at 5:21 pm by belgianwaffle

My sister took me to Kildare Village recently where we had breakfast in the only Pain Quotidien cafe in the country (more’s the pity) and then wandered around. Kildare Village is an outlet shopping centre. It is antiseptic but strangely appealing to me. It goes against all my principles but I want to go back. Alas.

In more worthy activities, we also visited Spike Island which is Europe’s premier tourist attraction. I have to say, notwithstanding its success in the tourist awards and the fact that it is in Cork, if you had to choose between it and the Colosseum, I think the latter would win out.

Spike Island is, obviously, an island and it’s always nice to have a little boat trip.

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The guides when we got there were superb – knowledgeable and entertaining and, although, I thought that we would find over 3 hours on a very small island a bit dull, it wasn’t. We didn’t even see everything. I would definitely go back again.

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It was one of the Treaty Ports handed over by the British in 1938 and a small building near the pier was the last structure built by the British in what is now the Republic. The island is full of intriguing snippets of history like that. There’s an exhibition featuring a number of things including this picture of the flags on display in East Beach, Cobh, Co. Cork on 11 July 1938 to celebrate the passing of the port to Ireland. Ahem.

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I hadn’t realised that when World War II broke out, Churchill wanted the Treaty ports back but DeValera wouldn’t let them go back. Frankly, Churchill was not at all as popular in this jurisdiction as across the water.

Religious Tolerance

13 October, 2017 at 5:16 pm by belgianwaffle

When I was in Cork last, my father told me about a man called Pulvertaft (great name) who ran a plumbing manufacturing business. Like many of the business owners at the time, Mr. Pulvertaft was a Protestant, a Methodist, in fact. In the Marian Year of 1954 (ever wondered why so many 63 year old Catholic women are called Marian; wonder no longer) the (Catholic) workforce approached the Methodist owner to ask whether they might, in view of the Marian celebrations, erect a statue of the Virgin Mary on the factory floor. He said that they could and, if they stopped effing and blinding the whole time, he’d even pay for it.

Teenager News

12 October, 2017 at 7:20 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself died her hair blue/green over the summer. It wasn’t bad actually but, if she were to do it again, I would strongly recommend non-permanent colours. Staring down the barrel of the new school year and the firm rule that hair could only be “natural colours” according to the school dress code, she went and got all the green cut out. The hairdresser gave her a bob and I absolutely loved it. She hated it. Every time I said I loved it, she hated it more. She is resigned to her fate now and I think, maybe even, sneakily, likes it a bit herself.

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There was actually a bit of green left which we tried to address with ketchup on the hairdresser’s advice. Yes, really. It didn’t work but, happily, the school seem to feel her effort have been sufficient.

She also had her first babysitting gig minding a 3 year old and a 5 year old – grandchildren of the people who live across the road. She earned €30 and was delighted with herself.

Home Improvements or Why I Never Liked Pinterest

11 October, 2017 at 7:10 pm by belgianwaffle

When we moved into our house in 2013, we did as much renovation as we could afford and then waited until we had money to do the rest. Now we have money to do the rest but no appetite to do so [I know this is what my boss would call a quality problem but nonetheless still a problem – turns out it’s much easier to renovate before you move in]. I was mildly depressed to see that a house we looked at but didn’t buy in 2012 has been put back on the market, having been renovated “top to toe” by its new owners. In the same time, we have failed to get a new sofa. In fact when our old childminder came back into our lives recently, the first thing he said when he sat down was, “Oh God, you still have that really uncomfortable sofa.”

I am pleased to announce that we have put in an order and are now expecting a new sofa in mid-November. I feel an amazing sense of achievement. Also, we got some fancy new mirrors. All the rest of the family cordially loath the one in the hall but I don’t care. Loathed mirror is on the left.

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Have an arty shot of the ones over the fireplaces in the reception rooms that cunningly ensures the orange chintz sofa and the regency stripe curtains are out of view.

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Furthermore, I have, with some difficulty (for me, my sister, my brother, my father and my husband) arranged for my mother’s old dressing table and my father’s old chest of drawers to travel from Cork to Dublin.

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High on my success, I think I might put back the kitchen/utility room/downstairs bathroom renovation programme for another year. In the interim, Michael is insisting on a new bed, we need new curtains downstairs (only so much one can take of unlined, cherry striped curtains) and we have to do something about the wretched piano. God, my father was right when he said that houses are nothing but trouble.

Michael at 12

10 October, 2017 at 6:46 pm by belgianwaffle

Michael was 12 on 27 September.

He started secondary school at the end of August and for the first month he found it hard. I was slightly despairing about whether we had done the right thing. I agonised. Mr. Waffle agonised. And then, almost overnight, everything was better; he got the measure of the expectations, the timetable, the school and he seemed reasonably pleased with himself. He joined the games club on Friday afternoons. He is in a different class from his brother for the first time ever. At the beginning, I realised how much we had previously relied on Daniel to tell us what the homework was or clarify difficulties. Michael was on his own now. It did not go well initially but somehow, now it’s fine and he seems to know what he has to do all by himself. He is the ultimate pragmatist and as the school operates a stringent policy of promoting the first national language he adheres to it and has started speaking Irish a bit at home, possibly to avoid the extra effort of covering two languages. In fairness, he is quite positively disposed towards Irish: he sees it has value as an Irish person to know Irish and that is half the battle. There are also a couple of children in his class who went to English medium primary schools and are really struggling with the language and this, I think, underlines to him the very practical, current benefits of Irish.

Part of Michael’s difficulty was, I think, that everything was changing. At the same time, he went from cubs to scouts and he didn’t like that much either. It was like school, it was all rules and everyone was cross but, again, after 3 weeks he got the hang of it and he seems to be perfectly happy again now.

He has also taken up hockey. He has been pushing for this for a number of years but I have resisted partly on the grounds that I wasn’t convinced that he would really like it; partly because we don’t live particularly close to a hockey club. This year, I folded and he joined a club. I’ll say this much for Michael, he knows what he’s going to like. He really enjoys it. Hockey is mostly played by girls in Ireland and of the 30 players in his group, 28 are girls. He doesn’t care. Daniel came along one Sunday and asked, “When will we get a match?” and the answer, for boys, is basically, probably never. Daniel decided against pursuing this interest; Michael continues to be perfectly happy to continue playing. The only difficulty is that training is at 11 on a Sunday, miles away. Daniel and herself sing in the choir at 11.30 mass locally and Daniel, in particular, wanted to stay involved. This means we are doing mass in two phases: Mr. Waffle and Michael at 10 and myself and the others at 11.30. It is unsatisfactory but I am quite pleased that Daniel actually wants to go to mass.

Michael still loves to read. Every break in school he spends sitting contentedly reading his book. His brother, his sister, his fellow students and his anxious teachers have all asked him whether he is ok on his own; it would appear that he is.

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[Can I just say that it is despite his parents’ best efforts that he often wears socks and sandals?]

I find him completely delightful; his brother and sister refer to him as the arch-manipulator. He knows exactly how to behave to get what he wants; I suggest that they should learn from him rather than indignantly outing his behaviour. Funnily enough, that does not seem to appease them. He and I get on like a house on fire except in relation to his homework; if I ever try to help him, we both get furious. He is so lackadaisical, I am so unreasonable. In fact, Mr. Waffle is much better at this which is a surprise to all of us.

He continues to eat almost nothing. It was a sad day for me when, over the summer, he decided that he was no longer going to eat cereal. Cornflakes and milk was his major food group and this has now been replaced by toast and honey which I have to regard as a backward step.

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He gets on very well with his brother. They have loads in common and they spend many happy hours together. He also gets on with his sister, they seem to mostly travel in parallel grooves but the odd time they interact, it’s all perfectly cheerful. Being in the same school again has allowed for much greater interaction between them which, on balance, they seem to find mildly interesting.

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He is cycling in and out to school which is a bit heart-stopping but, like his Irish, his cycling has really improved. I think it’s good for him.

He’s still a complete home bird. Unlike his brother and sister he had absolutely no interest in signing up for the school tour to Germany: “All day on a bus, looking at boring museums with teachers on my holidays.” He thought the other pair were certifiable. He is doing German at school and it is alright. We are trying to keep his French up at home by having a former childminder come and play games with them – through French – for a couple of hours a week. When I got home from work last Friday, Michael was sweeping the board in Monopoly but not bothering to say, in French, any numbers higher than 10 (numbers below 10 are not a big requirement in Monopoly), slightly to the childminder’s despair. We’ll see how it goes; it’s nice that he and his brother are so pleased to see the childminder who we had for a number of years and was a firm favourite.

He continues to like to wear exactly the same clothes he has always worn. This is a problem as he is growing and many of his trousers are approaching mid-shin length and he will not let them go. I keep trying to introduce new elements and sneak away the old but he is having none of it.

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He loves babies and small children and when we were in Tesco recently bag packing for the scouts he went up to all the babies and made them smile. He is absolutely charmed with his new baby cousin from London.

He continues to be really interested in history and is always reading books about history and regaling us with tales from the past. He loves “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Simpsons” neither of which is really appropriate for someone who turned 12 last month. He spends many happy hours glued to his phone watching people commenting on games they are playing, a form of entertainment entirely baffling to his parents.

He is obliging and even, if he wriggles out of things, which he can do, he, disarmingly, instantly goes to rectify whatever the fault might be – “Of course,” he says cheerfully when asked to tidy his room. If he is annoyed, it very rarely shows and that makes him delightfully easy to live with.

While his brother and sister are keen to be older and more independent even with the responsibilities that brings, Michael is happy just where he is, if anything, he wouldn’t at all object to being younger, particularly, if it meant less homework.

He is very sensitive to the moods of others – if people are down, he tries to cheer them up. He is a pleasure to be with: warm and funny if occasionally dogmatic.

I am curious about what the next number of years will bring but for the moment [she tempts fate] all is well.

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Alas

9 October, 2017 at 5:38 pm by belgianwaffle

I went out for a leaving drinks at work recently. It was loud in the pub. I was chatting to one of my younger colleagues who has a strong Dublin accent and he said to me, “You’re looking very on-trend tonight, Anne.” “Really, do you think so?” I asked, quite pleased as, you know, I don’t think I was ever on trend really. I was just wondering whether the 90s wardrobe I was rocking had come back around into fashion when he said, “Yeah, you look exhausted.” “Sorry,” said I, “what did you say earlier?” He said, sympathetically, obviously taking pity on my advanced age, “I said that you’re looking very drained.”

Weekends – Rounded Up

8 October, 2017 at 7:22 pm by belgianwaffle

It’s been a while since I had a weekend round-up, what have I got for you?

The boys have joined a panel which involves seeing lots of films for children in foreign languages. They are enjoying it. We arrived a day early for the first session. For reasons I cannot now remember, it was supremely awkward to get in on time and it was all my fault (that latter part is true, I misread the date) so I took them all for pizza to assuage the pain. It worked. I shudder to think how much money I have spent in Milano’s over the years.

We went to Merrion Square which on that day, as part of Heritage Week, was full of tents with archaeologists talking about digs. Mild interest from the boys in the digging up of dead bodies which seems to have been a feature of laying the Luas lines.

We went to see “Dunkirk”. I did not enjoy it. It was much too loud. I can feel that I am really going to enjoy settling in to later middle age but, seriously, even the boys thought it was too loud.

We went to see Hentown in the Tenement Museum. It was an “immersive, site-specific” experience and it was pretty good – the kids found it reasonably enjoyable too. The best part though was the local kids from the flats who joined in the outdoor element of the play. The actors wove them into the narrative even though it must have been a bit challenging as a gang of four or five youngish boys shouted out their lines with them.

I went to see “Foil Arms and Hog” in the Abbey. I booked the tickets on a bit of a whim as they are supposed to be funny. I hadn’t realised but it was the opening night of the Fringe Theatre Festival. Before it started I had to suffer through two middle aged men in jeans and crumpled shirts telling us all about how having a fringe festival comedy on stage was going to improve the permeability of the Abbey (Ireland’s national theatre where I have seen my fair share of dreadful productions in the past but at least there was always assigned seating – not on this occasion). I was with my sister who pointed out that we were the oldest people in the audience which included the Taoiseach (at only 38, our prime minister is younger than both of us). It was alright, not hilarious, but fine. I would definitely have enjoyed it more though if the rest of the audience had not been paralytic with laughter. I felt I was missing something. God, not only is the Taoiseach ten years younger than me, he’s also more cutting edge and he was in young Fine Gael in college.

We went in to town for culture night.

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Herself met her friends at the theatre which is owned by one of her friend’s fathers and I noted that it was doing readings from a play by my sister’s boyfriend’s uncle. We almost have loads of arty friends, just at a couple of degrees of separation. We did the obligatory culture night things: we went for pizza, we went to the sweet shop in Temple Bar.

As part of the, entirely optional, cultural part of the evening we went to the Gallery of Photography [great exhibition based on their Flickr account – thery’re part of the National Library] and we briefly partook of the big sing – a karaoke type activity which Daniel and I quite liked but wasn’t for everyone. Most importantly, we got to stay out at night; always very exciting.

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Mr. Waffle’s sister, her husband and her new baby came to Dublin for a week. This was their first trip to Ireland since the baby was born in London. There was much excitement in the extended family and we all got to see the baby for the first time. We had everyone to our house for lunch on Sunday. Here are some tips on how not to prepare for an extended family lunch: do not have your sons go to a film which ends at 1 and from which they require to be picked up just as your guests are arriving (on the plus side it’s part of their new film panel thing and they loved it), under no circumstances let your daughter go to stay with a friend in Wicklow whose father is a Church of Ireland clergyman. I said blithely that of course she could go to the service on Sunday morning showing my cheery ecumenicism, unfortunately, I am not ecumenical enough and I had no idea that the harvest service is one of the lengthiest of the year and it was 2 o’clock on Sunday before I was able to go and pick her up from the train. She had the full clergyman’s daughter experience of going to the farm of some poor parishioner to help with feeding animals as her (parishioner’s) husband was ill and she needed the help. Herself said that unfenced geese are a menace to human safety. She also had to, along with her friend, accompany an unwell parishioner back to the rector’s house for a reviving cup of tea in the course of the lengthy service. It was still going on when she got back. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, despite the hostess constantly departing to collect children, lunch for 15 passed off peacefully, mostly due to the fact that everyone got to inspect the new baby, who was as good as gold, and Mr. Waffle did all the cooking. I have asked herself to, in future, choose her friends from the 1 million people who live in Dublin.

What else did we do?

I supervised Michael and a number of other scouts bag packing to raise money in Tesco. They were more impressed than I expected when I told them that herself had met Baden-Powell’s great, great nephew in Wicklow (if you hang around in C of I rectories, this is the kind of thing that happens).

We walked on the pier in Dun Laoghaire.

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We visited Trim Castle.

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It’s where Braveheart was filmed. They are still very proud of that. The guide, who was about my age, was interesting about how attitudes have changed in Ireland. He went to school in Trim and no one ever spoke to him about the castle or it’s history. It was an Anglo-Norman castle from 1176 and not part of our history. Now, of course, they are falling down with school tours and I’d say there isn’t a primary school child in Trim who isn’t sick of colouring in pictures of the Castle.

That’s a lot of activity, isn’t it? I have, however, just collected Michael from a friend’s house. Friend’s mother and I stayed chatting for a while at the door as I thanked her for having him. “No problem,” said she, “there was another friend here anyway. Actually, we were a bit chaotic today as we were minding a puppy and my brother-in-law was here as well as my sister who is in labour in the kitchen at the moment. We’re actually heading in to the hospital now.” In fairness, that’s a busy weekend.

Daniel at 12

7 October, 2017 at 7:27 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel turned 12 on September 27. He is so tall all of a sudden. I feel like he is going to pass me out soon.

He started secondary school at the end of August. It’s been tough for him adapting to the new school. He’s the second youngest in the year (his brother is younger by 20 minutes – more on him later) and I did spend quite a while agonising about whether the change was so hard because he was so young compared to his classmates. On the social side, he seems to be good at making friends and he has made a few new friends in the school. Academically, he seems to have settled and he is quite enjoying doing new things now I think. Tuition is through the medium of the first national language and his Irish is really improving and he seems to be getting on top of the vocabulary needed for each subject reasonably handily. He has the good science teacher (his sister, had the bad science teacher, happily, since retired) and as I type he is in the kitchen with a classmate working on a science project for the young scientist exhibition and loving science. Oh happy day. Some of his teachers are a bit terrifying and, although he personally never gets into trouble, he fears for his classmates. It’s a bit easier for us as we saw his sister go through the same process a couple of years ago and we knew that it would be hard at the start but it would get better. Also, I am on the parents’ council and I know the principal and all the teachers and any new ones, herself can give me the low down. It’s a big step up though. He’s going on the school tour to Germany in February and, reading the itinerary, I see that they will have free unsupervised time in Munich for a couple of hours and I do feel quite nervous about that. His sister is going on the tour too and I can see myself ruining the trip for both of them by insisting that she keep an eye on him. Meanwhile, he’s working away on duolingo as well as at school to bring his German up to entry level for the trip.

He is still doing GAA to beat the band. He has training two nights a week and a match every Saturday. He’s also on the school team, training one afternoon a week and a match every second week. He’s starting basketball soon too. He is, undoubtedly, the fittest and the sportiest member of our family. He’s also the only one who wears glasses. It was slightly disastrous when he lost his gear bag after a match at school and we feared that his €200 prescription sport goggles, his football boots and his school tracksuit might be in a field somewhere. Happily after an unhappy 24 hours for everyone, they turned up in the art room at school. I foresee more of this.

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He will play football with anyone and he is just delighted when someone turns up with a football. Here he is outside the Pompidou centre in August:

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He’s also started cycling in and out to school. I am a little afraid of the traffic, I have to say, but there is an approved safe route which I have authorised and he is pretty responsible, so I hope my fears are misplaced.

He is a proper latch key child as we said goodbye to our last childminder in July. Now, from 4 to 6, he and his siblings are home alone. So far, so good, it seems although, I would have liked to have been there the first few afternoons to help him along with homework which was quite the shock to the system.

For the first time, he is not in the same class as his brother and he finds that strange but he is getting used to it. He enjoys the fact that it reduces the tendency of people to treat them as the same person – which we are all guilty of, not just school. All the same, they still get on like a house on fire; actually, if anything a bit better than in primary school when they were together all day. They do annoy each other occasionally but mostly they play or chat together perfectly happily and they have loads of common interests.

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His sister is more disputed territory. They are getting on a bit better but he still measures himself against her constantly and, given that she is two and a half years older than him, she usually comes out better (though not in sport!). For the school trip, I gave him a copy of his passport and his sister’s to give in to the history teacher who is co-ordinating the trip. “Oh,” said the teacher, “I didn’t realise you were [the Princess’s] brother”. Daniel admitted that he was and confided that he was slightly dreading being known as [the Princess’s] brother. “I know,” sympathised the history teacher, it was the same with me and my older brother Cormac.” So, I suppose it was inevitable that the next time that Daniel stuck his hand up to answer a question in history class, the teacher pointed to him and said, “Yes, you, [the Princess’s] brother.”

He got a phone for his confirmation in June and he loves it. He watches loads of game videos narrated by Americans giving him a slightly American twang which we do not love. He is like a sponge for accents though; we watched Des Bishop’s “In the name of the Fada” and for a couple of hours after each episode you would have thought he was born and bred in the Connemara Gaeltacht. He also uses instagram to stay in touch with all his friends. It seems to be their main mode of communication. He tells me that one of his friends who went to a less strict school has now died his hair purple and joined a band. Hard to know how to feel about all this. I think he is reading a bit less since he got the phone, though he still reads a lot and enjoys it very much.

Daniel continues to be a spectacularly picky eater. If he didn’t drink milk, I think I would pretty much despair. I pretty much despair as it is. I hope he grows out of it and someday we will be able to go out for family dinners to places that serve neither pizza nor chips. He confided in me recently that his favourite food is the Lidl chicken nugget – something, I would like to emphasise, that his father brought into the house.

He is generally interested in things and willing to explore and investigate where his siblings might dig their heels in; the triumph of hope over experience as he gazes around another gallery.

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He’s good at art and enjoys drawing things on the whiteboard in his room that his aunt got him and drawing manga comics. They did an art project at the end of 6th class and their work was hung in the Hugh Lane Gallery as part of an exhibition. I thought Daniel’s picture was really good. So good, in fact, that in a blind test to guess which one was his, I picked it last because it seemed almost presumptuous to guess that that picture might have been done by my child.

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He’s also quite musical and I’m hoping that music class in secondary school will fill the gap which his parents have left in his musical education. Look, at least he sings in the church choir on Sunday.

Overall, it’s been a good year for him, I think. I hope that he will like secondary school; despite the terror of teachers and the horror of homework, he’s really enjoying learning new things. There’s a school games club and, of course, GAA and he’s enjoying both.

I would love to see him care a bit less about what other people think; he can get really upset and frustrated. I think he is growing out of this but it is hard when the world is full of very annoying people – many of them closely related to him. He has a clear sense of what is fair and what is not and he watches his sister like a hawk to make sure that there is equal treatment. He has parents who can be mortifying but he is resigned to this and bears us no malice.

He is very hardworking – at school, at sports, at home. If you want something done domestically, Daniel is obliging, speedy and efficient.

At the moment, now that he has settled in to secondary school, he is a pleasure to be around. His father and I went out for a cup of tea with him this afternoon and it was lovely. He and I walked back home together afterwards and we had loads to talk about. Let us hope that all will continue to be well as we stare down the abyss of adolescence but for the moment, things are pretty good.

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Cycling Gloom

1 October, 2017 at 7:48 pm by belgianwaffle

I seem to have become obsessed by cycling infrastructure. It was not always thus. I have always cycled. I cycled in and out to school from when I was 12 and I never stopped. I don’t remember being concerned about cycling infrastructure and safe cycling until my own children started cycling in Dublin. It has been regularly heart-stopping. But I persist. I want them to be able to cycle: it’s good for them, it’s good for the planet and it’s handy. It’s also scary.

Herself has been cycling in and out to school since she started secondary school a couple of years ago. I was really nervous at the start but increasingly less so. She is on top of it now, I hope. I note from the most recent census that of the approximately 250,000 girls in secondary school, about 700 cycle. This is a significant percentage increase from the last census where only some 500 girls cycled to school but it’s not exactly a sea change. This is what the census says:

Cycling

The 25 years, from 1986 to 2011, saw an 87 per cent decrease in the numbers cycling to secondary school. 2016 saw the reversal of this trend with a 10.5 per cent increase since 2011, bringing the numbers of secondary students taking to their bikes to over 7,000. Over 90 per cent of these student cyclists were male, but the number of female cyclists has grown by over 30 per cent since 2011.

Her brothers started secondary school in September (more on this anon) and have been cycling in and out together, at first with a parent and, now, alone. It is unnerving stuff. September 8 is etched on my brain as the first day they cycled in and out unaccompanied and came home alive. I enjoyed the following conversation with Daniel:

Him: If I am run over while cycling to school, whose fault will it be?
Me: I am sure that you won’t be run over. When you say “whose fault” what do you mean?
Him: Will it be mine for cycling carelessly, yours for letting us cycle to school or [my sister’s] for refusing to cycle with us?

This was a bit depressing and, honestly, it is absolutely no wonder that people don’t send their children cycling to school in the same numbers as in 1986 (when coincidentally, I finished school) because there are far more cars on the roads, they’re faster and they’re much bigger, squeezing cyclists to the edge of the road and the car seems to be king in Dublin.

I am getting increasingly annoyed about this. So far, my only action has been to follow people who share my annoyance on twitter so, more work may be needed on my part. I was deeply depressed to see that the Liffey cycle route has been shelved because of inability to reach consensus in Dublin City Council. I mean Paris, Paris, is able to put in place better cycling provision than Dublin. Every time I visit my parents in Cork, I am impressed, yet again, by what can be done by a city with far fewer cyclists and much more rain than Dublin. I’m not saying Cork is perfect but it has more segregated cycling options in the city centre than Dublin. An action group has recently been formed and they are standing in human chains trying to keep cycle lanes free for cyclists. I applaud their efforts. However, with the best will in the world, there are many cycle lanes in Dublin which are so poorly designed that even sympathetic drivers who keep an eye out for cyclists (like me when I drive in town, which I do occasionally) find themselves crossing over them and squeezing cyclists. The motoring lobby says that the City Council is anti-motorist and in the grip of the cycling lobby. If only this were true or there were some evidence that this is the case in the form of half way decent cycling provision. I despair.

In unrelated cycling news, my bicycle was nicked a couple of weeks ago from the shed. Mr. Waffle, sneaked an illicitly purchased folding table (long story which you may well hear in due course) into the shed at lunchtime on a Sunday. When we went out to the shed in the afternoon to go for a family cycle, one of the family bikes was gone. It transpired that the €700 door we purchased after someone last tried to break into our shed hadn’t worked. It turns out that, for it to be really effective, it has to be locked.

I got the bike in 2015 on the bike to work scheme and, sadly, you can only claim relief once every five years so, I was alone on the purchase of the new bike. I got a second hand one and it was grand but I was a bit disappointed by the reaction of the guards with whom I had registered my stolen bike. They didn’t hold out any hope of getting it back and suggested that I look on donedeal.ie which, um, you know, I suppose, I might. Sigh.


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