Tuesday, October 05, 2010


They teach it to the females from the earliest age

Herself's Second Daughter instructs Herself's Second Daughter's Daughter thusly:

"This is Nana and Will's house. That means Nana is in charge. Okay?"

Sunday, August 22, 2010

They never call here

"Hands Down Research", says a nervous-looking woman on the doorstep. Because she's looking nervous and the alternative to taking her survey is to resume carrying furniture upstairs, I say:
"Oh, go on then."
She brightens up a little.
"I have to tell you, it will take maybe 15 minutes."
"Oh yeah?"
"That's me," she says, pointing to a picture of herself, looking nervous, on an identity card.
"Correct," I answer helpfully. "Have we started yet?"
"Do you have a mobile phone?" she asks, squinting at a list of questions on an electronic notepad barely visible in the glaring sunlight.
"Madam, you haven't even offered me dinner and drinks yet."
"Have you heard of Vodafone?"
"Tesco Mobile?"
"This other one whose name you'll not remember when blogging about this later?"
"If I was to hand you this piece of paper with ludicrous statements on it, which would you use to describe your current mobile phone service provider?"
I read through the list. Finally, I say:
"I would choose 'Elephantine liquorice sticks hold up my house of minuscule beans' to describe my current mobile provider. That's number six on the list."
She ticks a box on the screen.
"If I gave you this pen, would you hold it?"
"If I struggle using one hand to turn the piece of paper over to display a number of commercial logos, will you wait while I do so, in the meantime, trying hard not to look down my blouse?"
"Do you recognise these commercial logos?"
"How many of these commercial logos have you seen on television or on bus shelters or in other places in the past fortnight?"
"This one, that one, and those ones hiding in the corner."
"Who sponsors the Meteor awards?"
"I don't know."
"Who sponsors the venue formerly known as The Point Depot, now known as the O2?"
"I don't know."
"Have you read any newspapers or magazines in the past fortnight?"
"Have you done any of the things on the next page of the list in the past fortnight?"
I read out:
"Got out of bed... Emailed... read blog... used social networking site... used the searching thing named Google... returned to bed."
"Do you own a spoon?"
"Do you know your own name?"
"I do."
"What is your telephone number?"
"I don't know."
"Finally, where am I?"
"You are here."
She stabbed a little electronic box with her stylus and handed me a printout informing me I had just taken a survey and that someone might call me about the answers.
I returned to lifting furniture.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Tale of Invisible Cat

I struggle in the door from Down the Country, arrows still sticking from my hat, the leather mail satchel shot through with renegade bullets. But instead of the hero's welcome with which I am accustomed to be greeted, Herself announces:
"The cat's gone missing."
"Again?" I ask, throwing my gun belt over the hat stand and feeding the pony a sugarlump.
I say: "I bet he's in next door's shed."
"He's not. I checked."
"Where's his sister?"
"All locked up. She doesn't seem to miss him at all."
I go outside and clap my hands loudly, startling the pleasant African child next door who waves at me a little uncertainly. I wave back and retreat indoors.
"He'll turn up. Fish fingers for dinner?"
We sit and eat. Herself's heart isn't in it.

After some discussion of who's turn it is to knock on the neighbour's door, I draw the short straw. It's like being the one elected to go ask for the ball back. I'm a bit relieved when the neighbour doesn't answer her doorbell.
Herself hops the fence anyway and opens the shed door, calling. Still no cat.
"He'll turn up," I say again. "Wait and see."
Herself rings me from her walk.
"Any sign?"
"No," I say.
"Why do you sound so muffled?"
"I'm on my hands and knees in our shed with my head stuck half-way under a shelf trying to get a candle to shine in a reflection made by your makeup mirror to see if the bloody cat is inside the kennel I said I'd dig out from under all the junk and didn't do."
"Any sign of him?"
"No. But I have a great view of his sister, making fetching cat faces at herself in the mirror."
Herself moons about for the evening, mentioning where we'll bury the cat when we come across it dead in the ditch. Or how lonely it must be in whatever attic it has become trapped in.
About a quarter to nine there's a thump from the back door. The cat galumphs in, throws his briefcase and cap into the corner and marches about, tail high, telling us what a crap day he's had and how the market went today (starlings down; a good day to put money into sparrows).
He then had the cheek to ask me why he was being fed so late.
His sister didn't even say a word when I dropped him off at their feline condominium.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Unhappily, they're still rearing (more of) them...

Friend of a friend who sells stuff at a stall in town is approached one afternoon by a junkie.
"Excuuuuuse, me Bud," says yer man. "What time izit?"
"Two o'clock."
Yer man looks wide eyed:
"In de daaaay...?"

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

For guns, for some reason we shouted Dar! Dar! Dar!

War, the natural sport of young male kind, was also the natural non-football game in which we indulged as kids. We happily had a small country of hedgerows, streams, trees and open fields to roam around. Even a derelict house or ruined castle, if we felt energetic enough to go that far.

Mostly, we stuck to some well-trodden parts, where a short hike through the lengthening shadows of a darkening evening led to safety, supper and the shelter of home.

I didn't really realise until lately how imprinted I'd become on our fields and hills and ditches. It only sunk in when I started toying again with the process of outlining a Dungeons & Dragons scenario and I knew it could be a good one because I could "see" the main adventure area as a particular spot in a corner of our shared childhood. How strange, so many years on, to lift the imagination out, dust it off and find the mind's eye still focused on the hill running down to Hedge Camp, a hollow under an ivy-covered half-dead tree under which we loaded imaginary guns, choked on pilfered cigarettes, or shared out the spoils of pocket money swapped for brightly-wrappered sweets from Mrs. Elliot's shop.

This very week I can see the first cloudy images of a new back story hovering over the stunted wind-bitten grass of the old farmlands. The scene feels vivid enough to me, waiting as it does a few extra touches to change and explain the logic of the game that I hope to make of my first few frames of other-worldly action. The scenario is layering itself over my remembered landscape bit by bit. Sure, it won't look remotely like the physical geography of the place, but the feeling of stalking through the tussocks, dipping down to hide from the line of sight of war-game enemies, or rushing forth to shout out retorts of broom-handle WWII machine guns is still there.

If I can see it, it's generally a good one. I just hope the feeling carries on through. I think it will.

Wish me luck.

Happily, they're still rearing them

There's an obviously gifted child of about six on the bus this late afternoon, her long-suffering Daddy bringing her on home as best he can.

She's fizzing with light and life and insists on sitting at the upstairs front window looking out onto the roadway ahead.

Two things strike me right between the eyes as she looks out on the world.

"Daddy," she says happily, as the bus slides along over the painted ghost islands and traffic lanes. "The bus is eating all the lines...!"

She's full of talk, her mind alive to possibilities. I'm fascinated. Then, at the bottom of the road, where the Council's trees are springing into first late leaf of the season, she gasps:

"Daddy! The trees all have lots of hands!"

"Branches," says Daddy.

"No, Daddy. Their leaves are hands."

And they were. All pointing upwards at the sun in little finger clusters.

Unhappily, they're still rearing them...

Pal Darren tells me a tale told to him by another pal which is too funny to be untrue.

Chap is looking warily at an obvious junkie on the double-decker bus, especially when he gets up to follow him off the bus at the chap's stop.

They both alight and Junkie stops on the pavement as the bus pulls away behind him, Junkie slowly patting his pockets fruitlessly.

"Awwwwwwwwwwwww....!" he says in that fine slow-motion voice. "I've left me bleeeeeee-din' phone on de buuuuus!"

A single deck bus pulls in and opens the doors. Junkie climbs on and stops suddenly in confusion.

"Where's the bleeeeee-din' stairs gone...?"

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Another commuting adventure

In the manner in which all roads lead to Rome, all strangenesses are led to travel on Dublin bus...

To nosy people like myself, it is a tragedy when the bus thunders into the car park of The Square at breakneck speed, its return journey information already up, its passengers all-but flung to the pavement in the driver's haste to get starting again. It's a tragedy when in the middle of all this a little white-haired old lady walks up to the driver from her "Give up this Seat" seat, remonstrates with him and is angrily rebuffed. Tragedy indeed because I couldn't hear one word of the exchange over the revving engine noise and had no idea of the cause of the argument. The mystery only deepened when the little old lady returned to her seat, obviously intent on being brought back the way she'd come.

I have seen bus drivers on very rare occasions who have turned the bus into a mobile creche. Once a sulking boy of about 10 years and a happy little girl of around seven did not alight at the last stop, the first stop for we waiting at the terminus, but instead rode back into town with Daddy Driver. The little girl couldn't keep the evident secret and spent half the journey waving and smiling into the driver's rear view mirror. The boy stared irately at the passing road surface through the grimy windows.

I wondered if today this driver had borrowed his granny for some outing. Maybe she had especially waited in the nursing home to be collected by a favourite grandson, only to find herself condemned to perpetual motion in the special seat of the swaying double-decker. She sat, a tiny figure in the big green seat, occasionally peering over the top of her glasses, craning up to see where the bus now was.

An Asian lady with a girl about three years old, stepped on wheeling a buggy. She shifted about to make room when the bus started filling up. The youngster started an impressively accurate rendition of "Molly Malone" as the crowds pressed in.

"She wheeled her wheel... BARROW...!"

The little old lady bounced up and down wordlessly in the seat behind her.

"Through streets broad and... NARROW!"

"That's a GREAT song," another woman sitting nearby said to the child. "You're a GREAT girl!"

Not be put off, she sang:

"Crying COCKLES and MUSSELS...
Alive, alive-O!"

There was all but a cheer from the captive audience, until she started the whole thing off again from the beginning. Getting off at Old Bawn, she gave the driver a big wave and a "Thank You!" before being pushed off home.

One time I recall the commotion of a drunk clambering on somewhere around Tallaght Village, slapping some random coins into the machine, ignoring the driver's shouts of protest, then collapsing, unconscious, into a seat near the back of the bus. A large, jolly-looking Italian man, looked over at him, then started to laugh out loud with big "Har! Har! Har!"s. The reason for his mirth soon began wafting its way about the back of the bus.

"Feck's sake!"
"Was that you?"
"NO! It was yer man!"
"Ah, Jaysus...! He hasn't has he?"
"He has!"

A young teen in charge of her younger sister reached into her bag and started spraying the oblivious one with Impulse. This caused huge bellows from the Italian.

"Har! Har! HAAAAR!"

He started turning purple, waving his hands in the air.

When I got off, there was a bubblelike barrier of scent around the sleeper, clawed by desperate hands from every handbag and knapsack. The echoes of the Italian in the seat opposite rang loudly down the Firhouse Road as the bus sped off.

Today, there was no satisfactory explanation for the mystery of the white-haired lady. She stayed ladylike, upright, quietly demure in the middle of her seat. Sometimes she popped up in the air as we went over speed bumps. Otherwise she was still.

I left the bus as usual and rambled home, wondering.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring Sprung

"I'm a pretty birdy! I'm a pretty birdy! I'm a pretty birdy! Yes I am!"
As misery likes company, Herself ensures that my half-awake state is nudged to fully woken by a deftly-placed elbow.
"Do you hear that?"
"What is it?"
"It's a bird."
"But what type of a bird?"
"I dunno. Maybe the wren we saw the other evening. Go back to sleep."
We lie there, each aware that the other is awake. Some far off chirps and tweets are answered by a megaphone rendition of:
"I'm a pretty birdy! I'm a pretty birdy! I'm a pretty birdy! Yes I am!"
"Where is it, do you think?" Herself asks.
I mumble something negative from beneath the pillow trying to drift off again. Three-and-a-half hours before I have to get awake and more than a passing self-inflicted headache are not improving my humour.
"It sounds like it's in our gutter."
"Bugger the gutter..."
The alarm goes, in what seems like about five minutes time. Bleary eyed, I wash, shave, dress, open the curtains and see a thrush marching up and down our front lawn. It's pulling big wads of moss out and flying off to a tree in the field opposite.
"Ah crap."
The new resident has woken us up each morning for the past week. Herself thinks it's great.
"When do you think the dawn chorus starts?" she asks brightly as I'm staring into a bowl of cereal and thinking of blackbirds baked in pies.
"Dawn, maybe...?"
"Don't be like that..."
"I dunno. A couple of hours before the sun comes up, maybe. Why?"
"I'd love to hear it all.... Right from the start, I mean."
Oh brother.
Maybe I can find her a CD and some headphones.
Earplugs. That's what I need.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Just Whoosh!

"Do you smell gas?" Herself asks, each time she walks by the nook where we keep the central heating boiler.
"No," I say, barely looking up from my latest paperback novel, or history, or comedy. It's become a reflex action for me, like shaking my head triumphantly through the impermeable window of the sliding door on the porch at desperate, commission-only direct sellers, or the grabbing up at work-day's end of another leaflet for fake third-world charity clothing collectors from the doormat and flinging it unceremoniously into the kitchen bin. Herself put a "NO JUNK MAIL" label on the window this weekend. It will be interesting to know how well it works.
Anyway, in the later summer season of 2009 we purchased a new patio heater, those monstrous, "War-of-the-Worlds"-like constructions that stand in other peoples' gardens and put forth warmth at the day's end when just enough wine has flowed that it seems unfair to have to go back into the house, but just enough cool air has descended that it's too cold to sit outside without some artificial heat. The monster lay in its cardboard box the whole winter through to 2010 until I finally put it together last week and stood gazing in wonder at its green, giantish frame. It's heat lamp, promising many kilowatts of butane-powered comfort, must be a couple of feet in diameter. I wondered if a standard gas cylinder would survive for more than 20 minutes work.
The instructions were printed on a big silver label stuck at eye level on the eight foot high steeple.
"One," I read. "Turn on the gas at the Regulator."
I lifted the Part A slotted into Part B and secured with several Number 3 nuts, bolts, washers and split washers and turned the valve to "On".
"Do you smell gas?" Herself asked mildly, passing by with a bowl of summer salad.
"No," I said automatically.
"Two," I read. "Ensure that the parabolic reflector (F) is aligned in the correct bracket (Q) for optimum heat efficiency."
I pulled experimentally at the wooden and chrome handle to tilt the monster's high-hat into the correct angle.
"Do you smell gas?" Herself asked, putting two wine glasses and a platter of garlic bread on the garden table.
"No," I said, moving on.
"Three," I read. "Turn the red labelled knob (P), to the start-up position (D)."
I twisted the penny-sized black plastic disc a little left and right until it engaged satisfactorily, then went back to my reading.
"Do you smell gas?" Herself asked, putting cutlery and some serviettes out.
"No," I said automatically.
"Four," I read. "Press the red button igniter (K) two or three times to ignite burner."
On the second click, there was a flash. Not a little "Voomph!" noise that one associates with the start-up of a toasted cheese sandwich under the gas grille, but the "RAWER-OOMPH" of a titanic, high-orbit achieving rocket motor.
Molten wine glasses, red-hot cutlery and charcoal garlic bread disappeared upwards into the stratosphere with the speed and sudden all-embracing sound of the creation of a universe. A huge pillar of flame beckoned the last tardy Israelites out of the wilderness into comfortable suburbia. Dogs fifteen back gardens away were unaccountably singed of every vestige of winter fur. My standard spectacles were wonderously changed to a pair of trendy reaction lenses, matt blackened with a hint of Roy Orbison around the edges. My face was changed forever into a negative image of a racoon's.
The only things surviving were three salad leaves and the serviettes, the latter jauntily yellow for the recent easter season, they flapped down from on high like juandiced doves dispensing the holy spirit on 11 quaking apostles.
After a quiet, cold time Herself said:
"Do you want the wine now, or later?"
I said:
"Now would be good."
We drank wine.
From the bottle.
With the gas clylinder turned firmly off.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Debris falls in Ireland all the time

Further to the recent and ongoing volcanic eruption in Iceland, which has been of severe disruption to air travel over Britain and the northern part of Europe, reports have been coming in of cars in Ireland acquiring a fine coating of dust attributed to the distribution locally by strong northerly winds of fine particles from the event.

It is not unheard of for similar phenomena to be observed here. Some years back a particularly energetic dust storm in Africa resulted in red Sahara Desert sand being deposited in some areas.

My own neighbour reported only three or four years ago, a coating of pale dust on the bonnet of his car which we traced to the two Lithuanian men working a circular saw in my front garden. Indeed, the neighbour on the other side reported deposits of stones and topsoil on his car which investigations revealed had come from the operation of a tree-root shredding machine by a gobshite.

In February 2003, a piece of chewing gum from the space shuttle, Columbia, got stuck in my hair as I was passing through Tymon Park. This mirrored an earlier incident when I was 13 years old and my best friend was skewered by a red hot screwdriver that had fallen out of Skylab.

My father informed me that he saw at least two Cubans on the windshield of his Commer diesel lorry following the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.

His father maintained that a Filipino gentleman landed on his dung cart following the Taal volcano eruption in 1911.

The list goes on.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Isn't the weather great?

A bit of sunshine and all of female Ireland goes absolutely manic, like an anthill that got an unexpected kicking.

Lawnmowers are being beaten, screeching into life and bellowing to each other across back walls. There are multi-coloured looters in the garden centres. There are runs on Ladyshaves and strange wear on Hisself's good electric razor. Aul wans and young wans are digging through the wardrobes to find last year's skimpy teeshirts and slathering the Bisto onto milk white thighs. Old hounds that haven't stirred from contented kennels since last autumn are being hauled up roads and across parks by the neck. Sleepy aul lads and dopey young lads are gawking through bus windows at the strange Meccano set structures now visible through the clinging clothes of marching hoards of winter crazed stubbly womenfolk. The heat is savage. The air electric.

I'm staying out of it. Sure you'd be trampled!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Definite Liability

So then our home insurance renewal notice comes in and is chucked into a corner until there's nowt of interest on the telly. I'm sipping whiskey as I read how underinsured we are. Must do something about that. Then something catches my eye and whiskey is spat out onto the floor. I make an urgent telephone call.

"Hello, I'd like to change one part of our home insurance, please?"
"Okay, sir. Which part?"
"I'd like to change the death cover from the dog to two cats and a goldfish, please."
"You have €260 cover on the dog on the policy. But the dog is dead for years now and we never claimed. So I reckon two cats and a goldfish take up less space than a dog. So please cancel the dog cover and change it to cat and fish, please."
"Are they pedigree cats?"
"No. Definitely Heinz variety. One's a tabby and the other's black all over, if that's any help."
"And the fish?"
"Well it lives in a tank. Doesn't get out much. Definitely not risky."
"Er.... I'll have to speak with my supervisor."
"No problem. Oh, and the €3,000,000 public liability insurance?"
"What about it?"
"Would someone be able to make a claim on that if, say, the goldfish got out of its tank one day and fell on the floor and someone slid on it and hurt themselves?"
"I'm really not sure, sir. If I could just speak to my super...."
"Or, say, if the cat saw the fish on the floor? And on trying to pick it up the cat ran over and tripped someone up and they hurt themselves? Would they be able to make a claim for some of the €3,000,000?"
I could hear voices on the other end of the line, the kind made when someone is approaching the phone after being waved frantically over.
"If someone tripped on a cat, slid on a fish, hurt themselves... Could we or they claim for replacement fish cover, cat cover, and public libility cover? And what about the second cat?"
"We'll have to phone you back, sir."
They haven't, yet.
I don't think they have my number.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Just when we got used to the clock...

So, then the salesman informs us there's been a mix up and the car alarm won't be installed into our 2010 Nissan Note until next week.

"I suppose we'll just have to mind it until then," I say. So off we go, pushing occasional buttons and trying to get the windshield wipers to stop working.
At SuperValu, Herself goes in to buy some groceries while I mind the car from the passenger seat. I'm checking both side mirrors and the reflection in the passenger side window. It's a busy car park. A car drives right at me before swerving at the last minute into a space. I lower the window and start howling:
"Ahhh-rooo...! Ahhh-rooo! Ahhh-rooo...! Ahhh-rooo!"
Yer man from the car looks at me kind of funny.
"Sorry!" I say cheerfully. "Sensitive car alarm!"
The man walks off towards the shop, shaking his head. Herself appears at the shop door.
"Is everything alright?" she asks.
"Oh yes," I say. "Everything's fine. You carry on."
She goes back inside. I go: "Cheep! Cheep!" and return to my vigil.
A few seconds later, I'm off again:

"Ahhh-rooo...! Ahhh-rooo...! Ahhh-rooo...! Ahhh-rooo...!"
"What now?" Herself says. "I've lost my place in the queue!"
"Bit of a breeze came up. Rocked the car a little."
She goes back inside and I go: "Cheep! Cheep!"
Shortly, it's "Ahhh-rooo...! Ahhh-rooo...! Ahhh-rooo...! Ahhh-rooo...!" again.
Herself appears with a half-packed grocery bag.
"Woman looking at me funny."
"Cheep! Cheep!"
And then:
"Ahhh-rooo...! Ahhh-rooo...! Ahhh-rooo...! Ahhh-rooo..."
"I'm lonely.... Cheep! Cheep!"
It turns out to be cold and frosty after dark and we decide we'll risk the car on just the immobiliser for the night.
I couldn't find my thermos flask anyway.