Friday, December 29, 2006
Friday, December 22, 2006
Herself is running mad about the room.
"Where's my Christmas list?"
"You mean, of all the presents you're going to get me?" I ask, innocently.
"No..... Of all the jobs that need doing before Christmas."
I find the list, which is something like three pages long. Lists are things that run other people's lives. I'm not a fan of them. My mother, for example, used to leave them everywhere for herself to look up later and wonder where they came from.
Something for dinner.
Then in her later life, she would leave them for me. And notes. I found one in a fold of an old armchair one day a couple of years back. It reads: "Fried stuff for Dad in the morning."
It was reminding me to make the breakfast I made every single sorrowful day, in case I forgot.
So, my Christmas list, faulty and all as it is, is inside my head. It consists of two major instructions:
"1. Buy presents (If you want to).
"2. Don't worry (If you want to)."
I'm getting there.
We're all getting there.
Merry Christmas, if I haven't wished it for you already. And even if I did.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Don't do it, lads and lassies! Internet Explorer 7.0 is an invitation to go to Specsavers if ever there was one. Just thank Jaysis for rollback, that's my last word on the subject. ["System Restore...", yes, I know. Terminology important to full night's sleep, etc, etc]
Monday, December 18, 2006
Sunday, December 17, 2006
"First of all, " she said, "You lock me in a strange bedroom... Okay, so there was food, water, clean litter trays and a comfortable bed, but that's not the point...
"Then you let a monkey kitten* into the bedroom I usually occupy and let it stay there all night.
"Then you expect me to wait for my breakfast?
"It just isn't good enough, you know..?"
*All adult cats think of humans as monkeys, unless they want something from them, in which case they sometimes think of themselves as kittens and the human as a temporary, honorary Mammy cat. A monkey kitten is a human baby.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Because I have always found that, contrary to sterotype, Herself actively loathes shopping, while I don't really mind it, I was surprised today to find myself wishing I was anywhere other than in the shops I was visiting in search of Christmas 2006 presents.
At one point I was in Dunnes Stores, which, it has to be said, has really stretched itself in recent years in the matter of variety of gifts. But feckin' hell! The things that were on sale in the Home Wares department! Either young and trendy mortgage payers are incredibly thick, or someone has found a way to sell wisps of nothing while keeping a straight face.
Those smelly candle things.... They had some tiny lumps of wax that required at least standard eye protectors -- probably the full breathing apparatus rig -- just to walk within three feet of the display. Another of the wonders was a yoke about the size of a whiskey glass, filled with little wooden balls and containing a worryingly small bottle of concentrated scent. Apparently one gripped the little brown bottle with the longest fire tongs one could find and dripped one drop of this on top of the balls, then sat eye-streamingly trendy in front of the television for the rest of the evening. The item was complete with small, wooden manhole-cover lid with a kind of string of ribbon passed through it. I mean, Jaysus! I could whip up a dozen of those yokes from random ingredients in the kitchen in about five minutes.
In HMV the staff are faced with the demoralising task of trying to wring an extra fiver out of the already impatient customers by telling them about a special offer. I passed several long-suffering Mammies, staring in bewilderment at racks of CDs and DVDs, while trying to remain calm on the mobile:
"Right! I can see the row you're talking about! But it isn't there. Do you think you can get your arse out of bed long enough to tell your mother who bore you for nine months (the last two in a fucking heatwave!) what other piece of crap musical selection you want?"
At the counter, a mental battle royale is going on between the slim, premenstrual twenty-something with the stud in her nostril assistant who has not yet had her latte and the going to fat and possibly unshaven twenty-something going on fifteen who is avoiding making eye contact with the queuing public. She says, in pure, purring, over-his head sarcastic Female:
"Is your cash register off at the moment?"
He completes the counting of his crayons and replies without the least inkling that she is any moment going to stab him in the eyeball with the pin of her name tag:
"Oh, no. I was just doing something else..."
He looks up and takes payment for the goods I hand him. In the background, I hear the shop girl saying to a hassled Mobile-phone Mammy:
"Did you know, Madam that once you spend €30 you can choose one of these selections for only half price?"
Slow Poke takes my money and tries his best with the speil on me:
"You can have one of these...." (He realises there is a premium DVD in the stack of cheapos, and starts to shuffle them, all in a fluster, like playing cards) "Well... not including that one, obviously..." (He rallies) "...for only half price!"
"You're alright," I say.
The look on his face says that it is very early in his day and he does not expect to shift many of the half-price offers before quitting time.
There are camping stoves and oil lamps in the camping shop window. The staff are trying valiantly to think up camping gear that might double as Christmas gifts. So am I.
In Easons, I walk around most of the store with a tin box of dominos in my hand before finally putting it back. Someone this year will get a 2007 calendar on the subject of Ferrets, but it won't be anyone I know. I put back a keyring with the picture of a black cat on it just like ours. I can take a picture of our black cat any day. No, I don't want a box of oil paints. Nor videos of great sporting moments.
Then I see a CD entitled "Favourite Childhood memories", hidden in the back of the budget CDs. It's tracks listing is:
Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf / Henry Hall
The Ugly Duckling / Danny Kaye
On The Good Ship Lollipop / Shirley Temple
I Know An Old Lady / Burl Ives
William Tell Overture / Spike Jones And His City Slickers
The Woody Woodpecker Song / Mel Blanc
Me And My Teddy Bear / Rosemary Clooney
Thumbelina / Danny Kaye
I Tawt I Taw A Puddy-Tat / Mel Blanc
Christopher Robin At Buckingham Palace / Anne Stephens
Blue Tail Fly / Burl Ives
The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine / Laurel And Hardy
Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo / Dinah Shore
The Big Rock Candy Mountain / Burl Ives
Wonderful Copenhagen / Danny Kaye
The Laughing Policeman / Charles Penrose
A Four Legged-Friend / Roy Rogers
The Runaway Train / Vernon Dalhart
Little White Duck / Danny Kaye
Polly Wolly Doodle / Shirley Temple
The King's New Clothes / Danny Kaye
I'm Popeye The Sailor Man / Billy Costello
The Teddy Bears' Picnic / Henry Hall
Like a fool I decide I'd be better off without it. I'd be better going home and drinking tea and eating something, wrapping what presents I have bought and coming back another day. So I do.
I'm going back tomorrow. I hope it's still there. Bugger this man-thinking business. It just isn't me.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Just got this by email. Seen it before, bu' in enny wey.
The Story of Christmas (adapted for Dubs)
Dere's dis boord called Mary, yeah? She's a virgin (wha' de fook is dah?). She's not married or nuttin', but she's got dis felleh, Joe, righ'? He does joinery an' all dah. Mary lives with him in a flah dowwen in Nazareh.
One day Mary meets dis yungfelleh Gabriel. She's like "Wha are yeh bleedin' lookin' ah?" Gabriel just goes "You're fookin' pregnant so yeh are". Mary's scarleh. She gives him a fookin' earful: "Are you bleedin' startin'? I'm no fookin' sluh. I never bin wih no one!"
So Mary goes and sees her cousin Liz, who's six months gone herself. Liz is on a mad buzz, bud. She's filled with spirits, Barcardi Breezers an' all dah. She sez te Mary "Ah howeyeh, Mary, I can feel me chiseller in me stummick and I reckon I'm well blessed. Think of all deh money we'll be getting from deh social." Mary goes "Yeah, s'pose you're righ' ".
Mary an' Joe haven't goh a fookin' bean so they have to ponse a donkey, an' go dowwen te Behlehem on dah. Dey get to dis boozer an' Mary wants to stop, yeah? To have her yungfelleh an' all dah. But there's no fookin' roohem at the inn, righ'?
So Mary an' Joe break an' into this garridge, only it's filled wih animals. Cowis an' sheep an' all dah. Then these three lads tourn up, lookin bleedin' rapih, wih crowens on der heads an' all dah'. They're like "Ah Jaysis, howeyeh!" an' say dey're deh tree wise men from de East Wall.
Joe goes: 'If you're so bleedin wiyis, wha de fook are yizzer doin' wih dis Frankenstein an' myrrh? Why didn't yeh just bring gold, 20 Blue and Boorberry?'
It's all about to kick off when Gabriel turns up again an' sez he's got anudder message bout some Punchis Pilah' hardchaw. He's like 'Deh coppers is comin an' they're killin all de chisslers. You better fook off to Egypt.' Joe goes 'You must be fookin' off yer bleedin' rocker if yeh tink I'm goin' te fookin' Egypton a fookin' donkey' Gabriel sez 'Suit yerself, bud. But it's your look out if yeh stay.'
So they go dowwen teh Egypt till they've stopped killin deh foorst-born an' all an' annyways it's safe an' dah. Then Joe and Mary and Jeesis go back to Nazareh, an' Jeesis turns water inteh Dutch Gold.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
It's the gloomiest of glum days here today. I fetched myself out into the drizzle to go pick up some items I'd reserved online in the local Argos store, missed the bus by a long spit, and stood like a clam at the bus stop for 45 fruitless minutes before giving up and going home again to dry off.
About 3.00pm, it was as dark as full night, so I turned on all the Christmas lights and room lamps as well as the electric, flame-effect fire, to try and cheer up the general ambience of lonliness, with some measure of success.
Now I've just had the doorbell rung by the local pre-teen oiks, whose original invention of ringing or knocking at doors and running away is giving them no end of fun. Hope the newspaper they bring home from the shop for upstanding citizen Dad is properly soaked.
My other visitors today -- the ones to this Blog -- are making for interesting statistics. The majority are responding to the "George Best €5 Notes, only €10" post from way back when. It seems to be in the top 3 Google results for those seeking a footballer souvenir. I am intrigued to find the "Peed my pants. Again" post is attracting a steady stream (pun intended) of occasional visitors. It appears I have inadvertantly hit on a fetish subject. Fair play to ye, lads (and presumably lassies). I'm just glad I don't have your cleaning bills.
Ah! The doorbell again. They must be on the way back from the shop. What fun!
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
I think this year must have been one of the most difficult for any of us to keep a grasp on the spirit of Christmas. Anger at the cynicism of the government and capitalist interests of the last superpower on its misadventure. Disbelief at the cynicism of its enemies on their holy war. I have tried to educate myself a little by reading Robert Fisk's book, "The Great War for Civilisation", and find myself chilled to the bone. We are still thugs one step removed from caves, a half-step from the animal world.
At home we're spending money and earning it like never before, yet we dread any type of interaction with a hospital because of the lack of funding and resources. No-one knows how to fix things and no-one knows how to say they don't know.
We're mired in our cars and buses every day in long, unmoving tailbacks that sap the will and leave us zombified for a couple of hours in front of the television before going to bed to get up next day and do it all again.
Wholesale drug use is now so common that cocaine is now the drug of choice everywhere. (You can hear schoolboys planning how to pool their money for a drug-fueled night out as you're stewing on the bus in the traffic jams). Drug dealers are multiplying, no matter how many are arrested, killed by one another, or kill the innocent.
Is this chaos really what we measure as our success? Is it what we want? No one takes responsibility for what they're children do, for what their lack of community input does to their community, for any kind of blame or accountability.
And here we are in the leadup to another Christmas. I can write my traditional glowing tale of Christmas lights and tinsel and childhood memories again. But I don't feel like it. I've had our family losses and set-backs this year as in other years, but it hasn't triggered a catharsis.
I think like everyone, I'm tired. We seem to beat our way to Christmas now as if surviving to it is an end in itself. Perhaps this year, more than any, it has never been truer for more people. What does it mean if we make it to that date on the calendar? Will we be able to shut the world out for those few days and maybe hope for something to change in the New Year? Maybe things were better when we were those people just out of those caves, feasting at the turning of the year, fattening up because the weather would hopefully be getting better soon and we could go out and about again in relative comfort in a few weeks time to do... What? Start religions and religious wars? Victimise each other and ourselves?
My hope this Christmas is for some kind of sea change to come, either from within myself or from out there, I don't know. Something hopeful, wonderful, peaceful, creative instead of destructive. I think that's what I'll be holding onto this Christmas. Is that hope?
Very interesting documentary on Channel 4 tonight, entitled "Unknown White Male." The film-maker basically posed the question in our title and made a movie of his friend's dilemma. The friend, an Englishman, took a phone call in his New York apartment around 8.00pm, when he stated that he was probably not going to go out that night, then at 7.00 am he found himself on a subway train wondering where he was going. He then wondered where he had been. In the next few seconds, he re realised he didn't know who he was.
Getting off the train in Coney Island, he searched his backpack which contained a few inconclusive items. Finally, he turned himself into a police station. The police found that he didn't have any memory before coming to on the train. They asked some questions and went through his stuff, finding a woman's name and telephone number. However, the woman didn't recognise the description of the man and has no knowledge of how he had her telephone number.
Following an examination and tests at the local hospital, it was found that the man had some minor bumps on his head and a small tumour on his pituitary gland. This latter item was something he'd had since birth and was not the cause of his memory loss. Finding nothing physically wrong, the doctors arranged for him to be transferred to a psychiatric hospital. He languished there for a few days before being allowed to again phone the lady whose number was written down in his effects. It transpired that her daughter knew him well. He was an accomplished man who had retired in his 30s from a well-paying job to pursue a career in photography. He had, as the lady's daughter said: "A good life."
The documentary followed his efforts to reacquaint himself with his family, now living in Australia and in other parts of the world, and to revisit his friends and connections in England.
It concluded with him finding a new life with an Australian girl in the knowlege that his memory could return any time. It has never been explained how he lost his memory, but the doctors (the documentary says) feel it is 95% certain it will someday return.
"Will we still be in love?" his girlfriend asks.
His friends and family remarked upon the differences in his character since his memory loss. He was no longer as "outgoing" his father said, but his sister said there was no longer an "edge" about him, that he was more relaxed in himself.
How much then does our memory of life inform our personalities? It's a subject in which I have always been interested. Is Doug (his name), going to change if he remembers "who he is", or what will be the result of what the filmaker called "the collision of his old life and his new" when he finally gets back his memories.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
I work near The Square, the shopping centre in Tallaght, which has a parking problem. This means that people who work in the vicinity of The Square, or who want to get a bus into town, or who travel on the LUAS tram, tend to use the free car park as a park and ride facility, occupying parking space that might otherwise be used by, say, ten shoppers over the course of the day.
The management of The Square is understandably miffed by this, as it has a real effect on the retailers who are its tenants. So a few years ago they put up signs which threatened clamping for vehicles which over-stayed their welcome. When this didn't work, they hired a number of parking attendants from a company specialising in the area of car parking problems. Their strategy has been refined in recent times to guarding the entrance gates to the car-parks and questioning each visitor who enters to find out their intentions.
Each morning, I am dropped off by Herself in the car-park of The Square and (except when she decides to go into the centre and buy something) she will generally drive off again immediately and go to work. As our consciences are clear in respect of nuisance parking, we have adopted an attitude of righteous indignation each morning when stopped:
"Good morning. Where are you going?" one man in bright orange asks Herself through her rolled-down window.
"Thank you. Have a nice day."
On another morning, we are asked:
"Excuse me. Are you going to The Square?"
"Yes. Yes we are."
"Go ahead then."
Driving on, she says to me:
"Bloody stupid question..."
We wonder what how much hardened parkers are discouraged by this soft-touch approach. Do they blurt out,
"Well, actually I was planning to park as near to the LUAS as possible, pay €5 to ride up and down on it all day, then return at five minutes to nine tonight and drive off from my free parking space. But now you've mentioned it, I'll just reverse out the gate, shall I?"
A couple of weeks ago, I was persuaded it was vitally necessary to visit a shop in The Square in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. As this flew in the face of 1) my unwillingness, as a man, to get off my armchair on any given Sunday for any given job, and, 2) the [man] logic of knowing that The Square, of all places, was NOT a good place to visit on any given Sunday what with crowds of shoppers, hoards of kids, (some even without wheels in their footwear), and blind-driving shopping trolleys, I was not in the best of humour to begin with. We joined the lines of cars entering the inner network of feeder roads in the centre. Up ahead was a man in an orange suit. Our weekday indignation arose unbidden.
"Use the indoor car park," he said.
"Yeah. Sure. No problem," we said as we turned LEFT, not RIGHT, and metaphorically socked car-park tyranny one in the eyeball.
We climbed up to the second level, oblivious to the lines of cars descending, their drivers looking about in frustration. There were parking places, we knew it! All it took was a little patience.
Herself stood on the brake pedal. We craned our necks along the lines of cars pulled in neatly among the painted lines on the tarmac. There were other lines, pulled half up on the footpaths, crammed onto islands on corners, even one resting under a bush in the shrubbery.
Bright reversing lights switched on and a woman in a mock utility vehicle backed in purposefully into the space.
"Blast! Those wans think they own the roads in them yokes."
"Yeah. Who do they think they are? Don't they know WE want to park there?"
A man came across the car park, nervously pushing a trolley full of shopping. He had the air of a lone zebra sniffing out a waterhole which he knew was surrounded by lions. Three cars whizzed in from three different angles, their drivers smiling encouragingly at him. He went to a space, opened a car door and began piling in groceries. Two of the three cars moved off as the fittest predator pulled in smoothly into the vacated space.
"How much petrol do we have?"
"We could be here a while."
We orbited the main car park for another ten minutes without success, then, inevitably, joined the stream of cars going back downhill to Level 1. The little orange-coloured man didn't wave at us or anything as we went by him and we climbed up the concrete ramps into the indoor car park. Lots of little screeches, whiplash, eye-straining later, we had found a spot.
"Should have listened to him in the first place," I said.
"Just. Don't. Start."
Ah, Joy to the World!
Now, have you ever tried to find a free shopping trolley on a Sunday....?
The Compromise International Football Rules series between Australia and Ireland have been suspended and the competition will not be continued in 2007, according to the GAA.
Following a meeting of the GAA Central Council on December 9th, the Association released a press statement:
"The future of the International Rules was discussed at a Central Council meeting in Croke Park on Saturday, December 9. Delegates spoke both strongly in favour and against the continuation of the International Rules Series following the incidents in the Second Test between Ireland and Australia on November 5th.
"The President, Nickey Brennan, stated that the issue had been considered by the Management Committee at length and that a consultation process had taken place with players and the Irish Team Management. He stated that he had also spoken at length to the CEO of the AFL. He revealed that about 50% of players contacted had given their views and that they were all in favour of the Series continuing, as was the Irish Team Manager, Seán Boylan and his Selectors.
"He explained however that they made it clear that any continuation must be contingent on a structure, rules and an implementation process and procedure be put in place to ensure that any future Series was conducted to the accepted norms of sportsmanship.
"The President stated that the Australians appeared to accept that this was a necessary prerequisite to any consideration of the future of the Series.
"On the recommendation of the Management Committee, it was agreed that there would be no Junior or Senior Series of games in 2007.
"It was agreed that a document would be prepared by the GAA, which would put on record the basis of structure, rules, their implementation and penalties on which the future of any Series must be considered. This document will be brought back to Central Council for decision after which it will be forwarded to the AFL for their consideration.
"If the GAA’s terms, as outlined in this document, are acceptable to the AFL, then discussions on the future of the Series could take place.
"Dessie Farrell, the player’s representative stated that while there would be some disappointment amongst players that the 2007 Series will not take place, the decision was, in his view, probably a wise one."
The International Rules series was marred by a number of incidents on the pitch including fist-fighting in the 2006 season. The game, which is a cross between Australian football rules and Gaelic Athletic Association rules, is played only between Australia and Ireland and has a history of robust (some might say violent) play.
Friday, December 08, 2006
So we took the bedding out of the wardrobe where it had been piled against the outer, wettest wall of the house and lo and behold it was damp and unusable. The fact had to be faced that it would have to go to the recycling centre and off we went, deposited sheets, pillow cases, duvets, duvet covers into the great yellow bins from which they will be made into socks for elves in Switzerland. Then we started thinking about lunch.
"I'll buy, if you like," I said.
"Okay. We could go to The Place in the Village. It's nice."
The Place in the Village is in the back of the Pub in the Village and as we had arrived ten minutes early for service, we bought tea and coffee and sat down at our Number 18 table and chatted. A large group of women in their 60s were gabbing away loudly in one large corner. Artificial Christmas trees blinked little multi-coloured lights at us. Kitchen staff busied themselves behind the self-service counter.
When the carvery opened for business, we queued and ordered peppered steak and chicken curry and sat down to eat.
A hand appeared from no-where and swiped the empty tray from my hand before my ass reached the chair.
"Er. Thanks," I said to the back of the girl, now quite a distance away.
Herself proclaimed the steak to be rare, which is not a complete crime in her lexicon of food faults, but is fairly close to the top. Oh, and the carrots were cold. I decided the chicken was tasteless and the curry barely registering. But feck it! It's better than cooking, eh? Sure, aren't we on holiday? Grand.
The hand reappeared and removed the plastic Number 18 from the centre of the table.
"We appear to be no longer sitting at a table," I said to Herself.
We talked a little about plans for the afternoon, then Herself made a visit to the Ladys' Room.
"Excuse me," the waitress cooed in my ear in Eastern European English. "Are you finished?" Her eyebrows wiggled slightly as she nodded towards my plate.
"Er, yes. Thank you."
"And this woman...?" She pointed at Herself's half-eaten steak and cold veg.
The plates blinked out of existence. She scuttled off towards the kitchen.
A new hand appeared and a plastic Number 17 appeared in the middle of the table. Was this demotion, I wondered. Or had we moved up a place in the charts?
Someone walked by and Herself's coffee cup vanished. On the next pass, a hand alighted on top of my ceramic teapot.
"Are you finished?" a Dublin voice said. Before I could answer, it continued: "Oh I'll just leave them." When I looked up there was no-one there.
Bloody hell! You can take the aul' "efficient service" a bit too far, you know?
We got into the car and drove away, checking through the rolled-down windows that the windshield wipers and hubcaps were still on... We weren't finished with them.
Friday, December 01, 2006
To add to my recent catalogue of minor mishaps, I was walking into The Square shopping centre in Tallaght this evening when I stood on a loose paving slab. It didn't tip me over, but it had a void underneath filled with rainwater and whatever way it sank into the space beneath on my footfall, it made the perfect substitute for someone throwing a bucketful of water at me. The right leg of my (naturally, they would be) pale coloured trousers got the full brunt. So I now had one dry, light-coloured trouserleg, and one obviously dark and wet trouserleg. Grinning and bearing it, I fixed my glance steelily ahead and marched into the Square. The people coming towards me didn't betray any emotion, so perhaps looking like someone who'd peed his pants is now de rigeur, I simply missed the announcement. So I then looked down and there's a huge flapping bootlace draggling along from beneath the hem of my dry leg. As I bent over to tie it, I would not have been in the least bit surprised if my evening concluded with a huge big kick in the arse from a total stranger.
The wet leg dried in the half hour waiting in the wind for the bus.
Picture courtesy http://www.clown-ministry.com