Sunday, December 30, 2007

What cool presents did you get?

I got some cool things this year, such as the Solio, which is attached to the kitchen window as we speak, soaking up any piece of direct sunlight that happens to pass by. I also got this Cary Grant DVD box set, which is a thing of wonder, and this Radley handbag, which I have wanted very much ever since I first saw it some months ago.

Funny thing, I never cared about handbags before in my life. I mean, I like a nice handbag, but I never cared about brand names before Radley came into my life. I love the shape of them, and yes, they have a little dog.

I got two books only, but man, there's no Cecilia Ahern books here. Columbo gave me a book about Pinter, and Queenie gave me a book that I can only imagine must have screamed my name when she saw it. Fair play to her for listening, I am looking forward to it immensely.

Edited to add: I also got some cool jewellery from ComedyB (please don't rob my house, thks). If you are a chap, and you're thinking about buying jewellery for a lady, you could do worse than take ComedyB with you. He has good taste in the bauble area (see what I did there?).

Happy new year, everyone

I know that January 1, 2008, is a couple of days away still, but the new year always seems to me to kick in properly after Stephen's Day, because that's when I want to tidy the house and take the tree down and examine the presents I got and make resolutions to Be Better Next Year and so on.

Looking back at this year's blog entries, I see that I read only something like 20 books this year, and some of them I didn't even blog! (How ever will my four readers negotiate their local book emporia without my recommendations?) In 2008, I resolve to do better. Here are my firm resolutions for next year:

1. Get my week's work done in five days.
The success of all my other resolutions depends on this one. For too long I have spent hours in the middle of the day dossing about and accomplishing nothing at all beyond watching television, and not even good television. This is all fine and good for a couple of months, but it's nothing to base a long-term lifestyle on, so it must stop.

2. Read 50 books.
Last year's book-related resolution was based around purchasing. "Buy no more new books until you've read all the ones in the house," I believe it said. Many people, quite rightly, predicted the abject failure of this resolution, because obviously everybody with even a passing interest in the written word bloody well loves buying books, and I am no exception. Strangely, refusing to allow myself the relief of buying more books seemed to act as a barrier between me and my existing books, so that I came to resent them and chose to ignore them, instead of reading them, which is what I should have been doing. Now I will go back to the easier resolution of reading 50 books in the year. Also, I am introducing a sub-resolution, which is this:

2a. Donate three books a month to Oxfam.
Read or unread, three books a month are going into the shop. Which, of course, allows me to buy more books. Neat, I think.

3. Volunteer regularly at something again.
I spent a few Sundays in the fair trade shop coming up to Christmas, and it was pretty good. I'd like to do some regular volunteering again, if only to get me out of the house once a week. I notice that I also made this resolution last year, and spectacularly failed to keep it. I blame this on the fact that I had not been out of the voluntary sector long enough to miss it at that stage, whereas now I believe I can legitimately have a stab at it.

4. Write a new novel.
For the first time in about seven years, I was without a novel to work on in 2007. I must get a new one. Admittedly, novels for me are a bit like those endless knitting projects that some people engage in, which involve a massive tangle of wool and needles in the corner of a room, to be poked at only on occasion and never, ever finished, but they are satsifying to work on and fun to think about on long walks with the dogs. God, I hope they hurry up and finish the foot bridge so I can get away from the beach with its tedious other walkers and back into the fields where few other people go.

Um, that's it. There are, as usual, no self-improvement promises in here, no getting fit or learning a new language or being nicer to my fellow humans or anything. It's pointless to pretend that I would ever do any of those things. At least some of the resolutions I've outlined above have a vague chance of succeeding.

Queuing for Beginners


Joe Moran's book is a series of short essays on various aspects of the daily routine of the office worker, laid out in roughly chronological order. He gives you a breezy history of commuting to work, having meetings, taking a smoke break, going for lunch, having an after work pint, eating dinner, watching telly, and going to bed, and gives you a taster of some of the theories that have been advanced concerning the sociological and psychological significance of each of these routines and rituals. What's not to like?

Frankly, there's nothing not to like (my employers would love that double negative). It's a highly enjoyable book, a quick but immensely satisfying read, and it's got my favourite thing in it: a nice bibliography compiled BY THE AUTHOR in case you want to read some more about any of these theories or specific histories. It's got bits of architectural, industrial design, and communications theories in it, as well as broader theories about communal living and post-war economic history. Fun stuff.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Blue light special


It may surprise keen readers to know that, when it comes to Christmas festoonery, I prefer things to remain on the tasteful side. However, I can still understand many of the more outrageous choices of my fellow estate residents. I can see that there is a place for giant inflatable Santys that ho ho ho all night long and take up the entire front lawn. I can even see the point (kind of) of the ripples of petit mal-inducing flashing white lights.

But even I don't understand what makes anyone say, "honey, this Christmas, let's have our house look like the BMI check-in desk at Heathrow".

Friday, December 07, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like...


Today our first Christmas card arrived, from Adrian and Noelle and Lyra.

Now Ghostbusters is on the telly.

Truly the festive season has arrived.

(Note, while looking for a photo with which to decorate this post, I came across this site, which has a story about Christmas cards as war time propaganda in World War II. V. interesting.)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Breaking Master and Commander news


In a recent comment to me, Ian asks if I've seen the new covers for the books. I offer you an example of one here.

Ian reckons these are aimed at the kind of people who read Sharpe books. I reckon they're aimed at GURLZ, because they've removed the ships from the covers and replaced them with people in historical dress, which is what GURLZ like.*

What do you reckon?

Edited later to add:

I am repulsed by these covers, and I think I understand why. Because they remind me (deliberately, I'm sure, as I've said) of the covers for the Philippa Gregory books I read. So I feel like they're being marketed in a reductive fashion that fails to take their true greatness into account.

I realise that this is completely idiotic, given that I am exactly, not just the type of, but the actual woman who reads historical fiction. But Patrick O'Brian books don't have romps and racy sex scenes in them. And, well, you wouldn't understand.


*Oh my god, I'm GURLZ. Jesus, I hate it when I fit a demographic. I hate it even more when marketing people try to sell me things after I've already discovered them for myself.

Imperium


The lady who owns the apartment where we stayed in Rome suggested I read this book before going there so as to give myself a bit of a background into the operation of the city during the late Republican period. Having read Pompeii and quite enjoyed it, I gave it a go.

It's the story of Cicero's rise to the position of consul (hate to give it away, but then, unless you're even more ignorant about classical civilization than I am, which would take some doing, then you already know that) and features much chat about, well, legal affairs in Rome in the late Republican period. Overall, I found the central narrative a little forced, which could be partly down to the character of Cicero. True, he was a great orator, many of whose speeches and ideas about manners have stood the test of time, but as a main character in a novel, he's a little flawed. Or, to be more exact, as a main character in the hands of a professional journalist turned novelist, he's a little flawed. A really good novelist could make you root for him, but Harris never quite manages to get across much about him other than his ambition and the fact that he's not quite as bad as some, but that's really only because he doesn't directly kill anyone. Even in the excellent telly series Rome, he comes over as a bit of an effete eejit most of the time, who can't quite figure out which side is going to come out on top at any time because nobody tells him anything.

However, you can't fault the detail here, or the feeling of being immersed in the city of the time. When we actually went to Rome, it all felt far more familiar, and I had a much clearer picture of how the society of the place worked. And so, let me recommend this book to you as a crash course in Roman history if you're going there on holidays. Then you too can stand in front of the temple of Vesta and think of Cicero having an argument with his wife where he accuses her sister of being "more vestal than virgin" (this argument probably did not actually happen).

Post Captain and HMS Surprise




I can't believe the last book I blogged about was way back in September. I really haven't been doing much reading of late, which I suppose is pretty rubbish of me, and what little time I have spent reading has been partly taken up with re-reading Patrick O'Brian books.

Amusingly, I had my copy of Post Captain with me when on holidays and was able to pull it out of my bag when a conversation about Patrick O'Brian came up, leading my pal Dave to wonder if I maybe carry the entire series with me everywhere I go. Of course I don't, that would be a bit mental. But if you had to carry two, I think these would be the two I'd take. First of all, there's plenty of fun adventures by sea in them, with some beautifully written and quite tense battles even if, like me, you have some difficulty with nautical jargon.

Second of all, these are the books that kind of made me fall in love with Stephen rather than Jack. Yes, I know he's not a great catch. He's kind of funny looking and wears a weird wool suit. He is a laudanum addict and a man who loves nothing more than prescribing a slime draught or a yummy purgative, just to teach you a lesson about drinking. He's also not exactly steady on his feet a lot of the time and will, if left to his own devices, eat nothing but bread rubbed with garlic for days on end. He would probably also dissect your granny if you left her alone with him.

On the other hand, he plays Boccerini on the cello and speaks Portuguese, Irish, Latin, Catalan, Spanish, French, Arabic, and a smattering of Urdu. He's funny and smart and ferociously loyal. He's a really good intelligence agent, and an amazing naval surgeon (wouldn't look at you for under ten guineas on land, though). He is a keen naturalist who can sit and stare at birds or beetles for hours on end, and he will walk all day and night to get somewhere he wants to go, or just to have a think.

He is also, somewhat scarily and surprisingly, handy with a pistol. In fact, he's more than handy: he's deadly. He is the kind of man who can fight a duel with someone and then, when they shoot him, he can take the bullet out himself.

Jack, on the other hand, is merely the kind of man who can whip a convoy of East India Company ships into fighting shape, rescue his best friend from torture, get his own ship's company firing two broadsides in under two minutes, and get a beautiful woman to fall in love with him despite him having no money at all from one minute to the next.

Really, who needs new books when you can re-read ones you already love?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Rome

I have added photos of our trip to Rome in early November. It's fast becoming one of my favourite things to do, this going to a European city in November for a week. I had loads of things I wanted to say about Rome, but there's just too much of it. So, let me recommend a few things very briefly.

First, we stayed here. The lady who owns the apartment is a very friendly American lady, and the apartment is where she actually used to live, so it's got a proper "someone lives here" feel about it, rather than the more usual "it's too small to actually live in, so I'll rent it out to tourists" feel that you usually get. That said, it really only sleeps two people. However, the location is fantastic. We walked everywhere from here; the only time we got the bus was when we were going to the Villa Borghese. We also ate in a bunch of places that our apartment lady recommended, and they were all very good.

My favourite places to eat and drink were here, which does amazing fried artichokes with salt and pepper; here, where we ate fantastic pizza on a Saturday afternoon and watched trendy Roman people go about their well-dressed Saturday; La Scala, which is in Trastevere as well and does the most amazing orange risotto; and this cafe, which does the strangest sour/sticky sweet coffee you ever tasted, in a beautiful 1950s bar.

We also availed ourselves of a private three-hour walking tour, which can be booked by talking to the lady who runs the apartment and brought us to the Forum by a route we never would have thought of by ourselves and which helped us to make a lot more sense of the layout of the ancient city than we would have got by other means. So I would recommend that too, if you've much of an interest in the ancient times.

(I also really liked the dog park in the Villa Borghese, and the cat sanctuary among the temples in the Largo Argentino.)

It is exhausting, though, and really, really crowded. There are people everywhere, all the time, and there are always mopeds up your arse and cars trying to squeeze past you on the narrow streets, and there are no footpaths and everything's cobbled, which sounds lovely but means you have to watch your step. So if you're going, you need to build in some rest time during the day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nanowrimo 2007

I didn't do this in the end. I had done no prep and I had no story and no characters which, despite the cheery insistence of the organizers of the event, is actually something of a problem when you want to write a novel. Or it is if your idea of the kind of novel you can write in 30 days is (for some inexplicable reason) somewhat more consistent than one consisting of random pirate attacks or alien autopsies or cats called Greymilliker or whatever people fill their Nano novels with (she said dismissively, as if the reason for her failure to write anything this year was to do with lofty ideals of artistic merit rather than the sad fact that she spends all day watching telly and entertaining her cats with things made of feathers).

Also, last year the November holiday was spent in Paris, where there were fewer sights that we simply had to get out and see than there are in Rome, so there was more time to sit around in cafes and write. Try sitting around in cafes in Rome and you are liable to have the coffee snatched out of your hand by feral pigeons or be knocked to the ground by some wide boy on a moped.

Moreover, I'm a little tired of the Nanowrimo people constantly asking for money to keep the whole enterprise going, as if there weren't enough completely free forums on the Internet where people can meet and chat and update word counts and so on at some kind of reasonable processing speed. I'm sorry that your dotcom era dream of runnng this festival instead of having a job isn't working out to be quite as lucrative as you had hoped, guys, but the only reason I ever felt good about giving you money was because you were prepared to give some of that to projects to build libraries for children in Vietnam. Now you're not even doing that, having decided to concentrate on your "young writers" program instead, which I'm afraid I just see as an attempt by you to build brand awareness in American youth so as to secure your pensions.

Wow, I'm grumpier than I thought.

I am tired.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Teh Festival of Teh Bangers


We had kids round to the house this evening for Hallowe'en, as so often happens at this time of the year. One of the groups of kids had two Spidermen in it. "Is one of you evil Spiderman?" I asked.
"No," said the oldest kid in the group, "evil Spiderman wears black. He's Spiderman 1 and he's Spiderman 2."

Monday, October 22, 2007

During the ad break for Corrie, I noticed...

... that Peelers seems a strange product name for an Irish cheese company to use. Nevertheless, Calvita Peelers are now available.

Also, I know my house is never exactly clean, but the women in the Cillit BANG!!!! adverts are right mingers. Some of those stoves are positively unhygienic.

Alexander


Mother of god, what a mess of a film. I'm not even sure I can wtch it all the way through. The acting is awful, the story is all over the place, and Colin Farrell both looks and sounds ridiculous. He looks like Club Tropicana era George Michael, and sounds awkward, as if he's putting on a fake Irish accent. Don't talk to me about Val Kilmer. Woejious. I still like his horse, though.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

New nemesis

You'll be glad to know that I have a new nemesis, because no dog walk is complete without a certain level of tension. While they're building the footbridge, it's difficult for me to access the fields up around Mosney, so I no longer get to see my arch nemesis, The English Guy With the White Van Who Has the Dog That Attacks Other Dogs On Sight Yet Is Not Kept On a Lead.

Luckily, I can now direct my dislike toward The Woman Who Walks Her Boxer By Driving Up And Down the Beach in Her Giant SUV While the Dog Runs Behind. The dog is perfectly nice, which is fortunate, because periodically it gets tired chasing her giant car and decides instead to play with whoever it finds on the beach, because it is lonely and sometimes needs a rest. Today it followed me as far as the main road, and I had to walk back down to the beach with it and kind of shoo it off. She was parked a good way off, or I would have said something to her. Silly cow.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Majority of people satisfied with their health care experience?

For some reason I can't find the link to the actual story from this morning's news, but I seem to remember waking up to the seven o'clock news to be told that the Taoiseach, although sorry for poor Susie Long, nevertheless wanted to remind people that a recent survey revealed that most people are happy with the care they receive in the health service.

I would like to remind the Taoiseach that this survey was carried out on Irish people, who are notorious for bitching to one another about what shitty service they're receiving in a shop/restaurant/public service, and then when asked directly by someone in authority "is everything alright?" invariably say "yes, everything's grand".

This just in...

Anne Enright is IRISH! And she won the Booker Prize! And she's IRISH!

God bless her, your honour. With her IRISHNESS. God bless her.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Theatre Festival fun

Yesterday I took in the last two shows of my theatre festival experience for this year. I did a lot better than last year, because I actually managed to see almost half of the shows for which I bought tickets, as opposed to last year, when I think I saw maybe two plays, largely because of medication-related illness. This year, I managed to miss plays due to bus not coming, traffic being bad on match day, being ill with an incredibly bad cold and deciding I just couldn't sit through four hours of Eugene O'Neill.

All of what I did see was excellent, though. I will get around to reviewing them all in depth (I bet you can't wait) at a later date, but for now, here's the list.

Radio Macbeth
in the Project: I always enjoy the Project, and it has the best seating of all the venues I went to, for me anyway. Nice, straight-backed seat, banquette style so that if it's full you can all budge up, but if it's not so full you can spread out a bit, as a kind of reward for supporting less commercial theatre.

Fragments
in the Tivoli: Amusingly, the Tivoli seems to be playing a Beckett-style joke on audiences with its seating. It looks very comfortable on the face of things, being proper old-style cinema seats, but then, when you try to sit down, you realise that there is so little leg room that you have to scrunch yourself right up into a ball and wedge your legs firmly into the back of the person in front. Neither Queenie nor Mister M would have been able to sit through this show, and I almost didn't manage it either. If it had been longer than an hour, there would have been trouble.

Road to Nowhere
at the O'Reilly Theatre, Belvedere College: Functional seating, but no points to whatever bright spark decided to book a show that would attract an audience of seniors (many of whom would, obviously, have mobility issues ranging from the slight to the severe) into an auditorium where the toilets are on the second floor.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Saturday picks up after a rubbish beginning

My friend called me this morning to ask if I would go to the theatre with her this evening, because she couldn't get a babysitter and anyway there were sporting events her Mister wanted to watch. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what's known as foreshadowing. Sporting events, see?

At first I thought, well, it's a long way into town, but then I thought, fuck it, what else am I going to do with my Saturday evening? And it's always good to see her. So I said yes, I'd love to.

Cut to me sitting in traffic at the Port Tunnel (because I decided to really treat myself and drive into town, you see) for half an hour because yes, as you all remembered but I forgot, Ireland are playing (I want to say Germany?) in Croke Park this evening. So I had to phone friend, make a highly illegal Uey on the M1, and head home again.

Ah well. After that rubbish start, Saturday evening is actually picking up. There are certain advantages to Mister M not being here. Guilt free popcorn, for a start. With butter and maple syrup on. Then there's the fact that the other half bottle of red wine, the half I didn't put in the chilli, is still there for me to drink. And there is Strictly Come Dancing on the telly and two good films on the expensive bit of telly. And one of them, even though I've seen it before, has Paul Bettany in. Well, you can't ask for much more on a Saturday night in, can you? It's almost as if somebody 6,000 miles away was watching out for me.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Trish, what have you been doing all day?

I've been staring at this lady, as have all my Internet chums. You can either see her going clockwise or anticlockwise to begin with, and then you can make her swap and go the other way.

You'll also be glad to know that she has nipples. You can look at them.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Michael Clayton



Last night Mister M and I did something we never do. No, not that. The other thing. Yes, we went to the cinema. We were in town and it was a crappy night, so we figured, why not?

We saw that film Michael Clayton, which has that bloke in it who women want to be with and men want to be like (apparently). In it, he plays a fixer for a law firm who has to clean up the mess left behind when his friend (and, it seemed to me, mentor) has a bipolar episode while working on a really long-running class action suit against a major chemicals corporation. With hilarious results. Well, no. Actually slightly predictable results, really.

Some things about this film were just great. George Clooney, for one. He just looked grumpy and out of sorts throughout the entire film; his performance reminded me of Bruce Willis's in Twelve Monkeys, as if he had been given strict instructions not to do The Look, or The Twinkle, or any one of a number of little things he does to try to exude charm. I liked his relationship with his son, and indeed his family as a whole. It seemed kind of normal. I also liked Tom Wilkinson, because who doesn't? Also the overall seventies downbeat nature of the film is great. It's not funny, there are no jokes, there's no snappy dialogue, it just tells the story and that's kind of it.

However, it's nowhere near as good as everybody says it is. It's simply one of those films that is as good as films should be. Tilda Swinton's character has a major flaw, which is telegraphed from miles away. There are several things that happen that kind of don't make any sense. Above all, the character of Michael Clayton himself is a textbook example of told-not-shown.

I don't want to undersell it, though. I certainly enjoyed it and it was in no way stupid or too long or annoying in any way. It's just that maybe it was slightly oversold to me.

Also, whatever you do, don't go to the official site looking for photos to put on your blog post. Jesus, talk about overdesigned.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Queenie update

Queenie is out of the pound and safe.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lord Flashheart to the rescue


Last night I was finishing up some work for the week and I had a bit of a freak out. Not to do with volume of work or nature of work, but to do with the actual content of the journals and magazines I was reading. This week, two gems stood out for their utterly depressing content against the usual background noise of economics and politics and recommendations for acceptable levels of violence to use against offenders and rehabilitation of the massive U.S. prison population. One was a serious academic journal called Child Abuse and Neglect, the title of which I'm sure says it all. The second culprit was Onearth, which had its usual litany of ochón ochón the sky is falling articles, including a big article about bitumen extraction in Alberta--cheery stuff, I'm sure you agree.

Then, last night, I read this article in the New Statesman and I just got really upset by it. It was the last straw. So I left the work unfinished and came downstairs to immerse myself in the harmless world of movie trailers. And that's where I got my first look at Clive Owen being Sir Walter Ralegh. Look at him! And... AND! as if that wasn't enough, he's on a ship in one clip. You can see it too!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Winter is coming in


It's dark and cold. The sun isn't coming up till 7.30am and it's fecking off again around 7pm. Obviously, then, the time has come to fill our boxes with straw, write our names on our shells, and go asleep till next spring.

To that end, Mister M and I have made some Important Purchases, namely:

1) a 40" flat-screen high-definition television that looks something like the monolith from 2001 turned on its side
2) a high-definition satellite subscription, including movies
3) a new, luxurious sofa bed that will provide our sitting room with a more comfy main couch and provide our house with an extra bed should you wish to come and watch things that are highly defined

This is especially good news for me because Mister M is going away to the Mother Ship for two weeks soon and I will be on my own, so it's only proper that I should be able to have people out and offer them a place to sleep or, at the very least, watch television on my own in comfort and have somewhere in the sitting room to fall asleep should I decide (which I will, at least once) that going to bed is too much trouble.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

ComedyB runs a marathon

So, my brother is running the Dublin City Marathon this year. He is hoping to raise €5,000 for Console, who provide counselling services for people bereaved by suicide.

If you care about people who are bereaved by suicide, or you would like to feel like you're betting on a really slow race that you simply can't win, perhaps you'd like to sponsor him.

Once a month


I've realised that I can't save all the dogs or cats, but once a month I send money to a rescue to take one out of the pound and kennel it for a couple of nights (or get it vaccinated, or whatever).

Usually I pick dogs that look like my dogs or I think have a good chance of getting homed or dogs I wished I owned. This month, though, I picked Queenie, who was surrendered to the pound in Dunboyne. I hope now that there is a rescue space for her.

Of course, it's bad news when there's so many dogs in the pound that they start using names starting with Q.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

One-bus-an-hour land

The problem with living in such a land is that if your bus doesn't show up (which I'd forgotten was even a possibility, it's so long since I depended on OBAH; not since I lived with my parents, I think) then you can't go and do whatever it was you were going to do all those miles away. So I missed Gavin's show, despite having bought a ticket and secured a pal to come with me.

The moral of the story is: don't arrange to go into Dublin on All-Ireland Final day, because public transport is all screwed up, and you can't even decide to take the car in, because there won't be anywhere to park it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Culture Night in Dublin

Last night was Culture Night in Dublin, which meant that instead of Temple Bar crawling with hen and stag parties, it was heaving with oldies (like me) creeping about peeking in the windows of various establishments to see if there was anything free happening.

There was for sure free stuff happening in my old place of employment, which had live music from the bands of various volunteers, and a reading by up-and-coming author Kevin Barry, who gave a splendid reading of a story from his collection There are Little Kingdoms and donated some copies to the shop to sell.

One really nice thing was that I met a volunteer there who I first knew when he worked as a security guard at a Dublin radio station I used to frequent. He has since retired, and last year his wife died so he decided to start doing some volunteer work. He chose the shop I used to work in because, well, I used to work there. Now he's there all the time. I don't know how the guys who run the shop feel about that, but it was really nice to run into him. He actually thanked me for the fact that he found the shop, because he loves working there. It was very touching.

Tomorrow night I am going to Gavin Kostick's somewhat insane project for which he learned off all of Heart of Darkness. I am greatly looking forward to it, kind of.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Reason Why


So, there were these two guys who were both dicks who really hated each other. However, they were incredibly brave and liked to ride their horses. And one day they were in a war in Crimea, where one of them lived in a tent and one of them lived on a yacht, and when they were given the order to charge one place at the side of a valley, they instead ran all the way down the valley, right into the enemy guns*. They both survived, but many of the people they took with them did not.

And then Lord Lucan said to Lord Cardigan "did you think I would leave you dying, when there's room..."

NO, that is not what happened!

The Reason Why is another amazing, tense, funny, descriptive, beautifully written narrative history from our heroine of history, Cecil Woodham Smith. It's a great book, which you might have been put off in the past because you don't care about military history and so your eye just glided over the pictures of beautifully turned out British cavalrymen on the front of it. In fact it's a wonderful social history that explains much about what the hell went wrong with the British army. It's great.

*except the slightly less mad of the two of them stopped halfway and said "bugger this, this is madness" and stopped.

Must get her book about Florence Nightingale now.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The real New Year

Everyone knows that the new year really starts in September, when the new academic year begins. There is no reason for me to feel this way anymore, given that I haven't taken an academic course of any kind since 1992, but I still get restlessness around this time of the year. Maybe it's a way of fending off the approaching darkness and cold of winter, maybe it's just that, apart from the two-week trip to Canada, I went nowhere and saw nobody all this dismal summer long. I don't know.

In any case, I have made New Year's resolutions for the academic year 2007-2008. I've bought tickets to things in the Dublin Theatre Festival, for a start. I said last year that I wasn't going to do this again, because things then start to happen which prevent me from going to the events for which I have booked tickets, but then, that's no kind of attitude, so I've bought tickets and I'm going to go (of course, I'm already in trouble with the tickets I've booked for Long Day's Journey Into Night, but that's another story).

I've also booked an Italian course for me and Mister Monkey, which will take me into town every Tuesday night for ten weeks.

And I'm going to Amsterdam.

And we're going to Glasgow.

And we're going to Rome.

It is a busy time, on paper at least. The real challenge will be to actually attend all the things I've paid for.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The chews that ooze? Are you people for real?

Mars have introduced a new sweet. It's part of the Starburst (nee Opal Fruits) range, and is called the Starburst Choozer. First of all, when are we going to get tired of "z" instead of "s" as a signifier for what is young and hip? Second of all, the, um, slightly menstrual quality of the dollop of "ooze" that falls on the man in the ad is enough to turn a person's stomach, and the fact that this is then followed by the policeman sticking his finger in the ooze and licking it off, well, it kind of makes you hope to avoid the ad altogether when you're having your tea.

Finally, the tag line. The chews that ooze? Sores and spots ooze. Dead union members strapped to radiators ooze. Sweets shouldn't ooze. It's not right.

The world's worst icecream man

The weather forecast had suggested that yesterday might be a nice day, so our friends R and D and their children came out to visit us. In the end, the weather wasn't that great, but we went down the beach anyway, and for a couple of hours we were those people you see in old photos of Blackpool and Bournemouth and Courtown, standing on the beach in our sunglasses despite there being no evidence of sun.

A developed this great game with me where he scooped muddy sand out of one of the little streams along the beach and presented it to me as icecream, but right before I took it in my hand, he would throw it on the ground. This worked out well for me, as it goes, because it meant I didn't actually have to eat the icecream, and we got to shout at each other for a while, which kids love (even if their parents hate it. I am a bad influence).

We also brought Milo and Cody with us, and A held Milo's lead all the way down and all the way home again. I was very proud of both A and Milo. Milo walked politely beside A, didn't try to pull him, and periodically checked back to make sure we were close behind. A held the lead, told Milo to wait when we got to roads to be crossed (which Milo actually did) and patted Milo on the head when he was good. He is a born pack leader. Which is good, because he has no future in retail at all.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Kitten sadness


We recently experienced a kitten tragedy here in the Monkey House. The lovely ginger kitten who was going to go and be Dweezil's special friend died. I was putting eye drops in his eye and he squirmed away from me and fell on the floor. On the way down, he hit his head off the edge of a box, and by the time he got to the floor he was spasming frantically and was clearly not well; he died within a few minutes.

Looking back on it from the relatively safe distance of a few days, I realise that for all that I make fun of Mister M and his freakish inability to cry, it is a useful skill to have in a situation like this. I, on the other hand, go completely to pieces.

I mean, I know he was just a kitten and not a person or anything, but it was pretty awful.

In good kitten news, though, Rory is a little trouper. She's sweet and affectionate and fun. A good kitten catch.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Washer toss

In a recent post, Queenie describes some games of washer toss that we played in her back garden while on holidays. Washer toss is a great game, for many reasons.

One: It requires some special equipment that you can't necessarily just throw together yourself (i.e. something more complicated than just a ball, or just drawing a chalk line on the ground) so the game has a sense of occasion to it.

Two: It can be played in various states of inebriation, by people of both genders, of all ages, and of varying levels of fitness.

Three: It invites, and indeed practically requires, trash talking of the opposition in order to put them off their stride. In this regard it has one great advantage over other games, which is that the person who stands beside you throughout the game is a member of the opposition, allowing your trash talking to be as subtle as you like.

Four: It combines elements of skill and the absolute flukiness usually associated with darts or poker.

Five: The ground you're playing on doesn't need to be level, or grass, or in any particular condition, as long as you've got a clear shot between the two boxes.

It's a great game. You should all play it. There's a nice man in Nova Scotia you can order your sets from, I understand.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Linking places and books

The Secret River and The Songlines will always be linked in my mind with the holiday in Halifax on which I read them. I'm sorry now that I didn't take a picture the day we were in the Paperchase coffee shop and the heavens opened to douse Halifax in some of the heaviest rain I've ever seen. The windows were open and we sat in comfortable chairs, watching the rain, watching the other customers watching the rain, listening to some eejits prattling on about jobs in the media (but coded looks between myself and Queenie managed to shut their asses up fast), watching some shifty-looking bloke who looked very much like he was about to start robbing things any minute, and, crucially, reading. We had just been to the cavernous second-hand bookshop that is Doull's, where I had picked up, hey! who would have guessed? a book about the whaleship Essex. That's where I got The Songlines as well.

It's not always bad when it rains on holidays.

The Songlines


It turns out that if you suggest to Mister Monkey that you would be interested in reading a book about Australian Aborigines, he thinks you should read Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines. He is not alone. I'm here to tell you, however, that if you read this book because you want to learn about Aboriginal culture, you'll be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you are reading it because you want to read a book in which a man tries very hard to make sense of the living conditions of some people who refuse to fit in with the reality that's been forced upon them, and also tries to construct a grand theory of travelling, you will be enlightened and find much enjoyment.

The book, which was written in 1987, tells the story of Chatwin's attempt to learn about Aboriginal songlines by going to Australia and meeting with leaders of Aboriginal groups. During his stay, he is trapped by bad weather on a reservation for some time and goes through his notebooks to try, it seems to me, to come up with an explanation for why people like walking, and why people (in particular Westerners) seem to be so hell-bent on forcing their realities onto other cultures. Originally when I was reading this, I tried to explain away these disjointed fragments of personal recollection and anthropological theory as Chatwin's attempt to sing his own songline, but now I'm not sure. I could imagine that you would, having spent time in the company of Aborigines, try to construct a romantic history of your own. Who is not seduced by the idea of these people, living the same way for 20,000 years, living through songs and stories and hunting and taking only what they need from the land around them? You'd have to be a hard person not to fall in love with words and concepts like Dreamtime and Dreaming, or the idea of having your own songline. Of course you'd love to have something like that for yourself.

I have to conclude, though, that it really was a grand theory of walking he was after in the muddled middle section of the book. The ever-useful Queenie, who has read Nicholas Shakespeare's biography of Chatwin, told me that Chatwin wrestled with that section of the book for over a year, and finally had to let it go as it was because he couldn't hammer it all into a single coherent strand. I think, if you read Jared Diamond, you might find some of the legacy of Chatwin's attempts in there.

Outside the section on walking and travelling, Chatwin's own experience in Australia are amazing. I won't tell you any of them, but if you ever read about the romance of kangaroo hunting and think "I'd like to do that", I think you'll be surprised to see what's changed about it.

By the way, I would still like to read a comprehensive book about the Aborigines, if anyone knows one.

The Secret River


On holidays at Queenie's place, I read this book by Australian writer Kate Grenville. Queenie recommended it to me from her personal stash (in fact, she more than recommended it to me, she left it on the shelves in the room where Mister Monkey and I were sleeping, such is her attention to guest comfort details). It's a fine piece of historical fiction about a Thames boatman who commits a crime and is transported to Australia.

It's got some great elements of the best historical fiction in it. First, it's got lots of stuff about boats and rivers and the sea in it. Second, it is, as far as I can remember the details of Robert Hughes's The Fatal Shore, pretty historically accurate. And third, it takes its mission as fiction more seriously than its mission as history; it follows the rough outline of the typical journey of the transported convict, but refrains from having the protagonist commit a crime once he gets to Australia, which would, of course, have seen him sent to Van Diemen's Land. You can tell at one point that she was thinking about it, because she talks about it almost longingly, but she steers away from it in the long run and heads for the more straightforward story of just exactly what was required of people to become successful in Australia in those days. It wasn't pretty.

In a weird way this book reminds me of Little House on the Prairie with its details of everyday life on the frontier, grubbing a living out of harsh lands, living hand to mouth. However, I don't think Laura Ingalls ever had to see the things that these people had to see. It's the first book I've ever read that came close to providing an explanation of just how people from Britain were willing to come across the sea and, frankly, slaughter a bunch of people who were just minding their own business in their own home. Desperation is a powerful thing.

The Boleyn Inheritance


This is the book where Philippa Gregory talks about Anne of Cleeves and Katherine Howard. Yet again, we see how shit it was to have to spend your time sucking up to Henry VIII (I have no idea how men managed to do this, it's not like they could pretend he was fabulously good-looking) and how all round rubbish it was to be a woman around this time.

I knew nothing about Anne of Cleeves or Katherine Howard before I read this, and I'm kind of assuming I'm in good historical hands with Gregory, so it is with some confidence that I can express amazement that Henry got away with this shit for the few years that he did. After he divorced Katherine of Aragon and then executed Anne Boleyn, he seems to have gone mental and more or less chewed women up and spat them back out again on a kind of conveyor belt. It didn't help that he was getting older and fatter and less able to hold up his end of the bargain as each wife went by, nor that his succession was so contentious that that everyone with an interest in the future of the kingdom appeared to be chucking women at him.

My respect for Anne of Cleeves is colossal, as it was for Katherine of Aragon. These were women who could easily have run countries in their own right (I'm not sure I'd necessarily have given Jane Seymour or Katherine Howard such a task), and Anne of Cleeves even managed an amicable divorce from the old git. Good for her.

Mutiny on the Globe


Narrative histories about whaleships, mutinies, and shipwrecks are ten a penny, and this one has elements that are familiar to those who've read other ones. Crazy guy thinks he can set up his own society but needs a ship's crew to get him to the right location, then, once he gets there, he kills everyone who's not in on his plan. Gradually, however, he ends up having to kill more and more people in a Richard III stylee.

This book has those elements.

What makes it interesting is what happens after the mutiny is over, which is that the ship fecks off, and two guys are left on an island in the middle of the Pacific with some potentially hostile natives. The book tells the story of how they were, essentially, kept as slaves by the people who lived on the islands, and how they lived there for several years before eventually being rescued by the U.S. Navy. It makes a nice change from being cast adrift in a rowboat and having to eat their shipmates, I suppose, but it does seem to have been incredibly hard work, especially as they could never really be sure they weren't going to be killed, and they were separated from each other almost all that time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ringworm!

Ringworm is one of those fun things that if you probably never have to cope with if you are not a) a parent b) a farmer c) a vet or d) someone who gets pets from rescues. Given that I fall firmly into category d), our house has ringworm again. It hasn't been vet confirmed yet, but ginger kitten is showing all the signs: he's got little raised scabs on the back of his neck and his hair is starting to fall out.

Annoyingly, we've run out of quarantine rooms, which means we have no way of separating him from Rory for the duration of the treatment (usually a month), so she'll probably get it too if she hasn't got it already. Luckily it's not very bad, and he is small enough to be wrestled into a bath, so we might not have the six-week ordeal that we had with Linus and Lucy or the four-week misery fest that was Killick's battle with ringworm. His was so bad that Mister M caught it from him.

Unluckily, it does mean another month of being careful about keeping an airlock between the kittens and the other house animals at all times, vaccuuming the house every day, changing my clothes every time I move between the kittens' room and the rest of the house, and having a shower every time I leave them.

It's a good thing they're cute.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Phear it part two for today



Even though we're not keeping him, here are some gratuitous kitten pictures of the ginger kitten. He is not staying, so do not get used to photos of him.

Phear it!


We have a new kitten. We decided when Dweezil was here on his holidays last week that really it's better if Linus has company, especially when we have to put him into kennels or anywhere like that. So I contacted a pet rescue lady and lo and behold, we have a new kitten.

She is approximately 12 weeks old and at the moment is upstairs in my office with her little friend, who is going to be the new kitten for Dweezil to be friends with in his house, but they have an eye infection so we're minding them both here. Our kitten is called Rory, and she is a long-haired tortoiseshell. I am trying very, very hard not to fall in love with her (mainly in case she turns out to be a prick), but it's very hard when she keeps licking my arm really hard to make milk come out of it (I assume that's what she's doing. It's hard to tell with cats) and just being absolutely the most beautiful cat that I, personally, have ever owned.

She could be a prick, though. It's too early to tell.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Stupid RTE newsroom

Two gems from our national broadcaster yesterday. Okay, one of them might have been a misspelling, or a slip of the tongue, and I know that newsreaders don't always listen to what they're saying, but still, to refer to Ingmar Bergman's best-known film as The Seven Seas is surely pretty dense, no?

The other thing that really annoyed me was when the newsreader announced that Cork man Paul Cunningham was on the way to Dublin to collect his Lotto winnings, despite the fact that Mrs. Cunningham was the one who bought the ticket. Surely that makes them her winnings, or at best their winnings?

Perhaps I demand too much from the radio news.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Some day, we will storm the Citadel


But not this time.

Because of our stupid 24 hour delay, we got into Halifax on Sunday night instead of Saturday night, and so we missed the opportunity to actually go on board the Tall Ships in Halifax when we got there. Instead, Queenie and Himself collected us at the airport and drove us to the harbour where the ships were moored for their last night in town, so we could walk around them in the gathering fog. We ate hot dogs for our dinner and held off on talk of home and catching up so that Mister M could explain the difference between ketches and sloops and I could, like I always do, pretend to be able to remember it. It was very cool, because we got to see the Pride of Baltimore II, which was a privateer in the 1812 war, and we saw The Bounty, which is, of course, a reproduction. We also saw a couple of really cool national navy training ships, one from India and one from Germany.

On Monday, which was a scorcher (sorry, Irelanders), Mister M and I managed to haul ourselves out of the apartment to watch the (fanfare) Parade of Sail, in which each of the ships gave a little tour of the harbour before leaving for Lunenberg. We could have gone down to the harbour, but it was hot and packed down there, so we stood up on the hill just below the Citadel and watched from there for a couple of hours. We had binoculars and a camera, but no hats or sunblock or water. And so the inevitable happened, which is that we got amazingly sunburned and felt dizzy and had to go and sit in a very touristy pub and drink beer and eat lobster sandwiches until we felt better.

Queenie and Himself made barbeque happen in the evening, and although it had nothing to do with ships, it was good because it felt comfortable and friendly and proper, and we met their neighbours and played washer toss, which is a little like horseshoes, but with washers and boxes of sand, and we drank beers and it just felt really good, which is just as well, because it tipped down rain most of the rest of the week. Ha ha. Serves me right for getting the Angel Gabriel to give me a good haircut, and buying a fancy hat to keep the sun off.

Fear of flying

When I was younger, my dad worked for Aer Lingus and we used to fly places on standby. This was always an exciting proposition, because you were never quite sure if and when you were going to get away. Many's the boring hour I spent sitting in airports, waiting for the next flight, because there would be enough seats on that for us all. A couple of times, when flying on my own at peak times, I didn't get away on the day I wanted and had to go home or back to my accommodation having sat in the airport all day long, just to come back and sit in the airport all day long the next day. I swore when I got older that I would never take for granted the fact that I could afford to pay for a ticket and just get on a plane when I was supposed to.

It didn't quite work in Belfast this time. We were delayed by 24 hours on the way out to Halifax, which immediately gave me The Fear because I was convinced that we were going to end up like those people in Newark who were supposed to be flying to Knock. The airline strung them along for five days or something, and then finally cancelled the flight. I think a bunch of them are still trying to get their money back.

However, things work better with Zoom, it seems. They waited till everyone had checked in, then bussed us all over to the Belfast Hilton, fed us dinner and put us up there for the night, then bussed us back to the hotel next day at lunchtime to wait for the flight to be ready. They fed us lunch that day too, right before bringing us over to check in. It was all handled very well. Well done the Zoom. And John Hume was on our flight and may or may not have been trying to skip the lunch queue on the second day.

Ways in which TV is not like real life, part 437


I was singing the theme from The Beverly Hillbillies to myself this morning and it occurred to me that if a poor family found black gold, or Texas tea, if you will, in their back garden, their kinfolk would not advise them to move away from there. There's not a chance on earth you would suggest that your newly-wealthy family should pick up, leave the state and drive all the way to California. Why? What purpose would it serve?

It makes no sense.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Me meme!

Before I went on holidays, my mentor, Manuel Estimulo, invited me to join in this meme. I don't usually join in memes because I have a proper blog instead of a Livejournal (that was a joke, please don't kill me). However, who can refuse everyone's favourite fascist?

So, here are eight things you didn't know about me before:

1) I love driving. It's shameful, I know, but I love it. I pray for the day when electric cars, or hydrogen cars, or some non-shameful form of car comes on the market that I can pilot without having to feel like some kind of environmental criminal and curtail my driving. However, like all right-thinking drivers, I only really like driving on good, relatively quiet roads. There are about four of these in any one country, and so my enjoyment of driving is lessened somewhat. I do not listen to Bachman Turner Overdrive while driving.

2) I listen to Farm Week on RTE Radio One almost every week. There is no reason for this, other than the fact that I'm something of a stickler for certain routines. Back when the Big Breakfast was on Channel 4 in the mornings, I couldn't go to work until a certain point in the programme had passed. Now, I have to get up on a Saturday morning to listen to Farm Week.

3) The corollary to 2) is that I have become a morning person as I have grown older. If the weather is fine, I like nothing more than getting up at 6am and going out for a walk, and am one of those tedious coves who will tell you that the early morning is the best part of the day.

4) Although I dislike almost everything about the practice of it, and don't enjoy watching it on television, I actually think golf is a great game. It's sociable, non-combative, age-inclusive, and involves a lot of walking. However, the actual business of golf, with its enclosed lands that could be used as public amenities, wasting of natural resources, and ludicrous motorised carts that remove even the walking aspect of it, really annoy me.

5) People who can walk around the streets in flip flops amaze me. I get a cramp in my foot if I walk in mine for more than two minutes, and I trip over them going both up and down stairs. In fact, other people's footwear in general is a source of amazement to me. The heels are so high! The shoes look so uncomfortable and insubstantial! What is the point?

6) In fact, I'm boringly practical when it comes to buying clothes. I rarely buy handbags or coats that aren't waterproof, just in case, and I won't buy shoes that say on them that they're not supposed to be worn outdoors (what is the POINT?) Although I love fancy hats, I rarely buy them either, because I once saw some skanger rob a hat off a guy's head and throw it in the Liffey, and I live in fear that someone will do that to me and I will look a fool.

7) I look forward to the Autumn, because all my television programmes will start again.

8) I am happier now, both with my lot in life and with my own self, than I have ever been.

I understand that I'm now supposed to nominate someone else to complete this meme. I haven't decided who yet.

Medical tourism

Recently, some friends of mine have been discussing their lives and how well or poorly they've turned out. This discussion was prompted by some reminiscing about college days and the SU Mandate Scandal of 19__, and what the main dramatis personae in that exciting episode have gone on to achieve. Some of us were bewailing our lack of life momentum, but I guess in order for some to succeed, others must look on from the sidelines.

I, of course, am the mistress of underachievement, thanks to my legendary level of laziness in all things. Here's an example of what I mean. I have a friend who runs a company called Reva Health Network, which is a medical tourism website. You go to his site, and you can find health care professionals in many countries around the world, saving money as you go. Sometimes he tells me about this company and what it does, and I get tired just listening to him. Not just because he has a real company that he runs (with employees and everything!) but because even being a medical tourist requires a level of organization to which I can only aspire. If it comes to a choice between getting on a plane and flying to Poland to save €2,000 (or similar) and going into Dublin to see some rubbish doctor you've been going to for years out of habit who never cures you of anything and in fact can't even be bothered to read your notes when you're sitting in front of her or him... well, I know which I'd choose. Which, of course, is why I'm always sick.

Hmm. Perhaps some sort of life rethink is called for at this point.

Bless me, readers

For I have sinned. It is a whole month since my last blog entry. And a miserable month too, for many of us. A month during which the distraction of a blog entry would have been truly welcome. I'm back now, though.

Mind you, I'm not happy about it, given that the place I'm back from is Nova Scotia, where I would very happily spend the rest of my days because it is a) beautiful and b) where Queenie lives. As I said to her a couple of days ago, I really wish she lived somewhere shit, so I could tell her to come home. But you couldn't order anybody home from Halifax: it's too good a place to live, and besides, she knows heaps of lovely people, including Himself who, among other things, taught Mister Monkey how to eat every single bit of a lobster, including the bits that usually get sent back to the kitchen. Never again will Mister M be outwitted by a crustacean.

Anyhow, back now.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


WILL YOU JUST STOP FUCKING RAINING FOR TEN MINUTES!!!!!

Ahem.

That is all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I'm just saying hello!


In a feat of fun of the type usually reserved for Christmas specials, Doctor Who on Saturday featured not one, but two treats. Clearly RTD is doing his darnedest to make up for the recent Dalek story, which had me, for one, longing for the good old days when Daleks did more shooting and less hovering.

Anyway, yes. Two treats. First, Captain Jack is back, and well-explained. I love Captain Jack. He's saucy and heroic and fun and he will shag you, regardless of your age, gender, or species. Second, well, I can hardly bring myself to say it, but when we realised what was happening, we got very excited and shouted "oh my god!" at the television a lot. Yes. It's true. Sam Tyler has had an accident and woken up in the year five trillion.

Now, my ideal scenario for the next two episodes would be for the Doctor and Sam Tyler to stand around in a library lit by flickering candlelight and sneer at each other wittily for an hour and a half before challenging each other to a sabre duel, but that is, sadly, unlikely to happen. I just hope that the writers don't mess it all up.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The world of unfortunate acronyms


MANPADS

I know this is going to raise a flag somewhere and make me a security risk, but really, how have I not heard this acronym before?

See what happens when you use androcentric terminology?

The Greatest Garment Ever Told


I know that many of you have been waiting with bated breath for my take on the election results and the Green/Fianna Fail coalition. Well, here it is.

Is this not the greatest garment you have ever laid eyes upon? Maybe if I am very nice to my friend Leedy, she will make me one, and I can open my own salon, and wear the dress, and people can come and have intellectual discourse around me, and then I can learn everything there is to learn about what's happening in the world, and be like some modern-day Esperanza.

I realise that this may not be what other people think when they see this fine garment, but other people are often wrong.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jesus, what is RTE's problem?

I have just had to run to turn off the radio with my hands over my ears. Not a gainly sight, I think you'll agree. But what am I supposed to do when Morning Ireland decides to have a piece about the very last episode of The Sopranos and play clips from it? And then get someone from the San Francisco Chronicle on to talk about it?

Assholes.

Furthermore, I would like to thank RTE Two very much for their inability to actually start a programme when they say they will. We set the Sky Plus to record the Saturday night repeat of The Modest Adventures of David O'Doherty, and it managed to start about 15 minutes late, which meant we missed the last seven minutes of it and don't know whether he actually did get into the Irish chart or not.

HI DERE, RTE! A television schedule is not like a hairdresser's appointment book! It is not okay to overrun late at night because you were busy earlier in the day. Please to act like professional television network. Thank you.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Screw you, Japan.

Charismatic megafauna win a reprieve.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Do you like a laugh?

This could be just the thing.

It starts on Tuesday night on RTE.

Do you like to be scared?



In my case the answer is yes, sometimes, but only a little bit. On last night's Dr. Who, for example, there were scary scarecrows. And they weren't just scarey in an if-I-was-a-child-watching-this-I-would-be-scared way. No, they were scary in a "Monkey, I don't like it," way. If I had seen them as a child, I would never have gone walking in the countryside again. Or at least, not for a week or so.

But the time passed and they went away and I had my dinner (yummy aubergines, which are proving to be the hit of our household these days. Wish I could grow my own. Anyway...) and thought little more about them. However, later on Mister M decided we would watch Asian Shocker The Eye.

This is a Hong Kong film made by a couple of mentallers called The Pang Brothers, and it is about a woman who is blind from the age of two, but then, in her twenties, has a corneal transplant which allows her to see. Unfortunately, she starts seeing people who are just about to die, and then they follow her around once they're dead. Ho hum, we thought, this film is very slow. And not scary at all.

Ha ha! Some of you may remember this line of reasoning from the time we watched Ring, which was so not scary for the first hour and a half that I actually fell asleep during it. Some of you may have been bored to tears listening to me talk about how scary the last half hour of that film is. I can only assume that The Eye is kind of the same, because after a good forty minutes of seeing not scary at all dead people, the woman in the film gets into a lift, and in the corner of the lift is an old man, who is obviously dead. He is facing into the corner of the lift, away from her. The lift rises slowly, and we can see him, moving around behind her in the lift. In fact, he is drifting very slowly towards her as the lift rises with agonising slowness towards the 15th floor.

I stopped looking at the screen at this point, and am reliably informed by Mister M that this was the right thing to do, since it was obvious that the man had not died from the happiness of being licked by a fluffy kitten, and he was just about to touch her when she burst out of the lift, to safety.

Except not safety, because she was only on the 14th floor!

We turned off the film after that. But it's in there, in the Sky box, waiting. Lurking. Calling to me to watch it to see if it gets scarier.

I think I might just watch the Dr. Who episode again. After all, David Tennant gets off with Jessica Stevenson in a kind of To Serve Them All My Days setting. What could be more comforting to watch than that?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Miserable election day, people


There was only one thing for it. We found ourselves a torrence of the season finale of Lost, because we couldn't wait till Sunday.

I reckon it's just about one of the best hours and a half of television I've ever watched.

I'm including a gratuitous picture of Naveen, just because it's one of the only two bright spots in an otherwise rotten day (the other one being Michael McDowell's concession of defeat, but I'm damned if I'm putting his picture on my blog).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Separated at birth


Why aren't you funnier?

It's an old cry, I know, but a heartfelt one. Why aren't these women funnier? I've just been watching Neil Delamere's STOLEN Just for Laughs, and as usual, the women were not funny. One of the women in particular annoyed me. She is, apparently, the 30th most powerful woman in the Canadian media, or something. I can't even remember her name, and I just saw her twenty minutes ago.

She was not funny.

Another woman was mildly funny, but nothing like as funny as she thought she was.

And then there was You Know Who, who appears to have turned into Tommy Tiernan, but nevertheless somehow managed to be almost funny. Certainly entertaining to listen to.

It pains me, as someone who is conversationally funny, to watch women who are professionally "funny", not being funny. It pains me. (I am putting my hand over my heart in the manner of one who is pained.)

407 965 0600

Do you recognise this number? It's a U.S. number, and when I answered it on Saturday, a recorded voice told me I had been randomly selected to win a holiday in Florida. I called Eircom and asked how this was a legal call, since I am on a Do Not Call list.

Sadly, the Do Not Call list only applies within Ireland. People from outside Ireland can call me with whatever shit they like.

The Eircom person said that I should find out the name of the company making the calls and ask to be removed from their list. But, according to my friend The Internet, if you press button 9, as the call entices you to do, you then get to talk to a person, but you've also "displayed interest" in the product, and so you are no longer entitled to be removed from their list and it's legitimate for them to keep calling you.

They seem to be fishing for credit card details. And by "fishing", I mean "asking". I certainly won't be answering the phone to them a second time, even though they called again today.

Anyway, if you see this number on your caller display, don't answer it. That is all.

Update update! I posted my experience on a message board, and right before me there was a message from a guy called Paul who also lives in Ireland and has had the same calls. He was also told there was nothing that could be done because the calls do not originate within Ireland.

Tea Clipper vs. East Indiaman FITE!


It can be no coincidence (except it can) that on the very day that London's beloved tea clipper, the Cutty Sark, succumbed to fire and had to dump its cargo, causing massive tea shortages all over these isles, that the Swedish East Indiaman Gotheborg sailed up the Thames, cannons blazing.

Some parts of the above statement are true.

Anyway, once again I curse my metal legs and the fact that I don't live in London. The Gotheborg will be berthed there until June 2nd, and you can go aboard this fabulous replica of a ship that ran aground in 1745, and learn all about the oppression of half the globe. Good, eh?

Luckily, Queenie continues to send me updates on the Tall Ships festival that will be taking place for my benefit in Halifax in July, and I live in hope of seeing the Batavia in the Netherlands in September.

Arrr.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

RTE is the weakest link


When Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative Party in Great Britain in 1978, she turned down an invitation to debate Prime Minister James Callaghan on television. The decision was probably based on the knowledge that she wouldn't win, but the reason her team gave at the time was that a president was not being chosen, so why should the two leaders of the parties debate each other?

I wonder the same thing about the Irish elections. Do people in Ireland really vote on who they want to see as Taoiseach, or do they vote based on what the local representative of a particular party can do for them and their local area? Unless you're in Bertie Ahern's constituency, you're not voting for him directly, so what's the point of the debate, really?

Nevertheless, RTE have spent the entire morning so far talking about last night's ridiculous festival of name-calling between the possible Tanaisti (is that the right plural?), and trying to get people to watch tonight's debate between Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny. They talked about it on Morning Ireland, where I got to hear Michael McDowell's "oh no he di'nt!" line that he's clearly been batting around the office for weeks, about being on stage with the left, the hard left, and the left overs. Leftovers, geddit? It's great to live in a country where the kind of line they trot out for the lineup section on Never Mind the Buzzcocks is considered cutting satire. And there was Pat Rabbitte's line about McDowell being like a "menopausal Paris Hilton; he's an inveterate attention-seeker".

OH SNAP!

Oh please. I may not watch the debate tonight (let's face it, I won't), but thanks to Morning Ireland, Ryan Tubridy, and Pat Kenny, and their tireless self-advertising that passes for current affairs programming, at least I know it's on.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sweeney Todd


Earlier in the year, for my birthday in fact, Mister M took me to the Abbey to see Julius Caesar and we were so pissed off with the whole experience that we left at the interval. There were three reasons for this.
1) People in the theatre were talking along with the famous bits
2) The acting was poor to shouty. There was none of the seemingly relaxed, conversational style of Shakespeare acting that we had witnessed in Anto and Cleo in February
3) The seats were deathly uncomfortable, even allowing for our noble girth. I, a woman with notoriously short legs (just ask my tailor), was jabbed in the knee by the girl in the seat in front of me every time she reached for her mobile phone, which was every five minutes

I put it down to a poor production and thought no more about it (well, you know, except to complain loudly at every opportunity).

But last week we went to see Sweeney Todd in the Gate, and I was reminded of nothing so much as the time we went to see the Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society do Guys and Dolls about 25 years ago. The acting was, well... Anita Reeves was very good as Mrs. Lovett, and Barry McGovern was excellently creepy as the judge. The juvenile leads were sorely lacking any kind of appeal or lung power, however, and Sweeney himself was a little too shouty and not enough singy for me.

Moreover, the whole thing just kind of smacked of not quite enough attention to sound quality, which is not fair when you're putting on a musical, especially one that hasn't got a lot of dialogue in it, so you kind of need to be able to hear the words of the songs in order to follow the plot. Don't get me wrong. It was very enjoyable, a good time was had by all, the show is great and rollicks along like, I don't know, some sort of bloodthirsty child in a fairground, and even the enormous school group managed to stay quiet most of the time, even if the ones near us did continue to hit each other for a very long time after the show started. Still though, the tickets were €35 each, and the scrapey violins did sometimes drown out the singing, something I don't expect. And the chorus' lyrics could never be made out. And there just weren't enough of them to make a big, threatening sound and a bustling street scene. I don't know, maybe I'm too demanding, but I kind of expect proper, good professionals for that kind of money.

Oedema!


This is what I have now. Swelling of the extremities due to pooling of blood or something. Lovely.

Mister Monkey and I spoke this morning of what I would need to do to try to manage my hypertension without recourse to medication, given that the medication appears to disagree with me. Sadly, what I would need to do is basically reinvent my entire self and become some other, healthier, calmer human being. I would need to eat well, follow a whole food diet, and avoid alcohol and salt. I would also need to be calm (no laughing at the back, there), and meditate and do yoga and all that stuff.

On one level, it's very appealing. I would like to be calmer. I've never met anyone who is as stressed out and mental with so little external stress and cause for mentalness. I've even heard it suggested that part of the reason for my day-to-day boiling rage is my high blood pressure, and that if my blood pressure came down I would be more calm and less anxious anyway, and then would find it easier to become more calm and less anxious. I don't know about that, but I know some things, namely:

I still hate going to the doctor, and it gives me stress.
I really hate going to the hospital.
I don't like taking medication, especially given it makes me puke/cough/swell up like Violet Beauregarde.
I don't want to have a stroke/heart attack/whatever the hell else high blood pressure puts me at risk of. (Nice hanging preposition there. Shut up, you.)

It doesn't leave a huge number of options, does it? Except there is one sliver of hope for the medication I'm on at the moment, and that's pine bark. Apparently it's some kind of miracle herbal remedy, and can reduce oedema. God, I hope so. It hurts to walk. So I will once more consult with my doctor next week and see what she thinks about pine bark. Maybe she might even read back over my file this time!

I would say "fingers crossed", but I can't actually cross them at the moment.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Gun Seller


This is a highly entertaining book by that nice man Hugh Laurie. In a little interview at the back of my U.S. copy (because you can't just sell people a book any more. You have to sell them ancillary bits, as if it was a DVD) nice Mr. Laurie explains that he wrote the book because a quick review of his diary one day revealed that he had done exactly nothing interesting for six months. So he decided he would write himself a more glamorous and exciting life. It's a simple reason to write a book, and it's a simple book.
Imagine if P.G. Wodehouse had written a thriller.
There you are.

Of course, the fact that it was written ten years ago, or thereabouts, means that it has aged hugely. There's all kinds of things in it that just wouldn't happen now. Everything about international terrorism has changed since then, so it all looks very innocent now. But it's still fun.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Further illness update

The fun marches on.

So, about six months ago I got a really bad chest infection and went to the doctor, who prescribed me antibiotics and inhalers and steroids, and I took them, and the chest infection went away, but the hacking cough stayed. It was constant. It kept me awake at night, it woke me up in the morning. It made it impossible to work, read, or enjoy anything. It made me strain my back and neck from coughing. It was awful, in short. I went back to the doctor about it and was given more antibiotics and more inhalers and more steroids and it still didn't go away.

So then my doctor told me that it sounded like I had asthma, and she took blood to determine what I might be allergic to that could be making it worse. I moved all my stuff out of the upstairs office where the cats sleep to the kitchen, where everything is tiled; I considered putting in wooden floors. She gave me more inhalers, a steroid one and another one. Neither of them really did anything, but I carried on taking them anyway. The cough persisted.

I went back to the doctor last week, a month after the blood tests, to see if they had come back. They hadn't, but when she looked at my file to see if there was anything that could be done for me, she said "oh, you're taking Lisinopril for your blood pressure".
"Yes," I said. "You prescribed it for me because the Micardis was making me sick. The whirling head, the throwing up."
"Lisinopril can cause a dry, persistent cough," she said.

I almost cried. I almost hit her. I almost walked out of her office. But I didn't. Instead, I calmly pointed out to her that she had put me on this drug, and that since she had put me on it, I had spent almost €200 on inhalers to get rid of the cough, and had missed work, and been utterly wretched for six months. She apologised profusely and didn't charge me for the visit.

Now I'm on another drug. This one made me sick and dizzy for the first couple of days, but that seems to have stopped now. The doctor warned me that it will probably make my hands and feet swell up, and might make it hard to walk, which will be fun for me, considering I walk an hour and a half every day.

Stupid pharmaceuticals industry. Stupid genetics. I hate them both.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Three to See the King


Perhaps you are familiar with the high weirdness of Magnus Mills' rather repetitive, hypnotic style of writing. If you are not, you could be forgiven for thinking, like Mister Monkey, that his books are boring. If you like him, though, you admire his ability to create whole worlds of the type you're more used to seeing in the animated films of the National Film Board of Canada.

In this book, a man lives on a windy plain in the middle of nowhere, in a house made entirely of tin. Things happen to him and around him that upset his world where he shovels the sand away from his house every morning. As usual, I hesitate to give much more away than that. This book doesn't have the same tension that some of his previous works do, because at no point is the man who lives in a house made entirely of tin doing anything he shouldn't be doing, and so at no point are you afraid he's going to get caught. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of incident and that Pinteresque sense that a lot is being said in a very short space of time.