Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Antony and the Johnsons - You Are My Sister

You are my sister, we were born
So innocent, so full of need
There were times we were friends but times I was so cruel
Each night I'd ask for you to watch me as I sleep
I was so afraid of the night
You seemed to move through the places that I feared
You lived inside my world so softly
Protected only by the kindness of your nature
You are my sister
And I love you
May all of your dreams come true
We felt so differently then
So similar over the years
The way we laugh the way we experience pain
So many memories
But theres nothing left to gain from remembering
Faces and worlds that no one else will ever know
You are my sister
And I love you
May all of your dreams come true
I want this for you
They're gonna come true (gonna come true)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I couldn't have won €16,185,749 anyway

"You never play Lotto," Herself tells me, as if I hadn't noticed not throwing away €312 a year.
"No, I don't."
"You should play it today."
"Why's that then?"
"It's over sixteen million Euro. We could win."
"You have a ticket don't you?"
"Yes. But I'm not lucky with things like that. You are."
"How do you figure that one?"
"Well, because you don't play, you'd probably win."

I think this over. She says:
"You could walk up to the shop now and buy a Quick Pick."
"How much is it to play?"
"Naw. I can't really afford three Euro."
"But it's sixteen million Euro! Look! I'll drive you up. It'll only take a minute."
"No, you're all right."

The Lotto grand prize has apparently rolled over -- not been won -- eleven times in a row, making it a record-breaking €16,185,749 prize tonight. The news reported that two million people bought tickets for tonight's draw. A single ticket in the south of the country was the one with the winning numbers.

The best I could have won would have only been €8,092,874 anyway.

Not really tempting, is it?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Flying smoke alarm invasion

Herself thinks that putting on the feathers is just too much. I don't think so. Although the giant "worm" made from a discarded vacuum cleaner-hose and painted reddish might be taking things a little far.

But such is the level to which I have been reduced, wearing a dark-coloured boa and flapping about in snorkeling flippers in my back yard, competing in avian psychology with a savage blackbird which has been terrorising the neighbourhood for the past two weeks.

It started innocently enough with Herself and myself "Oooh"-ing and "Aaah"-ing at the lovely trills and warbles from last year's incumbent in the blackbird territory which appears to extend from the bottom of our road -- three or four back gardens in length -- to the top -- maybe another ten or twelve gardens' worth in the other direction. Last year's cock of the walk was a handsome chappy that battled it out in song with his near neighbours.

This year a new pretender has muscled in. And it isn't only other blackbirds which are considered enemies and intruders.

I thought the cats would naturally be a cause of the incessant "Shreep! Shreep! Shreep!" bird alarm calls, but then I realised the cats were inside the house and the only one around was me, minding my own business in a white, plastic garden chair in the rare patch of sunlight.

"Shreep! Shreep! Shreep! Shreep! Shreep!" the bugger says. And not only that: he flies up to the roof of the house in his Shreeping, then down to the wall, then onto the shed roof. On the shed, he ruffs up his tail feathers and makes a mock charge at me, holding his wings up suddenly to make a threatening flurry.

"That only works on other blackbirds, stupid," I said to him. But he kept right on Shreeping. It was getting on my nerves, setting my broken teeth on the last of their edges.

At one point, our tabby cat arrived outside to survey the scene. She watched him go from shed to house to wall to shed to house to wall again. The evil little puss waited until he had gone out of sight then nonchalantly placed herself in ambush on a piece of junk lying up against the wall.

"Swish!" went her claws as he landed briefly on the uppermost concrete block. He dodged easily. But no. He didn't fly away in fear, as might be expected of a reasonable blackbird. He took up position on top of the shed roof and added a "Chuck! Chuck!" to the "Shreep! Shreep! Shreep!" for a while.

The cats are bemused. His strategy is working, because they have generally made it known that they are less comfortable in the back garden during the day than before. Myself, I tend to stay indoors and close the double-glazed windows so I can't hear him. When he doesn't have me to bully, he Shreeps at wood pigeons and women hanging washing.

I have heard him from inside our kitchen and walked boldly outside clapping my hands loudly. This has some effect -- maybe because it has an auditory component that the little fecker understands -- because he ducks over the perimeter into another garden out of reach and "Shreeps!" at me from a safe distance. But it's only a temporary respite. I need to show him who the boss is.

So in the end I find myself in the black boa and the flippers, clutching a giant fake worm. If he wants to be top of the pecking order around here he's in for a disappointment. I can strut better than him, and catch bigger worms, and flap bigger wings. Just watch me, little birdy!

Herself has gone to watch the television news.

She says she's not answering the door to any more policemen.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Black Cat met a Purple Person

"Four years," the taxi driver says to me, holding up four Sri Lankan fingers. "Four years I worked for Domino's Pizza. I was top driver. I know all the local places."

I had mildly wondered to myself when he was going to ask me where exactly he was bringing me. I had told him the address when we started out.... about ten Euro ago.... and he had repeated it before setting off in the right direction. I supposed that like other taxi drivers he would know where Firhouse was, then ask me where the destination was nearer to home. But no. He knew it already.

"I have friends in all the stations," he said. "Stations"appeared to mean Domino's Pizza shops. I didn't know whether this was the official Domino's term or the Sri Lankan equivalent. My African neighbour complimented me once on tidying up my compound, which I found out meant my garden. Perhaps there was something of this going on.

"I got a fare once," my driver remarked. "He sat right there in the front..." He slapped the front passenger seat, in case I thought the passenger had been sitting on the driver's lap. "And he was amazed that I knew where Cill Cais was. Four years in Domino's Pizza."

He held up the same four fingers and peered at me over his shoulder and a pair of small, square-rimmed glasses. We were stuck in the same immobile traffic I would be stuck in had I not missed the bus by a whisker. With the tip, it cost me the best part of €20 to get home from The Square.

"I'm walking," I announced the next afternoon in work. "There is no way I'm spending another hour and a quarter on a bus journey, or paying €20 for a taxi."

So I found myself in a lather of sweat on the Old Bawn Road at half-past five -- empty buses passing by in the scant traffic (of course!) -- yesterday evening, marching determinedly home. At Killakee I took a shortcut that added ten minutes to the journey. I ended up crossing through the field opposite the house, knuckles dragging through the freshly cut grass, thankful that the front door wasn't another ten yards away because I probably wouldn't have made it.

"Hello, Black Cat," I gasped at himself, and he sitting upright on the garden wall.

Black Cat looked at me in terror. Who was this brow-drenched, purple faced person shambling ominously towards him from this unexpected direction? How did the terrible monster speak with the food monkey's voice? How did the monster's tongue loll out of its mouth so far? Black Cat flattened himself on the wall so only his ears and ever-widening eyes looked over the gate. Then as the stranger showed no signs of turning from his vaguely zig-zagging course towards the front door, Black Cat's nerve went entirely and he fled.

I sat for twenty minutes in an armchair without saying a word. Eventually, the red mist before my eyes lifted. In time -- a long time -- I could move one of my feet.

I hate commuting.

Tonight, I announced I may buy a bicycle.

The cat will only love that one...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Under the weather

"I don't remember a Summer being this gloomy," Herself says. She is speaking about the weather, which showed definite promise in April when we got sunburn and optimism, but which, ever since, it seems, has dissolved into incessent rain and grey, grey cloud.

I was surveying at work yesterday and ducked under a tree that was laden down with winged seeds. Where the hell has autumn come from? We haven't had a summer yet!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Serving the Community

Chugg! Chugg! Chugg! Chugg! Chugg! Chugg! Gobble-ee-umph-umph-rattle...!

The bus stalled. A girl laughed out loud upstairs.

Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Er-ree-ree-ree-ree-ree..! REEEEEE...!

The driver started the engine again. We were one stop from The Square on the 49, heading for town, and the driver was not impressed. I wondered if we'd make the whole journey.

Passengers got on. The traffic light went red.

Chugg! Chugg! Chugg! Chugg! Chugg! Chugg! Gobble-ee-umph-umph-rattle...!

It cut out again. The girl upstairs shrieked laughter.

Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Er-ree-ree-ree-ree-ree..! REEEEEE...!

We limped along from stop to stop. Each time the engine had to idle in the stationery traffic the engine worked for a while then died. The driver called the controller on his radio.

"I had dis boss YES-ter-day and it was cutting owt. I put in a docket. I was told it was fixed. It is still cutting owt. It has cut owt six time maybe from The Square to Old Bonn."

The heavily accented Dublin voice of the controller came back.


Aggrieved, the driver waved to an oncoming bus which stopped alongside. He said:

"Tell them I had dis boss YES-ter-day and it was cutting owt. I put in a docket. I was told it was fixed. It is still cutting owt."

At the Old Bawn junction, the bus went "Chugg! Chugg! Chugg! Chugg! Chugg! Chugg! Gobble-ee-umph-umph-rattle..!" and the engine stopped again. An orgasmic wail erupted from the upper saloon.

At The Old Mill pub, the driver had had enough. He had repeated his speech another time to the controller. The public address intercom then said:

"Everybody off da boss."

So we got off da boss and walked. I don't think the girl upstairs could have taken any more anyway.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

B&Q Gazebo instructions

Quite a few visitors have been finding the Blog by searching for "B&Q Gazebo instructions", so I thought I would post the actual instructions for erecting the gazebo here. I hope they are of help to you.

These instructions are for the "Deluxe Gazebo" which comes in either green or in cream. As mine has been put up and taken down a few times, the parts do not look like new and you'll see an odd scrape or piece of rust in my pictures that shouldn't be on your new parts.

You need to do this assembly out on the lawn, unless you have a cavernous dwelling. I know that sounds like the warnings on the barbeques not to use them indoors. But this model gazebo covers a surprisingly large area. The gazebo can be assembled by one person. But it is better if a second person helps. In addition to the parts which came in the box, I recommend having some low-tac sellotape or masking tape handy.

1. Open the box and sort out the poles.
The roof bars (or rafters, if you prefer) and legs are made of tubular mild steel and when first packaged come in coloured bags so that you can easily select the correct one for assembly. If you are like me, however, over time you will probably lose the bags, or stuff everything into one bag, mix them up, or generally succumb to human nature and not bother to sort out the pieces before you store the disassembled gazebo for the winter.
When bought new, the poles are also number coded. Look for a sticker on one end with a number printed on it. If you can't find a sticker, think of them as "thin", "fat", and "fat with holes"...!

The poles are numbered 1, 1A, 2, 2A, 3 & 4. Sort them into numbered piles.

1 = A thin pole with a socket on each end (or two "female" ends). It looks like a plain pipe at first glance.

1A = A thin pole with a plug, or "male" end and a socket, or "female" end. It looks like a pipe that has been narrrowed on one end. The majority of the pipe is the same diameter as Part 1.

2 = A fat pole with a socket, or "female" on each end. It is a bigger-diameter version of Part 1.

2A = A fat pole with a "male" end on each end of the pipe. It is the only type of pipe with this configuration.

3 = a fat pole with a "male" end and a "female" end, a bigger diameter verson of Part 1A.

4 = A fat pole with a number of holes drilled near one end. It has two "female" ends.

2. Locate the four, plastic corners.
You should find four plastic parts which look like these. These are the parts with the sockets into which the roof bars fit before they are joined into the tops of the legs. You will notice that three of the sockets in each piece are narrow diameter. One of the sockets in each piece is a larger diameter.

You should note that in all cases, the "female" end of the poles are put into these plastic sockets.

If you turn these parts over, you will see that three of the sockets are embossed with the numbers "2", "1" & "2".

3. Assemble the roof struts: Take one of the plastic, corner pieces and put one of the Part 2 bars into the socket embossed with a matching number 2. Give it a little twist to make sure it is solidly home. Insert one of the Part 1 bars into the socket marked with the number 1. Finally place the next Part 2 bar into the socket marked with a number 2. Leave the larger socket empty for the moment. The result looks like this.

Next, insert a 2A pipe into the end of the Part 2 pipe that you earlier attached to the corner. The idea is to lengthen the pipes to double their previous length. Repeat for the other Part 2 pipe. Insert a 1A pipe into the Part 1 pipe. The result looks like the picture to the left.

Go to one of the 2A partially assembled pipes lying on the ground and add a Part 2 pipe to it. You should now have three pipes joining together to form one side of a square. You have now completed one side of the square of which a side of the gazebo is made.

Add a plastic corner socket piece to the end of the Part 2 pipe you just added, ensuring you are placing the pipe into the socket marked "2".
The result is the image, (right).

Continue adding pipes around the perimeter of the square, joining them at the corners with the corner pieces. Only when the surrounding square has been assembled should you add the final three Part 1 and Part 1A poles.

All eight Part 1 and Part 1A poles will point towards the place where the central hub, or apex of the roof, will be. Add this last of all. Making sure each pole is tightly home in the hub, place a little sellotape around the socket to hold it in place. Move down to each of the joints between the poles and wrap a little tape around these as well. The poles tend to come loose as the framework is moved or lifted, and it is easier to tape the joints now rather than when the it has risen into the air and a pole has popped out.

Hub/Apex piece
You should now have a reasonably secure pyramid like the photo.

4. Put on the legs: The legs are made up of the Part 3 poles joined to the Part 4 poles. However, it is handiest if you just pop the Part 3 poles into their plastic corner sockets for now and leave the Part 4 poles aside for the moment. Note that the Part 3 poles should stand with the male part facing down.

With the Part 3 poles in place, you should now see a skeletal gazebo standing on four short legs. It is time to put the polyester cover over the skeleton!

5. Put on the polyester cover: Take the cover out of its bag and unwrap it. It looks like a large square with four long tails on each corner. At this stage, this large square needs to go on top of the framework and the long tail-pieces need to dangle down at each corner.

Lightly drape the cover on one side of your square, ensuring that the D-rings from which the guy wires are tied are located roughly at the corners of the side of the square you are working from. Now duck inside the framework and pull the cover over your head until the square ventilation piece is over the apex of the rafter poles. Be careful when pulling the cover, because it has trailing ropes and some metal parts. Don't hit yourself in the face or eyes.

Pull the cover tight so that each D-ring comes to rest at each corner. In pulling the cover tight, the framework underneath becomes more rigid. Your cover should now lose most of its creases. On the underside, tie the cover to the horizontal bars using the velcro strips sewn there.

Next, add the final Part 4 poles to the Part 3 poles, ensuring that the ends with the drilled holes in each Part 4 rests on the ground. You may tilt the gazebo over to insert the poles. It's a good idea to do this with another person standing by, as the legs may drop out again as you work around the gazebo. Fit the four plastic feet to the bottom of the Part 4 poles.

Each of the long, trailing parts of the polyester cover has a metal hook and another D-ring. The metal hook is used to anchor the cover tightly to the bottom of each leg. You should also use the D-ring to anchor the cover to the foot. The foot has four plastic hooks on it for this purpose. Remember too to use the velcro strips on the inside of the cover to join the trailing ends to the vertical poles of the legs.

Use the mild steel stay-pins included in the pack to anchor the gazebo to the ground by its guy wires. Also anchor each foot to the ground in the same way. Your gazebo is now completed.

6. Optional Siding: B&Q also sells siding for gazebos. You should choose the correct type of siding to match the model gazebo you own. The siding is simply added to the horizontal bars like a shower curtain, hanging from plastic hooks provided, and secured to the vertical poles using velco strips. One of the sides has plastic windows to allow in light. The image shows two sides fitted, one of which has windows.

Well, that's it! If you have and questions or comments, please add them in the Comments section.