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2018 Review

31 December, 2018 at 8:24 pm by belgianwaffle

January

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My major achievement for January was keeping the Christmas tree up until Women’s Christmas on January 6. Small goals. We also decided we would get the kitchen done in 2018.

February

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I got offered a new job. Go me. Otherwise, things were quiet. Mr. Waffle’s parents got a live in carer who improved the quality of everyone’s lives exponentially.

March

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The snow came. The office had to shut down for three days. It was, frankly thrilling. Also we had sufficient bread to carry us through the crisis.

2018 was the year of funerals. Just like I spent all of my early 30s going to weddings all the time, late 40s seems to be the moment for all the funerals. I turned 49 in March.

My sister was still sick although she had finished her chemo at the end of 2017. I wondered whether she would ever be really well again.

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April

We took the children to Brussels for the first time since they left in 2008. Ten years is a long time.

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The Princess turned 15 and I started my new job. The weather finally improved.

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May

Herself got braces. The pain, people. Who knew? The weather was glorious and we were beginning, little though we knew it, the best summer since the heatwave in 1976.

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June

The boys finished their first year in secondary school. Herself finished her first state examinations. My sister started to get much better. Her hair grew back curly. Meanwhile my daughter died her hair red. Because summer time (on the left is last year’s summer colour).

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We agreed with the architect to defer the kitchen building job to September. The weather continued glorious.

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July

We went to Clonakilty for a week’s holidays. It was good in parts. A bit too near Cork city and not near enough to West Cork. Although the weather continued to be really lovely, it wasn’t quite as toasty as Dublin.

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August

We went to Denmark on our summer holidays. On balance, we were very much in favour.

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September

A big month for us. Herself went off to France for three months. I was terrified leaving her at the airport but she managed just fine.

The builder was stuck on another job and promised faithfully to start in October.

The boys started second year, without any undue concern. They also turned 13 at the end of the month.

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Daniel got new glasses and was also taller than me. It definitely happened this year but I’m not quite sure when.

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My father-in-law had a fortnight in respite care and then put out his back on his first night back home and had to go into hospital. Although we didn’t know it, that was the last night he would ever spend at home.

October

My mother-in-law moved to a nursing home. My father-in-law who had been getting sicker and sicker since going into hospital died on October 23. My sister-in-law and her husband and baby moved to Ireland from England on October 25 – she came early leaving him and the baby to pack up. The funeral was on October 27. It was pretty strange and it really still is. Aside from the dementia, he seemed pretty well. He was only 74 and he had been a runner for years. We went from a situation of regular crises with both Mr. Waffle’s parents to order and calm with a hefty side order of guilt on the part of Mr. Waffle and his siblings that they should have done more. Guilt which was, in my view, entirely unjustified; I thought they all did a superb job coping with a very difficult situation without ever falling out or blaming each other even though it was all horribly stressful.

I am trying to remember my parents-in-law and all the good times we had before they got sick. The holidays we went on together – mostly to Kerry (actually a lot to Kerry, I’ve run out of energy in finding links so you’ll have to take my word on this) but also to Sicily three times and once when the Princess was little to France. We would meet the cousins in their house most Sundays and they brought the family together, minding children, paying for houses in holiday places and dinners in nice restaurants. They were endlessly helpful and cheerful and delightful parents-in-law and I want to remember all the fun we had over the years.

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November

Our builder guaranteed us that he would start at the end of the month and our kitchen would be finished by Christmas. This was the first NaBloPoMo I didn’t complete in years. My heart wasn’t in it. Also November was quiet. Here’s Dan at a rugby match. Ireland won. He was pleased.

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December

Our kitchen works will definitely, definitely start in January. Not on the 2nd as promised but on the 9th. Hmm.

We had Christmas day in the parents-in-law’s house and my mother-in-law came out of the nursing home for a bit. The boys had a fantastic time with their cousins although herself was sick and a bit miserable. Overall, Christmas was a bit strange.

With one thing and another, it’s been a tough year for us. My sister is still getting over her cancer. She and my brother are rushed off their feet looking after my own parents and elderly aunt – although my mother is in a nursing home, they are very faithful visitors which takes time – and my father and aunt are both at home and are very old and in the case of my father, frail and my aunt, starting dementia. It’s hard. We’ve had a difficult year with Mr. Waffle’s parents as well, obviously.

On the non-elderly relative front, I’ve started my new job and though there are many positives, it’s a new job in a new place and that is always hard at the beginning. Although herself had a great time in France and this is basically a good news item, I missed her horribly for the three months she was away. And then there was the constant annoyance of the wretched kitchen. I did get an Aga though (as yet uninstalled) which is a sign perhaps of my mid-life crisis; my lovely husband got me this, inter alia, for Christmas.

There were lots of good things in 2018 too but I can’t help hoping that 2019 will be better. Happy new year!

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Culture at Christmas

30 December, 2018 at 8:33 pm by belgianwaffle

The children are a bit old for the pantomime and we didn’t fancy/refused to pay for any of the theatrical offerings available over Christmas so for our Christmas outing we went to the cinema to watch a screening of “Love Actually” in the cinema. Michael and Daniel strenuously objected to going but afterwards, Michael, at least conceded that he had quite enjoyed it. “But,” he said, “it was weird the way that all of the women were just goals for the men and not people at all.” Except for Emma Thompson we agreed. My work here is done.

Attempting to explain my deeply reprehensible choice I said, “Yes, I know it is unsatisfactory in a number of ways but it’s of its time.” Herself replied “You can’t say that about a film that was made in 2003!” It’s hard to argue with that. I still like the way the bodyguard sings “Good King Wenceslas”. If you want a comprehensive analysis of all the ways in which this film is profoundly unsatisfactory, I can direct you here. Do not click on this link if you ever want to watch that film again, it will ruin every bit of it for you, except the bit where the bodyguard sings “Good King Wenceslas”.

No More Tears

29 December, 2018 at 7:12 pm by belgianwaffle

When the children were little we used Johnson’s shampoo. We got a bottle with a pump in Brussels and it followed us home and we re-filled it for years. It lost its label but the bottle was robust and it lasted and lasted.

It was in the corner of the shower for ages, almost empty, the children having long since moved on to more potent shampoos. I was in the shower the other morning and I noticed it was gone. I am normally ruthless about chucking things out and not engaging in nostalgia (a reaction, I suspect, to the attic groaning with old school books and the like in my parents’ house) but I must say, I felt sad about the plastic bottle. However, I suppose it will live forever in landfill. Not as comforting a thought as you might think.

Middle Aged Concerns

28 December, 2018 at 7:45 pm by belgianwaffle

We have a lane behind our house. It’s a clean lane and, as lanes go, it’s a nice lane. There is nowhere to sit in the lane except just opposite the door into our garage where an old boarded up door into the convent which used to be behind us has a handy step for sitting on.

This tended to attract older men who would sit and drink there in the fine weather. I did not love this but they were always quiet and polite and left their beer cans in a plastic bag which I would dispose of with a tch sound.

The convent is now being replaced by apartments and the building work has made the lane (and indeed our back garden) a much less pleasant place to be. Our older gentlemen drinkers have moved on.

I was deeply displeased on coming home in the middle of the day to see that their place had been taken by two drug users. My neighbour from up the road was cycling past with his granddaughter on the front of his bike and he gave them the evil eye and waited for me to let myself in to the shed with my bike. They were very skinny with bad teeth and clearly about to inject something so the man’s assurance to us that they were “only smoking a joint” was unconvincing.

I didn’t even bother calling the guards but my neighbour up the road did but, as he observed bitterly, they didn’t come. I suppose they are busy.

I feel sorry for these people who have fallen through the cracks and are stuck drinking or even drug taking in our lane but I do not want my children coming home from school and having to wrestle their bikes into the shed while people are shooting up beside them. I had made my peace with our drinkers but I think intravenous drug use is probably where I draw the line. When our builders start in January, I am going to ask them to block up the step with breeze blocks which are somehow a bit better than those vile pigeon spike things.

I suppose we’ll make another attempt to get everyone to agree on gates for the lane – a project which has been in gestation for at least ten years. I note that there are new neighbours at the top of the road who will have to be persuaded. According to their older neighbours whom I know, they are lovely. She is a surgeon and has already diagnosed one of their ailments. I’m not sure whether that will make the new neighbours feel more neighbourly and inclined to agree to an electric gate and then, of course, jointly funding it. The last objector to gates in any way shape or form has died (naturally of old age, I hasten to add) but a number of people won’t go for electronic gates which they see as excessive and over the top but which are insisted upon by the people with the fancy car which they park in the garage accessed by the lane. Everyone has to agree or it can’t be done. Honestly, I can see this running for another ten years.


Christmas Round-Up

27 December, 2018 at 7:38 pm by belgianwaffle

I went in to work on Christmas Eve in the morning and did some very desultory bits and pieces and inspected my colleagues’ children who had come in to see Santa. Herself was sick but the boys came in to briefly inspect my office and then to go and meet a former colleague and his children.

For many years we have met in the canteen in his office with our children for a Christmas Eve get together. Sadly, the canteen was unexpectedly closed for renovations so we found ourselves in the less than glamourous surroundings of the Spar cafe. Also unexpected was the presence of his eldest child who started college this year and who we both expected to be a no-show but there he was grown up and bearded looking but still tormenting the younger ones. I have to say that despite the distinctly unappealing surroundings, it was all relatively pleasant. Our own little Christmas miracle.

Daniel and I went to midnight mass early as he was singing in the carol service beforehand. Mr. Waffle and Michael followed a bit later. Herself couldn’t go as she was sick as a dog. I was quite sad that she couldn’t make it, but it was for the best.

The boys looked very dapper for midnight mass, I thought.

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It wasn’t even too long as our saintly parish priest is reverent but speedy. Notwithstanding singing and processions, we finished at 10.15 and we were home hanging up stockings at 10.20.

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Santa and my sister did an exceptionally good job on the presents this year and I think all of the children were quite pleased with their respective hauls. I was quite pleased myself, Mr. Waffle having excelled himself in the present department.

We had Christmas breakfast at home which was quite nice in an understated way and gave me a chance to use my Christmas Spode wear and my fancy new Marimekko oven gloves which were a present from my friend who lives in Finland (aside: am a bit concerned about these now as sister-in-law said, “You got two? we gave someone one for a wedding present once.” I can only hope that they are cheaper in Finland.) I threw the old ones in the bin over Mr. Waffle’s howls of protest that they were still perfectly fine if a little stained from usage.

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For a variety of logistical reasons we were having Christmas dinner in my parents-in-law’s house. I was a bit nervous. We were due out there from the morning and it seemed a bit of a long day. My mother-in-law was coming out of the nursing home for a couple of hours and all the aunts, uncles and cousins were coming for drinks and kind words about my father-in-law. It all worked out pretty well although it was slightly stressful at times. The boys had a fantastic time playing with their cousins but herself was really pretty miserable and sick and went upstairs to lie down at one stage. She took to her bed when she got home and hasn’t emerged from the sick room since. Poor Princess.

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Last photo of the Princess upright

I am not generally a person who finds small children entertaining, however, I am enjoying the company of my little niece, S, who is 18 months old. Her English father is doing Trojan work trying to get her to say “Father Christmas” which is apparently what they say in England but all of her Irish relatives (of whom there are many) are working on “Santa” and we definitely have the upper hand although the Princess, in an admirable gesture of solidarity with her uncle is trying to teach young S to say “Father Christmas”, it is, frankly, an uphill battle. She was quite a cheerful presence at a Christmas where a lot of the grown-ups were a bit sad thinking about my poor parents-in-law and all the changes in 2018.

On St. Stephen’s Day we went orienteering as is traditional. Herself stayed home alone I think regarding missing the annual orienteering expedition as one of the few upsides of her illness. On the plus side it did not rain for the first time in many years.

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On the minus side the food in the pub where we traditionally retire for lunch afterwards has hit a new low both in terms of quality of food and speed of delivery. We may have to consider alternative options in 2019.

We dropped in to see niece S and her parents on the way home (sister-in-law having been resolute in her determination to not enjoy this annual tradition with her little family) and I did enjoy my niece’s appalled little face at the prospect of these interlopers coming to her own home. I thought she waved us off with conspicuous enthusiasm. I can’t feel Mr. Waffle is helping the process of my endearing myself to her by referring to me as “scary lady” although his sister assures me that S has no idea what that means.

Today we hung around the house mostly though Mr. Waffle and I did go for a mild walk to look at the deer in the Phoenix Park.

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Tomorrow, I am making the ultimate sacrifice for niece S. She rises at 5 am and her parents are often stuck for early morning activities. The three of them are coming to our house for 8 in the morning tomorrow so that we can all go off to a megalithic tomb (I feel that her English father needs to see something of the tourist offerings available, this is a feeling I am somewhat regretting). My own children a) having seen this particular tomb a number of times and b) being teenagers on their Christmas holidays will be sitting out this particular adventure. I am feeling particularly virtuous and I hope this feeling will sustain me when I leap from my bed at 7.30 in the morning but I kind of doubt it.

And how has your own Christmas been so far?

Updated to add: The in-laws decided to postpone the delights of the tomb so we went to the park instead which was, in its own modest way quite successful also.

Maybe We’re Not Back, Baby

23 December, 2018 at 7:09 pm by belgianwaffle

A woman I met at work told me that a friend of hers fits kitchens. Apparently during the boom, he was run off his feet. Once he had requests for quotes from someone putting in a galley kitchen in Killiney (smart Dublin suburb) and someone putting in a kitchen in a big bungalow in Meath (in the countryside). He didn’t want to do the Meath job so whereas he would normally have quoted €18k, he quoted twice that. Inadvertently, he texted the Killiney clients (for whom he intended to quote €9k) that their galley kitchen would cost €36k and, you know where this is going, they said that was fine.

My informant believes he took the money which is, clearly, poor. Notwithstanding talk that the boom is back, I do not believe we are yet in the territory of the €36K galley kitchen.

Cycling Ire

22 December, 2018 at 6:57 pm by belgianwaffle

When I am in the car I always smile at cyclists if I catch their eye. Firstly, I’m mostly a cyclist myself and I always like to be reassured that drivers have seen me and, you know, all the better if they are cheerful about it. Secondly, I am in my car causing traffic and polluting the air and they are not.

However, I am aware that not everyone feels quite as warmly towards cyclists as I do. I hit a new low the other day. It was lunch time. I was wearing work clothes and I was pushing my bike on the pavement. The pavement was wide. The road was one way against me. Cars were parked right up to the kerb so there was no way that I could push it on the road and walk along side it.

A respectably dressed older gentleman, maybe in his late 60s, came up behind me and deliberately pushed against me and hissed, “Get off the pavement.” I have to say, I was a bit shook. He was quite angry. I mean, I feel I could have taken him, if it had come to a fight but it was so gratuitously unpleasant. I thought that he must really hate cyclists or, maybe more charitably, he was in the early stages of dementia. Although, as Mr. Waffle pointed out, if I had been a young man, he probably wouldn’t have behaved in that way.

Pre-Christmas Round-Up

22 December, 2018 at 12:03 am by belgianwaffle

It has been a long time since I updated you on my doings. Fear not, a fascinating update is on the way.

First and foremost, herself came home. It is truly wonderful to have her back and it is only now that she is home that I realise how much I missed her in the first place. She appears to be on top of French language and teenage culture so, overall, objectives achieved.

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I discovered that all of my children fell into the common error of assuming that the feast of the Immaculate Conception (which falls on December 8) refers to the conception of Jesus. No, no, that falls on the feast of the annunciation on March 25 exactly nine months before Jesus was born on December 25. They are now clear that it refers to the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This reminds me that my copy of “Eminent Victorians” has gone missing. Strachey covers Papal infallibility and, I think, Immaculate Conception, when writing about Cardinal Manning. If you haven’t read “Eminent Victorians”, I truly recommend it. It’s a lot more entertaining than its title might have you suppose.

My brother went to Tenerife on a week’s cycling holiday (who knew?) and he met a second cousin and her elderly parents (the father’s my mother’s first cousin, try to keep up) on the plane on the way over. One day of his holiday was spent with them at their resort covering north Cork news. While he was in Tenerife, I went to Cork which was looking very Christmassy.

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Herself was no sooner home than she went off babysitting her little cousin. She described the experience as lucrative and satisfactory. The parents have just moved to Dublin from London. Sadly this one time may be the last time as when we were at Christmas drinks in their house last Sunday, she heard them say how excellent it was that there was a teenager in the estate who would babysit. Alas for her. However, it was hardly an ideal location for her chauffeurs so on balance, I’m inclined to regard it as a positive.

Despite the fact that we left Belgium more than 10 YEARS AGO, Saint Nicolas continues to turn up and leave sweets in our children’s shoes on December 6. What an after sales service.

Daniel had his GAA Christmas party and Michael had his drama showcase both of which were, in their own way, satisfactory. Sadly due to a miscommunication, Daniel ended up waiting for an hour outside the club house in the dark and cold after the party had ended. He started walking home and was half way there when he saw me sailing past in the car. He ran all the way back to the club house where I was sitting in the car waiting patiently for him to emerge from the party. Unsatisfactory.

Daniel and I decorated the Christmas tree with, frankly, minimal help from the others.

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My sister came to Dublin for the weekend to deliver presents to the children. We’re not going down to Cork until January 1 and she felt it was too long for them to wait. I did not think this and, to be fair, neither did they but my sister has higher standards than all of us. We went to IKEA at 8 in the evening because my sister made us. It was not at all as hideous as I expected. Closing time is clearly the moment to arrive. Mind you, I went against my will and ALL I needed to get was an extension lead but yet I spent €104. World’s most expensive extension lead.

A large parcel came to the house which I thought was full of bubble wrap as Mr. Waffle is preparing to move everything out of our kitchen for renovations starting in January (let us not speak of it). However it turned out to be delightful Spode ware; I was extremely pleased. Though it always makes me think of Wodehouse fascists.

Last Friday, my friend S booked us tickets for a Trinity Festive Research gig. I was considerably more enthusiastic about this when it was originally mooted than when the day rolled round. However, in I went and it did feel very worthy. There was a lecture on why stars twinkle (exoplanets); early film; how Christmas trees will do under global warming (very well, fir trees will rule the earth just like they did under the dinosaurs); ghost stories; and midwifery research. It was pretty enjoyable in retrospect actually and gave us loads to talk about, criticise and dissect over dinner afterwards. My friend gave me a great Christmas present. Pleasing.

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I also bought myself a book of M.R. James ghost stories after the lecture on ghosts; I haven’t tried them since I was very young and quite terrified. I’ve read one so far and I am holding up. I suppose it’s only a question of time before I am filled with terror.

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Michael and I went ice skating. We liked it. Mr Waffle and I went to an artsy Christmas extravaganza on Henrietta Street. I was really keen to see inside another of the dilapidated but very beautiful Georgian Houses on what is, I think, Dublin’s most beautiful street. It was a beautiful house but chilly.

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And the show was for those with a sense of fun in their hearts which I seem to be, sadly, lacking as I found it to be a bit tedious. The food was fine but exiguous and vegetarian, so I was still quite hungry after I’d finished. The saving grace, however, was our neighbours. We were seated at trestle tables beside random strangers (by design) and we spent the evening chatting to a really delightful couple. He lectures in design and she runs a vintage clothes shop (my sister cross-questioned me on this and, apparently, it’s quite a well known one that she has read about in the papers). Regardless of the success of vintage clothes, it seems to be a business with tight margins. Our neighbour blithely described how her French interns were put off that cold winter when the water in the toilet froze. In fairness, wouldn’t that apply to most people? However they were endlessly entertaining. They’ve bought a 1950s school building in Monaghan and they’re planning to live in it (they’re from Monaghan). I have to say, it’s not a county I have ever visited but they made me curious.

The children have all been sick this month. For the last three weeks we have had at least one child home from school. Michael has been sick all this week. Today I told him he was better but his cough refuses to believe me.

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I took a day off work on Monday and spent it Christmas shopping. This goes against my stated views which include deploring the commercialism of Christmas and the triumph of capitalism. But I got everything and I was absolutely delighted with myself. I am slightly conflicted.

Herself had a Junior Cert award ceremony at the school yesterday. I skipped my office Christmas lunch to be there. It started at 2.30 and as we parked in the school car park at 2.34, I blithely reassured Mr. Waffle that these things never start on time. “Why then,” he asked, “can I see her through the glass door on the stage in the hall shaking hands with her year head?” We slunk in but, she noticed we were late. “I don’t blame you,” she said to her father as we had tea afterwards. In all the circumstances, that was probably fair.

The rest of the school had the Christmas awards ceremony today and Daniel got student of the year for second year. I think they’re trying to keep them keen because this is only for three months worth of effort. He was pleased all the same.

I had my annual hair cut today. I looked at the before picture and asked Michael whether I always have those vertical lines on my forehead. Yes, apparently. I’m sure they are from squinting – it’s probably too late now but I took delivery of my new glasses on Wednesday and when I wear them everything is weirdly small and clear. My hairdresser intimated, very tactfully, that the very short haircut I prefer may not suit me as well as it once did. He gave me a 1970s number instead. I’m not sure. I took the after picture in the mirror by candlelight which is much more flattering than the before picture (“she may very well pass for 45/ in the dusk with the light behind her”).

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This afternoon, I met my oldest friend who is home for Christmas and it was delightful and she had a big bag of presents for me – thrilling. Of course I had nothing for her except a chance to admire my new haircut – possibly less thrilling for her.

Daniel sang in the carol service in the church this evening. It was a bit long and chilly. The choir director has different tastes from mine. I could have done with more traditional numbers and fewer experimental ones. However, she is amazing with the children and at Christmas she has the adult and children’s choir sing together and the traditional ones they do are lovely. There is a semi-professional soprano in the adult choir and she does a beautiful “O Holy Night”.

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Today is the winter solistice and on the way home this evening in the drizzle, I came across a parade with a fire, Christmas lights and drums accompanied by a middle aged and sceptical Guard. It appears that we may be about to lose the run of ourselves again. Mr. Waffle is out to a work dinner and I am updating my blog and have performed my duties in the matter of putting out the bins. I believe you are up to date with my doings.


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