Day 68

A wee lad on a big bike

Mind the Gap …

That there pic up there represents a double memory: first of all of the actual bicycle trip involved, which was the very first time I was allowed to take my penny farthing round the block; secondly of the fact that there was a photograph of the momentous event. I happened to come across the photograph during an archiving session late last night, and I thought that those of you reading this who are slightly related to me might find it amusing; friends might also enjoy seeing it; no loved-ones currently read this blog.

Youse can comment away there, but be aware that I have heard most of the jokes before. I will restrict my comments to things about the picture that no longer exist. First of all, that cyclist carefully steering his big brother’s bike in towards the crib to park it there no longer exists. I cannot remember the last time I was on a bike, but I am pretty certain it will turn out to have been the last time. Apart from cycling being beneath the dignity of a man of my advanced years, while I admit to once being pro-bike, I am now firmly in the anti-herds-of-cyclists-who-invade-my-narrow-country-roads-at-the-weekend-and-persist-in-riding-two-abreast-when-there-is-a-car-behind-them camp. The reasons should be obvious from the previous sentence, but it is also the ridiculous attire they wear that, for aesthetic and also philosophical reasons, gets my goat. Youse are not in le Tour de France, lads, and never will be (youse don’t take enough drugs to fit in) so there is no call for youse to be wearing the latest, most-expensive, aerodynamically-efficient kit in the most garish colours in the girls’ rainbow. Just go out on your bikes – if you must – in whatever you happen to be wearing before you get on your bike; it was good enough for your granda, and it is good enough for you too; and the only piece of fancy equipment you require is trouser clips, though you do not even need them as you could just stuff the ends of your trouser legs into your socks like your granda did. Also, if you must go out on your bike, do it up your own way and stop invading my personal country roads just because I have all the scenery.

Secondly, those two cars you see in the photograph no longer exist. The actual cars themselves, of course, but also the model or type of car. And weren’t they much nicer to look at than the monstrosities we drive around in now? Admire all those feminine curves in place of the square boxes we are supplied with nowadays, if you have a minute. Also note, either in passing or in staying, how well the cars fit the width of the street; neither is parked up on the footpath but there is still a wide enough gap between them for a double-decker bus to go by, never mind a wee lad on a tricycle. Why everyone nowadays thinks they require a vehicle the size and width of a mini-tank to drive from their house to the corner shop is beyond my ken. (Not that Ken, Question Girl; nothing is beyond that Ken.)

The lamppost no longer exists either, but, and here is the real point [at last! -Ed.], neither do the houses on the side of the street I am about to park the bike on. In my wittier moments, and I do have the odd one, I sometimes claim that they had to knock the houses down as they needed the bricks for the Peace Wall they built between the street I grew up on and the main road. Pretty witty that, I’m sure you’ll admit, but it highlights an extra problem writers from certain areas in Norn Iron have that do not affect writers from the real world. Whereas those other writers can dander around their childhood at their leisure in search of inspiration, noting down details they never noticed at the time in their wee notebooks to ensure the finished product has historical authenticity, me and my ilk are forced to have Joycean memory skills when we re-visit the past. Now I’ve told you before that the past does not exist, but in my case, for example, neither do the actual buildings: family home, primary school, corner shop where I witnessed the owner being shot – all either blown up, burnt out or dismantled to provide material for the Peace Wall industry.

It’s as well I have a good memory, isn’t it, Mal? Now, what was I saying? Oh yes, this guy here doesn’t exist anymore either. He took the picture, and he was my Da, among others. Here he is riding off into the sunset the year I was born.

Desmond Cummings, Wexford, 1964

And he is not even wearing expensive, aerodynamic riding clobber!


Day 67

Distant Blood Sports

“I doubt I’ve killed the Red Comyn.”

Also sprach Zarathustra. No, actually, it wasn’t him. It was Spiderman, aka Robert the Bruce, after the spineless wee Scot had betrayed one of my ancestors – inside a chapel, no less! One of his sycophantic hangers-on then went back into the chapel to finish off the job. I have never liked the Bruces since then, and they would need to look out for themselves. As me Ma used to say about Protestant discrimination against Catholics in Norn Iron and British Government atrocities in the same blighted place, “We can forgive, but we’ll never forget.” So, watch yourself, Bruces! That is fair warning, I feel.

I see now the pack of hounds (news and real) are baying for similar blood-letting concerning a distant relative of mine. (We are all distant relatives of each other, ultimately, but you know what I mean.) Now I have to state up front that I have a dog in this fight: a most important wager. Part-Time Wife, bless her, thinks the man with two surnames will have to resign; I reckon he is so covered in Teflon that he will survive. The prize for winning the bet for me is a bj: for the Part-Time Wife it is me not getting a bj, presumably, as she didnot specify. It is not altogether certain that she accepted the bet, or the forfeit, but hope springs eternal, don’t you know, so I shall be watching this morning’s news with mounting (Oh er, Missus!) excitement. Keep your fingers crossed for me. I’ll keep my legs crossed until the appropriate time.

As it happens, I have recently asked the secretary to rush off a letter to The Irish Times concerning sexual matters too. Should they not publish it, I will stick it up here to illustrate the errors of their judgement. The letter was not about the potential bj, but you will just have to wait to see what it was about. Oh, the antici … pation.

Sex is similar to eating out in a restaurant in that you should never order anything you can get at home. So, on my rare visits to brothels in various countries, I invariably shun the obvious Full Irish and opt for one of the more exotic items further down the menu. This tactic keeps both me and Part-Time Wife happy and satisfied, as I presume she is ordering something similarly unavailable at home on our visits to houses of ill-repute. Chicken ranches, as they are delightfully called in Donegal. Apparently, and unknown to us at the time, the daughters of one of the houses we stayed in at the Summer college to learn Irish had the exclusive franchise to provide visiting chicken ranch rights to Tory Island. Nobody told us! That would have saved us a lot of time wasted in dancing and chatting up and walking girls home in the pouring rain.

The whole manufactured news scandal about Mr Cummings and lockdown is not only manufactured, it is not even news to anyone with a titter of wit (completely different to a twitter of twat). In our saner moments, we all know that there is one rule for plebs and another one for our ruling elite. I mean, there have to be some perks available for the poor bastards who rule us or why else would they put themselves in that invidious position? And if they didn’t volunteer to rule us, we would, as we also recognise in our saner moments, be much worse off than we are now. So all this pretence today, the tearing of robes and the false outrage, is merely a temporary sideshow, more bread and circuses for the masses. (If they ever do bring back Masses, by the way, they should consider incorporating a bit more of the circus in the performance – they already have the Bread.) None of those currently screaming that everyone should obey the same rules really expects Mrs Windsor, for example, to get a bus to the airport and take her turn grabbing a seat on an Easy Jet flight the next time she decides she needs to go on a state visit to what used to be her country’s empire. And it is patently obvious that the higher echelons of the Catholic Church do not consider that rules of celibacy outside of marriage actually apply to them, while confirming to the great unwashed that they will burn in Hell if they ignore the same regulations. Twas ever thus, and ever thus will be. And you can quote me on that, or whoever actually said it first.

Because all this talk about how the World will be changed utterly after the Kerfuffle is mad-dog bullshite as well. The basic truths of the World do not change, and attempting to change them is about as useful an undertaking as swimming up a waterfall, or trying to teach a teenager something.

Day 66(6)

To Do

Do you have a To-Do List? If so, my strong advice is that you rip it up immediately.  In fact, put that at number 1 on your list. Not only is the act of actually writing out such a list a waste of your valueless time, the finished product can then be used in evidence against you, in a court of law in extremis, but also, and more dangerously and with more potential detriment to your mental health and well-being, in the court of matrimonial nagging. This last court sits at irregular times, but usually can be relied upon to make an appearance between the second and third glass of wine. Wee hint here for the men watching: try as hard as you can to hurry your wife through her third glass of wine and into the happy stage; those twenty minutes between her finishing the second one and deciding to set the World to rights while sipping at the third one, but doing too much talking to actually make any headway into the wine, are dangerous territory for you, and it is vital that you shorten the time she spends there. Use force-feeding if necessary.

My use of the terms ‘mental health’ and ‘well-being’ up there should be understood ironically, of course. I had no idea just how psychotic my employer deemed all its employees to be until the start of this Kerfuffle when we all upped sticks from the building we used to be encased in and started working from home. Excuse me for a minute here while I address those viewers who can speak Irish on a matter of linguistic urgency. Make a cup of coffee or something.

Anois, a fheara agus a bhean beir leat mo léine, cad é an frása a thagann chun cinn daoibhse lena chur in iúl nach in oifig lárnach a bheidh sibh ag obair inniu ach fá scread asail do bhur dtinteán féin? Déanaigí dearmad ar a bhfuil in NEID agus in FGB, le bhur dtoil, agus ná gabhaigí a chuartú Dineen ach oiread – i bhfad uainn an drochrud! Is minice ná a mhalairt a chluinim ó mo chomhghleacaithe leithéid, “Beidh mé ag obair ón bhaile amárach.” Ní túisce na focail sin as a mbéal, áfach, ná an cheist seo ó mo bhéal féin: cá fhad ón bhaile a bheidh tú ag obair, agus cá háit, go díreach? Agus bheadh ceist ar aon dul leis an cheann sin uaim dá ndéarfaidís gur ‘as baile’ a bheidís ag obair. Sa bhaile, nó ag baile, a bheidh an té ag obair. Imigí agus déanaigí amhlaidh.

That’s that cleared up, buíochas le Dia. Yeah, from the amount of emails on the subject of mental health during lockdown spamming my way from the Human Resources Department of my employer, one could not fail to get the impression that they consider we are all potential mentalists and constantly on the brink of losing it because of a few weeks not turning up in a central building at designated hours to complete our completely unnecessary and bureaucratic tasks. Or maybe the Human Resources Department has that opinion of us all the time, and when we all used to be herded into the work-pen, they were keeping us all under 9-5 surveillance because they thought we all might flip over the mental age at any point? Or maybe, just maybe – and stay with me on this one – the Human Resources Department has nothing to do, never has anything to do and should not actually exist at all apart from hiring and firing duties?

Because when they are not spamming me about mental health, they are spamming me about the latest crackpot, snake-oil con-job that is well-being. This seems now to have overtaken Mindfulness (please!) as the sine qua non of middle-class hobbies in the Western World (most of which is in the East, as I have pointed out before). And, no, I have no idea either why I am being so kind to our Latinly-challenged brethren this morning with all these free links instead of making them do their own research: maybe I got out of the wrong side of the bed today because yer woman was not in it again hogging all the good bits? Both well-being and mental health are to be properly classed as First World Problems, that is, not problems at all. Have you ever heard of any starving Ethiopians who were concerned about the detrimental effects on their mental health and well-being of the fact that they are starving to death in the latest capitalist-induced famine in their country? Come to think of it, have you ever heard of a lactose-intolerant Ethiopian?

Man: the only mammal to have developed one of its organs beyond his capacity to control it. But it is actually possible to control your brain: all it takes is a bit of work, and a good guru. For the special knockdown lockdown price of £14.97, I will send you my pamphlet on the subject, and then you can laugh in the face of mental health and well-being like the rest of us enlightened one(s). And, by the way, HumanResourceHeads, I am not now and never have been, a ‘human resource’: for a start, I am from Pluto, and for an end, I am a free man, not a resource for my employer to use up like a pen, or something.

But back to that to-do list. I actually do have a long list of things I have to do, but I never write it down, and I never do them. Often I will retrieve the list from the left-upper recess of my massive cranium where I store it for administrative purposes and examine the items on it one by one, as that is the only safe way of examining them. More often, this examination will leave me so knackered that it will be my only achievement that day, and will, more often than not, induce an immediate siesta followed by an afternoon nap and an early night. Occasionally, other inhabitants of the hacienda attempt to add to my private list, but, as it is a mental list, I brusquely invite them to get the fruck out of my personal head and close the door after them. At other times, they will gently enquire about one of the items they have been informed is actually on the list and that they have a personal interest in. Unfortunately for them, and for the task in question, this results in the task moving from whatever hypothetical position of priority it held on the list and going right to the bottom of the list, there to attempt to work itself up into a position where it actually features in any of my ruminations about the things I am not going to do that day. The residents have been informed countless times about this rule, but they never seem to remember it. Maybe they should write out a To-Do List and enscribe in their own blood at Number 1: Do not mention any of the things yer man said he would do sometime. That would keep everybody happy, in good mental health and well-beed.

Clothes? Tattered, Arthur Dent dressing gown all day until I have to get properly showered and dressed for the white tie event I am being forced to attend tonight.

Day 65

Postal Distancing


It’s the postmen, isn’t it? [Isn’t what? – Ed.]

It just struck me the other morning when the local version knocked the door and ran. He does that to indicate that he has left on the granite doorstep a delivery that is too big for the letterbox. The letterbox, although on the door, is in the wrong place, but that is because the front door was purchased without the requisite consultation with me first. It is way down at the bottom of the door, meaning the postman, or woman if he is a woman, has to bend way down to stuff letters through our door. I blame the designer of the door, obviously, who, equally obviously, must have some long-standing grudge against postmen, even if they are women. But I also blame the person from my immediate household who, in what can only be termed an act of blatant disobedience, went and ordered the door without running it past me first. (The image of Part-Time Wife running past me carrying a front door has just flashed into what remains of my mind, and tickled it.)

She has done similar things in the past, and surely there comes a time when even the most slow-witted of creatures should be expected to glean something from experience? In the Irish language, you can actually buy such experience; it is called ciall cheannaithe, but no one ever tells you where the shop is that sells it; I suppose the point is that you have to find that out for  yourself. So there is a strimmer on wheels (wtf! is right) lying rusting in my shed, along with a toaster that was the ‘wrong’ colour (your guess is as good as mine) and a slow cooker (if I wanted my cooking done slowly, I would not have sacked the Venezuelan chef, whose idea of a quick fry-up had to be timed to be believed, and eaten about four hours after he started on the job). None of these are plugged in, by the way, as I do not permit electricity into the shed: it has enough free reign in the rest of the World without barging into my personal space. The toaster that was the ‘wrong’ colour was actually purchased by me, but apparently on this particular occasion I should have pre-OKayed [that is not word, never mind a verb! -Ed.] (Is it not? Look it up) that purchase with Part-Time Wife. It seems that there would have been some deficiency in the quality of the toast produced by said machine as it did not match her highly co-ordinated colour scheme for the country-kitchen-style country kitchen. The other items (purchased by her without my say-so) are bound for the dump whenever that chore gets to the top of my endless list of things to do, but the toaster is staying: it works perfectly well, and once your woman is out of my hair and heading for her peaty bed, I will whip it out immediately and plug it in beside the other one and they can fight it out between themselves for survival. There will be a lot of toast to make at that wake, and both of them will have their work cut out for them to satisfy demand.

Practically has always been my watchword when it comes to aesthetics and interior design, and as I am slightly colourblind, I would not give a fiddler’s were this keyboard bright pink so long as it worked. If you asked me now what colour the walls in my walk-in wardrobe are, any answer would only be a guess even though I left it not five minutes ago having dressed in my Superman Outfit for dress-down Friday, and the guess would only involve primary colours as they are the only ones that exist for men. Whatever the Hell shade taupe is will forever remain a mystery to half of the World’s population as the only colours available to us are those available in the rainbow.

Speaking of Horslips, I must give Barry Devlin a ring. [What is the point? You know by now what he is like – Ed.] In this here song, he has the line “ignorant of rainbows”, and I need at some point to contact him about it to a) ask his permission to use it as the title of my fourth novel, and b) find out what he was smoking at the time he came up with it and what he thought the line meant then. That fourth novel is proving tricky to pin down. Not only do I have neither characters nor plot for it – all I have is the title, really – I have not yet written novels two and three, so the fourth novel is, justifiably in its eyes, dragging its heels a bit and refusing to buckle down to work until the matter acquires a little more urgency in the temporal sphere. (Is Time actually a sphere? I must check with Toilets; I always assumed it was elliptical, or a double helix. I see the Brits are at it again in that link: what in bejaysus is an ‘American-English poet’? Someone who writes poetry in American English one would presume, which Toilets didn’t. Instead it is yet another pathetic attempt by The Empire to claim for itself people born in other countries.)

But, yeah, the postmen. It struck me [did you strike it back? – Ed.] like the end of all our wanderings that it’s the postmen who are the weakest link. More sinister still, it is the postmen, especially the female ones, who are actually distributing covid-19 throughout the community, along with the letters. Actually on the letters. The picture above shows one such postman in the very act of killing a cocooned pensioner. No one I know has been disinfecting their mail for the past 65 days (although some have been disinfecting their male, to give them their Jew) so it is glaringly, blindingly obvious that the postmen have been the super-spreaders. I will have to phone up Leo about this, and tell him to let everyone else out of solitary confinement but to lock up fir an phoist, go háirithe más mná iad.

The postmen definitely have the opportunity for this crime against the public. As for their motive … I will work on that for the next day. Surely they are not that angry about a couple of dog bites?


Day 64

Query Boy’s Questionable Post

How many times have I told him that I am not going to write a guest post for him? It wouldn’t be fair for me to show him up on his home pitch with my superior wit and more accurate heading ability, would it? Does anyone know any lawyers? [They usually stay in their own company – Ed.] Because is this, what is happening right now, namely him writing a blog in my voice but without my permission, not a flagrant breach of my intellectual property rights? [If you can get your head around that, you are a better man than me, Gunga Din – Ed.] Surely, even as a fictitious character based loosely on a real person, I have rights, and those rights are defensible in a court of law, and compensatable, if that is even a word? [It is now – Ed.]

Why do I even hang about with him anymore? Sure, at the start, it was a bit of fun to have a wrinkly acquaintance to show off to my contemporaries, but now, is it not getting a bit old? [Ho ho – Ed.] And is there one of my actual friends that he has not annoyed with his arrogant, condescending attitude? Will I answer that rhetorical question, just for the laugh, and to annoy his semantic sensibilities? No, and if you need to know why not, will the lyrics of this song help?

Ná déan nós is ná bris nós – isn’t that the most valuable piece of advice in the whole of the Irish language? So, while I am pretty sure that I have already gleaned off him everything he knows about the Irish language, what if he is hiding some more esoteric nuggets up the sleeves of his disgusting dressing gown? Can I forego the possibility of gaining access to them? And when is McDonald’s going to open again? [Do some research, kid, would ya? – Ed.] Does that happen to you, too? Any time the word ‘nugget’ appears in a sentence, can you stop yourself salivating and thinking about Chicken McNuggets? Are you a better man than Gunga Din if you can?

An bhfuil sé fíor, fiú, go gcuirim a lán ceisteanna? An gcuirim níos mó ceisteanna ná an gnáthdhuine? Cad is gnáthdhuine ann, cibé ar bith? Nach amhlaidh go bhfuil achan mac máthar againn uathúil eisceachtúil, agus, dá bharr, nach bhfuil a leithéid de neach ann agus gnáthdhuine? Cá bhfios? Cad chuige nach bpléitear ceisteanna mar seo ag an bhunscoil? Nach bhfuil sé i bhfad rómhall tabhairt fúthu ag an ollscoil, agus achan iníon athar dearfa cinnte faoin am sin nach bhfuil eolas ar bith fiúntach ag duine ar bith eile? An leor seo mar bhlaist Ghaeilge, nó an bhfuil tuilleadh uaibh?

Where will it end? Toome, probably, (pun included free of charge) but when? Not soon enough is the only honest answer, don’t you think? And do you think? Ever? If you do, isn’t it about time you stopped? Has it ever got you anywhere? Why do Mexicans think the past participle of the verb ‘get’ is ‘gotten’? Do they actually believe they live in America and so must follow the linguistics norms of that country while following the sporting teams of the island to their immediate right?

Will the end of all our questioning be to return to where we came from but to know it for the first time? I doubt it, don’t you? Are the true paradises the paradises that have been lost? Who knows? Not me, certainly, and if yer Man knows, will he impart the knowledge before he croaks it? How many cigarettes can one man smoke in one day without dying? [42 – Ed.] Will I miss him when he is gone, and only then realise the privilege of having had access to a fine mind as it was in the process of crumbling?


Day 63

Hell in a Handcart

During our scheduled, Saturday-evening debating competitions, Part-Time Wife often poses the question as to when the liberals (who are only liberal if you agree with everything they say) will concoct some event that is so completely ludicrous and self-contradictory that they will realise the absurdity of their campaign and self-implode in a puff of logic. With admirable urbanity, I usually take a puff on my cigar to allow a sufficient pause to underline my subsequent assertion that this ground zero moment has already happened. I refer my learned colleague to this article as proof positive that it is too late: the World has already gone to Hell in a handcart. Take a while to read it there; I have to get the espresso pot going on the stove and find out where Part-Time Wife spent the night in case she wants a cup of tea or something.

Our weekly, scheduled debating competitions, by the way, are quite separate, and different in nature, to our daily, impromptu arguments. The family that fights together, stays together, I always say. Usually during a fight when one party is threatening to leave home. While the weekly debate has a set topic that is released a day in advance to the participants in order to allow them to marshal their ideas and opinions on the subject, the daily arguments can be about any matter under the Sun, and participants are forced to come up with thrusts and counter-thrusts completely off the top of their heads. I have a decided advantage in this, obviously, as I have a bigger head, and there are, therefore, more caustic remarks and devastating put-downs just queuing up there on its horizontal top surface waiting to be put to good use. Also, while the Saturday debate has fixed start and end times, the daily disputes can rumble on interminably, sometimes even extending into the next day and becoming entangled in that day’s point of dispute. I keep trying to impress on Part-Time Wife the validity of TS Eliot’s contention in Four Quartets that neither time future nor time past actually exist, but she is very resistant to this notion. Thus at a five minute remove from some egregious crime of mine – not putting the wet towel in the correct drying place, not having done last night’s dishes yet, neglecting to feed the children yesterday; the list is (seemingly) endless – I will advise Part-Time Wife to move on, that the event is now undeniably in the past, and, as such, does not exist now if it ever existed at all. She is having none of that, but then again, I have often suspected that all women are secret time travellers and can, at the drop of a hat, not only pluck some obscure comment or action out of its mists, but actually relive the emotions caused by the distant occurrence in such a way as to make them present, and relevant, in the present. Some trick that, and NASA should look into it.

Have you read that article yet? Now the French, God love them, have an historical association with absurdity due to Albert Camus and the Existentials (great band, that), but that news story in the article not only takes the biscuit, it smashes it into smithereens, spits it out on the ground and tramples on it with a hob-nailed boot. Forget about the whole gay marriage aspect of the story, that is not my beef (today). Here we have a state ceremony to honour a fallen policeman of the state murdered by the muslim attack on the Champs Élysées. The ceremony is of such importance nationally that both the French President and the Mayor of Paris are in attendance. So far so good. But, and it is quite a big but, the actual ceremony is a marriage in which the dead policeman (and please note the adjective there before the noun) is married, posthumously obviously, to his boyfriend. Whatever about the insanity of live people voluntarily entering themselves for life into the institution known as marriage, to extend the madness to perfectly innocent dead people is into the realms of science-fiction, and we know how mad that is. What next? I have always fancied Marilyn Munroe a bit: can I jump on a plane to France, give the Pres a quick invite on the phone, rock up at the Paris Town Hall and knock on the Mayor’s door and ask him to hurry up and marry me to Ms Munroe as I have a plane to catch back to the hacienda where I have a special room prepared for her rotting corpse and the first night nuptials? If not, why not, given that gay people are running around France marrying dead policemen like they are going out of business? Is it because I is straight?

Anyway, up to yet, as Ron Atkinson used to say as further demonstration that the first language of most English soccer commentators is not English, that incident in France was my prime example of the proof that the World has already gone to Hell in a handcart and that we should not be expecting and further demonstrations. But now, today, it has a rival in terms of illogicality and stupidity, in this announcement from the Minister for Education for Norn Iron.

No further comment.

Day 62

Home Schooling

There is, of course, a reason I gave up teaching, although I still maintain that the sentence handed down was a bit harsh. Those of you with access to the interwobble can look up the details for yourselves on the Norn Iron Legal Archive, if youse are that nosey.

I never gave up on education, though. Specifically, education of myself. There are those of my acquaintance who would dispute this, citing the oft-quoted criticism directed at anyone with more than the usual one brain cell in daily operation that I think I know it all already. But, sure, what would they know? (I know what I did there, even if no one else does. And again there.) Not a day goes by without my learning something new, or, at least, relearning something I had nearly forgotten. Sometimes I envy other people’s ability to forget things. Part-Time Wife, for example, just one day after what she terms “a tidying spree” will not have the faintest idea as to where she has tidied my essential equipment away to. Not one clue. In fact, ofttimes, she will even forget that she did any tidying at all, and will, manfully, attempt to blame me on the fact that whatever I am searching for is missing on the grounds that I “just leave everything all over the place and make a whole mess of the place”. Nothing, dear Reader, could be further from the truth. (Except maybe the British Government’s attempts to explain that they made a success of dealing with the Kerfuffle because the National Health System was not overwhelmed. Here’s a hint lads: the system was not overwhelmed because you kept around 48.7% of those who had covidnovid locked up and dying in care homes; had you let them out to access medical treatment, your system would have been overwhelmed.) Admittedly my filing system is intricate, and incomprehensible to anyone who is not me, but that does not mean that it is without system. And, sometimes, I deliberately leave items in places where they will “get in the road” as a reminder to myself that I have to do something with that item later on after I do all the other things that I have to do later on.

As for Part-Time Wife’s system, well, ‘system’ is stretching it a bit. She still has not grasped the basic operation of my sock drawer and how the entrants should be filed alphabetically by colour, and preferably matched to each other. But I live in hope, and maybe one morning I shall wake up and not have to let a gulder out of me upon discovering, yet again, that both the sock drawer (a wicker basket, actually) and the knickers drawer are devoid of occupants. I mean, does she think these essential items of underwear just wash themselves, or something? She will occasionally gulder back that some examples of said items are to be found in the airing cupboard, wherever that is. But, I put it to you, your Honour, what good is that to me standing bollock naked in the mezzanine area of the central atrium at stupid o’clock in the morning? What if the teenagers were to crawl out of their caves at that time seeking sugar and see their alleged father standing there with things dangling over the banister? I would be back in court as soon as they had speed-dialed Childline on their mobile phones. Why they have Childline on speed-dial is another mystery worth investigating, but I blame the primary school.

Speaking of schools [were you? – Ed.], I was up earlier than usual this morning to check out how the whole virtual classroom thing is working out with the two male teenagers. (The Marines sent them back, by the way, with a terse note stating that they were both underage, but that the haircuts were acceptable.) Fair play to them both, they are doing the absolute minimum, or approximately 19.6% of the work their schools are virtually sending them, which is about as much as I would do were I in their situation. To summarise, their situation is this: one of them will not be sitting official state examinations this Summer but will be given makey-up results instead which will count as real qualifications in someone’s idea of the real world; the other one is just finishing off First Year and about to forget over the Summer everything he has learned this year, and if his school even thinks about sending him Summer exams over the interwobble, they will find that the wifi connection has suddenly gone down that month in the hacienda. Anyway, they will learn more hanging about with me than they will avoiding classwork while staring at a screen. Because, previous convictions and barrings notwithstanding, it appears that I am once again a teacher, and supposed to be engaged in an activity known as home schooling. I did not apply for this position, do not even recall its being advertised and, thus, treat my “duties” in respect to same with the disdain they deserve.

Someone needs to tell the schools and the department of education this: school’s out for Summer! And maybe forever, if you persist in this nonsense of trying to get teenagers to do work when there is no compulsion for them to do it. Good luck with that! And, remember, they do not require education, anyway: they have got life out there outside their caves; all they need is the correct attitude and they could educate themselves.

Like wot I done.

Day 61

Where I Am



“And the dead arose and appeared to many.”

Not actually an exact quote from the Bible, but you wouldn’t want to be trying to be too exact when dealing with that book; there are that many bootleg versions of it doing the rounds that you could probably find one in which the verse in question reads, “And the alive died and disappeared to few.” And that’s only taking the English versions into account; God knows what it says in the French versions! He would need to, by the way, as the French certainly don’t. But twas a favourite saying of the aul Ma [do you, by way of contrast, possess a young Ma as well? – Ed.] when one of us would arrive downstairs foraging for food in the early afternoon after a heavy session on the beer the night before. Another phrase she enjoyed, and had reason to employ regularly, unfortunately, when commenting on various lies from army colonels and politicians during The Troubles™, was the following gem: “Those people wouldn’t even know how to spell ‘truth’.”

The first phrase is appropriate today, though, with some sort of relaxation of lockdown happening in all constituent part of these Blighted Isles. Situated as I am betwixt and between a number of different jurisdictions, I have not yet decided which set of relaxed lockdown rules I will impose on myself (and on anyone else who comes near me) today. Should I go for Blustering Boris’ attempts at the whole hokey cokey approach to coming out of lockdown? That is, send your left leg to work, but keep your right leg at home; use public transport with your right arm, but drive your car with your left arm, that sort of thing. Or will I enter manfully (it’s the only option available to me – and to everyone else, apparently: has anyone, of either sex, ever been accused of doing something ‘womanfully’? Answers on a postcard, usual prizes, terms & conditions apply.) into the régime of the Gayshock and, as with the speed limits applied to my driving, exercise my constitutional right as an Irish citizen to enact the Mexican advice about coming out of my shed. I could maybe have a go later at following the Norn Iron advice, but I will have to wait for the first news bulletin of the day to see if Marlene has come up with a starting date yet for their five-point plan, which was not copied at all from the Mexicans, no way sir, sure some things are in a different order, sir, so no way is it a precursor to a reunited Ireland if that’s what you’re thinking, sir. Maybe I can do a mix n match of the whole lot of them? Or, alternatively, make up my own rules, as I own the land as far as I can see and can, therefore, do whatever the fruck I want on it.

Whatever I decide, it seems that I will have to pay a visit to a garden centre today. I have never before been in one of said centres in my life – I have, of course, been in the centre of my own garden, front and back, but not at the same time – but a close reading of all the available new regulations for easing lockdown leads to the inescapable conclusion that it is compulsory for everyone to turn up in one of them today. It would also appear that absence from same garden centres has been the greatest deprivation suffered by the majority of the population during the sixty days we have spent in social isolation. I don’t know, maybe it is a Protestant thing, but not going to a garden centre was way down on my list of deprivations caused by the Kerfuffle. I sorely missed, for example, the troupe of exotic dancers who would usually turn up to entertain us – well me, mostly – on a Friday night in the hacienda; a selected few would even stay overnight and partake of the Ulster Fry the following afternoon; and fine, healthy girls they were too, putting away the fadge and the bacon like there was no tomorrow while Part-Time Wife slaved away at the hob trying to satisfy those of their appetites that I had not satisfied the night before. Ah, those were the days. And soon will be again, God willing.

But, what exactly does one do at these mysterious garden centres? Especially if one already has two gardens and is not interested in purchasing a third (or a turd, if you are in Mexico). And is the wearing of wellies de rigueur or not whil(s)e(t) visiting them? The various administrations haven’t really thought it through, have they? If they are going to make attendance at garden centres compulsory as part of the … what do we call it now that ‘lockdown’ doesn’t fit anymore? ‘opendown’ wouldn’t do, as there are still restrictions in place. ‘ajardown’, anyone? … as part of the ajardown©, they should at least provide a user manual or an instructional video for what the Hell one is supposed to do at the garden centre when one gets there. I am using ‘one’ in the singular sense there, as I am presuming (and presumptious) that I cannot yet stick the complete household in the back of the Roller for a wee trip out of Isolationville, Arizona. (And a quick hello, in passing, obviously, to the USians, if they are still reading, and if they are still my cousins.)

I will let youse know how I get on when I do my civic duty and visit a garden centre some time today. But maybe it is a trick? If they want us all to turn up there at the same time in what seems like a flagrant breach of the social distancing rules we have all been (slightly) following for the past 60 days, is it just a ruse to spay us all with covidnovid when we get there in an attempt to bring about the herd immunity the blond thought would solve the pandemic? I’ll wear my waterproofs as well, and bring an umbrella, just in case.

The pictures? That’s just in case the girls have forgotten what the place looks like and get lost trying to get here on Friday night. A veritable flood of pent-up something fluid awaits them.

Day 60

Social Distancing

Sixty days! We’ve been playing hide and seek from each other for sixty days! Somebody should have won by now.

So, where are we now then? (Yes, ‘now’ and ‘then’ are allowed to be forenenst each other in a sentence like that without breaking the space-time continuum, which does not exist, by the way. You may as well make up a colour-taste continuum if you are going to go around linking separate abstract nouns like that with a hyphen.)

So, where are we now then? (That is not a time-loop; just a reminder for the slow of understanding among(s)t us. Gives me an excuse to link to this, though.) I am in the hacienda which is situated in County Antrim which is on an island called Ireland which is one constituent island of the geographical unit known as The British Isles. Now (and then) [stop it! You’ll confuse them. -Ed.] maybe only one, two at a stretch, of the physical locations mentioned in the previous sentence is not subject to heated dispute. Here are a few politically-disputed terms for good, bad or middling measure. County Antrim (and the hacienda with it) is also a constituent element of the political area known as Northern Ireland, which itself is a component part of the political area known as The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or just The United Kingdom to its friends, if it had any.

Several readers of this blog have just exploded, by the way. One or two others are planning explosions, but not of themselves. Allow me to talk you through this disputed territory. (Hands up who did not see what I did there?) For a kick-off, there are those who object to the perfectly innocent geographical term The British Isles. Make yourself a coffee and read that linked article first, and then I’ll get back to you …

… OK? Are you now enlightened, or further confused? The clinching argument for me is that there is a sea between the main islands of The British Isles (because that geographical term includes minor islands as well such as Tory, Rathlin and the Isle of Man), and the, undisputed, name of that sea is The Irish Sea. Now given that our British neighbours do not raise a hue and cry over this and demand that it be called the Anglo-Irish Channel or some other atrocity, we should just bite the bullet, play cricket and accept the handy term as it is. Recoursing to the term in Irish for the area is of no use in this instance, as the term in Irish – Éire agus an Bhreatain Mhór – is incorrect, geographically, excluding as it does Tory, which has its own king, usually, and whose people talk of ‘going to Ireland’ when they leave the island; the Isle of Man, among(s)t other islands, is likewise not incorporated in the Irish term. (That bracketed ‘s’ by the way is a biting satire on some politicians and civil servants from this bedevilled place who are labouring under the misapprehension that there is some difference in meaning between ‘among’ and ‘amongst’, or that one of them is posher.)

The problem, of course, is with the ‘British’. [You know that that sentence works also without the perverted commas around the demonym, don’t you? – Ed.] (Of course I do. What do you want me to do, charge you twice for the one sentence if there is a meaning between the lines? We’d be here all day.) The inhabitants of the islands in question were never all Britons – Tory included, which used to be populated by Submarines – so the demonym might actually be an ethnonym. But, fruck it! We keep the Irish Sea and the Brits keep The British Isles, agreed?

Moving swiftly on [if only! – Ed.] to the other disputed terms, there are, currently, two jurisdictions on the island called Ireland, although this has not always been the case (NB DUP). One of them, rather confusingly, is called Ireland, in English, but in this blog is referred to as Mexico because … Its name is not now, and never has been, the Republic of Ireland; that is its description, not its name (nerds can read why here).The other one is called many things – shithole, Norn Iron, Ulster – but its actual name is Northern Ireland, in English, and this causes problems for some people who reject Partition and who tie themselves in linguistic knots trying to avoid using it. Thus we have euphemisms such as ‘the six counties’ [the sick counties? – Ed.], ‘the North’, ‘this part of the country’, ‘up here’ etc. For God’s sake, lads, catch a grip and call a spade a spade, will yis? Your mouth will not fall off if it utters the words ‘Northern Ireland’, and, as it is not going to be around for much longer, you will not have to do it for long. And rejecting Partition now that you voted for it in the Good Friday Agreement is akin to rejecting your dinner after you have eaten it. My dead Ma’s [as opposed to your live Ma? – Ed.] term for the place – the Annex – had its merits, but I prefer just to stick to the facts, Ma’am.

Where I do have a problem is with the term in Irish for Northern Ireland. Just because it is incorrect, linguistically, politically and stylistically. Tuaisceart Éireann is the term in question, and it no more means Northern Ireland than the man in the moon. The first word means ‘North’ and the second word is attempting to be the genitive case of the word for Ireland in Irish, which is Éire. Attempting, but failing. Like Galway, Éire requires the definite article when in the genitive case – na hÉireann – so Éireann by itself, if it was allowed to exist by itself (will I charge you double there?), could only be trying to mean ‘of an Ireland’. So the whole term, in my mind if in no others, equates to ‘North of an Ireland’. And your guess is as good as man as to where that might be. Norway, maybe?

County divisions were imposed on the island of Ireland by the Brits, so there are those who reject them for that reason. But, for sectarian reasons to do with the GAA, the authorities in Northern Ireland have officially done away with designating areas within their bailiwick by county names and now use the name of the local area council. Good luck with that one, lads, although a GAA team representing the Mid-Ulster Council would have a good shot at an Ulster title, I think, and maybe an All-Ireland too if covidnovid ever goes away. On another point [really? you are running out of space, and time – Ed.], some people use the term ‘All-Ireland’ when they are referring to the re-unification of the island into one jurisdiction, and God love them, too: it is a sporting competition, lads; now go and learn how to speak your native language (English) properly. So even the term ‘County Antrim’ is not free from disputation.

Those who know where I actually live would likewise dispute the term hacienda to denote my modest abode. (isolation blues) Which just leaves us with ‘Ireland’ the island as the only undisputed term from my seemingly simple locatory sentence way up there. But, of course, that is not what the island was originally called at all. At all.

I note, however, that the Mexicans have started to refer to their bit of the island by a different moniker recently. This is due to the Kerfuffle, and is an awkward attempt to ensure that the death figures for Ireland do not get mixed up with the death figures for Northern Ireland, although, technically speaking and for legal purposes, the Irish people included in both totals are still indisputably dead. The term they are using is ‘the State’, which is a bit too Big Brother for my liking, and if they don’t stop using it soon I may be forced to pay another visit to government buildings. But at least it is not a semi-state like the Annex is. (Can you see me now, Ma? Happy with that plug, Eddie? And he is British, though he lived in Northern Ireland for a while. But real British, not like the pretend British residents of the place.)

So, where are we now?