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Wednesday to Saturday

29 October, 2018 at 8:35 pm by belgianwaffle

My poor father-in-law died on Tuesday night.


On Wednesday morning, my sister-in-law flew in from London. She and Mr. Waffle and Mr. Waffle’s brother went off to the undertaker at lunch time. I was home from work to help but found myself at a loose end once I’d organised for herself to get home from France. It was strange. I then realised that I had given the boys a lift to school that morning and would be unable to give them a lift home as they might expect because the car was on the other side of the city. I cycled in to the school to tell them this, stopping off on the way to pick up a newly arrived library book.

When I arrived at the school, the boys were fine about getting home by bus and I said I would take their school bags on the bike. This was a bit unsatisfactory as the bags were quite big but I got home safely only to discover that the library book must have fallen out in my perambulations. I cycled all the way back to the school hunting for it but it was gone forever. I thought about going into town with the boys to get funeral wear but decided I would wait until the following day when I had the car. When Mr. Waffle and his sister arrived home, they said that the funeral had been arranged for Saturday morning. They had found a priest with some difficulty, their brother was deployed to find a venue for lunch afterwards and they were doing the missalette and finding the singers. Mr. Waffle said it was like organising a wedding, weirdly, but with only three days notice. He and his brother met for a drink that evening and I gave his brother a lift home. We talked about his father, of course, and I couldn’t help feeling that my father-in-law was so lucky to have him – they had a shared interest in running and even when my father-in-law’s dementia began to take hold, my brother-in-law was organising running gigs in the mountains for him.


We did a bit of work picking readings in the morning and then Mr. Waffle drove his sister to the airport to pick up her husband and baby daughter who had spent the previous day packing up their flat in London (mostly him, to be fair). She booked the soprano and the organist for the funeral on the way in the car and selected the music. My poor sister-in-law, it was quite the week. Then there was a difficulty getting in to their air bnb and various tense emails were exchanged. I drove them there and then turned around to go back to the airport to pick up herself. I was just in time.

It was wonderful to see her. Exciting and delightful. She had been followed by a middle aged man at the bus stop in France (broad daylight, not her usual bus stop but still) and I was a bit worried – we’d spoken on the phone and by Skype but it’s really not the same – once I saw her, I knew she was alright. She has been having a fantastic time in France and, I think, it’s been really great for her. That night Mr. Waffle toiled over the missalette and I put my amazing word processing skills to work.


The boys had to be got ready for Hallowe’en in school on a slightly last minute basis (a skeleton and an assassin, thanks for asking). I drove Mr. Waffle out to to the church in the morning to finalise the funeral arrangements with the priest. Then I came home and took herself into town to buy something suitable for a funeral and bought a jacket and shirt for Daniel as well (Michael had a jacket in stock but as it travelled into school as part of the Hallowe’en outfit, I was a bit nervous, herself said she had a white shirt in the drawer that would do for Michael). I realised, to my horror that it was the day of the presidential election vote and the blasphemy referendum. I flew down to the polling station. Turnout was low. Bad for democracy but good for me, I was in and out in 2 minutes.

I got a message from Mr. Waffle that he would like the boys to get a haircut so we drove (reprehensibly, it’s really close enough to walk, but it was an emergency) to the hairdresser, dressed them respectably and just about managed to get in the car for 3 to get across town for the beginning of the removal at 4. We were the first to arrive at the undertaker’s and the woman in charge took one look at my children and murmured, “He had very strong genes, didn’t he?” We looked at Grandad in the coffin and he was wearing a tie which he never liked in life, so the undertaker took it off. He didn’t look like himself really. I thought the children might be upset but they were ok. We were so early, we had time for a cup of tea. When we came back, people were streaming in. Across the road at the church, all sorts of unlikely people turned up who it was really lovely to see. The deacon said a couple of nice words and it was clear that he knew the deceased which is not always a given.

Many people repaired to the pub afterwards including herself and Mr. Waffle but I took the boys home as my sister was coming up from Cork on the train. By the time I got my sister to our house, I was flattened. I felt very bad when I saw a text message from Mr. Waffle saying that he and herself were trekking across town on the bus but also, pathetically, very relieved not to be sitting in to the car again to collect them. When they came back, herself was wrapped up in her Grandfather’s jacket which they had taken from her grandparents’ house on the way home to add to her own rather flimsy jacket. She’s hardly taken it off since.


Mr. Waffle went off early to get his mother from the nursing home, she only went in to the home the week before her husband died – that is a lot of change for one family.

I got Daniel to try on the jacket I’d bought for him. Tragically and clearly, much too large. I called for the white shirt which herself had stashed in her room. She handed it to me sheepishly. It turned out it was Mr. Waffle’s shirt. I dropped my poor sister and Daniel into town and told them to find shirts and a jacket and quickly. They did. Almost miraculously, we were all in the car and ready to travel at 10. We parked around the corner from the church for the funeral at 10.45.

Oh the funeral, it was awful. The readings were great (herself did one – I have run my race to the finish– particularly appropriate in this case), the prayers of the faithful were fine (the boys and the cousins) but almost from the beginning, all three of my children started crying silently (I was crying myself but, as Michael pointed out, everyone expected me to cry, I am the family crier). Then, my nephew read a letter which his grandfather had written to him for a school project when he was 6. The letter was put in a time capsule to be opened when he was 12. He’s 12 now. My father-in-law’s voice came through so clearly, talking about all the fun they would have in 2019.

Loads of people made the effort to come to the funeral, including Mr. Waffle’s friend who lives in the Hague who was in Cork visiting her own mother and heard and came up. It was surprisingly lovely. There was more lycra in evidence than you normally see at funerals as the hill runners made him a guard of honour. He would certainly have enjoyed that. My sister had to go back to Cork for a meeting but my brother was there for the next bit having arrived towards the end of the funeral mass (he will certainly be late for his own funeral). We went to the cemetery which had views of the mountains my father-in-law loved and we went to the lunch afterwards.

The grandchildren reminisced about their holidays in Kerry when (we now discover to our horror) their grandfather would pile all five of them into the back of the jeep with no safety belts and drive them at hair-raising speed to the beach. They kept that quiet at the time.

“How are you?” I asked Michael after the funeral. “I’m thinking of ‘the Muppet Christmas Carol'” he said, his voice breaking. “‘Life is made up of meetings and partings. I am sure that we shall never forget … this first parting that there was among us.’” I don’t suppose we will.

Bitter Bitter Bitter

28 October, 2018 at 7:45 pm by belgianwaffle

Me (buying the Saturday newspaper requirements for Cork – The Daily Telegraph (yes, I know) and The Examiner for my father, The Guardian for my Aunt and the Irish Times for me – truly a back breaking load): Can I tap to pay?
Young woman in the shop: No, I’m afraid you’ll have to put in your PIN.
Me: Why don’t you have the tap facility? Is there a cost?
Her: The boss doesn’t want it. It’s a no go, if it makes our lives easier.

Ye Know neither the Day nor the Hour

24 October, 2018 at 1:32 pm by belgianwaffle

My poor father-in-law died last night. It was very surreal. He went into hospital a month ago with a sore back. Over the past number of years he had suffered from dementia and he was getting worse but he was relatively young (74) and he was walking and talking when he went into hospital. Last week the discharge co-ordinator was talking to the family about arrangements for him to get out this week.

Yesterday morning, my husband got a call about his father and he said to me that it sounded serious. “Let me know how it goes with the doctors,” I said. When I got out from a meeting at lunchtime, there was a message that things weren’t looking good. When I called, Mr. Waffle sounded a bit shell-shocked. His father had pneumonia and they were trying one last ditch effort with antibiotics. I still didn’t really think things were serious but about mid-afternoon, I got worried and called Mr. Waffle to ask whether I should come into the hospital. He didn’t feel it was necessary but said it would be nice so in I went. His father looked alright but was not conscious and was on oxygen. I rang my father (doctor) and my sister (has spent so much time in hospitals tending to aged parents that she has doctor like knowledge of geriatric issues). When I said he had aspiration (not aspirational as I thought – I was corrected – it’s not the kind of pneumonia you hope to get if you are upwardly mobile) pneumonia, they both thought it was not a good sign. My father is normally very optimistic about things but he was not on this occasion. “How long does he have, do you think?” I asked. “Find a senior ward sister and ask; they always know and they are always right,” he said. But my nerve failed me with the family gathered at the bed, I didn’t think I could ask. My sister texted that she reckoned 2-7 days. Even then, I didn’t think it was an immediate deathbed crisis.

We left in the late afternoon. That evening, about 9, there was a call from the hospital; his heart rate was very low. By the time the family arrived at 9.30, he was dead. The speed of it was shocking.

My sister-in-law flew in this morning from London. She and her husband planned a move to Dublin from London and had all been due to fly in tomorrow anyhow. Absolutely miserable for her and for him (packing in London with small baby). I have just arranged for the Princess to fly home from France tomorrow for the funeral. It’s all very strange.

I feel very sad, he was a lovely man with enormous joie de vivre. The last couple of years have been tough for everyone but we have been reflecting on all the years of fun and generosity that proceeded them: holidays, dinners out, long runs up mountains followed by pints in the pub. He derived immense pleasure from life. He retired early and for years, he and my mother-in-law enjoyed holidays in Italy where they learnt Italian in the morning and had fun in the afternoons. He was a daily reader of the Corriere della Sera and regularly clipped out items of interest for me. He liked nothing more than taking the extended family out and buying us all dinner. He was endlessly generous, even profligate, as far as his family was concerned. He was the life and soul of every party.

Cultural Exchange

23 October, 2018 at 7:31 pm by belgianwaffle

In the school in France, they have a language assistant for English class. Herself is obliged to attend English class which she does not love. The language assistant is from Ballymena in Northern Ireland. She told the class about the Northern Irish counties and said that a good way to remember them was the acronym “FAT LAD”. “Fat Lad,” thought herself, “no Fat Dad surely.” There was more to come. “Here,” she said, holding up a Union Jack, “is our flag.” “Does anyone know, who is our Queen?” “Well,” I said when this was recounted to me, “if you ask who is the Head of State of Northern Ireland, the answer is the Queen of England.” Herself harumphed, “She didn’t ask ‘Who is the Head of State of Northern Ireland?” she said, ‘Who is our Queen?'” As I explained to her, there’s a whole world for her to explore out there.

Car Related Woes

22 October, 2018 at 7:20 pm by belgianwaffle

Poor Mr. Waffle has been on the road a lot visiting his parents who, sadly, are not at all well and live on the opposite side of Dublin. He heard a funny noise from the car but ignored it. A mistake, it transpired.

In his extensive car time, he noticed that one of the front light bulbs had gone so he wrestled with replacing it and while he was doing so, our neighbour who does haulage and van hire, saw him and hoved up to help (our neighbour has a pretty accurate understanding of our technical abilities).

Later that day as Mr. Waffle was, yet again, enjoying the delights of the Dublin ring road (the unlovely M50), the funny noise reached a crescendo and it turned out a tyre had gone. He pulled in and called our insurance (he discovered that the jack would go just high enough to remove the old tyre but not high enough to put on the spare – a truly terrific spot to discover this). A young woman from Northern Ireland dispatched a tow truck and he sat forlornly on the verge (he felt sitting in the car might put unwarranted pressure on the jack) as cars whizzed past. Very quickly a tow truck came up – not from the insurers but from the M50 authorities who have their own people prowling the ring road on the alert for anything which might cause a delay. They fixed the tyre in about 2 minutes and Mr. Waffle was able to step down the Northern Ireland tow truck. On one level, how impressive. On another, still doesn’t work as the M50 doubles as Ireland’s largest car park most of the time.

Anyhow, he limped home, a bit put out. As he parked the car outside the house, the neighbour from across the road turned up and said, “Hasn’t been a great day for you and the car has it?” It transpired that he had passed Mr. Waffle sitting on the grass verge on the M50. “I couldn’t stop, as I was transporting whiskey,” he explained. Who even knew there were special rules for transporting spirits? Anyhow I suppose Mr. Waffle was amply supported by others. On the other hand, our neighbour’s already poor perception of our technical abilities has fallen even further with the story of the jack. Alas.

Also the wretched car failed its NCT last week. Apparently, irony, it has the wrong kind of tyres.

Weekends Rounded Up

21 October, 2018 at 7:04 pm by belgianwaffle

What have we been doing, you ask yourself. Well, wait no longer.

In the category of what herself refers to as “culture as middle class performance*”, I outdid myself by taking them all to see Ruth Negga as Hamlet in the Gate. I wasn’t as prepared as I might have been for full frontal nudity with my teenage sons, their father and myself sitting in Row A. However, overall, it was pretty positive. It was very long. At the interval (90 minutes in), I half expected that the boys would have had enough but they were actually really enjoying it and their father’s hope that he might have to fall upon his sword and take them home early was dashed. In fact, Michael was very excited and started quoting all the Shakespeare he knew as well as sprinkling his conversation with doth, verily and forsooth. He and Mr. Waffle went to the Centra at the top of O’Connell street during the interval as the queue at the bar was massive and he only wanted a soft drink. Mr. Waffle tells me, and I am sure that he is correct, that the Centra at the top of O’Connell Street at 9.30 on a Friday night is not the optimal environment for a 13 year old using Shakespearean language and trying to speak in iambic pentameter.

The second part wasn’t as good as the first in my view and it did drag a bit but overall, it was one of the most engaging and accessible Shakespeare plays I’ve been to see.

We went to the Cinema and saw “Johnny English”. Probably not “culture as performance” but we all found it mildly enjoyable.

Last Sunday, Mr. Waffle had to work and so I was on duty taking Michael to hockey training. The whole thing ran like a poorly oiled machine. We went to early mass as Gaeilge to facilitate this. Normally we cycle but I had left my bike at work so the boys cycled and I met them en route on a Dublin bike. Michael had to turn around and go home as he hadn’t brought his coat on the baffling grounds that I might not approve. He was freezing. Daniel took ages to arrive as his chain had come off. Eventually we set off. When I walked round to the church, having got rid of my Dublin bike, Michael was pacing up and down; he had put his bike lock in the basket of the Dublin bike. We had to walk to the Dublin bike stand as he couldn’t cycle on his own as he didn’t know where it was. By the time we arrived the sermon was just finishing up and small wonder. Alas. When we got home, Michael announced that his runners were too small and his tracksuit bottoms too big. “Don’t be cross,” he said, “I told Dad last week.” I was a bit cross all the same. We turned around and drove straight to the massive shopping centre near his training and bought runners and tracksuit that stayed up (he is tall but v skinny so this is a challenge). I discovered that he had never learnt to tie laces. It is true that if you wait until they are ready they learn quickly. He got the hang of it in about two minutes. Though as Daniel pointed out, it was possible that he was ready some time ago. Anyhow better late than never.

When poor Mr. Waffle came back from his meeting at about 4 we went for a mild walk in the Phoenix park and saw an exhibition about the RMS Leinster (it sank). I particularly enjoyed the story of the captain who had a family in Dublin and Holyhead so he could sleep in his own bed with his wife regardless of which side of the Irish Sea he was on.

Daniel got new glasses and I think they’re great. Literally, nobody else cares, even Daniel.


Last Friday, I went to Cork and visited aged relatives and some of the younger ones as well. I thought my father had really improved since his emergence from hospital so, all to the good. I came back on the train last night and it took forever; delayed by 50 long, long minutes.

Today we went to the Obelisk on Killiney Hill. Mild walk, great views.


And what have you been up to yourself?

*Not her own line but she likes to use it when speaking of her mother.

Any Port in a Storm

2 October, 2018 at 5:17 pm by belgianwaffle

I was in the Spar last week looking for a bottle of Sherry for a recipe. I went to the counter where the spirits are kept. The young man behind the counter was in his early 20s.

Me: Hi, do you have any sherry?
Him: What?
Me: Sherry, do you have any sherry?
Hm [Long pause]: I don’t even know what that is.
Me: Look behind you, the Harvey’s Bristol cream, that’s sherry.
Him: Oh really?

I bet his granny knew what sherry was.

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