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 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 25

Social Distancing

It would appear that I have 12 followers. Given the day that’s in it, a few questions spring (unbidden) to mind. Is twelve the optimum number of followers for a cult figure, or should I aim for the baker’s dozen? Have you twelve nothing better to be doing? And which one of you is going to betray me?

Given the other day that’s in it (not really, though, the Easter Rising – the other one – actually happened on 24 April, 1916, and that was Easter Monday that year), if one of you is going to betray me, I advise you make full use of the touts’ website that the local Brits have made available for such purposes. Trust the local Brits to come up with something like that. Have they learnt nothing? Don’t answer that, given the usual warnings about the restrictions in size of the interwobble [three times! Is that a record? – Ed.]. All I will say [I’ll believe that when I see it! – Ed.] is this: why are the police bastards? because they RUC. Doesn’t really work as well – or at all – with PSNI, but you can bring a leopard to water, though a pencil must be lead.

Gives a new slant on the nudge department’s slogan, though, doesn’t it? We’re all in this together. Yeah, all spying out the windows together on each other from our captivity and shopping in our neighbours if we think they have gone to the shop too often, or walked too close to our hedge or gone out for an essentials trip in the car with one too many packed suitcases in the boot. Divide and conquer was always the Brits’ favourite tactic – that, and queuing – but there are well-researched guerrilla tactics to combat it. In this case, basically spam their page with so many fictitious complaints that they will be so busy investigating that we can all jump in our cars and get out of Dodge for an Easter break with no worry about police road blocks. Or start a riot in Derry to deflect attention away from social distancing misdemeanours in Belfast. [C’mon Derry, get the finger out, you owe us one; we did something similar for youse during the Battle of the Bogside.]

Fair play to Leo, too. When asked if he was minded to set up a similar website for touts down Mexico way, not only did he make a literary reference to The Valley of the Squinting Windows, he also said no. Which I took to be an implicit admission from the government that a blind eye would be turned to the annual Paschal Pilgrimage to Donegal of most of West Belfast. I mean, what other way could you take it? He was very clear in his message, and this is such an unheard of approach from a politician that it is as obvious as a duck that he meant us to take the opposite meaning from what he was actually saying. Maybe he was also trying to indirectly address some of the criminal neglect of the county by successive regimes in Dublin.

(David Attenborough voiceover required here; use you imaginations, I can’t afford to hire him.) ‘Yes … although we can never be certain in advance of the actual date as its designation is shrouded in the mysteries of Time and that smells and bells institution known as the Catholic Church, around this time of the year one of the most remarkable mass movements of the species homo sapiens occurs. With little or no preparation, save a quick trip to what most participants in the annual migration call “the offy”, nearly 93.2% of the population of West Belfast moves en masse to one or two small villages in West Donegal. There appears to be no apparent motive for this exodus: while some mating activity does obviously occur during the one or two days away from their natural habitat – very obviously, in some regrettable instances – this does not seem to be the purpose of the event, as it is for salmon, for instance. Neither has the staple food supply run out in their home region, as it has for the wandering wildebeest, as the chippies are still open even as their six-days-a-week customers drive westwards away from them. We will just have to put it down as one of those wonders of nature, like all those baby turtles appearing on the same night on that beach somewhere that slips my mind at the moment and trying to make it into the sea before they are eaten. In fact, if a full Moon occurs contemporaneously with the Westies’ migration, something similar to the turtle run can be witnessed on Machaire Chlochair strand as groups of male Westies strip off and run bare-assed in the moonlight past the remains of Eddie’s shipwrecked boat and out as far as the breaking waves. Unlike the baby turtles, though, they turn quickly back to land, blaming the temperature of the Spring sea on the paucity of their mating display to the obvious amusement of the chip-eating hordes of female Westies gathered on the dunes overlooking the strand watching their potential mates’ behaviour. Many’s a successful West Belfast divorce started in such a romantic setting. The attitude of the resident, local population to this annual invasion of their territory has never been recorded, except in their tills. Fascinating!’

See you up there. Last one into the sea is a wuss!