Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Crime books I read

I don't usually read crime books. There has to be some special reason or gimmick, like they're set in Galway or they're written by someone I know. This year I read two crime books with gimmicks or hooks attached. The first was Michael Chabon's fine The Yiddish Policemen's Union, which is set in a fictional Alaskan present. In this fictional present, President Roosevelt's idea to have the displaced Jews of Europe come and live in Alaska was fulfilled, but they are all about to be displaced again because Sitka, which they were given as a homeland, is about to revert to being a U.S. state, and residency is not guaranteed for all. Into this complex situation comes a tired police detective, a dead heroin addict, and the world's greatest pie. It's a fine book, as you'd expect from Chabon. Heaps of atmosphere, fun, the usual American hangups with fathers, and detective work.

The second book, which I got so bogged down in that it actually took me months to read, was Andrew Taylor's DULL AS FUCK The American Boy (of course, it didn't help that every time I picked it up, the Estelle song ran around my head).

This book is set in London in 18-bippety something, not long after the Napoleonic wars and the war with America. It concerns a young school teacher who is assigned to accompany two of his young charges to London, but OH NOES! one of them is Edgar Allan Poe. DO YOU SEE?? Creepiness can only ensue. Except it doesn't really. There are a couple of murders, I don't care. There is a bit of flirting with young women, I don't care about that either. And there is rather a lot of language that, I'm sorry to tell you, I'm fairly sure is lifted from Patrick O'Brian. I know they're both old-timey and everything, but there's just something about a few of the exact phrases that seemed awfully familiar. "I tried to move, but my legs wouldn't answer," and the good old "I should like it of all things". It suffered a lot from tell-don't-show, and also from the fact that the protagonist basically does nothing, things merely happen around him that he witnesses or falls over. It's really dull. However, I understand they're planning on filming it, and it probably would look good on screen.

(By the way, Edgar Allan has absolutely no bearing on the plot at all. The whole thing is a mess.)

Ways in which dogs are like children, No. 1 in an occasional series

If they find a noisy toy in the kitchen in the morning, then you don't get to hear the radio.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The new year is coming. Look busy, everyone!

This time last year I posted my list of resolutions for 2008. Naturally, I kept very few of them.

Did I read 50 books? I'm not sure I even read ten this year, and blogged even fewer than that (what is with the not reading thing? I don't understand it, I truly don't).

Did I get my week's work done in five days? No. And frankly, I'm shocked at how long my crappy work habits have been going on for. Over a year now! That's bad, and it needs to be addressed or, even more frankly, I could lose my job if jobs are around to be lost.

I also failed to write a new novel, although I did get about 30,000 words of a Nanowrimo novel written, and although it might not have been very good, it was sufficient to scare the bejesus out of me. So, possibly there's scope for another crack at it this year.

I did, however, manage to start volunteering again. I've been working in the bookshop on Thursday afternoons this year. It has been difficult, though, and maybe it's contributing to the not getting my week's work done in five days business. I also (well, we also) started dog fostering again, as astute readers will have noticed. And I love doing that. Somewhere in there I also tried to help this unfortunate crazy lady in the community, but it didn't work out. She is too far into whatever her particular thing is for me to help her, and she asked me for the key back because (I suspect) she was afraid I was going to take her cats away and give them to the rescue, something she's very afraid of. So I gave it back, and that's the end of that.

I have also been donating stuff to Oxfam, and will continue to do so.

So, do I have new resolutions for next year? They're more like revised ones. Here they are, look!

Two books a month
Get my work done in five days
Learn to play a song on the ukulele
(did I mention I got a ukulele for Christmas?)
Finish the zombie novel
Get a zine into every Franks mailing

That's it. Simple. Let's see if they're doable.

By the way, does anyone else notice just how hard it is to italicize and then normalize fonts on Blogger?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Here's Lulu

Lulu was picked up outside Homebase on the Donore Road last Wednesday. She might have strayed from somewhere, but it's also possible she was dumped. She's the right age for it (about seven months, which means she needs to be spayed soon, which is expensive and troublesome), it's the right time of the year for it, and she's terrified to get into the car. Drogheda Animal Rescue are still hoping that her owners will come forward and reclaim her, although I kind of hope they don't because, hey, they don't deserve her.

She's a sweet little thing, a leggy collie type who just wants to be your best friend and cuddle up to you. She has had no training of any kind that we can discover. She doesn't know how to sit, she is not housetrained, and she can't walk on a lead to save her life. But she loves to be praised and she comes back immediately when you call her name, so I'm hopeful that she'll be easy to train when she settles down a bit.

She is going to make Christmas Day a little tricky, because we can't bring her to Mrmonkey's parents' house, so she'll just have to stay here and make a mess. But, oh well.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Make sure your Christmas goes up to 11

With thanks to Sinead Mac, and to the people at Optophonic and Phonic Studios.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dear Dublin City Council...

...the more I look at it, and the more depressing the recession becomes, the more I come to the conclusion that your idea of a Christmas tree is unacceptable. A big pile of lit up razorwire balanced on top of a public toilet cubicle is not a Christmas tree.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Busy, busy time

I have been helping out in the local community, feeding the cats of an unfortunate old woman who lives in a container down in our village. She had many cats once upon a time, but now she's down to three. She may have to go into a nursing home soon, and then we will have to find homes for the cats, because my house is full. Also, one of her cats has cat flu, so I can't bring him into the house or all of ours will get it.

I tell you what, though. I have seen my future here, and it's not pretty. Maybe I should have had a child when I was younger, so I could guilt it into taking care of me when I'm old. I'm certainly getting rid of all my cats by the time I'm 60. For some reason an older woman living on her own with cats seems tragic. An older woman living on her own with a dog seems less so.

It is hard work trying to help someone like this, who is used to being on her own and is perhaps not as in possession of all her faculties as you would like to hope. I'm not really sure of what I'm doing, even, or if I am actually helping at all. I wonder if I shouldn't just let her see how bad it is when she tries to do it on her own, so that she will go into the nursing home sooner. I don't want her to depend on me. I am not a dependable person.

We've also had a short-term foster dog. He is a setter cross called Jack, and is the most beautiful dog I've ever seen anyone throw away. Neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, trained, and beautifully behaved. I can only imagine how much it must have hurt his owners to leave him into the pound to be put down, because someone obviously loved him. He's off to Sweden in the morning. Maybe he'll meet up with Woody and they'll be best friends.

By the end of this week we should have another dog.

Man, my life has just not panned out the way I thought it would. Not at all. But let's hope the animal thing is as weird as it gets.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Nanowrimo FAIL

I did not succeed in getting my novel, The End of Innistown, written by the end of November. In a way, this is no bad thing. I don't know anything about creating suspense or writing action sequences, although maybe I could learn. In another way, though, I feel that the novel could have made a substantial contribution to the zombie literature, because I had a couple of good ideas in it that even I was proud of.

Oh well. There's no point in saying that I'll finish it, because I won't finish it. But I did enjoy writing it. I'm pleased to see that now that I've stopped taking Lexapro, I've started being interested in writing again. Hooray!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Today, for the first time in eight months...

... I loaded the dishwasher and swept and mopped the kitchen floor without the assistance of a labrador's head in my way at all times.

... Linus used the back door to get in and out of the house, and was able to hang out in the back garden with Milo.

... I drove somewhere with quiet dogs in the back of the car.

... I left a bowl of food on the arm of the sofa while I fetched a drink of water.

... I got to sit on the back step with Cody under one arm and Milo under the other and everyone was quiet and peaceful.

Even so, it's a sad day.

OMG WTF Corner

Srsly, OMGWTF.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bye Bye Woody

Woody is off to Sweden in the morning to his new family. Yes, he's been up on the Swedish rescue website for two weeks and they've managed to find him a nice, homechecked home where he'll be wanted. Good old Swedes.

I took him for his final walk up the dunes today, and met some people who gave the whole walk an air of unwanted symmetry. As I approached the car with the three dogs in tow and threw them in the boot, this young couple walked up, with a tiny black labrador puppy on a lead. The thing was really, really small - far too small to be out for a walk in the dunes, and probably not vaccinated. They had got it from a "rescue" centre in our vicinity (which also sells puppies. Way to be part of the problem, guys), and the bloke was already sick of it because they'd had it for a week and it cries at night and he wants it to shut up.

Oh yeah, and they were shocked, really shocked, when I told them there was a possibility that their dog could grow to be as big as Woody. "Oh no," the girl said, "they told us in C****n that he'd be miniature!"

So I imagine I'll be seeing their dog again in about eight months time when they accidentally on purpose fail to take it with them when they move house. Circle of life, eh? At least I'll know a little something about labradors next time.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hey, here's a great plan!

Why don't I order in Chinese food, eat too much of it, get all grumpy from the additives, get a headache, then feel bloated from the salt, then sit up late watching a film I've seen a load of times before, and then go to bed and write about zombies attacking my housing estate!

A good night's sleep guaranteed, I'm sure you'll agree. What could possibly go wrong with this excellent plan?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

All the animals are home

This is the best part of coming home from being abroad. All the animals are home safe. Except that Marvin Berry got sick in the kennels and had to go to the vet and get an antibiotic and they think he caught cat flu. We have no idea where he could have got such a thing from, given that he never goes outside, and none of our other cats are ill. Weird.

(Kev-lol has offered to nurse the kitten, but he is barely a kitten anymore. More like a gangly teenager now.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I am in love with Barack Obama

From the NY Times:

As for the dog, he recognizes it’s a major issue, saying it has generated more interest on our Web site than anything. He says he has two criteria that may not be reconcilable: His older daughter, Malia, is allergic to dogs, so the dog has to be hypoallergenic; at the same time, “our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but obviously a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me.”

Have you seen the new king of Bhutan?

Tell you what, I wouldn't mind having his face on my money, eh? Or something.

Is it just me?

Or did anyone else think this Onion article was a bit much?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stealth Cat

I know you've already seen it, but seriously, I cried when I saw this. (From the laughing.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

One more favour to ask Murricanes

Please do not kill President Barack Obama. Please. That would be a bad thing to do.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Please remember to vote, Murricanes!

That's just a wee reminder in case I don't get a chance to remind you on the day, because I will be in PARIS, FRANCE.

You heard me.

Dog fostering is hard

Yesterday we had some people out to look at Woody. Bless him, he was on his absolute best behaviour, and their own labrador, who had accompanied them, seemed to like him enormously. Certainly the two of them tore around the garden like maniacs. The people themselves seemed really nice too, and mrmonkey and I were kind of hopeful that they might take him, and upset that this would mean he would leave.

So of course we spent the last 24 hours simultaneously looking forward to the easy walks we would have when he was gone, and how much easier our lives would be without him, and missing him like mad already because he is so funny and so affectionate and such a sweetheart.

Then we got a phone call to say that the couple had decided to go another way. Relief! But also worry. Will anyone ever take this dog from us? Will we have him for ever? On the other hand, the longer we have him, the closer he gets to some sort of maturity and, hopefully, more settled behaviour.

Then our foster coordinator said that he might have a good chance of being homed through a rescue in Sweden. This would be slightly traumatic for him because he will have to be locked in a box and go on a plane (which I can't see him liking AT ALL), but he will have a much better chance of a much better home in Sweden than he could possibly have in Ireland.

But I will miss him. I have to keep reminding myself of the days when I could cheerfully kill him, the days when he runs away and doesn't come back, when he knocks over the kids who come to pet him, when he steals cartons of butter off the counter and eats them, when he's just too much. I also have to keep reminding myself that I have two dogs of my own who've been pushed into the background by him, and who will be much happier when he's gone because he will no longer be stepping on them, sitting on them, squashing them against the wall, or crashing into them on the beach.

Mind you, this plan could easily fall through as well, and we could still have him for ever. I think that would be okay. Except when I don't.

Friday, October 17, 2008

With thanks to Chocolate Socialist

Whose livejournal I got this from.

I'm putting it here in case you're one of the three people who checks here and not there.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Days (or, The One Where the Woman is Buried in Sand)

Here's what's great about the Internet. You can go and see a play that is layered with many meanings, and then come home and look up and see what everyone else thought the play was about. Although I often find the programme helpful, it usually only tells you what the playwright, director, and artistically contributing cast members think the play is about. And sure, what would they know?

On the face of it, Happy Days is a Samuel Beckett play in which a woman is buried up to her waist in sand, and her husband crawls about somewhere behind where she is buried. Then, in the second half SPOILER ALERT! she is buried up to her neck, and we are not sure, and she is not sure, if her husband is still alive or if he has died some time while we were off having drinks at the bar during the interval and talking about how nice the seats are in the Abbey nowadays. The woman, Winnie, reminisces about her life and tries to keep herself occupied and cheerful as her life moves from one day to the next, punctuated by startlingly loud bells that tell her when to wake and when to sleep. Although we couldn't figure out whether the bell was ringing more often in the second part because she was falling asleep more often, or whether she was falling asleep more often because the bell was ringing to tell her to, or because several days were passing in a brief period, or what. We then decided that this was how it is when you are reaching the end of your life and you live in an institution, and you can't tell where one day ends and one begins except for the bell, but which bell was it that you heard?

Happy days indeed.

And, of course, there is no great reason for Winnie to be at the end of her days, because she is only 50. So what is happening to her? Luckily for us, Sinead's mam was at the play with her that night, and she said that the play is about dementia. She recognized this for herself immediately, because it had occurred in her family. And, of course, such a reading makes total sense. Clinging on to routines and vague memories, trying to keep herself above the rubble when, all the time, she is increasingly immobilized by the disintegration of her own mind. I haven't seen anyone else give it this reading. The Irish Independent's reviewer suggested it was about love and marriage. I scoffed at the very notion. The Tribune review is more interesting, because it tells you about the controversy that surrounds Deborah Warner and Fiona Shaw's interpretations of Beckett (indeed, in this production, Warner has replaced the sand in which Winnie is normally buried with a blasted, rubble-filled landscape, so that Winnie looks a little as though she has gone on holiday to Marbella but her hotel has fallen on her), but even his suggestion that Fiona Shaw "just about" pulls off what is essentially quite a boring play seems all wrong to me.

I was completely riveted by this play from the minute it started. I felt like I got it. I could empathise with the feeling, the fragments and stories that Winnie tried to communicate to her husband, herself, her audience, felt more real to me than anything else by Beckett I've ever seen. Maybe it's just Fiona Shaw. She is absolutely amazing. How she can give such a totally naturalistic performance in such an unnatural play is beyond me, but she does. But more than that, the structure of the play is familiar and understandable, even as it is horrible and unnerving. And by the end, I wanted to run down onto the stage and dig her out with my own bare hands.

And that's all without even mentioning the gun, Brownie, which deserves a whole essay all on its own (and no doubt has many devoted to it, perched on the edge of some English lecturer's desk somewhere), and which Winnie pulls out of her big, black, handbag along with her other ordinary totems, including her nail file and her compact mirror. She addresses the gun (but does not call it Sweetness), then decides she will leave it out. Just right here.

She's just going to leave it right here.

And right here it stays.

And you can't put it out of your mind, and somehow can't believe that she has ever put it out of her mind. She occasionally wanders back to it, suggesting it as a kind of fallback option if all else fails, but there's no real feeling that she's going to use it, at least not while she has the use of her arms. After that, of course, it will be too late.

Unless there was someone around who understood her and love her and knew what she would want.

So maybe it is a play about love after all.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Less is almost always more in television

The BBC has made Strictly Come Dancing ever so slightly worse AGAIN this year. Last year they brought in the extra Sunday night results show, which the fans (me) didn't ask for and don't really want, for several reasons.

1) It involves the bottom two couples from the leader board performing again. I don't understand this aspect of television vote-out shows; it means, in theory, that you have to watch the worst two performances from the previous night again. In Strictly, however, it means you have to watch two of the people who were least popular with the public (usually some no-mark from the middle of the board) perform again, and the judges get to bitch about not wanting to throw out either of them, before they throw out the one I liked better.

2) It is filmed on a Saturday night. Last year they tried to keep this a secret and pretend it was live again on Sunday night, but really, who are they kidding? Also the fact that it's filmed on a Saturday means you can just go and read the leaked results on Digital Spy and not bother watching the show on Sunday if you want. License-payers' money down the drain, if you ask me (hauls up bosom in a haughty manner).

3) You don't get the exciting live Strictly experience of having it all on Saturday night. The fun of the show is dissipated. It's no good.

This year, they've gone one worse. They've added extra couples (fine) and extra group dances (also fine), but instead of having boys week one and girls week two and everyone in together week three, it's boys week one, girls week two, boys week three and girls week four. Last night it was the girls dancing the quick step or the rhumba, and either Jessie Wallace or Jodie Kidd is going home.

This is completely unfair, and not just because I like Jessie Wallace and have a colossal girl-crush on Jodie Kidd, but because both of them are WAAAAYYY better than the four worst boys (John Sergeant, Mark Foster, Andrew Castle, and Don Warrington). Don't get me wrong, neither of them is brilliant, but they are both passable, and they could both easily get a lot better as the weeks go on. Only Don Warrington, of these four, has any hope; John Sergeant is currently at the very top of his game, and Andrew Castle and Mark Foster are both lumbering, gigantic eejits who don't even seem to understand what dancing is, never mind how to do it properly, and yet one of these nice women will be going home tonight.

Or went home last night, rather.

I do love how my other blog pals are writing long, impassioned posts about the credit crunch and international politics, while I rant about the unfairness of the rule changes on Strictly Come Dancing and post videos of my cats.

I know it seems as though my brain has fallen out of my ear, but it hasn't, honest. Think of my blog as like Ronan Collins's radio programme: a brief oasis of sanity in a troubled, economics-obsessed world.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

All your cats are belong to us!

Jane lives here now.

She is super disoriented at the moment, a state of mind which is probably not helped by the three other cats sniffing at her and making themselves big in her presence while she tries to find a cosy space near a human where she can sit and wait for the world to normalise itself.

I'm sure that if I was a more capable writer with less of a cold or flu, I would have something profound to say about circles and things coming home and remnants of a previous life and so forth.

But my head hurts and I'm tired and I just want to go to sleep and wake up normal.

A bit like Jane.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oh Paddington, how could you?

Marmite? Really? You've given up marmalade for Marmite?

You treacherous little darling, you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chuck? It's your cousin Marvin. Marvin Berry!

The Smidge was starting to look a bit tubby in the tum area, and since that unfortunate incident with the door, and that other unfortunate incident with the futon (when I actually thought she had broken her leg), she is afraid of her toys. So what I reckoned she really needed was a new litle pal to run around with.

We wanted a kitten/cat who was dog friendly, cat friendly, and, most importantly, robust and healthy. Luckily, a lady on the Pets Ireland board was able to help us out, and she drove over from Finglas with a 16-week-old kitten called Berry. He is now named Marvin Berry, although I call him little Roo (he also goes by Mini Smidge). He's an amazing little cat. No sitting around in one room for a week waiting to acclimatise for him. Oh no. He was out and about with his face in everything inside the first couple of hours, and he marched boldly around the dogs for hours on end, annoying them just by being small and forbidden. Woody in particular is fascinated by him, and just follows him everywhere, trying to lick him and wash him and love him. I only worry that he might accidentally swallow him.

The Smidge and Linus have taken to him tremendously as well, and the running around plan is working very well. Not to mention the fact that he hasn't had so much as an ear mite since he arrived.

Marvin Berry is also an affectionate little thing. He likes to be picked up and cuddled, and he loves to nap beside me in the afternoons. He has a loud purr and he loves a bit of a chat, too. Now I have three cats who lie around me on the bed when I'm having a lie-in.

Of course, now that the ex-hubbo and his missus are heading back to the U.S., cat number four will be on the way in the next few weeks. Now that really will be fun in a house this size.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

If it's August, it must be Edinburgh

It's so long since I blogged about anything of substance that much of what we did in Edinburgh has faded from my precious brain area, but some things remain. We saw some American comedians, including Louis CK again, who was patchy in his attempt to pull strands from his longer show, and Kristen Schaal, who did a cute sketch show with a guy called Kurt something or other (no, I'm not looking it up, I'm not well), but seems to be a little one-note. I am allowed to be bitter about her, because Mrmonkey has informed me that he will be divorcing me soon so he can go and marry her little squirrely face. Well, go on ahead. See if I care.

We also saw some English comedians, including Nina Conti and her monkey, who were both entertaining as always, although I was more creeped out than amused by her working her dad (Tom Conti, in case you hadn't guessed), into the show. It seemed a bit desperate, frankly; and Commodore Sir Tim Fitzhigham, who had the best directed show on the whole Fringe. Actually, Tim's show was very interesting. It told of his decision to emulate the great Shakespearean clown Will Kemp's feat of morris dancing from London to Norwich in nine days. There is film footage of Tim doing that very thing, and tales of the adventures he had along the way, all performed in a tiny little portakabin of a venue. Most entertaining.

Also we did see ComedyB in the largest venue on the Fringe, and he was entertaining as always, although we did want to kill the four women in the front row who wouldn't shut the hell up while he was talking. The annoying thing about this kind of stealth heckling is that nobody in the rest of the audience can hear it, but it's incredibly distracting for the performer, so they have to do something about it, but doing something about it makes them look a bit of a dick, because nobody else knows there's really a problem. So don't talk if you're in the front row, is the lesson there.

We also saw Craig Campbell's show. Craig is a burly loon of a Canadian comedian who had decided to go a different way this year; instead of your standard bloke-tells-joke show, he went for a horror/comedy one-man play about a guy who works the haunted house at carnivals, travelling all over Canada, taking drugs and scaring the shit out of people. It was really good. Craig's characterization was surprisingly effective, the show had a plot and a proper story and everything, and it was funny to boot. I'd recommend it, and I'm not a fan of the one-person play thing.

Off-hand I can't remember what else we saw, but I'm sure I'll remember later.



My brain seems to have started working again at a time when my body seems to have shut down, so now's the time to get some blogging in while I'm laid up in bed.

First, some questions.

Did you send me a letter earlier in the year that I intended to reply to? If so, I still intend to do so and I'm sorry I haven't done so thus far.
Have you sent me a thank-you card in the last six months for some gift or service I gave you? If so, I did get it and I appreciate it and it was rubbish of me not to have acknowledged it.
Do I have books lying around that I saw in Oxfambooks and meant to send you in Canada or, perhaps, in Bristol? Yes, this is almost certainly the case. I will get round to it.
Have I collected your wedding present from the shop yet? Not yet, no.
Are you a Canadian comedian I saw in Edinburgh and whose show I promised I'd blog so people googling it would find a glowing review? Yeah, I didn't do that either.

Man, I feel better now.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wii fit update

"I haven't seen Keith in quite a while," said the Wii Fit yesterday, while Keith was in the room. Poor little blind Wii.

Anyway, after just over a month of playing Wii Fit, here's the routine I've moved on to:

6 minutes of hula hoop
4 minutes of running on the spot
30 minutes of step
10 minutes of running around the living room (I say "running", sometimes it's little more than shuffling)
10 minutes of boxing

I'm sure I'm doing myself some damage somewhere. Oh well. 40 more years to find out!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Much news

In brief:

Mister Monkey and I attended the Tom Waits extravaganza in Dublin's tent city. It was a magnificent gig, but did little to dispel the idea that people are idiots. Someone brought their baby along, which we discovered when it started crying loudly, and there seemed to be a lot of the IFI phenomenon of blokes trying to watch the gig while their accompanying womenfolk were texting their mates or trying to talk to their bloke because they were bored shitless and don't like Tom Waits (or, in the case of the IFI, whichever classic western happens to be on). Otherwise, fantastic.

Then, on Sunday, R&D and the kids came for a visit. A lot of Wii was played and some people were humiliated by their five year old sons. I'm not naming any names. We also had a visit to the beach where it wasn't exactly nice, but it wasn't completely pissing down with rain, so A ran into the water, got soaked inside two seconds, and whipped his kecks off for a good run up and down. D and I discussed the morality of photographing other people's kids when they are in this state, and we came to the conclusion that it's all a bit of a minefield.

L did a lot of screaming all day long. I encouraged her by screaming back. We had a good time.

HOWEVER! While we were in the living room having a great time and playing Wii and screaming at each other, Woody Chops was out in the kitchen figuring out how to get into the press where his food is kept. Having worked out how to open the door, he then proceeded to gorge himself until he took on the look of an Indian cow or some other animal that is thin all over with a massively distended stomach. We didn't realise what he'd done; we thought he had BLOAT, which is very dangerous for dogs, because it can lead to TORSION and DEATH. So we called the vet at 11pm and rushed him up to the surgery, where he was knocked out (I don't recommend holding your dog in your arms while he's put under a general anesthetic. The sudden slump is unbearably upsetting), and a garden hose was rammed into his gullet, through which he was fed liquid paraffin and water. It all got very messy, with me at the very messy end, holding his tail and keeping a bowl under his bum. It was Monday evening before his stomach was really back to its proper size, but by then he'd forgotten the whole incident and was trying to gnaw our arms off because he was dying of starvation. When questioned by the vet on Tuesday morning, Woody admitted that he had learned nothing from the adventure and would still eat all things if the opportunity arose. We will be baby-proofing the food press from now on.

This was all most unfortunate, because a nice man came to visit us on Monday with a view to giving Woody a home. I think, in our heart of hearts, we were a little conflicted about this man, and were almost hoping we would get a bad vibe off him so we could refuse to give him our precious baby, but he was very nice and Woody seemed to like him. In that he tried to put the man's whole fist in his mouth, which is the Woody sign of approval, and the man didn't care that Woody was all greasy from the paraffin and clearly a bit mental. If the man's homecheck goes okay and he still wants to take Woody, well, he will be taking him soon.

In among all this, I have started my cognitive behavioral therapy. The lady is very nice, even if she does believe that a person's "energy" actually comes off them as physical heat (sure thing, lady!) and the therapy seems to be doing me some good. I even went into Dublin last night to go to the pub. Even more shocking, several of the people I was meeting in the pub were people I have not met before! And, Mister Monkey did not come with me! And, the pub was particularly packed because James May and Oz Clarke were there with a film crew filming stuff for the BBC! So it was your basic Friday night disaster waiting to happen. But I went anyway. What is more, I had a good time.

That is all my news. I hope that you have also had a pleasant week, filled with incident.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Ace of Spies update

Do you have UKTV Drama on your telly? Then you can join the Reilly Ace of Spies fun this weekend. They're repeating the series again from Saturday, 7pm.

Now we can catch the first three episodes, which we missed last time.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Louis CK at the Carlsberg Comedy Carnival

Did you have a chance to come to this gig with us and then not come? Man, you were wrong to make that choice. This was one of the funniest comedy gigs I've been to in years. I was laughing so much I was crying and whimpering and, yes, I was almost relieved when Barry Murphy came on halfway through to read (for about the millionth time) some of his fake poetry, because it meant I could get a little break from laughing.

I had not been to the Comedy Carnival before, assuming that, as an event organized for Irish people to go to en masse, it would be dreadful. When we got to the Iveagh Gardens last night, however, we found a peaceful, sunny place where the fountains were still running and nerdy looking guys were sitting around with women far too beautiful for them, and everyone just seemed to be having quite a nice time. Plus, it wasn't very crowded (I think going to the very last gig on the very last night of the festival probably had a lot to do with this). It seemed a magical place. Even when the venue opened and we went inside, there was a rush for the seats at the front, and everyone sat politely through Barry Murphy's opening two minutes (as some ker-azy German dude! Fantastic!) although everyone really just wanted him to go away so we could see Louis CK.

Who is shorter than he looks on television. On television he looks like a giant, but he clearly must surround himself with tiny co-stars, because in person he just looks like a standard bloke-sized person.

We had been told by the security guy on the way in that CK had died on his arse on Friday night and some people found his stuff really offensive. I can only imagine that such people must live in some kind of fairy world where normal people don't live and nobody ever has a bad thought about anyone or anything, because there is nothing that Louis CK said that I haven't heard expressed by another person, somewhere, at some point, and thought "wow, you must be in a very bad mood today", but not, "wow, you're an offensive person". I just never heard anyone express these things so very well, and all at one time, and quite so vividly. He doesn't just tell you stories about a funny thing that happened to him or something he saw or how his marriage didn't work out and now he has shared custody of his two daughters. He builds you a picture of his whole life and where it all went wrong and how very angry and sad he is about it, but he makes this condition seem normal, and you feel okay because sometimes you feel like that too. For all that he spends the first ten minutes complaining about fat, white people, he then goes on to talk about stuff that only fat, white people can really identify with.

The meal is not over when I'm full, he says, the meal is over when I hate myself.

Truly, it was an excellent night of comedy, and it's always lovely to see R&D ( ha ha, our friends are Research & Development), so it was an all round great night out.

Also, the mystery of such an excellent comedian dying on his arse is explained in his blog, so perhaps we were very lucky after all.

Anyway, Louis CK is playing in London throughout much of August, with a brief stop over in Edinburgh on August 15th and 16th. If you have never seen Louis CK live, and you are a grown adult with some experience of the world and the people in it and you would like to hear someone feel your pain on these topics, then I urge you to go and see him.

You will not be sorry.

Except about the shambles your life has become.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Black Book

Ian reviewed this ages ago, and everyone has been saying that it's a good film, so I recorded it off Film 4 months and months ago, and it's been sitting in the Sky Plus menu for all that time. Given the reception this film got when it was released, as if somehow the technically fine but resolutely shlocky Verhoeven had finally made a worthwhile film, I was concerned that it would be lacking the bonkers full-tilt Verhoeven approach, and that it would somehow be worthy and a bit boring.

Worthy yes. Boring, certainly not. Exciting espionage! Handsome resistance folks! Brave young women! Bad, bad, bad Nazis! Some good Nazis too! An absolutely amazing performance from the leading lady! Typical Verhoeven attitude to having people get their kit off!

One of the things I really loved about the film is the fact that the lead character, Rachel (or Ellis, to give her her alias), has to do a lot of unpleasant things in order to try to find out what has happened to her parents, who has betrayed them, and how to stay alive. This involves a lot of lying and sleeping with people she doesn't care about, which is par for the course for attractive ladies in films. It does, however, also involve other things, like running and shooting and hiding in rivers and other action things that blokes get to do in films. Also, at no point does it look as though the film itself is taking a prurient interest in her. This is simply what a gal had to do to get by in occupied countries, and there are worse things that could happen.

Both Carice van Houten and her co-star (and, I think, real-life partner) Sebastian Koch, are excellent in this movie, and I look forward to seeing them both in the biopic of South African poet Ingrid Jonker, which is, according to the IMDB, to be released some time this year.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Stop press: entire point of Wii Fit discovered

After you've been doing your exercises with the other Miis for a while, you can unlock "free jogging" and "free step", which, in the case of step (because I'm not exactly ready for "free running" yet) means that you can do ten minutes of stepping, keeping your rhythm using clicks from your hand controller (FNARR!), while... drumroll...


Hello Reilly, Ace of Spies

Mrmonkey and I were flicking around the telly stations one afternoon a few weeks ago when we came across an episode of Reilly Ace of Spies on UKTV Drama. I remembered watching this programme when it first came out (although, in that great way of people, I thought it had first been aired a lot longer ago than was actually the case), and mentioned that both I and my mother had been very, very fond of Sam Neill in this show.

Mrmonkey turned out never to have seen it, so we decided to watch it, more for fun than anything else, and because there was nothing else on. Since then, I have to tell you, it's become something of an obsession with us. If you've never seen it, or you don't remember it, I can tell you that it's based on the real life of adventures of Sidney Reilly, a Russian-born secret agent who worked for the British, the Germans, and the Russians during his long career. Although he didn't really do anything you might have heard about, unless you care a lot about British attempts to steal German military secrets before World War I, attempts to secure oil rights, and the abortive attempts to overthrow the Bolsheviks after World War I, his methods are legendary. He was ruthless, cunning, smart, and incredibly attractive and irresistible to women. Moreover, his methods are credited with changing the game of spying from a gentleman's arrangement to an actual scary-ass profession.

The TV show conveys all of this extremely well. Sam Neill is totally convincing as Reilly, and is surrounded by the best and the brightest of British talent at all times during the 11 episodes. The stories are exciting and compelling, and you actually have to pay attention to what's going on. They don't tell you everything ten times to make sure you get it, although there is a handy voice over (kind of important, given that they cover 24 years in 11 hours of telly).

It's interesting, though, that for a hugely successful show, it doesn't seem to get trotted out as an example of the greatness of telly as often as it should. Shame, that.

Now though, as happens when the best telly ends, we're a little bereft. Fortunately Season 5 of the Wire has just started on FX. Hooray!

Weekend update

Ammonite said: I'm beginning to get worried about a Wii/Demonseed situation.

This had occurred to me too; the other week, while out for dinner with some friends, I lamented that of all the Julie Christie films my life could have chosen me to be in, I end up with Demon Seed, where she gets shagged and tormented by a computer, rather than Dr. Zhivago, where she gets shagged and tormented by a young Omar Sharif. I have no luck. (Ha ha, I have compared myself to Julie Christie).

Anyway, two weeks into the Wii programme, I failed to reach my goal. This might have something to do with eating Chinese food and, on one occasion, three Magnums in two days. What do you think?

Despite this setback, my actual training programme has increased from 20 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise to 30 minutes of feeling like I might collapse. It's hard work, but I'm certainly still enjoying it. I realised yesterday that one of the things I love most about it is that I can get up, put on my dog-walking/Wii fit clothes with the dog slobber on them from yesterday, walk dogs, come home and do Wii, then have a shower and get dressed in proper clothes. I don't have to start looking even vaguely respectable until all the exercising is done and out of the way. I don't have to cart around a kit bag with me to work or anything like that. And I walk faster now when I'm out and about.

My balance and agility are still v. poor, though. I still trip up a lot when I walk. But, you know, Carrie Bradshaw trips up at the start of her programme every time, and she isn't dead yet.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Who will run the dog hospital?

It looks as though Cody's dressing can come off on Friday, which is good news. However, he will have to wear a buster collar for about a week to ten days afterwards, which is bad news. It's particularly bad news because Woody turns out not to have a bite on his foot after all, but instead has some kind of growth, which is probably benign and will almost certainly go away, as long as we don't let him chew it and get it infected. He definitely has to wear a buster collar, starting today.

For three weeks.

I am unhappy about these developments and am keen to eat the entire Toblerone that's currently lurking downstairs in the fridge. I won't, though. My Wii believes I should eat more healthily.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Weekend update

Cody is still hobbling about on his bandaged leg, and wearing a waterproof covering over the top fashioned from a long-life shopping bag and some duct tape. Crafty hen strikes again.

Also I have unlocked the boxing rounds on the Wii Fit. Hooray! Punchy punchy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wii fit interruption!

Bless me, readers, for I have sinned. It has been two days since I did any exercise. Yesterday I was too tired, after only having four hours sleep the night before. Plus I knew I was going into town in the afternoon to meet an old friend for lunch, so I didn't want to be completely knackered when I met her, so I gave it a miss, telling myself I would exercise in the evening when I got home.

HOWEVAH! In the evening when I got home, I put on my beach clothes and took the dogs down the beach for a run. I was standing chatting to some people next to a small entrance to the beach, when a guy in one of those little jeeps came up off the beach and Cody ran under his car. The guy didn't see Cody and drove over him. Much screaming from Cody, but when I got the guy to reverse off him, Cody was basically fine. He had to spend the night in the hospital on a drip and have a load of x-rays. He has to wear a big bandage on his leg and is an extremely poor soldier, but basically we got off very lightly. Funnily enough, the people I was talking to when the accident happened told both sides of the argument very well. Yes, Cody did run right under the guy's car, but on the other hand, a dog should be able to run around on the beach without having to watch for traffic. (Note that this was not one of the usual traffic entrances to the beach, which is why I wasn't really watching for traffic). Also the guy in the jeep, when he saw that Cody was not dead, just fucked off. Thanks, guy.

Really though, it was just an unfortunate accident and no major harm was done, except to my exercise programme. But it did give me a shock, which is why I spent most of the day today either eating Maltesers or sleeping rather than exercising. I'm not sure I can explain that adequately to my Wii fit trainer.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ray's regrets

I'm sure there are a few, but one of the things I suspect Ray might regret is asking me to blog my Wii Fit experience. Because, you know, I will. In detail.

Today I had a 20 minute workout which included
  • hula hooping
  • jogging
  • leg extensions
  • torso and waist twists
  • a lecture about my crappy balance (screw you, machine! I'll show you!)
  • step class
  • slalom skiing (which involved letting down my tiny Mii skiier, because I am unbalanced)
Life lessons taught today: I should visualise my ideal body while doing my muscle exercises (this is actually true, I should do that).

Conclusions come to about Wii today: I am going to ditch the male trainer in favour of the female one, because until now I didn't notice he has a stupid tiny ponytail and his smug gob makes me want to kick him.

Favourite exercise: Running, because it gives you nice backgrounds to run past so you feel like you're making progress, and you have a pacer Mii who runs just in front of you. Also, tiny Nintendogs run up to you periodically during your run, thus mirroring REAL LIFE. I believe it will not be long before Nintendo make a Wii Fit/Nintendog crossover, where you can bring your Nintendogs out for a run on your Wii Fit. Perhaps this has already happened.

I am thinking of making a new blog, which will just blog the Wii Fit, so that people who couldn't give a crap about my exercise "program" can avoid reading about it. I predict my enthusiasm for it will last approximately six months, though, so maybe it's not worth it.

The thing is, I do feel like a bit of a tool for having this latest gadget and getting all excited about it, but the thing is that it fulfils a long-held desire to be able to do a bit of running and training and so on without anyone seeing me.

F**k you, I won't do what you tell me

Apparently I'm old. According to the (presumably) young woman on Morning Ireland this morning who was talking about Oxegen this weekend, the fact that Rage Against the Machine have reformed is "good news for older rockers".

There's something about the phrase "older rockers" that conjures up images of... well, geezers in Sabbath t-shirts who complain about all this modern noise and still wear their hair long even though they don't really have any hair. Or, if you're a woman, Suzi Quatro.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Do you trip up a lot when you walk?

This is what my Wii Fit asked me when it had finished doing my balance test. It also tells me I have a Wii Fit age of 54. I am actually 38. Bastard.

On the good side, it did not say "one at a time, please" when I stepped on it. It also knows that I am a "friend" of Mister Monkey (because it asked me when I was registering), and so when I had finished my exercise program this morning, it asked me if I had noticed any change in his posture. When I chose "no" from the menu, it suggested that maybe I'm not paying enough attention to him. It went on to recommend that I try to build on our relationship a bit more by making more eye contact.

Yes. Life lessons for only €89.99.

The bloody thing is obsessed with "balance" and has a whole section of games just to improve your "balance". I'm beginning to think, however, that it's mistranslating the word, and what it actually means is a kind of combination of balance and reflexes. Because I can balance just fine, but it turns out I'm SHIT at heading footballs. Oh yes.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Cold blow and the rainy day

Our walk this morning was heap o'fun. We walked up towards Mosney, where the army was shooting smaller things at bigger things. A couple of soldiers were posted at the perimeter of where the shooting happens to make people turn back.

Except that Woody did not turn back. Oh no. Woody ran up to the soldiers, gave it the double-time wags, then robbed a cling-film-wrapped packet of sandwiches out of a haversack on the ground and noshed them down in two seconds flat.

I apologised wholeheartedly, but the soldiers seemed unconcerned. "He's about the only one would eat them," one of them said.

At least this is unlikely to happen to them in Chad.

When questioned about his actions, Woody said, "I like to eat all things."

Monday, June 23, 2008

These Foolish Things

Some time ago, prominent Irish playwright Gavin Kostick remarked that he thought that nowadays, the theatre should offer you an experience that you can't replicate on television or in films, and he vowed to come up with such theatrical experiences.

Deborah Moggach has made no such pledge that I know of, and that much is fairly obvious from this book. Don't get me wrong, it's a perfectly pleasant story about an Indian doctor living in Britain, married to a British woman with a dreadful father. When the father moves in to their house, the doctor complains to his entrepreneurial cousin, and the next thing you know, they've set up a retirement home in a dilapidated hotel in Bangalore. It's a cute idea, the characters are well sketched out, people's motivations and actions are believable, and there's even a bit of action and intrigue thrown in. But you just can't help thinking, as you're reading it, that there's no reason for this to be a book at all. It's got Sunday Night Drama With a Quality Cast of Veterans written all over it. Like the novel of The Commitments, there's nothing to it that you couldn't get onto the screen, and a production designer could have so much fun with the creeping entropy trying to reclaim the hotel even as older people try to carve out a new meaning for it.

Perhaps that's underselling it a little--it does have some nice themes of changing lives, shifting priorities, cultural ideas of getting older, dealing with families, and the new place of India in the world. But it just lacks some depth for a modern book. As anyone will tell you, you have to be competitive in the modern market.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Books about motherhood: Can Any Mother Help Me? and We Need to Talk About Kevin

If I was a writer for the LRB or some similar heavyweight publication, I'd have added Anne Enright's book about motherhood, Making Babies: Stumbling Into Motherhood in here as some kind of bridge between these two books. Having read several extracts from it, I know that it addresses many of the problems tackled in them, but in a humorous fashion. However, I'm not, so I haven't.

Can Any Mother Help Me? is one of them there social history type books. It deals with the history of a circulating magazine started in the 1930s by a group of mothers in the British Isles who felt isolated and bored with their lot in life. Most of them were middle class and well educated, and several of them had been in good jobs before they were forced to give them up when they got married and/or started families.

Although none of them would go so far as to suggest that they resented their children, they most certainly felt the lack of adult company and the drudgery of domestic engineering, not least because they had never really done much housework as children. Moreover, they became housewives at a time when people of their class no longer had servants, but before the great era of affordable labour-saving devices came in, so they genuinely spent most of their time washing and cleaning and cooking and minding children, and they were mostly quite isolated from friends they would have had in their early adult lives. The book contains many fascinatingly ordinary and matter-of-fact entries about things I found quite shocking.

The two stories that really stood out for me were one in which one of the women talks about what would now be called an attempted rape by a male friend, but which she just treats as a silly incident in which he had too much to drink and became overly amorous (things end fairly well for her, however). This reminded me of Beryl Bainbridge's attitude to rape and sexual politics, which is very much one of "so you didn't want to have sex but he made you. Well, there are worse things, eh?" Clearly a major generational difference.

The other was when one of the women found out that her child had Down's Syndrome. The two things about it that struck me were the way in which she found out: the doctor took her husband into his office and told him, then the husband drove her home, got his courage up, and eventually told her some hours later. Again, this seemed perfectly normal to her at the time, but to me as a modern reader it just seemed the most insidious abuse of male power. The other thing, however, was the public admission of the fact that this would make her life more difficult to deal with than if her child was "normal". Offers of help from her friends and family poured in. People rallied round. Now, okay, I know that having Down's Syndrome is not the end of the world, but it does seem to me that on a societal level, accepting the full spectrum of the human condition as part of one's family does seem to put an extra strain on families, because they're expected to behave as though everything's fine all the time, when it may very well not be.

The admission that motherhood may be harder than it looks, that it may turn out to be a mistake for some women, and that some women feel even more pressured into it today than they might have done in the past (because obviously today it doesn't mean that you have to give up your career, or give up anything at all in fact) is at the heart of We Need to Talk About Kevin. On the surface, this is a horror story about a monstrous child who is the product, in a magical realist fashion, of his mother's failings as a mother. She does not really want him, she does not bond with him, he is angry and distant and weird and violent and destructive from the word go, and she has made a horrible mistake with her life. Underneath, it's a book about family pressure, success, failure, the disintegration of larger society, the whims of the unreliable narrator, and the struggle between the genders. I know several people who were expecting one thing when they started reading it, and got something very different. To say I enjoyed the book would be untrue, but it was very good in its coldness and stiffness and lack of humanity.

I would recommend reading these two books together, as I did by accident. The first really does make an excellent antidote to the second, and both give you a lot to think about.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

ComedyB and BuntyB are married

It happened last Thursday in God's Own County of Derbyshire, where BuntyB is from. We had a great time, the weather and food were amazing, the people were lovely, and all the family and friends were on top form. The day after the wedding, BuntyB's farming family held a hog roast, with bathtubs full of champagne and beer, a whole roast hog, and field games. It turns out that her family are CHEATERS at tug of war, and that my family are lethal at welly wanging.

A game of scotch was also played, and there was a whiskey chase, in which many members of the party ran (or scrambled) up a very steep hill to try to grab a bottle of whiskey, which was then chugged by all and sundry. An excellent tradition, and just the kind of thing there should be more of after roast pig and copious booze. Mrmonkey did not win the whiskey chase.

It turns out that BuntyB's brother is some kind of superhuman being (or "farmer", if you prefer). The night before the wedding, he was in the hotel bar with us till midnight. Then he took BuntyB home and sat up with her a little while longer. He got up at 6am on the morning of the wedding to take his cattle to market, went home and scrubbed up for the wedding, stayed there till 1am partying, then got up at 6am again to do more farm chores and clear the field for the party. He then proceeded to win 4 tug of war matches and the first whiskey chase. He brought his final trailer load of party-goers home at about 1am, then was up at 6 again for what he referred to as a quiet day, but which still seemed to involve a list of about 40 chores, including cleaning up after the party.

He is going on the list (along with The Man from Roscrea and Queenie's Himself) of people who will be airlifted to my compound when the zombie threat level reaches critical.

It's cool to link to The Onion again

This is how you write books.

Monday, June 02, 2008

It's hard to home black dogs

Apparently nobody wants them. Particularly large ones. I find this kind of funny given how funny they are to look at when they try jumping into the air; we derive much amusement these days from watching Woody fall over himself when he leaps after a kicked football.

Guys, big dogs have less energy than small dogs. Sure, they can reach more stuff and you have to put things like pot scourers and chopping boards up on high shelves out of their reach. And okay, their tails can sweep your coffee table clean with one swipe. And they are at the perfect height to dip their noses into your tea, coffee, or beer when you're relaxing on the sofa.

But they are relatively easy to exercise if you like walking for hours and hours, and they have satisfyingly heavy heads when they put them in your lap and sigh heavily at you. Plus, when you're playing tug rope with them, they look really cool when you lift them up off the ground and swing them around. And they keep the horrible young people away from you.

And you can't hurt them when you step on them, or when they slam their heads into doors. This is not the case with small dogs, who yowl vigorously at the slightest provocation. Big dogs save that kind of nonsense for when it's needed. Such as when another dog somewhere within a 50-mile radius is saying hello.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

ACROSS Benefit Comedy Night

This was great, and hopefully will become an annual event. More about it when I have time, but thanks to those who came along and supported it, and really, four top-class comedians for €20? You can't say fairer than that.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Respectable Trade

I love to have a Philippa Gregory book to read when I'm going anywhere. They're easy to get through and I don't mind leaving them behind if necessary. So I was glad to pick up A Respectable Trade in the bookshop for €4, but almost put it down again straight away, because it seemed, um, exploitative.

The story concerns a lady of the upper classes who is penniless and unmarried. She ends up marrying a Bristol slave trader, who has this idea to bring slaves into England, have her train them as fancy house servants, and sell them on at a vast profit. Unfortunately for him, his wife develops an, um, relationship with one of the men (which is, of course, the bit I found a bit yeesh) and his business more or less collapses and he goes a bit mental.

On the whole, the book is simplistic and a bit slavery-is-bad-DO-YOU-SEE? But there are some lovely touches in it. Gregory reminds her readers, for one thing, that the kind of investment and trading behaviours she talks about in this book (and has, as is typical of her, meticulously researched) are the kind of behaviours that the men in Jane Austen's books would have been engaging in when not flitting around the countryside saving ladies from consumption. The ridiculous social climbing and the horror of debt that seemed to be a feature of the merchant class in the late 1700s are also well sketched. Overall, I'd have to say her intentions are good, her detail is excellent, but her plot and characterization are weak. The book wasn't quite as cringey as I expected, though.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Excellent appearance from ComedyB

In case you missed him on Graham Norton's show, saving Preznit Bartlett from certain PAINT, someone has handily put the whole thing up on YouTube.

(You know you can embed these nowadays)
(Yes I know, but I don't like doing that)

Woody has had his balls off

It's true. If I was better with computers I could probably make some sort of mock up of the poster for Face Off, but call it Balls Off and put Woody's face in it instead of John Travolta and Nicolas Cage's faces. But I'm not good with the graphics, so you'll just have to accept the tortured joke instead.

So now Woody is wearing a buster collar and banging into all and sundry. My legs are a mass of black bruises, Milo and Cody spend most of their time hiding, and the bin gets knocked over about 50 times a day.

Having a labrador with a buster collar in your house is a bit like having a poltergeist you can see.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hey, Sky HD, I have a question for you.

It is this:

Why exactly am I paying for a Sky HD subscription in order to watch LOST, when RTE is showing it almost a full week before you are?

Why is that, you cocks? Hmm?

Friday, April 18, 2008

I feel safer already

Good time moustache man Willie O'Dea has sent us all a handy bilingual, glossy handbook in the post. It tells us what to do if there is an emergency. It makes useful suggestions such as "do not use lifts". Thanks. I will be sure not to use the lifts IN MY HOUSE if there is an emergency. What makes this information doubly redundant is the fact that every lift in the country has a sign in it saying "in case of emergency, do not use lifts."

The booklet also has an entire page saying "it would be useful to learn first aid", and suggesting you call the St. John's Ambulance in order to do that. It does not teach you first aid, or even provide you with a money off coupon for a first-aid course.

Frankly, the Kleeneze catalogue that comes uninvited through the door several times a year is more welcome than this useless piece of junk mail on which who knows how many thousands of euro have been spent.

Essentially, instead of sending us an actual iodine tablet, this time round the government has sent us a note saying "you know what? You should get some iodine tablets."


Edited to add: in even greater tossery, they've even got radio ads telling us to watch out for these useless booklets coming through our doors. So that's more money fucked away, then.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dear people who make Heroes,

Please note that I used to really like your show. However, you have turned it into total shite. I can't believe you were allowed to make another series of it, but it seems you will be bringing it back in September.

I will not be joining you. So, yes, Milo, put your shirt back on and go back to your Oirish girlfriend, because we are finished.

That is all.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

It's not just me, right? This book is rubbish, isn't it? I know I'm not the biggest Harry Potter fan under the sun, but I enjoyed all the other books, and would actively rep for The Prisoner of Azkaban as being a really good and genuinely quite creepy children's book. But, man, this is a tedious, overlong, confused book. It really pisses away the whole build-up and, as William rightly points out, contains one of the worst epilogues ever.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Starfish and Coffee

Mister Monkey came back from America. Sadly, I completely forgot that he's going away for a week almost immediately, which makes me all a bit sadface. At least I get a week of proper coffee under my belt before he's off again.

On the dog front, everything's settled down a good bit. We're working on Woody's recall (food, the great motivator), and he's getting much better at coming back, even if he sees someone further up the beach who might be interesting. The other two have actually started to play with him, and the sight of the three of them running around together in their pack would do your heart good. He's an adorable dog.

I've never had much time for labradors in the past. Most of the ones I meet are pretty unruly and a little bit mental, and I've always had this idea that they're essentially crazy and uncontrollable. Woody's not like that at all, and, now that he feels safe here, he sleeps more and more during the day when we're not out running around. Yes, sure, he needs a huge amount of exercise, and he really likes you to play with him, unlike our dogs, who mostly just lie about if they're not actually chasing each other around. But he's a nice dog, even if he does absolutely fill up the room.

I am worn out, though. I slept when I should have been out a party on Saturday night, and I sprained my arm today throwing stick. Good times.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Living by the Sea

It's that time of year again, when the sand and salt blasts your hands and legs, and the cold cracks your skin, and you notice that the local chemist shops all have huge displays of intensive moisturisers and industrial-looking tubs of slather.

Naturally, at such a time, the wisest thing you can do is decide to foster a slightly gawky and somewhat unruly (only through lack of training, not through any personality defect) labrador who your resident dogs have taken a dislike to, and who is still at that stage in his rescue process where he runs after every human he sees, no matter how far away they are, because they might be his owners. This means he always has to be on the lead, except when there's absolutely nobody around. And this means going down the beach at 7 am, when there's nobody around. It also means that he has to be lead-walked separately from the others, because they don't like him touching them. So, the number of daily walks has been bumped from a total of three to a total of seven.

A pain, right?

But his big nogginy head is soooo lovely and heavy when he plonks it on your lap and lets out that big dog sigh that just seems so contented. It almost makes up for my red raw hands and wet, sandy clothes.

If only we had a bigger house...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Today! Today!

The new dog is coming today!

He's called Woody, and he's an 8-month-old lab, who apparently is very friendly with dogs, cats, and children. The slightly worrying news is that he's probably very bouncy. The good news is that he hasn't been straying all that long, and it's quite possible that someone is still looking for him, so he may only be here a short while and could be reunited with his actual owners as opposed to being shuffled around from pillar to post again.

Poor Milo and Cody. Look at them, snoozing away over there on their sofa. They have no idea what's about to happen.

Men called Paddy and their little dogs

Most generalizations about people are negative in some way: fat people are jolly, BMW drivers are arseholes, Londoners are cold and stuck up, accountants are boring, and so on. However, one positive generalization that I can never help believing in is that old men called Paddy who are friendly and have friendly Jack Russell terriers are always nice and should be helped wherever possible.

And so it was that when I met an old man called Paddy on the beach this morning with his little, delicate-looking JRT, we had a nice chat and remarked that it looked as though the rain was on the way. Sure enough, when I met him going in the opposite direction 20 minutes later, the rain was like darts being thrown the length of the beach, and my two dogs were huddled behind me for shelter as I walked. Worse again, Paddy's dog was gone, having disappeared off to chase the seagulls. And now Paddy was worried because he couldn't find him and the weather had really turned very nasty, too bad to be traipsing up and down the beach looking for him. So, because I have a car and waterproof clothes, I took Paddy's mobile number and packed him off to wherever he was going and said I would look for the dog. I walked about and drove about and couldn't find him anywhere. I rang Paddy.

"He might have gone home," he suggested. He gave me his address and asked me would I mind driving by the house to see if the dog was there. I did not mind. I did drive by, and the wee dog was there, shivering on the doorstep. So I bundled him into the car and turned up the heat full blast and away we went to reunite the little chap with his owner, who was waiting for us up the road.

Paddy was delighted to see him, and I was glad that the little dog wouldn't have to sit in the cold and maybe even wander off again before his owner could get home to see him.

The whole time this was happening, Milo and Cody sat in the back of the car and stared at the new arrival, but otherwise accepted the situation. I have high hopes that the new foster (if it ever comes at this rate) will fit in well.

Friday, March 28, 2008

More Havers!

How am I only seeing this now, I ask you?

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I didn't listen to Kev-lolz, and I paid the price.

There are four explanations for why I thought this book was completely rubbish:

1) There is some kind of cultural disconnect going on here. This is, after all, Microserfs updated for the Google generation, which might mean it's too young and hip for me to understand it, which is why it sounds to me like the dialogue is utterly unrealistic and the list-making games and the obsession with Ronald McDonald are just bafflingly desperate.

2) I hate fun, which is why I didn't think there was anything funny in here at all.

3) The book is crap.

I think it's option 3. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that I knew what I was letting myself in for when I saw that the first sentence said something like "I feel like a character in a Douglas Coupland novel," which made me want to throw the book away. And yet, against my better judgement, I persisted with it. I should not have done this.

Edited to add: As Ray points out, I left off secret option 4. When I started writing the blog entry I was convinced I had four reasons, but then I could only think of three, but I went ahead and published it anyway. Maybe I'm hoping someone will find a defence of this book that I haven't come up with. I would rather think I misunderstood it than that it really is that bad. Because, you know, it certainly seemed that bad.

Look, it are a ickle dog what is singin'

We all love the VW Polo ad with the Jack Russell who is very shy and nervy in social situations but comes into his own when he is happy with his lady owner in her VW Polo. Of course we do.

I would, however, really like to know how they made him shiver so much in his nervy scenes. I really hope they didn't traumatise him too much or blast him with loud noises or something else. I'm hoping it was just some trick they taught him to do.

It isn't a trick, is it? They've done something awful to that poor little dog, haven't they?

Oh no. Now I have to hate the ad. I can has conflict.

Oh no, wait. Having looked at the comments on YouTube (always a great way to make yourself feel better about your opinions and those of your friends), if I am worried about how they made the ad, I am a crackpot protestor. Because, you know, humans aren't really sad when they cry in ads and shows and films and things. They are, apparently, acting. Which means obviously this dog is as well.

It's great to have brothers

And sometimes, if you're really lucky, your brothers are engaged or married to top class birds who are like real sisters to you.

And you can go and stay with one of those brothers and his bird in Glasgow, and you can meet up with the others and friends you met at the wedding, and laugh your ass off for an entire weekend.

What's also great is if you have Internet friends you've never met before, who, when you do meet them, seem to be more like great mates from college you knew really well then but just haven't seen for a long time.

And another great thing is when you meet your other Internet friends who you have met before, and they continue to be top class fun and you just hang out in one of those fantastic high-ceilinged Glasgow flats and play Wii and have a great time.

What's not great (in case you thought my brain had gone overly soft) is when you sit for about three hours in a freezing cold venue and discover that your top class comedian brother has been stuck on a bill with the kind of comics you would expect to see at Butlins or similar.

Sleety snow is no picnic either (I fully expect a hollow laugh from Queenie here). Nor is coming home to a house empty of all animals except the goldfish, who don't form much of a welcoming committee, bless them.

But we're all here now, and I'm going to tuck into the final Harry Potter book tonight.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Look upon me in shame, Dubliners...

...for today I have truly become a culchie.

First, let me say that this story starts with "there is a woman who walks her dog on the beach...", a phrase that usually means a bad story is coming. Today though, there is no bad story.

There is a woman who walks her dog on the beach, who we often meet. Her dog is called Indy, and she is a german shepherd lurcher, who is still only really a puppy, although, in the time we've known her, she's gone from being smaller than Milo to being bigger than Cody, and she still has some growing to do. Anyway, Indy loves to run after Milo and Cody and their ball, and they've now become so familiar to her that she will run across half a mile of beach to meet them, and her owner follows after her and we meet for a chat.

Today, the tide was out and there were no boy racers around and the wind had abated somewhat and there was this big yellow god in the sky, warming us. So we tootled up the beach and chatted about dogs and living here and our cars being broken into and set on fire and so on, but it wasn't moaning, it was just chat. And I found that I was asking her a lot of questions. Her name. What she does for a living. Whether she commutes to Dublin or to Dundalk (which are your two main options here). Where she lives exactly. And so on. And I realised that I was behaving like someone not from Dublin. And I wonder now if she thinks I'm nosey.

Maybe I'll ask her next time I see her.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Shout out

I'd just like to say to StevieB, RayC, Dr. Groove, and LukeM, that I hope you're all happy. I have, today, missed an entire whole day of work because I was watching The Wire.

A whole day.

You sure are some burdensome friends.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I had a lovely day today, thanks. Mister Monkey brought me an omelette, bagel, coffee, and juice up to bed this morning, and put some Prince on the stereo to remind me that I am going to see Prince in June. This is great news, because I couldn't decide whether or not to go to the concert. We love Prince, but we're not so crazy about huge outdoor gigs, and neither, we seem to remember, is Prince. Nevertheless, his greatest hits gigs in London were supposed to be spectacular, and if this really is the last chance ever to see him perform things like "Raspberry Beret" and "Sign Special O the Times", then I would be an idiot to pass it up. Now that Mister Monkey has bought the ticket for me, the decision is made.

In related news, I feel terribly old. Fortunately, I feel terribly old and drunk on champagne, which is at least some reminder of the fineness of the life I live.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


ComedyB met a well-known English actor lady recently, who told him he looked awfully like Havers. I think she may have said it more than once.

Now, every time I see Havers, all I can think of is saying "Havers!" in a plummy voice.


Chariots of Fire is on right now, while I'm having my tea, so I get to think "Havers!" to myself a lot while eating my orange.

The Savages

This is a film about two adult siblings (Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who are a bit messed up and kind of rubbish, and the call that they get one day that results in them having to put their father (Philip Bosco) in a nursing home. I think people might be staying away from this film because they think it's going to be about older people with dementia, but it isn't really. The dad has only a minor role (although Philip Bosco is fantastic). Really it's a film about the siblings having to learn to be grown up, and having to deal with their pasts without wallowing in them. I really enjoyed its slightness and lightness of touch, and the fact that it dealt with a number of issues that, in other hands, could have been appallingly mawkish and touchy-feely and huggy-learny. Instead, the Savage sibs learn a little, and hug a little, but in a way that feels more real than in other movies.

I really enjoyed this film.

Also, hats off to the young man who was working at the box office. While I was waiting for S, a woman went up to the box office to ask what films were about to start. "Well, there's The Savages," he said.
"What's that about?" she asked him.
He told her what it was about. Then he said, "there's also Margot at the Wedding."
"And what's that about?"
"It's shit."
"Right. I'll have a ticket for The Savages, then."
That's the kind of service you need more of in Irish cinemas, I think.