Day 62

Home Schooling

There is, of course, a reason I gave up teaching, although I still maintain that the sentence handed down was a bit harsh. Those of you with access to the interwobble can look up the details for yourselves on the Norn Iron Legal Archive, if youse are that nosey.

I never gave up on education, though. Specifically, education of myself. There are those of my acquaintance who would dispute this, citing the oft-quoted criticism directed at anyone with more than the usual one brain cell in daily operation that I think I know it all already. But, sure, what would they know? (I know what I did there, even if no one else does. And again there.) Not a day goes by without my learning something new, or, at least, relearning something I had nearly forgotten. Sometimes I envy other people’s ability to forget things. Part-Time Wife, for example, just one day after what she terms “a tidying spree” will not have the faintest idea as to where she has tidied my essential equipment away to. Not one clue. In fact, ofttimes, she will even forget that she did any tidying at all, and will, manfully, attempt to blame me on the fact that whatever I am searching for is missing on the grounds that I “just leave everything all over the place and make a whole mess of the place”. Nothing, dear Reader, could be further from the truth. (Except maybe the British Government’s attempts to explain that they made a success of dealing with the Kerfuffle because the National Health System was not overwhelmed. Here’s a hint lads: the system was not overwhelmed because you kept around 48.7% of those who had covidnovid locked up and dying in care homes; had you let them out to access medical treatment, your system would have been overwhelmed.) Admittedly my filing system is intricate, and incomprehensible to anyone who is not me, but that does not mean that it is without system. And, sometimes, I deliberately leave items in places where they will “get in the road” as a reminder to myself that I have to do something with that item later on after I do all the other things that I have to do later on.

As for Part-Time Wife’s system, well, ‘system’ is stretching it a bit. She still has not grasped the basic operation of my sock drawer and how the entrants should be filed alphabetically by colour, and preferably matched to each other. But I live in hope, and maybe one morning I shall wake up and not have to let a gulder out of me upon discovering, yet again, that both the sock drawer (a wicker basket, actually) and the knickers drawer are devoid of occupants. I mean, does she think these essential items of underwear just wash themselves, or something? She will occasionally gulder back that some examples of said items are to be found in the airing cupboard, wherever that is. But, I put it to you, your Honour, what good is that to me standing bollock naked in the mezzanine area of the central atrium at stupid o’clock in the morning? What if the teenagers were to crawl out of their caves at that time seeking sugar and see their alleged father standing there with things dangling over the banister? I would be back in court as soon as they had speed-dialed Childline on their mobile phones. Why they have Childline on speed-dial is another mystery worth investigating, but I blame the primary school.

Speaking of schools [were you? – Ed.], I was up earlier than usual this morning to check out how the whole virtual classroom thing is working out with the two male teenagers. (The Marines sent them back, by the way, with a terse note stating that they were both underage, but that the haircuts were acceptable.) Fair play to them both, they are doing the absolute minimum, or approximately 19.6% of the work their schools are virtually sending them, which is about as much as I would do were I in their situation. To summarise, their situation is this: one of them will not be sitting official state examinations this Summer but will be given makey-up results instead which will count as real qualifications in someone’s idea of the real world; the other one is just finishing off First Year and about to forget over the Summer everything he has learned this year, and if his school even thinks about sending him Summer exams over the interwobble, they will find that the wifi connection has suddenly gone down that month in the hacienda. Anyway, they will learn more hanging about with me than they will avoiding classwork while staring at a screen. Because, previous convictions and barrings notwithstanding, it appears that I am once again a teacher, and supposed to be engaged in an activity known as home schooling. I did not apply for this position, do not even recall its being advertised and, thus, treat my “duties” in respect to same with the disdain they deserve.

Someone needs to tell the schools and the department of education this: school’s out for Summer! And maybe forever, if you persist in this nonsense of trying to get teenagers to do work when there is no compulsion for them to do it. Good luck with that! And, remember, they do not require education, anyway: they have got life out there outside their caves; all they need is the correct attitude and they could educate themselves.

Like wot I done.

Day 35

lila dirty look

Species Distancing

Fairly remiss of me not to have noticed until now, but I have come to the belated realisation that I am harbouring four fugitive teenagers, and not the previously assumed total of three. It would appear that the cat, too, is a teenager. It is not the fact that she uses my 40.2% paid-for house only for the purposes of food, shelter and lounging without ever sticking her hand into her own pocket that made me realise she was a teenager. Nor even the fact that she has forced me to learn a new method of communication that consists mostly of body language and wordless noises. Neither was it the fact that the words ‘thank you’ have never passed unbidden through her lips. That’s her in the pic up there, in case you were wondering, giving me a dirty look any teenager would be proud of as I spy on her activities – nothing much – through the bay window of the country-kitchen-style country kitchen.

No, her teenager status dawned on me the other night [some temporal mix-up there, surely? – Ed.] when I was ambling past The Vatican. Before you phone up the peelers on me for having fired up the private jet to fly to Rome for my daily, compulsory exercise, I should explain that, down my way, The Vatican is a small, mostly uninhabited cottage further on up the lane that used to be inhabited by a man who used to look vaguely similar to a man who used to be The Pope. Hence the name, which has stuck around even though the man and The Pope have gone the way of all flesh some time ago. So I passed The Vatican, giving it my secular blessing as I did, and spied the cat ahead of me on the lane at the edge of where the canopy of trees opens up doing her admirable impression of a stone. This appears to be her hunting technique: pretend to be a stone and wait until something small and alive comes within grabbing distance; saves all that running around, you see. Now I was not aware – she tells me nothing, another teenager trait I should have noticed before now – that the cat went this far on her rambles. I knew she patrolled the first and second woods in a proprietorial manner, and I have caught her on the odd time halfway down the lane in the other direction near the farmhouse where the other cats live, but these were uncharted waters for her, I thought. And there are foxes hanging out up this end of the lane, so potentially dangerous, uncharted waters too. But there was not a bother on her, it seemed.

I called her by a name. She does have a name, but I have no idea what it is, as I was not around when her mother christened her. The previous owner did tell us her slave name when she donated the cat to us: the cat was trying to kill her so she had to get rid of it. But sure that is only a name that humans made up and forced on her. Like Kunta Kinte in Roots, she no doubt has her own private, cat name that she keeps in one of her secret places and takes out and plays with when we are not looking. And anyway, when I am not calling her ‘cat’, I mostly call her by the name of the previous cat as I cannot keep two made-up slave cat names in my head at the one time. So I called her, and, after a pause, she stopped acting the stone and came towards me and, with only a desultory brush against my leg, kept going! That is when I had my epiphany about her teenager status. It is a punishment worse than death for a teenager to be seen in public with either of its two parents. Heaven forfend, both at one time! And so it was with the cat. Even though it was dark, even though there was a canopy of leaves shielding us from prying eyes, the cat could not risk being seen with me in public in case it damaged her cool level among her fellow creatures of the night. So she left me there, stunned and heart-broken, and sauntered back down the lane to a different spot to resume her stone-shaping activities.

I do not really know how I finished my walk so devastated was I, or even what route I took to get me back to the gate lodge and into the estate. I mean, I am well-used to such shunning from the human teenagers, but I really thought me and the cat had a connection going. She said not a word about it several hours later when she forced me to come to the window to let her back into the house – sleep was out of the question for me after such a blow, of course, and I was sitting with my head in my hands at the country-kitchen-style country kitchen table when she made her appearance at the window demanding entry. No thought of retribution entered my head, and I let her in immediately. I mean, hope springs eternal and all that.

But still, if she thinks I am going to start driving her to Ballygobackwards to collect her at three in the morning off the bus from some Kat Nite Klub she simply has to go to because all the kool kats will be there, she will have to dispose of the female, human teenager first as she has first dibs on that taxi service, which, thankfully, has been put on hold since the Kerfuffle business began. See, that’s me all over: always trying to find the silver lining. But my heart is clouded and dark. And will never be the same again.

Social Distancing

Day 13

Unlucky for some, the cat in this instance. She tried to pull a fly one on me this afternoon, but she would need to get up earlier in the morning if she thinks a pre-killed dead mouse is going to fool me. Especially when it was me that killed it a couple of days ago when I picked it up and pitched it out the open door into the street. OK, call-back. I promised I would explain the term ‘street’ in culchie-speak, as it is not at all the same thing as the thoroughfare with rows of houses on either side of it found in urban settings. The street in the country is basically the yard outside the front door, usually concreted, generally dung-speckled, sometimes tarmacked, as it is in front of my hacienda, but, then again, I have notions. Concrete is good enough for the rest of the inmates of the reservation, apart from the people in the ‘new houses’ with their fancy gravel. (The new houses have been there for ten years.) Got it? The difference in meaning here in Slurryville, however, between ‘road’ and ‘lane’ was harder for me to wrap my city brain around as it is a much more subtle and particular thing. To me, with my fancy city ways, esoteric vocabulary and acquaintance with the English language, a lane was just a smaller, narrower road, and as most of the ‘roads’ round my way are barely the width of a tractor anyway, the distinction seemed superfluous, and pointless.

In our early, wild days as a partly-married couple, me and yer woman would sometimes go out for a wee drive round the locale for no particular reason. Oh, the debauchery, I know! Those were indeed the days, my friends. The odd time though, at a junction, I would be jolted out of my heady bliss by a scream approaching terror from the passenger seat. ‘Don’t turn up there, that’s a lane!’ The odder time, I would ignore the warning of dire consequences and go up my chosen track anyway. When the said route – sometimes after a quarter of a mile, sometimes after a few miles – would eventually end at an isolated individual house, she would turn to me with the closest thing to satisfaction I have ever seen on her face and announce, ‘I told you it was a lane.’ Under severe interrogation over the course of several days, she eventually cracked and broke one of the basic tenets of country living by answering a straight question with a straight answer. A road, apparently, went places; a lane went only to a group of houses (the inhabitants of which would invariably be related to each other and in a legal dispute about right of way) or even to only one house, and it was close to a mortal sin to go up a lane unless you had business with one of the residents. Under no circumstances could you just motor about the place willy-nilly, as was my wont, and perform a nonchalant U-turn in someone’s front street if you ended up at a dead end, driving off almost exactly at the same time as the resident ran out the back door and round the side of the house to see who was calling. As to how the part-time wife could tell at the junction just by looking at them which of the two bog tracks was a road and which was a lane is something that will remain a mystery to me, and a secret she will no doubt take with her to the grave. Unless she is covertly passing on the skill to the teenagers who are, to all intents and purposes, culchies now. As proof, they naturally say ‘pure’ any time ‘very’ would do the job just as well.

Back to that perfidious cat, though (happy now, Rhona?). She hasn’t mentioned anything directly to me – that is not her way – but I can tell that this whole Kerfuffle business is getting to her a bit. I mean, she enjoys a bit of human company as much as the next feline: we are handy for opening doors, fancy sachets of food and as mobile scratching posts. But this whole humans in the house 24-7 deal is not what she signed up for. It is, basically, her territory after all in the normal run of things, with us homo sapiens heading off five days a week at ungodly hours of the morning to our various pointless pursuits, leaving her with the run of both the interior of the house, and, via the discreetly left-open East window off the study, of the en-suite wood. So having us about the place observing her every move has her a bit on edge. She is maybe faintly embarrassed at the undeniable evidence of the amount of time she spends … I suppose I can only call it cat-napping. Hence her subterfuge with the pre-dead dead mouse. Part-time wife burst into the study this afternoon right in the middle of me moving a memo from one folder to a different folder on Sharepoint, and nearly broke her neck (like I would be so lucky) rushing to close the open window looking onto the charming wood and through which some of the copious amounts of cigarette smoke I am currently producing during a working day was softly floating. ‘The cat’s running around with another mouse in her mouth and I don’t want her bringing it in here,’ she blurted by way of explanation, and left again, completely failing to trip over the computer bag I had nudged out with my foot for that express purpose.

Later I examined said mouse when sneaky cat had deposited it at the spot below the back step reserved for ritual sacrifices to what she considers the chief of the human tribe she has adopted, i.e. me. That is when I realised it was the same mouse from a couple of days ago that I had asked one of the male teenagers to chuck into the wood when he was going out for his nightly, solitary ramble. Imagine my shock: the teenager had actually complied with one of my requests. As everyone keeps saying interminably, things will never be the same again. (Yes they will, by the way, they always are.) So I figured out that the cat had found it there and looked on it as a sort of free lunch, in the sense that if she brought it back to the house we would think she was a great guard cat altogether having defended us from two rodents in three days, and would we ever think of overlooking all that sleeping she had to do to keep her strength up for the strenuous hunts? She gets a free lunch every day, by the way, so has no need of actually eating mice.

As for how I could tell the difference between one dead mouse and another, like the distinguishing traits of a lane, that is something that will just have to remain a mystery. Now, I suppose there is no chance our World Leaders are going to announce today that this was all some elaborate April Fools’ Day joke, is there?