Day 33

Social Distancing

Last evening – and what a lovely evening it was – I took two of the resident teenagers for a walk. I am pretty sure it was the two male ones, but what with hairgate and all, it was not possible to be certain. One of them, the youngest one, had not been off the grounds of the estate since the complete failure that was St Patrick’s Day, 2020. (Note to government: we are due an extra St Patrick’s Day in 2021, at a date of our own choosing, as you cancelled this year’s one – we’ll let you know what date we choose in due time, but the Milky Bars are on you.) On the way into Toome, I pointed out the previously exercise-adverse culchies to him, scattered randomly on either side of the road (they vacate the middle of the road when they hear a car coming), and he was most amused at their antics: some of them have obviously not read the full manual on How To Walk yet and were swinging their arms in an exaggerated manner, or moving far more quickly than was sustainable over a long period of time, a lifetime, say. I may have to organise another evening class for the locals. Walking:101 to go alongside Parking:101 and Talking in an Intelligible Manner:101 in the suite of continuing learning opportunities I provide from what can only be described as the infinite depths of my munificence as landlord.

The ostensible purpose of our non-essential trip was to dispose of (some of) the evidence of the part-time wife’s new plan to empty my bank account, to wit, drinking more bottles of wine than an Andytown Five-a-Side Team on warm weather training in an all-inclusive in Magaluff. There is, indeed, a glass recycling ‘centre’ in Toome (the town is called Toome, by the way, not Toomebridge, despite that aberration appearing on some official road signs; as a hint, there was a habitation in this place BEFORE bridges had been invented – engage the communal brain cell and sort it out, civil servants!) although it has changed in the past four years or so from different receptacles for different colours of glass to a one-size fits all approach; the concept of distinguishing between the colours of their empty bottles of Buckfast was obviously beyond the cognitive powers of the locals. Dumbing-down again. I mean, in many ways, one gets hoi-polloi one deserves, doesn’t one? [Is there a definitive article missing there? – Ed.] (No there isn’t, hoi is a Greek definite article, you chube!  – me)

But, rather than try to squeeze the part-time wife’s admirable output of empty wine bottles into any of the already overflowing bins (another hint to civil servants: it is not sufficient to provide such community facilities for recycling; it is also imperative to schedule in emptying of same), our preferred method is to drive – quickly – through either of the housing estates infested with working-class culchie scum (the worst type of working-class scum, by the way) with the teenagers throwing empty bottles out of the windows of the car. There is a complicated scoring system in place for this game: ten points if your bottle reaches an outside wall of a house and smashes against it with a satisfying noise; fifteen points if it manages to hit and break a window of a house (thus creating even more glass to be recycled – a bonus for the environment); and a full fifty points if you can manage to break it over the head of a resident while driving past him. In yet another bonus to the whole Covid-19 rigmarole, residents are even less likely now to run out of their doors at the sound of breaking glass as they are not sure whether it is an essential journey. They are sure, however, that their neighbours will dob them into the police if they exit their house again at that time of the evening as the neighbours will have ticked in their log books that two expeditions have already been conducted from that house that day. This means that I can drive in a more relaxed manner through the dirty streets of the housing estates (there is a lot of broken glass about, for some reason), giving the teenagers more time to aim properly, and score more points. Points are exchangeable for sugar back at the ranch.

After the recycling, I dragged the two teenagers on a walk along my canal path, and quite an eventful walked it turned out to be. To my amazement, the teenagers seem to have regained the power of speech during the Kerfuffle as they chatted away like fluent English speakers both during the dander up to the mock castle at the edge of Lough Neagh and the amble back to the car at the historical remains of the first bridge over the Bann at Toome. I should qualify that: they chatted away to each other, intercourse with parents apparently still being illegal in Teenageville, Arizona (and if you are thinking of a different joke there, that is you own filthy mind doing it and I take no responsibility whatsoever for it; in fact, I wash my hands of the whole affair). But it is a start. Who knows, when this is all over (ie when they are twenty), maybe they will emerge as fully-functioning adults able to converse with cat and queen in an intelligible manner? Stranger things have happened. The British Government’s response to the Kerfuffle, for example.

The cat did not want to come on the walk. I asked her – in cat, a language I have been forced, by cats, to learn – but she prefers to do her own thing in terms of compulsory exercise and social isolation. And she completely rejects the ‘compuslory’ bit. She also objects to the colour of the lead I purchased for her at considerable expense as it clashes with her shimmering, grey, pedigree fur. In a quiet, chin-scratching moment one evening she explained to me as well, ‘Leads are really a dog thing, Phil, you know? Are you sure you’re all there?’

What with talking teenagers and walking culchies, I am not sure where I am these days.

Now do your exam from yesterday and send me the answers. If you have already done it, send it to all your mate(s) to do.

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