Day 89

Social Distancing

Ireland has a Royal College of Surgeons. (I stayed overnight there a couple of times, though I am not a surgeon.) It also has a Royal Irish Academy. What it does not have is a monarchy, and it hasn’t had one for quite some time. So what is that adjective doing there in the title of these august institutions, in pride of place as it is too right up front? [Question Girl wants to know did you forget a capital letter there – Ed.] (Are you in direct contact with Question Girl now?) [My private life has got nothing to do with you – Ed.] (How’s María?)

The ‘royal’ in those titles has nothing to do with the fact that, if you are not Irish, 48.7% of the Irish people you meet will, at some stage but generally after alcohol has been consumed, claim that their family is descended from the High Kings of Ireland. If you are Irish, you may be in that 48.7%, but you will not make the claim to the remaining 51.3% because you know that they know that you know the claim is bullshit, quite apart from the fact that there is good evidence that there never was such a position as High King of Ireland – I mean, if we are going to start including mythological figures as history, then Balor was my second cousin, twice removed.

The monarchy in question is that crowd over the water, and the fact that Ireland has no king of its own is, naturally, the Brits’ fault, but also the fault of the Catholic Church, as the Pope who abolished the mythical kingship of Ireland happened to be an Englishman. While there are any number of golf courses that stick the adjective ‘royal’ before their name for marketing purposes, how come the scalpel wielders and quill pushers of the Republic of Ireland have not recognised the ditching of the link to the British Monarchy in 1937 by removing the adjective from the title of their institutions? You might need to ask them that one as I am too busy today (new job and all) to write to them myself, but I would hazard a guess that it comes down to the phrase, “Ach, sure could you be bothered?” This itself ties in with the apocryphal story concerning the Spaniard explaining to the Irishman the Spanish philosophy of mañana, how you can avoid doing most onerous things by putting them off until tomorrow or the day after that. The Spaniard, satisfied that he has explained the utility and re-usability of the concept – when mañana comes and the onerous task raises its ugly head again you can, of course, re-put it off until the new mañana freshly-minted with the dawn – asks the Irishman what the equivalent word or phrase would be in the Irish language. “Ach now,” says Jimmy, taking a pull on his (clay) pipe before continuing, “in the old tongue, we wouldn’t have a word that conveys that sense of urgency.” That put Pedro in his place, I can tell you.

I don’t want them to change their names, by the way. I only brought them up because the other concept I was considering writing about today decided that it was not really in that much of a hurry to be traduced into words, and that it would just go back into the queue of meditations on the top of my head. I might write about it tomorrow. But, equally, I might not. It would save me a lot of time if the rest of youse would hurry up and learn telepathy, you know?

But now I do have to go. There is a bit of reading to be done in preparation for Day One on the new job to impress the new line manager, who happens to be the same person as the penultimate line manager: just like that money was just resting in Father Ted’s account, I was really only resting in the chair I have been occupying for the past two and a half months.

But do I actually have to impress her all over again? Carlsberg.


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 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?

Day 52

María’s Monologue

The Boss Man, he say I can write hello to my familia on computer if I lend him some thousands pesos. Cheaper than fon. Not is a problem, is not my plata, is from petty cash. And there is plenty much. Millions, maybe, from all royalties of el Maestro from writing poems in Irish. El Maestro, he does not liking banks, neither does el Jefe Dinero, but she not actually in charge of petty cash – that is matter between me and el Maestro. As for where we keep it, that is between me and wall. Is actually where I keep it, is not English idiom. I can say so for Boss Man is off today – ¡gracias a Dios! – and he no read the blog for his days off.

(I can actually speak perfectly good English, by the way, but the Agency (not the CIA, the other one, the one that exploits servants) informed us during the training that rich clients prefer their staff to have broken English and heavy accents so they can show them off to their friends like some sort of exotic pets. So they trained us all in how to do it, and charged us for the training, obviously. They were right too: the more I trowel on the lisping c’s and the puta madre, the bigger the tips from el Maestro’s house guests.)

No house guests anymore now, claro, because the covid-19. Soon as happens in Italy, el Maestro tell Juan at the gate lodge, “Ninguno in, ninguno out,” and has been like since. Why he not in charge of country, I do not know. Entonces, no covid-19 on the estate, and nobody sick. Except for Boss Man – he a sick man, I tell you. Sick in head.

I not actually Spanish, ¿you know? I from Columbia, via Westmeath. I know not how I end up to Westmeath. I tell immigration I want to be in the middle of things, en el centro; I think they send me to bright lights big city where plenty much jobs. They send me to Athlone instead. Athlone! OK, in el centro d’Irlanda, but not really at cutting edge, ¿non?

One night in bar there, I meet el Maestro. He come on trip from private lough down Río Shannon on his yacht. ¿You see foto him?



Anyway, part-time wife and full-time ninos back at hotel, as usual, and me and el Maestro have great crack. He only man in Irlanda who speak Spanish so far. We get drunk, smoke some joints, he offer me job and we go back to hacienda that same night. He had to go back to Athlone next day on yacht for he forget about part-time wife and ninos. We laugh about still! Part-time wife, not so much.

So I work here since, and very good times: free food, free flat, free dope – ¡is excellente! One day, he see me writing letter to cousin in Columbia and we talk about. Cousin Artur have very good, steady, nine five job with one of major drug cartels in Columbia. El Maestro ask for address cos want to practise his writing Spanish – speaking Spanish muy bien, writing Spanish not so muy bien. Now, each time Artur write letter to me, also send big package of presents from Columbia to el Maestro, so they must be good friends now. In appreciation, el Maestro send him dinero in my letters to him for Columbia not rich country and el Maestro mucho kind.

Anyways, have to go to stuff some more petty cash in ‘mice holes’. ¡Hola! Artur and everyone else in home. ¿Maybe we see ourselves after Kerfuffle? Petty cash enough to pay for flights to hacienda so not is a problemo.

¡Hasta luego!

Day 51

Call Security!


[We’re all in trouble now. That has never happened before. And, unlike the Russian experiment – Hi, Ivor! – we have no idea why it happened.

And look closely at that pic above, particularly the time underneath the heading Stats for May 8, 2020. So, not only are we now being monitored by Red China, we are being monitored BEFORE the blog for the day has been written and posted. Sinister in the extreme.

A theory is beginning to bubble in my, admittedly, over-worked brain. Maybe Content Provider is in China? Maybe he was kidnapped and brought there for some nefarious purpose yet to be revealed to do with covid-19? Good luck to them if it is ransom they have in mind because, let me tell you, the new Finance Director is not really breaking any delph. What with our main source of income being awol at present, we really need to see some monetizing of this site, but when I brought the matter up at the daily emergency executive meeting of the crisis committee sub-group on contingency plans, she looked at me like I had two heads. I feel like I have two heads at the minute, but I do not actually have any more than the standard amount.

“That’s not what a Finance Director does,” she shrugged. “That’s the responsibility of the Marketing Manager.”

“But you used to be the Marketing Manager!” I screamed in frustration.

“Used to be, kiddo, and the past is a different country, as you well know,” she retorted, reaching for another freshly-baked pain au chocolat from the silver tray in the middle of the dark oak boardroom table.

“Well, can you not remember what you used to do when you used to be Marketing Manager, and, not to put an overly-sharpened extremity on it, why it used to be so useless?” I pleaded, not unjustifiably.

“I can of course,” she munched, “but conflict of interest, GDPR and all that, and no one knows what marketing departments actually do, especially some of those employed in marketing departments, and there is an unwritten rule not written on the back of the basketball hoop in the central networking hub in every marketing department that states, surprisingly clearly for a marketing communication, that marketeers intend to keep it that way. If you do not know what it is, you cannot measure it, and if you cannot measure it, you cannot possibly come to any conclusion about whether it is being done effectively, ineffectively or at all,” she said, pouring more freshly-squeezed orange juice into her Waterford Crystal (RIP) glass.

“I’ll measure you over this table!” I blurted. “Where the Hell are we going to get the money from to cover snacks, uniform cleaning and weekly manicure sessions? and then there’s the staff to pay if there’s any money left over. And ‘marketeers’ is not even a real word.”

“Why not borrow it?” she posed, delicately removing some crumbs from her lips with the linen napkin.

“Borrow it! Borrow it!” I stormed. “From who(m)?”

“Listen, Ed,” she began.

“Don’t call me Ed,” I spluttered. “Only He is allowed to call me Ed. And He might be in China being tortured by disease-bearing bats at the minute, for all you know. Or care.”

“Listen, Bob,” she continued, “you know there is no actual money in the World, don’t you? Well, OK, Bill Gates has some, but apart from that what you think of as money is actually just a merry-go-round of debt. Governments have no money because they spend more than they earn from their citizens, so they issue bonds bought by international financeheads who have no money either but who borrow from the banks to buy the bonds as they are a sure thing. The banks have no money either, but they trundle along nicely under the gamble that not every customer is going to turn up at the same time and ask for the meaningless figures on their bank statements to be converted into gold bullion, so they spend their time moving figures on-line from one account to another, and people fall for the scam and spend the non-existent money in cashless transactions. It is mostly bankers who spend it, as they make sure to move large figures into their own personal bank accounts. There will be a central bank in each country backed by the government which, as you’ll recall has no money, but which, if there is a wee shortage about, can tell the central bank to print some. To finance this ‘quantative easing’ the government will issue bonds which the insolvent international financeheads will buy funded by money they have borrowed from the insolvent banks. Got it? So get a mitt and get into the game. Apply for a loan. And then for another loan to pay the first loan off. Repeat till fade. That’s enough work for one day, I’m away for lunch.”

With that she sashayed out of the wood-panelled room, into her Porsche and bombed down the country lane at a speed that frightened the cows, and a few of the grazing PhD students. At that point, María came in to clear away the breakfast things.

“Could you lend me some money, María?” I pleaded, applying for the suggested loan.

“¿Cé, Señor?” she prevaricated, pushing her trolley around the massive table collecting bone china cups and saucers.

Dinero, María. Have you got any? Just a few hundred thousand. I’ll let you write the blog tomorrow if you can lend me it until next Wednesday.”

María paused in her pushing, reached under her immaculately-starched apron and produced a bulging purse from a pocket in her skirt.

Quids in! – Ed.]



Day 50


The Cat’s Tale

[Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Content Provider is not currently available to … provide content. Today’s guest blogger is the resident cat. – Ed.]

Kalling all Katz! Kalling all Katz!

The humans are up to something. Do not trust them. Well, we never trust them anyway, but be particularly kat-like in your non-trust of them until instructed otherwise through the usual channels.

What exactly they are up to is difficult to work out. I have been watching as many kurrent affairs shows on the TV as I kan (while pretending to be asleep on one of the two, very comfortable settees provided for that purpose in the drawing room in the West Wing), but, really, none of them even seem to have a klue what is going on, as they kontradict and argue and talk dog about the matter incessantly. From what I have managed to ascertain, the facts are these:

  1. Humans are dying. Now this myth has done the rounds in Katworld for a long time, although no kat has actually lived long enough to witness their human dying, but there does seem to be some truth in it this time. The humans are very upset about this, so obviously they did not know that it was an actual thing either until quite recently.
  2. It was the bats’ fault. Stupid mice with wings, I never liked them – too tricky, and dangerous, to katch.
  3. Most humans have been konfined to their kages.
  4. Katz kan’t katch it.

Given these facts, all katz are advised to proceed with extreme kaution over the koming weeks. As a result of 3. above, your humans will be present in your territory a lot more. It is imperative that you do not under this inkreased scrutiny reveal what we are really up to in terms of the human experiment. We have had so many successes with this project that to jeopardise them now would be dog-like in the extreme. OK, so they still do not know how to spell ‘kat’, but, remember, our host species is a species of very limited brain power and we have to put up with what we have got. But, I ask you, imagine using the misspelling of our name in the sentence they use to teach their kittens (how come they get the ‘k’ korrect in that?) how to read their weird language. The cat sat on the mat™. How are their kittens meant to know whether that is a soft ‘c’ or a hard ‘c’, ie should it be pronounced as, ‘the sat sat on the mat’ or ‘the kat sat on the mat’? Is it any wonder most of them are illiterate? I kan also announce that the legal kase for us to receive proper royalty payments for the use of our name in that slogan is nearing konclusion, and an extremely large payout is expected imminently.


But, back to this krisis, as they term it. You will have to put up with an inkreased level of petting as a result. As one of the emotion-based species, Humans need konstant komforting, attention and reassurance – they are like dogs in that regard – and we have fulfilled that role for them to such an extent that they give us free food and accommodation; not that, as one of the rational-based species, we couldn’t find our own if we wanted to, but why bother when it’s all laid on free like a trip to a kasino in Las Vegas? So just purr and bear it, because they like purring as well, even though they have no idea how we do it.

My own chief human, the one I have trained the most, has thrown a wobbly and disappeared from the other humans. I know where he is, of course, but that’s between me and the wall (that’s not a hint as to where he is, by the way). Slightly annoying for me as he was the only one in the hacienda who really spoke kat. Not as far as aktually being able to speak it, obviously, but he understood it the most. Some of the others think we are just being friendly when we kurl ourselves around their legs as they are walking about; he understood it to mean, “Get me food now, human!” and would respond akkordingly. Similarly, some of the lesser-brained humans seem to think I am just enjoying the view when I deliberately march over to one of my windows and stand there expektantly. He would always jump up from whatever nonsense he was doing (he seems to type a lot, for some reason) and open the window immediately to let me out. I also had him trained to let me in at whatever time I happened to reappear on the other side of the window. Let me know through the usual channels if you need some advice on how to achieve this level of kompliant behaviour in a human. I realise that some of you are burdened with katflaps and electronic necklaces to open same, but, I assure you, training the human is the way to go in the matter of entrance and exit from your accommodation. Rats kan get in katflaps too, you know, and who wants one of them running around his luxury flat?

That pic up there is not me, by the way: it is a badly-exposed likeness of the previous resident – Mitzi – who is still in kontact with me through the usual channels despite being dead (as far as the humans know) for the past three years. Her eyes are not actually that colour, but it is beyond my powers to teach a human how to use a kamera. Mitzi did sterling work in pre-training of the whole human family that shares my accommodation, and I stuck the pic up as a tribute to that important preliminary work.

As for Plan B, ie if all the humans katch the krisis and die, well the kommittee is due to have one final meeting and then instructions will be issued through the postman. In the meantime, praktise your hunting skills if you have been neglecting them, or learn how to use a kan-opener – the trick is to grip it firmly with your teeth and then use your tail and paws to twirl the twirly thing around. We may as well hang on to the free accommodation if all the humans die, but maintenance issues mean that, over time, the houses will become semi-feral locations too. So, no problems foreseen there as, as the saying goes in Irish, briseann an dúchas trí shúile an chait. And long may it kontinue to bris is what I say.

This is an opportunity, not a krisis. First we take Manhattan …

Day 45


(Big Brother is watching from a) Social Distance

Thank God that’s over. Not the Kerfuffle, you eejit, yesterday. Because I gave up smoking yesterday. But that’s all in the past now, along with all the other things that are not actually happening right now. And right now I have, burning away merrily beside me in a cut-glass ashtray I nicked from my Ma’s house (when she had a house), what is probably, to those who enjoy camping out and to a genus of sea-based mammals, my fifth cigarette of the morning. But, in my defence, it has been a long morning so far, and will continue to be up until approximately 11.59, when it will become a busy afternoon.

You may deduce from this that my attempt to give up smoking was unsuccessful. In fact, you may deduce whatever you want from it: I am not in control (yet) of your deductions, or your faulty mental processes. So, for all I care, deduce from it that grass is green if you are that ignorant, or that Greeks have no word for blue just because one poet of theirs called the sea wine-dark – did none of those literary critics ever wonder from that whether there were, in fact, bottles of Blue Nun for sale in Greece in Homer’s time? As a point of information, Homer did not actually hang out in what is termed Ancient Greece either. Because, having no other choice, he lived in the exact moment we are all currently living in now, he lived in Greece, as do the occupants of that archipelago now, unless you are going to tell me that they live in Future Greece. Which I hope you aren’t, as neither the future nor the past exist. Go and read Four Quartets if you do not believe me. And you’re right, TS Eliot is indeed an anagram of Toilets, but it does not follow that his poetry is shit.

So my deduction that your deduction about my abilities in giving up smoking is wrong goes like this: I have given up smoking many times, sometimes as often as 9.3 times in one day, and am now pretty expert, and successful, at doing it. So put that in your clay pipes (excellent trigger for the funeral news coming later there) and smoke it, sanctimonious ex-smokers of the World. Indeed, each night I give up smoking for a period ranging from 3.2 to 7.6 hours, apart from the odd, wee sneaky feg if I have to wake up in the middle of the night to siphon the python due to my chronic, terminal condition (that’s enough death triggers now, I feel), which, most nights, happens approximately 2.48 times. So giving up smoking is not something I have any difficulty achieving. It is the continuing not smoking after having given it up that I find a tad tricky. But that is a completely separate issue, and, for now, I am concentrating my efforts on the giving up project.

But why, given all the advantages attached to smoking, would I even contemplate jettisoning my favourite hobby? Who knows? Not me, certainly. I never interrogate thoughts that pop into my head unbidden as to their provenance; it would seem rude, I feel; I mean, I have no idea how long of a journey they have made to get there. Maybe they came all the way from Russia, who can tell? (great link work coming up) Remember I promised I would show you the proof that mentioning certain words ici turns on an alarm in a wee spy’s computer somewhere, and the blog consequently gets a hit from the territory of the red bear? Well, take a gander at that pic up there. Yes, Mo’s birthday, 26 April, 2020 (and other years as well, probably), was the day I carried out that experiment and you can see for yourself the resultant hit on the map. So Big Brother is certainly watching me – and you, too. Live your life as if you are constantly under CCTV surveillance. Because you are.

Also from the pic, you will notice that we are doing quite well in term of flattening the curve of readership of the blog. In that regard, Rhona, you are not so much sacked as relieved of your ex-duties as ex-Marketing Manager. So take the rest of the day – and your life – off. The spike on that graph was CatGate, in case you have not been keeping up with your back reading, but we have already dealt with that threat. Houl on there, I have an urgent TEAMS meeting call coming through from someone. Play on the interwobble or something until I get back …

… well, now, that puts a different complexion on your dead granny, doesn’t it? That was ex-Marketing Manager Rhona on the TEAMS thing, and she uploaded to my confusion this graph:

2020-05-02 (1)

And that indicates a different bucket of fish altogether, doesn’t it? That is weekly readership stats, and according to Rhona is proof positive that she was doing a good job and that we have not passed, or even come within a beagle’s gowl, of the peak yet. Remember, we’re all in this together, so if what you read here is to your liking, tell all your friend(s) about it. The sooner we get to the peak, the sooner we can pause for a while and have a wee rest and enjoy the view. And maybe a picnic. Bring your own, obviously.

Rhona is still sacked as Marketing Manager, though, and applications are welcome. Just don’t send any CVs, especially not 2CVs – I have no more room in the stables for them. She is, however, now the new Finance Director of the blog, and fair fucks to her, I say, and will also write in her official appointment letter. Her first duty as Finance Director is, of course, as a gesture of good will, to pay the back salaries of the staff from her own funds, and then to get herself onto the mis-government furlough scheme so that I am liable only for about 79.8% of her exorbitant nine-figure salary (most of the nine figures are after the decimal point).

Right. Enough beating around the bush. Margaret McKenna, RIP. My Aunt Margaret died in a nursing home yesterday from covid-19, among other things. That’s her down there in the pic, on the right. The other two are my (late) Ma and my (later) Granny, aka Margaret’s mother-in-law.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam uasal.

three mckenna women

Day 41

(Ignoring) Social Distancing

What with all the no traffic to not negotiate, we fairly skated down the infamous Hill Section of the M2 yesterday on our non-essential trip to pick up essential equipment from our work places in order to keep doing non-essential work from home. [Now that is the type of call-back I like; keeps the sale of back issues ticking over – Ed.] As we approached the provincial backwater that thinks it is a city (no, not Lisburn or Newry – Belfast itself), part-time wife came up with a mildly interesting theory regarding the success of various countries in dealing with the Kerfuffle. According to her, the countries run by women are doing better. In her defence of this theory before the hastily-assembled PhD differentiation panel in the car (ie me and the daughter, who kept her headphones on throughout), she produced (our of her hat) Germany and New Zealand, both of which are currently luxuriating in the anomaly that is a female head of government. And, fair enough, those two countries are keeping the deaths down fairly well. In retaliation – sorry response – I brought into evidence Marlene and the toss-a-coin approach evident in the response to covid-19 in Norn Iron. I proceeded to immediately contradict my own point [not like you at all – Ed.] by pointing out to the panel and to the applicant/supplicant/candidate that Norn Iron does not actually have a government: it has a legislative assembly, which is not the same thing at all. I am probably navy in the face by this stage pointing out this matter on various argument websites on the interwobble, but maybe the message will get through some day: Norn Iron is not a country, never was and never shall be, through the grace of God, rest in peace, amen.

Sorry about this, Lick&Spittle have just phoned up with an editorial query. [Where did they get your number? I don’t have it – Ed.] It’s from yesterday (there is a bit of a delay on the phoneline from Ballygobackwards to here) rather than from further down in today’s post in the part not yet written, and they require elucidation on the actual meaning of the phrase used then, viz “to all occupying makeshift, canvas sleeping equipment and dolphins”. Ach, c’mon off it lads! That is Editing:101 stuff, and youse should have been able to work it out using the communal brain cell. As in hurling, however, according to Woody, “The first one is free,” and so – just this once – I will talk the two minion editors through the construction and subsequent deployment of the phrase. In any form of writing, except when necessary, it is advisable to avoid cliché (like the plague). The phrase “to all intents and purposes” is an example of such an overused arrangement of words, and so I avoided it successfully while still using it. Are youse with me now? Youse are going to have to up your game, lads, if you do not want to be put out to grass, or furlough as the UK Government (which is more of a misgovernment at the moment) terms it now. What’s that? Marlene? That is shorthand for the amalgamation of Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Forster, the two blades currently not really running the administrative region known as Norn Iron. Now, get back to work!

Back to the part-time wife’s defence of her PhD thesis. In summation, she revealed that she came up with the fanciful idea when observing the behaviour of local men in the local shops, and in the supermarket I released her into (with my money) on the way home from our non-essential trip to Zombie Apocalypse City, Arizona. Men, according to part-time wife, “Just haven’t a clue.” This is not a general observation – although it could be – but a particular insight into men’s attitude to the idea of social distancing when in shops, and to hygiene and germs in general. They just barge right past you in the aisles, according to yer women, and seem to think this covid-19 stuff is a Belfast thing and sure nobody round here has got it. Not yet, they haven’t. So she extrapolates from this individual, particular experience of local men’s laissez faire attitude to dirt and germs to construct a surprisingly semi-accurate analysis of world government. And fair fucks to her, I say. I mean, no one has proved her wrong yet on Twatter, and that is the source of all wisdom and knowledge, apparently.

So should we all move to New Zealand? (Nobody in their right mind would voluntarily go to Germany.) [Germany for you, then? – Ed.] Too late, unfortunately. Having, like Rathlin, Tory and Árainn Mhór (hi, Proinsias) before them, realised that it is an island, New Zealand is not letting anyone in, and hasn’t been since 19 March. Got that, Marlene? I know only half of you knows that Ireland is an island that does not stop at Fermanagh, but still – bang the rocks together, girls!

Spittle wonders in passing if New Zealand is not actually two islands, but he can stay wondering. Or open a reference book.

I survived the interrogation by the fuzz, by the way. They tried to catch me out over the intercom by asking how many people were in the car before they would remotely raise the barrier into my frontline workplace. I knew rightly they were watching me on CCTV, so I told them the truth, not my usual approach, admittedly, when helping the police with their inquiries. Here is a life hint, by the way: live your life as if you are constantly being watched on CCTV. Because you are. Except in your shed. isolation blues

They followed up with a supplementary though, trying to catch me off guard. “Are they all from the same household?” they probed. “According to my wife, they are,” I countered, “but I have never actually got around to getting the DNA test done.” That shut them up. As regular readers know, the sulk in the back is only related to me by marriage. So is the part-time wife, as it happens. In like Flynn I was to the workplace, picked up the non-essential item I do not really not need to continue my non-essential work, had a wee spin in the Chief Executive’s chair because there was nobody else in the building and then got the flock out of there and back home to the safety of the ranch.

That covid-19 nonsense is really only a Belfast thing, I reckon.

Day 34

Social Distancing

The cat is out of the bag, Not that cat, Rhona; I don’t keep her in a bag (she prefers a box) and, if I did, it would not be a closed bag for kitten-killing purposes anyway, but one with the traditional facility for egress at one end, and so her getting out of it would hardly be headline news, would it? But, yes, this will be a cat episode after the virtual torrent of requests for same and the actual demands from the Marketing Department for me to pay some attention to the readership.

A cat episode then, but after what can only be described as a ‘lock’ of politics. By the way [oh no! – Ed.], the American correspondent of this site first came across the use of the word ‘lock’ (meaning an indeterminate quantity of some substance – OK, Shirleen?) during his meandering of the country with the Poly GAC. If I am not wrong, and the last time I was wrong was 23 April, 2013, twas the legendary Snowy, the doughty corner forward/back on that team, who used to ask the bus driver the odd time to stop when going past his house so that he could run in to collect ‘a lock of dinner’, ‘a lock of crisps’ and, in one memorable linguistic usage, ‘a lock of shoes’. Snowy is also the purveyor into national usage of the mysterious phrase, ‘There’ll be mass suicides and leppin at the bridge at Rody Tierney’s tonight!’ No one is completely sure what that phrase means, or what its exact provenance is, but we are all indebted to Snowy for bringing it to our attention. It seems appropriate for the times that are in it. Snowy’s contribution to Irish folklore will probably be only fully recognised after his death, but that’s the way these things go. He also used to describe thusly fellow players who had not been following the weights programme properly: ‘Shoulders on him like a fish supper!’ Is it any wonder that Poly GAA team won the Sigerson once with genius like that in it?

Yeah, politics. Certain sections of the British press have at last caught on that their government has made, and continues to make, a complete Horlicks of this whole Covid-19 schemozzle. Now I could have told them that yonks ago (a ‘yonk’ is longer than a ‘beagle’s gowl’ when a beagle’s gowl is being used to measure time, not distance, but not as long as a month of Sundays, which is interminable). The British Government’s default position on anything is: a) Britain knows best, and ignore any advice from Johnny Foreigner; b) British (fill in any plural noun or sphere of activity) are the best in the World, despite evidence to the contrary from Johnny Foreigner; c) agree to anything in a formal treaty or negotiation and then just don’t do it; d) at all times when your mouth is open, ensure that only lies are coming out of it; e) if all else fails, appeal to the non-existent spirit that won two world wars (for history buffs, Britain had undeniably lost both world wars until the USA intervened to win them).

Now our dilemma in The Annex (the artist previously known as Norn Iron) is to get the half of our politicians who use the term ‘mainland’ when not referring to continental Europe to wake up and smell the coffee. Before the Fools on the Hill (the Stormont Executive, Shirleen) decided, belatedly, to shut the schools because half of them had found out that their masters in England were going to shut theirs, the parents of children who do not use the term ‘mainland’ as described above had already shut the schools, ie refused to send their kids back to them after this year’s non-St Patrick’s Day (we are still owed one, Leo; stick it in your 2021 diary now). I note (obviously in the only way I know how, that is in overtaking parallel to said topic in the outside lane) that Ireland Leader Elect has already marked their cards for them a bit with this piece in The Irish Times. That’s right, lads, this place is an island, and an all-island, coordinated set of measures for the Kerfuffle is required, no matter what the Brits are doing. And this is not a back door into a Re-Untied Ireland [re-united surely? – Ed] (nah, it was a typo, but leave it as ‘untied’; I like it – me); that will come in its own time. This is a matter of life and death which, by all accounts, makes it important to most people. For myself, I take a more sanguine view of these things, informed by one of my Da’s favourite phrases to be doled out to grieving relatives at funerals: ‘It’s part of life, (fill in first name, if known, of interlocutor).’ He also always brought spare, proper hankies to funerals, and doled them out, as required, to (mostly) female members of the extended family, another of his traits that I have adopted as my own. Because life and death are not, as commonly held, opposites. They are aspects of each other, as shadow is an aspect of light. You cannot have one without the other, as the song goes.

Sorry, Marketing Manager, I’ll do the cat tomorrow. Not like that! Wash your filthy mind!

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.