Things that make you go "Ngggggghhhhh"

For reasons best known only to themselves, a random person in Galway has recently taken it upon themselves to send me a number of messages in which they display astounding levels of pedantry (and if I find them too pedantic, imagine how bad they must be) and recommend that I consider how lucky I am not to be somewhere less fortunate. They also recommend that if I can’t take responses to my sarcastic comments then I should refrain from making any. It is very, very odd.

I’m not averse to comments. Quite often they are charming and far wittier than anything I could manage and for these I am pathetically grateful. It’s always nice to know I have achieved my aim of providing somebody with a brief and not unpleasant diversion from the more important things requiring their attentions.
Occasionally though, people feel the need to let me know that actually, Napoleon did not invade on a SW trajectory through Spain, it was a SSW trajectory and that if I don’t even know that I probably go out strangling kittens in my spare time. Upon receipt of such comments I usually let them be but this time, I foolishly forgot Rule One: Don’t Interact With Pedants.
Having swiftly realised that my correspondent may not have realised I was joking, I opted to explain and engaged in the rookie mistake of thinking that signing off a note with the words “Take Care” would indicate a matter was at a close. It turned out not to be.

I tried to be nice about it. In the interests of diplomacy, I apologised if they found my replies anything other than light and compounded my rookie errors by thinking that finishing a note with the words Please Do Not Contact Me Again would indicate that I did not want them to contact me again. In reply, I received the charming advice that if I did not want to be contacted by them then I should not make any more sweeping generalisations about Ireland.

My inner Dark Theo wants to name them them, provide an address where they can be contacted and publish their charming notes in full here. Sadly, such a move would be an abuse of the power I believe I have but which exists only in my head. Like my fifth rule of existence states, Just because Somebody is being a Jerk, it does Not make it okay for You to be.
Instead I must comfort myself with the thought that, should I require it, I have a lawyer who is so good at his job that a government once tried to kill him. Unfortunately, this thought is not much comfort so last night I did reply to them. It wasn’t the nicest thing I’ve ever done but strangely I don’t regret it as I normally do after I have done something a bit unkind. I feel good. I felt better still after blocking her from contacting me again.

The maddest thing of all is that the comment this person has taken umbrage with was made back in April. Somehow, they have worked it into their head that what I said is a slur on the whole Irish nation and its culture. While I frequently do slur the Irish nation and its culture, this was not one of the occasions when I had. The only reason I do not give the specifics of it here is because I don’t want to give anybody any indication of who this person is and where they can be contacted.
The whole situation has the air of “I’m sorry, who were you again?” I have no idea who they are of why they feel the need to keep badgering me. I’m sorry but I’m never going to stop and think to myself “Oh no, I’d better not write that, so-and-so might send me a note!”
Of course, there is every possibility that finding themselves unable to communicate in their usual manner they come here instead. Should they have done that, I hope that reading this over encourages them to stop wasting their time sending me notes and instead get on with their own life in peace. It is very bizarre to have somebody berating you over an issue you are slightly less interested in than Wimbledon.

Oh. Good. Vegetarians.

If I could cull a group of people from the face of the earth with a wave of my finger (and make no mistake about it, one day I will be able to. Science is working on it as we speak) I would have a difficult choice between homophobes, racists, neo-nazis, book burning small town far right Christian organisations and everybody on a fixed rate mortgage who needs to stop complaining and accept they made a bad decision.
However, if I was not required to consider the good that could be done to all of humanity with my cull and could make my decision based upon purely personal preferences, the group I would chose to cull would definitely be vegetarians.

Obviously, as a hippy and pinko liberal, I am obliged to respect everybody’s lifestyle choices and defend their right to make them. If you wish to exist on bean curd and lentils, please continue to do so. It would just make me a little happier if you could do it somewhere other than at my dining table.

You see, He Who Knows Everything’s sister and her husband have been over to see us. When I say “have been over to see us”, in real world language I mean “wanted a cheap holiday and knew they could stay with us for free”. I am not terribly enamoured of any of my relatives, as regular readers will know. My aunt is very boring and talks exclusively about the number 8 bus route in Birmingham. She has even given a book on the subject to He Who Knows Everything who was disproportionately thrilled by it.
She and her husband are also vegetarian. They eat eggs and cheese (vegetarian for preference) but not fish. This is rather unfortunate as I have a habit of adding greater or lesser amounts of Worcestershire Sauce to everything I cook.

I do not enjoy cooking. I can think of many better ways to spend an hour than over a hot stove and construct meals by picking a carbohydrate, adding a meat based product and boiling up anything green I can find lurking in the bottom of the salad drawer. It suits me just fine. Other people tend to avoid coming to my house for dinner but that also suits me just fine.

One of the major troubles with vegetarians is their habit of attempting to convert meat eaters to the cause. I have met one who doesn’t but his vegetarianism was a by product of his Buddhism and so does not count.
Mammy is still keen on getting some chickens but is somewhat put off by the prospect of maggots and the like. Any would be too much. At dinner, just as we meat eaters were tucking into some tasty poultry, Aunt, with the smug smile of one who feels she is about to win points for creating a convert, felt the need to point out we would no longer be able to eat chicken if we also kept them.
As it happens, she is wrong about this. I know where my meat comes from. It comes from the murdered carcass of an animal bred in outdoor based captivity whose only destiny is to provide me with protein. I am very comfortable with that.

The McCartney’s have also been attempting to turn us away from meat with their Meat Free Monday initiative. They are disguising it as a climate change drive but I suspect it may primarily be to drive up the sales of Linda McCartney ready meals sold to lazy flesh eaters like myself.
Although I have not looked it up to confirm my suspicions, I am comfortable asserting that any quotes about the like for like energy needs of beef verses lentils are deeply flawed. While cows do produce methane and are collectively farting the planet to death, growing lentils is not a carbon neutral exercise. Any crop has to be planted, sprayed, harvested and processed. Until a hybrid tractor is invented, this will involve petrol and other evil planet destroying things. Once lentils have been grown, they need to be shipped to from Canada to the rest of the world.
By contrast, my beef steak has been grown just up the road, slaughtered just up the road and sold in a shop just up the road.

Another point to consider is that the usefulness of a cow does not end with its iron providing taste sensation. Leather is a by-product of the beef industry. While walking around in wooden clogs may suit the warmer regions of the world, leather shoes are a must for a European winter. Can lentils give me footwear?
It isn’t as though a cow gets electrocuted and the bits we don’t want are thrown away: every single part of an animal is used for something. It’s true when they say the only part of a pig you can’t eat is the squeal.

It’s all very well holding press conferences about things but it doesn’t help that nobody thinks things through properly. I remember reading some time ago that recycling may be doing more harm than good because it used far more energy than creating things from scratch but nobody was quite sure because nobody had bothered to work it out.
I’m pleased that the McCartney family are raising awareness about climate change and attempting to come up with a simple and effective idea everybody can incorporate into their lives without too much difficulty. I would just be happier knowing that somebody, somewhere, had done the accurate maths to find out if it will actually help.

*in the style of Pheonix Wright* OBJECTION!

There are many tedious ways to spend an afternoon. It was decided that He Who Knows Everything should get to spend his in one of the most tedious ways we could think of: calculating water run off and how high a berm is needed to shield noise carried on a prevailing wind. You see, a planning application has been made near the farm and we have put in an objection.

The application defines itself with the rather vague description of “Driving School” but when you look at the planning map, what it shows is a giant track spread over 6 ha of farmland. Knowing of the applicants’ interest in rally driving, we are somewhat worried that they plan to also use it as a racing track. While I wouldn’t mind having a zoom around it myself, it is a mere 300m from our own property so you can understand why we are less than keen.
Of course, nothing can be kept secret in Ireland for very long and the applicants’ soon got wind of our intentions and decided to pay us a visit to dispel our fears on this matter. Unfortunately they didn’t realise they would be having this conversation with Mammy who cannot be fobbed off, who knows instinctively when somebody is telling porkpies and who was wearing a skimpy vest and no bra at the time.

According to the applicants, the Irish government has plans to bring in a law (in a few years, mind) that provisional licence holders will not be allowed to drive on a road without first having a number of lessons on a private track built for the purpose. This piece of information sounds stupid enough to be true. It is an idea so flawed that I can’t even be bothered to explain what is wrong with it. It’s up there with BNP leader Nick Griffin’s argument that barring non-whites membership to the BNP is only the same him not being able to join the Black Policeman’s Association (whites can join the BPA. If Mr Griffin is having problems with his application I imagine it is probably more due to his not actually being a policeman).
The applicants then went on to assure us that the driving school was for teaching children to drive. I don’t understand why anybody would pay money to have their 12 year old taught to drive a car, but there you go. Apparently, the reason they have a number of coach bays in their car park is so that coach loads of school children can arrive and be sent around the track with an instructor. Noise pollution would also not be an issue as there would only ever be two cars on the track at any one time.
All well and good you might think. Except for a number of things. If what the applicant says is true and the track is aimed at school age children, why isn’t there any kind of educational centre? The only buildings are an office and a garage. What exactly are the children who aren’t having a go on the track supposed to do? Sit in the coach? Also, why are there 63 car parking spaces and 3 formal coach bays? It is no wonder we are asking questions.

Having spoken with the applicants and disbelieved everything they told us, we went ahead and put in the objection. We were going to do it anyway but were spurred on by they fact that the applicants had gone to all of the neighbours and told them they had spoken to us and we were no longer going to be objecting. If what the applicants told us was true, why would they need to do that?

Unlike the UK where planning applications are decided by committee and it is possible for applicants and objectors to attend the meetings to know what is discussed, Irish planning applications are decided by one man who does not discuss anything with anybody and for whom brown envelopes full of money can be discretely left on the shelf outside his office door. It’s why the Waterford planning official was replaced.

As the applicants are multimillionaires and therefore capable of offering officials more money than we can, He Who Knows Everything has come up with a cunning plan. He has always wanted to be a sub-editor on the Sun newspaper and wants to write a press release for publication by anybody he thinks will print it. He has even come up with a headline: DEATH CRASH DRIVER PLANS DRIVING SCHOOL.

You see, last July one of the applicants was had up in court charged with death by dangerous driving. He was found guilty, fined €5000 and banned from driving for 5 years. Curiously, this ban does not appear to restrict him from competing in rallies.
The sentence seems particularly light when it is considered that the person killed was his wife and that the crash was a Porsche 911 which hit a wall at more than 142 km/h. The Garda were unable to test the blood alcohol level of the driver as he was sedated at the hospital and the testimony of the bar staff who had served him drinks all night was not sufficient testimony to charge the driver with drink driving. The unofficial (and scurrilous) version I hear is that his wife was the designated driver who was on the water all night but that her husband was drunk and wanted to show off to his mate (also in the car, barely hurt) how fast he could drive his brand new car.

Anyway. The objection is in. There is no way on this earth that the application can be put straight through without the planner addressing any of the points we have raised.

If it does, I will go and sit the applicant’s hedge with my camera until I get a photo of him driving while banned. That’ll learn him.

Lifestyle Jackets

Since spending an unfeasibly large amount of money on a DSLR camera, I have decided it would be best all around if I learned to use it and spent some time taking photographs of things. It would be terrible waste if it just sat in its jaunty case and got stroked occasionally.
Unfortunately, having taken photographs of things, it is then necessary to process them and convert them from RAW files to TIFFs or JPEGs so that they may be shown to people whom I know can be counted upon to look impressed. This does not include Mammy, by the way. She can only be counted upon to say “Oh Goodness, that’s brilliant. What is it?”
Of course, it is not necessary to shoot them in RAW format. I could just leave the camera switched to record JPEGs but as I am still not entirely clear on this whole White Balance and Exposure Meter nonsense, it is often necessary to adjust them using the rubbish software which came with the camera. In addition to being rubbish, the software manages to tie up all of my computer’s processing power for over half an hour while it attempts to load an image, then for another half an hour while it compresses and saves it. As a result the blog has been somewhat neglected.

Anyway. For some time I have been seeking a new jacket. When I say “some time”, I actually mean “since March before last”. At the moment I am sporting either a denim jacket which makes me look like a B*witched tribute act, or a leather jacket two sizes too big but which makes my hair look fantastic. The reason I have not been able to find a new jacket is due to being fat, fussy and full of hatred towards shopping.
If you are very thin, shopping must be wonderful. There are communal changing rooms to show off in and the reflected, envious gazes of the shop girls through the chink in the curtains which you can never manage to close fully. You can also waltz into any high street chain confident their clothes will go up to your size; unless you are really thin in which case you can be treated to the pleasant sound of “No, I’m sorry, we don’t go down to a 6.” Mind you, if you are a size 6, I would like to take a moment to beg you to go and eat some pie or something. Really. Being that thin is distinctly unhealthy. Plus, if you are size 6 and you have two matching sized friends, walking down the street together could bring about the apocalypse. You don’t want to be responsible for that now, do you?

Attempting to shop in my neck of the woods can also be a trial for other reasons.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have heard somebody (incidentally, often somebody of the male persuasion) complaining about the generic identity of the British high street. Go to Swindon and you could be in Coventry, Cambridge or Carlisle, they say. All the shops are the same, they wail and beg for some originality.
I live in a place with originality and, let me tell you with all my heart, it is terrible.

Wexford town has only a handful of chain stores but over the last few years they have been increasing in number. The majority of shops are still individually owned boutiques, which is a nice thought until you attempt to buy something from them.
You see, boutique owners do not sit in their backrooms running up haute couture garments. Twice a year they go to a trade show to buy clothing they think will sell in their shops. Many are the times I have had a proud shop owner tell me they source the clothing in Paris. Sourcing clothes in Paris doesn’t mean anything. Paris just happens to be a larger trade show than the Birmingham one and for the Irish it is easier because everything is already priced in Euro.

The trouble with shopping in an individual boutique is you become severely restricted in the language you can use to describe things. When a helpful Mammy holds up a garment for inspection, not even I can bring myself to say “Why would I want to spend €145 on something which looks as though it has been used to administer to a really sick bird?” Instead I will take a deep breath and search for something more neutral, such as “Gosh. That’s… interesting.”
It is at this point that the shop owner will leap forwards and start rifling through the rack looking for my size and forcibly herding me towards the changing rooms, grabbing other items as we go. It’s hard to tell people that you don’t want any, especially when their eyes are telling you that parting you from the contents of your purse is the only way their children are going eat tonight.

Happily, with the advent of the interweb and overseas postage, it is now possible to purchase items of apparel via my computer. It’s great. I can look at things while I drink tea. If I see something truly hideous I can call everybody around the screen for a chortle or share it with the email inboxes of chums. Some websites even offer the space to insert a droll comment with your sharing.
There is a downside though. Interweb shops do not try to sell you clothes; they try to sell you a lifestyle.

I am a sucker for a lifestyle. It must be because I don’t have one. I’ve tried to develop one in the past but then I realised that if I had a lifestyle, other people would begin using it to describe me. While I concede descriptions can be useful, more often they are misleading. Consider “Dark haired vegetarian who was christened a Catholic.” You could be describing Paul McCartney or Adolf Hitler.

The jacket I like is on the Boden website. Boden is a whole lifestyle choice in itself. The jacket I like is called the Photographer jacket and the instant I saw it I wanted it. It would look great with my camera. Unfortunately, I am confident it would look rubbish on me. It’s too boxy for a lady of my curves.
I also quite like the corduroy jacket they have. I was very tempted to a cord jacket from the M&S Per Una range last year, but hated the diamante buttons. This jacket has big wooden buttons on it. Big wooden buttons are good. I’m not very keen on the lifestyle it offers though. It is more of a drinking coffee lifestyle. I want an exciting lifestyle offering exotic locations and hunky girlfriendless rugby players.
If only they offered that on the Boden website.