Saturday, May 27, 2006

Feet up... I'm trying to wash the floor here

Day 16 in the Big Balloon House. Today it is time to wash the living-room floor, so the balloons are all herded onto a corner of the sofa. Some are beginning to look a little worse for wear. There are fingerprints on some, while about half of the total number are slightly deflated. They haven't gone into balloon middle-age just yet. That would be indicated by a generally flacid appearance and a stretchy, loose skin. In balloon years, these ones are in their 30s. Balloon gym might arrest some of the symptoms, but they'd only pay a subscription then not bother attending. I'm not going to let them become couch potatoes either. As soon as the floor dries, its back onto it melads!

That's a teddy bear being smothered by the yellow balloon, a la an episode of The Prisoner. The blanket belongs to a cat. You are beginning to get a feeling for the kind of house we live in by now.

Send for the mower..

... and afterwards maybe we should also tend to the grass.

Caring for the coat of long haired cats turns out to be troublesome. This one gets brushed as often as we can, but still manages to entangle her fur into tightly-wrapped knots close to the skin.

The local vet looked blankly at us when we asked about grooming. As it wasn't a medical matter, she had no clue.

Patient combing and brushing, I think, are the only way to go. Ideas, anyone?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Monday, May 22, 2006

Rising 4 - Eleven fun-filled days of balloons

They are still here.

They have watched 11 days of televison, from dour news channels to Dr Who to music television. They shared the wonder of the Eurovision. And construction programmes. And all the shite we watched in between. A couple of them had close squeaks. I stood on one and it shrieked, but didn't burst. Herself apologised to one this evening when it became entangled in the legs of her work trousers and started to grumble.

On Sunday, I arose at 8.30am to find the whole herd asleep in front of the television, the curtains pulled. Later, a piece of corned beef went West and the cat retrieved it by wearing a green balloon briefly on his head.

Only the unmoving shrunken blue one still bears testament to the fate of all balloons.

My work-mates think my single stripe of promotion has unhinged me. I show them video of the balloons moving in time to the music on television, and they put on that "Humour him" look. Sometimes, instead, they change the subject.

But each evening I come home I thread a path through them all and plug in the television, feed the cats, and watch the balloons come alive.

You won't know unless you go.

Do it.

Go out and buy a dozen or so balloons and let them loose in a room.

You may be surprised.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A little rain

I spent an hour getting from The Square in Tallaght to Firhouse today by bus because a little rain had fallen and so everybody had to pick someone up by car for fear of them getting wet. To be fair, it was really torrential "sideways rain", (as Mr Gump would have said) for quite a while, but Jaysus, lads: the traffic!

I was tired and not really listening to the students/office juniors/girls from Donegal who were chatting about staff structures in whatever place they were coming from. I had a vague notion they were student nurses, which wouldn't be impossible what with Tallaght Hospital nearby. As usual, I was mildly astonished by their lack of non-medical knowledge as one tried to explain where certain Middle Eastern countries were or would be on her plan for combining future work prospects with an interest in but fear of world travel. She spelled out "Quatar" for her friends. My mind was wandering far away from their conversation when a half-heard remark formed in my mind as "He's ten short of a packet of Major."

What a good expression, even if it never existed before!

Rain spattered me through an open window. The driver leaned out and flagged down a taxi coming in the other direction.

"Are there [traffic] lights broken or what?"

The taxi driver indicated he didn't think so.

"Fifty minutes to get as far as here!" the bus driver said. The taxi man waved his sympathy and drove away in the opposite direction, towards Tallaght.

A tall woman with short red hair was two seats ahead of me. Her hair was wet and small goosebumps rose on the sunburn across her shoulders. Her left hand had either a steel or white gold ring on the ring finger. Another had a fabric band aid. She had no coat.

When I stepped off the bus the rain had all but stopped.

Rising 3 - Balloons do Eurovision

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Rising 2

Balloons show a decidedly callous attitude to the death of a friend. We have had our tribe of multi-coloured spheroids for two nights now, and one of them -- a blue specimen, who always looked a little more sickly than the others -- has shrivelled up into the size of a duck egg and lies pathetically ignored in the middle of the herd.

They also have a tendency to graze in different directions, which I find odd. Little clusters have developed, some by the occasional table, another threesome peering into the cat's dish, a third looking disinterested in the middle of the floor, and a fourth group made up of a few die-hards still watching television whether anything is on or not.

They got so unruly tonight that Herself herded them all together again with a "Shuck! Shuck! Shuck!" noise I hadn't heard before, but which I immediately associated with gathering errant ducks.

Only "Doctor Who" rivetted their attention on Saturday. The rest of the time they looked kind of sullen. I know for a fact the replacement for the dead blue balloon is already displaying signs of being a loner. It keeps away from the others a little.

I have a short video of them swaying to a music television channel, but can't upload it in its current configuration to the Blog. When I do, you'll believe me when I say that they live strange lives of their own.

I toyed with the idea of resuccitating the dead blue balloon, but couldn't undo the knot.

There's a lesson in there for us all.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


My Uncle Billy, who ran a pitch 'n' putt golf course used to say: "There's nothing worse than the public." I thought this a strange one from someone who depended on the public for his livelihood, then understood a little when I looked at vandalised bridges, broken flag-sticks and other pointless destruction wrought by the public on the golf course, until finally I understood completely when I took a job dealing by telephone with them.

My love and I both work in high-pressure jobs, not that our wages reflect it. Although our jobs are different, we try our best to satisfy and serve as many people as possible within the limits of what can be done (often different to what should be done). People occasionally thank us for our efforts, or ask us to thank our bosses on their behalf.

But one thing that happens, at least daily, is that the great Irish public displays its mettle by eating the arse off one or both of us. In my experience you have the "I want it now" type, who wasn't dropped enough times on his head as a kid, or, at the other extreme, the genuinely fucked-around-with type that a dozen never-to-be-repeated coincidences and delays have pissed off so badly that he just wants to decapitate the first eegit to say "Hello" on the other end of the telephone line.

So I got balloons.

I took a packet and a half and started blowing them up at a quarter-to-seven this evening. Fuck the cats, they could wait ten minutes longer to be fed. I huffed and puffed and filled the room with brightly-coloured latex bags of air and we watched them bump about. Happy little opinionless people filled the floor.

A large group of them swayed about as if discussing the doings of the day. Then I put on a television programme about building houses and they sat in rapt attention for the first half hour.

Some turned about to exchange glances with their neighbours when the builders proved inept, or the cost of restoration of shoddy workmanship came up, but generally -- and especially the orange one in the front row -- they stayed glued to the subject.

The elder cat eyed a red one suspiciously. I have a feeling it's the reason she didn't finish off the full portion of Whiskas this evening. I'll have to keep an eye on that one if it intends to continue making trouble.

I have some uninflated spares, which I think I'll introduce into the company if any go astray. It's possible they might, either by accident, or by something they learned from watching television shows. There are books about, too, so they might consider reading while we sleep tonight. I think it's fun that you never really know what they're going to do next.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Hug Collector of Harry Street

"Is it your birthday, or something?" this large hairy gentleman clad in black leather and occasional metal studs asked me.


"So why are you doing it?"

"I just am. Lookit... Your girlfriend has already done it with me. Are you going to or what? I haven't got all night."

The girlfriend grinned at him. He added up the balance of staying hairy and macho or keeping the girlfriend happy. He reached a conclusion. Two large arms wrapped around me and bear-hugged me into a Brut-infested chest.

It was the late 1980s and I was standing by the lower door of Flanders lounge in Bruxelles of Harry Street. Bored and drunk, I had decided to hug everyone I knew and then start hugging everyone I didn't know.

"Excuse me. I'm collecting hugs tonight. Would you like to donate?"

Some people looked at me aghast. There was a certain panache one adopted on entering the place which was being entirely ruined on meeting me unexpectedly at the foot of the steps politely asking for a hug. It was not what one expected in the stuffy, over-heated, smoky basement.

Hugs came in various shapes and sizes. Generally the women were quite happy to wrap arms around neck and hang on tight. Their menfolk on the other hand were stiff and defensive, half-expecting some attack.

Rumour spread about the pub. A bouncer appeared and asked me what I was at.

"Hello. I'm collecting hugs tonight. Would you like to donate?"

He looked at me and decided I was in that category reserved for window-lickers and religious experimentation, marked "Harmless."

Two giant hands reached out and squashed me into a heavy-duty jumper.

By the end of the night I had collected 42 hugs and had closed up shop to go home. It no longer mattered that drunken people were milling around on the stairs and outside the pub asking:

"Who's the fucker collecting hugs? I didn't get a hug!"

I had completed my quota for the evening and I meandered to the quays for the last bus.

I may reprise the role in the staff restaurant one day, starting with the County Manager. Consider yourselves warned.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

All over bar the grouting

The fiddly half-tiles take the longest to stick on the wall. It's best to have a new cutter, even if the job is more than half-way through, because the blunt nature of the older tool is a false economy by this stage. You've worn it out on learning how not to break tiles. Like most other jobs, the skill levels increase the nearer one is to concluding.

Last night I mixed some tile grout and got to work with a makeshift spreader (I'm told it's used to de-ice the freezer, but it looks like a cake icer to me). I have a nice spongy-based grouting trowel someplace, but can't put my hands on it. The result is a square meter of finished tiles which stand out wonderfully from their ungrouted fellows. Today I hope to finish off the entire section. Some mastic joints and we can start thinking of boxing in the fridge and carrying on with the rest of the kitchen.

This morning I've been amusing myself with cataloguing the Search Terms used by people who found the Blog by Search Engine. The majority are passing through in search of other sites and subjects. Putting the whole lot into Google comes up with a negative result, oddly enough. The past 100 visitors had among their number the following search terms:

lost propertynote writing
flat head syndrome
tallaght ford
"wav file" "i did it my way"
cavity tv antenne coca
photos cine women
lyrics to hr puffinstuff
hr puffinstuff wav
motor tax dunlaoghaire
tallaght 99 fm
hr puffinstuff song wav
exposition writing piece
old bawn gymnastics

Has HR Pufnstuf become a new cultural hero or are my fellow 40-somethings on a nostalgia trip? I notice that all Puffy fans in the searches are from the USA, by the way.

[Pic of Pufnstuf courtesy of Interesting article on the drugs references in the show.]