Monday, December 31, 2007

Irish Blog Awards 2008

Nominations are being accepted for the 2008 Irish Blog Awards.

Should you think Writing it down fills in Pieces of the Puzzle is worthy of a mention, I should be pleased if you would visit the Nominations Page at this link and follow the onscreen instructions.

Irish Blog Awards
"Go here to nominate your favourite bloggers. You do not have to fill in the form for every category. Just the ones you think you have a suitable blog for. Good luck to everyone.

"There are two judging rounds this year, so every nominated blog will be judged. No public vote means it is about quality, not the number of people who like you. Any nomination that nominates a blog for every category will be treated as spam and that nomination will be deleted. Choose wisely."

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Post Christmas Colours not all Blue

There are few things as colourful, post Christmas, than the local cemetery. That's where Herself and I ended up this afternoon to lay some Carnations in the vicinity of the Mammy's memorial and also to drop a few sneaky sweeties (no doubt she has a packet down the side of her celestial armchair).

There are rows of bright ribbons, green garlanded wreaths, bows, Santa Clauses, windmills, wind chimes, toys and flowers all over Newlands cemetery today as visitors remember their loved ones this Christmas season.

My mother's cremated remains are in a compartment in an eight-foot high wall part way into the cemetery. The lettering has weathered and I spoke with my father this evening about having it renewed, maybe with gold paint. I'll phone the cemetery people next week to ask how it can be arranged.

It brought a lump to the throat, visiting her again. I miss her, especially at this time of the year, which she enjoyed.

We then went on the hunt for some tiles for the new porch. I fancy something rust coloured or reddish, but the prevailing fashion appears to be for non-threatening biscuit. I can see the point.

We came across some dark brown tiles which might have done the trick. But the assistant (I wouldn't call him a "Salesman") pointed under the display to perhaps twenty individual tiles lying on a wooden pallet:

"Those are all there are of that pattern."

"And you have no more in stock?"


To be fair, he did show us some other tiles on display, none of which were to our tastes. As we left and went back to the car I said to Herself:

"A real Salesman would have persuaded me to buy the display and recycle the tiles on it..."

I suppose there wouldn't have been enough to finish the job anyway. I must look up some other tile outlets this evening before our next sortie into the retail world tomorrow.

Funnily enough, B&Q had no black masonry paint in stock. There were lots of bizarre colours: the types that youngsters in first-time mortgage apartments might paint their walls. There were a couple in their 20s going about the paint aisles arguing over whether or not they were going to repaint at all this season. He was saying that he'd pay for it himself. She was not impressed with the offer, so I guess whatever it was that needed painting she had chosen the original colour.

We looked at CCTV options. There are ones which look like ordinary spyholes in the front door but which are really cameras. Ditto ones which look like ornamental outdoor lamps. The spyhole options start from around €20, which seems cheap and possibly unreliable. But in true B&Q style, it seems that the cheap bit is followed by the also cheap bit cable, connected with the slightly-more-expensive black box bit, connected with the slightly more expensive other black box, and so on and so on until the debit card is slightly melted.

Off to Woodies tomorrow to buy black masonry paint. And an extendable pole to hang Christmas lights which I am going to adapt to window cleaning.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Using Windows Live Writer

I've been dabbling about with Windows Live Spaces (all bow) this morning, mostly to see what can be done with their version of blogging. It kind of looks like a Microsoft version of Facebook. It has a profile section and a facility to Add Friends and so on. And it has a Live Writer application to download which allows one to add to one's blog by writing the blog while offline, then uploading to the blog later. It works for non Windows Live blogs too.

I am presently typing on a background similar in appearance to that used on WIDFIPOTP, which is a bit odd, because the usual Blogger interface is simple black text on white. I'll have to see if it can upload to more than one blog at a time later on.

I like the spelling checker and the familiar Windows stylee menu systems. Tags seem to need a slight bit more research. Blogger isn't included in the default values in the "Insert Tags" menu.

Update: Yes, it is possible to use the Writer to publish to two or more blogs, if not simultaneously, at least consecutively.

Links: Windows Live Spaces; Facebook

Thursday, December 27, 2007

10,000 hits

Congratulations to the customer who became the 10,000th visitor to Writing it Down fills in Pieces of the Puzzle on December 27th 2007 at 11.40am.

I am sorry I don't have a WIDFIPOTP tee-shirt in your size to present to you, or a jaunty bumper sticker with an appropriate slogan. You will have to make do with my heartfelt thanks for your visit, which appears to have lasted..... 0 seconds.


Let's move on then, shall we?

Turkey and whiskey a la mode

When you have been cooking with a bad oven for a long number of years, it is easy for a good oven to become a bad oven. And not in a good way.

Our old electric cooker -- the one with which I cooked our Christmas dinner in 2006, for example -- had a wonky oven seal. It had also given up its internal glass door one day in spectacular fashion, exploding while hot into a million tiny fragments that danced like a netted shoal of fishes on the cold, tiled, kitchen floor. But I was used to cooking with it, despite these flaws.

"Add another hour to the time," I would say, having done all the cooking-time calculations.

This year, 2007, I installed a new oven. Then I uninstalled it and moved the cabinet to another position. Then I reinstalled the oven again. This week, I stuck a 20-pound turkey into its stainless maw and tried not to think about the seven place settings for Christmas dinner. Many hours later, the turkey was not inedible, but to me it was a little dry.

"In the oven too long," I thought.

The old cooker used four large electric elements to heat the huge cauldron in which we cooked the 2006 ham. This year, in 2007, the halogen-heated ceramic hob I fitted into the counter (then uninstalled and refitted into another, permanent kitchen surface) only needed one-and-a-half rings to bring the water to a furious, steaming maelstrom. The meat eventually fell like large pink raindrops off the bone.

"Tender," Herself called it.

"Over-cooked," I said to myself.

But the turkey tasted like turkey and the ham tasted like ham and no-one has been unaccounted for since December 25th with possible food poisoning. We are, however, more stuffed with turkey than the turkey ever was. We have had turkey with ham and ham with turkey. Turkey with gravy and turkey without. We have clawed the last shreds from its bones and served them cold. There was even talk of turkey soup made up from the bones and the last bits of pale flesh. But the ham finally ran out yesterday and the stinking remenant of the turkey walked itself out into the wheelbin today.

I am now replete with good old fashioned pork chops and mashed potato and have no particular yearning to taste fowl until at least St. Patrick's Day -- which, incidentally, is not allowed by the church to fall on March 17th in 2008, so we are shaping up for two days worth of St. Patrick's Day festivities next year. We've done it before. We know it can be done again.

I must ask Herself what became of the jar of apple sauce she dropped into the shopping trolley in Lidl in Ballyfermot this afternoon. I thought it was to feature in this evening's meal.

I am presently having a whiskey and red lemonade (with ice, thank you). It is a hard and unfair life all round.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dublin indignation

Niall Tobin once remarked that indignation was the particular defining attribute of the true Dublin man. The more I think about it, the more I think he may be right.

This evening, as I thought that the latest free skip bags I had put out on the roadside some days ago were now indeed as ablaze in reality as I had imagined they would become, I was relieved to see the flickering, bright orange light was coming not from flames but from the whirling, cab-top hazard light of the skip truck come to take them away. The man worked his remotely controlled crane hoist expertly and patiently, even when the shuttering for our soon-to-be-built front porch, added atop my neatly levelled household waste by the Window Man only last night, caught in the side of the truck and had to be poked and pulled. He noticed me standing on the doorstep looking on.

"Howerya?" he asked, flicking switches and making the vehicle safe to drive away with my old cooker and washing machine and the best portion of a 30-year-old kitchen in the back.

I waved, then ambled out. He took some complimentary skip bags in their plastic packets out of a compartment and handed them to me without referring to them.

"Were you able to see the flashing lights from the house?" he asked me.

"Yes," I said, not adding that I expected the deisel hum of the engine to be attached to a fire engine rather than a high-sided lorry when I looked out.

"Then let me tell you a good one," he said, in reassuring Dublinese. "I was up in the Pines just now and there was a car in the driveway and another on the road, you know?"

I nodded. I myself had put an entire growing tree in the way of the recovery of a skip bag only a couple of weeks ago and had the broken branches in the back of his truck to prove it.

"Well," he went on. "There was the bag and a car right in the way. Couldn't get near it. I could see your woman in the house. Lights on. You know what I mean. I couldn't do a thing with the car in the way so I went up and rang the doorbell to ask her to move the car. And I could see her, looking out the window, all 'What's goin' on here?' and looking at the truck. And d'you know wha'?"


"She wouldn't answer the door!"

I nodded in sympathy and clutched my complimentary skip bags tighter.

"So, I said: 'This one will be calling the office', and I went off. And sure enough, at the end of the road the phone rang and it was the office asking why I hadn't collected yer woman's bag. So I said: 'Do you have her on the phone, now?'. And they said: 'Yes.' So I said: "Then tell her on the phone to move her feckin' car!'"

We sucked our teeth at the intracability of womankind and of customers in general.

"Well," he said. "Have a good one!"

"You too. And thanks!"

I now have five unused skip bags stacked under the stairs, but I haven't yet run out of things to put in them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Descent into Christmas

Herself and I walked into the local B&Q store last Sunday, December 16th, 2007, to find that Christmas had been devoured by locusts.

Or so it seemed to us, who has been there only a week before and had wandered through a sizeable portion of the store under flashing lights, garden ornaments and various Santa Claus figures in differing embarrassing poses.

This week, there was nothing but a large, empty space awaiting the January sale stock. A few latecomers, like ourselves, wandered about the other aisles of plumbing fittings and kitchen cabinets in a half-hearted manner.

"Christmas is gone!" Herself said to a passerby, who nodded, gloomily in agreement.

It's now the 19th and I have yet to buy a Christmas present. I have warned people not to expect much this year, but on the evidence of our last visit J-Cloths and packets of free-flowing salt are going to feature prominently in my Christmas theme in 2007.

Million to One Chances

"Million to one chances happen nine times out of ten." So says Terry Pratchett in, (I think), his Discworld novel, "Guards! Guards!". And so indeed do many bloggers and fans this week in all corners of the blogosphere.

Yes, I know there are no corners on a sphere.

Unless those spheres are Irish politicians' heads. I have often heard these champions of the one-liner using the phrase:

"We are ruling nothing out. And we are ruling nothing in either."

Thus they turn a one-liner to a qualified metaphor. In any event, I shouldn't like to have been the one to read their school copybooks.

The reason for our distress this week is that Terry has announced he has been diagnosed with an early-onset form of Alzheimers disease. But he has asked us to remember he is still alive.

One of his characters, Granny Weatherwax, used her witch's ability to transfer her mind into animals and go nosing about the woods. While she did this, she left her body behind in her little cottage, her cold fingers holding a hand-written sign which said:


If anyone wants to find me an XXXXXXXXXL tee shirt with that printed on it, I should accept it gratefully as a Christmas present and as a continuing reminder of what this breathing-in breathing-out thing is for.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Barry's Tea Radio Advert: Train

Click to Listen (MP3 file)
To Save the file, right-click on the link, above and choose "Save Target As..." to download to your computer (PC/Windows users).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I know what label this post will have

"No," I say. "There hasn't been a leak from the bathroom pipes. Those puddles are made up of droplets of sweat from my poor brow as I put together the pelmet for under the kitchen units."

Today has involved unscrewing, drilling, screwing (not the good kind), hanging, sweeping, sawing, more sweeping, and more screwing (again not the good kind).

"Do you think the pelmets should be flush with the underside of the unit doors, like you have them, or should they be set back a bit," Herself asks.

We look at a brochure. The kitchen designers have them both ways.

"Must be a matter of personal taste," I say.

Herself rings Herself's Daughter and asks what her kitchen looks like. Naturally, it's the opposite of what I have laboured at for half the day.

I say: "Well, it's better to tell me you prefer it one way or another NOW, before I do any more."

I unscrew the screws and offer up the pelmet in the new, non-flush, just-like-Herself's-daughter's-kitchen position.

"I prefer it the other way," she says.

I'll start over tomorrow.

Guinness Christmas Advertisement

Sunday, December 09, 2007

You can do it....

"Excuse me."
"And then she said... Oh hang on... Yes, sir?"
"Do you have any of the fixings for hanging this moudling on a cabinet?"
"You want a moulding for a cabinet? This type here is it?"
"No, thank you. It's just the fixing. Look underneath on the built one."
"See the little yokes with the screws in them?"
"John, do we have fixings for this moulding?"
"Which moulding?"
"This one. Look underneath..."
"John says we don't have any."
"You have none, then?"
"They'll be in next week."
"They will?"
"Do you have any of the items on my trolley?"
"No. We've never sold them. Look, here on the stock list."
"Even the ones with your logo on them, that I just took off the shelf a minute ago?"
"Sorry, no. Never had them."
"Where can I pay for these things you don't sell then?"
"I'll direct you to the check out. We accept cash or Laser."
"Thanks for your help."
"So, anyway... She said...."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Future Ireland

An African lady and her wee lad of about five years of age climbed onto the bus one late afternoon as I was slouching home from work. They flopped down into the front seats upstairs among the builders and typists and hospital workers, all lolling wearily as the bus lurched slowly along.

The wee man was in full boyish spate:

"Crrrr-ash! Pu-sssh! Aaaaa-aaaa-ai..."

A McDonalds Happy Meal toy car and a figure were getting the run-over and pushed off a cliff treatment on the ledge by the front window. This continued for some time. The mother shushed him ineffectually a few times. Then she said:

"Now, Michael. If you won't have pity on me, please have pity on that man."

She pointed at a chap sitting in a nearby seat, oblivious to proceedings. His earphones were in and he was gazing blankly out through a gap in the condensation on the window.

"That man and the other men have all been at work and they are tired," she said. "They just want to go home. They don't want to listen to you."

Michael thought this over. His game changed to one with the volume much reduced. When he had had enough, he started poking through his backpack which was resting on the seat between them. The toys went in and a juice bottle came out. He mumbled and muttered through a series of little games as the bus inched along in heavy traffic. Beside him, his mother softly sang something spiritual.

"Do you know," he said, "that when Jesus was small he was lost in the big city and Mary and Joseph couldn't find him?"

His mother nodded.

"When they found him," he said, "he was teaching the teacher."

His gaze went over the stationary traffic, orange indicator lights clicking on and off in the gathering gloom.

"Teaching the teacher," he said again and he laughed.

At their bus stop, the mother and son jumbled their way off the bus, dropping bags and toys, shouting at each other to hurry up, thanking the driver profusely.

On Monday morning last, Michael and his mother were on the early bus as I was travelling to work. He was fizzing. He counted numbers out loud in tens as far as eighty. Then he had an argument with his mother about whether or not a symbol he had seen was a letter "F" or a letter "K". He drew it in the fog on the window. She asked him:

"Do you ever remember meeting a girl named Rachel?"

He sat and thought about this.

"No," he answered. "I don't know anybody named Rachel."

"Rachel was a young girl that I used to know when you were very small," his mother said. "She would have been eleven years of age then, so she must be all grown up by now."

"So, she was bigger than me?"

"Yes. And she is still bigger than you."

The almost-completed roadworks at Firhouse caught his attention.

"Mother," he said. "When all the builders are too old to build.... How will anybody know what the plan is?"

She said: "Other people know the plan too."

"Do you know," he said, "that when they first started building, they only had wood? And then they found metal. And then steel."

"Metal is stronger than steel," his mother said. "You can bend steel."

"Does that mean that the spoon I bent was made from steel?"

"Yes, it was made from steel."

"But can you also bend metal?"

"Some metal can be bent, yes."

"Then how is it stronger than steel?"

At Tallaght, they gathered up their bags and rushed for the top of the stairs again, pushing and pulling at each other, shouting to hurry up. Michael said:

"I am in Jun... no Senior Infants." He grinned.

"Ju'Senior Infants," he laughed.

"Hurry up, Michael!" his mother shouted from the bottom deck.

Michael gripped the bannister rail and descended the steep steps on his way to school. I wonder what he learned that day?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Furniture, DIY, Skip bags and bulbs

I've not been online much recently for various reasons, chief among them being exhaustion. Herself has moved to a new job, which has upscuttled our household routine. I am truely commuting now -- a bus each way, instead of the cushy lift each morning, followed by a bus ride home in the evening -- as she is now working in a place which is in the opposite direction to my morning travel.

Morning travellers are a different lot to the evening varieties I have encountered up to now. And the earlier buses have a few surprises as to routes and to the temper of the bus drivers.

"Do you go to the hospital?" a woman asked from a bus stop, stepping up to the driver.
"No," he said.
The woman stepped back down off the bus and awaited the next double decker.

I thought this one over and decided that the driver was giving a very literal answer to her query. No, the bus didn't go to the hospital. Rather it went to The Square, and the hospital was on the route. So while he was being absolutely truthful, he was not being customer friendly. There is a bus stop right outside the hospital gate he could have dropped the woman at.

The past couple of weeks have been eventful in the search for and acquisition of new furniture for the house. A much hated 1970s dining-room unit, the type that holds drinks glasses and had a little cubby hole for bottles of booze, was remaindered. I quite liked it, but Herself said it had to go. We acquired the mammy and daddy of all dining-room tables and a platoon of leather dining-room chairs to go with it. And some matching -- or nearly matching -- smaller units to store the glasses and ornaments in. We shall not be ashamed of our Christmas dinner settings at least.

I have also been trying to complete the kitchen project, which at this stage requires only some final positioning of some units, a swap of two applicances, and the installation of kicker boards (plinths), and some fiddly bits. B&Q has been unusually unhelpful and I haven't helped myself much either. I phoned the Tallaght store and was told that only two of the four items I need are in stock there. The sprout on the phone told me that they didn't sell one of the missing items, even though I had seen it with my own eyes only a few weeks before.

The problem is the length of the last few timbers, which are not convenient to carry by car. I will have to get them ordered and delivered.

The Liffey Valley branch is under major refurbishment at the moment and their kitchen showroom staff are languishing in a large temporary building in the car park. I phoned two weeks ago and the girl on the switchboard was able to confirm that yes, they did have Item 1 and Item 2 in stock, but by Item 3 she was obviously being distacted by the flashing lights on the phone, and when she said:

"Yes we probably have that,"

at Item 4, I was not confident that she was giving me her fullest attention. She took my phone number and said that the kitchen showroom staff would phone me back to address my queries. No call was ever received.

We drove over to the store later that day in a particularly wintery rainstorm and were told by an assistant that:

1. Items 1 and 2 were in stock.
2. Items 3 and 4 were not in stock.
3. Deliveries are made only on Thursdays.
4. No, I could not buy the items in advance, as they were not in stock, but they would be in stock this week, at which stage I could buy them.

I phoned again yesterday to see if they had come in. The girl on the switch warned me that they were "very busy" in the kitchen showroom and may not be answering their phone. However, the phone was picked up. I quoted the barcode numbers of the four items, whereupon the assistant asked me for my mobile phone number as it would take five minutes to look them up and confirm they were available.


I don't know my mobile phone number. Nor does there appear to be a method on my current phone of looking it up while one is on a call. I forgot that I had Herself's phone in my pocket, which contained my mobile phone number in its Contacts list. So I said I would phone back.

When I did, no-one answered at the switch. Ever.

So, it looks like another drive over to Liffey Valley is required. But not this weekend, which has now all but passed. I shall try again next weekend. Wish me luck.

Meanwhile, I have availed of an A1 Waste free skip bag offer and filled a big yellow container with broken up kitchen units and other stuff we have been accumulating in our garden since the never-ending kitchen project and the never-ending preparations for Christmas have begun. I moved about a tonne of plywood and chipboard today and planted around 50 or so daffodil bulbs that had not made it into the ground before now. I containerised them, which is to say I stuffed them into pots and hoped for the best. Herself says they are not house-broken, so I can't experiment with forcing some of them to bloom in time for Christmas. They are outside as I type, possibly wondering what the drop in temperature is all about, since they were rather inadvisedly being stored in a heated cupboards for the past month.

Busy, busy, busy.