Marion thought to begin with that Kristoph was joking, or talking whimsically, about the waffles. When she realised he WAS serious she assumed that they would go to some space-borne eating place like the Intergalactic Bar and Grill or the Psion orbital restaurant.

But that would be far too easy for him. Nothing would do but to take his family to the place where the term ‘Belgian Waffle’ was first used to describe something served as a sweet breakfast food.

Curiously, that wasn’t anywhere in Belgium, but the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York.

It was, at least, in the Belgian Village of the fair. The faithfully recreated café where they sat at outdoor seats looking across an equally faithfully recreated Belgian village square was a pleasant enough spot for breakfast. It was still quiet at a little after eight o’clock in the morning. They were served by a young woman dressed as a late nineteenth century Belgian peasant who tried not to sound too much like she came from New Jersey.

The waffles were served hot with butter and maple syrup dripping off them and fresh strawberries piled on top. They were delicious. Rodan gave her personal seal of approval to them and asked if they could have waffles for breakfast at home.

“Only if I can buy a waffle iron with the right voltage for our kitchen,” Marion answered. “I don’t think we’ll find one here in New York in 1964. It might have to be a space port shopping centre.”

“Then we’ll have to explain to cook how to make the batter for the waffles,” Kristoph added.

Rodan didn’t see any problem with either part of the operation.

“They’re very nice for a treat,” Marion said. “But I don’t think I’d want something this sweet every day for breakfast. I much prefer scrambled eggs and toast.”

“You can have scrambled eggs and waffles,” Kristoph suggested. He sipped the tall glass of cream-topped Belgian coffee he ordered with his breakfast and stretched lazily. He didn’t look at all like a man who had a full day’s business to get on with later in the day.

“I’ve cleared my morning,” he admitted. “I’ll get back to the afternoon session in the Panopticon when I’m ready. I AM a Time Lord, after all, with a fully functioning TARDIS. We can spend the day in this delightful sunshine in a faux Belgian village before I have to go back to the bafflegab over Athenican autonomy.

The word ‘bafflegab’ made Marion and Rodan both laugh. The promise of a whole day’s outing pleased them both. Marion was glad to be with Kristoph and away from Gallifreyan politics for that long. Rodan was glad to be away from a morning studying Gallifreyan history. Not that she minded learning anything, but this was far more fun.

“Were you ever here before, mama?” she asked Marion.

“At the World’s Fair? Heavens, no,” she answered. “This is way before I was born. Besides, I’m not American. I’ve only seen things like this on films.”

That was something that puzzled Rodan every time she visited Marion’s home world. She couldn’t understand how Earth-born humans divided themselves up into different races when they clearly were all the same species.

“It’s complicated,” Marion admitted.

“It helps to understand that Earth is one of the most densely populated planets in the galaxy. Even at this time, some six billion people live here, compared to less than one billion on our world. And, of course, their communications between each other are less advanced. The people in one part of the planet think of other parts as so far away that those places are foreign and exotic. It won’t be until they have interstellar travel that they will realise their world is a small place after all and that they are one people.”

“Did Gallifreyans think that way once?” Rodan asked.

“Didn’t you want a day off from history?” Kristoph asked. He certainly wanted a day off from politics, but oddly enough they had both come around to something that touched on the subjects they were playing truant from.

Kristoph put it out of his mind for half an hour while a group of performers danced in the square dressed in clown costumes, feathered headdresses with bells, and clogs that made a curiously hollow sound on the flagstones. They were the traditional Gille Dancers, a feature of the Belgian Village and a welcome distraction.

A second round of coffee for Kristoph and Marion and a mug of sweet, minted hot milk for Rodan was served as the dancers came to the end of their set. Kristoph again sat back in his seat and considered the question from earlier.

“Yes, we were a little like that once. The two continents contained people who barely knew each other and there were different traditions and customs in both places. But that was long before Rassilon united the planet under his rule. We have been one people ever since.”

And that was why there WAS so much of that bafflegab in the Panopticon every day. The idea of the Athenican Forum having real powers separate to the High Council did bring about ideas of a real split between the two continents, of two governments on Gallifrey and a population divided by geography and culture once again.

And that scared a lot of Time Lords.

When this interlude was over, he knew he had to go back to work on creating a careful balance between the necessary unity of Gallifrey and the logical application of local government to the southern continent.

The music from an authentic nineteenth century steam carousel starting up brought Kristoph back from the politics he was so studiously avoiding. He smiled widely and gave Rodan permission to have a go on it. She drained her cup of milk and ran to be one of the first to ride the carousel this morning. Of course, she passed up on the chance to ride in a princess’s carriage or a golden sled and climbed up on one of the painted horses that travelled around in a row of three. She sat properly as she did on her real horse and held the reins as the carousel turned.

“I think I would like a go on that, too,” Marion said. “But you can take me in the carriage. This skirt isn’t made for sitting astride a horse, and I don’t think they’d allow me to ride side-saddle.”

Kristoph laughed and took her by the hand. When the first ride was over Rodan kept to her wooden steed and her foster-parents sat in a gilded coach with a lion’s head on the front. The coach rocked slightly as the carousel turned, giving a slight effect of being in a horse drawn vehicle. Since both Marion and Kristoph had been in real carriages many times they were far from convinced by that illusion, but the music and lights and the smell of the steam that drove the carousel were romantic enough in their own way.

One ride was enough for the grown-ups, but Rodan went around again before Kristoph insisted that was enough.

“It only costs six cents,” she pointed out. “I could ride on it all day with my pocket money.”

“Yes, but that would definitely be an over-indulgence,” Kristoph told her. “Six cents was as much as most children in this time got for pocket money. You shouldn’t flout our wealth.”

Rodan accepted the censure and walked with her foster parents as they explored the quite delightful facsimile of a real Flemish village before the destruction of the First World War. The houses were not lived in, of course. Most of them were just false fronts. But through the front windows mock ups of what a Flemish home would have looked like sixty or seventy years ago could be viewed.

The artisans workshops were real enough. There were demonstrations of some of the famous crafts of Belgium. Like its neighbour, Holland, diamonds were an important trade. Nobody from the southern plains of Gallifrey was ignorant of the methods of cutting and polishing gems, of course, but watching it done without laser instruments was interesting. It passed more than an hour of their morning.

Marion was interested in the replica of the gothic church based on one in Antwerp. She was delighted to find that the interior as well as the exterior had been made to look as authentic as possible, and the altar had been blessed by the Archbishop of New York, making it possible to hold Masses there every two hours.

Between the services, there was an added attraction within the church – sand painting. None of them knew what that meant until they came across the exhibit. Lamps were placed inside wooden boxes with plate glass lids. Sand, natural and artificially coloured, was spread on top and shaped by thoroughly clever artists into simulacrums of Old Masters. The Last Supper in multiple colours was the centrepiece of the exhibit, each figure as close to the original as possible, but there was also a copy of the Mona Lisa and a number of examples of the Flemish school.

“This is why humans are so remarkable,” Kristoph noted. “Creating something so remarkable in such a prosaic medium – we Time Lords are so powerful and so wise, yet we would never have the imagination to make something like this.”

Marion smiled. That was just like Kristoph, to find praise for what his own people considered ‘lesser beings’. That was why she loved him so much.

They attended the eleven o’clock Mass in the church before emerging into the sunshine once more. Although it had only been a few hours since they enjoyed their waffle breakfast, Kristoph steered them next towards the replica town hall which included a ‘Rathkeller’ beneath it.

A Rathkeller was a large space in what the Americans would call the basement. Before refrigeration, the Flemish people kept their beer in the cool and the shade such a space afforded, and to make it easier to dispense it when it was ready, they put long tables and chairs down there and served meals with the steins full of frothing beer.

This proved a popular idea with the visitors to the Belgian Village and American accents calling for the salt or more bread from large platters in the middle of the table, or requesting more beer from the authentically dressed waitresses was the background sound to the luncheon. Marion and Rodan both had lemonade with their meal, but Kristoph sampled the beer and considered it perfectly refreshing.

An exhibition of Flemish lace-making was a pleasant way to spend some time after lunch, and nothing could stop Marion buying dozens of yards of it, as well as a very fine shawl made entirely of the most delicate creamy-white lace.

“Yes,” Kristoph said to Rodan with a wry smile. “Your mama has no idea about moderation when it comes to finely crafted textiles. No doubt she is already planning what Rosanda will do with the lace for her summer wardrobe – and yours, too, of course.”

Rodan smiled knowingly and reminded her foster father that hand-made chocolates were also a Belgian speciality, and there was a delicious smell from somewhere close.

They soon found the source of the smell and watching chocolates of all shapes and flavours being made by hand, decorated with the finest icing patterns, amused them for another while. This time Kristoph was the most indulgent. He bought several pounds of the chocolates. Marion bought a supply, too, but they were for the children at the school she was still a patron of.

“May I buy some for my friends?” Rodan asked. By friends, of course, she meant Briessal particularly. He was her regular playmate now that all questions of their relationship with each other was settled, but she also entertained other youngsters of her age, the sons and daughters of the aristocracy as well as those of her own class. The white library was frequently her own private salon for tea. The special chocolates would make a very nice addition to the table for her next afternoon’s feast.

“Yes, you can spend your pocket money on chocolates,” Kristoph told her. “And I think there will be time for one more ride on the carousel before we leave the park.”

That suited Rodan just fine. She carried her purchases in a little pink and white striped bag with a string handle and gave it to her mama to hold while she rode the wooden horses once more.

“Do you really intend to take us back to Gallifrey in time for the afternoon session in the Panopticon?” Marion asked as they headed to where the TARDIS was parked, beside a pavilion which looked much more like a space ship than it did. “Aren’t you quite exhausted?”

“I feel quite refreshed by this excursion away from my political responsibilities,” he answered. “I think I shall deal much better than usual with the nonsense spouted by my fellow High Councillors. You two can go and see Mia Reidluum for the afternoon, and I shall meet you for dinner at Valentins when the politics is done.”

“As long as you have satisfied your cravings for waffles,” Marion told him.

“Not completely,” he replied. “But in case I am put in mind of them again I have purchased an iron and a book of recipes which I am sure our cook will find useful.”

Marion still wondered why he should be put in mind of waffles by anything on Gallifrey, but this pleasant interlude and the souvenirs they were bringing back from it were worth it.