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Weekend Round-Up

30 September, 2018 at 6:52 pm by belgianwaffle

Saturday saw the usual drama/football dropping off with a side trip for Mr. Waffle to visit his father in hospital. My sister came over on Saturday afternoon to give the boys their birthday presents which were very well received indeed. She also advised me on my kitchen renovations (only starting in November almost certainly will not be finished by Christmas despite the builder’s blithe assurances to the contrary). She found a dead mouse on the utility room floor (the cat is in overdrive) and instead of closing the door and waiting for Mr. Waffle to return, she took it out to the garden on the dustpan to dispose of it. “Where did you put it?” I asked nervously. “The compost heap,” she said. I was outraged and made her go out and rescue the corpse with a tongs. Then she took it to the lane. I was keen that she throw it over the wall on to the building site from whence, I am convinced, it came but she was unsure that she would be able to get it over the wall and felt unable to run the risk that it might not clear the wall and would rain back down on us, so laid it in the lane underneath some foliage.

After that excitement, she went into town to see an Irish language play. Her partner’s mother was the playwright – he comes from a very literary family. They came to our house afterwards for a cup of tea. I have to say, the playwright is a lovely woman and I felt a bit guilty that we hadn’t attended ourselves but she did not seem at all offended. A low point came as I handed round the plate of biscuits and Daniel said, “No, she can’t have those, they’re the book club biscuits!” It is true that I am up to host book club on Monday and I had indeed bought the biscuits for this purpose and previously forbidden Daniel for eating them on those very grounds but this was not the moment to bring it up.

After they left we went next door where they were having their annual end of summer party. Among the neighbours is a man whose father, I had heard, delivered the little old lady across the road. In fact, chatting to him about this, it turned out it was his grandfather – an awkward moment I have to concede. He is a bit older than me but, it turns out, not that much older than me. I had thought all the families were local to the area but in fact she was born in Carlow where his grandfather lived and worked and he was from Tullamore and it was complete coincidence that they turned up living across the road from each other. I also found out that Mrs. Second Next Door is a sister of Mrs. Directly Across the Road. Yes indeed, Ireland is tiny. Getting back to the man whose grandfather delivered the little old lady who lives across the road, he told me that his wife wasn’t there as she was at home minding their daughter. Ever mindful of my own daughter’s pecuniary needs, I offered her up as babysitter for a future occasion should there be a need, once she returned from France. At this he looked a little sheepish. It turned out that their daughter, who does look very young, is only 18 months younger than ours but that her parents are very protective. He pointed out that she is the only child of older parents and, there we have it, another awkward moment. The next person I spoke to was another neighbour, a lovely man, whom I had met in a slightly heated work context earlier in the month. Between one thing and another, I ended up leaving early to mind the [sleeping and entirely indifferent] boys next door with something of the mien of a coursing hare.

On Sunday we had a specially lengthy mass. I love those. There was a great quote from Frédéric Ozanam:

The question which is agitating the world today is a social one. It is a struggle between those who have nothing and those who have too much. It is a violent clash of opulence and poverty which is shaking the ground under our feet. Our duty as Christians is to throw ourselves between these two camps in order to accomplish by love, what justice alone cannot do.

I have to say that I thought that it was a contemporary source but no, it dates from the first half of the 19th century. Ozanam (I learn from this morning’s leaflet at mass) was a lawyer but a reluctant one which may explain why he was unimpressed by what justice alone could achieve.

All afternoon we had Daniel and Michael’s friends from school playing elaborate board games – like a birthday party only much less effort. We had our regular scheduled talk with herself this evening. She seems to be getting on like a house on fire in France. I hope that she’s not putting on a brave face but I think not. She got my latest letter and hasn’t read it all yet and I don’t get the sense that she’s saving it up. I think that’s a good sign though slightly disconcerting.

I face into a week of book club hosting, football training for Dan, parents’ council AGM, return of Mr. Waffle’s weekly soccer club and kitchen appliance inspection (you have to BOOK to see kitchen appliances now). I’m feeling a sense of anticipatory exhaustion.

I plan to spend the evening re-reading Terry Pratchett to fortify myself. How was your own weekend?

13

29 September, 2018 at 5:17 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel and Michael were 13 on Thursday, 27 September. My parents were 51 years married. It was the feast day of St. Vincent and almost of St. Michael. It was all go, I can tell you.

13 years, quite a while.

end May - Gangi 059

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Reading

26 September, 2018 at 10:00 pm by belgianwaffle

“Forest Dark” by Nicole Kraus

I loathed this book. The author writes beautifully and she uses this gift to write meaningless, plotless drivel. This book is supremely self-indulgent. It’s possible you might like it better if you’re into Kafka, I’m not. It is, incidentally, mildly interesting about the relationship between American Jews and the the State of Israel. The last line is quite clever. Literally, the last line. Does not repay nearly 300 pages of pain. In summary, I would not recommend this book.

“We’ll Always have Paris” by Emma Beddington

I was a big fan of the blog which preceded this book. The author is very funny. The book is also extremely sad. V good if you have had a lot of French people in your life and are a big francophile. Shows where this kind of thing will lead.

“What Happened” by Hilary Clinton

Meh, it was grand and, in fairness, very readable. I am not entirely sure I am any the wiser really as to why Donald Trump ended up as President of America.

“Greengates” by R.C. Sheriff

Another Persephone book. I found this one very, very sad. A retired couple try to get a new lease of life by moving out to suburbs and even though after many mild vicissitudes the outcome is a happy one, it doesn’t feel very likely to last.

“Histories” by Sam Guglani

Should poets be allowed to write novels? This is another medical book written by a doctor who is also a poet. It’s good but a bit far in on the beautiful writing, no plot end of the spectrum for my liking.

“Autumn” by Ali Smith

I really did not enjoy this. I have no desire to explore the other seasons. It had some good ideas but just did not do it for me.

“Janesville” by Amy Goldstein

I thought that this was interesting. It’s the story of one American manufacturing town and what happened when manufacturing got in to trouble. Well written and insightful.

“The Heart’s Invisible Furies” by John Boyne

This is a good long book and I found it a bit hard to get into at the start and some of the characters annoying and unbelievable. But once I accepted that it was almost more a fable than a novel, I really enjoyed it and was sorry to finish it.

“Manhattan Beach” by Jennifer Egan

I did not enjoy the last Jennifer Egan book I read – “A Visit from the Goon Squad” – but I liked this one. It’s largely set in New York during World War II and it is very atmospheric. Maybe a bit too much research on diving (which is a big feature in this book) but overall I really enjoyed it.

“Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders

I know that this was a huge literary success but I found it quite tiresome. It’s an imagined version of what happened to Abraham Lincoln’s son after he died but before he went onward; the word “imagined” may be superfluous here. I’ve never read “Cré na Cille” but I imagine it was somewhat similar but better if you are a good enough Irish speaker. I was underwhelmed by the Bardo.

“Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys

This is a beautifully written and evocative story. It imagines how the mad woman in Mr. Rochester’s attic in “Jane Eyre” ended up there. I loved it but I found it very, very sad. A short book but you’d want to be in the whole of your health to read it.

“Anatomy of a Scandal” by Sarah Vaughan

This is a page turner/court room drama. It does what it says on the tin but I wouldn’t be rushing back for more.

“Dublin in the 1950s and 1960s” by Joseph Brady

If you told me even ten years ago that I would find a 400 page book about the development of the Dublin suburbs fascinating, I would have laughed at you. But, here we are, I was fascinated. Mostly of interest to those living in Dublin, though.

“La Belle Sauvage” by Philip Pullman

I enjoyed this latest fantasy offering for younger readers and it sent me scurrying back to read the original “Northern Lights” trilogy where, sadly, my recollection was confirmed: book 1 is good, book 2 is alright and book 3 is dire. I might try book 2 of this series when it comes out all the same.

“99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret” by Craig Brown

I saw this recommended on the internet. I think you would have to be a lot more interested in Princess Margaret than I am to really enjoy it but it was alright given the limitations of the source material.

“Dr James Barry: A Woman Ahead of her Time” by Michael du Preez and Jeremy Dronfield

This was interesting but a bit worthy. It’s the true story of a woman born in the 18th century who passed herself off as a man and had a long career as an army doctor. She was originally from Cork and a niece of the painter James Barry, so a certain amount of local interest for me.

“The Almost Nearly Perfect People”
by Michael Booth

This is about the Nordics written by an English man married to a Dane. It’s funny and insightful but sometimes it sheds more light on the author and England that it does on the Nordics (class obsessed anyone?). That said, great holiday read, particularly if you are holidaying in Denmark.

“Why Can’t Everything Just Stay the Same?” by Stepfanie Preissner

An autobiographical collection of writings strung into a book – some parts more successfully than others – but an easy read with some very funny writing.

“The Secret Barrister”

This book was published anonymously. I found it very hard going. I had little enough interest in Irish criminal law when I studied it in college and I don’t know why I thought I might be interested in English criminal law and the cuts to legal aid (I mean, I do sympathise but not much). They have an odd system of magistrates which gives them 35,000 judges or equivalents according to the author (can that be right, really?). By way of contrast, we have 165 judges in Ireland. They do seem to have a lot more offences in England (I’m glad we never seem to have got ASBO equivalents). I think there are probably lots of reasons why this should be the case but when I asked Mr. Waffle what he thought the reason might be, he said tartly, “That’s the difference between having a constitution and the Daily Mail.” I know they have an unwritten constitution and all that but there may be something to that. It felt like being back in college so I would have to say, great textbook but poor bed time read.

“Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains” by Catriona McPherson

I really enjoyed this. It’s about a lady detective in the 1930s (Dandy, short for Dandelion) who goes sleuthing in her ladylike way when she tires of life in the manor. Great literature it is not but I will tell you that my heart soared when I discovered that there are already 15 in the series and, I suspect, more to come. I have a couple on order from the library where they are, understandably, popular with the punters.

“Normal People” by Sally Rooney

I came to this with a very strong prejudice against it. The Irish Times loves Sally Rooney and her work and is always pushing her. Annoying. Furthermore, one of the things the Irish Times likes about her is that her novels are about class and Trinity College. Also annoying. However, she is becoming a cultural phenomenon and the Princess had bought and read this book, so it was in the house and I read it too.

Despite myself, I thought this was an excellent book. Generally, I have a very low tolerance threshold for books that are beautifully written but have no plot but I found myself able to overcome that here. I mean lots of things happened but there was no real narrative arc or conclusion; it was more a slice of life. But what a thought provoking and truly excellent piece of writing. It was really good. For example, here is one line: People in Dublin often mention the west of Ireland in this strange tone of voice, as if it’s a foreign country, but one they consider themselves very knowledgeable about. This very neatly sums up something I have always felt myself about Dublin people and Cork or anywhere outside Dublin really; like they own it. The book is full of lines like that that made me stop in my tracks. Very, very good, damn it.

On a side note, I must say that thematically it is profoundly and in almost every way a deeply unsuitable read for a 15 year old. Sigh. She didn’t like it as much as I did either.

Another Downward Point Plotted on the Graph of Aging

25 September, 2018 at 7:47 pm by belgianwaffle

I have started to fall asleep in front of the television in the evening after the children go to bed. Really, is that not the ultimate sign of passing the gateway through to late middle age. Sigh.

The World in Microcosm

24 September, 2018 at 7:45 pm by belgianwaffle

Me (padding down to the hot press in the utility room in my bare feet): The sock crisis is real.
Michael: It has been real for the last three months; you only care now that it’s hitting the elite of our society.

More Weekend

23 September, 2018 at 7:48 pm by belgianwaffle

So we went to our play last night. Despite the rather grim subject matter which was a little close to home (siblings caring for a parent with dementia) it was funny and the acting was very good. I would possibly call it my best Dublin fringe experience ever – this is quite a low bar. If you get a chance, The Cat’s Mother is recommended.

Michael was back to hockey this morning and Daniel and I went along to 11.30 mass together. He did the Prayers of the Faithful with the other children in the choir – it went chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, growl. Although he’s not the oldest, he is the oldest boy and he’s the only one whose voice has broken. He seems relaxed as does the choir mistress who says that his new baritone goes well with the other children. Both boys’ voices have broken over the summer; I don’t really notice much but apparently a number of their classmates have commented.

As a special treat for Mr. Waffle we went to the transport museum this afternoon. I had completely forgotten that we’d been before years ago but I found a reference on the blog. I would be less harsh on this occasion. Maybe it’s a better outing with older children but still not tremendous now.

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We had a cup of tea and then went for a walk on the pier in Howth which was nice in a low key kind of way.

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We got our weekly call from herself while we were walking on the pier. It was a bit unsatisfactory as reception wasn’t great. She seems to be having a good time and settling in well as far as we can tell. I do miss her. It’s probably as well we are restricted to one call a week (“It’s supposed to be immersion, Mum.”) as otherwise I would probably be on 4 times a day.

Culture Night

22 September, 2018 at 6:15 pm by belgianwaffle

Last night, the boys went for French lessons (not a success). While they were there, as part of Culture Night, Mr. Waffle and I went to the RIA and the Mansion House. I’d been to the Mansion House for events before and it was grand but a bit dull. Not their brass, though, which was impressively shiny and made me realise, sigh, that my own is in sad need of polishing. A very enthusiastic woman in the RIA explained about the Irish Historic Towns Atlas and explained, even to my satisfaction, why on a 25 year project when even Youghal and Bandon are done, Cork city is not due until 2020. Apparently it’s because Cork is particularly difficult to do as it has a very complex and ever-changing street landscape. So there.

We went with the boys to the Terry Pratchett exhibition in Trinity which was disappointing as it was a bit heavy on lecture and light on other elements. There was a great map though. It was a bit of an evening of maps.

We went to Gotham (a pizza and burger joint off Grafton Street) for dinner as I could not face Milano’s. It was crowded but they were able to put us outside. It was the first time in years I’ve eaten my dinner beside a smoker and the first time ever for the boys who were displeased but also fascinated. “Wait until tomorrow,” I said, “when you wake up, all your clothes will smell of smoke.” We packed up reasonably rapidly and went home.

When I was going to bed I noticed a weird small rash thing on my neck. “Probably stress,” I said to myself gloomily. In the morning, however, it came off in the shower so I can only suppose that it was ketchup which ended up on my neck due to a combination of peculiar eating habits, shortsightedness and poor hygiene. You’re welcome.

In other cultural news, Mr. Waffle and I are going out to the theatre this evening. It’s a thing in the Fringe and only an hour or so; we are leaving the boys to fend for themselves. Mr. Waffle has just come in after struggling for about an hour with a ladder and the unhappy interaction of the down-pipe and the rose bush in the front garden. I’ve told him we’ll have to leave for the theatre in about 15 minutes. He’s delighted.

We spent the day ferrying Daniel and Michael to various activities – tennis, drama etc. But, we also looked at ovens for our new kitchen. I want to get an aga. Am I crazy? Stove/oven advice very gratefully received.

Just now, the cat has skulked to the flower bed with a dead mouse between her jaws, I can only hope that my shouting at her, “Don’t you dare bring that into the house!” will be effective. All the news as it happens here.

And how has your weekend been so far?

Reflections

21 September, 2018 at 7:52 pm by belgianwaffle

Me: Michael, why am I cleaning up while you are leaning against the wall.
Him: I’m not sure what to do next.
Me: You could wipe down the table.
Him (dutifully wiping): You see, I’m not lazy, I just lack initiative.

Fliuch Báite

20 September, 2018 at 9:18 pm by belgianwaffle

It absolutely lashed today. I traipsed round town grimly at lunch time trying to find a present for our lovely former childminder, T, who was coming to say goodbye to us before moving back to France. My normal first resort would have been an Amazon voucher but he is very ethical and disapproves of how Amazon treat their workforce so it seemed a perverse choice. I bought him a reasonably large framed photo of St. Stephen’s Green as he used to go there often with the children after school so, I assume that that means he liked it. As I splashed out of the photo shop, I realised that I was unlikely to be able to get it home on my bicycle. Just as well, really, I ended up getting the tram instead.

This evening I had to get home in time to say goodbye to T and give him his present, get to the school for a parents’ meeting at 7 and feed the boys dinner. Mr. Waffle was supposed to be home by 5 but as there were no taxis at the airport, he ended up splashing in to town and getting the tram home thereby missing his chance to say goodbye to T and the school meeting. He was sorry to miss saying goodbye to T and I must say, I felt quite tearful myself saying our final goodbyes, he was such a nice man and the children loved him – he reminded Michael how he used to carry him on his shoulders from school to Stephen’s Green (Michael was never a child for unnecessary effort) and how one Wednesday he collected them from school (I usually collected them from school on Wednesdays) and Michael started crying and saying, “I want my Mummy.” Apparently he kept it up all the way from school to the bus stop and all the way home on the bus and only stopped when T bought him a lollipop from the shop at the bus stop. My heart.

Anyhow when I got home from the school meeting what did I find? My saintly husband had lit the fire and made tea. Is it any wonder I miss him when he’s away?

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Home Alone

19 September, 2018 at 11:28 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle is away for work this week. Herself is gone, Mr. Waffle is away. “Who is next?” we ask ominously. I feel like old Aunt Ada Doom. The boys and I are coping though I wouldn’t say that our diet stands up to particularly close scrutiny. Particularly as the oven has died.

I didn’t get home until 7ish this evening leaving the boys to their own devices [or possibly just their devices, let us not inquire too closely]. Sadly, the frame of Daniel’s glasses had broken at assembly that morning and the combined efforts of the school staff throughout the day had not fixed them. He doesn’t see much without them and neither of the boys called me to tell me. I could probably have got home a bit earlier had I known. Anyhow, I saved the day by fixing them pro tem with superglue but it does not seem likely to be a permanent solution.

Mr. Waffle went off to Finland with a copy of the Hollybough. I feel I wrote before about my ambition to be in the Hollybough Christmas photo selection. There are loads of them. All you have to do is have a Cork connection, go somewhere mildly exotic and photograph yourself with the Hollybough. I put it in the bottom of our suitcase to go to Paris last year but Mr. Waffle, under the sadly mistaken impression that there was no need to bring it to Paris, unpacked it. I found it under the bed again when we got back from Denmark this year. Mr. Waffle confessed that he thought of it as we were speeding along the motorway out of Copenhagen airport but felt that no good could come of sharing that thought. Anyhow the upshot of this is that he has taken it to Finland to get a photo with a view to restoring his credit. He’s not from Cork you might argue; fear not, even his tenuous connection would be more than sufficient, however, a good friend of ours in a lofty role in Helsinki is from Cork and, time permitting, he may meet her for a cup of tea. If he does, that’s a centre page spread, right there. I’ll keep you posted.

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Weight of Responsibility

19 September, 2018 at 7:51 pm by belgianwaffle

Daniel: I have to contact M on instagram.
Me: I didn’t know that you were friendly with M.
Him: Not particularly but she’s on the student council and I need to know something.
Me: Is there anyone nearer home who might be able to inform you.
Him: Herself is in France.
Me: Anyone else we know on the student council?
Him: Oh yeah, Michael.

In fairness, I wouldn’t say Michael is exactly flaunting his new powers.

Local Colour

18 September, 2018 at 7:15 pm by belgianwaffle

On my way home from work the other night, I saw a dead rat in the lane. Huge yoke, with it’s little paws frozen in the air from rigor mortis. The next morning when I cycled out, it was gone. What are we to make of this?

Weekend Round Up

17 September, 2018 at 7:44 pm by belgianwaffle

I went down to Cork on Friday to do a tour of nursing homes. My brother was away and it seemed the least I could do to help my saintly sister, though since she ended up having to chauffeur and feed me, it’s hard to argue that my visit was an entirely unmixed blessing. My mother was fine and the nursing home where she lives is near my parents’ house, so reasonably convenient. My father was about an hour away. He is recuperating from pneumonia and given that my brother is away, it seemed best if he spent a little time in respite care. The papers are delivered so it is not all bad but I wouldn’t say it is delightful, now. He’s a bit bored and keen to get home, however, this meant that he was gratifyingly pleased to see myself and my sister. I now chat away to him with a view to finding out about ancient history. “What was it like when the first colour films came out, Dad?” “Well, you know, very exciting at the time,” he said. Sometimes these chats are more successful than others. I did enjoy his description of when he was a junior doctor in the local hospital in the late 40s and the matron put her head round the door of the elderly patient he was tending to (one of the Colthursts of Blarney Castle) and asked him whether he had enjoyed his soup. Sir George replied, “Very grateful to the stomach, sister.” This is a phrase that my father believes should be brought back in to common currency and who am I to quibble.

I spent some time cycling round the city and was, yet again, struck by the excellence of the cycling infrastructure compared to Dublin and the relative lack of cyclists. My sister probably put her finger on the reason for the latter when she said, “The traffic in Cork probably isn’t bad enough yet to make people take to their bikes.”

I left Cork at first light on Sunday morning. Since I thought my train was at 8 and it was actually at 8.25, my rising was even earlier than it needed to be. Alas. On return to Dublin, I lunched with my loving family and scooted off straight to my book club which probably didn’t make me the most popular family member but I understand people say that there is a merit in scarcity value.

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How was your own weekend?

Update on Herself

16 September, 2018 at 7:24 pm by belgianwaffle

The first week in France seems to have passed off peacefully. The science teacher spent 20 minutes telling the class about the IRA and also asked her whether she knew why U2 were so called, she did not. It reminds me of her saying how they had had a discussion in class on defining a terrorist and many of her classmates had started with, “a foreigner” as a defining characteristic. I’m not sure that this would be the first thing that any Irish person of my age would say, on the contrary.

The English teacher (she sits in English class) is a big anglophile and herself is finding this….surprising. It is a different perspective on English culture from that which she gets in her Irish medium school at home. The English teacher is also filled with confidence and has already corrected herself on how to pronounce Greenwich: “There is a w, it has a w sound,” she told my firstborn. You have to admire the confidence of someone correcting a native speaker.

Her state exam (Junior Cert) results arrived mid-week and, in fairness to her, they were good. She celebrated by going on a bat walk with her host family – not, perhaps as big a deal in France as they are in Ireland.

From next week she is going to cycle in to school and, very exciting, there are segregated cycle lanes the whole way. Also, she says that the town is delightful in the way of a town that has been rich for a very long time. I would like to visit but I fear that it might be frowned upon.

Summer Slide

12 September, 2018 at 8:20 pm by belgianwaffle

The children’s return to school has been marked by the usual confusion and uniform and kit hunting. Mr. Waffle looked after school books and, as ever, the picture of organisation, he ordered them and put them away at the start of the summer. Have we been able to find where they were put? No, alas, we have not. A certain amount of re-purchasing was sadly required.

In related news, returning to online shopping after a summer hiatus, I managed to over order eggs. Part of my difficulty is the neighbours gave us 6 eggs from their hens but it would be fair to say that Mr. Waffle regards me as largely responsible for the 29 eggs in the fridge.

Re-entry is difficult.

Papal Visit – Belated Edition

10 September, 2018 at 8:14 pm by belgianwaffle

The Pope came to Ireland. I didn’t go last time a Pope came to Ireland in 1979 and I hadn’t intended to go this time but my sister got tickets to the mass in the Phoenix Park and couldn’t find anyone to go with her. Given that I live in Dublin and she was staying with me, it seemed churlish to refuse to tramp to the world’s longest mass. It was fine, actually (though the weather was not); it was nice to go for a long walk with my sister and we had tea to tide us through the mass. The Pope gave his sermon through Italian which was subtitled and I was able to deploy my college Italian to translate as we were too far to see the subtitles on the big screen. Given the age profile of the crowd, I doubt we were the only ones who couldn’t see. It was fine but I was not particularly excited. I’m not a great one for live concerts either so maybe I am just not designed to stand in fields for performances of any kind.

By far the most exciting part of the Pope’s weekend in Dublin for me came on Saturday afternoon and had nothing to do with the Papal visit. I had been in town with the Princess on Saturday morning to replenish her wardrobe in advance of her trip to France and retired exhausted before she had been to all of the shops she wanted to cover. I gave her some cash and told her to make her own way home when she was finished. Waiting for the tram to take her home, she saw a stabbing. As she reassured me, it was just the blood she saw really. Anyway, it effectively stopped the trams and she had to go and find a bus to take her home. As I sat in horror listening she reassured me further, “The stabbing was the worst thing that happened to me on the way home.” In fairness, there is something to be said for keeping her safe in small town France for a couple of months.

Weekend Round Up

9 September, 2018 at 7:24 pm by belgianwaffle

So we are slowly getting back to normal after the return from the holidays and the departure of Herself for France. The two weeks between our return from Copenhagen and her departure were spent in a whirl of activity. Herself went to Belfast for a conference, Cork to say farewell to the relatives before departing on her odyssey (a financially very worthwhile journey although, in fairness, that was not at all her motivation) and Donegal to the Gaeltacht with the school. That’s a lot of travelling in a fortnight even if you haven’t just come back from Denmark and are about to depart for France. Also, she has a vast circle of friends all of whom had to be seen and bidden a fond farewell, some more than once. When she came back from the Gaeltacht (last Wednesday), I announced to the family that she would not be going away again before she went to France. Michael voiced mild surprise, “Was she away? I thought she was up in her room.” This may explain why he feels that, at least initially, he may not miss her.

On Saturday morning Mr. Waffle and I went out for breakfast in town leaving the boys to the tender mercies of the x-box. We signed them up for French classes until Christmas, news which they greeted with the amount of enthusiasm you might imagine. Our lovely, lovely French childminder is finally sick of Ireland and moving back to France. He had been coming on Friday afternoons to play games with the boys and force them to speak French whether they liked it or not but now he is gone and we have to consider alternatives.

On Saturday afternoon we had the street party and it says a great deal for our residents’ committee that they managed to pick a rainy afternoon after the finest summer we have had in 40 years. That said, it was nice to see all the younger children who live nearby and the new families who have moved to the area. Michael really enjoyed it but Daniel was not in the mood for it although he came and played football and basketball with the other children. He had just returned from his final hurling game. While he likes Gaelic football, he has been lobbying to give up hurling for some time and yesterday was, by agreement, his last hurling game ever (end of an era etc.). His team was beaten 6-19 to 1-2 and he is not one to shrug off defeat lightly. Perhaps finishing on a low note. He has also been recently diagnosed with Osgood Schlatter disease which is not serious but explains why he has had a lump on his knee for years and was limping after every match and training and means I have had to notch my sympathy levels up from my traditional, “you’re grand”. Apparently you grow out of it so the cure is, basically, just wait. It was not maybe the ideal moment for him to join in the street party fun.

This morning we were back to mass in the parish for the first time in ages. Some new priest turned up. He spoke on the second reading which was a nice one (religious people, how come so much St. Paul and so little James?) about how every person has value and we shouldn’t judge based on appearances or wealth. This is the part of Catholic teaching that really appeals to the wishy-washy liberal in me. So I was not delighted when the priest used it as a starting point for saying that probably no one in the congregation had any importance in the world and yet we could influence things even though we were pretty powerless. He suggested we take the example of Saint Serapia who sold herself into slavery as she felt that this was how she could serve God (without wishing to criticise Saint Serapia, I am not completely convinced). I am possibly being a bit chippy here but I resented the way he patronised the congregation of this parish some of whom are perhaps not particularly rich; it being Ireland, I can absolutely guarantee you that quite apart from the number of the parishioners who were themselves very important in the world, every one of those parishioners, even if not “important in the world” (and pray define that and isn’t the point of the reading that importance in the eyes of the world is not important in the eyes of God?) has great influence with all kinds of people who are “important” in the tiny pond that is Ireland. By the way, please note the irony of my being judgemental about a priest’s sermon on a reading about the importance of not being judgemental. If I have one fault… (as a friend’s brother said to her, “If you have one fault?)

In other religion related news, our musical director had one of her pieces sung during one of the events when the Pope came to visit and we are all suitably impressed. She jotted it on the back of an envelope in 1996 and now it is sung all over the place. The excitement.

We had Mr. Waffle’s parents and their carer around for lunch and then found ourselves slightly at a loose end. My programme of constantly ringing herself for updates yielded fruit and she called to tell us that she had finally reached her destination in the west of France after her orientation in Paris. She’s a bit flattened, poor mite, but she seemed in reasonably good form, all things considered. She’s starting in the Lycée tomorrow and has promised to ring to update us tomorrow evening. It’s all go.

Back in Dublin, after some deliberation, I forced Mr. Waffle and the boys to go up the restored Daniel O’Connell tower which was only moderately successful.

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On the plus side, we got to touch the coffin which, apparently brings good luck. A little unlikely, I would have thought but like Niels Bohr and his horseshoe, I understand it works whether you believe in it or not.

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We were all reasonably interested but it turns out Osgood Schlatter disease is not super-consistent with playing hurling, football, basketball and climbing to the top of a round tower in one weekend.

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Still and all, good views (in the foreground is the museum building which I did not make us visit although the price was covered in our entry ticket to the tower; we have been before and I am merciful).

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And sighting of a dangerous handrail. So definitely not a complete loss.

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We got home for 6 for poor Mr. Waffle to take a work call and the rest of the evening has passed off peacefully so far.

And how was your own weekend?

Changed or Gone

7 September, 2018 at 6:55 pm by belgianwaffle

Herself is in transition year and we are sending her off to France for three months. She got on a plane on her own unaccompanied for the first time this afternoon. We got her her own bank card. In a weird way, giving her freedom of the cash machines felt even more of a sign that she was growing up.

We saw her off at the airport, even her brothers came. I am a bit heartbroken. I will really, really miss her but I think she will love it and it will be a terrific experience for her. But three months. We met her friend’s mother in the park on Sunday and she said to me, “You are very brave because she will be a completely different person when she comes back.” I know it is true but I’m not entirely sure I welcomed hearing it.

Anyway she has just this instant landed in Paris and her first message confirmed that her phone credit has come through so all is well.

The Viking Odyssey – Part 3

5 September, 2018 at 8:39 pm by belgianwaffle

Monday, August 13

After a quiet morning at home we went for a wander around Roskilde and the shops were open. In the general excitement, I said to the kids that they could wander around and buy something while Mr. Waffle and I had a cup of tea. The upshot of this was that Michael ended up spending €30 on a hoptomist which, design classic or no, is basically something you could have picked up in a €2 shop at home. It was broken by the end of the day also, but we plan to superglue his head back on so, not a complete loss (currently in the “to do” side of the ledger). I very actively considered buying a Danish birthday calendar which featured extravagant Danish flag imagery on every page (the most modest was November where the picture was of a girl doing her homework with a small Danish flag on her desk because, of course) but I managed to restrain myself.

I was still dutifully doing my Danish lessons on the phone (duolingo, since you ask) but I was finding the rather limited vocabulary which featured turtles strongly less useful than I would have hoped. A turtle is en skildpadde which is more difficult to work into conversation than you might expect. Though Mr. Waffle did find this at the supermarket.

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Michael found lucky galoshes and finished “Why Nations Fail”, the latter to general sighs of relief from the rest of us.
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The plum wastage had been gnawing away at me inside so while the children kindly made dinner Mr. Waffle and I went for a stroll by the seaside and picked plums.

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Tuesday, August 14

We went back to Copenhagen to spend the day in Tivoli. This proposal was greeted with initial suspicion by the children who have been fooled once too often by their parents’ saying that something would be great fun and having it turn out to be another opportunity to inspect medieval butter knives. However, following close inspection of the Tivoli website, they were pleased to approve this proposal.

It was one of the best days ever. Before I went I had heard of Tivoli but I thought that it was a palace garden or something like that. It’s not, it’s a fun park (175 years old this year). It’s like something in a film or a Norman Rockwell drawing of a fun park. It’s quite beautiful to look at.

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There were no queues for any of the rides and we let the children off to enjoy themselves. They truly did.

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The park has more than 30 restaurants and we had lunch and dinner there. There was a concert, there was a parade, there were deckchairs where Mr. Waffle and I could sit in the sun. There was a shop with Danish designer stuff and a very nice tearoom.

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They even had the horse racing game that we played in the funfair museum in Paris last summer.
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I kept comparing the experience very favourably with our trip to Disneyland Paris last summer which was pretty grim. The complete absence of queues was delightful. The area is small and we could just let the children go and do what they wanted and meet with them later without worrying that they might be lost forever. I would go back again like a shot.

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Lads, they even had en skidpadde:

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While I was in Denmark I read a book by an English journalist about the Nordic countries and he said that Tivoli is so central to the Danish identity that when Iceland was rich – before the crash – and they were buying up Danish brands, at Denmark v Iceland football matches, Icelandic fans chanted “We’re coming for Tivoli next”. Iceland and Denmark enjoy an interesting relationship. I recommend this Icelandic comedian’s turn for some mild appreciation of this. I digress. Basically, Tivoli is amazing and you should definitely bring your children there and forget EuroDisney.

Wednesday 15 August

We had a quiet day following our extravaganza in Tivoli the day before. Mr. Waffle and I abandoned the children to their fate mid-afternoon and went into Copenhagen for a stroll followed by dinner at a very nice restaurant where we spent their inheritance. I never fully got my head around the conversion from crowns to euros (hence the €30 hoptomist) but even I could tell that we had possibly enjoyed our most expensive dinner ever in a relationship characterised by a love of expensive dining. We got the most amazing brioche and due to the quantity of food we needed to get through, I was unable to finish it. To the almost concealed shock and horror of the four staff lovingly tending to our needs, I asked whether we could possibly take the remaining brioche home as I knew it was going to go in the bin. When the bill came, one of our waiters came out with a plastic box with a sticker with the restaurant’s logo on it and a full new brioche inside. I was pleased.

After our enormous dinner, Mr. Waffle and I wandered around the delightful streets of Copenhagen.

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When we got home, I gave some brioche to herself (babysitter in chief) who was sitting up and it was still delicious but by the next morning it was stale (photographed post late night depredations below). Alas. And the toasting arrangements were, as described earlier, suboptimal.

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Thursday August 16

We all went in to Copenhagen again. We went to the Guinness book of records museum and the Ripley’s believe it or not which were both commercial linked enterprises, curiously dated and not at all right on. The Guinness one, in particular felt almost voyeuristic looking at pictures of these misfortunate people who were clearly ill and died young (tallest, fattest, most bicycles eaten). Ripley’s was a bit more three headed calf, largest snake etc but there were some unsavoury aspects to this also. On the plus side, Michael discovered in himself a talent for cup stacking.

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We were pretty much alone aside from another family who were speaking in a language I could not place: Dutch, German, Afrikaans, something else? “Luxembourgish” said my genius husband. Because I have no shame, I checked. They were quite pleased as, apparently, no one ever recognises Luxembourgish. When they heard we were Irish, they were extremely excited. “Do you know Rea Garvey?” asked the son. “Who?” we said in unison. “See,” said the boy to his mother, “I told you no one knew him in Ireland.” She was disbelieving but it’s true; he may be a star in Luxembourg but in his home country we have never heard of him. Or, Irish people, are we just out of touch?

We went to La Glace café again because I enjoy spending my children’s inheritance on expensive buns as well as elaborate dinners.

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We went home and had another walk on the beach to recover from our day in the big city.

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Friday, August 17

Our last full day in the socialist paradise. Mr Waffle and I decided to have a wander around the tiny local town of Vellerup which we had consistently bypassed on the way to the greater excitements of Kirke Hyllinge (two supermarkets – a Meny and a Facta). It was pretty in a tiny village kind of way with a church and a duckpond.

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Graveyards in Denmark are immaculately kept with little box hedges around the plots and hoes and watering cans to hand for grieving relatives to keep them in good nick.

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OK, sample size 2 (in fairness, I didn’t spend all my time in Denmark visiting graveyards) but I bet they are all like that.

Daniel said of Denmark at one point, “It’s like Disneyland, only real.” I know what he meant, the countryside is dotted with lovely little houses appropriate to their setting. There are no hacienda style bungalows or, in fact, anything that looks out of place and it is super-clean. I was struck by how few pigeons and seagulls there were in the towns and even in Copenhagen and, basically, it’s because they are so clean. Whereas you will regularly see seagulls foraging in the bins and eating on the streets of Dublin and whole flocks of pigeons pretty much everywhere, this phenomenon seems unknown in Denmark or at least the parts I visited. It was enchanting and a little bit like living in a flag bedecked fairy tale land. Look at the careful children sign, look at it; isn’t it lovely?

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In the afternoon, I singularly failed to get any of the family to come with me to visit the local big house – Selso Slot. I set off on my own. My first adventure was managing to fill the car with petrol at a self-service petrol station. Low level of achievement you might think but I was pretty pleased with myself navigating the Danish petrol experience. Sometimes, I think I probably need to get out on my own a bit more.

I loved Selso Slot – it was owned by an important Danish figure in the 1700s (von Plessel – nope, me neither) and his niece by marriage ended up living there alone until she died in 1829 and it was just left empty until the 70s when a couple bought it and tried to do it up. Now, as far as I can work out, it’s part of a trust owned by the family. I had the place to myself.

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There was a young woman working in the shop and I asked if she was a student working there for the summer to make conversation and she said no that she was the museum and castle director. I think I have now reached the age where everyone under 35 looks about 14 to me. Once we got over that slightly unpromising start to our relationship, I was able to ask her loads of questions about the house and she was very knowledgeable and interesting. I also asked her about the role of the turtle in the lives of Danes and she opined, cautiously that although the words in the sentence “En skildpadde spiser ost” made sense individually the sentence itself was a bit unlikely. She gave me some invaluable assistance on how to pronounce the letter d in Danish words. I bought a postcard from her. I thought it was 40 crowns and a fortnight of Danish living prepared me for paying over a fiver for a postcard but in fact it was only 4 which is about 50 cents. My new friend was appalled at the prospect of me spending a fiver on a postcard as, it turns out, the Danes are pretty thrifty and great bargain hunters. I suppose that they need to be.

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The castle itself was like a film set. Great dilapidated rooms with a sense of grandeur and romance (now waterproof since the work on the roof last year). I really loved it.

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I went for a cup of tea in Skibby. Tea room in a glass house in the supermarket car park; not entirely perfect but in rural Denmark, you take what you can get in the line of tea rooms.

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Later in the afternoon Daniel and I went for a final paddle down to the ice cream kiosk in the kayaks.

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We all had a last walk on the beach.

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And I baked the plums.

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Saturday, August 18

We said goodbye to our lovely house.

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The drive to the airport was uneventful but the trip through the airport took a lot out of all of us. I managed to put the baggage tags on wrongly when doing the self service check-in (you cannot judge me as harshly as I do myself for this schoolboy error) so we had to queue and do it again; Mr. Waffle inadvertently printed out the wrong boarding passes for the boys and we found this out after the Princess and I had passed through the self-service control but before he and the boys had, so we had to split up and the boys had quite a tense time with their father going to the Ryanair desk (he swears never again) before managing to locate copies of the passes on Dropbox (wonderful Dropbox). Meanwhile I had realised that I had checked in the only copy of our house and car keys we brought with us in the hold baggage because right at the start of the holiday I had put them in a pocket in my washbag so that we wouldn’t forget them. In one way, my plan totally worked but it probably needs some refinement. Our luggage did not get lost and we were at home and cleaning up cat vomit from Daniel’s bed room rug by mid-afternoon.

Would I do it again? Absolutely, we all really liked Denmark. My only caveat, and it’s a significant one, is that it’s really dear. As my father says, everything multiplied by five is expensive and for a family holiday Denmark is expensive. But it is lovely. And it has a very hygge flag.

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The Viking Odyssey – Part 2

4 September, 2018 at 12:23 am by belgianwaffle

Wednesday, August 8

The unbearable heat continued and, learning our lesson from the previous day’s mild outing, we stayed largely at home.

We swam, we kayaked and we went to the supermarket. We asked the woman at the checkout whether there was in anywhere in Kirke Hyllige (our local village) that might provide us with a cup of tea. She looked like she thought we were absolutely crazy. No, there was not. It turns out that rural Denmark does not have a thriving café culture.

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What rural Denmark does have is guacamole in a tin (unbelievably revolting notwithstanding being 1.5% avocado) and just add avocado guacamole in a packet.

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Also sunsets, great sunsets.

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Thursday, August 9

After practically not leaving the house on the previous day, I felt obliged to force everyone out. We went in to the Viking museum in Roskilde. This features 5 original Viking boats that they dredged up from the harbour and put together again like the world’s largest jigsaw.

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Thrillingly, one of them was made in Ireland (they could tell by the wood apparently – if I understood correctly, it was made in Glendalough but that seems an unlikely degree of specificity in relation to a 1000 year old boat dredged up from the bottom of the ocean – I watched bits of the educational video in Dutch, Italian and Spanish but English never seemed to come up so my understanding may not have been 100%). Everyone who worked there when they heard we were Irish was keen to tell us about the Irish boat.

There was a Viking boatyard where they made Viking boats using original Viking tools (is that a bit too authentic?). I took lots of pictures for Michael to show to his woodwork teacher but he said that I had fundamentally misunderstood the nature of teacher/student interaction and he would not be sharing them.

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There was a place for hammering out coins, a forge (the heat, the unbearable heat), a chance to paint your own Viking shield and, of course, lots of boats – the originals and the reconstructions which you could wander on to. All of the Danish staff were cowering in the shade assuring us that the weather was never like this normally.

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We went for what would have been quite a nice lunch on site if we hadn’t been rushing back to take our sailing trip on a reconstructed Viking boat. The sailing trip was a mild highlight. We rowed out in to the bay and then the staff member who was captaining the boat and slightly despairing of the abilities of his motley crew asked who would like to steer. Almost before he had finished asking, Michael was up at the tiller. Did he enjoy it? Very much. Was he any good at steering? Maybe a bit less so but he learnt a great deal on the trip and we definitely didn’t capsize.

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I bought a small wooden Danish flag and flagpole in the gift shop. You wouldn’t understand, you weren’t there.

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On the drive home, Michael regaled us with the reasons for the collapse of the Venetian city state so that by the time we got back we were all ready to walk to the ice cream kiosk. It was a chance for me to mull on the wasteful ways of the Danes as we walked there on a carpet of ripe plums.

That night there was a storm. I was worried about herself in the annex. She was fine although she did say that she did not enjoy the sound of the rats with their scrabbly paws under her annex built on decking. They were probably sheltering from the rain with a supply of plums.

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I think it was on this evening that the boys wanted to look at the lightening and I said, “It’s not lightening, it’s fireworks.” It was lightening, impressive lightening.

Friday, August 10

We plucked up our courage and drove in to Copenhagen. It was only about an hour away. We thought that as it was a cycling paradise we might run into some problems with the car. Cycling paradise it may be but, it turns out, there are still plenty of cars.

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Also we found the sat nav (whom we christened Sybil because she definitely sounded like a Sybil) invaluable. Sybil guided us safely to a multi-storey car park where the parking was pricey (€40 for 6 hours so not atypical of Danish prices) but there was plenty of it and a great view from the roof where we ended up parking.

Excellent photo of roof view; maybe not fantastic photo of us.
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We had lunch nearby which was grand but not amazing actually, in general, we found the food a bit mediocre; I’m not sure whether it was down to our restaurant choosing skills or Danish cuisine. After lunch we wandered down to the Amalienborg slot (castle, try to keep up) and after some judicious consideration decided that we would gain as much if not more from looking at the outside rather than going in for a tour.

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We dutifully went down to Nyhavn which is right up there with the Little Mermaid in the famous views of Copenhagen postcards. We actually passed it on the way in but due to complete reliance on Sybil, we failed to look around so missed it.

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We went on a boat trip which was grand in the manner of these things. We saw the Little Mermaid and various other worthy sights. I have come away from Denmark wondering how many castles one royal family needs. By way of example, a castle in the North of Zealand (the island bit that Copenhagen is on and where we were staying – we didn’t get as far as Jutland which, although attached to the European mainland boasts the more remote parts of Denmark) was advertised as “one of the Queen’s favourite summer castles”.

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The boat also circled the Danish royal yacht which is called, of course it is, the Dannebrog which means the Danish flag. Is anyone surprised by this?

We went for a cup of coffee in Conditori La Glace which got great billing in our guidebook. I have to say, they were not wrong. Really excellent cakes. Michael does not like sweet things so he had a bread roll. Sometimes I wonder where this child of mine came from. Notwithstanding assistance from google maps, we managed to get lost on the walk back to the car park so had an opportunity to explore the canals and also the outside of what I think was the architecture museum which incorporated slides and a net for climbing in a very cool Danish way.

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Saturday, August 11

We had a quiet morning after the activity in Copenhagen the previous day. In the afternoon we went into Roskilde. It turns out that everything in Denmark closes at 2 on a Saturday. Who knew? The city centre was, yet again, like a morgue and even the tourist information was closed. Who, who closes tourist information offices at 2 on Saturday? And yet, a part of me rejoices that commerce hasn’t overtaken everything and that shop workers as well as office workers get to enjoy their weekends. That part was not uppermost as we took ourselves to the out of town Lidl (open, happily) and ran from the shop to the car park in the lashing rain.

However, on the good news front, although the cathedral was closed at 2, there was a sign saying that it would reopen at 4 so after a restorative cup of tea in the square, we took ourselves inside. I am a veteran of cathedral visits and, I have to say, this was an impressive one. Even the children found it mildly interesting. Seriously recommended if you find yourself in the area. Most of the kings and queens of Denmark since Margarethe I in the 1400s are buried here and some of them really went all out in the chapel design. A couple of pre-Margarethe kings are buried here also. If you’re looking for the body of Harald Bluetooth, the man who gave us wireless connectivity, look no further, he’s been here since about 986. Controversially the French (and slightly grumpy) prince consort who died earlier this year decided he didn’t want to be buried in Roskilde. Nevertheless the queen has a large sarcophagus for herself in situ and more or less ready to go for when the moment arrives. Good planners, the Danes.

The queue of anxious tourists hoping to shuffle into Roskilde cathedral when it reopens:
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Detail of painting in one of the chapels (William Morris, how are you?), there were many, many very beautiful patterns painted all over some of the chapel walls:
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The cathedral is made largely of brick which is a big part of why it has the UNESCO world heritage label as you don’t see so many elaborate brick buildings dating from the 12th century.
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Well worth the wait in the queue.

Sunday, August 12

We took the bridge to Sweden. It was very thrilling.

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I drove and one of the disadvantages of our hired car over slightly longer distances became clear. The driver’s seat had a button which pushed it forward automatically. Either I am too short for the Qashqai or we never figured out how the buttons worked properly. My little arms were stretched out in front of me to their fullest extent and, as we crossed the bridge, I started to get pins and needles in one arm and waved it about to the general discomfiture of my passengers who opined that we were all going to die. We went to Lund as I had been there at a conference years ago and liked it.

After Roskilde the day before, I am forced to concede that Lund cathedral was a bit underwhelming.

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It did have an astronomical clock though.
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After the priciness of Denmark, Sweden seemed really cheap and cheerful. I bought a Moomin mug for €15 and was delighted with myself until my husband pointed out that a) I’d just spent 15 quid on a mug and b) the Moomins are Finnish. Subsequently I saw the exact same mug in Denmark for €21 so I was relieved that I had made a killing after all.

We went for lunch in a student burger joint (Lund is a university town) which was surprisingly tasty. I was astonished to see that they had a sign outside saying “no cash”. Apparently Sweden is one of the world’s most cashless societies but somehow, I always thought cash would be king in a student burger place.

Lund boasts an open air museum with lots of different traditional houses. I love this kind of thing so we went there. Herself pointed out that thanks to this obsession of mine she knows more about how blacksmiths operated in the 19th century than she does about paying electricity bills and observed that I may not be preparing her for life in the 21st century. “I bet,” she added “that we will see loving examples of early butter knives.” We did see loving examples of early butter knives.

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At least there were no people dressed in clothes from the relevant periods guiding us around. The place was slightly run down and quite empty but, I must say I found it delightful.

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For those of you who have spent time in IKEA, you will be pleased to hear that there was a house from Småland carried safely from there to Lund for educational purposes.
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There was a Jane Austen exhibition looking at the dramatisation of her work including original costumes from the BBC best ever Pride and Prejudice adaptation which some of us quite enjoyed.

When we got safely home (thanks Sybil) it was late; after dinner and a brief row over the adapters for charging the phones, we all went to bed. Top tip, if you have a family with five phones; bring more than four adapters on holidays. If you must only bring four, make sure that they all work.

People, we’ve still almost a week to go. Can you face it?

The Viking Odyssey – Part 1

2 September, 2018 at 10:29 pm by belgianwaffle

Saturday, August 4

The flight to Copenhagen was completely uneventful. It is so much more pleasant to travel with older children. There was a hilarious article in the paper yesterday recalling vividly the particular thrills of travelling with small children which brought it all back to me. Could not face it again. It was a bit of a wait in the boiling Danish sunshine for our hired car but when we got out on the road, it was less than an hour to our accommodation. I booked it on Airbnb. If anything, it was nicer than the pictures. I truly loved it. As herself said, it was beautiful in a kind of ” IKEA wonderful everyday” way.

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Herself had her own annex, slightly separate from the main house which she very much liked. I was slightly worried about a mad axe murderer but my concerns were unfounded.

The view from the annex:
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We weren’t up to much that first day, we walked down to the local ice cream kiosk and I got to test out my rudimentary Danish: Jeg snakker ikke dansk. Happily, like everyone else in Denmark, the ice cream kiosk lady spoke English.

We walked down to the beach which was about two minutes from the house.

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We went into the local supermarket and foraged for food. Denmark is pricey, it turns out.

Watching the sunset from behind the house while eating our very expensive pasta and pesto outside: priceless.

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Sunday, August 5

Toast pays a large role in our lives and the house had an absolutely useless toaster. “Will you put some toast on for me?” I asked at breakfast. “Why,” said Michael, “do you want toast for lunch?” Herself advised that it was an opportunity for us as a family to check our toaster privileges. Other than that, equipment was pretty good although sometimes stored a bit high up (a tall people, the Danes). Daniel who has just grown to be a couple of cms taller than me said that it was weird not to be able to ask me to get things he couldn’t reach. I am still mourning the inevitable as I am no longer the second tallest in the family and soon I will be the shortest except for the cat and I’m not entirely sure she counts.

The great holiday toast crisis of 2018:
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I commented that the house was my sister’s dream as it is full of “storage solutions”. “Not that they seem to need it,” I said “as the house seems to have no stuff.” However my acute daughter observed that rather they had a normal amount of stuff but you couldn’t see any of it. This seemed to be true. The designer dream realised.

There were some initial teething problems with the internet and Mr. Waffle never managed to get it to work on his phone. The rest of us were fine though. It only broke for us when he tried to fix it and it broke for everyone. “This is communism comrades,” he offered cheerfully. We were not amused. We took ourselves away from the wifi. It seemed best. We went in to the local big town, Roskilde which was like a morgue on a Sunday afternoon. When I lived in Rome in the early 90s I shared a house with two Danish girls – Bodil and Bolette – weirdly, from Roskilde. We lost touch but I kept scanning the streets for middle aged women trying to find my erstwhile housemates but it was not to be.

I don’t mean to complain but if you have a world heritage site which is also a cathedral, I suggest tourists might reasonably expect it to be open for viewing on a Sunday afternoon. However, to Michael’s absolute delight, the church and tourist office were both closed and we went for tea and a bun (and in the case of the children chips) in the square instead of trekking around the cathedral.

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The closed cathedral:
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Both Mr. Waffle and I found Roskilde curiously reminiscent of Flanders – the architecture, the general air of a town whose inhabitants had been wiped out by a silent and deadly killer that very afternoon leaving an eerie quiet.

Daniel and I went for a little stroll along the sea shore and I mortified him by eating some of the millions of plums which were on the trees. It was really odd – the whole shoreline was full of plum trees which is not something I associate with the sea. I didn’t even think they would grow so close to the shore but they were delicious.

That evening we set up Apple TV and it was the business. My sister recommended to us a show called “The Ministry of Time” on Netflix and we all loved it (we’re still watching it at home) though it is highlighting a certain ignorance about Spanish history in our family. We all really enjoyed hearing one of the characters refer to noted baddie “El pirata Drake” – a different perspective from the one we are used to.

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Later that evening the wind caught the door and broke the hinge and also damaged the blind. I spent the next fortnight filled with guilt about it. I dutifully confessed when we were leaving and in due course a bill for €200 came in which is basically small change in Denmark, so could have been worse.


Monday August 6

Early in the morning we saw a deer bounding by the back window. Could our location have been more delightful, I kind of doubt it.

We took ourselves north to Elsinore. Or Helsingør as it’s known locally. We went to an Italian restaurant for lunch and were able to talk to the staff in Italian which was a great relief from always forcing the locals to speak English.

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The town itself is very pretty again in a manner very like Flanders.

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The castle is, obviously, famous for Hamlet and they capitalise on this. They basically have a group of actors doing Hamlet there all the time, in English. But simplified English so almost, but not quite, using the original text which is a bit odd. Highlight for Daniel was when Hamlet stabbed Polonius who died at length and very dramatically. As he expired, Hamlet turned to the audience and said, “Ooops”.

Alas, poor Yorick:
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Earlier enactment on the premises:
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The castle is reasonably interesting for a castle.

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Dan was quite taken with Holger Danske who sleeps under the castle and will rise up if the Danes are in trouble (apparently invasion by Germany in WWII was insufficient to rouse him so it’s difficult to know what he regards as in trouble). I felt this was a learning opportunity and I said, “Look at how he looks, you can see how the iconography inspired Tolkien and that kind of person.” I was really warming to my theme when Dan interrupted me to say that the statue only dated from the 1980s. Snort.

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We headed home and enjoyed another spectacular sunset.

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But, my God, it was warm. The house was like an oven. Normally Danish summers are like Irish summers and the house was designed accordingly. It was absolutely sweltering in the all white house, even with all the windows and doors open. I woke up in the middle of the night with the worst headache I have ever had. It wasn’t even a migraine (or if it was it was unaccompanied by the usual patterns). I woke Mr. Waffle up to tell him that if it was an aneurysm and I died during the night I loved him and the children. Mr. Waffle was unfazed. Spoiler alert, Mr. Waffle was right, I did not die, it was not a brain aneurysm but my God it was pretty miserable.

Tuesday, August 7

God, it was warm. Even sitting in to our hired car was almost unbearable. The steering wheel was too hot to hold. We went to the ice cream kiosk where we agreed with the nice lady that it was “meget warm”. 34 degrees, people. We went swimming for the first time. I stepped into the water rather nervously on the grounds that it was bound to be cold in the North Sea or possibly the Baltic. It was not, it was warmer than Red Strand in Clonakilty and I wanted to stay there all day to keep out of the burning heat. Eventually, and reluctantly, I dragged myself back to land.

The internet had been removed from our children for the morning because I am heartless. The boys played a fair bit of chess. It palled. In desperation, Michael started reading a book he found in the house called “Why Nations Fail“. He became utterly committed to it and finished it over the following week filling us in on the details as he went along and effectively eliminating all desire to give it a go which anyone else in the family might have had. Mr. Waffle meanwhile found a book by the woman who wrote “The Devil Wears Prada” and heartily recommended it.

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After lunch we squeezed ourselves into the sweltering car and went to the tiny hamlet of Skibby. It has a nice church and half a page in the guidebook. We had the church to ourselves. It was pretty but, to be honest I would have preferred to have been in the North Sea cooling down.

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There was a large Danish flag folded up on one of the seats. This came as no surprise. The Danes love their flag. Every house has a flagpole. You see Danish flags everywhere, in front gardens, on every product you can imagine, all over towns and cities and it seemed unsurprising that they would have one at the ready in the church. In fact, the only place I have ever been that seems to love flags more than the Danes is Northern Ireland and that is a bit of a love divided whereas the Danes are all fond of the same flag the very hygge white cross on a red background. Inspired by this we bought a packet of miniature Danish flags at the supermarket. Trust me, you’d have to be there to understand.

We went home and I took myself back into the water. Mr. Waffle and I also tried out the kayaks that came with the house – very pleasant. Meanwhile the children prepared our Danish starter for dinner.

See, flags, hygge:
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We discovered that the wind had blown the blind in one of the bedrooms and some ornaments had fallen on the floor and broken. They looked less expensive than the door hinge and I added them to my list for ultimate confession. This is the problem with staying in someone’s summer house rather than something that belongs to an indifferent corporation; what a pain for our lovely landlords. Alas. It’s fair to say that they were unfazed by this disaster at least.

That’s enough for today. Stay tuned for the next exciting update.


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