To the North! Quickly!

If you have been paying attention to the newspapers, you will know that the world is in financial meltdown and we are all facing a future full of uncertainty and turnips. If you have been paying attention to the British newspapers, you will have noticed that in an effort to help out the economy, VAT is being cut by a whole two and a half percent.
Rather naturally, everybody is making sarcastic and hurtful comments about this munificent gesture. They clearly haven’t considered that if you spend a hundred pounds on a good or service, you will now also have enough money for a slap up tea at McDonalds on the way home. You’d think people could at least show a little gratitude.

Contrary to popular belief, there are some people who are hugely pleased by this economic development. The Irish.
It has been a long standing bone of contention that everything is more expensive in Ireland than in the UK. Every now and then, usually when there has been a slow news week, a journalist will draw up a shopping list which shows buying goods from Tesco in the Republic is oodles more expensive than buying them from Tesco in the North. They then set up a howling that it is like, totally unfair that they should like, make more profit in Ireland than in the North. I often feel like I am the only one who sees the flaw in the journalistic argument.

Now that the British VAT rate has been slashed, hoards of Irish are heading for the border to stock up on goodies for Christmas. You see, what is only a mere two and a half percent to you Brits is a mighty seven percent to us in VAT alone. Once you factor in the exchange rate, shopping in the North is around thirty percent cheaper than shopping in the Republic. I’m tempted to head that way myself, especially now petrol has fallen below a euro a litre. I filled the car up earlier and thought the pump was broken because it only let me put €20 in.

Of course, nothing is ever so simple. Only today, government ministers said we should all stop making a run for the border because doing our shopping in the UK is vastly unpatriotic. That tells you everything you will ever need to know about Irish politics.
Just in case it doesn’t, one of the Marys is in trouble because she spent $400 of taxpayers money on a wash and blow dry when she went to Florida with the FAS. I would say leave the poor woman alone; I’ve been to Florida and understand what its humid climes can do to wimpy European hair, but as she’s decided that actually they can’t afford to vaccinate girls against HPV (possibly because they spent all their money on the Florida trip) I instead say bring on the criticism.
If that still doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, the bloke who spent most of the Florida money on golf, manicures and exchanging his first class ticket for two business class ones (so his wife could go too) has resigned and, because of this, is no longer answerable to the people examining the expenses receipts. Brian, our leader, made a nice speech about what an honourable gesture resignation was. These Offaly boys will stick together.

Mammy Vs the Rozzers

If anybody were to ask me to provide them with a list of my faults, I would swiftly be able to draw up such a document. I freely admit to being an arrogant, self-righteous, know-it-all lick-arse who reads the Guardian if somebody else buys a copy. In addition to these things, I am also deeply vindictive. It takes a lot to get me annoyed but once I am there, I will wreak petty vengeance upon you in whatever way I can.
The origin of my vindictiveness is two-fold. For one, I am the youngest child and youngest children are always evil geniuses. The youngest child is never going to win a physical fight against an older sibling so they must instead use animal cunning and wide eyed innocence to cause maximum destruction.
For instance; my Cos has been enquiring of my Mammy what I would like for Christmas but as she has never bothered to send me anything for the previous 26, my thoughts on the offer are best left unrecorded. As it is bad manners to refuse a gift, I have formulated plans to ask for a donation to a charity instead. Because I am a vindictive cow, I will request a donation to be made to a charity whose work she disapproves of. There are just so many to choose from (and another part of the reason I don’t want anything from her).

The second cause of my vindictiveness is genetics. I have long known that Mammy is possessed of a belligerent streak. If you tell her not to do something, she will immediately do it just to show you she can. If you ever told her not to push a button because it would release a plague of Wombles, you’d better make sure you put away all of those everyday things you would normally leave behind first.
Mammy will also take on anybody who doesn’t do things Properly. It’s why I try not to let her go out on her own. She once took Gerry Adams on over a parking space. She won.

Anyway. My Great Aunt in North Wales has taken a tumble and has broken her arm. Concerned that she would end up in some God Forsaken NHS nursing home, Mammy has hastened over with He Who Knows Everything to help get her settled and sort out her legal papers which, as you may recall, are something of a concern to us.
The Aunt lent £5000 to a “friend”, W, who is now refusing to pay it back. Over the last couple of weeks, Mammy has spoken to W who promised she would begin paying it back at the rate of £50 a week. This payment has yet to materialise.

As she was in North Wales, Mammy arranged to meet with W and pin her down as to when my Aunt would get back the money she had been conned out of. Before she went, I offered Mammy lots of helpful advice. I told her to be like Jeremy Paxman.

Unsurprisingly, W never turned up for the pre-arranged meeting.

Mammy was undeterred.

A few questions to a cafĂ© owner later and knowledge of W’s location the following morning was secured. Apparently she would be working in the Charity shop in Rhyl.
Mammy went to the charity shop. Mammy told W what she thought of her. Mammy told the other people in the charity shop how surprised she was that W was allowed to work a till given that she was a thief and a liar. This did not go down well.
Mammy was asked to leave. She refused. She was asked, more pointedly, to leave. She refused. She was requested to take it outside.
W demanded they take it to the citizen’s advice bureau. Mammy offered her a lift.

Upon arriving at the CAB, W declined to speak. Mammy and HWKE explained the situation and outlined their future intentions. The CAB agreed they were progressing correctly and gave them the necessary forms to fill in.
Outside it had begun to rain so W was invited into HWKE’s dry car to have a chat and work things out. Many things were said. Mammy acted like Jeremy Paxman.
Eventually W claimed she was filing for bankruptcy. HWKE encouraged her to do so as it would enable my aunt to register as a creditor whose debts would be settled by W’s estate. W fell silent. She doesn’t appear to understand what bankruptcy actively means.
Eventually Mammy was told that if she returned to the Charity Shop at 4pm, W would have £100 for her.

Understanding that W is cunning, Mammy arrived early. She went into the shop to let W know she was waiting outside when she was ready. Mammy was surprised by how busy the shop was. She was also a little surprised by the way they were all staring at her. She returned to the car to wait.

Some time passed.

The people gathered at the Charity Shop window to stare at Mammy and HWKE.

A few moments later, Mammy was rather surprised to find 6 burly policemen running towards her; each bearing a firearm.

Checks were made on the car. The number plates were written down. The DVLA was contacted to check the vehicle history while the other Rozzers closed the high street and dealt with the paparazzo.*
While HWKE slowly went purple, Mammy began to laugh and chat up the good looking head Rozzer. He told her that if she went into the charity shop, he would arrest her for causing an affray.

Once it had been ascertained that they were not hardened crims attempting to undertake a dastardly plan, they were warned to stay away from W. They were not to see her, ring her, write to her or include her on their round-robin mailing list. If they did any of these things they would be thrown in jail forever.
Mammy asked the head Rozzer if he was going to charge W with wasting police time on account of herself and HWKE only being there in the first place because W had asked them to be.

The Rozzer said no.

Eventually they were declared free to go. Rhyl high street was re-opened and with a cheery wave to the still watching spectators, Mammy and He Who Knows Everything drove off into the sunset together.

* A gentleman from the Rhyl Journal who eventually decided the story wasn’t worth writing up.

Power: The Lack Thereof

In the normal world, that is to say the one outside of Ireland in which logic is used, things like electricity grids are built with more than one plug point on them. This enables men with high visibility jackets to do all sorts of complex things without putting half the county in the state all those carbon obsessives want us to live in at all times.

The first summer I lived in Ireland, every other Thursday I was treated to a power cut from 9am until 6pm. At first it was deeply annoying. By October I hated the ESB deeply. I still do.
The trouble with the loss of power is not just that everywhere is dark and you can’t have the heating on; when you live in a field as I do it also means a lack of water, which I rather carelessly require in order to live.
Here in rural Ireland we don’t bother with such modern conveniences such as mains water. We shun such highbrow technological inventions and opt for our own individual wells. If you are lucky this means pure, cool mineral water delivered fresh to your glass by the pump faeries. If you are unlucky (or me) it means geological based universal vindictiveness and a bloody expensive filtering system to get rid of the iron deposits.

Of course, we don’t just lose power when somebody intentionally turns it off because a new house needs connecting to the grid. We also lose power frequently because somebody has been messing with a JCB and has dug up some vital cabling. New Ross was out for an hour last week. At one point the ESB threatened a “name and shame” campaign against the most frequent offenders because Wexford Town was becoming permanently off.

We also lose power when there is a thunderstorm. Over the summer the power station got hit by lightning and everybody was off for hours. I lived in the UK for, oh gosh, ages and can’t remember there ever being a power cut because of a thunder storm. Have these Irish never heard of a lightning rod?
The other casualty of thunder over the summer was half the telephone exchange and my modem after a bolt to my own electricity pylon. Trust me when I say there is no worry like the worry of a computer telling you it had to shut down due to a Thermal Event.

Occasionally, we also lose power if there is a lot of rain, wind, snow, sun, cloud or pigeon. It isn’t just the electricity either. At a conservative estimate, my telephone has fallen over 87 times over the last 6 months because there was some rain and the wires in the exchange got a bit damp. When I call the nice people at BT, they either tell me there isn’t a problem or tell me to unplug everything from the sockets to allow the system to reset itself. I’ve given this one a lot of thought and decided it is technological guff to make me go away and stop bothering them. I don’t mind though. I like BT. I like them because they aren’t Eircom who are the greatest shore of langers you will ever deal with in you life.

Anyway. Today I had the pleasure of an enforced power cut. It was cold. It was dark. They didn’t reconnect me until an hour after they said they would. I was not happy.


Really keen readers will recall how, some time ago, Mammy purchased some rather minty wallpaper because it was hugely (and unaccountably) marked down in price. I had no intention of applying this stuff to the walls because it would not only blind me in the process but also blind anyone who stepped into the room thereafter.
As it is, I am unable to refuse Mammy anything so the last couple of weeks have been spent buying large amounts of paint from the shop, applying a small amount to the wall and deciding it isn’t what she wants after all. Sure, tester pots would make more sense but how am I supposed to make a decent dent in the ozone layer unless I’ve an excuse to drive to Waterford 8 times a week?

After much deliberation the choice was narrowed down to Putty or Contemporary. Putty was felt to be a little to dark. Contemporary was felt to be a little to yellow. In the end I made an executive decision and pumped for Contemporary as it would be easier to paint over when Mammy decided she didn’t like it.
Surprisingly, she has decided that she does like it. She has also, even more surprisingly, decided against the minty wallpaper and has gone for some rather elegant Laura Ashley beige stuff with flowers on. It all looks rather lovely.
Inspired by decorating success, Mammy has decided I’m painting and wallpapering the hall, stairs and landing as well as repainting all the woodwork in the entire house. Before Christmas.

Mammy thinks painting woodwork is the worst job in the entire building pantheon. This is because she has never been required to do any of the truly terrible jobs which are available. Plaster boarding ceilings is one which springs instantly to my mind. In an effort to spare me, she got a man in.

Putting home decorating in the hands of any Irishman is a dicey business. They are straightforward chaps who, if they know their job, will eventually get around to starting it. If they see a problem, they will ignore it and carry on. This is the Irish way.
As a foreigner, I appear to have different ideas as to how things should go. I would never regard knots as a feature of wood to be proudly displayed beneath thick orange varnish. I would never fit architrave before I tiled the floor and if I had made such a rudimentary mistake, I would not then slice all my tiles at angles and add extra grout to the gaps (as was done in a show-house up the road from me).

Still. There can be no doubt that the woodwork is painted. Everybody who looks at it will be very clear that it is indeed now covered in paint. Just the way the Irish like it.

It's only words

There are lots of words I don’t know the meaning of. Many of them I like to use in everyday conversation because they always sound most impressive. I reason that if I, who am very good looking and clever, do not know the meaning of a word it is unlikely that the person with whom I am speaking will either so I won’t be fetched up for lexicographic ignorance.
Even when I do know the meaning of a word, I will often grow confused by which word it is I actually mean. Daily I check the thesaurus to check if I mean loose or lose, bare or bear. Daily I rest my head in my hands and bewail my lack of education in these matters.

I’m sure my life would have turned out vastly differently if my school had taught us Latin. According to He Who Knows Everything (prior to splitting his head open and carelessly damaging his gravy nodes, natch) Latin nouns have 12 forms they can take. He could remember 2 of them; the subjective (the table is empty) and the declarative (O Table! Why are you empty?!).
I don’t understand what this means. The closest I ever got to grammar at school was chanting verb tables in French class. It’s all very well knowing the future pluperfect tense of the polite form of the verb To Wallpaper but it doesn’t do you much good if you aren’t sure what you are supposed to do with it. Anyway, I don’t know the future pluperfect tense of the polite form of the verb To Wallpaper because I didn’t used to pay any attention to the things I couldn’t grasp the point of learning. French was one of these things.

A word which annoys me greatly is “Holistic”. What on earth is that one supposed to mean? During the auditions for the X Factator there was a girl (who appeared to have nutted a sheep) who described herself as a Holistic vocal coach. When pressed, she explained she coached voices, holistically.
Strider does belly dancing (or Wobble Dancing as my perennially confused Mammy describes it) and in a fit of noseyness, I looked up her troupe. I was rather surprised to find the troupe leader uses the word Holistic quite a lot. She also appears to embrace the concept of the female goddess and notifies the importance of empowerment. I would love to know what Turks make of her ideas.

With some careful studying of The Journalists’ Friend and a dictionary, I have drawn the conclusion that anything done Holistically is obviously stupid and should be avoided at all costs. Holistic seems to be a catch all term for just about everything. What it actually means is consideration of the whole as oppose to consideration of its components (you see the Lego tower, not the individual bricks).
The trouble with the kind of people who use the word holistic to describe what they do is they always seem to have a bit-of-this-bit-of-that approach. They meditate balancing on their left kneecap in the traditions of Ayer Vedic medicine while chewing crushed beetle toenails (as the lost tribe of Roanoke were rumoured to do) and humming the greatest hits of Tony Christie. It’s picking the bits you enjoying doing from any one of a hundred belief systems and ignoring the rest. Am I the only one who sees that isn’t quite how it is supposed to go?
A person I vaguely knew once mentioned their cousin was a Buddhist and a Christian and didn’t understand why I pointed out the two belief systems were completely incompatible. You can’t decide to believe in the holy trinity and follow the 10 commandments but also believe you will be reborn according to your karma. Religion and belief are not a pick and mix counter.

It’s not the fault of these simple folk. They like to think they are exciting and different. They cry out to show the world how knowledgeable they are about things. They study far off lands and different cultures, believing they can find the Answer from these ancient peoples. I say that if the Ancients were really so smart they would have invented indoor plumbing. When was the last time you heard of the Romans being holistic?
We are all tiny insignificant specs in the cosmos. We have no power over the earth. Lay lines and pyramids will not sharpen blades. Gede will not inhabit our bodies. We affect nothing.
It is all so unspeakably beautiful and yet, so sad.

Still. There is an upside to this kind of lark.

Someone, somewhere is practising Holistic Morris Dancing. I am certain of it.

No sense, No Feeling

Last night, my father was rushed to hospital.

He is a sensitive sort of bloke, you see, and likes pottering about on the decking, hanging tubes of nuts around the place for the birds. He is keen to see them happy and full and the result is that we now have blue tits which resemble tennis balls and coal tits with serious aerodynamic issues. Rather unfortunately, due to the near constant rain we had all summer, the timber has become coated in a slick layer of moss and algae so when it gets wet, it’s like having our own skating rink.
You can see where I’m going with this.
As he plummeted downwards, he skilfully brought the back of his skull into forcible contact with a wooden chair hard enough to make him forget he had a cup of tea awaiting his attention. That’s pretty hard. He loves tea even more than I do.

He staggered into the kitchen where I was faffing about with raisins.
“I fell over.” He announced vaguely.
“Really? Are you okay?” I asked unsympathetically, my mind devoted wholly to my raisin based task.
“I hit my head on the chair. I feel really weird.”
I looked at him. “Maybe you should sit down.”
Mammy came in. She looked at him. “You’re bleeding.” She observed.
He touched the back of his head with a tentative finger. “Yes I am.” He agreed and sat down. “Cor, I don’t half feel weird.”

This is the point at which I decided I didn’t want to faff about with raisins any more and went to sit in the other room with my head between my knees.

We have a strict hierarchy when it comes to medical disaster in our house. If Strider is present, she takes charge. She was quite keen to be a paramedic in her youth and has all sorts of fancy St John’s Ambulance qualifications. Plus she gives blood so knows the best kinds of biscuits to eat in an emergency.
If Strider is not available, Mammy takes over. This is not always a good thing as her first reaction is either “What are you doing down there?” “If you get blood on the furnishings, I’ll kill you,” or “Stop moaning. You’ve got another one haven’t you?”
If Strider and Mammy are not available, He Who Knows Everything and I will mutely beg the other to take over the situation. He usually wins this because he has no morals and doesn’t care if people think he is a bad husband/father. My contribution will be smiling in a comforting manner with my eyes shut or, if I can get away with it, calling encouragement from the next room. If things get really bad, I will re-lace my shoes. Comfortingly, mind.

Mammy got him a tea towel to mop up the blood. “Sit there. Don’t move. Don’t get any on the chair. I’m going to ring the doctor.”
She rang the doctor who recommended He Who Knows Everything be taken to hospital immediately. She called me back into the kitchen.
“I’m taking your dad to Wexford. Don’t forget to take the pork out of the oven at ten past, alright?”
Aware of how serious a head injury can be, I attempted to be calm and supportive daughter to a Mammy in crisis. I failed.

I began pulling a chair out so I could sit down. At this, I also failed.

Still being pretty clear on which direction the floor lay in, I decided that the best course of action would be to have a bit of a lie down on it. Gravity, which was clearly feeling sorry for me, lent a hand.

There was a muttered oath and a hand slapping my face.

I opened my eyes to find Mammy shaking her head at me, clearly disappointed that her youngest was such a big girl’s blouse.
“You,” *gesticulating finger* “stay there. Make sure he,” *gesticulating finger* “doesn’t move. I’m going to put something warmer on. That hospital is freezing.”

While Mammy got changed, I lay helpfully on the floor offering comforting words to my father. At this, I failed.

“Will you stop rushing about quite so much?” my Dad said weakly upon her return, “I’ll be fine in ten minutes.”
“I don’t think you will Jon,” She replied serenely, “I can see your skull. Now go and get in the car. And don’t get blood on it.”

Anyway. Mammy got him to the hospital. He isn’t dead. He’s got six stitches in his scalp instead. I’ve got a bottle of Cognac (for the Christmas cake) that I managed not to pour straight down my throat. Instead I sat on the sofa eating honey, from the jar, with a spoon. But strictly in a medicinal way you understand.

Happy endings all around, then.

So much better when you're...

Glossy Magazines are the Anti-Christ. So are the Gossip rags. It is a well known fact* that the offices of Cosmopolitan are made up of concentric circles and if that isn’t a clue I don’t know what is. Think how many people at Heat magazine are named Adrian.

Even psychologists agree with me. They’ve done all sorts of tests on teenage girls (not the ones involving electricity, sadly) and have found that if you give them a copy of OK magazine and a cup of tea, by the time you come back they will all be deeply miserable and have the self esteem of kipper.
It stands to reason. Looking at pictures of people who are skinnier, happier, richer and more accomplished than you are makes you unhappy. Gloating over pictures of the aforementioned looking fat, depressed, poor and unemployed makes you feel a little better about your own miserable existence because look, it can happen to them too! Then you feel guilty for gloating and eat donuts. It’s a complex and self-defeating circle.
The relationship a woman has with her body is a complicated one. People other than me have expounded knowledgeably on this matter and drawn diagrams explaining why this is so, what causes it and how we should all spend a lot of money rectifying the matter. They long ago learned that we are all suckers who can be blinded by science and made to believe that the years of accumulated fat on our thighs can be magicked away with 18 applications a day of the faecal offerings of the Brioche bird of Vanuatu.

From time to time, the rags will champion a “normal” celebrity. This is the woman we can all aspire to be like because she is Just Like Us. Kate Winslet has always been the ultimate girl who was Just Like Us. We liked that she managed to get rescued from the Titanic by Ioan Griffudd. We liked that she tackled Serious roles. We liked that she was a little bit on the chunky side. We liked that she got narked by people photoshopping her legs.
Now though, there seems to be some sort of row about cellulite on her bottom. I’m not clear what it is all about. I’m not sure I want to. I’m not particularly interested in the presence, or otherwise, of dimples on the girl’s ever lovely rear.

Here is the thing; why are we expected to compare ourselves to these A list celebrities? More to the point, why are we supposed to feel annoyed if they lose weight, get digitally retouched or have some Botox?

I think we all spend far too much time trying to work out what we are “supposed” to look like. All these social networking pages don’t help. All they do is make you feel monumentally unattractive to large numbers of strangers.

Due to my unusually strict upbringing, my idea of what girls are supposed to look like was formed by the great classical works of art. This baby may have much back (as I believe popular parlance has it), but I never minded because so do all those nice ladies in the Titian paintings who have unaccountably lost their clothing. Having spent so much time not minding, I have trouble grasping the idea that I’m supposed to mind, except that I’m not because it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Or something.

There is probably some kind of useful lesson here.

* not actually a fact

Fun Conducted in the Designated Manner

Ever since the EU welcomed all those eastern bloc member states you previously didn’t know existed into her generous bureaucratic bosom, Ireland has become home to disproportionately large numbers of their citizens. Even my tiny local town of New Ross boasts two Eastern European grocers where one can buy Elk Jerky and the Polish edition of Playboy.
Some time ago, somebody who is in charge of this type of thing declared excitedly that the Poles, Lithuanians and Latvians (collectively) made the second largest immigrant group in Ireland. I could have told them that last May; didn’t they notice Ireland’s Eurovision scoring?
As part of this new excitement it was decided that to help these foreigners integrate better, a survey would be undertaken to find out what they did and didn’t like about living in Ireland. Obviously they didn’t want to bother asking the largest immigrant group because they’d say sensible things like “You are backward, propagandist, ignorant peasants who need to shape up, sort out your organised crime and stop pretending the British invaded you.”

Anyway, our survey said that something these immigrants disliked was the Irish emphasis on drinking when having a good time. This is also something I could have informed them about a long time ago.
If you go out in rural Ireland, you go to the pub. While in the pub you drink. At the end of the night you head home and park your car in a hedge.
As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t drink. It’s why I’m at home with my PC on a Friday night instead of out seducing the local estate agent (something you’d think he’d be a little more grateful about). When you don’t drink, there are few more unpleasant ways to spend an evening than in a pub paying extortionate amounts of money for a glass of juice and watching other people becoming slowly horizontal. Try it for yourselves and you’ll see what I mean. At least in UK pubs you can conduct a game of darts, skittles, dominos or any one of a thousand unexpected and pointless diversions (including stroking rabbits if you’re in the Freefolk area) but very few Irish pubs seem to bother with those facilities. Anyway, if you are in the pub it is to get drunk. Best they don’t have darts really.

I’ve mentioned this problem to many people over the years and they generally agree with me that it is terrible that there isn’t anything to do but drink. Then they wish me well and go to the pub.
I can’t blame them. There really isn’t anything to do. When the Boys were here and I was telling them all about the exciting things I was going to show them I listed a hill, a lighthouse, a headland and a field. Fortunately there was a cow in the field and they are especially weird children keen on healthy outdoor pursuits, so it wasn’t the most boring thing they’d ever experienced.

Sadly, I don’t think the drinking culture is ever going to change. In Ireland the pub is the centre of everything. Whenever anything happens, it happens down the pub. If you make a business deal, it’s in the pub. If you want an electrician, check the pub. Looking for some bloke to stab? He’s in the pub although his body will wash up downstream in a few days time.

Still. At least it means I’ve plenty of time to blog, eh?

Celebrate your cultural heritage: Burn a Catholic

Paying attention to the date can often prove a rewarding pastime and never more so than at this time of year. Tomorrow is the 5th of November and if you are British this means spending a jolly few hours of your evening setting light to things. Many of us these days are so keen on this leisure time activity we don’t bother to wait for its designated day instead flicking our lighters in the direction of any recently abandoned car or house occupied by people we don’t like very much.
Apart from burning things, November 5th offers unparallel opportunities for eating sausage sandwiches and making loud noises. Even the elitist intellectual class can join in the fun, reciting poetry to incite the rest of us to violence.

Guy Fawkes night is the British celebration of the foiling of a terrorist plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. It is marked by setting off fireworks and burning an effigy of a Catholic on the largest bonfire your local Chavs can manage to build for you. It also serves as a useful cull on the especially stupid who, having failed to pay proper attention during their chemistry lessons, do not realise what happens when a flame is applied to gunpowder and the inadvisability of throwing such lit devices at each other.

Back in my youth as well as in Enid Blyton novels, children were actively encouraged to build their own Guy and parade it about the town begging for money from strangers with an aim to purchasing explosive devices. It is how we got rid of our old clothes before we became obliged to donate them to afghani prostitutes.
These days such activities are banned by the Gods of Health and Safety and instead stern warnings are repeated in an emphatic manner; Do Not pick up sparklers in un-gloved hands; Do Not go near a firework once it has been lit; Keep pets indoors; Ensure you only have fun in the designated manner.
My Mammy, knowing my penchant for sitting upon lit barbeques and spending large segments of time wrapped in bandages and Clingfilm, always took such warnings to heart. We attended the IBM Hursley fireworks display with each of our feet carefully inserted in 2 pairs of socks, a black bin bag and a Wellington boot. I’m not sure what the bin bags were expected to achieve (except protect Strider from the snails which mysteriously made their home inside her pair of boots alone) but my Mammy remained convinced they would prevent our feet from growing cold and falling off in an untimely manner. To this day she will look anxiously out of the window and attempt to convince me they are a necessary aspect of my wardrobe.

In Ireland, of course, they do not have such things. They have bonfires on Halloween instead, annoying the fire brigade. I am told that bonfires are illegal and that should I even begin to think of lighting one, the environmental helicopter will swoop down on me from a great height and I will be thrown in prison more or less forever.

I do not care for such warnings and as the vicious Garda wolfhounds yank me to the ground will continue to insist it is only right and fair that I am allowed to observe the cultural traditions of my nation.
On the other hand the nights are pretty chilly and Silent Witness is on. Maybe just a Sausage sandwich and mug of tea instead.

In which Theo takes a holiday from being a Nice Girl and slags off her relatives

You may have noticed I don’t swear much. It’s because I’m a Nice Girl and Nice Girls shouldn’t swear but after I told the gas canister it was a fecking fecking bastard fecker, I realised this could no longer be held to be true. I realised that my Reputation was now in tatters and decided I may as well enjoy it while I still have invisible licence to behave in an entirely inappropriate manner.

As expected, my Canadian Great Aunt has become terminally delayed. I have looked up her obituary on the interweb and cannot decide whether to laugh, cry or head straight for a bottle of toilet duck. It is not difficult to spell my name correctly whatever your state of bereavement, dearest Cos, and it says a great deal that you refer to both Strider and myself by all of our Christian names. Meanwhile, my other Great Aunt who lives in North Wales (and who also remains unclear as to what my name actually is) has decided that now is the perfect time to bring chaos into our world.

A trait shared by my Great Aunts and my Cos is that they are (or were) selfish, emotionally manipulative people who see nothing beyond their own desires and who have no interest in you once they have gained what they want. I almost wish that I was the kind of person who could cut them from my life and refuse to have anything to do with any of them ever again but I can’t. At the end of the day, they are my family. You do not get a choice in that matter. Just because they are idiots who can’t see past the end of their own self-righteousness, it does not mean you get to be. And besides, I may one day require their kidneys.

My other Great Aunt, it transpires, has been conned out of five thousand pounds. I say conned but I’m being generous to her. She craves attention and tries to buy it from people believing that if she gives them money, they will allow her to go and live with them. The first time she did this she gave away eleven thousand pounds to a woman who sent her begging letters along the lines of “You’re the only person we can tell about our problems… please don’t tell anybody… you are our angel… your room is nearly ready for you, honestly it is…” The second time she did this she was convinced to put her house up for sale and had a buyer all lined up. Heaven knows what would have happened if she hadn’t got cold feet at the last minute.
She lies constantly about what she is doing and who she is with. She tries to cover up what is going on and gives different stories to everybody. Once when she came to stay with us for a short holiday, she went and registered at the surgery and told them she was coming to live with us. She sometimes books taxis using my mother’s maiden name, ostensibly because the taxi firm might have problems spelling her own name. While this is possibly true a) She lives in a small place and everybody knows her, they know how to spell her name and b) The taxi firm probably has a Pole working the switchboard by now, they will definitely be able to spell her name. One might ask why she doesn’t use her own maiden name. One wouldn’t get a reply but one can ask.
To an outsider, using the wrong name could be shrugged off as old person confusion. What cannot be shrugged off as old person confusion is the time she told a checkout monkey my mother was her daughter. She knows what she is doing. She is a fantasist and a liar. She is not a stupid woman but she would like you to believe she is. She cannot go anywhere in the country without needing a trip to the local A&E department (she speaks very highly of the one in York).
I know she has problems. I understand she is old. I am sure that many of you are frowning sympathetically and wondering why I don’t go a bit easier on her, this poor widow woman with no children of her own and her nearest relatives in a foreign country. I don’t go easier on her because every effort has been made to help her. She was led by hand through the courts to try and get her eleven thousand pounds back but, despite the court order, has never received any of it and refused to take any further action on the matter.
We have tried to get her into sheltered accommodation. We have tried to get her involved with clubs and schemes and anything going. She refuses to do any of it.
My Paternal Grandmother had a stroke when I was small. She was left almost totally blind. She had to relearn to walk. She had to relearn to talk. Nevertheless, she lived in her own house until the day she died. She was forever learning new things. She began writing short stories, a number of which found publishers. She fought every inch of the way and refused to give in to whatever hand her body dealt her.
I cannot have sympathy for my Great Aunt because she has everything but refuses to see that. All she can see is what she wants and creates ways to manipulate people into giving it to her in turn being manipulated out of everything she has left.

I never believed I hated my Great Aunt, my Cousin or my late Canadian Great Aunt. I always maintained that I hated what they did rather than them. I always maintained that if they wanted nothing to do with me without first acquainting themselves with my personal set of faults then that was their prerogative. I always maintained that I would do my best to help them if they required it from me. I always felt it would be the right thing to do. Words are so often easy though, aren’t they?
For all of her tears down the fibre optic cables, my Cos has so far coped better than she was expected to. The friends she claimed not to have are rallying round and her boss has become a pillar of understanding. I hope she can continue to do so.

I do not know the woman in the obituary. My mother was never her beloved niece.
All of those times when I could have done with an adult to take a little of the weight from me and none of them gave a damn. The only times I have had contact with them is the third hand of their crisis. I do not know the woman in the obituary and I do not know her daughter. There is nothing in me that wants to.

For now there is the vague plan that Cos will come over for Christmas. She may, she may not. It will be her own decision and one which, I very much doubt, will give any consideration to my Mammy’s desire to see the closest person she has to a sister.


There are many questions in this world which, frankly, do not get asked half enough in my opinion. The single most unasked question must surely be “My word, what is this marvellous place of comical whimsy?” Well fear not, good person! Such a question need not continue to not get asked because here is your answer!

This is A Trivial Blog For Serious People.

It is written by Theo (the girning bint on the right). She is Welsh but came to live in Ireland an increasing number of years ago for reasons that presumably made sense at the time. She describes herself as being “charmingly unattractive with slightly mad hair” and occupies her days being an artist, blogger, property developer, photographer, scribe and pedant.

This blog is concerned with whatever Theo can manage to form a mostly coherent sentence about. Occasionally it’s about the Arts; sometimes it’s her Opinion; often it’s about Thing Going Wrong.

Whatever tortuous chain of events led you here, know that you are very welcome. Theo hopes you enjoy your visit and see fit to return at some point in the unspecified future.
Please do not take things here too seriously. It’s only a trivial blog after all.

The legal bit

The body text and images used in this blog, unless otherwise stated, are the property of Theo and may not be republished for commercial use without permission. All views stated are Theo’s own.
If you have enjoyed this blog so much you would like to syndicate it elsewhere, please get in touch via electronic means (atrivialblog (at) gmail (dot) com) expressing your desires.
Theft of text or of images will not be tolerated. Theo is very good looking and clever; She WILL find out about it. Eventually.

All comments are welcomed. However, comments which are Racist, Sexist, Misogynistic, Homophobic, Excessively Profane, Spam or Bullying will be deleted as soon as I notice them. Likewise, the use of terms such as “Retarded” or “Gay” to express displeasure with something will earn you my unyielding contempt. Like Ringo, I say this to you with Peace and Love… Peace and Love…

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Due to various things, this blog is now on semi-permanent hiatus. If you would like to get in touch for any reason, please do via the email provided.