Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Why Howard Hughes stopped using public transport, Part 2

This movie lets you know the quality of the passengers on some of my daily bus journeys.

I include myself in that particular assessment. I may even be related to Scary Mary.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Like most people I hate losing keys. A month or so back, I reached into my pocket and took out my keyring, shuffled through the shed padlock key and the house back door key and the side-gate padlock key and the key to the suitcase I no longer own and realised my front door key wasn't on the ring any more.

I did what I hope everyone does in the circumstances. I shuffled through the whole lot of them again as if it would return from thin air like a playing card in a street magician's trick. (I even checked behind my ear, in case it was there like the big round pennies that my headmaster, Mr. Downer, would make appear from time to time, but there were neither pennies nor keys).

"Locked out!"

The last time it happened around here a couple of years back, I knew that Herself was probably sitting waiting for me to show up at my father's place as we had initially planned that morning and on that occasion I had managed to unilaterally change our plans and make my own way home while at the same time have both no credit and no doorkeys, so I was sorely stuck. I had to brave the clutches of the ever-partying girl lodger next door and ring her doorbell to ask if I could use her phone.

There was no reply. I rang it a few times more. Water was spilling down the insides of the waste pipe from the bathroom, so I figured she was home, but indisposed. I went back to sitting disconsolately on the step.

Twenty minutes later she appeared, breezing out on a date, mini-skirted and war-painted and the lot, waving a handbag at me as she hopped into the car she drove sober or drunk.

"Was that you? You should have come in. I was only in the shower," she grinned, wickedly.

The car shot away from the driveway into the early evening. I never did get to use her phone.

Fast forwarding to the couple of weeks ago, when I looked at my keyring for the third time and couldn't see the doorkey I sent a text message to Herself, bemoaning my condition. It received a beep-beeping reply that read:

"I'll be late."

So I was left to my own devices to figure out a strategy for house-breaking. I could climb over the side gate and use the back door key. But as I measured the height of the wall, the width of my belly and the length of my legs, I thought it would be less uncomfortable to be stuck on a doorstep than stuck half-way over a wooden gate with the local gurriers flinging jeers and crabapples at me for fun.

I could break the side window of the livingroom and crawl through. But the prospect of listening to Herself giving out about the broken glass and the look and shaky security of the plywood I would inevitably have to put in its place wasn't a pleasant one.

So, in the end, I went to the shop, bought a chocolate bar for my tea and two unwinning scratch cards (so, I expected my luck would be good, that day???) and killed time until Herself arrived home, tired and unsympathetic, from work.

The key, it turned out, had been left on the hall table. How it got on the hall table was that the Son of Herself had left his keys at home and asked Herself to leave a key for him under a stone. She took the key from my keyring with my sleep-mumbling consent and I never saw it nor remembered it nor thought any more about it. Though, it might as well have disappered by magic for all the astonishment I felt on not seeing it in my hand as I stood on the doorstep.

The boss went on holiday last week and left his key to the safe. His boss wanted nothing to do with it, so myself and D devised a plan to hide the key in her desk drawer in the plastic box in which she keeps her reading glasses. Some records needed to be put in the safe, so I asked her for the key, which she duly handed over. I put the records in place, locked up and...

Well, from there the story became a bit vague. Two days later, D asked me for the key to the safe.

"You have it," I said.
"No, I don't." she said. "You never gave it back to me since the other day."

Oh crap.

I poked about on the desk. The very last time I remembered it with any clarity was lying it on the papers on the desk. Then I took it and...

"Oh I gave it back to you."
"No you didn't."

Oh bugger.

It was near closing time, so she watched me scrabble about a bit as she switched off her computer and put on her coat.

"It will probably turn up," she said.

I walked for my bus, wracking my tired, distracted brain for an image of what I'd done with the key. I remembered D saying that if I was ever looking for it, to look in the plastic glasses case. Sure, that must be where it was! I thought no more about it until the next day.

In the morning, a row erupted.

"You have it!"
"Are you in your dotage? You never gave it back to me!"
"I'm one-hundred percent sure you have it in your glasses case. Look!"
I tugged at the glasses case and peered inside. It was uncomfortably empty.

At dinner, a tiny chink of light appeared. I'd been putting the records in the safe, I recalled, then I turned to give the key back to D, but she wasn't there. So, I said I'd give it to her later and in the meantime, I put it in...

"My shirt pocket..!"

My shirt pocket, in common with the rest of the shirt, was at home. (It was a few days later, after all). I texted the sonambulant, Son of Herself. He rang me back.

"Look in the laundry basket, the washing machine, on the lawn under the clothes line, in the pile of ironing, in the cat..."

It was in the rubber seal of the washing machine, right up against the glass. Son of Herself didn't find it, but I did later, retracing the laundry steps from the bedroom where I would have changed out of the hated work attire in the evening, to the appliance that Herself would have stuffed full in the morning as I still dozed in the room above. I put it immediately on my keyring beside my front door key. What could go wrong?

Keys and me. We're not a happy pairing.

That time of the year again

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Saturday morning: Tea Cards and Comics

Saturday mornings in my childhood I would awaken to an empty house. My father would be off working somewhere, my siblings somewhere unknown, and my mother at the fancy new supermarket on Taylor's Lane, Ballyboden. It would be a quick change into outdoor clothes and wellington boots and then into the kitchen where one of Mam's notes would be waiting with some coins wrapped up in a bank note.

"Pay the coal man" would be scribbled there. I'd groan, because paying the coal man involved a long wait by the road for the open-backed coal truck to wend its way up to the bottom gate. I'd scuffle off down the lane with my hands in my pockets, toss pebbles into the river and hang around on the low wall until he came. He wore a big money bag on a long leather shoulder strap like a bus conductor. He'd grin and take the money and mark off the account in a grubby notebook, signing off on my freedom for the rest of the day.

Saturdays were late-rising affairs for many of my pals, though one might appear through a gap, or at a bend in the road, or poking over the boundary of the pitch and putt course, watching out for my uncle who hated them short-cutting across his manicured putting greens. We might kick a football for a bit in a field, or talk about a football match on the television, or make plans for the afternoon. Everyone was up before their breakfast, as we said. Food on Saturday, at the beginning of a new pay week for our parents, didn't come until the groveries had been bought and that meant a trip to Ballyboden or to the modern Rathfarnham Shopping Centre with its several shops, this latter location limited to those whose parents had the use of a car or the time to make a two-bus journey.

My mother would appear off the 47 bus and haul the shopping bags to the farmhouse door, dropping them onto the floor and puffing on a Players No. 6 cigarette.

"I'm home," she'd say, pulling off her coat and hanging it in the hall. A headscarf would be untied from under her chin and dropped in a drawer. She'd start to pat her auburn coloured hair, feeling for any hairpins which might have come unlodged. She'd smooth out her skirt with both palms then join me at the table.

I would be agog, poking through the packages. She'd slap my hand away gently from the fresh fruit, scolding me mildly for mauling the new Vienna rolls without having first washed my grubby paws in the basin in the back kitchen. She'd ask me about the coal man. If he'd said anything? Had he given a receipt? Meanwhile, she was unpacking a straw-coloured palm-leaf woven shopping basket of white plastic butchers bags tied with red tapes and putting the meat away for the week.

As the kettle was filled from a jug dipped in a galvanised bucket of drinking water, the two objects of my searching would appear from a bag. A pound and a half of PG Tips tea and a comic from the newsagents beside what had been called Perry's shop. The tea was poured solemnly into the tin tea caddy one packet at a time, the rich smell of the dried leaf filling our nostrils. Then the paper envelope inside the cardboard box would be pulled out and I would see if I had a new collectors card for my album or just a repeat from a previous packet.

"Inventors and Inventions" was the promotion that was on at the time. We had sent a postal order to England in the princely sum of 10p for the album into which the cards were weekly gummed. And I almost had them all.

The other item of interest to my eight-year old self was the weekly comic, Warlord. This relatively new publication was a collection of impossibly heroic tales of the mighty Brits against the dastardy Hun in comic strip form. Lots of "Achtungs!" "Arrghs! and "Ka-pows" were sprinkled liberally throughout. Sometimes the Brits fough the Japs, and some "Eeee-i-eees" were thrown in for luck.

I'd spread the crude paper out on the kitchen table and pore over the contents, usually heading straight to my favourite first: Union Jack Jackson, an English soldier who had somehow been separated from his unit but had ended up joining an American outfit where he painted a Union Jack on his USA style helmet.

In the background, the kettle boiled and the frying pan heated up and my mother bustled about, cutting slices of bread and humming quietly to herself.

Heat...! At last...!

I received a very welcome text today from Herself, saying that the plumber had rung her at work and said that the heating system had finally been hooked up and was working.

It's been quite cold over the past couple of days with the wind direction swung around to the north-east. So the weekend was promising to be a chilly one, which our stop-gap electric heaters probably wouldn't have suited.

A blast of heat greeted me as I stumbled in the door. It was WONDERFUL!

Now we're heating every room to drive out the cold from the fabric of the building, which has aided the mould growth I've referred to in a previous post. The two "outdoor" cats have been most impressed; the indoor pussycat has fallen in love with the notion of continuous heat.

We'll ease off on the burning of the gas after the weekend. For now we're enjoying the luxury.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Scardy Cat

Black Cat (as we call him) is one of the scardiest "tame" cats I've ever known.
His half older brother was a lot worse. He was so given to running away from things as a young cat living in my father's junk-filled conservatory, that even fast asleep he would go from floor to rafters in about 1.5 seconds, at least one second sooner than his brain would wake up to assess the "threat."
The problem came from lack of handling as a very small kitten.
We tried to get over this problem with Black Cat by making sure both he and his tabby sister were handled every day. This caused new difficulties, because the kittens disappeared in the dining room every day and we had to move furniture and dismantle things to find them.
When the plumbers were here recently, fitting a new central-heating system, Black Cat fled. He was so used to slink-running to his shed that he kept the habit up for a week or so after the workmen had left. Once he heard the key jangle in the back door -- worse, a glass door that he could easily see through and (one thought) identify the visitor as one of the family -- he would hug the concrete path with his belly and scoot along in as low a profile as possible.
Yesterday, I laughed out loud at the site of him. I'd often seen cats slink running. But slink galloping was entirely new to me!
Black Cat is brainy as well as stupid, a strange combination. Where other cats will make dark pools of their eyes and whack your wriggling fingers as you coax them to play, he sits there on the sofa looking at the hand, then back at you as if to say:
"But it's you, doing it!"
Maybe its the tomcat in him. We've only been close to female cats down the years and so owning a male may, perhaps be a different kettle of tuna fish.
Are male cats a bit thick, I wonder?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Gas Leak sets me all headless chickenish

So anyhow, the plumber comes and goes and connects the gas line up and signs the certification papers and all is okay. There's some concrete needs finishing by Bord Gáis and also by the plumber. We'll have the heating system running in a few days. Yadda-yadda-yadda.

We're minding the grandson over the Saturday night. On Sunday, Herself brings the wee man for a wee ramble down the road. Following some major building of coloured block houses on the carpet for rapid demolition to the shouts of "H'gain!", unsticking pieces of half eaten toast from the armchair, and tap tap tappity dancing over lots of plastic toys, I wave them off merrily at the front door.

"Do you smell gas?" Herself says, frowning. I mentally check that I took my blood pressure tablet this morning. Check. Then I have the mickey fit.

"Oh, bollix! Bollix. Bollix. Bollix. And... bollix."

"The number is on the invoice. Or in the book. Bye-eee!"

Herself and the wee man go off kicking autumn leaves while I scramble about unplugging electrical appliances and wondering if any of the cats smoke cigarettes. The black cat may well smoke a pipe.

"Hello," says a voice on the emergency Bord Gáis number (1850-20-50-50, in case you are presently still Blogging while holding your breath and really, really should phone that number before you pass out).

I gabble away about gas and smell and front garden and recent connection and....

"I'll just switch you to Dublin," the voice says. Obviously a panicked Dub is nothing for a Laois man to deal with at ten past ten on a Sunday morning.

"Hello," says a reassuringly Dublin accent.

I gabble away about gas and smell and front garden and recent connection and....

"Your address?"

I give him the address.

"You don't have a meter," he says, in a kind of half-puzzled tone. Perhaps Bord Gáis wants to know how much it can bill us for the amount of gas creeping about the driveway as we speak.

"No we don't. We're literally only connected up since yesterday."

"I'll have someone out within the hour," he says. Then he launches into the mantra about not smoking or not lighting candles to look down the pipe and so on.

Thirty minutes later a man in overalls and with the serene look of an overtime payment in his immediate future tells me the on/off valve is ever so slightly switched to "On." And maybe the blind end is a little less white-stick than it should be. He gives it a twist.

"All fixed."

"Bloody marvelous."

"Ah, sure they sometimes seep out a bit of gas before the meter is installed. It shouldn't be a problem out in the air like this."

Feck it, we haven't even heated a radiator yet.

I may push the car out of the driveway in the morning before starting it. But most likely I'll be so lazy by then I'll tell Herself to give the ignition a lash as usual.

Sure what could go wrong, eh?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Friday, November 02, 2007

Long Hard Day doin' nothing

My two eyes feel like someone is in the back of my head squeezing them by hand to produce something vinegary.

Herself and I sailed off into the lofty heights of a private hospital today to pick up some test results (and almost sailed off into some even higher heights when I suddenly directed her into a change of course in front of an oncoming van... Apologies to the driver who needed a change of underwear before ever having set foot in work!) and as the appointment was for the ungodly hour of 8.00am, we have been out of bed for too many hours already today.

The test results were fine, and weren't for me. The pain behind my eyes is just from the tension of (ironically) a day of not being at work.

Gas company arrived to put in the big yellow fuse. Their jackhammers and JCB with rockbreaker and the ever-popular mole going Thump! Thump! Thump! for hours has set my teeth on edge.

So I'm grumpy.

But you knew that already.

I mean I am noticeably more grumpy than usual.

But I have just found a €5 voucher for Woodies, so that is good. And I managed to load the dishwasher (the labour of it all...!) and get it started. And brought in washing. And mixed a little sand and cement and filled some holes in the side of the house. So maybe all is not as bad as it seems.

Plumbers promise to connect the heating system to the big yellow fuse next week.

Doubtless, I shall improve my humour as the ambient room temperature rises.