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 58

Social Distancing: it hasn’t gone away you know

Several of the inmates of this blog have started talking to themselves down below there in Comments. This is all well and good, I applaud them for it (or would if i could access emojis here) and, if all goes to plan [there’s a plan? – Ed.], they will turn up up here some time as guest bloggers. By talking to themselves, by the way, I mean talking to each other, and not that each individual has gone mad(der) and started the whole conversation of one malarkey. And, anyway, I would never use ‘they’ in a singular manner as it would blow what remains of my logic circuits.

Speaking of which [of what? – Ed.], this guy here, when we were at school together, used to produce with his brother Brendan a comic based on the week’s activities in the school. This was not a teacher-led thing, but the teachers soon got wind of it and became, like the pupils, avid readers because it was so good and because they wanted to see how they were depicted in it. Anyhoo, in this comic, they saw me as a sort of robot who always got 100% in language vocabulary tests, and who kinda controlled the school unbeknownst to the teaching staff. See below.

robot phil

The point is, I do have logic circuits, and some linguistic faux-pas are more liable than others to make them blow. ‘They singular’ is just one of them (I see what I did there, whether you do or not). Y’all will have heard the following phrase on the news when they are reporting on whichever current legal case has tickled their fancy. [Tickled their fancy what? Now I’m at it – Ed.] “The victim cannot be named for legal reasons.” Right, when I hear that, my inner editor (not the one in brackets) wakes up and asks my outer editor, “Can the victim be named for illegal reasons, for comedy reasons or for all other reasons apart from legal ones?” There is a quick fix for that infelicitous phrase – answers on a postcard, usual prizes, terms & conditions apply – but I would really prefer the more elegant solution which my inner ear presents. on a silver tray, to my outer ear. Thus, “Legal reasons prevent the naming of the victim” is both grammatically and legally correct, and stylistically up to my demanding standards, and the sooner all news agencies adopt it, the less danger Part-Time Wife will be in from a breakfast tirade, which, generally speaking, are the most severe and dangerous of all my tirades.

Did you note, while you were outpacing it, that what is increasingly laughingly called the real world caught up with the blog yesterday? Here is BBC NI stealing my story about the non-workers who want paid for not working. Again, this is logic-circuit-breaking territory, and Part-Time Wife had a tough day yesterday: female teenager had drained the wine lake on her when she reached for her mid-morning pick-me-up at wine o’clokc, which for her is around 10.17am. To summarise: being a substitute teacher is not a job, you do not apply for the position, no qualifications are actually necessary and no one says when they are young(er), “When I grow up(per), I really want to be a substitute teacher.”  (Shane Todd has a good piece about substitute teachers here.)

Being a substitute teacher is actually a failure to get a job as a real teacher, and a failure of the policies that produce too many qualified teachers in this provincial backwater. As it is not a job, those who do substitute teaching are not actual workers who should be eligible for various government subventions due to the Kerfuffle. Let’s do the whole reductio ad absurdum trick on it. (That is a good link, by the way; follow it and never again accuse me of never teaching youse nothing.) Because there has been no school available, male teenager number 1 has been deprived of the opportunity of taking the piss out of the religious Ignite Group at school that meets at lunchtime by regaling them with the newly-minted atheist arguments he bought off the internet. This absence of an opportunity to release some of his innate teenager aggression through intellectual discourse is having an adverse effect on his emotional, spiritual and mental growth and on his overall well-being. Connected to this, his physical development is being arrested by being deprived of the opportunity of beating up his classmates at lunchtime in their ‘just for fun’ wrestling matches. Now, which section of the Department of Education should I send the bill to for this lack of opportunities due to covidnovid? And should I ask for the full £12 million, like the group of DoleHeads who self-identify as substitute teachers are doing? For fruck’s sake, beam me up, Scottie!

That is not what I meant to write about today, but, as previously explained in this space, I do not plan what ends up on these pages: I merely sit down at a keyboard, open my internal D drive and start typing. I am as surprised as you at the final contents of the post. I was going to ask youse to quantify (approximately) ‘several’. When I was young(er), I used to think of it as just a substitute for 7, and I still sort of do, in that I reckon its value as more than a couple (which itself has a value >2) but as less than 7.

As for how many are in a ‘lock’, that is advanced mathematics and I will leave that for another day. Or for Snowy, should he wish to grace us with his presence.

Day 57

When is a duck not a duck?

There are certain matters in the affairs of Man that are so illogical they defy comment. (Things are different on my home planet, Pluto, and it is still a planet, ScienceHeads! Have youse ever even been there?) Take this one, for example – take it for a walk, for all I care, or for all the sense that would make. Notwithstanding (I have been waiting for an opportunity to use that) the fact that each year my local department of education spends acres of time gurning about the inadequacy of its budget allocation from central funds, I read two stories recently that fairly took me to the cleaners, by way of the fair. (The stories were in The Irish News, admittedly, so caveat emptor, although I did have it half-read in the shop before I bought it because of Kerfuffle Queuing) Apparently, substitute teachers, who are basically on zero-hours contracts and are only called in to do crowd supervision in schools when there are no real teachers available, have been complaining about loss of income due to covidnovid. Bang the rocks together, lads! The schools are closed: that is why you have not been getting any phone calls to come in to substitute for a real teacher, and that is why you have not been getting paid. To be clear, you have not been getting paid because you have not been doing any work: that’s the way the system operates. Also getting in on the illogical act are those teachers who would normally spoil their own holidays by marking examinations during them, and being paid for so doing. They too are complaining about the potential loss of income from not doing a task that will not exist this Summer because pupils will not be sitting examinations. This from a group of people who have just received a hefty pay rise and substantial back pay to boot. So far, so illogical, I’m sure you will agree. What took me to the fair in County Clare, however, (on public transport, I should point out, and with only me and the driver on the bus – fair play to him, he let me take a turn at driving so that he could have a wee nap) was the reported response from the department of education to this kite-flying by these two groups. Apparently, the department of education is considering ways of financially compensating both groups. I honestly have nothing to say about that. Mainly because I am at a loss as to where to start.

Other matters in the affairs of Man (with Woman, presumably) are so deliciously illogical that they practically lie down on their backs with their paws in the air and actively demand comment. The Supreme Court of the UK has just overturned the convictions of Gerry Adams for the only two things he did wrong during The Troubles, ie attempting to escape from Long Kesh. This decision is so brilliant it should have its own entry in the Book of Improbability, and probably will have by the time someone reads this in the non-existent future (which, for him, will be the actually-existing present, of course). So, and I’ll take youse through this slowly (OK, Query Girl?), now not only was Gerry Adams not in the IRA, he was, according to the judges, not even in prison, particularly not in the prison from which he was attempting to escape and for which crime he was tried and convicted. The reasoning behind this arrant nonsense is that the wrong guy signed the form in the first place to send him to the prison he wasn’t in. Got that? Now, surely be to Jaysus and all that’s holy, even if you are in prison by mistake or by an administrative error (and apparently roughly 97.3% of inmates claim to be innocent, according to all soccer players’ favourite film The Shawshank Redemption), attempting to escape from prison is still an offence. Have those judges studied the law at all? But, apparently, if you are in prison unlawfully, a conviction for attempting to escape it is equally unlawful, and, so, you are not lawfully in prison even though you are very actually in prison, and can therefore not attempt to escape from it. I wonder, under those circumstances, where Mr Adams would have been had the attempted escapes from where he wasn’t been successful? Would he have been confined to a virtual sector of what is laughingly called the Real World until the improbability drive had sorted out where he actually, and legally, was?

As for the other great non-event in Gerry’s life, ie spending yards of time not being in the IRA, a similar logical illogicality should be applied by journalists who persist in asking him the question about IRA membership. It clearly states in the rules for IRA Finishing School that members should not tell anyone about their membership, not even their Ma (who knows anyway – Mas know everything). If you do not believe me, have a read yourself. See that stuff in ALL CAPS? So, following those rules, were you to ask a current IRA member if he was a member of the IRA, he would, of course, answer in the negative, and go off to play pool or bingo or something with his girlfriends. (I note, while motoring past it in the outside lane, that The Green Book does not specify exactly how many girlfriends an IRA member should have, but it is apparent from a close reading of the text that the recommended number is more than one. While I cannot give my full endorsement to everything in that publication, I heartily recommend the advice regarding girlfriends.)

So there you have it, journalists. Although you know he was, and have seen the photographs and everything, Gerry Adams was never in prison – even though the government of the UK flew him from prison to participate in talks with them. And, when he answers your boring question about his membership of the IRA in the negative, he is merely following the rules laid out clearly in the membership book. Take his negative answer, therefore, as proof positive of his membership, and move on, for God’s sake. There is no other logical way to take it.

As Matt Lucas explains so lucidly here, sometimes a duck both is and isn’t a duck, probably.

Day 50

catpic2

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.

catsoverthrow

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 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.

Day 30

Social Distancing

I bunked the queue in Tesco this morning. By mistake. One of the queues, I should say, as getting in the door of the place is only the beginning of the restrictions on one’s freedom to wander in a semi-lost fashion among the shelves, admiring the freshly-polished array of non-essential goods and picking up purchases you had no intention of buying when you left the house that morning, ie to use a supermarket in the precise manner in which they were carefully designed to part us with our moolah. Apart from the crazy one-way system (are there any sane one-way systems?), when you get to the end of the maze – the south-west corner of the shop, let’s say, to confuse the geographically-challenged among us – and attempt to access one of the tills available there, the resident Hitler holding the Big Pole with the arrow on it to indicate which of the checkout engineers is available for service informs you that you must make your way back through the maze to the north-east corner of the shop as that is where the queue for the tills begins. So off I went back through the one-way system to outside the closed phone shop to find no customers waiting there. I looked down the aisle, spied another employee directing traffic at the end of it, checked that the arrows on the floor were in my favour and walked straight up to him. He addressed me in some near relative of the English language. On the third go, due to my linguistic skills rather than to any improvement in his diction, I managed to pick up the information that he wanted me to spiral my way through the three aisles to our left before coming back to him to seek permission to help secure his job and improve the profitability of his employer by actually buying something. In the second of the three aisles, I eventually came upon the fabled checkout queue, shuffling its way through the birthday cards and CD section, round the corner into the stationery aisle and eventually presenting itself for inspection to language-impaired boy in the now forlorn hope that he would spot Hitler I with her Big Pole [that’s too complicated a WWW II reference; consider a re-write – Ed.] and release us, one by one, for the walk back to the south-west corner to pay for the contents of our shopping baskets.

It is illogical planning like this that brought down an Empire. There was only a total of about eight potential customers in the supermarket at the time, and we could have all easily found a till when we wanted to leave without the whole round-the-world-for-a-shortcut rigmarole. Then, when bored checkout girl had finished her riveting conversation with the victim in front of me (I was standing patiently in the box marked X during this time), she actually interrogated me before she deigned to call me forward. At least she spoke a comprehensible dialect of English.

‘Did you come from the checkout queue or just walk up from the bottom of the aisle?’ she probed, an evil glint in her one good eye.

‘Had you been paying proper attention to your general duties instead of gabbling nonsense to that woman you have just released from commercial captivity, you would know the answer to that yourself,’ I nearly replied.

As I was already behind in my morning schedule because of the go-back-to-the-start-do-not-pass-Go-do-not-collect-£200 regulations, and as life is indubitably already too long, I decided against my preferred answer and merely gave her a dirty look and said, ‘Yes.’ As if bunking a queue would be the last thing I would do. In reality, it is generally the first thing I do.

Speaking of a re-united Ireland [non sequitur of the year award coming up there – Ed.], one of the first actions to be taken to dismantle the Partitionist mindset must obviously be to consign the English disease of queuing into the dustbin of history where it belongs. (The French, God love them, have another habit in mind when they use the phrase ‘the English disease’, but that’s the French for you, a nation that really hates the English with something approaching passion.) It is a completely useless social habit, serves no purpose whatsoever and, more importantly, flouting its conventions really annoys English people, and local Brits as well. Having lived in Spain for a month one memorable Summer, I observed the natives’ behaviour in this regard and have adopted it as my own. At first I found it hard to even identify bus-stops in that country, as there would be no group of homo sapiens lined up strictly parallel to the road behind what might have been a bus-stop sign. There would be a few Spaniards, singly or in pairs, scattered about the general area of the bus-stop, looking to all intents and purposes like they had not the slightest inclination to get on a bus. Then, when the bus arrived, whoever felt like it would approach the open door after – and the after is very important – those already on the bus who wanted to get off at that stop had got off. Then some other Spaniard would decide that maybe he would get on the bus after all and similarly make his way to the foot of the steps of the bus. But there was no strictly defined order for this to happen in: people moved to get on the bus when they felt like it, not according to their time of arrival at the bus-stop. And do you know what? Everyone always got on the bus, so there was no rush and no need to create a stupid system for defining who had first dibs on the bus. And, because Spaniards have some manners and cop-on, they realise the importance of letting people off the bus before attempting to get on it themselves. Compare and contrast with the British system the next time you are at a bus-stop.

‘What did you do during the War, Daddy, to bring down the last vestiges of the British Empire and to re-unite the country?’

‘Well, son, with little thought for my own personal safety, whenever it was possible, I refused to queue. And I implemented down South speed limits in my personal driving at a time when it was neither popular nor profitable. Nor legal.’

‘My hero!’

I bunked that first queue up there by mistake rather than by design, though. Because, while I did notice a few people hanging around near the cash machine outside Tesco, they were so spaced-out [at that hour of the morning? drugs are a terrible blight on society – Ed.] and so far away from the front door that I was walking directly towards that I did not recognise them as a queue until after I had taken the next spot behind the wee man who was waiting on the hotspot to be beckoned forward by yet another of the Hitlers Tesco is currently employing for crowd control. And it was too late then. But I would have tried to bunk it had I known it was a queue. Up the Republic!

Social Distancing

Day 5

On the 7.2 seconds commute to work this morning from my bedroom in the West Wing overlooking the lough to my study in the East Wing sheltered by the wood, a thought struck me. I know, I know, leave the thinking to the wee, small hours of the late afternoon, Philip; you are much better at it then. But the commute to work was much longer than usual today – there was a bit of a snarl-up on the stairs – and, in my defence, I was not actually thinking; as I said, the thought struck me. (Don’t worry, the whiplash claim is already in, and there is also a distinct contusion on the lower, left temple where the actual striking occurred, and this blemish on my otherwise perfect appearance may well cause me severe psychological anxiety which the court will be asked to take into consideration when it is deciding on the level of compensation to be awarded.)

The thought was this: now that the Trustees have released the lunatics from the asylum, they might find it rather difficult to get us back in again once Covid-19 has blown away to haunt some other planet. The whole nine-to-five, everyone must be seen to be at a desk in a central location illusion has surely been knocked completely on the head by this … this … (I am searching for a word here; amuse yourselves in the meantime, it won’t take long) this … Kerfuffle. That’ll do it, kerfuffle: I would have used Emergency but that is ©Irish Government as its term for World War II. When I used to do an actual 30 mile commute to work, I would say to the part-time wife who would, two and a half days per week, be in the passenger seat beside me (hence her part-time status; not only can I not get a full week’s work out of her, she is sometimes less than thorough in the execution of some other wifely duties), ‘Here, part-time wife,’ I would say, using her formal title as we would be in a pre-work situation, ‘here we are again, stuck in a traffic jam on the Hill Section because of this continuing madness that decrees that everyone has to start work at nine o’clock in the same central location.’ Generally, having a bit of sense, she would not reply as, from years of experience, she knows that all I need for one of my rants is a captive audience; actual audience participation is an added extra. I would then go on to expound on the stupidity of it all, and progress to outlining some of my innovative plans to solve the problem. (I will leave those for another post, as the problem no longer exists except in the past, which itself does not exist.)

So the thing is, as Boris keeps on saying because my second cousin (once-removed) tells him to keep on saying, we’re all in this together. Those of us who are now not part of the daily charade of driving to an office at the same time as all the other worker ants, and killing the planet with the emissions from our car exhausts as we do so, have an important, civic duty to demonstrate clearly that working from home not only works, it is much more efficient than the previous model. If we succeed in this – and there is no earthly reason why we shouldn’t given that we will not be distracted from our actual work by Julie from Human Resources asking us to fill in a survey on how satisfied we are with the new colour-scheme of the workstation partitions – we will then have empirical evidence to present to the Trustees when they try to stuff us back into our asylums when the kerfuffle is over. ‘Here, Trustees,’ we can say, using their formal titles as we are in a work situation and foregoing the more informal, derogatory soubriquets we use for them at coffee break with our fellow drones, ‘have a look at how much more work I did when working from home. Do you really want me to turn up at headquarters again and waste most of my time in meetings that never come to any conclusions, or decisions, and faff around talking to colleagues and letting people know on the staff intranet what work I would be doing if I was not spending time writing on the staff intranet about what work I am doing? Is that what you really want, Trustees?’

Or we could just refuse to go back to barracks when they call us in. Pretend that we never got the memo sort of thing, but continue to do the work. Whatever, and as the other guy said the other day in the daily stand-up comedy show hosted by Boris, it’s on us. So, if you are working from home today while reading this (on your break, I might add), remember you are not on your own. If you do not get that spreadsheet completed in half the time it would normally take you to in the office, you are letting the rest of us lunatics down for the Post-Kerfuffle scenario in which working from home is the new black, and the Hill Section of the M2 is a roller-skate park for teenagers. (That was one of the solutions I mentioned earlier, but the part-time wife never thought that was a goer.) So, c’mon drones, get the finger out and do a bit of work work! There will be plenty of time in the late afternoon for staring out the window at the squirrels frolicking in the high branches of the trees in the wood, acting the eejits and delighting in their secret knowledge that they are already immune from this disease. Squirrels have always worked from home.

I note that the new term for working from home is now ‘remote working’. I would suggest that this is because those who were previously granted the privilege of availing of it did nothing remotely like work while so doing. (On edit, I realise now that I have already done this joke, but I feel it bears repeating. I promise not to do repeats in future.)

What am I wearing today? A Hawaiian shirt, beach shorts, flip-flops and dark glasses, which makes it hard to see the screen so please excuse any tpyos. And I have just read medical advice advising me – and everyone else, presumably – to sunbathe as a preventative measure to fight the beast. Sunbathe? In Ireland? In March? But at least I am wearing the appropriate gear.