Friday, October 31, 2008

Dowsing For Dogs

Honestly. I don't know how I ever get time to go to work because when I'm on holiday I'm busy from sunrise to night. Today's been really full. I had to make chilli con carne for at least 16 people. Hugh Wanker-Whittingstall recipe - we used own chillis, (thanks Les) own pig, own onions, thanks to Mr Tesco and Mr Lidl for rest of ingredients. Nobody told me that chopping and de-seeding 8 chillis led to first degree burns of fingers!

I also had to plant bulbs on dog graves. Well - you're in Lidls and see all these cheap narcissi bulbs but where to plant? Then beloved dog dies and that gets you remembering edges of lawn just studded with beloved dog graves and not even own beloved dogs.

It's a damn big lawn. Dogs we know are buried there are in order of interment:-

Polly: sweetest little Jack Russell cross. Given to Pearlie soon after she was widowed. The girls never forgave us for parting. She only lasted a few months before succumbing to the horror movie that is the Dreen Road.

Molly: Springer spaniel just arrived in Nellybert's yard. Unknown to us she was riddled with cancer. We kept her six months. I adored her. We spent a fortune at the vet. Eventually had to have her put down.

Danny: Best. Dog. Ever. Nellybert's first beloved pooch. Committed suicide under the wheels of Bert's van sometime in 2004. He was nearly seventeen.

Penny: She was Pearlie's dog. Died on Christmas Eve aged around fourteeen. Her demise marked the beginning of Pearlie's decline.

Chip: Not our dog but Danny's mother. Eighteen when her owners had her put down. They had nowhere to bury her. We had all the room in the world.

Jock: Not our dog either but the beloved pet of the Wee Mannys.

Rosie: She won't be the last but she was the first to have a dozen or so narcissi planted on her grave.

Trouble is after a while you forget where the pet was planted but that's where dowsing comes in. With the aid of metal dowsing rods we were able to establish exactly where Polly, Molly, Danny and Jock were laid. Whilst about it I checked Harry de Cat and Penny. We're just planting narcissi on our own dogs and Jock for now. Harry's still marked with quarry tiles under the buddleja.

I don't know how it works or why but if you use the metal rods over a grave they cross of their own volition at the exact spot where the animal lies. While checking out our pet's burial spots today the rods crossed in places where we, to our knowledge, had buried no animals but, as Bert reminded me, that big lawn had seen many beloved pets buried long before we came to Springhill.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

There's No Such Thing As Bad Publicity

Two overpaid presenters have been suspended from the BBC for making obscene phone calls/remarks on Radio Two. And this is the big story on the news. Because one of them, a shagger extraordinaire, did the rude thing with some actor's granddaughter and then the pair of them taunted the poor man about it.

Now the granddaughter, fetching little article she is too, has got a huge mega-boost of publicity for her showbiz career and we're all saying,

Him out of Fawlty Towers? Didn't even know he was still alive.

Sad about Ross and Brand though. Still I expect they'll weather the storm.

Film & Book

Monday was our first Pearl-free evening in ages. I got very mellow indeed and watched Cave of the Yellow Dog. I adored it. Hardly anything actually happened but it was mesmerising. In some way it was like a documentary but without the irritating voiceover. No Ewan McGregor or Bill Paterson intoning, "The family are now taking down their yurt.."

One of the most enjoyable wildlife documentaries I ever watched was on Portuguese telly with the sound turned down. I think voiceovers are greatly over rated and frequently patronising. But back to that film - I'd definitely recommend it. Maybe have a nice cup of Earl Grey, wee special brownie...

And I read The Shack. A rare read indeed. Not my usual thing at all. It didn't do me a bit of harm and maybe a wee bit of good.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The following is based on a true event. One of the most difficult things about having Pearlie living with us is the struggle to hold on to a sense of myself as a fairly decent human being. There is no feelgood factor.

A few weeks ago I went on a shopping expedition to get Pearlie some decent clothes. Pearlie has never had the remotest interest in clothes and, as long as I’ve known her, has garbed herself in layers of hideous greying underwear, jumpers, cardigans, vile skirts, men’s socks, battered footwear and the lot topped of with a horror movie of a headscarf and a home-made and much patched apron. She had the look of a poverty-stricken Eastern European peasant from the nineteen-forties only with added nylon and polyester.

But now it’s up to me launder this gruesome stuff so I’ve been sneakily throwing out the worst of it and replacing it with decent clothes from Marks & Spencers and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill. There will be no more baggy, outsized interlock cotton vests with fraying hems in this house.

Sure ye could put a stitch in them.

Excuse me Pearlie. A stitch? I do have a life. (Or at least I used to)

Her hideous long-legged cotton knickers bought from the packman are slowly being replaced by similarly granny ones from M&S only the Marksy ones are light and thermal and almost pleasing to the eye.

Where’s all my other knickers? Did Margaret take them home to patch?

In the bin long, long ago.

I spent over three hours picking out a skirt, a cardigan and underwear for Pearlie. Had I been shopping for myself I’d have completed in half the time. But I know how hard she is to please. Skirts must be lined, they must not be too long or too tight. Knitwear must not be bulky but it must not be too light. The sleeves must be roomy, likewise the neck. Colours must not be too bright. I played safe and got dark green. I’ve seen her wear dark green a lot. The underwear was thermal, soft and it fitted her. Exhausted I made my way home.

I didn’t show her the new duds at first. I knew she’d be bound to hate something and I even had a notion of packing them in her case so that the first time she saw them would be when the care assistants at the respite home hung them up in her wardrobe. But next day she was in a good mood and I felt I could handle the criticism so I showed her what I’d got. And amazing joy – she liked everything! I was delighted.

But that was Sunday. On Thursday Favourite Niece came out to pack her suitcase. That evening I didn’t get home until nearly eight and I was feeling pretty tired. I was surprised to see that Favourite Niece’s car was still in the yard. Moments later FN bounced out of Pearlie’s room went straight up to me and said, “That skirt’s no good. It’s falling off her. Can you get it changed? And she doesn’t like those knickers. Says she’ll be far too cold in them.”

Did I stay cool? Not exactly. I swore a bit ( a lot) then I did get cool. Well maybe more cold than cool. You know that cold anger thing where you might like to kill somebody? That was me.

Since then I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I’ve been thinking about choices and how it is supposed to be important to give old people as much autonomy as possible. And I was also thinking about how great it would be if middle-aged people got to exercise some choices too like whether we wanted to launder patched rags or not. Or maybe we could choose whether or not we welcomed an aged dictator and a haphazard team of carers into our lovely home.

So anyway after thinking long and hard I have decided that these are the really important choices to offer my aged dictator.

  • Milk or Tea.
  • Pink hot water bottle or blue hot water bottle.
  • Shape up or Ship Out.
  • My Way or the Highway.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Old Duffer's Dogs

You know those three random pictures from my Flickr photostream that are displayed on this blog's sidebar? Well these three pictures were the ones that were on this morning. And funnily enough they were the perfect illustration of something that Bert and I have been pondering recently.

Losing dogs is not just about missing that beloved pooch. There is another sadness and that is the line that is drawn under a goodly chunk of our human lives.

This dog belongs to a pair of headcases. His testicles are in full working order and his owners are completely unaware of the damage those acrobatics are doing to his hipbones

We were persuaded to take Danny on by The Rons sometime in the first few years after Nellybert got together. Best and sweetest thing they ever did for us. We were young and daft and so was our dog. Danny lived until his seventeenth year and by the time he died we were all a lot more sensible and sedate. During the time we had Danny the family accquired a driving licence, three degrees, two businesses and two houses. And we had a hell of a lot of fun, much of it inspired by Dan.

These dogs belong to mature people. They are all fully vaccinated, well-nourished and regularly exercised.

By the time Rosie came along Nellybert was starting to wise up. Nelly became a full-time working woman, through truth be told the brilliant career never quite took off. Partying was still a big priority although stamina wasn't what it was. During the time we had Rosie we widened our social circle, came to terms with not having our own Nellybert bambino and got a little bit more sensible. We lost two Dads and watched two Mums get older and frailer. The family accquired another driving licence and a further degree.

These dogs belong to Old Duffers

And then we got to be middle-aged. Bert's got a theory that dogs are different depending on the age of the people that look after them. We started of as younguns with a crazy jumping dog that ended up crippled because of all the capers he cut when he was a young dog. God love Danny. He had a lot of fun. He was a lot of fun - but his owners hadn't an ounce of sense. We laughed like loons at all the crazy things he got up to.

By the time Rosie came along we were a bit wiser. By the time Paddy appeared we were even more sensible. Now we have Bonnie we're even thinking about getting pet insurance. Danny (who irresponsibly fathered pups the length and breadth of Ireland) was the much loved dog of ridiculously irresponsible owners while Bonnie and Paddy (both neutered) belong to two seriously, sensible Old Duffers.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Happy Birthday You Two, Happy Birthday To You

Jean & cousin Joe, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On Docking and Cropping

I'm certain that Zoe and the Kerry Sister will agree with the sentiment expressed in this old poem.


The horse and the dog had tamed a man and
fastened him to a fence:
Said the horse to the dog: "For the life of
me, I don't see a bit of sense
In letting him have the thumbs that grow at
the sides of his hands. Do you?"
And the dog looked solemn and shook his head,
and said: "I'm a goat if I do!"

The poor man groaned and tried to get loose,
and sadly he begged them, "Stay!
You will rob me of things for which I have
use by cutting my thumbs away!
You will spoil my looks, you will cause me
pain; ah, why would you treat me so?
As I am, God made me, and He knows best!
Oh, masters, pray let me go!"

The dog laughed out, and the horse replied,
"Oh, the cutting won't hurt you, see?
We'll have a hot iron to clap right on, as you
did in your docking of me!
God gave you your thumbs and all, but still,
the Creator, you know, may fail
To do the artistic thing, as he did in the
furnishing me with a tail."

So they bound the man and cut off his thumbs,
and were deaf to his pitiful cries,
And they seared the stumps, and they viewed
their work through happy and dazzled eyes.
"How trim he appears," the horse exclaimed,
"since his awkward thumbs are gone!
For the life of me I cannot see why the Lord
ever put them on!"

"Still it seems to me," the dog replied, "that
there's something else to do;
His ears look rather too long for me, and how
do they look to you?"
The man cried out: "Oh, spare my ears!
God fashioned them as you see,
And if you apply your knife to them, you'll
surely disfigure me."

"But you didn't disfigure me, you know," the
dog decisively said,
"When you bound me fast and trimmed my
ears down close to the top of my head!"
So they let him moan and they let him groan
while they cropped his ears away,
And they praised his looks when they let him
up, and proud indeed were they.

But that was years and years ago, in an
unenlightened age!
Such things are ended, now, you know; we've
reached a higher stage.
The ears and thumbs God gave to man are his
to keep and wear,
And the cruel horse and dog look on, and
never appear to care.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

In Belfast Everyone Smiled...

seen on royal avenue, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.

In Bangor not so much.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bêtes de Chagrin

Rosie and Bert in the Mournes

Team Dirty Rotten Scunging Devil-Dog is no more. Rosie was killed this morning in the road just outside our house. One of Pearlie's helpers left the door wide open and the pair of them, so well guarded by Hannah all weekend, saw an opportunity and made their escape. We think Rosie was struck by a car moments after leaving the house. Due to her injuries we're sure she died instantly.

We'd had her for twelve years. She was at least thirteen years old. Until she met Paddy she was a home-loving girl but there was something about the effect those two had on each other. Every chance they got they were off after rabbits and foxes. We really did our best to be vigilant but they always had their eye on the main chance and the left-open door.

We always gave our dogs extra 'pet' names. We had Danny for teens of years and I think he had about twenty other names by the time he left us. Bert called Rosie the Bitcher, or The Wee Special Bitcher or, a recent favourite, Scritchy.

Rosie was a great favourite with the old girls. Pearlie, Matty and Bert's Aunts Lizzie and Sally all liked her best. Bert loved her best too. Today was the first time I ever saw him with damp eyes.

Loving dogs is bloody hard sometimes. Which is why the French call them bêtes de chagrin - beasts of sorrow. For they break our hearts - they die too soon.

One consolation is that she died before old age truly took hold of her. At least we're all spared that. She'd have hated not to be active.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Night On Big Dog Mountain


Well - where else were we going to camp with Bonnie out on her very first holiday?

I finally got up the street in Belleek and found it friendly and charming. Belleek straddles the border so while we were there we popped over to Leitrim to take a look at Rossinver Organic Centre. I have to say I found it very inspiring.

Rossinver Organic Centre

I loved the living willow sculptures. I was jealous of the indoor (polytunnel) garden and I thought the mint garden was inspired. That's third along on the bottom row of the collage. Mint is notoriously invasive so they'd planted each variety in big tubs built ino the curving stone wall. Lovely to sit there nibbling on the different varieties of mint. Naturally chocolate mint was my favourite.
From Lough Melvin to donkeys near Big Dog Mountain

Here are some general observations about Fermanagh and Fermanagh people - it strikes me as a fey county, there is a sense that the fairies are not far away. I get that same feeling in Leitrim too. Garrison is full of old farmers who stand in the middle of the road so that the traffic has to drive around them. Those old guys seem to be saying, "I was born and reared in these parts and I'll stand in the middle of the road if I please!" Derrygonnelly folk are mostly very small. We watched a funeral go by and I don't believe there was a single man there taller than 5' 8". Enniskillen comes across as a gentle town. The Big Dog forest is full of donkeys.

We camped there and there wasn't a dry stick to be had. We were very glad of our bag of County Antrim turf. The fire Bert made was awesome but next time I go camping in October I'll be wearing thermal everything. Bonnie, with her thick fur pelt, was untroubled by the cold and looked like she was thoroughly enjoying her first ever holiday. That was once she was certain she wasn't off to the vet again.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Weekend In Belleek

It’s over than twenty years ago that Nellybert and The Wee Mannys went to Fermanagh for the weekend. We stayed in little chalets near Belleek which were, and still are, very popular with fishermen.

To say it was a fraught weekend would be putting it lightly although it all started well. On our first evening The Wee Manny volunteered to be Chef and was for preparing the Best Steak in the World which involved stuffing. Don’t ask why – it was the eighties. While he was creating culinary heaven the rest of us, including baby Laura, went to the nearest pub. The atmosphere was not what you’d expect of an Irish hostelry. There seemed to be little evidence of the famous Irish hospitality or craic. Of course we thought it was just because they didn’t like the look of us. And maybe they didn’t.

We didn’t stay there long. Before we left I promised myself a browse round the Belleek shops next day. It was not to be.

While we’d been out The Wee Manny had become bestest chums with the Swedish fishermen in the next door chalet. It seems they had toasted this new-forged friendship in many, many glasses of Bushmills. Oh dear. Whiskey was never the Wee’s best choice of a drink as it tended to make him a wee bit crabbit.

But at least the dinner was ready. The salad was very nice. Maybe a tad rough, but tasty enough. The steak was overdone. Uncharitable people would have said burned. But not so burned it was inedible. Something very strange had happened to the stuffing. It must have exploded. The Wee never explained. But it was everywhere. All over the table, on the floor, on the chairs, in the salad, in his hair, up his nose, stuck to his eyebrows – we didn’t mention it. The tiny bit that made it on to our plates was delicious and we were effusive in our praise. We got drunk.

And then to bed. What a night. We hardly slept a wink for the sound of gunfire. Turned out that the IRA were shooting at the Belleek RUC station from across the border the entire night.

Next day found the village completely cordoned off and the Swedish fishermen strangely stand-offish. It was far too dangerous to let locals or tourists go up the street. So we spent the day border-hopping. If we were stopped at a check point once, we were stopped twenty times. If it wasn’t the Gardai it was the RUC or the British Army. That night we nodded off to the sound of gunfire once again. Fermanagh is a beautiful county but we weren’t one bit sorry to return to the relative tranquillity of Antrim*.

Tomorrow Bert and I are thinking of returning to Belleek for the first time in over twenty years. We’ll be hoping to find it a bit more relaxed than the last time. We’ll let you know.


*During the Troubles our part of Antrim had its share of incidents but compared to the cities and the border counties we lived a fairly normal life. Or so we thought. It wasn’t until it eased off that I realised how grim those times had been.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


You Are a Cow

You are strong and very determined. You can remain stoic when times are tough.

You are stable and patient. You are able to do mundane tasks without resentment or boredom.

You are a caring, nurturing creature. You are willing to sacrifice a lot to take care of those you love.

You are smart and very observant. While you may seem passive, you are just taking in everything around you.

What Animal Are You?

See! I told Hannah I was a herd animal.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

This Girl I Knew

She was small, slight and beautiful. She was also selfish, lost and betrayed; she was greatly loved and she had been hugely abused.

I remember her best sitting in an armchair, hugging her knees. Even when she was still – she was never still. She talked. She smoked. She drank. She remembered. And she tried hard to forget.

She had many friends, yet at the end, no friends. None she’d let near, none she let help her. She’d had many families too. They too kept away – and were kept at bay.

She had a fierce temper. Despite her tiny stature she would get angry, fly at people, fight. She was always so sorry afterwards. Always forgave her enemies and expected forgiveness from others. She did not begrudge.

She took what wasn’t hers without any shame. If she was hungry she ate. If she was thirsty she drank.

She listened to Moby over and over again. She made me hate Moby.

She’d wander the house all night and sleep all day. She’d go for days without washing then stand in the shower for hours.

She’d go out. And she wouldn’t come back for days. It was a relief – and it was a worry too.

She would never recover from being gang-raped. For months she’d kept the memory buried deep. But when it suppurated to the surface she couldn’t bear it. There were so many of them. It had been such a betrayal.

Afterwards she slipped slowly and inexorably into depression, alcoholism and madness. She’d wander the streets muttering or singing to herself. She couldn’t be reached. She was in a ‘world of her own.’ This was the girl he murdered, wrapped in old curtains and dumped in an alleyway.

But she was murdered long before that. And I know the name of that other murdering bastard.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Imagine my delight when I got home from work this evening to find that Bert was having a lovely bonfire after he’d hacked back some horrendously overgrown shrubs. Then imagine my rage when he suggested that I ‘might like to get stuck into that buddleia.’ Stuck into that buddleia? You spend a hard day desk-jockeying for the construction industry and before you’ve even got a second to enjoy a cup of coffee you’re being invited to get stuck into a buddleia. Naturally I told him to wise up. It was then he told me the phones weren’t working.

I bought new phones on Saturday. Our old phones were D-O-N-E. They wouldn’t hold a charge any more. We were missing calls.

After a 24-hour charge I plugged in the phones in and straightaway test-phoned Matty. All was well. We received a few calls on Sunday evening. So I assumed that the new phones were a big success.

So when I heard they were buggered my first thought was that Bert had been playing with the phone and hit the stupid button and knocked the whole system off. So then I got out the manual and tried messing with the buttons myself. No joy. Then I had a go at testing our line over the internet. Our connection was working but the test site wasn’t. Then I phoned somebody real at BT. She was very helpful and advised me to remove the face plate and try the phone straight into the hole behind the plate. This meant getting out my lady toolbox with its dinky little screwdrivers and hammers. (Bert is not allowed to touch my lady toolbox.) I stuck the phone straight into the hole behind the plate and it worked. Which was good. Unfortunately I lost my broadband connection. Fortunately I got it back again when I stuck the phone into the hole in front of the plate again. Unfortunately the bloody phone stopped working again.

Sometimes I wish I was a bloke and cared enough about this sort of thing to never give up until it was all sorted. Sometimes I wish Bert was a bloke who cared enough….

And don’t even get me started on my new computer.

Do I go for Linux and embark on a steep learning curve that may involve the tearing of hair and lots of gnashing or do I stay with Windows XP? I’m torn.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Money, Money, Money

It's not often that I find myself in agreement with the Pope. For I've always believed that money was an illusion. OK - it seems real enough when it's in your purse and because the other people believe in it too it's easy to go into town and swap that plastic or paper stuff for something tangible you can bring home and clutter up your house with.

When you've got that bit of extra money you really want to believe that it's real and that it's important. So you swap it for an ISA or a mortgage or stocks & shares. But then you find that's not really real at all. That it's only worth what everyone agrees it's worth at a moment in time. You find that expressions like 'safe as houses' and 'money in the bank' are nothing but a parcel of lies and keek.

I liked recessions and global financial meltdowns far better when I had fuck all.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Day Oot

This postcard was sent to Pearlie from Nessie circa 1955. She was only after having a day out in Ballyclare. That would be like me going into Ballymena tomorrow and sending Ganching a postcard to celebrate the wonderfulness of it all. But it was usual then to send your nearest and dearest a postcard on the occasion of a day's holiday.

In 1955 Pearlie was married three years. She was 29 years old. Bert was still four years in the future. I was nearly two. Nessie would have been in her early twenties. Nessie (aka Auntie Fungus) died two weeks ago. The youngest of the four sisters and the first to die. She lived by her own rules. It was a hard life with little comfort in it. It was the life she chose for herself.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Beware of the Savage Dog

Why So Glum?

Why does the Wee Manny look so blue?

Because he's finally realised that his career as an OJ Simpson lookalike is so totally over.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Matty is, and always has been, obsessed with her health and with illness and I have to say I find it the most aggravating thing about her.

My mother is a great woman. Everybody who knows her thinks so too. But her constant worrying about her health is exasperating. Now that she is in her eighties she might be entitled to have her concerns but we, her children, have lived with her anxieties for decades. Sometimes our patience wears thin.

She has tons of sympathy for the poorly but whilst commiserating with this one's bunions or that ones pains Matty will never miss an opportunity to bring up her own ailments. And it was ever so.

When we very young we spent most Sunday afternoons at one or other Aunt and Uncle’s place. This was fine up until seven o’clock because we would all be having great fun with the cousins but after that they’d all be packed off to bed and we’d have nothing else to do but wait for the grown ups to finish their conversation and take us home to our beds. And what dreary conversations they were. I remember thinking that it must be dreadful being grown up because they were ill all the time . For this is what their talk consisted of – a litany of sore backs, stomach ulcers, piles, (what were they? They whispered that one) varicose veins, prolapses, bronchitis, flu, bad feet, toothache, took to his bed, awaiting on, you know, not expected to do, family sent for. I didn’t want to get old and sick. Then I worked out a while ago that if I was around eight then the oldies were all in their mid-thirties to early forties. Pretty decrepit.

Now, as you’d know, having been fairly irritated over the years by Matty’s constant lamenting about her health or lack of it, I’d be determined not to follow in her footsteps. And needless to say I would have a marked lack of sympathy for the chronically ill. I’m not saying this is a good thing. It’s just how I am. Illness bores me. My own occasional illness bores me too. Or so I like to think.

So why was it after hearing today that this person I know might have Lyme disease did I manage to convince myself that there were insects hatching out of my forearm? I even convinced Bert. Says he, “Those definitely do look like something has just crawled out. Why don’t you look it up on the internet?” So I did.

After a while,

Did you look it up?

I did.

And what was it?

A delusion.

Monday, October 06, 2008

That Botox Laugh

Channel surfing this evening I settled on Five News (low brow) where they appeared to be doing a feature on Caprice. Caprice? On the news? Had she died in some sort of newsworthy way? Perhaps she lost all her money in this 'financial crisis' and threw herself under a train or maybe she chummed up with Amy Winehouse (for the publicity) and found herself fatally unable to stick the pace. My interest was piqued. And the presenter did seem to be speaking of her in the past tense.

But Caprice lives. And was on the news promoting bra and pants sets. Funny sort of news, I thought, but a change from the doom and gloom that is the current economy. Maybe Channel Five thought that was just what the punters needed. It certainly worked for me although it wasn't Caprice wittering on about her underpinnings that cheered me up. It was her tight little botox laugh. I love it. The freshly botoxed celeb goes 'ha-ha-ha' and their stiff little faces can't move. It is hilarious. We spent the rest of the interview imploring her host to 'make her laugh, tell a funny, go on!' Sadly she only 'laughed' twice but t'was great.

The first time I ever noticed the botox laugh was a YouTube clip where Madonna was being interviewed on German TV for 'Filth and Wisdom'. Although the interview was deeply dreary her English accent was intriguing and her botoxed face was a hoot. And when she went 'ha-ha-ha' I nearly wet my (not Caprice) pants.

Friday, October 03, 2008

My Pen Poised

I like doing stuff online. I do my banking there, pay my credit card, buy dog licences, book flights and MOT vehicle tests.

I like doing these things online because it is convenient, time-saving, avoids silly boring journeys to dreary offices where you have to stand in line. And best of all cuts down on that human-to-human interaction stuff which can be so soul-destroying. I know some people like talking to humans but I get enough of that in my day job. I can't stand the sing-song way they talk to you when they ask you the boring questions that they ask a hundred, thousand times a week. I hate the way they say things like, "Have you got your wee security number?" or, "Do you need a wee pen to sign that?"

So imagine my annoyance when trying to book an MOT test this morning I had to end up going back to the telephone and Ms Brisk with her 'polite' Ballamena accent.

OK - I was disgruntled and cheesed off at having to go through the whole rigmarole again. And it all seemed so boring. We got to the bit where she wanted to give me a booking number. I said,

Won't that be on the letter?

Yes but I still have to give it to you. In case the letter doesn't reach you.


It's 9-9-2-6

Right thanks.

No wait. There's more. You'll need to write it down.


I say nothing else. She says nothing else. Then...

Are you ready?

Yes. I'm sitting here pen poised.


Sitting here with my pen poised.

There's no need to be so rude!

Rude? Brusque maybe. Impatient perhaps. Mildly sarcastic yes. I suppose that was a bit rude.

Humourless trollop. Why doesn't she do what I do? Smile sweetly whilst talking to the fuckers then turn the air blue when I hang up.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sidebar Stories

d@\/e asked exactly how many eggs a day do we get from our 19 chickens? But there's a lot more happening around my sidebar than chickens.

Daughters - 3, Parents -1, Siblings - 6, Husband - 1, Dogs - 3, Cats - 1, Chickens - 19, Calves - 3 Pigs - 3

What of the daughters? All are doing well as far I know. See for yourself. This one is making ice cream. This one appears to be in France. This one is sounding off.

The parent (Matty) is doing fine. Spent this evening barrelling around Tescos filling her trolley with the sort of pap old women like - cooked ham, white bread, Marie biscuits and People's Friends. We always separate in Tescos. Matty does her own thing, I do mine. I meet my Cousin Eye. She and her beautiful daughter admire the contents of my trolley. Eye's beautiful daughter says it's a really healthy trolley. It contains oatcakes, a papaya, cambozola cheese, apples, three pairs of skimpy knickers (this mention of skimpy knickers is going to bring droves to my blog but mind you if I said I'd got Cherub knickers in my trolley that would really up my stats. Trust me. It happened before ) and two paperbacks. BTW the knickers are for Hannah. I don't do skimpy. When you get to my age you like to keep your kidneys warm.

I also meet Jazzer and her daughter Teeny Bird. Teeny Bird is wearing a tiny little vest top. Eveyone else in Tescos is bundled up in coats and woollies. Matty also bumps into Jazzer. They nod politely to each other. Matty does not approve of Jazzer. She has taken an unreasonable dislike to Jazzers facial piercings. She pretends she does not know her name. She pretends she thinks that Jazzer is called Gnasher.

So back to Matty. We meet up at the check out. She abandons her trolley for me to deal with and scuttles off to buy a scratch card. On the way home she fills me in on the current state of play of the parish feuds. Matty takes a keen interest in local politics but is wise enough not to get involved. Some of these feuds go back to the 1930s. But, as Matty says,

They're all very good to me.

Siblings - there are six of them. Two live and work in London and one of those is a blogger. One is in Vancouver. I believe he is an entrepreneur. Two live in Real Ireland. One of those has just come back from a pilgrimage to Santander and the other is a full-time student. The youngest sib lives next to Matty. I like to call him Jolly Joe. It's ironic. He reads this blog. Hi JJ!

Husband - the current one is very recent. We've only been married for eight weeks although I've known him for a bit longer than that. We were Nellybert long before Brangelina. Marriage hasn't changed our relationship much. We still bicker, I still blog, he still plays the clarinet.

Dogs Bonnie remains on her medication. Steroids. She drinks like a fish, pisses like a cow and eats like a horse. She is doing well. The other two still do that Dirty Rotten Scunging Devil Dog thing every time they get the opportunity.

Cat - a complete bastard. I don't really want to talk about her.

Calves - are still calves.

I asked Bert,

When do the calves become bullocks?

When you cut their balls off.

Pigs - I'm a little worried about the pigs. Bert has developed a bit of a 'relationship' with them. He keeps saying he'll never be able to eat them because he loves them so much. And there's us only newly married....

Which brings me to the chickens. Dave asked how many eggs do our 19 chickens provide us with. d@\/e, at present our 19 chickens lay one egg a day. That's right. One. Mind you at least a dozen of them are roosters. We shall eat them eventually. Pearlie gets the egg.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Mel & Co

I got a bit of a boost in my readership recently thanks to Father Tony et al. This gave me the kick up the arse I sorely needed to tidy up and revamp my blogroll. A few new links have been added, a few defunct ones removed.

It was definitely time to get Mel on there. After all Nellybert reared her from a chick. Her real parents would probably say we corrupted but we'd argue that, apart from hugs, we never laid a finger on the girl.

This post is classic. Who else but Mel could handle the dismissal of two hookers in riding gear with such panache. Bless.

Still Here

I've spent a good part of this evening reading old correspondence. Letters from decades ago, letters written from before I was born. Pearlie hoarded everything. I cannot bear to throw these old letters away without reading them first so that I can find out what hidden, historical gems they might contain.

Weddings were just as important in the forties and fifties as they are now but maybe not as extravagant. Long engagements weren't common among Pearlie's circle. Husbands were often chosen from the local neighbourhood. They didn't travel far in search of a spouse. I suppose too, better the devil you know....

Wedding presents consisted of pillowcases, bedspreads, blankets and cheval sets. Canteens of cutlery and china were popular gifts. One new bride boasted delightedly of receiving 'a fireside chair'.

They weren't just about weddings. There were letters from far-flung relations in Scotland, Canada and Australia. Some hinted, only hinted, at family scandal. I suppose 'reading between the lines' was a skill better understood in those days of paper and ink.

There was one far-flung cousin whose missives were a litany of woe from start to finish.

Recognising her scratchy hand-writing I said to Bert,

Here's another catalogue of misery from your one that's always sick, or her man's sick or the weans aren't well.

Aye. And if they do happen to be enjoying a brief spell of good health then the weather's shite and he's out of work again.
I started to read. The letter started as usual with complaints about the weather, the strikes (it was the Winter of Discontent) and the dreary Christmas they'd had. Then she started to write about her husband's old aunt. This aunt was in hospital but not doing well. It appeared the old soul had dementia although the word wasn't mentioned. The letter writer and her husband had been having a dreadful time with her. She was waking all night, going out in her nightdress and threatening her neighbours with a potato masher. To make matters worse this old doll was a keen letter writer herself and she was sending missives around all the friends and relatives claiming that the ones closest to her were neglecting her, never coming near her and worse again, hitting her. It seemed that 'cheeky' letters were being written back to to the old aunt's carers accusing them of mistreating the old girl. Little wonder the letter continued '...and I am not a well woman myself. There are days I can hardly get out of my bed.' No doubt she was deeply depressed but depression, like dementia, would hardly have been acknowledged in those days.

I finished the letter feeling a great deal more sympathy for that long dead and put-upon woman.

Our troubles all come to an end eventually.

Pearlie spends a great deal of her time in one room. Her interests have narrowed. Her conversation is dreary and uninteresting. She spends her time doing simple puzzles or reading the bible. She eats hardly anything and is obsessed with her bowels. She is negative about everything. She cares very little for her appearance. She has no interest in the past or the future. Her youngest sister died just over a week ago and it hardly affected her.

Matty is different. She's still full of beans and I pray she will always be like that. She is interested in people and interested in the world. She cares what she looks like. Maybe she's a bit too fixated on her health problems but she tries hard to stay positive.

I wonder what kind of old, old lady I'll be. If it's the Pearlie kind I don't want to get there. If it's the Matty kind it might be alright. No matter what sort I become I hope there will be no-one peeking round my door in the morning watching my shallow, sleeping breaths and thinking to herself, 'Not dead yet.'