Friday, December 31, 2010

Ten things I learned to love in 2010

1. The Kindle
Just as I inherited Mrmonkey's iPhone when he switched to a Nexus, I inherited his Kindle when he moved to the iPad. I had my reservations at first, and honestly found it difficult to concentrate on the first book I read on the device; I was too wrapped up in the novelty of reading an ebook to pay proper attention to the book sometimes. This wore off though, and although I can't see myself ever abandoning paper, I do love a book I can read while brushing my teeth, or with both arms under the covers. And I can get a new book right away! Plus I can read huge or embarrassing books with the same ease and confidence as I read slim or erudite ones. Result.

2. Ian's Classic Book Club
Okay, so I only read three of the books and (so far) turned up to one of the meetings, but it's good to be part of a book club that admits to not having read many classics, and that it's good to read those classics. I was particularly gutted to miss the discussion on Frankenstein, but it was my own stupid fault. Next up is Northanger Abbey for February, I believe. I've not read it before, and I'm greatly looking forward to it.

3. Going to the gym
Once upon a time, long long ago, I used to go to the gym on a regular basis, but I stopped (great story, Trish). Well, I started again this year and although there's been a bit of a hiccup due to the bad weather recently, I really enjoy it. Overall, in fact, I've been enjoying an increased level of fitness this year, partly due to losing a lot of weight, but also due to just getting out and about and moving more. Must keep this up in the new year. I don't want to slip into bad ways again.

4. Watching television with people on Twitter
The Apprentice, Coronation Street, and most of all, The Eurovision Song Contest, are just some of the shows that are massively improved by watching them with your pals on Twitter. Indeed, Twitter's done more for getting people to adhere to the actual published television schedules in 2010 than any other factor (I have made that up, but if I was a freelance journalist I would leave that there and let it become a truthy fact).

5. Audio books and podcasts
Don't know why I never cared about these before, I guess I was always a reader who listened to music when I was a commuter, and now that I'm not a commuter anymore, I just don't listen to as much audio content as I used to. But 2010 brought us more stable foster dogs (well, ones who were either going to stay with me or piss off as they saw fit, regardless of whether I was listening to them), so it became more feasible to stick in a single earphone and listen to A History of the World in a Hundred Objects, Pimsleur Spanish, and my second audiobook ever, The Man Who Invented the Computer by Jane Smiley, which I listened to while in the gym. Like the Kindle, listening to audiobooks is something I've had to learn, but I have the hang of it now and will be doing a good deal more of it in 2011.

6. Pointless
Hosted by Xander Armstrong and Richard Osman (brother of Matt Osman from Suede, connection fans!) this is ideal cup-of-tea-time television. Featuring beautifully laid-back banter, intriguing questions, and no ad breaks, it pisses all over Countdown.

7. Taking my camera just bloody everywhere
When it comes to photography, I am certainly not Mrs. Right, but I am often Mrs. Right There, particularly when it comes to documenting big family events. Take your camera with you when you go places. It's no use to you sitting at home. And then print the photos, or at least put them online where people can see them. Otherwise, really, what is the point?

8. Going out for dinner
Since we moved out to Laytown our eating out arrangements have really slipped. But we've been taking advantage, unlikely though it may seem, of our weekly visits to our diet counsellor to eat out in Dublin at least once a week most weeks. It helps that so many restaurants have top class early bird deals right now. Mmm, mundane.

9. Being 40
There's something liberating about being able to say "I am 40. I don't have to care about this." Particularly things that people with children have to care about. Noisy, expensive things that take precedence over more genteel entertainments, like, I don't know, Justin Bieber maybe. Or that young woman who smokes a bong. I don't care if the X Factor single gets to number one in the charts. I've no idea what's in the charts anymore, or what that word is that they're all using this week (are they even doing that anymore? I couldn't tell you).

10. Paying someone else to walk the dogs
This year, our neighbour set up his own dog walking and dog minding business. The freedom this has given me, I can't begin to describe to you. Going to the city, going hillwalking up in Carlingford, and more activities have become so much easier now that I can just text Michele and get him to take the dogs out, bring them back, feed them, and leave them to snooze till I get home. They know him really well and will go anywhere with them, and he gives them a decent walk for not much money. It is a result. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I don't mean to be all Angry of Laytown

But I'm listening to people on the radio saying that people should be made to wear winter tyres on their cars because councils and local authorities can't be expected to clear the roads. It should be the law, people are saying.

Maybe it should. But it is currently the law that you have to have working headlights on your car, and people don't bother obeying that. And that you should observe the speed limit, not drive on your emergency tyre, turn your fog lights off when it's not foggy, not throw litter out of the car window, etc. etc. etc., and nobody bothers with any of these. This wouldn't annoy me so much (we all break minor laws, after all. Just the other evening I was driving home from the city behind a guy from Cork who I assumed was lost, when after a while I realised he was just driving at 30 kph, like you're supposed to in the centre of Dublin. I'd never seen anyone actually do this. I certainly don't do it), but not only do I see gardai break these minor laws all the time themselves, I very rarely see them stop anyone for speeding, and I never, ever see them stop anyone around me for broken lights, cracked windscreens, dodgy driving, or any other minor infraction.

Good, you might say. Let them get out there and catch some proper criminals. Well yes. Fine. But it's stopping people for minor offences that lets you pick up guys like this, who are on the run from prison or have "99 previous convictions, 92 of which were for driving offences".

Well, maybe it is very right-wing of me. Maybe. But every time I'm dazzled by a single headlight set on high-beam (because one headlight on high-beam is the exact same, safety-wise, as two headlights on dipped), a common occurrence at this time of year, it makes me think of the money that could be collected from fining these eejits, and how that might bring in enough to grit the road a bit, maybe.

Moan moan moan. Grumpy of Laytown.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Off on the wrong trotter

Strictly Come Dancing is over for another year, and not before time too. I have loved this show since halfway through the first season when I discovered that, far from being yet another reality show in which "celebrities" bicker with one another over stupid tasks, it was actually a show that celebrated improvement, cooperation, and partnerships. It has always had lovely little character arcs, individual "journeys", and fantastic interplay between the pro dancers and the celebrities they look after.
Oh, but the recession has hit Strictly hard. I'm guessing that part of the decision to jettison a bunch of my very favourite dancers this year in favour of some unknowns (Matt, Ian, Darren, Lilya, and Brian were all out and Robin, Artem, and some others I still don't know the names of were in) had to do with being able to pay the newer, younger dancers less money. In fact, the amount of dancing on the show was drastically cut. Contestants didn't do as many numbers, there were fewer pro numbers in each show (sometimes none at all), and a lot of the little bits of VT they used to do to make up the running time of the show were also removed. In an effort to draw attention away from these changes, they brought in props and non-traditional costumes, like they have on (whisper it) the American show. To my mind, and I realise I have come over all Federation President Barry Fife here, these are changes for the worse. They also introduced the Argentine Tango at a much earlier stage of the competition (I wonder if that was in order to get celebrities to agree to appear on the show? Everyone seems to want to dance the Argentine Tango), which was definitely a mistake because you just need a certain level of skill to be able to dance it even vaguely well.
It was a real shame as well, because apart from the inexplicable popularity of homophobic, reactionary, conservative old crone Ann Widdecombe, the core of the show was strong. The dancing was great, there was a little romance, and yes, I even warmed to the new dancers. Well, to Robin and Artem anyway. I still couldn't tell you what the other ones are called.
Even Claude's show was compromised. She had the same people on over and over again, no celebrity guests, and no budget for VT bits. Much discussion of pictures of dresses, which was most dull. Even Claude couldn't hide how bored she was with business like the Strictly A-Z.
Of course, it's possible that none of these changes had anything to do with cutbacks and everything to do with trying to shake the show up in order to make it more competitive. If that's the case, that's even worse. If the BBC are just trying to ride out the lean times by putting on a stripped down show for a few years, that's fine, but if they really are messing about with it to try to attract viewers, then the tinkering won't stop until they've wrecked it, because that's what happens.
Still, there's always Pointless.

Monday, November 29, 2010

November is almost over. Did you write your novel?

I did.

After I posted the first chapter, some people said they wanted to read it, so I'm posting the rest of it here. But let's be very clear about this: I wrote this at a gallop in thirty days, and I've only skimmed it since then to correct spellings where I could. I can't guarantee that the action is consistent or that the characters retain their proper names all the way through, or that it makes any sense at all.

Nevertheless, here it is.

After four attempts and three completed novels, I think we can draw some conclusions about Nanowrimo and me. I obviously respond well to this particular challenge. It's about the only thing I complete on a regular basis, the only deadline I happily meet and take seriously, and the only way I ever seem to get any writing done.

I obviously like writing books featuring smart women and tall men.

I have a tendency to write what seem to me at the time very steamy scenes and then go back and change them because I am embarrassed to think that anyone would ever read them.

I do not know anything about the criminal underworld and would probably do well to stay away from it in the future.

So, thanks for all the support as usual, especially Mrmonkey who walked the dogs for me a couple of Saturday mornings and let me write in bed, and to my coach, Judith Ecker, who was keeping an eye on me from over there in Wisconsin to make sure there was no slacking off.

I hope the link works. Please let me know if it doesn't.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Can we still be acquaintances who never speak?

Hannah Pool has an article in today's Observer on a topic that fascinates me: the breaking up of friendships. I don't have a lot to add to what she says here, really. I've tried both of the "techniques" for breaking up with friends that she describes and agree that neither of them is pleasant. I've also had them done to me. Not so much the slow one, because if I call you a couple of times and you don't call me back, then I stop calling you pretty quickly (and by "call" I also mean email/write/whatever). And then if I hear from you months down the line because you've either changed your mind about breaking up with me or because you genuinely were busy or depressed or something, that's fine.

But the quick one I've had done to me twice. At the time I was extremely hurt by one of these breakups, which was done by letter. It came as a total shock to me and I was very upset to read the words "I don't think we should be in touch with each other any more". This was like a real breakup. (Subsequently the person in question did get back in touch and we did meet up a couple of times, but we both realised that his initial instinct had been correct and we haven't been in touch since. Still, nice to have everything put on a more civil footing.) The other time, I was out for a drink with the person and we were arguing about personal politics. I was finding these meetups less and less enjoyable every time we had them, but I basically liked this person and I was living on my own at the time, so I was reluctant to lose contact with even more people than my divorce had already cut me off from or allowed me to lose contact with, depending on how you look at it.

At the end of the evening I suggested we meet up for brunch in a couple of weeks (I preferred brunch because there was less chance of drinking and therefore less chance of argument) and he just said "yeah, brunch doesn't really suit me any more. Look, don't worry about it." And that was it. We never called each other again. It was a massive relief. Sure, we've seen each other on the street a couple of times since then, and we've said hello and exchanged highlights, but that's it. So civilised.

Anyway, that was all apropos of not much really. I wanted to save that article and I wanted to save the comments too. Some interesting stories there. I'm particularly interested by the person who starts her comment by complaining about using the word dump to describe breaking up with friends, then says she's had this done to her several times by people who are cowards, then talks about how awful people are who break up with friends. I don't know this person, and I don't like to be judgemental (or rather, I don't like people to know how judgemental I am) but I already want to break up with her and I've not even had to be her friend for any period of time.

People also talk about how Facebook and Twitter makes this all much more complicated, and it probably does. But for me, as for a lot of people, Facebook and Twitter are an aid to maintaining casual contact with people I care about very much who happen to be far away. I see the minutiae of their daily lives, comments from other people they chat to, and it makes me feel connected to them. It also makes it easier to keep that connection, so I don't worry so much that I don't have time to write a letter.

These are things, as someone points out on the comments page for the article, that rear their heads at this time of year, both for those of us expecting people home for Christmas, and for those of us who are coming home and don't know who we''ll end up having to talk to when they hit the pub on Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Let's write a novel

Perhaps unwisely, I've set myself an extra challenge for this year's Nanowrimo. Rather than writing the requisite 50,000 words and have to listen to people tell me that that's "not really a novel, is it?" I've decided to try and write a full 80,000 words, so that people will have to resort to admitting they didn't read it, or that they just didn't like it.

More action/adventure/romance this year. I confess that I have little to no idea what's actually going to happen, but at least I have enough experience now to know that I just need to keep things moving along. I've got a first chapter, which I'm going to post here because some people might be curious about it (Hi Myles! Hi Queenie! Thanks for always reading at least most of my stuff!), but then I won't be posting anything else until it's all done. Yes, I know there are typos and things, but November means being a novel-writing shark, and I won't be looking at this chapter again until December. Or maybe never.

You should be able to see the first chapter by clicking here. I actually really like this as an opening chapter, which is almost a shame because it means that I think the rest of the book should be good rather than just fecked onto the page to bump up the word count.  

Two days in and we're on target with only a couple of hours writing a day. That's good, right?

Good luck to you if you're doing it too. Go to meetings if there's one near you. You never know, you might meet some lovely people.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Little things that annoy me, perhaps irrationally

This is by no means a definitive list.

1) "Boutique" hotels where the towel hooks in the bathroom don't actually hold up your towels, you can't make yourself a cup of coffee in your room, and instead of giving you a ballpoint pen on the desk they give you a pencil in a fancy iron pencil holder, but no pencil sharpener.

2) When my company refers to its website as its homepage. (It took me months to work out that they meant the entire site when they said homepage.)

3) Television programmes where the people can't speak English properly. "Comfortability" is not a word, Apprentice contestants, and perception and perspective are not interchangeable.

4) The ITV Player website.

5) The warning signs they have on American menus now, where they have an asterisk next to anything with egg or meat in it to warn you that eating undercooked eggs or meat can cause DEATH BY EGG OR MEAT. My favourite one is on the entrance to the Ferry Building, which warns you that the building you are about to enter may contain chemicals, including cigarette smoke, that are known to cause harm to people. (Srsly, I will photograph it if I get a chance.)

That is all for now. I am grumpy today.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Our adventures in Heathrow Airport (tl;dr, I expect)

On Friday, October 1st, Mrmonkey and I left our house in cheery spirits ready for our two-week trip to Seattle and San Francisco. Not a holiday (as I'm slightly weary of explaining to people now), this is a necessary work trip for the monkey and I'm just tagging along because I can because all my work happens by magic laptop now, so it doesn't matter where in the world I am as long as I have an Internet connection.

Annoyingly, though, when we got to Dublin airport it became apparent that our flight to Heathrow was delayed. Never mind, said Mrmonkey, they'll just stick us on a flight to Vancouver or something when we get to Heathrow, and we'll still reach Seattle tonight. When we boarded the Aer Lingus flight (EI 164, the 12.10 flight, which seems to get delayed a fair bit, in case you're interested, and generates its share of customer complaints), we were told by the flight attendants that everyone who had bags checked all the way through to their destination should go to Flight Connections in Terminal 5, where they would be rebooked onto a later flight to get them where they needed to go. Only those who had NOT checked their bags all the way through should stay in Terminal 1 and go to the Aer Lingus desk. So, off with us to Terminal 5 on the special bus that Aer Lingus had arranged to whisk us there. Oh yes.

We joined the BA queue at Flight Connections. We didn't think there was anything suspicious about this, because, after all, we were on a BA codeshare flight from Dublin, which meant that BA had booked seats on the Aer Lingus flight for their customers, so we were flying under the BA umbrella the whole time, right? After about 20 minutes of standing in the queue, the guy behind us asked a BA staff member if there was a different queue we could stand in. He said that there was, but it was about four hours long. "Four hours!" we all said, "hoo, don't want to stand in that then!"

Four and a half hours later we reached the top of the queue. I won't bore you with the ins and outs of the actual queuing. Yes, someone from BA did give out some phone numbers for BA customer service to see if they could help us, but they couldn't do anything except say "you should stay in the queue, we don't have any information." Yes, after about three hours someone did come along with one bottle of water for each person in the queue. Yes, a pane of glass did get smashed after some people tried to skip the queue and a staff member stopped them. But the important thing is, we made it to the top of the queue without anyone triaging the queue to see if everyone in it was actually in the right place.

The woman who was dealing with the people to the left of us apologised to them for the long wait when they reached her. Our woman said "oh, you're booked on two separate booking references," small sigh, "it's more convenient for us when people are booked on a single reference."

What I didn't say because I didn't want to get booted out of the queue and possibly arrested: "Well, it's more convenient for us not to have to stand in a queue for four and a half hours with no apology or explanation, but hey, we all have our crosses to bear."

The woman then said she could get us on a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt on Sunday, but Aer Lingus don't have an agreement with Lufthansa and... you could almost see the hey-wait-a-minute look in her eyes as she said "in fact, you should be talking to the Aer Lingus desk. Your delay has nothing to do with us."

We pointed out to her that it was a codeshare flight and we were booked BA the whole way, with BA flight codes and everything.

"Doesn't matter," she said, "you'll have to go back to Terminal 1 and talk to Aer Lingus."

So we took the half hour bus ride back to Terminal 1 and found the Aer Lingus duty manager. A more sour-faced woman I have never seen outside of a film about the Magdalen Laundries. She listened to our tale of woe and, without a single expression of sympathy or word of apology or admission that Aer Lingus had somehow fucked up, she told us we could fly back to Dublin tonight, go home, and re-present ourselves at Dublin airport at 6am the following morning for a flight to Charles de Gaulle and on to Seattle from there, or we could stay in Heathrow until Sunday and take a flight to Chicago and then on to Seattle. She was unmoved by tears and provided an absolutely stellar model of the new customer service paradigm of staring stony-faced at the customer until they stop talking, before doing the bare minimum required by law.

She wrote out coupons for a cheap hotel in the airport, meals, and the shuttle bus to and from the hotel. "And our bags will be delivered over there tomorrow?" I said. She said no. If we wanted our bags we would have to go back to Terminal 5 and get them. She would not provide bus tickets for us to do that. If we wanted the bags, we would have to pay the £4 each way bus fare from the hotel to get them.

Then Mrmonkey checked the boarding passes she had handed us and pointed out that they were for economy, when we had paid for premium economy seats. She said that United doesn't have a premium economy class, so we just had to have economy seats. So, fuck the extra money you paid for your ticket, basically. Aer Lingus couldn't give a shit. She then presented Mrmonkey with a slip of paper on which was written the mailing address and fax number of the Aer Lingus customer complaints department. There is no phone number. You may not call them.

We went back to the hotel, ate a crappy meal, watched some of Some Like it Hot, (I'm not glad at all that Tony Curtis died, but if he hadn't there wouldn't have been anything at all worth watching on the telly, so thank you Tony Curtis), and went to bed. At four in the morning I had to shout at people in the hallway to shut up so we could go back to sleep.

The next day Mrmonkey set out to get our bags and see what he could do about the flights. There was no point in my going with him, because I would just get us thrown out of the airport, so I stayed behind in the hotel to do work. He left the hotel at about 10am, and returned at 3pm. His tale was one of adventure, more lies and incompetence from airline staff (he went to Terminal 5 to get the bags and was told that they had been transferred to Terminal 1. So he went to Terminal 1 (bear in mind that this takes half an hour each time) to be told that they were definitely in Terminal 5, and he was given the name of the person to talk to. He went back to Terminal 5, and yes, they were there.)

But it was also a tale of hope. It was a tale of one woman, Emma, who wasn't at the end of her Friday shift and therefore the end of her rope. It was a tale of someone who has not yet learned the ways of modern customer service and still thinks that it's about trying to help the customer instead of trying to make the customer give up and go away. She agreed with Mrmonkey that the Aer Lingus staff had, in fact, probably just been trying to get rid of everyone, which is why they sent them over to Terminal 5. She said that all airlines do this. They just try to get rid of you for now, and if you come filtering back like a homing pigeon, well then, they'll deal with you because you're obviously some masterpiece of Darwinianism who deserves to be flown to another destination. She made several phone calls which involved her talking to actual people instead of just tapping on her computer, and she summoned us up two seats in the class we had paid for, on the Sunday version of the flight we were meant to have been on in the first place.
She emphasised to Mrmonkey the importance of going to an actual ticket desk instead of just a kiosk. She might be the greatest human currently working in Heathrow Airport.

The next day, we presented ourselves at Terminal 5 to check in for our flight, and stood in the queue of people. Within seconds, a uniformed staff member came over to check that we were in the right queue. I realised that this level of care was because this queue was in a public part of the airport where customers from other airlines could see us, and where people who might be making flight decisions in the future could see us from outside. The queue in Terminal 5 at Flight Connections, however, is not, which is why nobody cares at all if you are stuck in it for four and a half hours. Everyone in there is already a BA customer. They don't have to buy you flowers, they've already shagged you (copyright ComedyB). Which is also why Aer Lingus sent us there, so they wouldn't have a massive queue of people standing at their customer-facing desks in Terminal 1.

In the end, we were bumped to business class.

"Lucky you," some people said. I don't think we were lucky. No air passenger is lucky anymore. Because this is the real cost of low-cost airlines. Sure, people like Michael O'Leary can crow about all the "frills" they've managed to cut back on, but by choosing to always fly low-cost, people have driven other airlines, like Aer Lingus, to go the same way. So instead of customer service staff you have stony-faced evil nun types who won't even/aren't authorized to even give you a lousy extra £4 bus ticket so you can go and collect your bags when something goes wrong with your flight and you have to be rebooked (never mind having the bags delivered to your hotel within the bloody airport). This is why the queue in Flight Connections is four and a half hours long. If you search for stories similar to ours you'll see that this queue is always that long, because of the number of staff that are working on it at any one time. See all those people in the business class queue who are zipping along and being seen inside ten minutes? They used to be you, before airlines decided that you didn't want to pay for all these behind-the-scenes "frills".

The thing that makes me angry about this whole episode is not that this shouldn't have happened to us, it's that it shouldn't have happened to anyone, but it does, because this is business as usual for airlines now. This is how it is now when anything goes wrong. There's no spare capacity or spare staff or money to pay overtime. It's all bare bones operations, which means that instead of being put on a New York flight while we were still in Dublin on Friday, we ended up in Heathrow till Sunday.

And I haven't even told you about Saturday night yet.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

It's been nearly a year

I moved from my (posssibly greatest ever) job of abstracting articles from periodicals like The Economist and CQ Weekly--and hey, let's not forget Russian Social Science Review--to writing marketing copy almost a year ago. During that year, I have slipped back into my old ways of essentially not really picking up much about the world beyond what I hear on Radio 4 or see on The Daily Show.

Apart from the three years I spent doing that job (which is the longest I've ever spent doing the same job), I've never been a reader of newspapers or magazines, nor much of a consumer of world events. But I enjoyed knowing things about the world, about who was in charge, what countries were in political turmoil, whose elections were going to be close and whose were more or less fixed. I liked spending five or six hours a day just reading and learning about politics and protest movements, world events and medical developments, sociological theory and environmental catastrophes. It made my brain work in a way that it has only ever done before when I was studying, because I wasn't just reading magazine articles, I was reading the academic journals as well.

Now that I don't get to read that stuff for work any more, I just don't read it, in the same way that if I stopped going to Motivation in two weeks when my 20 weeks is up, I know I would put back on all the weight I've lost. You can't just unlearn in a short time the habits it took you a lifetime to pick up. It takes application and work.

It came as a shock to me recently to discover that Álvaro Uribe is no longer president of Colombia. How can that be? (I actually know how that can be. See above.) I have no idea how things are going to go in the midterm elections in the U.S. this year. It feels a bit weird.

I miss that job. I don't learn anything new in this job.

I miss Álvaro.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

David O'Doherty/Anthony Jeselnik/Arj Barker last Sunday

What else would we be doing on a Sunday afternoon anyway, David O'Doherty asks us all, other than sitting in a temporary mosque in a garden in Dublin listening to some comedy? What indeed. David O'Doherty is the ideal man to host a gig like this. He points out himself that his credentials are impeccable, given that he often does readings for children in libraries, and they mainly take place during daylight. Plus he just has that kind of comedy that lends itself to the daytime. Sure, he has some strong opinions, but unlike a lot of other comics, those opinions are not really about porn or sexual positions or how hateful women are, but about Shakira and how great bicycles are because they just stay up on their own by magic, and about pandas and what panda-related facts may or may not be true. He looks completely at home and everyone happily goes with him on the stories of personal frustration and childhood non-trauma.

Arj Barker isn't far off being this kind of comedian either, although he does look more like a night-timer who's been woken up and pushed on stage before being given his breakfast. He brings plenty of laughs with his stories about Avatar, Internet scams, and this own unique view of global warming and environmental disaster. He gets a couple of nice local references in, and in general does enough to make any right-thinking person want to see his full show.

And sandwiched in between these two easy talkers was Anthony Jeselnik. He's the other type of comedian. He speaks in short sentences, and waits for laughs. He waits too long. The laughs don't really come. I imagine him as a contributor to Sunday Miscellany and that's amusing for about two minutes till he tells a joke that nobody laughs at and suggests that we were offended. Sometimes we're not offended. Sometimes you're just not funny.

That is the problem with these three-comic bills. Of course the other problem with festivals is that your MC might come back and suggest that everyone go over to the big tent and beat up Des Bishop, just because he's in the big tent. And that's a lot of effort for a Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hilarity in the Iveagh Gardens

The Carlsberg Comedy Carnival has just finished its fourth run, and I pronounce it a success. Sure, none of the gigs I attended on Sunday were sold out (how does Emo Phillips not sell out? What is wrong with people?) but Saturday was chockers, and everyone seemed to be in very good spirits.

The festival's two main selling points for comedians, as far as I can see, are that it's just before Edinburgh, so they can get in that one last polish of their material before their Edinburgh shows, and that (unlike Kilkenny) there is a dedicated space for the comedians and their mates to sit and get a drink without having people coming up to them all the time. I wouldn't like to give the impression that comedians don't like people approaching them, nor would I like to suggest that people are assholes about it, but if you're getting ready to go onstage, or you've just come off stage, sometimes you just want to be somewhere where you can relax a bit and not be 'on', and the organizers of this festival get that.

You also can't get into the Iveagh Gardens at all unless you have a ticket to at least one of the shows. Once you're in, you can hang out all day and eat burgers or crepes and drink as much €5 Carlsberg as your stomach can hold, but the cordon does prevent the place from being flooded with extra people.

I did also see some actual gigs while I was there, but I will talk about them later.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kids, eh?

For about a year now, I've been walking a dog belonging to some neighbours of mine. This happened by chance: I was walking my own dogs on the beach one day and I met a woman and a friendly, extremely fat labrador. We got talking, and her dog was nice, and she asked me if I ever looked after other people's dogs, and it turned out that her foster parents were looking for someone to look after the friendly, extremely fat labrador in her own home for two weeks while they went on holidays.

Normally I don't like the idea of dogs being left alone for long periods of time in their own homes, but I was assured that she was used to it, so I agreed, and every day for two weeks I took her out with my own dogs for a long walk, which she loved. When the two weeks were up, I hadn't the heart to leave her to her fatness, so I said I would keep walking her as long as it was convenient. A year later, I'm still doing it. Last week, however, the neighbours' grandchild, a ten-year old boy, came to stay with them for three weeks. So now I seem to be walking him as well.

It's fine, because it's an hour out of my day and what do I really care, right? Plus he loves the dogs and they really like him, and I remember when I was his age some childless adults were really good at giving up their time to me as well, so I don't mind.

But this morning he lost my ball thrower. He was throwing the ball for the dogs, he put the ball thrower down in some shallow water close to the shore, and it just vanished. Swallowed by the seaweed and the current and a child's inability to really concentrate on looking for something properly. I took off my shoes and rolled up my trousers and waded in to look for it, and when I looked up five minutes later he was a dot on the horizon, with all five dogs crowded around him and all heading towards some people who had children but no dogs. So I gave up my ball thrower, put my shoes back on, and followed him.

There isn't really a point to this story, except to remind me that this is what life is like every second of the day for people who have kids. It's just constant wrangling. Mind you, I never would have thought to bring home so many greenish crab claws if he hadn't been with me, so I suppose I won in the end, really.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Women of Size! Remain Indoors!

If you are not a fat woman, you have no idea what it's like trying to buy fat-woman clothes. I'm not going to bore you with a discussion of whether or not it's sensible for Evans to sell skirts that are almost wider than they are long, nor will I get into a debate about whether fat women should really wear sleeveless t-shirts. I'm not even going to whine on about how Anne Harvey appear to think that everyone must dress like a mother of the bride all the time. Those things are a matter of taste. But I'll tell you this much: if you are a fat woman, you better get used to your clothes being wet, because nobody in Dublin is going to sell you a coat that keeps you dry.

And even those nice people on the Internet who specialize in selling the kind of fat-lady garments it's impossible to get in actual shops in Ireland have failed me on the one thing I need above everything else to get through the Irish summer: a light, waterproof, hooded jacket. A cagoule/kagoul/pac-a-mac kind of thing. It's all I want. I want to tie it around my waist and go out walking with the dogs, and when it rains I want to pull the jacket over my head and be dry, but not absolutely baked. I got one from Lands End a couple of years ago, but it's no longer waterproof and they no longer sell that type of jacket. I have an Outdoor Scene jacket that almost, almost fits, and in a month or so it will fit, but it doesn't fit yet and it's raining now and I have to go and walk the dogs in it now.

I've searched everywhere. My friend in Seattle thinks she might have tracked down what I'm looking for, so I'm going to order one and see if it's the right thing, but if I didn't have a friend in Seattle helping me to find these things, what would I do? Just fucking get wet? That's not right, surely. I can't be the only fat woman in Ireland who ever goes out in the rain, so how come I seem to be the only one who ever needs a summer raincoat?

I know, I know, first world problems.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

We're going to hang out the washing

One of the things I genuinely love about Evelyn Cusack is that she will tell you when there's going to be good drying out, so you can get loads of washing done before the good drying goes away. When we moved into this house, I felt like a real homeowner for the very first time because mrmonkey put up a washing line for me, and I have been using it on every Evelyn-approved day ever since. For me, one of the simple, idle pleasures of working from home is sitting at my desk looking out the window at my neighbours' washing flapping in the breeze. You can see which houses have girls living in them: everything's pink. You can see who goes to which school in the area by the uniforms. You can tell when there's been a washing disaster because everything's dyed the same slightly washed-out lilac, although that happens more and more rarely in this age of colour catchers and polyblends. And you can see who's been buying the recycled pegs from the local supermarket (they're crap, by the way. They just give up and drop off the line after a couple of weeks, like fatigued fledglings).

And you can see changes in towel technology. Right now, as I type this, I'm looking at a kid's changing towel. It's basically a long towel with a hole in the middle, old-fashioned poncho style. When I first saw it on the line I thought, wow, what an amazing leap forward in towel technology! Pop the towel over the child's head and they are completely covered and have both hands free for changing! And then I thought, hang on, that's just a towel with a hole in it. Given how often my mother cut holes in sheets to make ghost costumes (or shepherds for nativity scenes), or blankets to make cowboy costumes, why did she never think to cut a hole in a towel to make one of these? When I think of the times... well, you get the picture.

Of course, some brief discussion with my friends reveals that several of them had these things when they were growing up. Some of them even had ones with hoods. So now my mother's really in for it.

Still, at least my deprived childhood is over now. Imagine if you were an adult and you lived in your own house that you paid for, and you were prohibited from hanging your washing on a line outside your back door? I'd call that really deprived. And that is the fate of (maybe) thousands of Americans right now. I saw a thing about it on Colbert. There's even a campaign to get people to line dry again in the U.S. Don't say I don't do my research. 

Right, I can hear the washing machine winding down. Time to hang those clothes out.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

28 Days Later

Remember this picture?

That's me and Widger, the smallest one of the box of the puppies. So called because he liked to sleep all the time, cried if anyone woke him up, and was (still is) my favourite of them all. Well, here is Widger this morning, almost exactly four weeks after I got him:
Yes, that's quite a difference. In fact, the two pups we have left here are edging up on being the same size as Trixie, although they're still quite a bit lighter. They're eight weeks old now, an age at which many people still get their first puppy from a less scrupulous breeder (ten to twelve weeks is ideal), and they're really beginning to, well, get on my fucking nerves.

The noise is incredible. All day long. They growl and yelp and bark at each other as they wrestle around the garden, so when I need a break I stuff puppy Kongs with kibble and gravy and give them to them in their den. That lasts about two minutes, before Widger gets frustrated with his own inability to extract the food from his Kong, so he decides to shove Bunty off her Kong, which causes a fight. So I separate them, putting her outside the pen and him inside. That gives another ten minutes of peace until one of them finishes their Kong and wants to rejoin the other one, which gives rise to more barking and whining. So I pop the two of them in the den together with their chew toys and leave the room. This makes them bark and bark and bark and bark and bark and bark and bark until they eventually fall asleep. This lasts half an hour to an hour, before the whole cycle starts again.

I cannot wait until they have their shots and they can go for walks. I am a great believer in the maxim, "a knackered dog is a quiet dog".

I've long been of the opinion that it's better to get an adult dog than a puppy, and now I know I was right. Sure, you miss out on weeks of cuteness with an adult dog, but they're usually housetrained, you can start walking them straight away, and they can generally figure out fairly quickly how to get food out of a rubber container.

You'll also notice I haven't had any sleep, nor have I had a haircut in four weeks.

EDITED TO ADD: I do still love them, though. Like, really a lot. Now sssh, let's go and do some work while they have forty widgers. Sshh.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

All good things go to Sweden

The puppies are going to Sweden in a few weeks, as soon as they get their vaccinations. Because everything goes to Sweden eventually.

I've said I won't be driving them to the airport. I can't take a repeat of my upset over Woody.

Here are some puppy pictures to be going on with.

Changing habits

Experts tell you things all the time, but sometimes you just don't believe them, so you carry on doing things the way you did before, even though that's the opposite of what they've told you to do.

You don't believe, for example, that because you've been eating certain things your whole life in a certain way that you can never change and develop new tastes. You also don't believe that it is possible to toilet train two eight-week old puppies with praise and treats. Surely that's too young?

Turns out that sometimes, just sometimes, if you follow the advice on the website and you listen to your CDs and go to your appointments and stick to the eating plan that's been devised for you, several things are possible.

First, you can wake two eight-week old puppies up after their forty widgers, call them to follow you outside, tell them to pee and poo in the right spot of the back yard, and they follow you and they pee and poo where you tell them to, and you treat them and praise them and they are pleased enough to do it again the next time. Amazing. Not only that, but they now sit on command and come when we call them. At eight weeks! (They do still pee in the kitchen if we leave them unattended for more than 90 minutes, but they hardly poo any more.)

Second, after a month of hardly drinking tea, and then only black tea, you end up having a cup of tea with a tiny amount of cow's milk in it and it tastes like someone's dumped a big load of liquid cheese in your tea. Bleucch. Thirty years I've been drinking tea and enjoying it (before then people insisted on putting sugar in it, and it was horrible), and now it turns out I don't drink my tea black because I'm on a diet, I drink my tea black because I like it that way.

Third, you can order Chinese food and, instead of having a spring roll followed by a main course (often with chips instead of rice) and a bag of prawn crackers, you can have just a main course, and not even eat the rice, and feel perfectly satisfied with that.

Also that clicking noise in your hip starts to diminish and bending down to wash your feet in the shower in the morning doesn't make you want to throw up because your back hurts so much. Good times.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Treats and Rewards

If you've never met me, you'll perhaps be unaware of the fact (but unsurprised to learn) that I am a person of fatness. And not, like, regular muffin-top fatness, but actual proper fatness.

Long story short, I'm embarked on the process of doing something about it, for what I swear is going to be the last time. Three weeks into this current effort and everything is going fine, except that my counsellor (I would say "diet lady", but I'm trying to think of the way I eat now as basically the way I will eat for all time, because that's how you do it, really) has set me a task that I'm finding quite difficult.

"List ten non-food, non-booze rewards or treats."

Why is that hard? Because I get as far as this:

1) Have a nap.
2) Daydream about telly people I have crushes on.

And then I get no further. I know what's expected here. What's expected is a list like this:

1) Have a nap.
2) Have the daydreaming.
3) Get a manicure/pedicure.
4) Get someone in the beauty industry to smear gunk on some ungunked part of me.
5) Have my hair done.
6) Buy a new book.
7) Buy some new shoes.
8) Have a massage.
9) Light a scented candle.
10) Have a bath.

And that was the list I was going to go with until I started giving this some serious consideration, just to keep the counsellor happy (I know that's not how counselling works, but sometimes doing it any other way creates too much anxiety, which makes me want to eat). Nevertheless, that is a crap list for someone like me. I don't like being rubbed or gunked or handled except for medical or conjugal purposes, so that's all out. And I don't like baths, they are boring. And I was hoping that this new, healthier eating lifestyle would result in me buying less crap, not more, different crap.

So what are my treats and rewards?  This was the list I finally came up with, after some careful consideration.

Everyday treats:
  •  Have a nap.
  •  Put on McAlmont & Butler's "Yes" and sing along.
  •  Lie on the bed, put "Hoppipolla" on the headphones and make a little daydream video.
  •  Give away one thing I can't stand but have been keeping because someone I like gave it to me.
  •  Re-read my favourite passages in books I've already read (this reduces the risk that the book might be crap). 
Big treats:
  •  Have the car valeted, and don't clean it out beforehand or anything.
  •  Get a dogwalker to walk the dogs, and do not use the time to read animal rescue message boards or do any housework.
  •  Buy a bubble machine and some bacon-flavour bubbles and watch the dogs play with it.
That's all the things I can think of for now that could be considered equivalent to things like eating half a packet of Viscounts, or getting a Chinese in and having chips instead of rice, or the other things that I have always considered treats but which, let's face it, haven't turned out to be such treats in the end. Obviously there are bigger things, like going places for the weekend and so on. But I'm pleased with that start. It gets me away from the traditional "women be shoppin' and smearin'" idea, and that's important.

And now I've done my homework, I deserve a little treat. So do you, if you've read this far.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


As you can see, we still have the puppies.

In the last day or so, though, they've come on hugely in the independence stakes. They're playing with each other a lot more and are a lot less dependent on cuddling up to a human for comfort. This is good news, because it means I don't have to wait for them to be fast asleep in order to leave them and go off to do other things, such as showering and doing actual work for which I get paid.

They do still like a lap to lie on when they're actually ready to go to sleep, though, and will cry for one of us to come in and sit with them for a few minutes while they drop off. That's fine.

Worms appear to be abating as well. Everyone's belly, including Widger's, seems to be taking on a more normal shape, and everyone's got more energy.

They'll be starting tiny puppy vaccinations this week, which basically means getting teeny tiny doses of parvo vax in order to ensue they don't get accidentally infected before they are old enough to have their proper vaccinations. This will necessitate many visits to the rescue's vet, who is 45 minutes away from here. Oh well. There goes this weekend as well.

They are so lovely though, and it's lovely to see them getting stronger and more confident every day. I'm glad we took them on. Puppies were always such a mystery to me before, and I'm glad we had a relatively easy and healthy litter in first to practice on.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Puppywatch-day three

We now have four puppies.

When the rescue was originally contacted about the wee yokes, they were told that the puppies were between eight and ten weeks old, which is a good age to start separating them. So one of the other volunteers agreed to take one, and I would take the others. But the mistake was discovered and rectified, and now we have all the puppies together with us.

They're visibly growing every day, if not in size, in health and confidence. We had them out the back yard this morning for about five minutes and they ran around barking excitedly and trying to eat weeds, which is a far cry from the three terrified mites I got on Friday. They're also separating into two separate groups to sleep, or even napping by themselves, which they wouldn't do unless they felt safe.

We have named them.

L-R: Dobby (male), Widger (male, formerly Runty) and Bunty (female).

We've called the other one Tarka, but I don't have a picture of her yet. She's very collie-looking.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Because you asked for them

More puppy pictures!

Here's littlest pup calling the others back to bed because he's sleepy now.

Here's biggest pup investigating her middle brother.

Here's littlest pup all asleep.

And here's biggest pup stridin' out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Eventful Day

So much for today's plans. My intention was to make the most of my manager's absence from work today (I am going to work tomorrow instead) to do my supermarket shopping and visit my friend in the hospital. She has had some fairly serious oral surgery and is going to be in hospital for at least a week, so I wanted to go. I was all set. Walk the dogs, come home, have a shower, take the bus to Dublin.

Then Trixie vanished halfway through the walk. Figuring she'd gone down a rabbit hole again, I waited around for her, but she didn't emerge. So I walked back to where I'd last seen her. No sign. To cut a very long and panicky story short (in which our heroine dashes about the sand dunes clutching at strangers and begging them for news of her feeble one-eyed dog) I eventually drove all the other dogs home in order to get them out of the heat and headed back out to retrace my steps yet again. Ten minutes of walking along calling out her name produced the desired result. Like the Shopkeeper, Trixie appeared. She must have been exhausted, poor yoke, because as soon as she got over beside me she flopped down in the shade of a clump of grass and pretty much fell asleep.

There may have been crying, but to protect Trixie's dignity I won't say who shed the tears.

Texted our rescue coordinator to say "found her!" She said, "great. Do you know anyone who could take some puppies that have been dumped in a box in Termonfeckin?"

Seratonin levels were high, plus I'd never been in charge of puppies before. I volunteered to take them. They were eight or ten weeks old, I was given to understand. It would be jolly.

Turns out, they're actually only about five or six weeks old, and strictly speaking too young to be away from their mammy. One of them is bold as brass, one is middling, and the runt is, well, a bit runty. He didn't eat anything at the vets. "Keep an eye on him," I was told. I worried immediately. I looked at them in their box on the kitchen floor. They cowered and trembled. Well, you would, wouldn't you?

A little while has passed now, all the adult dogs have solidly inspected the box of delights and proclaimed it less interesting than the boxes that come from Zooplus, the puppies are all fed, even Runty, and everyone's asleep. I've got a free hour before it's time to start walking and feeding all over again. The hospital visit will have to wait till another day.

Sorry the photos aren't better. The puppies won't come out of their clump. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The adventures of Trixie down the rabbit hole

New dog Trixie has some typical terrier traits. She doesn't like cats much (which makes her a bit of a stressful presence round these parts in the evenings, when cats and dogs usually come together to flop around the living room and snooze) and she likes to dig A BIG HOLE.

Yesterday she found an existing big hole while we were having our usual mid-walk rest up on Wet Bum Point near the golf course. Off she went to dig around in this deep rabbit hole, and I left her to it. When I got up to leave about five minutes later though, I realised she was stuck in the hole. She seemed pretty firmly wedged, in fact. I wondered for a second whether I should try to pull her out, but her back legs can be a bit peculiar sometimes, and I didn't want to hurt her. Besides, she was digging away in the sand and would get herself free eventually. So I sat back down and waited. Read a bit of Moby Dick on my phone.

It took about ten minutes for her to wriggle her way out. She shook all the sand off herself and then triumphantly dived straight back down the hole.

In all I spent about half an hour trying to get her out of the rabbit hole. I might go a different route today.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Hotel for Dogs

It's been a busy week here at Waggy Towers.

First, Rollo went home. His real name is Sammy, and he lives on a small farm. Sadly his owner has gone into a nursing home, and the family are trying to make plans for his future, but while they do, he's a bit all over the place. Poor Sammy. As I was giving him back, I told them that we'd be able to find him a home if they needed us, but they want to sort something out themselves. They gave us a nice donation. Good for them.

Then, literally ten minutes later (that's actual literally there, not the new kind that means figuratively) I got a call from one of my dog-walking pals to say that one of his neighbours had just been told that her dog has to go. They live in the local mobile home park, and the little dog has been getting loose and causing a nuisance in the park, so the family was told that the warden would be called if something wasn't done.

So Trixie is here with us now. She is a feisty little terrier lady who, despite having spent most of her time outside in a little yard by herself in her former home, is happy to sit up on sofas and laps in our house. She loves her walks, she chases the cats a bit (but not in an alarming way) and she leaps right up at your face when you come downstairs in the morning. That's the good news.

The bad news is that she's a senior girl, at least eight years old, which means nobody will insure her. She also has just the one eye, which might put some people off. And she has the beginnings of a heart murmur, which could become expensive in the future.

But everyone does just think she's the cutest thing ever. And she really is. I should also point out that in an estate filled with bichon frises, cavaliers, and little poms, I'm proud to trot about with a slightly raggy, home-made looking dog on the end of my lead. We look a bit like a witch with her familar, though I'm not sure which of us is which.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New collie

Today I went and collected the new foster dog. He doesn't have a name. He was picked up with no collar on, and is friendly with people and other animals.

He's very much an outside dog, though. He keeps trying to cock his leg in the house and he walked into the patio doors not long after he arrived. But I've had him up to the vet and he seems fine. He can hear and see and walk, all of which is a good start.

Now we just have to hope someone is missing him and that they want him back. He's asleep in the kitchen at the moment.

Edited next day to add: I know dogs can be very clingy when they first come to a new house, but man, this is one laid-back, person-focused dog. He has had a sniff around the other dogs and cats, decided that they're fine, and left it at that. He just wants to lie at the feet of whoever's around. Me or mrmonkey, he's not bothered.

Yesterday he wouldn't eat his food, but today I put some baked bean juice on it and he larruped it. Now he's asleep again. Sometimes older dogs really are the business.

Ha ha, rasher feet

It turns out, right, that if you're planning on catching a ferry at 2am on a Saturday and following that up with a 6.5 hour drive across and down a good chunk of England, then the very best thing you can do on the Thursday night is to go out and see some comedy, then go drinking till three in the morning. It is also important that you get no nap on the Friday at all, so that your driving ozzyssey across England is filled with the kind of unfitness to drive that they make road safety ads about.

Nevertheless, this is what we did.

Last Thursday we went to see Dara Ó Briain in Vicar St during his current round of gigs there. It's quite a while since we last saw him here (can it possibly be this long ago? This seems too long ago. I must have just not blogged the last time, surely) on his own, but we did see him in December at the Console gig, so we hadn't completely forgotten the fast talking (mrmonkey's American colleague found it difficult to understand him every now and again), the manic hand gestures (in fact, his show has become more physical, and is all the better for it. He's got a gift for a bit of physical comedy), and the audience interaction, which is sometimes disastrous but actually worked really well last week. In the audience were not one, but two people who had saved the lives of others. There was also a woman who had gone through a period of having slightly predictive dreams that foretold entirely inconsequential events, but she hadn't had one since the mid 1990s.

One of the things I really enjoy about Dara's gigs is the fact that I can relax, knowing that he's not going to pull out a load of material about fat chicks or how women be shoppin'. He's not going to take the piss out of the old ball and chain, (indeed, most of the stories involving his missus are highly complimentary) or even shite on about football (even though he loves it). Of course, I'm in a privileged position here. If I was a homeopath wearing a badge saying "Let Us Drive Out Blasphemy As St. Patrick Drove Out The Snakes" I might feel differently. But even then, Dara has a way of arguing against the action rather than the person. He does have a section where he talks about old midwives' tales, but even then, he's very clear that it's only the "don't let the surgeons get you, with their knives" part he has a problem with, not the "hey, let's get you squared away and get a healthy baby out of you" part.

Maybe I should feel left out for not being a gamer, but even his section on computer games, which has the potential to be alienating to non-gamers, is put together in a way that includes everyone, because he creates a lovely fiction around first-person shooters that opens the routine up to anyone who's watched films.

So, to recap. If you are into blasphemy laws, you fear modern medicine and women, you don't watch films or play computer games, and you want to hear a lot about football, I recommend you go elsewhere for your comedy. For anyone else, I recommend you get a hold of some tickets to see Dara if you can.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Ozzysey

At the very beginning of the year, some people in England who know ComedyB because they have a comedy family member of their own contacted me because they'd seen Ozzie's windy day picture online. They wanted to give her a home.

They filled out the adoption form for our rescue and everyone agreed they seemed like a great home. If only they weren't in England, said everyone. We don't rehome directly to homes in England, said the rescue committee. If it doesn't work out, we have no way of getting the dog back. The people were very disappointed. I was very disappointed. Ozzie continued about her life, totally unaffected by all the fuss.

When she came to us in August last year, Ozzie was very ill, you see. Her condition turned out to be pancreatic insufficiency, not uncommon in dogs at all. It means her pancreas doesn't make the enzymes she needs to digest her food, so her food just passes through her, irritating her insides as it goes. Untreated, the condition eventually leads animals to starve to death. Luckily, it's very easy to treat. You just sprinkle enzyme powder on her food at mealtimes, feed her a high quality food, and leave it at that. In the months that we had her, she went from being 17kg down to 14.5kg at her lightest, and back up to 18.65kg again. She went from being a bag of bones who only just trundled along behind you when you walked to being a sleek, black powerhouse of energy with a high-gloss coat who never left a bird unchased, a dog ungreeted, a thing on the floor unchewed, or a lap empty.

Despite the fact that her condition is easy to treat, though, nobody wanted her. A few forms came in asking about her, because she was said to be good with both kids and cats, as well as other dogs. But every time we mentioned her condition, the enquiries stopped.

Still the family in England asked about her, admired her photos, and chatted back and forth with us about her. They didn't care that she had a condition, or that she would be expensive to feed, or that it would be expensive to get her to them. They just wanted her. We sent emails back and forth. They promised they would send her back if it didn't work out. They swore they would take care of her.

So last weekend, we brought her. Mrmonkey and I took her on the ferry to Holyhead and drove her down to where the family lives. We were prepared for the people to really take to her immediately, because she's that kind of dog. But even their number one dog, a three-year-old labrador called Maddy, wanted to be her pal instantly. She ran all around the house with her, licking her face jumping on her, and bringing her toys for Ozzie to play with.

Ozzie knew something was going on. She had been separated from our other dogs, shut into the car inside a scary loud box for some hours, driven for ages on a very long road by two very, very tired people, and finally had her bed and blankets left in someone else's kitchen for her. She was a bit clingy and she wasn't sure about this new dog.

Even still, despite some tears from me on parting from her, she only sat by the front foor for a short while after we left her behind with her new family. She then did the classic first-day-of-school maneuver and just bloody got on with it. Sat on laps, played with Maddy, ate the cheese she was offered, went for walks, and settled down to sleep.

So she will be very happy. A wee dog who was dumped in a box a year ago, and now she's in a perfect home with people who just love her.

Bye bye Ozzie. Happy life.

Two new dogs coming tomorrow.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Here he is.

Bobby was surrendered to the rescue just before Christmas, his lovely home with his nice Eastern European owner pulled out from under him because of the recession. His owner had to go home and couldn't afford to take the dog with him. So Bobby went to a local foster, where he's been for the last two months.

We've been minding him over the weekend while his regular fosters are away. He's a complete sweetheart. Loves cuddles, comes when you call him, falls over a lot in a cute puppy way, and is happy to be around other dogs and around cats. Today a nice family from Mullingar came to view him. They loved him straight away. He just sat there and let all three kids hug and cuddle him at once, and actually seemed to enjoy it instead of just tolerating it. The family has been home-checked and found suitable, so Bobby will be going there at the end of the month.

Ozzie's due to leave us at the end of this week, and it'll be back to three dogs again. The sofa will seem so empty.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Battle of wills in Tesco

Last night I was picking up a few necessities in Tesco when I ran into the woman from this blog post. Remember her?

Well, we looked each other up and down very quickly, and of course had a judgemental look over each other's baskets to see what the other one was buying. I had milk and juice and toothpaste and eggs in mine: normal stuff. My arch nemesis, on the other hand, was clutching an enormous box of Thornton's chocolates, which she pressed more tightly to her as I passed.

From the way she looked at me, she knew that I knew that she was planning to scoff the entire box herself.

And so I win round two.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jimmy Kimmel laying into Jay Leno

Now this is a presenter thinking on his feet. I can't believe Leno couldn't come up with a single riposte to any of Kimmel's remarks here.

I don't like that thing you like

British people seem to have gone a bit mad lately about television, especially the BBC, and what should or shouldn't be on it. People don't want to have to pay the salaries of Jonathan Ross or Frankie Boyle. They don't want subscription channels to get their precious sporting events. Even the comedian and New Statesman columnist Mark Watson, himself on the receiving end of "we shouldn't have to pay for this" complaints about his BBC 4 show We Need Answers, and a great fan of programming related to football (which I personally would rather nobody wanted to watch), would prefer it if there were fewer dance-related shows on the television and has (in jest, of course) asked for the number to be reduced.

I can't help thinking that everyone needs to calm down and stop wanting the stuff they don't like to be taken off the telly. Your telly is fine, believe me. You have no idea what it's like out there in other countries where they don't have the BBC. You really don't. Complaining about having to pay the license fee to pay the salaries of entertainers you don't like is a little like complaining about having to pay tax for a health service when you never get sick, or a school system when you don't have any children.

But it's easy for me to say, I don't pay for the BBC. Except I do, because I buy DVDs and I pay a Sky+ subscription which funds all those second-run channels that the BBC sells its shows into after they've run on the main channels. So I'm a customer as well. And I like dancing. And Jonathan Ross. Sometimes.

And, to add insult to injury, I, through my license fee, am required to pay the salary of this monstrosity. So you have nothing to moan about.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Roll on February

Okay, the first two weeks look like being a bit crap. Mrmonkey will be away, visiting the mothership and renewing his acquaintance with the endless ad breaks of U.S. television, and I will be here on my own.

But then will come the first gigs of spring, peeping out of the calendar like bright crocuses and acting like beacons to steer me through the rocky weeks of the mister's absence.

On February 14th we will be going to Vicar St. to see Midlake, one of our two favourite bands of the last ten years (yes, the Arcade Fire is the other one). To demonstrate how hotly I'm anticipating it, let me tell you that I am actually hoping they play tracks off their forthcoming album, because I could do with some new Midlake about the place.

Then, a mere four days later, we'll be going back to Vicar St. to see Dara Ó Briain. His gigs are a treat for people who (like me) love their comedy but get a bit fed up of the usual stand-up topics--women, eh? fat people, eh? chavs, eh? airlines, eh? Big Brother, eh?--and would like something just a little bit different and, yes, perhaps just a little bit nerdier. Reading the interview with Dara from yesterday's Irish Times (although the interview is a bit peculiarly written) whets the appetite, as does reminding myself of previous times we saw him in Vicar St.

All we need now is for the snow and ice to EFF OFF back up to the Arctic, and we can get on with getting through January and watching the crocuses come out.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Bored Slippy

Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe (yes, that is his name) has decreed that our schools will remain closed until next Thursday. This is partly because of burst pipes, knackered heating systems, and the fact that many of our schools are in prefabs, which you couldn't possibly expect salaried members of the teachers' union, sorry, the precious children to use in this weather. Also, nobody can get to school because the roads and paths are all too slidey. Buses can't run, and nobody can walk anywhere without being afraid that they're going to fall over.

In a not unrelated development, the senior civil servant who has been appointed as our Bad Weather Czar (whose name I currently cannot find on Google) was on the radio this morning defending the fact that the Republic of Ireland's National Roads Authority buys the same amount of grit every year as does Northern Ireland's roads authority, despite the fact that NI has a quarter the road mileage that we have. He said that the government's priority was to ensure that "primary national routes" were kept clear.

Well that's all well and good for the people who live on "primary national routes" (which is almost nobody, except the elves who live in IKEA), but what about the rest of us mugs who live in glass-road housing estates and at the ends of little boreens halfway up hills? We can all just go and shite, can we?

Everyone's bored with this now. The weather isn't even all that bad. It's just that even a tiny fall of snow can break a crappy infrastructure.

And everywhere is sold out of Yaktrax. This winter is stupid. Roll on spring. When I will be going to London and Stockholm, assuming the ice age hasn't begun. If it has, I'm going to Rio.