Merry Christmas

It’s not that I’m a useless lazy wench incapable of organising my way out of a paper-bag let alone the biggest event of the year, but I must confess, I am not yet totally sorted out.
The trouble is, when you are standing at the top of the ladder at the top of a flight of stairs, turn around and see the 20 odd foot drop behind you, one becomes rather more concerned with not experiencing a messy death from height rather than making time to ice the Christmas cake. Having avoided the aforementioned, one becomes rather inclined to tea based reward rather than any of the hundred other things on the increasingly ominous To Do list.

However, Christmas is not about getting things done. I am a hippy and understand this. Not for me the last wild-eyed dash around the shops in commercial desperation; I am perfectly happy if I get the chance to just drink tea, heckle the Queen and give the Cat enough turkey to make her sit really still for a very long time.
Unfortunately other people are not so keen on this philosophy and insisted that I had to help He Who Knows Everything bring the tree in and then help Mammy and Strider decorate it. I offered a decorative stick but was rudely rebuffed.

They were quite right to insist of course. The tree is lovely and smells divine even if they did begin decorating it in my absence and went for a tasteful and colour co-ordinated look which was too late to change by the time I turned up to help.
Throughout our childhoods, Strider and I held a yearly battle over the Christmas tree scheme. She always wanted to do it tastefully in red and gold whereas I fought tooth and nail to have every decoration we owned placed upon it, including the naked plastic cherub with the satanic expression. In later years when we began buying a real tree, I would have the 4ft plastic one in my bedroom. The cat would spend all Christmas attempting to ascend it in the hope of destroying the jaunty pantyhose fairy on the top but I maintain repeated fallings over added to the Look.

Strider and Mammy rejected both my purple fluffy fairy lights and my white fluffy fairy lights. They have even rejected the Lights Which Do Things but this is probably down to my unfortunate habit of switching them to Caffeine-Overdose mode. Instead it is simple and elegant and won’t take 4 hours to remove everything once January rolls around. I am most disappointed.
They did, however, allow me to do the grand Switching On. Strider said that because I’ve done TV I am officially a Z list celebrity and that I should be glad of any gig I can get.

He Who Knows Everything is my only ally in rubbish Christmas decorativeness. He has stung some fairy lights in a tree near the fence. He said he was going to put them on the well-house but saw the tree and changed his mind.
I like them very much. If you squint really hard they look like a dislocated rabbit.

To all of you, my very best wishes for peace in your lives and happiness always. Where ever you are, whoever you are with, make your moments enjoyable.
Find the people you love and tell them so. Find something to love about the people you don’t. Let go of bad feelings and imagined slights. The benefit of the doubt can be given for free.
Extend your hearts to those in need. Preserve a space for yourself. Endeavour to do more even if you think you can not; you can do more than you imagine with a word or a gesture.

Show only the best of yourself to the world.

Nadolig Llawen, Happy Christmas

Give yourself something Nice this Christmas

There are many things my Mammy does which cause me mystification. Only today she was sorting the 18 identical white milk jugs which live in the back of the plates cupboard and putting them in a different cupboard. I didn’t ask her why she was bothering because I know from long experience she would have claimed she wanted everything to be sorted out “for Christmas.” I’m not convinced the 18 identical white milk jugs care which cupboard they spend the yuletide in but who am I to question the logical workings of Mammy’s head? Much less to ask her why she isn’t doing something that would actually prove useful and give me one less task to complete; putting the sofa covers in the washing machine for instance.

One thing in particular which causes total mystification is her habit of repeatedly leaving messages on other people’s answer phones.

I’ve never fully accepted the answer phone as a gadget which can be usefully inserted into my everyday life. Although I have one, more often than not unanswered calls get shunted to the mysterious Eircom mailbox which I haven’t set up to receive messages because I am unwilling to crowd my brain with the superfluous knowledge of how to do so. I have an answer phone which will do the job for free. In any case, my telephone is supplied by BT, not Eircom, hence the mysteriousness.
When I do receive a message it is usually delivered at speed and so garbled I am unable to tell whether I am being invited to join a civil war re-enactment society or sternly told to renew my car insurance. I don’t really want to set up devices to enable more confusion to be delivered into my life.

Mammy seems to enjoy leaving messages for people. When I was a student, I would regularly arrive home to find two messages from her on my answer phone, the second of which would be “I’ve just left a message on your mobile as well because you’re still not answering.” I never had the heart to tell her how irritating it was.
For all I know she believes that if you are away from your phone and a message is left for you, a bell will go off in your head and you will instantly become compelled to run to the phone, hear the message and return the call that instant. Then again, maybe that is how things are and I’ve just been left out of the loop.

Now that everybody has a mobile phone of course, we can all be instantly accessible to everybody else.
Let’s play a little game. I bet you the junk on the left hand side of my desk (a number of free DVDs from the half tree that is the Sunday papers and a comedy pen in the shape of a fish) that the first thing you do when you get back to your desk, car, wherever, is check your mobile phone for missed calls or received texts. I will also bet you the junk on the right hand side of my desk (a beetroot jar of miscellaneous screws and my last phone bill) that when you receive a text on your phone you immediately read it and reply to it even if you are in conversation with a person who is standing directly in front of you.
Worse is when you pick up the phone and a voice tells you they had a missed call from your number. Is everybody seized of a fear that something is happening they aren’t a part of? Do they not understand that if I care, I will ring them back at another time? It is forgivable in plumbers and the like because it is a business but the rest of you might like to reconsider before making that call.
I once received a phone call at 11:30pm on a Sunday evening from a woman who said she’d had a missed call from my number. I explained there must have been a mistake because I hadn’t made any calls that evening. She replied it had been from Saturday morning. I was too bewildered and frightened to shout at her, but at least I now know there are two kinds of phone calls which arrive without warning at unsociable hours.

It is all the fault of the interweb of course. Just about anybody can become a feature columnist and amass a following in Utah. When you are spewing drivel into the ether, it is easy to believe you are somebody jolly important who should definitely respond to all text messages the moment you receive them because otherwise society will collapse. Don’t even get me started on Twitter.

How about this instead? Why not give yourself the gift of unavailability?

I dare you all to try it. Learn to not check your phone until you are ready to. If you are in the middle of something and it rings, ignore it. It’s okay to do that, really it is.
We’ve become so obsessed as a society, maybe it’s time we all understood that missing a phone call isn’t going to cause terrible things to happen. If somebody can’t get hold of you, it isn’t a disaster. They will catch up with you later. Nothing is that important that it will irretrievably collapse because you failed to answer your phone or respond to a text the moment you received it.

Unless you’re waiting on a new kidney. Then it’s probably important.

Far too much to do

It may come as a surprise to virtually everybody, but I exist in a near constant state of having a lot to do. While it may look like I’m lying on the sofa with a mug of tea reading Douglas Coupland, I’m actually skilfully avoiding all of the very busy things I ought to be doing.

In case you didn’t realise, Christmas is next Thursday and because I’ve been so busy I slightly forgot. Ireland follows the same Christmas tradition as the UK; when the doors close on Christmas Eve they stay that way. Everything stops until after New Years when we re-emerge somewhat more rotund than before.

Part of the problem is that I have been theoretically preparing for Christmas for weeks and so failed to notice its impending arrival. I blame making a Christmas cake. When you spend two months poring brandy over an eight inch square brick on a weekly basis, you become so entrenched in routine you forget it is time to dig out the apricot jam and royal icing.

Being so fond of chaos, I have a very long list of Things to Do. This week alone I have to go to Dublin, go to Kilkenny, get my hair cut and go to a jolly soirée at the invitation of Pat the Farmer. I also have to paint the walls of the hall and of the upstairs landing.
Before I can paint the walls of the hall and of the upstairs landing, I have to paint the ceilings because otherwise it will make the whole room look tired. Before I can paint the ceiling in the hall, I have to rebuild the section of it I destroyed.

To be fair, it needed to come down anyway for complicated reasons involving bureaucracy and the hall was already covered in dust from sanding the woodwork and there was a crowbar handy and… well… things just followed a natural progression.

The trouble with decorating is that it is necessary to slot it in around all of the normal everyday things one is expected to do like cooking and shopping and all the rest of it. Being Christmas, one is also expected to make longs lists of necessary items and then go out and procure them. I’m just glad I managed to get the pickles sorted.

I’ve worked out that I need to get finished by Saturday at the latest so that I can have a clean and get the tree up on Sunday for when Strider claims to be arriving. Monday I will have to be tackling the ironing, cleaning the oven and sweeping the chimney. Tuesday I will be doing the final shop and baking for guests. Wednesday I will be slumped in a heap somewhere and feebly attempting to wrap presents before cleaning the house again.

There is one way I can get all of this done.

Omit sleep.

How Not To Vote

I think it was Tommy Tiernan who best summed up the Lisbon Treaty Referendum. He said he had been under the impression that there were two ways to vote: Yes or No. As it turned out, you could either vote Yes or you could vote We Can Do This As Many Times As You Like Until You Chose The Correct Answer.

Ireland is one of two countries in Europe who have yet to ratify the Treaty. The other is the Czech Republic and they said they’d sign if we did. The ratification of the Lisbon Treaty rests solely on Ireland’s shoulders. The peoples of Europe are right to be worried.
The Government are all for it. They would like nothing more than to waltz into Brussels and put their X on the line but unfortunately, they can’t. The ratification of the Lisbon treaty involves changing the constitution and the Government aren’t allowed to do that without a referendum. Their main problem is that when they had one, we all voted No.

Naturally, the Government were a little surprised by this. They immediately commissioned people who know about these things to find out why. It turns out that we were all worried that the Lisbon treaty would negate Ireland’s military neutrality, effect its taxation and legalise abortion. Even as I write, guarantees are being sought on these issues to placate the electorate in time for the next referendum when we will all be voting Yes (or else).

This is all nonsense of course. The people who know about these things didn’t bother to ask me what I thought of it all. It’s a shame because, as we all know, I have a great talent for telling people exactly where they are going wrong.

To be honest, I think it all began to go downhill when the bloke in charge of it mentioned he hadn’t actually read the thing. While I admire his honesty and enthusiasm for the project, it was not the best thing to mention to the electorate.
The Government pamphlet explaining what it was all about didn’t help either. I have mastered Calculus, The Perfect Victoria Sponge and Flat Pack Furniture Assembly but I couldn’t understand a word of it.
In some desperation I passed it on to He Who Knows Everything and begged him to explain it. He couldn’t.
With a growing sense of hopelessness the Yes campaign tried a new tactic: Voting No On Lisbon Will Embarrass Your Government In The Eyes Of Europe. I’m sure I am not alone in saying that I am more than comfortable with that.

I still don’t understand where the idea that Lisbon would legalise abortion comes from. I didn’t see it being used by the No campaigners. Maybe they were afraid it would strengthen the Yes vote.

Anyway. The Government has promised the EU that they will sort out the population, buy all the votes they can, explain things properly this time and secure ratification.

We may not be part of the EU much longer.

Dear Father Christmas

Dear Father Christmas,

This year I have given much thought to what I would like you to bring me. I suspect that even you are not immune to the credit crunch and so have kindly cut back on my superfluous desires. Rather wrenchingly have I crossed out a Sony SLR digital camera from the list on the grounds that it will give me something to buy if I win the lotto. Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City has also gone; as it is virtually the same game as one I already own, I will wait until I find a second hand copy at a bargain price.

Cutting back is just one example of what a kind and thoughtful girl I am. Throughout the year, I have remained good in accordance with our agreement; for instance, when the scary teenage boys and their father presented me with a framed photograph of their whole family as a “Thank you for allowing us to stay in your lovely home” present, I immediately displayed it in a prominent position upon my mantelpiece and did not shout “A photograph of your rubbish family? I wanted booze!”
I have also made a special effort not to tell certain people what I think of them, sometimes in the face of extreme provocation. I have encouraged Strider to be nice to our Cos because it will make Mammy happy. I have refrained from libelling people via the medium of interweb and have tried to understand the new rules of Rugby Union. I failed, but I tried.

This year I would like you to bring me a winning lotto ticket. Not a big one mind, five or six hundred euro in winnings will be fine. I would like to buy myself a Sony SLR digital camera. I promise to only use my powers of photography for good and not stalk minor Irish celebrities and their relatives.
I would also like to be able to eat lots and lots of chocolate and not gain shedloads of weight. This doesn’t have to be permanent, just for the few weeks over Christmas will be fine. Nobody likes a diet bore so really, you’d be doing lots of people a service by allowing me to eat all I want of peoples’ home baking. If the Karma Fairy objects, let the record show I am more than happy to accept this gift in the form of an overactive thyroid.
Finally, I would really like it if my soon to be visiting Cos could turn out not to be the racist, spoilt, selfish, emotionally ignorant cretin I fear her to be. If this turns out to be beyond your powers, please could you see your way to making the revelations of her character a little easier on my Mammy who is a kind hearted soul and doesn’t deserve any of it.

As a token of my thanks I will leave you some mince pies made with my special homemade mincemeat. You can leave in the stockings of children who have been Bad.

Lots of Love

Theo (Age 27)

P.S Don’t blame me for this. Ray D’arcy made me do it. He eats porridge and cares about road safety. Don’t be too harsh on him.

The Deadly Qualities of Pork

It is with great cheerfulness I greet the news that the porkers, with whom I have been carelessly stuffing myself over the last few months, have up to 200 times the safe limit of dioxins in them. My liver has been behaving impeccably of late and a threatening poison coursing through my digestion is just the thing I need to remind it I can take it down any time I like so it had better continue that way.

Anyway. The Irish Government has announced that all Irish pork products produced since September must be destroyed. They helpfully announced it at 7pm on Saturday, shortly before donning their coats and heading for the door shouting “See you Tuesday, lads!”
I’m quite impressed with the government. If I was in power, I would have kept it quiet and allowed natural selection to solve the unemployment crisis. In theory you’d end up with a country full of vegetarians but luckily the Irish don’t do vegetarianism. They think it’s ungodly.

The current thinking from the people who like to get to the bottom of these things is that the pig feed supplied to some of Ireland’s 400 pig farms was contaminated by PCB. I’m not entirely clear why all the pork is now being destroyed but what I have read translated in my head to the abattoir chaps saying “We have no idea which porker came from which farm.” It sounds stupid enough to be true but I shouldn’t quote me.

The destruction of all of this meat is having vast and unforeseen circumstances. Builders across the country are weeping openly at the loss of their breakfast rolls*. They aren’t getting any work done at all.

I am laughing of course. I have spotted that I can probably sell all the imported British sausage clogging up my freezer on ebay Ireland for some astronomical profit. If I was really enterprising, of course, I would nip over to Pembroke to buy supplies before doing a round of the pubs offering to hook people up with a nice chipolata.

On the other hand, maybe I won’t. I don’t want people to think I’m a rent boy.

* Note for foreigners: A Breakfast Roll is a fry up presented in roll form. It is the working man’s elevenses. As the song specifies it consists of 2 eggs, two sausage, two rashers of bacon, two pudding (one black one white). If you are hardcore, you also have beans.

The Cat Radiator

A trend has developed in my locale for seriously cold weather. I’ve had to defrost the car twice this week already and I’m pretty certain that the frost on the turning circle is still there from yesterday.
If it sounds like I’m complaining it is probably because I am. I am really cold and from the magnificent heavens blazing merrily overhead, I’m guessing tomorrow morning is going to be another white one.

This cold weather is, naturally, making me worry about the cat. She is very old and decrepit and her behaviour hints at a dislike of the cold. She likes to sit on the granite hearthstone with her nose three inches from the fire and gets cross when I move her even though I explain that the smell of burning cat hair is deeply unpleasant. Best not to ask how I know that, mind.
Once removed she will stretch out on the rug and bake her stomach instead. During the day she likes to sit in a patch of sunlight and watch the birds. I thought she was feeling the cold due to her advancing years but she is more than happy to spend as long as I will let her beneath the bird table, in freezing temperatures, with her mouth open. She also likes clambering on the terracotta pots to try and get at the coal tits. Then she likes falling off them.

Of course, for every problem there is a theoretical solution and I saw mine in the Vitenary. A Cat Radiator.
The idea is that of a cat bed which cunningly hooks over a radiator to provide a warm and secure sleeping place for your sick or aging cat. Many years ago when I had my first cat, Tickles (which wins me the porn-star name competition every time), she had one and loved it. She, however, wasn’t an anarchic psychopath.

I know from long experience that anything purchased for my cat with be sniffed and rejected. She is genuinely more excited by her Christmas present when it is still wrapped up. When she was a kitten she was bought a wicker cat basket to sleep in but wouldn’t go near it. Instead she would go and sleep in the wicker ironing basket. When I bought a DVD player, she came to watch me plugging it in, climbed into the box and stayed there permanently for 3 months. Then she got out and never went near it again but I had to leave it on the sitting room floor for a couple of weeks in case she changed her mind.
This is what my cat does. She finds somewhere she likes to sleep and takes up semi-permanent residence there for an undisclosed amount of time before deciding she wants to find somewhere better. At the moment it is on the blue cushion on the brown chair in the sunroom. She prefers the cushion to be on somebody’s lap and will prance and meow to try and get you to sit there.

Since the Cat Radiator is a sound idea, I’ve been trying to work out a way I can make one at home for nothing rather than spending a lot of money on something which will ultimately be rejected.
There are two main logistical difficulties. One is how to make something that will hang low enough to the ground for her to get in and out of easily. The other is how to make something strong enough to take her weight. Should I ever manage to come up with a viable design (possibly involving copper piping and my rather nifty blue pipe benders) there will be a third logistical difficulty: teaching the cat to understand the purpose of the object.

I may just let her stay cold.

A superfluity of Washing Powder

When one has a vitally important, home based activity occupying much of one’s time, the arrival of the post becomes a vital anchor in the day. There are few more enjoyable ways to procrastinate than checking to see if the post has come yet and, once it has come, opening it all and sorting it into Very Important Piles which need dealing with immediately. That done, you are allowed to have a cup of tea.
In my house, the post usually arrives mid afternoon just as I am growing bored and disheartened. Usefully, my post box is on the gate at the bottom of the drive but has no indicator of mail within, so if I grow really bored and disheartened I can take a short but bracing walk down the drive to check on it.

Last week, those nice people at Tesco sent me some helpful discount vouchers designed to save me money on things I already buy, as well as tempting me with offers for things they feel I might like to begin buying. It is an instructive insight into one’s life.
I, rather smugly it should be said, receive vouchers for fresh meat, fresh veg and posh bread. They are trying to tempt me with some Denny Delicious Traditional Pork Sausages. They won’t succeed. Irish sausages are awful. They are 8 to the pound. You can’t tell me that’s right.
Along with the discount vouchers, they provided me with four coupons, valid separately over a period of weeks, which give me €40 off if I spend €150. That’s a saving of just under 27% which is pretty good going. In addition to this, the last time I was in, the till roll spat out a voucher offering me €24 off if I spent €160. That’s only 15% but even so, you wouldn’t walk past it in the street would you?

Like all apparently generous offers, there was a catch. Each voucher could only be used in a single transaction and both ran out at the end of the week. Could I manage to spend €310 without wasting it on things I didn’t want or need? And, would I be able to break it down into two neat transactions once I reached the checkout? The challenge was on.

Clearly, this task was going to take a lot of thought. With my freezer full of imported British sausage, meat was off the list. Christmas calorific goodness would be a perfect way to get up to that magic number but if I bought it, would I be able to leave it unopened until then? Bottles of spirits for the festive revellers who descend upon me each year would easily achieve my magic figure but with He Who Knows Everything and Mammy in the UK, it makes far more economic sense for them to bring bottles back with them, thus avoiding the extortionate Irish tax on alcohol.
I would need to be canny and concentrate my purchasing on the Christmas goodness I wouldn’t want to open between now and then. Several jars of gherkins went into the trolley. They were joined by beetroot, ploughman’s pickle, red onion chutney, some red cabbage and Marmite. I dithered over the pickled onions. Should I grab a couple of jars, adding four euro to my total? Or should I leave this mediocre Irish brand on the shelf and have HWKE import some proper ones along with the Baileys? I imagined his happy face at Christmas teatime; turkey and beetroot sandwiches with a pickled onion on the side. I imagined him biting into the inferior Irish pickle and picked up the jar. I remembered the real meaning of Christmas and put it down again.

As €17.26 worth of preserved vegetables would be enough to see me and my family through a nuclear winter, I cleverly made my way to the toiletries aisle. 2 bottles each of shampoo and conditioner added another €30 to the total but did nothing to explain why, at that price, my hair still looks as it does.
Shower gel; facial wipes; mouthwash; toothpaste; the total was rising.
In desperation I went to find the bubble bath only to find it was on special offer and I could now save 43c. My heart sank.

The bread aisle was useless to me but I threw a wholemeal loaf in anyway. A couple of bags of sugar followed. I knew I would use it eventually.
In pasta and pasta sauces I stocked up on Tagliatelli and Coriander pesto. I’ve always had a theory that I could cook something really delicious with that stuff. 6 jars would be plenty to experiment with.
Tea and Coffee came to my rescue. I’d never realised how expensive the Twinings Assam is. Gleefully I built a wall of tea to separate the pickles from the pasta and bread. I headed down to mixers but was disappointed to find it was three for two on all Schweppes 1ltr bottles.

It was in the cleaning aisle that I really managed to load up. A giant box of Ariel at €18? I went for two. Firelighters? They’re always useful! Fabric conditioner, washing up liquid and bleach; all hideously expensive but all necessary at some time or another. In they went to the trolley.
I was somewhat foiled by the dishwasher tablets and toilet rolls. Both were on special offer but I purchased them anyway along with enough cat food to last the cat for as long as it takes her to decide that she hates Whiskers and wants Sheba instead. About 10 minutes then.

Gingerly I added up the rough tally I had been keeping. It wasn’t enough. What was there left that I could buy that would push my total up to the magic number?

Then it hit me.

I would buy some cheese.

It felt good as I scanned my items on the self-service checkout. The checkout minders gave me odd looks, clearly making a mental note not to accept any invitations to my place for dinner but I didn’t mind because the system works.

Pickle, anyone?

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 café 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…

Complaints? Questions?

Something to say? A question for Theo? Offers of moneys (All relatively stable currencies now accepted)? Why not get in touch?

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When Mediocre times go Bad in a significant fashion

At some point today, something is going to go wrong for you. It might be a small disaster, for instance putting some really noticeable dents in the front of your car because you failed to notice a small yet significant wall as you attempted to drive to the supermarket; or it might be a big disaster like running out of tea.
It therefore becomes necessary to learn how to deal with disaster in a calm and adult fashion so that when something untoward does occur, people don’t get the impression your hobby is doing Kate Bush impersonations.

I am rather lucky in that I was blessed with a Mammy who regards virtually anything as the end of the known universe. Ask her what she wants for dinner and she will end up with her head resting on the table, weeping quietly and saying that she doesn’t know but that she definitely doesn’t want any of the 18 things you’ve just suggested. This flair for melodrama is also present in Strider who has a tendency to huff grumpily and roll her eyes before shouting something about chavs and pikeys. It is also present in the local wildlife. Murders of crows flock overhead and caw balefully down at me whenever I venture from the house.
I have learned to be somewhat more laid back about things. I could spend my days getting annoyed by all the things that don’t happen as they are supposed to but when disaster occurs I find it far simpler just to deal with it. There is no point in shouting at people. It makes them unhappy and gives me a sore throat. What’s done is done, say I, just try not to do it again.

It also helps that I am deeply pessimistic. Whenever a disaster occurs, I can immediately think of lots of other things that could be going wrong and be grateful that they aren’t. So there’s a savage dog biting your leg? At least there’s only one of the little blighters! Your boyfriend has been having it away with your best friend? At least it wasn’t with a man named Clive! Your car appears to have been designed by Frank Gehry? At least it isn’t on fire! And so on.

Sometimes though, things happen about which nothing can be done. They cannot be fixed. They cannot be made to go away. Instead there is only the prospect of a future in which you strive to be strong enough for the people who can’t be strong for themselves.

I spent much of yesterday afternoon in the meat aisle of the supermarket looking confused. I spend so many of my days neither in the meat aisle nor looking confused, so it was nice to have a change. I also found myself reciting dialogue from 1984 in an effort to work out how many packets of sauce mix I needed. My list specified litres but the mix claims it makes a pint. Odd looks were sent in my direction.

The Boys who have been visiting think I’m a sad old wench but are too polite to say anything. I like to think they were impressed by my ability to crack walnuts with my bare hands (it’s all about technique and oblivion to pain). They weren’t but I like to think they were. They’ve gone off to Cork and Clare and will be back at the end of the week.

Anyway. My Great Aunt in Canada is imminently expected to become somewhat vitally challenged. There is nothing I can do for her.

Boys who come to Stay

Today is officially my favourite day of the year. Today is better than my birthday because I’m not required to feign enthusiasm about anything and it’s much better than Christmas because Strider isn’t here. Today is the day the clocks go back which means I get an extra hour to waste as I see fit.
This year I have chosen to spend my extra hour cleaning in a frenzied fashion. Do I know how to have a good time or what?

There is actually a reason for this. I have visitors coming to stay. I am terrified of my visitors. Two of them are teenage boys.
Logic says I shouldn’t be. Logic says that teenage boys, like woodlice, are far more scared of me than I am of them but I am not at home to Mr Logic and remain convinced that the woodlice are just waiting for an opportunity to strike. When we are all under the repellent wriggly legged rule of woodlouse overlords you’ll be sorry you didn’t listen to me on this matter.

The local teenage boys seem to have a fondness for standing on street corners in gangs, looking at old ladies in a menacing fashion and wearing worried expressions in the presence of nuns. They also seem to like having very bouffant hair. My visiting teenage Boys, if the pictures their father sent to my father are to be believed, like standing in a healthy outdoor setting gurning at somebody holding a digital camera.
The eldest is 14 and wishes to join the Air Force. Clearly a natty uniform and the ability to kill people from great heights are important to this boy. It’s probably best not to remind him that the last time we met he had a tantrum because his mother wouldn’t let him wear nail varnish. The younger is 12 and has red hair. That’s all I know.

I suppose my greatest fear is that the moment they arrive, I will suddenly transform into one of those sad Grown-Ups who wants to be Cool. Actually, I think my greatest fear is that the moment they arrive I will suddenly transform into a Grown-Up. I’ve never been a Grown-Up before. I’ve never been a Responsible Adult before. I’m usually the kind of person who has to bribe small children into not letting their mother know I’ve carelessly been allowing her first-born child to eat leaf mulch all afternoon.
Mammy seems to think I will pick up where I left off a decade ago and look after them both while the parents have a conversation in the other room (and so fail to have the time to get my A-Level Art coursework done and subsequently get shamed by the teacher when she shows my work to the entire class as a demonstration of how not to do it.) Mammy even suggested the Boys and I could play Resident Evil 4 but I’m afraid they’ll sneer at me for having a Wii. I’ve hidden my DS because it’s pink. They aren’t going to understand that it was an ironic gift; they’re just going to think I’m a girl.

I’ve been trying to remember what I was like when I was 14. Waistcoats seemed to feature heavily as I recall. And Stephen King novels. And The X-files. And babysitting children with stupid names.

The Anti-Conversationalist

When you are young and you don’t need anyone, making love is just for fun but eventually, those days are gone and you find that everything becomes much easier if you stop engaging with people who want to have a random conversation with you.

The trouble with me is that I am what is known in the trade as a Nice Girl. In my youth I felt obliged to politely converse with all who approached me. I would frequently be approached by old women at the bus station who, having pumped me for information regarding the number 86, would begin telling me about their grandchildren and offering me Werther’s Originals. On a train a slightly drunk and unpleasant man once tried to be my friend but rather than telling him where to get off for fear of appearing rude, I discretely moved my ring to a different finger and invented an imaginary fiancée. I also quietly reasoned that should I run into trouble of that nature, a ring on an appropriate finger would solidly back up my disinclination to his requests.
Now that I am older and my time is that much more expensive, I am far more comfortable offering politely dismissive smiles to those who feel the need to pass comment on the contents of my shopping trolley or on the amount of junk in the back of my car (although to be fair, there is a saucepan lid in there at present so I’m not surprised it gets mentioned.).
It’s nice that people feel I look approachable but, quite honestly, I don’t really want to have a conversation with whoever happens to be standing in line with me. I have a lot to think about and your talk of your small child, your latest lampshade acquisition or your gangrenous head simply distracts me and makes me late and unhappy. Sorry.

Unfortunately, life is such that there are some occasions upon which one is required to stand around with an alcoholic beverage making inane conversation with people you’ve only just met. For the unwary this can result in getting trapped in a corner with an old lady who wants to tell you in detail about her recent colostomy. It is therefore important to immediately assess everybody you come into contact with and decide whether or not a conversation with them will result in your brain leaking slowly from your ears in confusion so that you may politely extract yourself before that happens.

I was once at one of these shindigs when an old woman rambled up to me. She examined the glass of orange juice I was clutching.
“Don’t you drink?” she enquired.
I explained that such a thing was so.
“Are you an Alcoholic?” She asked in a loud voice causing several nearby people to look round.
After a carefully calculated pause I again responded in the negative and resisted the urge to tack something unkind to the end of my reply.
“Oh.” She nodded and carefully examined my waistline. “Are you Pregnant?”

I’m sure nobody could have blamed me if I had shoved the old bat out of the nearest window and swiftly emptied a bottle of Pims down my throat but Nice Girls have to smile and be pleasant especially in the face of provocation. Nice Girls are not even allowed to make pointed comments like “At the point at which it becomes your business, I’ll let you know.”

Anyway, it helped to prepare me for all the subsequent occasions upon which I’ve been asked if I’m an Alcoholic.

Ruder and Ruder Behavior

Old people. It seems like the world is full of them walking around slowly with sticks and taking drugs; drugs to keep them alive and healthy beyond the lifespan dictated for them by nature but nevertheless, still drugs. Just Say No kids.

Something you may have noticed about old people, apart from the chronic drug taking, is the way they enjoy complaining about how rude the younger generations are.
I was recently reading a list of things people found insufferable about the modern world. Everything you would expect was there: feet on seats, gum chewing, headphones with noise leaking out, shop assistants who serve you while having an animated conversation with their friends, all the usual malarkey. The one that really caught my eye was from the old gentleman who cited a general lack of respect from youngsters towards people of his age and a general lack of recognition of the time they gave Jerry what for.

I’m sure that most of us, at one time or another, have heard of or been subjected to the “You lot aren’t grateful for all we did for you during the war!” tirade from somebody old. I’ve a growing temptation to answer with a tirade of my own along the lines of “You lot aren’t grateful for all we’re doing for you in Iraq and Afghanistan!” That’s something old people never think of is it? Maybe they should start giving up seats on the bus to show how grateful they are to us lot. Where do their pensions come from, eh? Young people’s National Insurance payments, that’s where!

Perhaps the trouble is not a lack of respect, but a lack of pride. Maybe there is an expectation that I and my generation should be proud of what our parents or grandparents did during the war.
Only one of my grandparents fought in the war. The other lacked a full complement of legs so did something else instead but the grandfather who did was a Commando. He spent a week in a tank with a number of dead comrades unable to leave due to the shelling. When he did eventually get home there were medals. There was probably even jam for tea. Should I be proud that he endured that? Or should I hate that it had to happen at all?
My Great-Uncle was held in a Concentration camp. He was later held in a POW camp. Should I be proud of him? If he was alive today, should I respect him for fighting in the war? Even though he was conscripted into what is generally held to be the losing side?

I am thankful that I have never had to join an army. I disagree with war. I disagree with Iraq. It does not stop my thanks to them who do the things I will not so that I may hold such opinions. It does not stop my thoughts being with the families of the children who don’t come home, whichever side they are fighting on.

In the Land of Political Correctness

Due to a heavy combination of Soluble Panadol Max and Sudafed (remember, Just Say No kids), I am feeling somewhat better today. The grotesque throat pain I feared would turn into full blown pharyngitis has dissipated and my snot filled head is able to think with a little more clarity than yesterday. Thus, I now feel fit enough to complain about something.

If you, unlike me, have been watching Coronation Street recently you will be familiar with the dastardly Scot, Tony. You may even have chuckled quietly into your semi-warm beverage when he made a comment about the football team Rangers a couple of weeks ago. What you may not have noticed was the dodgy voice over edit job last week to get rid of a second Rangers joke due to the very small volume of complaints ITV received from Rangers fans over the first joke.
What an earth does it say about society that ITV felt the need to do that? I mean, aside from anything else, disliking Rangers is part of the character of Tony. Knowing that he supports Celtic gives us an insight into his background that we would otherwise not get. Are we suddenly not allowed to dislike anything in case there are people who are going to complain about it?

He Who Knows Everything tells the story of an occasion many years ago when he was writing the instruction manual for a computer program. The program in question transferred data but in order to not tie up the receiving computer, it would break the information down into chunks and send them one at a time so the receiving computer could still be used. To explain this in a way everybody could understand, the manual likened it to a grandmother taking her 18 grandchildren to the bank to make a deposit of their pocket money and the bank manager ordering them all to sit in the corner and approach one at a time so the other customers could also be served.
Following a single complaint that the example was sexist, it was changed to a monster taking children to the bank.
HWKE, in a move that proves him to be the genetic source of my own extreme pedantry, complains that it wasn’t sexist in the least because women live longer than men so it is far more likely a grandmother would take her grandchildren to the bank than a grandfather would.

How have we got to the point where we feel obliged to back down over every complaint? Where we can no longer say things in case somebody out there doesn’t like it? Why do we feel we have to take this seriously?

The way I look at it is this; somebody somewhere is feeling offended by something you have or have not said or done. Live with it.

The Right to die?

You who keep one eye close upon British news will be familiar with the story of Daniel James, a 23 year old Rugby player paralysed from the chest down who ended his life this week at a Swiss clinic. For the rest of you

I agree with euthanasia. If I ever develop a terminal illness or meet with something so destructive I should be required to spend the rest of my life hooked up to a machine, I wish to be switched off at the earliest opportunity and my organs handed to the needy. I do not, however, agree with this.

Still. It’s easy for me, isn’t it? I am very clever and good looking. I’ve not had my spine crushed in a rugby accident. I have a full set of limbs and a pulse. It’s easy for me to sit in judgement on this boy, isn’t it? I am not in constant pain. I do not require almost everything to be done for me by other people. I do not have to bear the guilt of being a millwheel around my parents’ necks for the rest of their natural lives. My career is not over. My hopes for the future are not dead. I can give love to those I care about. I can help others along my way. I am lucky because I am alive in this small moment and I am lucky because I believe I know what that means, although I could be wrong.

Does anybody have the right to suicide? These are, after all, our own lives. One’s own life is the only thing that we can be said to own completely. If we wish to end it for any reason, can it be said that it is our own business and our business alone? We can do as we please in our free time, what concern is it of anybody else? If it is what one wants, why not?

Doesn’t it seem simple when laid out like this? Doesn’t it seem logical? My life, my choice? It isn’t. It really isn’t.
Maybe you think to yourself, as Daniel James no doubt did, that you are doing other people a favour by taking yourself away from them. Maybe you envision yourself slumped Chatterton-like upon a couch. Maybe you have some Romantic notion that it is a good and noble thing. Maybe you just have so much noise in your head that you are thinking no further than how to make it stop.
Whatever you are thinking, please, don’t think that it is a good idea.

In this particular case, I have to wonder where the doctors were when he decided this was what he wanted and when his family decided to assist him. Anybody in that situation should be getting some kind of psychological support, as should his family. Anybody in that situation with two previous suicide attempts should have big red letters and alarms all over their medical files.
What happened when he became a danger to himself? Did they look at him with pity and think to themselves how glad they were it wasn’t them? Did they decide to let him have that last bit of dignity? Were they there at all?

It is the hardest thing in the world to ask for help. It is harder still to get it. The psychiatric services in the UK are hopelessly overstretched. The ones in Ireland are worse. Ireland has one of highest suicide rates in Europe and Wexford has the highest rate in Ireland. Most weeks the local rag will carry the story of somebody who died “suddenly”, as they put it.

If you are in a bad situation, please, don’t go there. Sometimes things happen. Eventually everything becomes a long time ago.

Keep yourselves safe and, if you need to talk, my inbox is always open.

The Wexford Festival of Good Singing and Cultural Stuff

When you think of Wexford you think of many things. For most of you, these things will be varying degrees of concern at your inability to think of anything to do with Wexford that doesn’t involve cheese. American Naval boffins will think of Commander Barry, the founder of the US Navy. Sports followers will launch into a chorus of an appropriate song and mutter uncharitable things about Kilkenny. The chronically confused will think “Ah yes, Wexford, that’s the county that looks like a partridge if you really squint”.
From the Opera buffs, however, there will be a protracted silence. That’s because they are all in Wexford for the World Famous Festival.

I will forgive you if you have never heard of it before now. I had never heard of it before I moved here and I am very good looking and clever. I will also forgive if you are now frowning in quiet bewilderment and/or saying aloud “What on earth is an opera festival doing in Wexford?” because I, too, expressed such sentiments when I first came across it. Eventually I concluded that, long ago, somebody decided opera would be a great way to relax the cows and increase the milk yields. Thus the festival was founded.
I’m not a great one for opera. Handel’s Messiah and Madame Butterfly are the only two I know properly but I like the former so much the phrase “despise-sed and reject-ted” has entered my personal lexicon of abstruse phraseology. If something goes wrong it is declared to be because I am despise-sed and reject-ted.
My opera education is not likely to be furthered by the presence of the World Famous Festival. They only seem to perform the most obscure operas known to man and, if the word from the street is to be believed, there usually turns out to be a reason for this previous obscurity.
This I do not mind because during the opera festival, other good things happen which I do know about and can appreciate. Art exhibitions.

For the duration of the festival, everywhere in the town and many of the environs there is some kind of exhibition on. The shear variety is astounding. From tinpot anaemic watercolour and garish oils of horses to Louis le Brocquy and Jack Yeats. To give a little perspective to you who don’t appreciate I am reaching Adam Hart-Davis levels of enthusiasm over this, it’s like going to Basingstoke and finding it’s full of Lichtenstein and Hockney. These are important artists.

Unfortunately, the presence of such illustrious works brings with it a breed of Irish folk I am keen to avoid. The Irish Nouveau Riche or, as I like to call them, The Iriche.
Being a Republic, the Irish do not recognise titles and the like. Unlike we Brits, they do not know their place. Instead they seem to have evolved a class system based around the amount of money one has. To show everybody else how much money you have, your hairdresser will make you look like a poodle that has spent too long in a wind tunnel and your personal fashion adviser will dress you in hallucinogenic tweed with extra shoulder pads. To complete the look, you must regard on people who are not part of your set with deep scorn and flick them from your path with your oversized handbag.
In a gallery they will be clustered around the work of the most famous artist while the gallery people fawn, barely stopping short of offering to chew their Atkins friendly hors d’oeuvres for them. The rest of us plebs must stand as a respectful distance and not interrupt even to, say, request a catalogue or purchase some Art ourselves. The Iriche may be a distinct minority but they certainly manage to leave an impact on a room.

In other news, I fear I am coming down with pharyngitus or however it is spelled. My throat feels as though it is filled with glass.

I also notice that a new gallery has opened in Wexford town. Rather bizarrely it is called the Jonathon Swift gallery. I have no idea what the Stena Fast Ferry has to do with visual art, but there you go.

Newspaper, Anyone?

As we are all such good chums, I feel I can admit to doing something I am deeply ashamed of. When I stopped for coffee at the services just outside Swansea on the way back to the Ferry Port, *whispers* I ended up reading the Daily Mail.

Briefly for foreigners; the Mail and the Express are the two papers which attempt to bridge the gap between broadsheet and tabloid. Thus they contain Serious News stories, such as the fine details of Guy and Madonna’s imminent divorce, as well as more light-hearted stories about the destruction of the world economy.
Please feel free to begin accusing me of intellectual snobbery… now.

I haven’t actually read the Mail regularly since I was a checkout monkey at Tesco. They didn’t put the broadsheets in the canteen for staff consumption. I would normally make a trenchant observation here but they were actually a good employer who ran a tight ship. This is not true of Tesco Ireland. Tesco Ireland is rubbish.
The problem I have with the Mail is its Middle Britain sensibilities. It ran an add campaign a couple of years ago trying to show it represented the ordinary Briton who worked hard and paid their taxes. I would hate to think of Britain as a nation of Daily Mail readers, I really would. At least the tabloids don’t take themselves seriously. The Daily Mail is like a tabloid that does.
To give you an example of what I mean, take one story I read in the paper on Monday.
Jeremy Clarkson was seen riding a motorcycle.
To understand why this is apparently relevant, the paper reminded us how outspoken Clarkson has been about motorcycles in the past. *gasp* He’s gone back on everything he said about them and is riding one! Good heavens! Watch out for the wolf eating the sun, chaps!
Now. I have a lot of respect for Jeremy Clarkson. He has always struck me as a bit of a grafter who clearly knows his stuff. I like his apparent integrity. If he ever turns out to be a shallow, lazy dolt I shall endeavour to hire his PR team immediately. If he wants to ride a motorcycle then he should be able to do so without a national newspaper smugly pointing out the disingenuously of the event or implying that he, or anybody else, should not be allowed to do something they have been vocal against in the past.
I am incredibly vocal against aubergines. If I should be struck with a blunt object and subsequently decide they are what I need to complete my future happiness, I hope nobody will feel the need to lecture me on the matter. Ditto gastric bands. I am really regretting all that Ikea cake.

Anyway. Yesterday was the budget over here. They normally have it at the end of the year but because they suddenly realised a couple of months ago that they actually didn’t have any money, the Brians decided to bring it forward. I bought a copy of the Irish Times so I could find out how much it was going to cost me. They keep the Irish tradition of inserting random photographs where they happen to have a gap so there was a picture of The Stig next to the grammatically confusing headline about job losses in Waterford and Kildare. Then again, maybe they know something about him that we don’t.
Petrol is up 8c a litre. VAT is up half a percent to 21.5%. It’s something like 50c on a bottle of wine and on 20 fags. €200 tax on second homes (although how they intend to track these down I don’t know. There aren’t actual addresses in rural Ireland. The only person who knows who lives where is the postie.). Income tax has increased either 1 or 2 percent depending on your income except they aren’t calling it Income tax. They have also incurred the wrath of the EU for borrowing more than the agreed percentage of the GDP.

They have also cut the amount of money being given to road safety. It would be nice to think this was going to be put into mental health services and suicide prevention instead but it isn’t.

The Wanderer Returns

I have long known that one of my less attractive traits is fixing people I have just met with a steely glare and exclaiming “What do you mean you’ve never been to Wales? Go now! It’s great!” If I am in particularly enthusiastically Welsh mood I may even offer to drive them to the ferry port that very instant. As this is on the interweb I can’t drive you anywhere but I can urge you to drop whatever you are doing and go to Wales the instant you finish reading this. It’s great.

In case you haven’t noticed my absence over the last ten days or so (and if not, why not?), I’ve been in Cardiff with Strider. Her flat is rather lovely. It is on the first floor and overlooks a church so I was able to sit in her bay window and watch two blokes (possibly) nicking the lead from the church roof without the aid of high visibility jackets.
One night some Chavs came and threw eggs at half the houses in the crescent including Strider’s so she spent three days complaining about having egg all over her window. I recommended Fairy Power Spray but knowing her it will be evolving into a new form of life before she gets around to scrubbing it off. She thinks they have a vendetta against her but I pointed out that she was not that special and that they would be unlikely to be able to pick her out of a line up. That went down marvellously, as you can imagine.
Interestingly, the Rozzers came to investigate the incident the following morning, presumably alerted by one of the other residents of the crescent. When the Chavs smashed Strider’s window in her old ground floor flat in an attempt to break in, it took almost a week for the Rozzers to turn up, most probably because Strider does not sport a Welsh accent. I still don’t know why they bothered smashing the glass. If they’d had a screwdriver they could have popped the pane out in one piece.

Anyway. I went to Ikea. I ate lots of Ikea cake. Then I felt sick. I walked through the park to see where I would end up. I ended up at Tesco. I then walked back along the Taff Trail in the hope reliving old times with the Llandaff flasher but he wasn’t there so maybe the Rozzers have finally caught up with him. I went in Marks and Spencer. I stood in the fruit and veg aisle and wept in gladness over the waxy potatoes. I purchased a lovely jumper which makes me look really unsexy but for me that is true of all clothes and even more so of nakedness. I ate Japanese food in the place near Strider’s. I ate much better Japanese food in the place near where I used to live. I coveted the Hello Kitty Dancing Geisha they have on the counter there. Good times were had by all.
Then I decided to branch out and went to Pwll Mawr. That’s Big Pit to the rest of you. You will note that it is not The Big Pit, merely Big Pit. It was the best time I have had in ages and totally free. If you are ever in South Wales, head up to Blaenafon. It’s a World Heritage Site. Like Bath.
It does have a very nice Modernist clock outside the Working Man’s Social Club.

Then I decided to take the car to the Newport Transporter Bridge for a treat as it is making even more odd noises (Possibly something to do with a wheel misalignment according to He Who Knows Everything. They’re all still attached. For now.). It is one of only 6 working transporter bridges left in the world. I’m not one for that type of architecture but it is a seriously magnificent piece of engineering. On your way back from Blaenafon, go to Newport and ride the Transporter bridge. Free on foot or 50p for a car. Bargain.

On the way back over I purchased a pen from the Ferry gift shop so I could do the crossword in the paper (or rather, so I could fail to do the crossword in the paper). It is green. It has a leprechaun on the top and a bubble wand inside it. When you write it lights up with a green light. It is the best £2 I have spent in years.

So. Go to Wales. It’s great.