Trigger warning

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Making ground level look mountainous

You know the way I’m mad into competitive sports?

OK, let me rephrase that.

You know the way I like to loll around looking for insignificant shit to get obsessively worked up about?

Exactly.

Well, today isn’t one of those days. Because it actually kicked off yesterday. In the moment I eye-rolled in response to a request from one of the relos to vote for a contender in the prestigious Donegal Player of the…(wait for it)…Week. Exactly. This is big shit. To one particular 14 year-old’s Da at least.

That was, until I dragged my lazy arse fingers round to the site for a blast of the button whereupon the sight of our boy in second place unleashed such staggering levels of indignation, the conversion from mild-mannered indifference to canvassing crusader was worthy of nomination.

If I’m going to succumb to this unfair and unregulated popularity contest, then I should at least back my lobbying up with 5 credible, if arbitrary, reasons why he should win, which are (in random order):

– he doesn’t take himself seriously
– he drives his Irish teacher mad by refusing to exhibit any fear of her
– he can hold his own in company of all ages
– he surprises me with parcels of ill-fitting sports gear he forgets to tell me he ordered for himself on Amazon
– he’s not averse to giving occasional sly hugs when no-one’s looking

Exactly.

The (parental) Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook

Presents. Not really my forte. If you received any of the following items from me for your wedding, please accept my belated apologies: fluffy blanket/bog oak birds/tool box/hammock/photo of a mountain/what the fuck is that? do you know what it is? Me neither/picnic hamper/lamp etc.

Ditto if you went out with me for five years and received a one-way ticket to East Midlands Airport with Ryanair as a Christmas present. For £2.99 (inc. tax), I thought it would be a laugh to recreate that magical scene when someone lights up on receiving a surprise plane ticket. Until they open it. I still think it’s funny when I remember how you let that wan from your class pluck your eyebrows a week later. It will always be one step removed from a blowjob in my world of intimacy.

And, if you’re related to me, please pretend you didn’t hear me saying blowjob, and cast your mind back to a few clangers that awaited you under the tree from me over the years. Ah, yes. Remember enthusiastically ripping open the paper to find your spanking new copy of….Bunreacht na  hEireann? We’ll say no more about it, or the brew-your-own-beer-kits. But, I stand proudly by providing you all with a copy of this seminal, critically acclaimed, tour de force:

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Not only can you do everything it says on the cover, but you can also deliver a baby in the back of a taxi, defuse a bomb, and escape a shoot-out; even if it’s me doing the shooting, which some of you continually try to provoke me into doing.

Since Becoming a Parent™, I’ve noticed danger lurks round every corner. Other parents. My parents. My reflection in the mirror. Daddy Pig. Playgrounds. Cake shops. Parenting forums. Life insurance policies. Savings accounts. Justin from Cbeebies. It’s a fucking jungle out there, which is why I’ve got a quick preview from my soon-to-be-published Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: The Early Years.

How to…

1. Hide all the junk in the shopping trolley

It’s going well. One more aisle to load up from. Your wee one is placated by the chocolate biscuit she’s helped herself to from the stack behind her. That coordination. Those motor skills. Thata girl. You’re rounding the corner into the ice-cream area and you clock the fruit teeming from the basket matching the “vibrant” colours worn by the local Mother Earth. Check behind you for the all clear and do a quick five-point turn. Whizz your way in the opposite direction whilst simultaneously lashing a few healthier products on top of the biscuits. Good luck with trying to replace the biscuit in the child’s paw with a baton carrot. The screaming will only draw attention to yourself so best avoid that and get the fuck out of there. In extreme instances, like when your hair is having a particularly anti-gravity day, feel free to hide the basket in the cereal aisle and return to it later. To avoid any repeat trauma, just do your shopping in the neighbouring town.

2. Perform CPR on someone who has just learned you didn’t baptise your child

“But…what school will they go to?”

It’s highly likely this person is already having difficulties breathing at this stage. Be sure to stand back, so when they do keel over you don’t risk an injury from the fall. Diall 999 and put the body into the recovery position. Only perform CPR if you’re adequately trained. There’s probably little more you could’ve done. It’s the biggest killer in Ireland today along with obesity and hypocrisy.

3. Get away with bringing your child to care wearing the same thing 3 days in a row

When you arrive at the crèche, unzip your child’s coat and exclaim aloud “Oh silly Daddy for not putting on your nice clean dress”

4. Combat the gaze of a fellow diner in the restaurant burrowing holes in your head while your child has a canary

To overcome the gaze, you must become the gaze. You weren’t the staring match champion of 1986 for no reason. As you engage in this visual duel, lift up the bottle with one hand and liberally apply the stuff you swore blind you wouldn’t have next or near your child onto his or her plate: ketchup. It’s like Calpol, only it goes with chips, and grapes (apparently).

5. Distract attention from your child pointing out your “belly” to everyone that visits

Explain it’s all the running around after a toddler and that you’ve hardly any time to eat so the rest of you has practically withered away to nothing. Point to your wrists and ankles and demonstrate by showing how you can now wrap you hand around them.

Other advice in the book: How to combat the embarrassment of more-or-less telling your parents you had sex when announcing a pregnancy; how to conduct your own guardian speed-dating event; how to strenuously judge parents on-line while strenuously appearing not to.

Out soon in every woeful bargain basket.

(image: Amazon)

Two more years?

Unlikely.

Why the negativity? Well, I am celebrating my two-year blogiversary in classic Irish Mammy style.

This is how the routine usually works:

Me: Fancy going to that Cliff Richard Tribute show?
My Mother: When is it on?
Me: March… eh…2018.
MM: Ah, maybe, if I’m still around then.

Not really. She’s strictly a Sinatra woman.

So yeah, two years as a German truck-driver called Claus masquerading as a put-upon middle-aged Irish woman. Here are my stats:

Anticipated benefits from blogging before starting:
Substitute for a hobby 24%
Releasing internal monologues/dialogues 25 %
Staving off hunger/anxiety 51%

Marathon, black silhouettes of runners on the sunset

Wouldn’t you think they’d get themselves a real hobby

Actual benefits derived from blogging:
Substitute for a hobby 2%
Staving off hunger/anxiety 3%
Getting lost in the moment 15%
Releasing internal monologue/dialogues 80%

Prevailing feelings while actually blogging:
Slight mortification. Seriously, who is going to read this shite? 10%
The lethal combination of confidence and righteousness.
Seriously, I don’t think this is half-bad, even if I say so myself 20%
Bono really is an insufferable wanker 21%
Hunger 22%
Reasonable contentment from the distraction of concentrating on the moment in manner similar to following a recipe. Mixing ingredients requires the usually elusive present-moment thinking. Especially when those ingredients include righteousness and verbosity. 27%

Prevailing feelings directly after blogging*:
Slight mortification. Seriously, who is going to read this shite? 50%
The lethal combination of confidence and righteousness. Seriously, who is..etc. 50%
*before typos discovered two weeks later, if at all

The blogger I’ll never be but love others for being:
Themed or focused
Curator of an engaging and lively comments section
Non-anonymous

Reasons for going anonymous:
To hide from Bono’s ‘people’
Getting to play with more than one persona than if I went with one public version
The freedom of unrestricted thinking and motivation
Sometimes I’m not quite sure

The downsides of being anonymous:
Enabling unrestricted freewheeling that leaves a spaghetti junction of thoughts and themes, which lets a few in but shut plenty out. Probably.

Most Delicate blogging balancing acts:
Earnestness with lightness
Eating with typing
Reading others with not giving up
Truth with truth*
Meaning with understanding
*Duplicate words. Please complete as instructed

Not a mistake. One woman’s joke is another’s man’s truth. Searing honesty comes in more than one size. Naked words on a page might do it for one; but the treasures of what lies between the words of other bloggers can often pull a mightier punch.

Any final comments?
Thanks for reading

Things I always thought were hard to make but aren’t

French onion soup, for instance. A dish that can instantly transport me to a Montmartre corner café where someone is sure to be playing a sombre number on the grand piano that takes up half the room while everyone looks away determinedly grumpy. But for some reason it feels like it should feel like the zenith of cultural immersion, and I am convincing myself I am completely at one with the place.

I do native very well in places where there is no requirement to smile, speak, or wear a bikini. I was once asked the time by a local in Poland back in the 90s. Or at least I think that’s what he said. Maybe it was “cheer up, love, it may never happen”, which would’ve been a bit rich given the strong whiff of austerity about the place, and the main dish on any given menu being radiator soup. “Yeah, well, as least we’ve started to partially pay for our own road repairs”, I would’ve nose-flingingly scoffed had that been the case, as an acknowledgement of Ireland’s then revolutionary weaning off its over-dependency on the EU infrastructural improvement budget. The only reason I knew that, was because the government of the day used to notify us on massive roadside signs (rough translation: “Don’t get us wrong – we’re still scrounging, just not as much”). These youthful accession states could only dream of such misplaced smugness.

I also almost cut it as a drunk Dutch person once when I confidently demanded frites from a street vendor after a few *mimes rapid movement of glass to mouth action* only to give the game away by requesting an immodest amount of Thousand Island dressing in Ireland’s native language – English. Not content with presenting myself as a knob-end, I went on to helpfully try  to explain my urgent need further in reeeeeeeeeeally slloooooooooow, yet R E A L L Y L O U D, English. But hey, I’m merely boasting now.

So yeah, I braved the recipe book earlier and it turns out all you need for French onion soup are the following:

A miserable face
Shitload of onions
Beef stock
Red wine
Garlic
Jackie-O shades (for preparation).

And, voila.

Only this is not one of those blogs that parades its culinary triumphs visually while labouring under the notion it looks exactly as it does in the book, or that anyone gives a hoot either way. I’ll leave this one to your imagination.
Picture yourself tucking into a bowl of authentic onion-soup, mandatory tear-jerker radiating off the ivories, everyone looking suitably glum, odd woman in corner trying to frown a little too hard and drawing attention to herself with eager brow furrowing and…….CRASH.

That’d be the sound of my mate tumbling down the spiral staircase. There’s always someone to take the bad look off me.

5 reasons to see Sing Street

  1. For nailing the back-combed ’80s aesthetic. This is the film Spielberg might’ve made had he grown up in Ireland where the clergy were our alien life form
  2. For the nostalgia, particularly drowning out bickering parents with The Next Best Thing on the turntable, pausing momentarily to speculate on the fate of their marriage with similarly nonchalant siblings. But not for that long
  3. For a few seconds of The Blades’ Down Market
  4. For championing teenage misfits in all their hormonally simmering, earnest, clumsy world-conquering crusade. Especially Jack Reynor’s jaded 21 year-old teenager who has seen it all
  5. For making the clear case for why prom night always beats the most extravagant and wild debs. Always.

Power failure

What happens when the electricity goes out in the office?

The first thing everyone does is go into denial.

Ten seconds. That’s roughly how long it took between gazing at the blank screen, up at the light that gone out, over to the phone charging that was no longer charging, back to the blank screen, and blinking for a bit before surrendering to the possibility that electricity had deserted the building. This was marginally longer than everyone else who had already been flushed out of their office into the corridor by disbelief over what was happening. Not today. Not now.

It was a panic I understood having shored up a shitload of admin for this day that was due to have me hatching a new crease across my forehead by close of business. With or without responding to passive-aggressive e-mails from self-regarding managers. Or over-ingratiating myself to the cleaners. Or hoping no-one could hear me doing a wee while they made a cuppa in the kitchen right next door.

“Has the power gone out?”, exclaimed everyone in unison. It’s not often we get to exclaim anything. Maybe on the rare occasion when the travel expenses haven’t been processed, or a team meeting has been proposed. The alarm was doing an unsubtle job of answering the obvious question but we were not done with them yet.

“Has yours gone out?”, inquired the occupants of the office above mine.

“Yes, has yours?”, I helpfully countered.

The second thing everyone does is to speculate on why it has gone out.

“I let the man in earlier to fix the central heating. Maybe it was him”, announced Christine setting the ball of suspicion in motion.

“Surely that wouldn’t cause the power to go out”, replied John, suddenly an expert plumber.

“Maybe he did it by accident”, pleaded Mary, who would be inclined to give Hitler the benefit of the doubt.

“Are the phones working?” I felt obliged to contribute to the theorising and what better way than to offer another unhelpful question.

By now, John had taken command of the receptionist’s seat and was dialling various numbers starting with head office, 300 metres round the corner. John is the longest-serving and oldest member of the team so assumes authority with ease and control. It was John who phoned our colleague after his house was subject to an arson attack to offer all our sympathy. And it was John who gave us all permission to laugh by cracking a joke about it being the work of some of his clients. The official line is that it was a case of mistaken identity. None of us are that certain but we wouldn’t ever admit it to one another.

When I say ‘team’, I mean a random rag-bag of individuals who can frequently be heard asking each other what it is they actually do.  These exchanges occur during the slow motion minutes waiting for the ping of the microwave to call time on another round of small-talk. I tend to think the word ‘actually’ is invested with a heavy degree of suspicion. You wouldn’t hear someone asking another “what is your name, actually?” as if the one they go by isn’t it at all.

“What’s happening? Has your electricity gone out? We’re in darkness down here”, declared John, his legs crossed and perched across the desk demonstrating his indifference along with his potential as an understudy for a role in Glengarry Glen Ross. A man of his world-weariness should be conning gullible people into parting with precious cash for some real estate while straining to conceal his desperation, not acting as a conduit for questions that no-one has the answer to yet.

“OK, I’ll hold” (covers receiver) “she’s gone to find out.”

Everyone maintained an obedient silence.

“Sit tight? OK, we’ll do that. Thanks, girl”. He calls every woman that. I’m probably supposed to be annoyed by it but I couldn’t be arsed.

“She told us we have to sit tight, it should be sorted soon”.

The next thing everyone does is to get giddy.

Thirty minutes passed and by now the support group (Coping with Darkness) had swollen to half a dozen. Jennifer was the last to step out from her office to join the fray. She draped herself across two of the seats usually reserved for the public and jokingly asked if anyone had a bottle. This caught everyone by surprise, probably for the same reason: until that moment, Jennifer was the least likely of the group to hint at the existence of drink nevermind suggest we share one, even if it was imaginary.  She is the only person to record her time-sheet accurately to the minute (e.g. arrival: 8:57am, departure: 17:03pm) and exhibits a degree of sober efficiency the rest of us only ever get to be mildly resentful about.

John couldn’t resist it any longer and set about disentangling the coiled chord on the phone that had been bugging him. I did a 360 swivel on the chair and reminisced about our teenage prank he reminded me about.  Cold-calling folk on behalf of the national telephone company to request that they measure said chord by stretching it as far as they could was a popular pastime circa age 13.

breakfast club

At least they had electricity

The next thing that happens is that no-one wants the electricity back on.

Just yet. Forty minutes later, folk who wouldn’t ordinarily share a cup in the canteen interrupted each other with stories and wise-cracks. Shane rapidly fired out witticisms in his droll voice. Boring Shane whose default setting is to nod sideways when he means yes and no. He royally took the piss out of us all, probably in the knowledge he had a narrow window. The power would return soon and he’d be forced back into nodding and awkwardly banging into people in the tiny kitchen.

Ann was regaling us all with her typing skills (“I have 140 words a minute” Shane: “Talking or typing?”) when there was a brief flicker; then another. The small matter of the best local pub was being given consideration when there was a third that didn’t go out. The power had returned.

Then we all returned to normal.

No-one budged for another few minutes. The novelty of the unexpected huddle had unleashed an uncustomary air of conviviality folk were heating themselves up against. John got up first. “Well, folks. I don’t know about you lot, but I’m going home. Those computers won’t be right till tomorrow”.

And with that the middle-aged version of The Breakfast Club had come to an end. Details of the Christmas party were circulated the following day and we shuffled awkwardly around the microwave pitching our competing excuses for why most of us won’t make it. Everyone except Jennifer. And maybe Shane. I couldn’t tell if he was nodding yes or no.