Day 61

Where I Am

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“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 54

Social Distancing

That was a good laugh. I always enjoy a wee trip down to Mexico. It’s good for the soul, like playing with children. And, given that my business south of the border down Mexico way involved a series of meetings with Mr Joe Mc U-turn, in very many ways it was exactly like playing with children.

[You’re back! – Ed.] (Your nose – me)

Of course I had to use the usual get-out-of-jail-free card at the Garda checkpoints. I mean, I wouldn’t mind telling them the purpose of my journey if it was any of their business, but as policemen in general have very little interest in educational matters, and little or no aptitude therein, it would have been a waste of my time explaining to them the purpose of my essential journey. So I just started speaking Irish at them. As with Christian Brothers at school who were linguistically-challenged, Gardaí get embarrassed if it becomes obvious that they have not the faintest clue what you are saying in the first language of the state they are – supposedly – guarding, so they just try to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible to hide their ignorance and wave you on your way. This trick got me out of a few dodgy situations when I was at school, and basically gave me a free road down to government buildings from the hacienda. Must remember to stick in the mileage expenses form, and root out that receipt for the lunch in the K-Club. And the other one in that really exclusive restaurant which does not even have a name it is so exclusive.

[But, you’re back! – Ed.] (Look, what is wrong with you? You keep on stating the obvious. Is this a new peccadillo of yours? – me.) [But, can you explain where you’ve been? – Ed.] (What do you think I’m doing when I’m not being interrupted by you? Can we take this out of the brackets into the real world? – me.) [You know my problem with that; I need the brackets as a sort of shield between me and hoi polloi; I can’t stand the idea of dealing with the great unwashed face-to-face, and no editor should have to, anyway – that’s what sub-editors are for – Ed.] (Well, I’m taking the brackets off here: you just keep quiet and listen – you might learn something – me.] [… – Ed.]

So, yeah, yer man BracketsHead probably thinks I read this blog when I’m not typing it off the top of my head. But, as loyal readers will know, I do not even read it when I’m typing it off the top of my head. So I have no idea what was going on here during my time dealing with the examinations crisis in Mexico. But as for this idea that I was ‘away’ … I was still virtually present down there below the line in comments, so BracketsHead did not really look that hard if he was under the impression I was not available for selection, or something.

I first wrote to the Minster of Education for Mexico on 16 March, 2020, questioning his statements that the Leaving Certificate examinations would go ahead this academic year. (Proof of this correspondence is available on request, through the usual channels.) By the way, it is well past time for some jurisdiction somewhere to adopt my strategy of aligning the academic year with the calendar year. Think about the advantages for a minute. Finished? That was never a minute. Try again …

… that was better, So, you’ve got it now? With the academic year aligned to the calendar year, you do not have poor wee students stuck in their rooms studying for end-of-year examinations during what is laughingly called Summer here. Instead, they can make full use of the two or three dry days we are usually guaranteed during the monsoon Summer months, beak off school up to the Hatchet Field or somewhere, drink cider, light a gorse fire and generally act like irresponsible youth the way they are meant to. Under my system, end-of-year exams take place during the dark, boring, dreary days of December – the days of December BEFORE the real Christmas season begins, which is the weekend before the 25th, and not mid-October, by the way – and are out of the way by the time the annual religio-consumer fest comes around. Ipso facto, everybody happy, especially those teachers who do their marking of the examination papers before they marinate themselves in alcohol for a fortnight in an attempt to forget about the details of their sad lives.

At the emergency COBRA meeting involving just me, Joe McHugh, TD, the Permanent Secretary of the Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna and a captive audience of around 231 invited uncivil servants there to gasp in wonder and awe at the fineness and clarity of the workings of my mind, there was quite a funny exchange. At one stage, Big Joe said, “Maybe we should just ask you to take over the running of the whole department?” He then paused for what he thought would be an appreciative laugh from his Permanent Secretary. But, instead, there was only a pause from that corner of the triangular table I had specifically requested for the meeting in the sumptuously well-appointed room in government building reserved for my consultative meetings with the Mexicans. Eventually, the Permanent Secretary delicately cleared her throat and said, “Actually, Minister, that’s not the worst idea you’ve had in the past two months.”

Wee Joe nearly choked on his croissant. Me and the Permanent Secretary exchanged a glance, I made a writing gesture with my non-Spanish hand indicating to her that she should tell the Gayshock to amend the Emergency Legislation accordingly, then gathered my papers and left the room to a standing ovation from the assembled uncivil servants.

I spent the rest of the week in my rooms in The Alex, answering occasional phone calls for clarification from the Permanent Secretary and finally signing off the arrangements to cancel the Leaving Certificate late on Thursday night before sending wee Joe out like a lamb to the slaughter last Friday. Tchí Dia é, ach, ar a laghad, ní eisean atá i gceannas ar chúrsaí oideachais níos mó.