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.


Social Distancing

Day 23

Good Friday? It’s too early to say. But after a mediocre Thursday coming hot on the heels of what can only be described as a Wick Wednesday, I shall reserve judgement on the goodness or otherwise of the day until it is over. But at least Lent is. Over, I mean, and I have that from the horse’s mouth. Lent actually ended last night at sunset, as an itinerant priest standing on the quay on Rathlin Island waiting on his boat back to the mainland (not that one!) explained to me one year. The Church of the Roman Rite (and other ones, for all I care) splits the year up into various seasons, beginning with Advent, followed by Christmastide, bombing through a period of Ordinary Time (not to be confused with injury time, extra-time or penalty shoot-outs) into the Septuagesima and then Lent, which ended last night because we are now into the Easter Triduum of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, and with admirable illogicality, and following its basically Jewish tradition, the Church decrees that all these seasons actually start at sunset the night before. But don’t take my second-hand word for it, wiki knows. So, from now on, and with full authority from both me and the Pope, let your children open their Christmas presents as soon as it gets dark on Christmas Eve (i.e. BEFORE Santa comes), and feel free from sin when munching your way right now through that coop of chocolate Easter eggs you have amassed during your essential trips to the shops for non-essentials. In fact, have a plenary indulgence for so doing as well, or some sort of indulgence anyway.

What’s that? Why was I standing on the quay of one of my off-shore islands on the eve of the day before Holy Saturday one year? (And please note, ignoramuses, tomorrow is not called Easter Saturday; that is next week.) Mind your own business … but basically I was making sure the priest got the Hell off the island so that the bacchanalian festivities traditional in that corner of the Western World could commence and continue without any of the awkwardness that the presence of a priest at any community event entails. (In passing, obviously, could I perhaps point out that the major part of what is termed the Western World is actually in the Eastern Hemisphere? Just saying, like, but with terminology like that, is it any wonder that US of Aers are so bad at geography? Paris, France, anyone? The rest of us know where Paris is, dufus, we do not need a parenthetical aide-memoire!) He probably would not have wanted to be a judge at the traditional post-Holy-Thursday-washing-of-the-feet-and-other-bodily-parts wet T-Shirt competition anyway, and some of the finer points of the competitors may have been wasted on him.

There are, it goes without saying, many disadvantages to speaking Irish, and the interwobble is maybe too small a space for a comprehensive discussion of all of them [second time you’ve done that joke – Ed.]. Occasionally, however, it throws up a gem of distilled wisdom, and not only in my own writings. One such seanfhocal contains precise advice on how we, the great unwashed, should interact with ‘our people set apart’, the clergy, that is. It goes something like this, give or take a séimhiú depending on which part of the Isle of Spin and Scheisters you are from: ná bí róbheag ná rómhór leis an chléir. If you are expecting me to translate that for you, dream on, sister! Life is already too long for me to be wasting my talents on that sort of menial exercise. I will provide a link to google translate, though, while pointing out that approximately 20.1% of their translation is neither satisfactory nor accurate. To confuse linguistically-challenged outsiders, in this context, ‘big’ and ‘small’ actually mean something more akin to ‘friendly’ and ‘unfriendly’, respectively, of course. Now nobody could convince me that both the island’s people and its largest Church would not be in a better position today had that advice been followed to the letter. Keep them set apart, particularly from underage boys and girls, and don’t pay too much attention to what they say, particularly about theological matters, not one of their strong points, historically. But, by all means, do greet them if you happen to pass them (quickly) on the street.

Dress-down Friday at work today, a tradition started by the main protagonist in the original Good Friday (wasn’t such a good day for Him either, was it?). I won’t go as far as being stripped by a passing squad of Roman legionnaires (they are never off the Upper Lane these days getting in their compulsory, daily exercise), but I may struggle to make it out of my rapidly disintegrating dressing gown. Mostly because it is getting a bit sticky in parts. Did Arthur Dent end up with the same problem while hitch-hiking through the universe?


Social Distancing

Day 4

As this is becoming somewhat of a sartorial advice blog (which was not my intention when I started it – when I find out what my intention was when I started it, I will let you know), I’ll kick off by letting you know that today I am wearing full Sunday best. That is, a three-piece suit (non-matching waistcoat to hint at how ‘radical’ I am), white shirt and formal brogues. As the suit is light blue (aren’t they all nowadays?), the shoes are brown – I cannot stand that brown shoes with dark suit crack: who thought that was a good look? The shirt, while formal, is collarless so that no one can demand I wear a tie with the outfit. Ties are so 20th century. Interviews and funerals, those are the only two occasions appropriate for ties anymore. One more point; the suit actually fits me. Whoever is advising the young men I see walking about in suits obviously two sizes too small for them is either having a laugh or was born blind. But are there no full-length mirrors in these young men’s houses where they do the final check before they go out the door, simultaneously tapping two pockets to check they have keys and wallet on them? Obviously not, or they would be as appalled as I am at the sight of a simian-type creature dressed in ill-fitting human clothes with bulges showing in all the wrong places.

The concept of Sunday best will probably soon join those other aspects of life like record players and film for cameras that I have to explain to my children in their weekly social history lessons. When we used to be allowed to go to Mass (-7PC), I would note the diminishing number of old men decked out in the full whistle and flute garb, straggling hair plastered down over the bald spot on the back of their heads, bright red neck bulging out over a collar starched to within an inch of its life. Mind you, having seen the state of their clothes during the week, their suit was probably the only clean thing they had left in the wardrobe come Sunday. But, for those men, after their weekly wash on a Saturday night (whether they needed it or not), Sunday Mass was an occasion marked by pulling on the fresh set of underwear that would do them for the week and clobbering up in the full suit and tie attire. Like the pint after Mass and before lunch, this band of dapper pensioners will soon go the way of all flesh, and join wrist watches, tape recorders and washing dishes by hand in the history bin. I will miss them. The men, not the dishes.

So here I am, all dressed up and – increasingly – nowhere to go. Why the suit? Well, why not? It will confuse the resident teenagers and break the monotony a bit. (An interesting – to me, anyway – linguistic side note: for Irish speakers, the teenage years begin at the age of 11 and not the 13 prescribed for the monoglot English speakers amongst us; whether or not this means that Irish-speaking 11-year-olds display those annoying traits of teenagers two years before their linguistically-challenged contemporaries is the subject of my up-coming PhD thesis, to be jointly supervised by the schools of Celtic Studies and Sociology at QUB, if it ever opens again.)

Also, and wouldn’t you know it, the plumber turned up yesterday! And me wearing a dressing-gown so tatty that Arthur Dent would have been proud of it. Yip, after six months of waiting to get the downstairs shower fixed (see references to ‘bathroom permitting’ in previous posts), we gave up on the ‘real’ plumber and asked the wee lad down the lane to do it; I am not even sure if he is fully-qualified yet, but I do not care as I now have a working downstairs shower in a room off my study and, as yet, the resident teenagers do not know it is operational again, so I can skip the queue for the upstairs one and wash myself whenever I feel like it – except on Saturdays, of course. As men are allowed to pee in the shower as well, this means my en-suite study is – nearly – fully set up for when my family ramp up the social distancing and stick me into a cocoon because of my diabetes. They can also leave food out for me on one of the windowsills if they want, so that is that sorted. As for the other thing … maybe, to be delicate about it, I can retrain my bowels to operate during the wee hours of the morning, meaning I can sneak out of my cocoon study to the toilet half a metre away along the corridor in the east wing of the hacienda and not risk catching anything off the other residents, who are not in an at-risk group. Oh the joys of this brave, new world.

So the suit covers me (do you see what I did there?) in case the electrician turns up today. But there is as much chance of that happening as there was of the real plumber turning up yesterday. If anyone is looking for career advice for their children after Armageddon, send them to one of the trades: they will never be short of work, and, with the amount of moolah they will earn, they will probably be able to afford a private tutor to teach them all they ever wanted to know about the nuclear physics/soap opera studies/comparative linguistics they thought they wanted to study at university.

The suit is also an indication that, despite it being the weekend, I am actually going to do some work work today. I have figured out that, as I know what the boss will be asking me to do, if I have it done in advance but do not tell her that, when she asks me to do it on Monday I can agree wholeheartedly and negotiate a deadline of early Tuesday morning for it, thus leaving me free to implement my next social experiment: incorporating a Spanish siesta in my working-from-home day. I’ll let you know how I get on with that.

I have just noticed that my organisation has ditched the term ‘working from home’ in favour of the new ‘remote working’. The cynic in me insists that this is because those senior managers who previously availed of the opportunity denied to us plebs did nothing remotely like work while they were working from home.