Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Soup with Sherry

Rat-tah-tah-tah-tah-tah-tah-tah!
The sound of mechanical engineering in action comes from the kitchen.
Rat-tah-tah-tah-tah-tah-tah-tah-TAH!
"Do you think," Herself shouts into the other room, "Do you think there are enough mushrooms in this to serve six?"
I drag myself away from the search for a point to the WALL-E movie to peer at the replica Sugar Loaf Mountain in white mushrooms lying amid an absolute chaos of onion peelings and stock cube wrappers and a blotted inkjet printed Internet recipe for Cream of Mushroom Soup to grunt something non-commital but hopefully encouraging.
Herself waves the shiny new hand blender at me.
"Do you know where the green bowl is? The one I used for the Christmas trifle?"
I sniff the air and home in on the substitute trifle bowl, a brown one, where a mashed up sponge cake is marinading to death in Harvey's Bristol Cream.
"Sorry, I haven't seen it."
Herself looks at the recipe.
"It serves four. Will there be enough for six?"
"Just double everything. You might end up with too much, but you won't have too little."
"I could just add some milk to the cream. Or water."
The adage about too many cooks comes to mind and I leave her to it. I tidy out the fridge of expired vegetables and out of date yoghurts adding in more soft drinks for our guests who'll be arriving tomorrow afternoon for a New Year's Day tea.
In clearing up, I find the green bowl, sitting amid biscuit tins and tea cake boxes in the middle of the table. For an inanimate object, it looks distinctly smug. It's had a near miss: Herself likes sherry trifle to be heavy on sherry and this time the brown bowl is having to swallow the medicine instead.
Herself waves vaguely to her side of the kitchen.
"Don't bother clearing up over here," she says, as if I'd be brave enough to start moving things while she's cooking. "I'm still using things."
"Here," she says, proffering a white hot spoon from the very depths of the pot. "Try it."
I take the spoon, knowing if I don't manoeuvre it personally, it'll brand a neat oval shape on my lower lip. I blow on it and sip the half cooked soup.
"Does it taste of mushrooms?"
It does. In fact, it's delicious.
"It'll take ten minutes more of simmering," she says. "Will we have a sherry?"
So we join the brown bowl in marinading ourselves in Harvey's Bristol Cream and ponder the good things a while.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New year a-comin'

We've had a tender and mild Christmas in 2008, with the irritant that I picked up a grusome cold with a cough about three weeks before and am only now getting through the other end of it.

It hasn't been a great year for us, my teeth playing merry hell for most of 2008, losing my father towards the end of July (and the teeth.... he paid for the job to be done before he died). We also lost a favourite pussy cat to old age, after nearly 17 years, around Halloween. So Christmas was planned as a strictly winding down event, but as I mentioned that didn't even work out too well and Herself had to shoulder most of the burden of festive things.

Of course, we had many blessings too -- our family grew with the addition of a grandaughter who'll be a year old in March! Her big brother (aged 3) has taken to her very well indeed and he continues to be a joy. The rest of the family is generally hale and hearty and we'll be catching up with them all at various times in the New year.

I got paid for role-playing writing for the first time in over a decade -- $10, a cheque I haven't cashed but will probably keep as a souvenir. And I took a left turn in Second Life by starting a Dungeons & Dragons group in there. We play every Thursday. People pretending to be people pretending to be people....!

So New Years Eve looks like beers and waiting for Jules Holland's annual tv programme. We have folk over on New Year's Day for dins, then I have the game in the evening and back to work on Friday.

No, I didn't get the Friday off. Is it too late for a "Bah! Humbug!"?

Hope you've had a nice Christmas and that you can look forward to a comfortable and happy New Year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

Flobots - Handlebars

Really like this one.



I can ride my bike with no handlebars
No handlebars
No handlebars

I can ride my bike with no handlebars
No handlebars
No handlebars

Look at me, look at me
hands in the air like it's good to be
ALIVE
and I'm a famous rapper
even when the paths're all crookedy
I can show you how to do-si-do
I can show you how to scratch a record
I can take apart the remote control
And I can almost put it back together
I can tie a knot in a cherry stem
I can tell you about Leif Ericson
I know all the words to "De Colores"
And "I'm Proud to be an American"
Me and my friend saw a platypus
Me and my friend made a comic book
And guess how long it took
I can do anything that I want cuz, look:

I can keep rhythm with no metronome
No metronome
No metronome

I can see your face on the telephone
On the telephone
On the telephone

Look at me
Look at me
Just called to say that it's good to be
ALIVE
In such a small world
All curled up with a book to read
I can make money open up a thrift store
I can make a living off a magazine
I can design an engine sixty four
Miles to a gallon of gasoline
I can make new antibiotics
I can make computers survive aquatic conditions
I know how to run a business
And I can make you wanna buy a product
Movers shakers and producers
Me and my friends understand the future
I see the strings that control the systems
I can do anything with no assistance
I can lead a nation with a microphone
With a microphone
With a microphone
I can split the atoms of a molecule
Of a molecule
Of a molecule

Look at me
Look at me
Driving and I won't stop
And it feels so good to be
Alive and on top
My reach is global
My tower secure
My cause is noble
My power is pure
I can hand out a million vaccinations
Or let'em all die in exasperation
Have'em all healed of their lacerations
Have'em all killed by assassination
I can make anybody go to prison
Just because I don't like'em and
I can do anything with no permission
I have it all under my command
I can guide a missile by satellite
By satellite
By satellite
and I can hit a target through a telescope
Through a telescope
Through a telescope
and I can end the planet in a holocaust
In a holocaust
In a holocaust
In a holocaust
In a holocaust
In a holocaust

I can ride my bike with no handlebars
No handle bars
No handlebars

I can ride my bike with no handlebars
No handlebars
No handlebars

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Snug as a bug II

Attic insulation is possible medicine for our disease of upper house coldness. So, when the mighty B&Q (all bow) announced a 50% off sale, Herself and I trundled up to them this morning with plans for laying itch-free high-tech, half-price lagging in the attic.

Too late.

A mound of rolls of insulation that met us in an aisle -- the very type we were willing to spend money on -- turned out to be already on wheels. Some baldy conscience speaking on a mobile phone was heading off with it towards the checkout, bemoaning to whoever was on the line that the good stuff was gone and the other stuff too dear.

At least he had stuff.

We looked at the blank space once occupied by the rolls of recycled plastic bottles.

"Jumpers and coats again, then?"

"Oh, yes."

"You sound just like Churchill the bulldog in the TV advertisement."

"Feck off."

So we did.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Snug as a bug

It's unseasonably cold this evening. I don't mean Antarctic winter cold, or even American High in the Rockies cold. Just cold for us on our Gulf-Stream warmed little green island. The temperature is a balmy 0 C, or 32 F, for our other visitors. The car roofs are dusted in pale waves of frost and I'm sure the potted geraniums in the back garden may be done for by morning. If they survive, I may move them into a tumbledown shed that's had a reprieve and has a sunny window.

Billy Connolly has some funny stories of growing up in Glasgow and the efforts to look more affluent when the parish priest came around, spoiled by the brother shouting from the bedroom:

"Mammy! Billy has his leg down the arm of the duvet!"

Herself and I both survived frosty nights in unheated bedrooms as children with blankets of adult coats on us for protection. I remember my father's large tweedy coat, the smell of tobacco from it, it's rough outer texture and smooth inner lining. We also had some furs, remnants of the family's few years in Canada, and these tartan-lined bearskins had long, soft brown hairs to keep the cold out of the unlucky bear. The furs are long gone, of course. But I found a small bear-fur hat from my mother's 1950s collection. It's sitting on a shelf by the door of my cluttered study. I'll give it a pat for old-time's sake on the way to sliding in under the many togged modern duvet in our centrally heated 21st Century house.

Times move on. On Monday, our visiting 3 year old grandson stopped in his tracks in front of the living room fire.

"What's that?" he asked, staring at the naked flames.

Good night.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Other lives

A few pensioners returning from a coffee in The Square, a woman about 40 with a ponytail, and I were travelling on the 77A. No-one was particularly paying attention to the old lady alone in the front seat. The sun was shining, the traffic at least moving. Next thing she picks a mobile phone out of her bag and makes a call:

"I'm ringing," she says, in the posh voice that old ladies acquire when they are taking the high ground. "I'm ringing to tell you I am very sick and I'm on my way to the doctor. So there will be NO drinks, you'll be happy to hear, AND the phone will be OFF tonight!"

The little conversations about the bus buzzed low as everybody tried to listen in without being too obvious. The impact of the lady's pronouncement was hindered somewhat by the recipient being a little deaf.

"I said, I'm very sick and I'm on my way to the doctor."

"Yes, the doctor. I'm on the bus now."

"I'm nearly there. Goodbye."

She hung up and gazed out the window, everybody looking sidelong at her. She didn't look too unhealthy. In her early 70s, maybe. Large mop of hair with bold, blonde highlights. A spare woman, head held high, eyes peering out from behind her black rimmed glasses.

She stood up, clutching the smooth, chrome hand-holds with a fist full of heavy gold rings. Gathering her coat around her she marched imperiously to the exit.

When she'd gone, the conversations murmured on again, gradually buzzing louder about weather and gardens and the price of things.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Two reasons to leave a pub

Waiting for the dentist's practice to open this afternoon, I hopped up on a bar stool in a certain Walkinstown pub and asked for a Rock Shandy.

"Do you want ice in it?" the barman asked. In all seriousness.

I suppose there are people who don't want ice in their rock shandies, but I am not one of them.

Half an hour later and about to serve my second rock shandy, he stood, correctly, sideways on so that I could see the half fizzy lemon drink and the half fizzy orange drink going into the pint glass. All went well until he let a great big

"HARRR-ARGH-UP!"

of a cough go.

He did cover his mouth, I'll give him that. Unfortunately, he covered his mouth with the hand with which he next picked up my pint glass of rock shandy with ice. And picked it up by cupping his hand right around three-quarters of the top half of the glass.

As he'd not had time to take away the empty, I gingerly lifted the germ-encrusted glass and tipped its contents into the first one. Somehow or other, I only had room for about half. I departed, looking forward to having a tooth drilled more avidly than the drinking of that pint. Ice or no ice.

Anyway, the rock shandy cost €6.20.

Bloody hell.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My mother's voice

My mother’s speaking voice was beautiful and has always been associated in my mind with comfort and peace. Some of my earliest memories are of gently waking as a small child with sunlight and birdsong coming in through the old windows and hearing the murmur of low conversation in the next room, the kitchen. The high, wooden ceiling in the farmhouse would amplify the sounds. My mother, speaking with a visitor, perhaps her brother, John, or one of her sisters, Kay or Mina, who might sometimes travel up to the fields to meet her and speak about grown-up things.

Laying at rest in my bed in the other room, the sounds of quiet activity would filter through: a soft footfall on the linoleum floor, the muffled clang of the galvanised bucket as the last of the drinking water was poured into a kettle; a lid being replaced; a drawer of cutlery rattling open and closing; teaspoons in cups; milk pouring; a breadknife sawing through a hard, dark crust of fresh loaf bread. And finally the gentle rattle of the smooth, brass knob as my smiling mother peered around the door to see if I was awake yet and announced in her soft, kind voice that breakfast was very nearly ready…

Friday, August 01, 2008

Spot the error

As I've been home a lot lately, I've been watching daytime telly and been targeted by the advertisers there. Seemingly, they are more interested in having my cash than in proofing their own adverts.

For a while I've been watching one of those no-win no-fee compensation company adverts and wondering what was wrong with it. The guy reading the script relates how:

"There were a load of kids at the bus stop. I had slowed down but maybe he couldn't see em. He just backed out..."

Now, I may be wrong, but surely the actor reading the script was meant to say:

"There were a load of kids at the bus stop. I had slowed down but maybe he couldn't see me. He just backed out..."

No-one noticed a typo in the script, do you think...!

Have a listen yourself:



Finally Ultralase, a company which specialises in laser eye surgery. The lady doing the voiceover clearly mentions Irish recognition technology. Read that again.

Here's the ad... the sound is a small bit muffled, but on TV it's Irish recognition technology all the way. Could be useful for Immigration, I suppose.


Jonathan Edwards has laser eye surgery with Ultralase @ Yahoo! Video

Friday, July 25, 2008

It's D-Day...!

...where the "D" stands for "Dentist". Or "Dread." Or "Drew out three of my feckin' teeth."

Yep, 12.30pm today yer man will be prying out three broken teeth and ending this prolonged and recurring illness I've laboured under (or not laboured under, being out of work for nearly six weeks now).

Wish me luck.

I may be some time.

Ooh-er, missus....!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

One


Is it getting better?
Or do you feel the same?
Will it make it easier on you now?
You got someone to blame
You say

One love
One life
When it's one need
In the night
One love
We get to share it
Leaves you baby if you
Don't care for it

Did I disappoint you?
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without
Well it's

Too late
Tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We're one, but we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other
One

Have you come here for forgiveness?
Have you come to raise the dead?
Have you come here to play Jesus?
To the lepers in your head

Did I ask too much?
More than a lot.
You gave me nothing,
Now it's all I got
We're one
But we're not the same
Well we
Hurt each other
Then we do it again
You say
Love is a temple
Love a higher law
Love is a temple
Love the higher law
You ask me to enter
But then you make me crawl
And I can't be holding on
To what you got
When all you got is hurt

One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
Sisters
Brothers
One life
But we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

One

One

Friday, July 18, 2008

Our Dad


I read out the following at Dad's funeral Mass today:

Our Dad, Tom, was 81 years old this June. People who met him often remarked that he seemed a lot younger. This, perhaps, was due to his great spirit and love of life. He felt at his best when he was working on some project, or examining a new gadget he had made or seen in a shop window. He was a believer in the idea of “early to bed and early to rise.” Anyone who heard his grass mower working at seven o’clock on a Saturday morning can testify to that!

Tom loved to collect things and to share his latest discovery with his friends and neighbours. If someone was working on a blocked drain, or having trouble with a garden shrub, he delighted in producing some strange invention or unusual advice to solve the problem.

He loved dressing up in a favourite suit and making an entrance. In recent years he added some fancy waistcoats and a number of hats and caps to his collection and knowing how much he liked them, we, his family, often aided and abetted him by giving him presents of new ones.

We will miss him in his Sunday hat.

To many people, Tom was larger than life. To us, his children, he was that and more. He cared deeply about what was happening in our lives. He was full of pride in our times of joy. He had a quiet wisdom when we shared our woes. A word from Dad would add to our happiness or help solve the problems we found ourselves within.

Tom’s cheerful outlook is the more remarkable in the face of the setbacks that life threw at him over the years. In 2001 he lost his wife, Maureen, after 50 years of marriage, a terrible blow. His own health could sometimes be poorly and he was all-too familiar with clinics and with hospitals both as an in- and out-patient. He bore too the losses of dear brothers and a beloved sister.

In all these times, he took comfort from his religion and his faith in God which gave him the strength to not only survive but overcome his ills. He returned, each time, with renewed optimism to tinkering on some machine, hanging some shelf, fixing some door. Often these were done for other people who remarked on his resilience and (once more) were astonished by his age.

Our Dad was usually wise in his choice of friends and extremely lucky in his wonderful neighbours who looked out for him in his latter years. He joked that if he chose to have a rare lie-in it wouldn’t work out because someone would come knocking on the door to check if he was okay!

Tom’s independent lifestyle always left time for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, whom he loved dearly. He met his newest great-grandchild, brought on a visit from England, only a few weeks ago. We know that each of them will sadly miss their “Grandad Tom.”

Dad would have been touched by the support and sympathy offered to us over the past days by everybody. You are too many to mention individually, but we are pleased to use this opportunity to thank you, his extended family, colleagues, clergy, musicians, friends and neighbours at this difficult time.

The family would like to welcome you to attend the crematorium at Newlands following this morning’s Mass. And there shall be refreshments served in the Cuckoo’s Nest afterwards if you would like to come along.

Tom will always be remembered, whether as “Thomas”, “Tommy”, “Tom”, “Big Tom,” “Big Dad”, “Da Walsh”, “Uncle Tom”, “Grandad Tom”, or, simply, “Dad”.

The world already feels a lot emptier without him.

Thank you.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Thomas Walsh 1927-2008

It's with great sadness that I report the sudden death of my dad, Thomas Walsh, at his home in Tallaght, on 12th July, 2008. Funeral arrangements will be posted in the Irish Independent and Evening Herald newspapers, shortly.

Edit: Arrangements as follows: Removal from Tallaght Hospital Mortuary on Thursday 17th July, arriving at St. Aengus's Church, Balrothery, at 5.30pm. Cremation at Newlands Cemetery following 10.00am Mass on Friday 18th July. Visitors and well-wishers welcome at both the church and the crematorium.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Me nerves...!


Herself leaves me a "note" like a contract drawn up by a particularly paranoid American lawyer, in which she suggests, (if I'm feeling up to it), I might, (for example), remove wet clothes from the washing machine and hang them in the specified place, or, (if the action mentioned in Section 1 is impossible), I could feed the cat (but only) if I go to the shop and buy either (a), wild red salmon, or, (b) sardines in vegetable oil (not tomato sauce), and, (assuming I have gone to the shop), a six-pack of lager and a large bottle of (sugar free) 7-Up.

At the bottom of the note it says: "P.T.O."

On the other side, in alternating red ink and blue ink, it continues with a suggestion that (if I was really feeling fit) I might (a), hang a rack of kitchen implements on the wall, (b), put the missing hardboard backs on the cupboards beneath the sink, and/or (c), put longer electrical flexes on the two side lamps.

While the cat is sucking up great gobs of wild, red salmon in the other room, I sit at the dining room table twiddling with electrical connections.

There is something bred into me about electricity that means that even though the whole project is entirely disconnected and not even remotely near an electrical outlet, I am still being extremely wary. I inspect the two-core cable critically, finding a little nick in the insulation which means I'll have to cut that piece off for safety and reconnect the lampholder. As I'm twisting the screw into the "Live" terminal, there's an unmerciful shrieking twin blast that rises me at least six inches out of the chair, scattering screwdrivers and screws and electrical cables everywhere.

I open my eyes and see the "New Message" symbol on my mobile phone, resting on the table.

It's a note from Herself.

"What's for dinner?" she asks.

Grumbling, I send back:

"What are you making?"

I turn back to the scattered bits and pieces, pick up the screwdriver and start attaching the "Neutral" wire. Five seconds later the phone shrieks twice and I nearly bite off the end of my tongue in fright.

I read the dinner menu suggestion and instructions as to where I can find the ingredients. I send off a terse "Alright."

My fingers drum on the table. Two more shrieks from the phone announce the inevitable:

"Are you okay?"

I'm switching off that bloody phone before I do anything else in this house.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The 9th of July....

...and I've just seen a truck going by the window delivering bags of coal.

Wasn't there supposed to be a summer here around now???

Spitting bullets or dodging them?

As folk have been wondering, I shall tell you that someone rang the dentist's doorbell and ran away, leaving me tied to a red coloured sack truck on the doorstep unable to reach my tin of patented dentist repellant.

The receptionist was very nice and gave me only two forms to fill in.

The dental nurse was like all dental nurses I have ever met at their work, which is to say incapable of saying anything other than the patient's name and otherwise remaining professionally silent throughout the consultation.

The dentist, whom I was pleased to see was past puberty, but not yet at my own age, was a gem among tooth-pullers. He listened to the list of my various ailments then lifted the hood and called out a string of chess moves to the nurse who scribbled them down on my shiny new chart. He then stuck my head in a slow but determined x-ray machine and when all had been revealed he booked me in for a Friday treatment whereat I shall be dental intacto coming in, but three teeth the less coming out.

And that was it. I have still got the ticking time-bombs that are the remnants of my dental abcesses and I am still absent from work on sick leave. On the plus side, the dentist ("my dentist", I must start calling him!), recommends salty water gargling as an aid to infection avoidance, and I am still absent from work on sick leave.

The Friday in question is the 25th July. I have fourteen and a half days of not getting a huge relapse to work on.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Thank you, the folk behind the statistics

I don't thank my visitors enough. I'll try to make amends.

"Thank you", the 1,307 visitors who have looked at my profile. "Thank you, too", the 14,426 (including me) who have visited the blog. You have looked at pages here 22,120 times, which is great.

I'd like to thank all the people who lost their instructions for erecting a gazebo. On quiet weeks, at certain times of the year, you form the majority of visitors and you tend to spend up to 15 minutes here. I suspect you're running in and out from the computer sticking lots of little metal tubes together. Fair play. I was doing the same only this afternoon.

Special appreciation goes to those who find the blog by Googling the phrase (sometimes in ALL CAPS, sometimes not): "I PEED MY PANTS." I hope you're feeling a bit drier now.

For everyone who is looking for a solution to a puzzle, "Hello!" and "Thanks for dropping by!" I've no puzzle pieces except the individual blog posts you briefly examine.

"Hi!" to the Laurel & Hardy fans who find the blog by clicking on the toothache photo. And to the occasional person interested in the George Best five pound note, I'm glad you stopped by.

"Cheers!" to those who use a saved version of an old email to come here, or have bookmarked my profile, or who otherwise use an old visit to make repeat jaunts. Your calling cards are dutifully noted by the hit counter and gratefully received.

And to anyone using the various blog aggregators to which this site is connected, I hope you're not disappointed in your visit here.

I'm not forgetting those using links from other blogs: I hope your use of those links so kindly provided by the thoughful authors of their own sites proved worth the effort.

Lastly, those who find the site by random or misdirected hyperlink: "Thank you" and I hope you, like all of us, find what you're seeking soon.

There are many people who think that blogging is an idle, futile, even embarrassing pursuit. They wouldn't do it themselves and they certainly don't understand anyone who does.

If you're one of these uncomprehending people, then please just move along. I've no great words for you, except that one of us, either you or me, has missed the point entirely. We should get out more. Probably.

Or something. Definitely something.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Countdown to dentistry...

It's gloomy in Dublin this evening. More like a November afternoon than a June evening. Rain has been coming down in meteoric showers all day and I had to let the gazebo down as there was no way it was going to survive intact against the sudden violent gusts that puffed it up to hover an inch off the ground.

I'm at home recovering from another attack of the dental abcesses. Two of the resident trio came on me together, skirmishing with me on Friday and Saturday; opening up the main battle late on Saturday night. I think this time I was about 30 minutes from sending for an ambulance, the infection was so severe. I had a fever of a million and a bit and the whole room was jumping with the uncontrollable shakes I suffered. Herself was at a loss, because I was well-supplied with horsepills, water, painkillers, the lot. But the waves kept coming. I finally managed to get some internal heat back into the bod on Saturday night / Sunday morning as the worst of the attack eased. It was fever and pain and discomfort since then for much of Monday, until it all broke in the wee hours of Tuesday morning and I woke refreshed but exhausted.

The appointment with the dentist isn't until Tuesday, 7th July, at 10.45 am.

You wouldn't want to have something seriously wrong with you, would you?

A neighbour gave me a phone number of her dentist this afternoon. I may phone them tomorrow and see if I can't get an earlier slot. These three buckos have to go. Or, next time, I will.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I forgot about music radio and DJs

I had 2FM on today as I scraped old wallpaper off the walls. Refreshing to hear some repetitive music instead of repetitive Lisbon Treaty news all day.

The DJ (remember them?) said:

"This zero and a number eight are walking down the road.

"The zero says:

"'Why is your belt so tight?'"

Like it.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The one with the waggily tail...

The young pet-shop assistant and I struggled for ten minutes or so with the wooden kennel but it wouldn't all fit into the car. The body almost fitted into the boot, but the detachable roof just wouldn't fit at all. Of course, I'd forgotten the rope that Herself said I should bring. So he did his best with some shop twine. The first bump we went over the twine snapped. The bus driver in the bus behind us tooted the horn a little as the rear door of the car was waving up and down distressingly.

"Pull over up here," I suggested. "I'll take the kennel out and you can go home for the rope."

So that's what we did.

As I'm standing there on the side of the road watching the traffic go by, drivers and passengers occasionally wondering what I'm doing beside a half-built kennel, a large woolly dog trailing a lead rushes out of a side road and into the middle of the road.

A car swerves and the one behind brakes heavily. The dog runs on in a blind panic, disappearing into the Watergate estate.

I resume my vigil by the kennel.

A red car pulls up.

"Excuse me," a man says through the open window. "Have you seen a grey dog...?"

I tell him it went across the road and into Watergate...

"Heading in the direction of the park," I add.

He thanks me and tries to drive out onto the main road, which is very busy. Eventually he rushes off down the road and the car goes into the estate.

Herself arrives and we wrap up everything like a B-movie heroine on a railroad line waiting for the chap to come to the rescue.

Herself drops me off and goes back out to get the roof section from the pet shop.

I muse as I struggle the big, expensive wooden crate through the house and into the cat's shed that I'm glad we don't have a dog. They're just too much trouble.

You could put someone's eye out with that, too

Our elderly cat doesn't care for the warm air blowing out of the hair dryer and she usually runs away when it's switched on. So, I turned around from my sitting position on the side of the bed to see if she had moved from her spot as the hair dryer was going good-o. The cat was still there, but making the unmistakable hunching and unhunching movements of an approaching vomit. I stretched out and gave her a nudge to move her so that at least she'd get sick on the floor and not on the bed covers. She thumped down and disappeared. When I'd dried my hair, I went around to survey the damage. She'd got sick in my shoe. Sometimes you have to know when to give up.

You could put someone's eye out with that

I put my slippers on and went downstairs. Then I discovered there was something in my right slipper as well as my sock and my foot. A penny, I thought. So, I went back upstairs, took off the slipper and took out the penny. I put the slipper back on. I opened my jar of small change and tossed the penny. It struck the side of the jar, rebounded and went back into my slipper. So I left it there. Sometimes you have to know when to give up.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Online clothes shopping for fat men



When you weigh an ounce or two more than 20 stones (that's 280 pounds for our Western neighbours... or nearly 128 kilos for our Eastern ones), you eventually come around to the conclusion that the local Dunnes Stores just isn't going to have a good supply of summer clothing that covers your beer belly.

The "smallest" size I can wear these days in tops or teeshirts is XXXL. Now, either the news reports about the slobbering spread of obesity in the Western world isn't getting through to the store buyers, or there are a heck of a lot of slightly built, fit building workers still roaming about. I say this because any given day there is hardly room to manoeuvre around displays of S, M and L sizes in the Menswear departments.

It's like finding a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket to see an XXXL label on a teeshirt in our local shopping centres. I almost knocked Herself over a couple of weeks ago on seeing two (count them!) at the bottom of a pile of polo shirts.

So I've turned to the Internet for summer clothes. Lately I visited a UK-based site, bigteeshirt.co.uk, where I purchased the above classy number. I'll be wearing it this June Bank Holiday weekend as I tend the barbeque and no doubt shall be the life and soul of the party in it for.... oh.... two whole minutes, maybe.

Apart from the printed tees, the site supplies various coloured styles and other clothes up to 13XL sizes. (I'd like to see a label that says XXXXXXXXXXXXXL....!)

The "Anorexia" tee is available at £12.99 (€16.54) with postage and packing extra. In all I chose 5 items: "Anorexia"; the Duke Spirit Linen Mix, the Espionage Cotton tee, and two Izod Cotton Polo Shirts. The whole came to £72.95 (€93.00) inclusive of postage and packing.

By the way, €93.00 would purchase fifteen and a half summer tee shirts of good quality in my local Dunnes Stores outlet. Money sent abroad because they don't cater for my size. Think on, Department Store owners!

Everything came through in good time and good order, with the slight exception of the Izod shirts. The Website also caters for the TALL man as well as the wide, and Herself has been looking askance at me in my brightly coloured cotton dresses. I show her the maker's label and say:

"This is the style in Pakistan!"

But she isn't persuaded. So the moral of the story is to read the Sizing charts provided on the site and do as much online examination of the product as possible before placing an order. I'll definitely be shopping there again.

One might well ask why it is I'm paying for UK Sterling-priced products given the weakness of the US Dollar against the Euro. Well, the US-based sites I visited seem not to be aware of the rest of the world as a potential market. "There is no postal rate for your area" one online ordering system told me. "You'll be contacted with the details of the additional cost once your order is placed."

"One pig in a poke, please!"

Or, if they do, they equate the distance travelled in the post to be roughly equivalent to a trip from Earth to Mars, making the postage and packing rates wildly expensive.

If anyone locates a reasonably-priced US site that sells tees to places outside the USA, please let me know.

E-Bay is another place I've looked, again with mixed results. One guy had an offer of six teeshirts from his online shop for £40 Sterling and wanted another £40 p&p to send it 100 miles to Ireland!

We're not getting thinner, only poorer, it seems. I'm off now to get the garden into order for Sunday's barbie.

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Out of the mouths of babes

I finally blew up the hover mower. But the reprieve didn't last long as Herself hounded me out the door yesterday to B&Q to buy a new one.

We loaded up the trolley with new mower, plant food, an edger, rubble sacks and a gas regulator for the barbeque, paid for it all and trundled out.

There was our grandson, aged two-and-a-half, in the child seat of a shopping cart, on his way into the store being pushed by Daddy.

"Oh-ho! Oh-ho! Oh-ho!" says I.

The grandson looks around and sees Herself and I, grinning at him.

"Look, D," says his Daddy. "Who's that?"

"Santa Claus!" says D.

The Daily Grind

So, as you know, this little old geezer accosted me back in February '08 with an announcement that I was looking at him and that he didn't like people looking at him.

I hadn't been looking at him on the bus that morning, but I sure as eggs look at him every morning ever since! He uses the same bus stop as me in the morning and I always know at what point and at what distance he is from me.

Some research has provided a few details into who this fellah is. It seems he once sold charity gaming cards door to door in the area and was plagued by the attentions of children who (being children) used to get a rise out of him for the sake of being chased. I think he isn't the full shilling to begin with, but the story of the kids pestering him explains some of the more peculiar behaviour I've observed in him recently.

One morning as I hauled myself up the road on the way to another blessed day of being told by the telephoning public how useless I am, I spied yer man shuffling across the green area to my left. He dresses in a kind of shabby brown canvas jacket and is continually blowing his nose into a great white handkerchief, peering over it suspiciously through his black rimmed spectacles at anyone who might be about. He increased his pace on seeing me and walked ahead, shoulders in their customary hunch, his face down. Instead of turning left at the top of the road for the bus stop, he went right disappearing into the next line of semi-dees. He turned up about five minutes later at the stop. I figured he must have been calling into someone's house on the other road.

Then a few days after, I was a little later in leaving the house and saw him ahead of me, hunching along with his hands in his coat pockets. He stopped suddenly and stared straight ahead where a car on a school run had reversed out of a driveway a couple of houses up. He took two steps to the right and hid for a moment behind a hedge. The car paused halfway across the road as seatbelts and schoolbags and the usual morning chaos were sorted. He stepped out and seeing it was still there, stepped quickly back in again. When it pulled away he resumed his shuffle up the road, head lowered, handkerchief dabbing at his nose.

I saw him from afar another morning walking by the shop units in the local centre, heading for the bus. A schoolboy about twelve or thirteen years of age was coming in the opposite direction, not heeding him at all. Our fellow did a quick turn to the left to face into a shop front until the youngster passed by.

When the bus pulled in, he did his usual morning barge past everyone in the loose queue, flashed a pass at the driver and went up the bus slamming windows closed, keeping the outside world at bay.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

More Postcards from Second Life

Hard day at the office

There was a gentle, metalic clanking noise outside my office window the other day. It was the sort of noise one associates with pipes or beer kegs being rattled. A man's face rose slowly into view on the other side of the glass, a large piece of scaffolding in his hands. He was on top of a slightly wobbling tower of tubes and struts. He briefly looked up at the jungle ecosystem of my bosses' gutters then began to disassemble the platform he was standing on. In a quarter hour, he was back, this time suitably steadied and stabilised. His partner, below, passed up readymade pieces of the giant Mecanno kit, tied on various ropes and pulleys, crawled carefully up the outside and joined him at the top.

"They've finally come to clean the gutters," I said to the office at large. Some curious necks were craned towards the windows. In a few minutes large sods of peaty, weed-choked soil were pulled out and dropped into the courtyard below. The courtyard is surrounded on four sides by a three storey building. The scaffold was tugged and pushed along on large castors over the slabbed floor until the entire square had been properly cleaned. Then they took the whole apparatus down again and moved it bit by bit through the ground-floor corridors to the next courtyard on the other side of our communal office, the courtyard above which last year's seagull had been hatched.

This year's hatchling is almost fully grown though not as adventurous as the first one we saw. It sits dutifully on the ridge tile over a nook created by the louvre-windows waiting for its parents to return with lunch. I suppose not much happens in an average day sitting up on a roof. Nothing that includes visitors from below, anyway.

The man on the scaffold inched over to the gutter below the seagull's ledge. A long, white feathered neck rose up over the ridge tile above.

"Shree! Shree! Shree! Who the fuck are you?" it shrieked.

The man lowered himself a little to the platform and consulted with his partner on the ground. He rose up above the rim again, one eye on the bird which had both eyes on him.

"Shree! Shree! Shree! Get away from that, you bollix!"

A shadow passed over. There was a chorus of "Shree!" noises, as one of the parent birds landed beside the ledge nest.

The man gripped the head of a dandelion and pulled a sod of muck out of the gutter, dropping it into a bucket.

"Shree-Shree! Shree-Shree! Shree-Shree!" the two birds screamed at him. The chick nestled down a little behind the frame of the louvre window, perhaps to hide. The parent marched up and down the ridge tiles, neck thrust out aggressively. Everytime the man bent down to lower the bucket, the cries ceased. When his head was thrust back up into sight, threats and screams rained down on him from above.

At last the scaffold had trundled out of the danger zone and was being disassembled for another trip through the offices to the next courtyard. The birds gave one final triumphant "Shree-Shree-Shree!" then closed their eyes and rested in the afternoon sun.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Counting Blessings through the interference

The bus was one of those double deckers from a few years ago, the ones I think of as new, even though they're not new. But they're one of the best on our shoddily-provided bus route. They are shiny with pale plastic and lots and lots of chrome handholds, but they have a major flaw: when the engine idles in traffic, noise resonates through the rear of the bus and echoes from the back seats off the shiny plastic walls and off the metallic handholds and gets into your ears as if swirling water was pouring from a jug or basin over your head. There is a rumble from the engine and the air vibrates and then you hear "Shrrshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" and every second or third syllable in any conversation is masked by a strange, white-noise-like, Doppler effect.

"I was in The Square and we_ oo_ eh_curt_es_an_as_eh_dy_..."

It only happens when the bus has stopped in traffic. Once the revs increase, the sound returns to normal.

I often think it can't be good for you.

How is it a health inspector has never condemned these buses as a hazard?

Half-way up the bus I was sitting feeling sorry for myself and feeling depressed over what a lousy job I had to work at. In the back seat a mobile phone rang and a young, well-spoken man answered it and chatted unabashed. I gazed out at the buildings going by, half listening, tuning out when the bus halted and the shrilling, swishing noise buzzed about the cabin.

"...There's no problem at all. I just decided that living in the house with the lads would put me back into a place I didn't want to be again. So I'm on the bus now and I'm on the way over to...."

"...and I'll sleep in the car."

"....was taking 40 mils of Methadone and gone off it. I'm doing okay. There was one day I was sick but it's okay now.."

"...one day just blow yourself away with a needle, so I thought it would be better if I got out of there..."

"...you're right, you're right. Your man asked me to mind something for him and to have some for myself if I wanted. So, of course, I fucked myself up and my mother saw me and said she'd seen your man's car and if she saw it again on the road she'd call the police.

"So I told him and he said he didn't want any trouble with police and I told him I couldn't look after his goods any more..."

"....course is a year. A whole year. They retrain you. I have the literature there. But she said I knew as well as she did I'd never do the day course. She said, the best thing you can do is hang on for the house and get away from everyone. You do better on your own. She told me a lot about myself, more than any other counsellor ever did..."

The bus moved by the playing fields in Old Bawn, half-a-dozen gangly youths clad in T-shirts and shorts kicking a football back and forth on a football field. The sun shone brightly through the right hand panes of the window glass, making those passengers in the offside seats squint and sweat.

"The best thing you ever did was tell me to get out."

"...I'll have to knock on the door, though, and ask for a blanket..."

"No, no. There's nothing you can do...."

"I had three pillows on the bed. Can you get them for me...?"

"Oh, no bother. No bother...."

I stepped down from the bus and shuffled home. The young man was still speaking away on the mobile phone as the bus pulled out from the kerb going off down the road to who knows where.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Waiting


Friday, April 11, 2008

Laugh? Nearly cried.

Thursday was a day in which the more I heard the less I understood.

"Will you be sick?" I asked the cat. She sat there impassively, the breakfast of cows hooves and sheep guts labelled "Whiskas" gurgling inside her.

"You'd better not be sick! I'm fed up changing the covers on that bed!"

The cat looked disdainfully at me a moment through half lidded eyes. Then she noticed a sunbeam and danced across the bed and over the chest of drawers, her tail disappearing behind the net curtain.

There was a ding dong at the doorbell and:


"Ve haf come to fit doors..."

Two serious Eastern European gentlemen stood on the step, one proffering a bundle of invoices that indeed included me as a customer expecting a delivery and installation of internal doors on this very date. They looked at me silently, the sides of their mouths turned down. I inspected the papers with the methological precision of a border guard.

"Do you have any vegetables, fruits or livestock?" I asked.

They shook their heads.

"No contraband or anything to declare?"

"Ve haf nothing to declare."

"You'd better come in then."

They set to with a will, unloading a van full of shiny new timber and absolutely beautiful three-quarter glazed doors. I'd picked them from a catalogue, sight unseen. They were far better than I expected.


I watched as the doorframes were pulled out. Pulled out very carefully, I saw. And any cables or wires knocking around were saved to be hidden again in the new doorframes like expertly installed listening devices.

Each of the men had a tiny pencil, little more than a lead stub that emerged from some orifice from time to time and made arcane runes on the bare wood. When one made a mark, he disappeared outdoors and a sawing or plaing machine would start briefly, shriek through some unnameable torture, then whizz to a halt. The other would then take a measurement, cluck to himself, then disappear into the garden, passed on the way by the first, carrying the newly cut timber and slotting it magically into place. I was rapt.

I sat there, slowly turning to grey under a film of plaster dust as the men removed timbers and replaced timbers and slid their hands over the smooth grain and checked and double-checked that everything was running well. At 12.00 noon precisely, they withdrew two Tupperware containers of pasta and stew from the van's glove compartment, slid them into our microwave and made lunch.

"Kettle?" I asked.

"Tea. Please."

I filled some mugs and looked about. They had both retreated to the van and were smoking cigarettes. The took the tray from me in the garden. Ten minutes later, the saws and planes were going again.

There was another ding-dong. I struggled out of the mound of volcanic ash that seemed to cover everything and found my African neighbour on the doorstep. He looked a little agitated and my ear, tuned to Eastern Europe all day, couldn't quite make out what he was saying. It sounded like:

"Balumba umba umba....this wurk, 'ere."

"Eh?"

I tuned my earlobe a little and made out:

"...und I wawshed my car..."

I looked at his car. Nice car. Kept very well, usually. Wonder where all the dust came from that's covering it...?

"Aw, crap..." I thought. I should have considered earlier asking him to move the car out onto the road and upwind of the work. The two chippies were working furiously on a door's edge and a piece of architrave, respectively, in the drive the one with the better English looking daggers from time to time.

I offered to pay for a car wash. My neighbour looked at me as if I called him a son of a crocodile.

"Or," I said, "I could clean it myself...? I'll do that. When the men are finished working, I'll get a bucket and cloth and give it a wash, okay?"

He drew himself up.

"We ah gud neighbaws. We ah close!" he said, cocking his nose. "We do not fawl owt abawt such things. If you say sorry, I will be happy."

I said I was indeed sorry and that I was upset that he was upset. I should have been more thoughtful and spoken with him earlier. I would still arrange to clean the car if he wished...

He made a dismissive chopping motion with his hand.

"It is fo'gawtten."

And he was gone.

"Dust? Dust? Pah!" the lead carpenter said back inside the house. "I say iz impossible not find dust anywhere! He could park car anywhere and get dust! He crazy man. Crazy man!"

"No," I said. "He was right. We could have done more to save his car from getting so dusty."

I was a little deflated with it all. The doors were still lovely, but after the unexpected complaint a bit of the good had been taken from them. I now felt the coldness of the unheated house with the door permanently open as the chippies came and went. I saw the wood chippings in the carpet and the white dust on the stacked furniture. There seemed no end to the chaos.

Next door, my neighbour took his car out. About an hour later it was back in the driveway with a clean look about it. Back in the driveway. In the same place as before. With my two chippies working away with their saws and drills and planers right beside it...

"Ah, for feck's sake!"

I walked up his driveway and rang the bell.

"Er, you know these men will be working for maybe an hour... or more... yet?"

"I thawt they were nearly finished."

"Could you oblige me... please.... and move the car out onto the road...? Pretty please?"

When he moved the car, I noticed half his driveway was covered in wood chips. I groaned. No wonder he was making a fuss! I grabbed a brush and started sweeping.

There was a mountain of sawdust and chippings in my own drive. I laboured away for half an hour until everything was bagged and tied and tidy.

It was eight o'clock before the men were satisfied that everything that could be done had been done. It was a fabulous job and I was overwhelmed with the quality of the work and of the doors.

"Everytink is gut?"

"Brilliant!"

"If you get doors for upstairs, you call me. I get cheaper."

"Nice one," I said, taking down his telephone number, signing his docket, handing them a tip which went into the same place as the butty pencils, which is to say somewhere unknown.

I looked at the chaos of the house and sighed. It would take a day off work to put everything to right again.

After a while, I thought of the neighbour's car out on the road. Mybe someone would run into it. Or scrape it. Or steal it.

"I bet I'll be blamed if it does!"

I nipped upstairs to the bedroom, tugged back the net curtain and leaned on the windowsill to look out to see if the car was okay. My hand squelched in a pool of cat vomit...

"Bad cat!" I said.

The cat opened one eye briefly, brupped pleasantly and went back to sleep.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Crocks

"Arrrgh!" I say.
"What wrong with you? " Herself asks.
"My feckin' sciatica is playing up."
I clutch at the right cheek of my arse and hobble about. The pain shoots down to my ankle and back up again.
"I think my uterus is pressing into my sciatic nerve. I read that on Wikipedia."
Herself would normally laugh at this, but her knee is giving her trouble today.
"Are we still on for lunch at Captain America's?" I say.
"Oh yes. It's our anniversary, after all."
Sixteen years. We've been together sixteen years for about the past five years, because we lost count and have to keep asking Herself's daughter what year she moved out so we can count it up again. This year in 2008 we're absolutely certain we're together sixteen years, although that leaves the age of the cat a little doubtful. She's been sixteen for about the past five years as well, we think.
We get in the car with many moans and groans and head up to The Square, park up and then head across the new civic plaza (still under construction) to Captain America's.
Herself limps along with her wonky knee. I stick my beer belly out and try to lean backwards without having to grab a piece of my buttock.
"You know something?" I say.
"What?"
"People will think we're real mountainy people walking like this. Each with one leg shorter than the other for walking across hills."
Captain A's was good, but the tables were smaller than I remember. We ate and limped back to the car with our various bits draggling along behind us.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Garage a complete dud


We've enjoyed Pat Shortt and Jon Kenny in their parts as anarchic comedy duo, D'Unbelievables. We've enjoyed Shortt's multi-tasking in the television comedy, Killinaskully. We've enjoyed the bitter-sweet Adam & Paul, from director Lenny Abrahamson and writer Mark O’Halloran. So putting Shortt, Abrahamson and O'Halloran together on a project should have resulted in high entertainment. Certainly, given the accolades so prominently reproduced on the DVD box of Garage one expected a great couple of hours viewing.
The movie is set in a rural backwater town where Josie (Pat Shortt) runs a ramshackle petrol station for an unsympathetic local businessman. Josie is obviously a sandwich short (no pun intended) of a picnic. He is variously ridiculed, exploited, even dispised by other characters in this unremittingly bleak drama. Where Adam & Paul pulled few punches in that movie's portrayal of drug addiction, it was at least relieved by some tragic comedy. Garage has no obvious relief in it whatsoever. An interesting comparison to Garage is Sweety Barrett (1998), where the similar underdog character played by Brendan Gleeson ultimately triumphs against adversity. There is no redemption in Garage.
Garage won IFTA awards in 2008 in the Best Film, Best Director, Best Script, and Best Actor categories as well as a prize at Cannes 2007.
I don't get it. It is the most boring, depressing, black movie I have sat through in a very long time. I hope never to look at it again.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

St. Patrick's Weekend in Second Life

Si Lytton, my alter ego in Second LifeYes, St Patrick's Weekend was celebrated in Second Life, not least in the various themed parties and meet ups in the clubs and bars there. Discover Ireland also arranged for a number of parades along the streets of "Dublin" as part of an effort to publicise the Real Life (RL) city. The theory behind this is that people might like SL Dublin and come searching for some RL kicks.

I find SL Dublin to be strange in the extreme. Walking (or flying) along College Green, one sees traffic-free streets and some familiar sights like Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland. Enter a doorway, however, and one finds oneself inside a typical SL boutique selling avatar clothing or jewellry. It's like being in a dream where the familiar is ever so distorted. In O'Connell Street, the widest thoroughfare in Europe, one finds the GPO a stone's throw from the river (I flew into the Liffey by accident and walked along the bottom -- a real first -- I've not done that in RL... yet....) and then the Northside stops abruptly before Henry Street. No Clearys, either, but there is a Millenium Spire. There are quite a few avatars hanging out in SL Dublin's bars and clubs and it is definitely worth a longer exploration some time.
On Sunday I joined the onlookers for the first parade in SL Dublin. It was fun for a number of unexpected reasons, primarily the technical problems of too many visitors filling up a Sim in one go and the comments from those whose avatars were experiencing difficulties. People were materialising without any hair, or couldn't see anything, or couldn't figure out if they were sitting in an unoccupied seat. Luckily, although there were some lags in the action, I didn't experience too many glitches. The arrival of SL floats whose construction was sponsored by various RL and SL interests was announced by a commere whose American origins meant some interesting pronunciations of the pre-prepared script: "Dally-mount Park" and "Chapel-eye-zod" for instance. "The Christchurch" was another small blooper.

I have to say I didn't stay to see the whole parade, but of those I saw the floats mostly appeared uniformly cubic in shape with various uninspiring (some downright mysterious) attachments forming their bodies. They zig-zagged in a kind of controlled chaos down the streets (and sometimes on the pavements) to the applause of the crowd. After a while, I let my camera wander over the spectators, who seemed much more interesting, if only because they come in far more varities of sizes, shapes and styles.
Of course, I eventually ended up in Toby's Juke Joint Blues club in Garden City, which is my favourite hang-out in SL so far. The party must have been good because my avatar was missing a boot next day. Bit like RL, I suppose.

But I think the parade showed great promise and I hope it continues to grow. Perhaps with a longer lead-in time next year the floats might show more of that Second Life magic. Ironically, I've seen creatures and costumes in the real Dublin parade that rival any fantasy creations roaming in the wider Second Life world. I hope someone finds a way to integrate that kind of creation into the 2009 SL parade. Good work, people! Looking forward to next year already.




Friday, March 14, 2008

Invasion of the Kibble Snatchers

This gad-about-town has decided he lives with us.

I say "he", at a guess, because the Ginger Puss (see, we've named him already...!) is a bit thick and this is a male trait among pussy cats.

When he appeared on the scene aboutMarch 2007, he caused a ruckus with our two outdoor moggies, especially as he wished to go into their rather luxurious shed / cat house, eat their foot, drink their water, shit in their litter tray and sleep on their window ledge.

Our black cat, a neutred tom, did his best in terms of bluster, singing voice, and puffing himself up like a bottle brush. Ginger Puss was unimpressed.

I did my best, puffing myself up like a bottle brush and rushing out into the garden at odd hours armed with mugs of ice-cold water. Ginger Puss was wetted, run off, but, it seems, not discouraged. He would clamber up slowly onto the wall, or a shed roof, and meow most pitifully at the sheer cruelty of a world where a perfectly adorable, handsome pussy cat like he would be attacked without reason.

Then he decided that being chased, splashed, swiped at by a black cat, and generally set-upon was simply what happened at our house. He turned up every day.

I was tiling in the front porch one morning with the front door opened when he sidled past. He meowed a greeting as if to say:

"There's that purple monkey that keeps spilling his drink in the garden. Better say hello, I suppose."

One dark evening, I spied him on top of a wheel bin and as I had just put the cats to bed and was coming back down the path with a flashlight, I dazzled him long enough to get within swiping distance. He heard me at the very last moment and only took a half-hearted skelp from the back of my hand before sliding down the bin and up the fence, already chorusing mournfully how innocent he was in the cruel, cruel world.

The other evening, Herself called our evening mantra: "Come on, cats!" and there was the usual procession down the path towards the shed. Part way there she realised there were three cats instead of two. She shooed Ginger Puss off but he ended up nose to the shed door, waiting to be let in and fed like the others. He had an expression on his face of "Well, you called for cats. I'm a cat. Open the bloody door then!"

What are we going to do?

Pub Opening Hours on St Patrick's Day

Intoxicating Liquor Act, 2000

3.—Section 2 (as substituted by section 25 of the Act of 1988 and amended by section 2 of the Act of 1995) of the Act of 1927 is amended by the substitution of the following subsections for subsection (1):"(1) Save as otherwise provided by this Act, it shall not be lawful for any person to sell or expose for sale any intoxicating liquor, or to open or keep open any premises for the sale of intoxicating liquor, or to permit any intoxicating liquor to be consumed on licensed premises—(a) at any time on Christmas Day or Good Friday;(b) on any other day, as specified hereunder, outside the times so specified in respect of it—(i) Saint Patrick's Day: between 12.30 p.m. and 12.30 a.m. on the following day;(ii) the 23rd December: if it falls on a Sunday, between 10.30 a.m. and 11.30 p.m.;(iii) Christmas Eve and the eve of Good Friday: between 10.30 a.m. and 11.30 p.m.;(iv) the eve of any public holiday (other than Christmas Eve):(I) if the eve falls on a weekday, between 10.30 a.m. and 12.30 a.m. on the following day, or(II) if it falls on a Sunday, between 12.30 p.m. and 12.30 a.m. on the following day;(v) any other Sunday (except a Saint Patrick's Day which falls on a Sunday): between 12.30 p.m. and 11.00 p.m.;(vi) any other Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday: between 10.30 a.m. and 11.30 p.m.; and(vii) any other Thursday, Friday or Saturday: between 10.30 a.m. and 12.30 a.m. on the following day.(1A) The hours specified in paragraph (b) of subsection (1) in respect of any day specified in that paragraph are in addition to the period between midnight and 12.30 a.m. on that day where that period is included in the hours so specified in respect of the eve of that day.

Got it?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Falling Slowly - Hansard and Irglova

An unofficial music video. Let's see how long it can stay up before the corporate boys start blocking.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Who'll crack first?

The door slams and the office is left silent but for an occasional customer deluded into thinking someone will answer the phone after hours. When even that dies down there is only the muted sound of scattered sighs.

"Sigh."
"Sigh."
"Sigh."

The dreaded overtime has begun.

We're on our annual quest to count receipts and balance books and as usual we're about two months late in starting, so everybody's under pressure.

"Put the kettle on."

Tea is made and the silence is broken by the rustling of papers as sandwiches and little cakes are produced and offered around.

"Sigh."

I am checking amounts in the central accounting program against amounts in the database I maintain. The first look shows a difference of about €300 in €80,000, so I am not unhappy. The second look shows a difference of about €9,000 in €80,000. I shall have to start ticking off amounts.

"Sigh."

At the end of the office, a muttered mantra begins as someone starts their own checking process:
"One, three, six, one, point three, three?"
"Yep."
"On, two, eight, six, point one, three?"
"Yep."

After a while, I feel like shouting back: "Amen!", but I keep my nose out.

Figures are running back and forth across the page. I sip at tea and eat a Club Milk bar. The hours wear on. The numbers become a forest of little arrows and check marks. Progress, though infinitely slow, is being made.

Somewhere a imaginary clock begins to tick...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Breaking the Circle

If all those over-paid Astologers are to be believed, you're supposed to have an improvement in luck as your birthday gets nearer. Mine is turning turtle at the moment and it's my birthday in two days' time.

I was in the canteen last week and queuing with a tray in hand. There are two checkouts parallel to each other. If one side of the queue gets busy, or one of the staff has to go get more change, or replenish mugs, or answer a call (of nature or otherwise), the lady on the other side will double-up temporarily. Likewise, if food has to be weighed before purchase. Our canteen caterers sell stuff like salads or breakfast cereals by weight.

So two girls in the queue in front of me were yapping happily away and taking their time putting change into purses and such. Christine, on the checkout nearest me sat impassively waiting for the next customer, me.

Across from her, the girl on the other checkout craned her neck to see what I'd chosen, punched it into the register, twisted the readout my way so I could see that €5 was the price, took my tenner and gave me back a €5 note in change.

Christine, meanwhile, punched a couple of buttons. I supposed she was taking for the meal of the person behind me. I picked up the tray and went and sat down.

"They're saying you didn't pay, Willie," said a colleague, passing by, grinning.

"I paid the other girl!" I said to the universe at large. I got up and went to tell Christine of the mistake. On the way, I bumped into the assistant canteen manager.

"Are you stealing food?" she asked. I presume she was trying to be funny. I ignored her, but I could feel the niggle starting.

I plucked Christine's elbow.

"I paid the other girl," I said, pointing.

A few minutes later, Christine appeared beside me, red-faced. She must have checked with the other girl.

"I'm very sorry," she said. "I didn't see you paying. I really must apologise."

"If I'd been stealing food," I said, trying unsuccessfully to be non-chalant and humourous "You wouldn't have seen me do it!"

We both chuckled a little self-consciously.

Christine apologised again. I said:

"I hope that manager one knows I paid." I pointed over my shoulder at her.

"Oh, don't mind her," said Christine, and scuttled off back to her register.

I did mind. The more I thought about it.... ("Are you stealing food? Ha Ha Ha!")... the more annoyed I felt. Most of the dinner went uneaten.

At quitting time, I walked over towards my bus stop. Here was the canteen assistant manager coming the other way on foot.

"Hello!" I said. I stopped.

I said: "Tell us. Are we all square about that thing earlier?"

She smiled and laughed and went on walking. I stood looking after her, now fuming! Why the fuck wouldn't she put my mind at ease and just say everything was fine? I went home in very bad humour.

There's now a definite atmosphere in our canteen up at the checkouts when I queue there. No-one asks me any more how my day is going, or how my colleagues are that aren't with me today, or if I have any holidays planned. They just take the money in silence. Not quite a stony silence, but silence nonetheless.

If I could afford it, I'd take my business elsewhere. But the job subsidises the food prices in the canteen, making up for how little they pay us otherwise. I'm stuck.

This morning, kick in the pants Number Two.

I got on my usual bus and travelled up to The Square on my way to work. I usually get off the bus a bit before The Square, but this morning I wanted to get some cash from the ATM to see me through the week. The bus pulled in and the driver switched off the engine. I thanked him and stepped off. There was a smallish man of about 50 in front of me, moving along the footpath. He stopped and turned towards me.

"Excuse me," he said.

I thought maybe he was going to ask for directions. I stopped and said:

"Yes, sir?"

He said: "I was sitting at the back of the bus." He pointed. "You got on and looked at me. I don't like people looking at me..."

I blinked.

"What?"

"I was on the bus. You looked at me..."

"I did not! This is the first time I've seen you today...!" I laughed.

He stood looking at me. I realised he was serious and now that I looked at him he did seem a little familiar. But I had clambered onto the bus this morning without a thought for anything other than my usual twin goals of not falling over as the bus pulled away from the bus stop and finding a seat upstairs.

"Where you sitting behind me or what...? I asked, puzzled. I was trying to get my head around what he was saying. It wasn't sinking in at all.

"I don't like people looking at me."

I thought: "Little wonder, you ugly little fucker."

I said: "I absolutely swear, I did not look at you in any way whatsoever!"

He walked off, mumbling.

Jesus Christ! I went into The Square, mindful that he was walking in front of me by a few yards. All I need now, I figured, is for him to tell a security man I'm following him or something. That would really put the tin hat on the whole business!

Around five o'clock I remembered how he looked familiar. The little bollix lives in Firhouse and.... wait for it.... is often at the bus stop I use every single morning! On his way to see a psychiatrist, I have no doubt, but fuck it! He'll probably be standing at the bus stop tomorrow morning.

"I'm getting a car," I said to myself on the five o'clock bus. I had found myself looking around at the other passengers suspiciously. Who was going to pop out of a bag or a box and twist my noodle this time? Would the other little bollix turn up again? What would I do if he said something?

At home, the third piece of what I hope is the end of this circle of the most bizarre luck there's been around here in ages happened. Herself came home without her much-loved, mobile phone. Surely that broke the charm?

I was so sympathetic on hearing the phone had been left in work. Among unknown cleaners. With keys to the office.

"Oh, that's terrible," I purred. "There, there. I'm sure it will be just sitting there when you go into work in the morning."

So tomorrow, the day before my birthday, I'll have an angry Firhouse gnome gunning for me on the bus to work. My tea will be served by people afraid to smile or joke in any manner. And I shall probably not receive any texts to brighten my day.

Roll on next year.

Happy Birthday to me.... Happy Birthday to me....

Friday, February 15, 2008

It's a hard life


Terrible start to the day. My bus was stuck behind another bus and on the back of this other bus was a twenty-foot high Eva Longoria. I had to sit there wondering if it was a corset or not. I know the nose was not an original. And there was at least a whole can of hairspray involved in the picture taking.

The advert -- for a magazine -- read:

"Why Eva will never be desperate."

Well, your face is on the back of a bus, missus...

Work is a raddled arse at the moment. I shall not dwell on it too much.

Towards quitting time, Herself rang me to say there was a gas leak at home. I suggested she phone the gas company. This was 16:10 or thereabouts.
"Are you in Knocklyon?" she was asked.
"No."
"Anywhere near Glenvara?"
"Well... Maybe."
"Oh that's the source of the smell then. We had a gas main pulled up earlier. You can switch your boiler back on."
"Are you sending anyone out?"
"Oh yes."
It's 22:11 and we've not blown up and we've not had anyone with something with a sniffer on its end turn up. Boiler is back on anyway. No smell of gas anywhere. Must have been the gas main in Glenvara, eh?
Clever people, those Bord Gáis customer care folks.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

...got no worries; got no cares....

Herself starts the day off with that question dreaded by men everywhere:
"Do you remember last night?"
I lie there half in and out of consciousness. A few minutes earlier, I was trying to find a bus home from Wicklow. Then the five-to-eight weather forecast was unceremoniously switched on on the radio and woke me up from the dream.
"Er... No...?"
She throws clean socks and teeshirts at me. I brush them aside as it's getting hard to breathe under the mound.
"I woke up in the middle of the night to find you leaning over me."
"Oh, aye...!"
"And you said: 'I've lost my hug'!"
"I don't remember that."
"So I gave you a hug and you hugged me back. It was lovely. A lovely big hug."
"Feck! Don't remember that at all!"
So, there you go....
I lost my hug....
Wish someone had warned me.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Internet images free-for-all warnings

The Sunday Independent reports today that Internet users need to be careful of what they're posting in the images sections of personal blogs and social networking sites.

In a piece entitled, "Bloggers beware: that private picture could soon be very public", Niamh Horan tells the tale of a Dublin woman who posted a "risque" photo of herself in the "private" section of her profile, only to find it being used in a dating-site advert a few weeks later.

The message that everything Internet should be considered publicly-accessible obviously isn't being learned.

This week, I received an amusing email from my sister to say that her daughter, whose college project on "Family", was due this week, was watching a presentation prepared by another girl when a slide showing my mother, brother, sisters, me and the dog flashed up on screen!

"That's MY family!" my niece shouted out in surprise.

The photo, which has been several years on another personal Internet site, turned up in a Google trawl and was blithely added to the project.

The Indo goes on to say that Tuesday next is the fifth annual "Safer Internet Day".

[Photo of Webcam is from the Logitch Website. Buy their stuff to redeem me.]

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Willie_W at Second Life

Made up an avatar of myself for fun in Second Life. Those who know me, see what you think.








Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Call for Writers at Kobold Quarterly

Editor of new roleplaying magazine, Kobold Quarterly, Wolfgang Baur, held a question and answer session in Second Life at the weekend.

The meeting, attended by guests from the roleplaying, sci-fi and mainstream media was held at Third Life Styles, the Home of Third Life Books in the region of Beraudes.

The periodical, which was launched to fill the void left by the late Dragon magazine, caters for the Dungeons & Dragons game and is available in both PDF download and in a paper edition.

Its editor is a veteran of the roleplaying industry and edited Dungeon Magazine when it was owned by TSR Inc. He later worked for Wizards of the Coast. Other projects include Open Design, whose adventure scenarios are created with input from patrons who receive exclusive finished works in return for modest financial support.

Wolfgang said: "Kobold Quarterly is a magazine aimed at fantasy roleplayers, in particular D&D and tabletop gamers. There's also room for alternate history, real-world medieval facts and myths, and similar material. Most of it, though, is aimed at playable material for any reader's homebrewed fantasy setting. Naturally, I need writers and artists and, oh yes, subscribers."

"Every magazine needs its regulars, and you might be among the early adopters for KQ. One of the realities of the markets is that they're always changing. Since Kobold Quarterly is new, it's a lot easier to impress the editor than it would be in a couple years. So, if you are interested in the writing end of things, I'd encourage you to step up to the query letters early."

In answer to a query about whether or not the magazine would accept fiction, he said:

"Right now, I am not looking at a separate fiction slush pile. I'm taking nonfiction, game articles, and eventually adventure scenarios. Length [for nonfiction and game articles] should be from 1,500 to 3,000 words, unless you query something else in advance."

The magazine is also to publish roleplaying scenarios at about 8,000 words in length.

"The first of those will happen late this year," he said.

"The easiest way to impress an editor is to put everything in place before the editor has to ask That is, an exciting pitch, or a new spin on a topic that the readership loves. This shows you know the audience. Then, assuming your query is approved, delivering at the requested length and on time.

"I'm always shocked at the number of queries I accept that never come back with a completed article. And even more shocked that writers regularly leave basic things like their name and address off a manuscript."

When asked if a good knowledge of the Dungeons & Dragons game was required, Wolfgang answered:

"It would definitely help, but I'm also taking articles that do a broader view of fantasy and myth. Nonfiction summaries of a particular element (say, castles or sieges) would be great.

"Actually, because D&D is currently shifting to a new edition (ships in June), now's a good time to pitch something that ISN'T specific to the rules."

On magazine art, he said: "I'm always looking for artists, though I say that with some hesitation. The magazine is too small for an art director, so.... Let's just say my bandwidth for art is limited."

"Previous editions of the magazine are available from koboldquarterly.com There's PDF versions and print as well. Ok, the print is largely sold out. The PDFs are still out there for readers overseas (whose mailing costs would be prohibitive) and for those who just don't want paper. I've found [PDFs] a great way to get the issue out in full color, long before the paper version could support that."

Eurovision 2008 preliminaries off to a flying (or at least a feathered) start

Following Ireland's last place finish with 5 points in the 2007 Eurovision song contest, the national broadcaster, RTÉ, is arranging the final preliminary round of choosing an Irish entrant for the 2008 contest. The final, to which the lucky entrant will be sent, is to be held in Belgrade, Serbia, on Saturday May 24th.

A controversial entrant is the puppet, Dustin the Turkey, whose presence in the competitions led to a short debate on the political television programme, Questions & Answers.

For those interested in following Irelands' and other countries' shortlisting and voting results, the site All Kinds of Everything has a very interesting blog and an extensive News section.

From The Irish Times:

"In the past some unkind critics have described Ireland's entries in the Eurovision as turkeys but this year we could actually have a turkey performing our entry.

"The Irish final will be held on February 23rd when the public decides who will represent Ireland at the Eurovision semi-final in Serbia in May. Already the turkey has ruffled feathers with one Eurovision fans' website reporting that Dustin is in the running, with the headline "Puppet to Mock Eurovision?"

"The Dublin turkey has an impressive CV, having run for president of Ireland, recorded with Bob Geldof and made a career out of insulting Pat Kenny and mocking Leitrim. But the puppet will have to pull some strings if he wants to make it to Belgrade. Bill Hughes, chairman of the judging panel, said Irish voters would have a very strong field to choose from.

"The other songs are:
Double Cross My Heart, performed by Donal Skehan and composed by Joel Humlén, Oscar Gorres and Charlie Mason; Time to Rise, performed by Maya and composed by Maja Slatinsek and Ziga Pirnat; Not Crazy After All, performed by Leona Daly and composed by Leona Daly and Steve Booker; Sometimes, performed by Liam Geddes and written by Susan Hewitt; and Chances, written and performed by Marc Roberts, who came second in the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest.

"Mr Hughes said the panel did not choose Dustin's song in a flippant manner. "We did think seriously about it but once we heard it and we all laughed so much we decided it was worth including."

"Ireland had never entered a novelty or humorous song before, he said, and it was just one of six songs for the public to choose from. John Waters, who co-wrote last year's Irish entry, was not getting into a flap over the prospect that his successor could be a turkey. "Don't forget that we are talking about the Eurovision. It's fun, it's kitsch and nobody takes it all that seriously," he said.

"He may have come last, but Waters believes that the turkey cannot lose, because of his novelty value. "If Dustin wins it's a victory and if he comes last it's a victory. The worst thing would be if Dustin came second-last. That would be failure as we would have beaten him." Dustin's election campaigns included promises such as bringing the Dart to Dingle, but he will have to step up his game as he bids for Eurovision glory. The only problem is, will Europe understand him when he shouts his catchphrase "Go on ya good ting"?"