Me: Sweeping generalisation.
Me: Don’t be such a pedant.
Michael: That’s nit picking not pedantry
Me: Sweeping generalisation.
Me: Don’t be such a pedant.
Michael: That’s nit picking not pedantry
So here I am several months into my work break and I am still loving it. I thought once the boys went back to school in September and herself went off to Paris and then back to college, I might get bored. Not at all so far. Last time I had this much time alone was when I was six months pregnant with herself and we had just moved back to Brussels. I can remember being a bit bored. But, I am not pregnant now and it turns out that the increased mobility and being in Ireland rather than just back in a country where everyone I knew was working full time makes a big difference.
My initial plan to re-join the tennis club has been thwarted by an 18 month waiting list. I am outraged. I am half thinking of trying yoga. Is this crazy talk? I have never yoga’d before and I am a bit nervous about starting now. Your thoughts are welcome. In the absence of other forms of exercise, I have been cycling around with enthusiasm. I was particularly proud of a very long cycle I made to a distant suburb beyond the Dublin ring road to meet someone for lunch. I was a bit late for lunch though. It’s a long way. I took Michael for a tamer cycle through the park a couple of weeks ago and he was almost enthusiastic. He finally got a new bike and this has contributed to his enthusiasm levels I think. It positively sails over the ground compared to his clunky old one.
I went for a swim in the sea in September with a good friend who is also not working (she took a redundancy package pre-Covid and is pretty clear she’s not going back). She swims in the sea every day of the year. Not quite sure I am up for that yet. I was surprised how nice a dip in Howth in September could be. She has a lot of kit though. I’m not sure I’m ready for the level of investment required. Still I enjoyed our swim with fellow crazy people and then a lovely lunch in Howth afterwards.
I am finding cooking more enjoyable now that I have more time to do it. I made, yes made, a very successful batch of hummus. I was distressed to find that all this talk of chick peas is nonsense and the main ingredient is basically olive oil.
I was able to visit a good friend of my mother’s from college. She’s probably the only person left on earth to whom I can turn for tales of my mother that I don’t already know. Having known this woman literally all my life she’s probably the only parent-like figure left in my world. This is doubtless why she felt it appropriate to greet me with the words, “You’ve got fat.” True, alas. As we talked about my sister who is buying the rest of us out of the family home and the paper work she is womanfully ploughing through as my father’s executor, my mother’s friend commented on how good she was to take all this on. “Of course,” said she, “she was always the nicest of the three of you, that’s her problem.” Indeed. Weirdly, am quite keen to go back for more of this as she is absolutely great fun and I really like her.
My newfound plenty of time status means that I arranged for a birthday cake for a friend whose birthday fell on a book club date. Unfortunately, it turns out that those of us not gifted with plenty of time are good organisers and there were no fewer than three birthday cakes on the evening. Is too much cake really a problem? I refer you to my mother’s friend’s comments.
I’ve had a lot more time to spend in cafes. I love a good cafe. I have been very impressed by how nice the young people in cafes are to elderly customers. They appear to have almost infinite patience and turn a blind eye to those who furtively unwrap Marietta biscuits from tin foil while sipping their tea. Well, things aren’t getting cheaper, are they? I was particularly impressed by a young woman (his companion not a waitress) listened to an older Polish man describe his colonoscopy in detail. To be honest, I could have done with being seated a little further away.
As covered in an earlier post, I have been to Paris and I’ve also been to England and Wales (more details to come, something to look forward to as I like to say). What I enjoy about travelling in the new dispensation is how much freer it feels when trying to pick travel dates – a day earlier, a day later, it makes no difference.
I’ve had a nasty cold I am having trouble shaking for the past three weeks (not Covid, I tested, other colds exist). I am very nearly better now though I still have a slight cough (makes one feel like an absolute pariah in the current environment) and I have quite enjoyed being sick on my own time. If I’m sick, no one needs to cancel a meeting. I can go out one day and stay at home the next without feeling guilty. Though I do think that I am more noticing of my illness without the stress and adrenaline of work crises to distract me.
I had dinner with a friend the other night. We were supposed to go to a play but it was cancelled due to illness. It’s the first time in years I haven’t gone to the theatre festival but we may have dodged a bullet as our chosen play got, at best, mixed reviews. She asked me whether I was missing work. I really am not. I have had a tough couple of years and maybe I am just decompressing still. But, due to an extensive lunch programme, I’m still getting the best parts of work – the gossip, the gossip obviously – without the normal accompanying pain. I am a bit surprised and a tiny bit sad – I mean what have I been doing with my time – that I don’t miss it at all. There is no pleasing some people is all I can say.
As part of his Leaving Certificate examination in geography, Michael and his class went off to the Dublin mountains to measure (?) a body of water. The school app sent photos of young people consulting pieces of paper while wearing waders in the middle of a lake. Michael arrived home grumpy, slightly damp and chilled. It was with some reluctance that I reminded him that the young man for French conversation (a great find by the way, v pleased with him) would be arriving at 6.30 and as his brother was, yet again, at GAA training, Michael would spend the hour on his own experiencing the thrill of French conversation. He was not pleased. It went fine but nonetheless, he announced to us bitterly afterwards, “I am physically and mentally exhausted.” Alas.
We have had a bumper apple harvest this year. We have three, yes three, apple trees.
I have made so much jelly. Previously, when I made apple jelly, it was completely foolproof. It always set. This year I have had to throw away a batch which just refused to set. Disastrous. I found by dint of careful experimentation that actually even if it seemed like it was not going to set after a couple of days it mostly did. Peculiar. And unwelcome.
Anyway, there’s only so much unset apple jelly you can make and our friends from falling fruit came around at the start of October to assist. It’s a volunteer organisation and they come and pick your fruit, give it to a food producer and the producer makes a donation to charity.
They were there for two hours and picked nine of those large potato sacks worth of fruit and there are still loads of apples in the trees. I’m half sick of jelly said the Lady of Shallot.
Updated to add:
This is what I have been reduced to. And no evidence that the primary school children who go past my door have been at all tempted by my witchy tactics.
While Daniel has training (all the time at the moment, God, I am sick of the GAA, the other night I spent 1 hour 45 minutes in the car dropping and collecting from a distant location), those of us at home are watching a series on Netflix. It’s Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. It’s not bad. Daniel’s a bit curious about the show. The other night the Netflix algorithm threw up Peter O’ Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia as something we might like to watch. “Ah,” said Daniel, “is that the Sandman show you’ve been watching?”
Friday, September 23, 2022
Mr. Waffle and I went off on our adventure to Paris to visit herself. V thrilling. The flight was uneventful although the journey to our airbnb from the airport felt good and long. The French metro tickets seemed so old fashioned compared to elsewhere. I was very impressed by London where I was just able to use my contactless bank card. The small rectangular Paris ticket seemed so strange. Apparently it is being phased out and I mildly regret not having kept a souvenir. I was charmed by this welcoming poster in the metro.
The airbnb was fine. The listing promised the best view in Paris and it was certainly a good view though the rest of the accommodation was a bit basique.
And frankly the sign in the lift indicating that the pest exterminators were coming on the following Tuesday to deal with the cockroaches was…unwelcome.
I think that the owner of the property may have been a Belgian as there were pictures of Baudouin and Fabiola in the bathroom. Others might have been baffled but my expertise in the field of Belgian royalty stood me in good stead. As my mother used to say, “knowledge is never wasted”.
Herself made her way around to us and we all went for dinner to a place on the quays in the centre of town. The food was fine but no more than it. The restaurant is related to the Tour d’Argent – the diffusion model, if you will – and I have to say that association is doing the Tour d’Argent no favours.
On our stroll around after dinner, we found ourselves passing the restaurant that saved our bacon when we were a hungry family of tourists looking for lunch in the centre of Paris many years ago. It was Asterix themed. We’re not proud. We took a photo to send to the boys but sadly they had forgotten this pivotal cultural moment.
After having put herself in a taxi, Mr. Waffle and I continued our 2022 tour of European city micro-mobility options by scooting back to the airbnb. Unlike in Berlin where you could basically drop your scooter anywhere, there are designated parking areas in Paris. A better solution, I think, although mildly less convenient for the user. Also cobblestones are a challenge.
Saturday, September 24, 2022
We went for breakfast in the Pain Quotidien (judge away) in Rue de Bretagne which was right beside us. Herself joined us and we went for a little flâne around the quartier, stopping to look in the shops and market stalls and a really excellent book shop. My goodness, you forget how heart-stoppingly beautiful Paris is.
After lunch we went to visit friends for tea. The mother and I shared a flat together in Brussels nearly thirty years ago and we have stayed in touch ever since – exchanging Christmas cards and our children – a source of enormous satisfaction to both of us. Their eldest daughter is abroad for college as well and their boys are teenagers. Slightly to my horror they are talking about buying a house in the country and downsizing to a smaller flat in Paris once the youngest starts college. How did we get so old? Also, their truly beautiful flat in the 16th, how can they bear to leave it and where will they put all their books?
Afterwards we went to inspect the Princess’s accommodation. It was in a very chic neighbourhood in an old building. So far so good. We passed the beautiful main entrance and I was delighted. We went on to the grim servants’ entrance behind and I was distinctly less entranced. She was on the 6th floor no lift.
Her landing was terrifying.
Honestly, if you were a location scout, you would say, “This is it, I’ve found the perfect spot for the crime scene.”
However, the flat itself was pleasant enough though small and boasting some slightly exciting plumbing arrangements.
She took us out for dinner to a local Korean place which was, honestly, nicer than where we had eaten on Friday night and far, far cheaper. It also boasted more wipe clean surfaces though.
To celebrate the saving over dinner we went to a local bar for a drink. People, I paid €7.30 for a cup of tea, surely a record etc.
Sunday, September 25, 2022
We went to Mass in the Marais. At the end of the service, we sang Salve Regina and all turned towards the statue of the Virgin Mary in a side chapel. Bit odd, I thought. Catholics please advise.
We met herself for a very expensive breakfast in Place des Vosges. When I was booking our airbnb, I saw one on Place des Vosges and when I went back to book, it was gone. Alas. Anyway, it was delightful. We re-created some pictures from when we were last in Paris together and what I find astounding is how much the iphone camera has improved since 2017.
We wandered past the Musée Carnavalet. It is free, so I was keen to go in. Mr. Waffle was dubious. It’s a museum of the city of Paris and weirdly like all of the other local city museums you have been to, although somewhat larger.
Undoubted highlight was reading some of the v angry comments on the experience. I particularly enjoyed the one that took the opportunity to have a dig at Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo (patron saint of cyclists).
We had lunch in the courtyard outside which I thought was lovely and atmospheric and herself and Mr. Waffle thought was a public health hazard. As a pigeon flew up on the table beside us herself commented tartly, “Its first time performing this manoeuvre no doubt”.
After lunch, we tackled the Louvre. Free for the under 25s but €17 for each adult. Still worth it, people.
Mr. Waffle and herself tired and went for a cup of tea in Starbucks (in the Louvre, sacred blue etc) but I persevered.
They have such a good collection of French painters as well as everything else and I love a bit of Watteau, Fragonard, Boucher frills and froth as well as the quieter charms of Chardin.
I am not a massive Claude Lorrain fan which is a pity because the Louvre has quite the collection. I had a quick walk down the long gallery stopping at some of the particularly famous paintings (although the Mona Lisa had a queue with a line other very famous and beautiful pictures did not).
I went to an online talk about the Louvre before going and I offer you the information that Diane de Poitiers put her initials and Henri II’s all over the Louvre to the intense chagrin of his wife, Catherine de Medici. I am sure you are delighted to note that your correspondent is as didactic as ever.
We had dinner in a local restaurant. Fine and a moment of triumph when we addressed the waiter and he said, in French, “Oh sorry, I thought you were English.” We did ok actually in the speaking French to French people stakes (something which was not very difficult in the past). They seemed willing which was all I wanted really.
Monday, September 26, 2022
After breakfast out, we packed up, put our suitcases in left luggage and went for a walk in Montmartre. Mr. Waffle was reluctant as it so touristy but it was handy. It wasn’t bad, I thought. I mean, there’s no two ways about it, it is tourist central – we kept getting caught up with a large Spanish walking tour – but it’s not exactly like the rest of Paris is tourist free. And it is rather charming with good views. It is possible that the on/off rain showers may have scared off some of the tourists.
Observe the site where Saint Denis stopped to wash his severed head in a fountain. Not a great picture but, if you look closely, you will see the statue is carrying the head. This is a source of a great line from a French aristo who having been told the story by some cardinal said, “Il n’y a que le premier pas qui coûte”. It’s only the first step that counts. In other words, once he picks up his head and starts walking, well, the fact that it’s 6 kms is neither here nor there. A perennial favourite phrase with my mother.
By lunch time, the rain was torrential. We were to meet herself in a trendy place for lunch. Many of her friends had recommended it. We queued outside for a good half hour in the lashing rain before getting in. There were two queues: the queue for those with reservations and the one for those without. We were in the latter group, sadly.
When we got in, lunch was nice and it was all very happening. I can recommend Pink Mamma but I would also recommend that you book.
Then we said goodbye to herself and began our epic trek to airport. Nothing went wrong but it was just long. I felt bad leaving her sitting dripping on her own on the other side of the metro tracks but she made it home safely and I felt very proud of my small girl making her way in the big city. Also, I was quite pleased that she was coming home shortly.
We had such a good time. I was delighted. Mr. Waffle was reminded of when he lived in Paris in the early 90s and his parents came to visit him. Overall it went well but his father’s credit card had expired and getting cash abroad was not as easy then as it is now. The upshot of this was that he ended up subsidising them in their high rolling cafe adventures from his slender student savings and he still remembers the pain (fear not, they were good for the money but cash flow can be a problem, if you’re a student). No such difficulties occurred during our visit which was just as well as I think our daughter is more like her profligate mama than her prudent papa.
All in all, a triumph.