Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Tuesday 23rd August

I walked to work, contemplating all the small things that particularly nark me, coming to the conclusion that it is not the little things that count, but rather the little things that mount. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly your day can turn to shit. Take green men for example. I am not talking about the little green men people claim to see from time to time, usually people living in the back arse of nowhere, with nothing better to do than make ridiculously false claims of alien sightings because their nearest neighbour lives seventeen miles away, and anal probing seems the most likely scenario to attract attention.

I am in fact talking about green men of the traffic variety, those flashing, beeping indicators that determine whether or not you will make it to your destination in a prompt and timely manner. My gripe is not at all in their existence, in fact I am grateful for the safe passage they occasionally grant me, but rather the inherent design flaws they all seem to possess. Why is it that the time allotted to cross the road is never in direct proportion to the width of the road? A street as wide as a hundred yards might allow a meagre, life threatening five seconds to cross, while on other streets, where the opposite footpath is within spitting distance, we are afforded an excessive fifteen seconds, where a pensioner and her crippled corgi could cross at a leisurely pace. And with time to spare.

And while I'm on the subject of gripes, why do people insist on power walking behind you on a narrow footpath, sigh as they have to get off the footpath to go around you, and then immediately slow down once they are in front of you? And when did it become acceptable to cough or sneeze without covering your mouth? And why, after thousands of years of existence, do people still not understand the god given right to personal space? People, it is never alright to breathe, cough or sneeze on another human being! Even in a fight, that would be considered bad form. I no longer have the patience or the inclination for that matter, to deal with the incompetent and the downright goofy. When are we all going to realise that they serve no purpose here on earth? To quote Billy Connolly, if I may, 'I think it's time to trim the herd!'

When Newbies' was the first face I saw as I arrived at work, I knew this was going to be an all-out piss take of a day. Green men had conspired against me from the moment I left my apartment, I was virtually dry humped in a queue for coffee and now Newbie's pale freckled face was a mere foot from mine. I had a good mind to sneeze, hands free. He greeted me with his usual amount of dim witted enthusiasm and then skipped off to annoy someone else. It took every fibre of my being to not extend my leg as he frolicked past, sending him face first into the cooker doors, so that not only would I have the pleasure of his pain, but he'd also be subject to the unsightly reflection I was forced to endure only moments before. However, due to recent near hits on the unemployment front, I am required to take a more subtle approach when abusing my co-workers. Softly softly catchy Newbie, and all that.

Bert spent the entire day peddling Rob, despite the fact that I have adamantly refused to meet him. I am very much aware however, that when it comes to Bert, resistance is futile.I threw in the towel shortly before six, rushed home and prepared for a date I didn't want to go on.

I had two options:
1.      Make a concerted effort to look like shit, ensuring that there will be no possibility of a second date.
2.      Make a concerted effort to look good, on the off chance that Rob isn't a feckless, socially inept, shite talking man, who could no more provide a conversation than he could an orgasm.

The sex embargo has thus far lasted six months and three days, and I was naively hoping that a prolonged bout of celibacy would encourage the return of my virginity, so that when the dry spell ended, so to speak, I could start afresh, thereby eliminating any pesky expectations (temptation to write sexpectations was almost more than I could bear). Even alluding to it scratches the itch somewhat. It's not easy to find someone to spend your precious time with, even on a casual basis. I don't know if there is a man out there with whom I am willing to be naked, someone I find tolerable enough to wake up to in the morning. If past experience is anything to go by then the answer would have to be most assuredly no. Even with low expectations, I anticipate disappointment.

After several failed attempts to find a suitable mate, I concluded that I could either go it alone or come up with a better method of distinguishing between an acceptable man and an utter twat. My own company, though delightful, could very well become tedious in time, and the self-pleasure section of Ann Summers holds no attraction for me. So with no other options available, I devised a fool proof plan to isolate the weak from the strong, and by doing so, I could hopefully avoid the hell out of them. The resulting plan consisted of seven tests a man must endure before he can even be considered tolerable company.

1.      First Impressions: Though I would not consider myself a shallow person, I do have certain criteria that must be met. You may not be prettier than me, dress better than me, or have longer hair than me. Let's be clear about this- I am the woman, NOT YOU!

2.      I'm not your slave: And I am not your mother. I do not love you unconditionally and I never will. However, should a terrible accident befall you, through no fault of your own, leaving you horribly disfigured and crippled for life, I am willing to bend this rule slightly. For example, I will hold the straw to your lips to quench your thirst, but I will not prepare the beverage beforehand. This is the job of a nurse, or possibly your mother.

3.      Table manners: This rule is basically a list of inexcusable habits from which there is no comeback. Eating with your fingers, licking your fingers, licking the plate and/or cutlery, eating with your mouth open, talking with your mouth full, incorrect use of your knife and fork, loud breathing through the nose while eating, using the napkin to blow your nose (I don't care how spicy your meal was), slurping your tea/coffee/wine/beer, or eating from my plate without my expressed consent. Any of the above will result in immediate dismissal.
4.      Hungry c**ts: If you don't care for that particular term, I can think of a few other ways to make my point. I am not interested, if any of the following apply to your character:
(a) He's so mean if he found a packet of corn plasters, he'd buy tight shoes.
(b) If he was a ghost he wouldn't give you a fright.
(c) He'd live in your ear and rent out the other one.
(d) He's as tight as a fly's arse on a frosty day.

5.      Idle chit chat: This is not a hard and fast rule. I'm not made of stone. I can understand that nerves play a major role in the rot that falls out of your mouth in the initial stages. It is conversations about the weather that I can and will not abide. Yes it's still raining and it will almost definitely rain tomorrow, and I do not need you or the weather channel to tell me that. Either stay indoors or shut the fuck up!

6.      IQ: I am not looking for a Stephen Fry (too old) or a Stephen Hawking (too much legwork), just a man that can hold his own in a conversation, with an above average grasp of the English language. Incorrect use of grammar is not cool. Be advised; a double negative does not make a positive.

7.      Sense of humour: This is of the utmost importance. The unfunny and unspeakably dull need not apply. There are no grey areas on this one.

Rob arrived at eight on the button. Urgh! Eager!! Had he arrived late however, I would have been equally pissed off, and naturally thought him to be an inconsiderate prick. I did not see this going well for him. He is attractive, as Bert had claimed, and capable of dressing himself, which may seem like a given, but I assure you it is not. I'll never fully comprehend the reasoning behind wearing your jeans so far below your underwear that the task of putting trousers on in the first place becomes counterproductive. If you do not intend to cover your ass then what possible reason is there for wearing pants? His hair had some gel in it, but not so much so that I could mould it into a miniature of the Statue of Liberty or Eiffel Tower.
I think that covers all the bases on my first impressions check-list:

1.      Attractive, or reasonably so. At the very least cute. 
2.      The ability to dress oneself. 
3.      The knowledge that you are in fact a man, and that your hair should reflect that. 

Having passed the first in a series of rigorous tests, I invited him in, and made him feel welcome by offering him a choice of tea or coffee, such is the custom. He declined, thereby passing test number two which is...I am not your mother- get your own damn tea. This offer was perfunctory, and should not be seen as a promise of things to come. He made inane chit chat, while I looked for my keys and tried to come up with a polite way to tell him that idle chit chat does not wash with me. Turns out there is no way, so we set off for the restaurant, with him still talking and me slowly losing the will to live.

Number three is the real test of a man's worth. The ability to eat in a way that doesn't make me want to push their face into their plate. This is where most men trip up and I had no doubt, Rob here, would be no different. Silence descended as we perused the menus, a silence he clearly couldn't handle but which I found delightful. His foot was tapping rhythmically against the leg of the table as he racked his brain for something to say. The waitress approached and he made the classic first date rookie mistake of ordering pasta. But then surprised me, by taking a calculated approach to his meal, turning his plate in a clockwise motion, methodically cutting through the ribbons of pasta so as to not slurp every slippery strand, and douse the pristine tablecloth in errant splatters of sauce. Each mouthful reached its target, and I could feel the threat of hope beginning to creep in.

He took a break from small talk for the duration of the meal, and we discussed various topics of interest, such as work, music, books and of course, our matchmaker Bert. Rob had been a neighbour of Bert's for more than three years and so quite familiar with his, let's say, unusual personality traits. Their first exchange was a heated one, as Rob was keen on loud music, while Bert was not. Two days later, Rob got home to find the volume dial on his sound system missing, and a note attached to one of the speakers...
If you ever want to see your knob again, I suggest you look down.

To this day, Rob has no idea how Bert got into his apartment. He did however have a deadbolt installed the following day. The bill arrived two hours later, which he generously offered to pay, and even though I declined, I appreciated the gesture. After a minimum of fuss, he agreed to go halvsies. He walked me home and stood on the steps of my building with an expectant look on his hopeful little face. I gave him a modest kiss on the cheek and said goodnight. It's gonna take more than a meal my friend!

I climbed into bed alone and read my book, picking up where I left off. As opposed to going to the last page and reading backwards, or flicking through the pages till I found one I liked the look of. What a ridiculous expression: picking up where you left offAt what other point in any given task would you continue?
I fell asleep not long after, picking up where I left off this morning.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Monday 22nd August

The solicitor, Mr Harding, was prompt and efficient, arriving exactly on time and immediate in his business. He was clearly familiar with the layout of the house as we followed him to the study to begin proceedings. At least I think it was the study. It was one of many rooms in the house filled with books, so it could just as easily have been the library, or the other library or the office. It's not important. There were eleven of us in total, gathered in the study, awaiting the outcome.

Bert was the model of indifference, laying casually across a camel wing back, his long legs swinging playfully over the side. His family on the other hand, perched on the edge of their chairs, were beginning to sweat.

Mr Harding got right to it.
A reading of The Last Will and Testament, according to Joe;
“I, Joe Turner, being of sound mind and body, do hereby bequeath the farmhouse and all of its contents to my son, Bertrand Turner. The ninety eight acres on which it stands, the stables and any and all livestock, I leave to my son. The cottage in Cobh, and my home for the first sixteen years of my life and the numerous antiques therein, I leave to my son. Any property, material possessions, or monetary wealth I may have at the time of my death, I leave to my son. To my sister, Morag, her husband Mick, and all the subsequent children calved as a result of their loathsome alliance, I leave nothing. Not a penny. Not a red cent.”

The room was deathly quiet and then Bert started to laugh. He laughed until the tears rolled down his cheeks, and his face turned red from lack of oxygen. Standing in the corner, Mr Harding held a single finger to his pursed lips and despite his best efforts, I could see a grin beginning to form at the corners of his mouth. The other eight sat stock still, frozen in disbelief. Bert eventually composed himself, and picking up the large sheepskin rug, which he draped across his shoulders, proceeded to stride around the room, humming the tune to “If I were a rich man”.
Da Dee Da Dee Da Dee Dum.....

Bert was two verses in before the guests finally got the hint. Red faced and furious, the eight exited the room, muttering various threats and expletives under their breath. Bert thanked Mr Harding and assured him he would be in contact regarding his inheritance and the sale of the house. When all the guests had departed, Bert stood in the hallway with a vague smile on his face. I was genuinely happy for him but there was something I just couldn't let go.

-That's Lord Bertrand to you.
-My apologies, so what's the plan of action?
-Money bath?
-I like it.

Unfortunately, the money bath had to be postponed until Bert was actually in possession of his inheritance, and since that was weeks away, we decided to head back to Dublin to celebrate in style. On the drive back, we stopped at the cemetery to say a proper goodbye to Joe. I waited in the car and watched, as Bert pilfered flowers from the adjoining graves, picking through various bunches, and throwing back carnations in disgust. After some serious deliberation, he eventually settled on a bunch of Tiger Lilies in the next row. A classy choice by Bertrand.

Bert made a few phone calls and our entire evening was arranged by the time we arrived at my apartment. As I rummaged for my keys Bert pulled yet another note off my front door. He read out the brief note, another soliloquy dedicated to yours truly, and true to form, it had all the charm and eloquence of the first.

Ms Good, it is becoming clear to me that you think that the rules of this building do not apply to you. Though it is not written in the lease, as it was not felt necessary, it is still and shall always be forbidden to attack crows from your balcony. Furthermore, the residents of this building would greatly appreciate it if you would refrain from befriending the local vagrants, as it lowers the tone of the area. Failure to adhere to either of the above will result in a final written warning, and should your shenanigans continue, eviction from the building.

Well, if that's how you want to play it George, that's fine by me. You might have the residents on your side, and possibly the ISPCA, but I have something you'll never have...an overgrown man-child with no conscience to speak of and a penchant for evil dealings. You will rue the day you messed with me. And Bert! Actually, maybe just Bert.

I prepared for the evening ahead, as Bert set to work on designing an elaborate scheme to wreak havoc on the life of one George Barry. By the time I emerged from my room, fully equipped for a night out, Bert was still busy, furiously scribbling away on a notepad he'd requested earlier. Wads of paper were strewn about the floor, illegible markings scrawled across them in red ink. He was clearly having a little trouble coming up with a suitable revenge tactic, as plans were disposed of one after another, the paper pile slowly beginning to mount at his feet. No matter. Bert dispenses misery like China dispenses crap. He'll produce.

Our table was booked for eight at The Grocery, a restaurant built in the wine cellar of a run-down building near Dun Laoghaire's waterfront. Attended by Dublin's elite, and lit by church candles and hand crafted lanterns, its white washed walls painted an elaborate display of chic and impossibly slender silhouettes. Our obvious age difference and comparatively healthy appearance caused quite a stir as we entered the premises. Not one to shy away from the lime light, Bert placed an arm around my waist and planted a big wet kiss on my cheek. Still not satisfied, he began rubbing my head, something he intended to be a loving and tender gesture, though it actually felt more like the attention one offers a cherished pet or a woolly simpleton. Still carrying on the charade, Bert took the liberty of ordering for me, an act of chivalry I cannot abide. Fortunately, I eat with the man on a daily basis so it was exactly what I wanted, giving me no cause for complaint.

We discussed at length the George situation, the Newbie situation (I'm still owed some tears there), and after three bottles of wine, my sex life, or lack thereof. Since my break up six months ago, I had taken a sabbatical from the world of men, giving myself time to grieve. I was devastated. I spent two years with that man. I could never get that time back.

Bert informed me that enough was enough, and the time had come to get back on the horse. I informed him that there was no way in hell I was getting back on anything in the near future. Fool me once shame on me, fool me twice and I deserve everything that's coming to me. Absolutely not. Not now and not in the foreseeable future. The argument raged on for half an hour before he decided to tell me it was too late now anyway. He'd already set me up with Rob, a man from his building, who was apparently picking me up tomorrow at eight. There's no point in even including the remainder of the night, as it could easily be summed up in the following brief and infantile exchange:

-I'm not going.
-Yes, you are.
-No I'm not.

Got into bed shortly after twelve, and read a few more pages of J. Richardson's book. I can't make up my mind about this guy. I honestly don't know if I pity him his pernickety pilgrimage through life, or envy him the endless opportunities for smugness that only a perfectionist can enjoy. I text Bert “Not” and turn my phone off. I will not be bested.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Sunday 21st August

My reputation does not precede me. At least a dozen birds have gathered in the tree beneath my window and they are singing up a storm. I retrieved my marble stash from the drawer. You have chirped your last my feathered friends. With a single marble clasped between forefinger and thumb and my body poised for precision, I swung my arm like a seasoned pitcher and relinquished the glass ball.

It hurtled through the air, deftly avoiding branches and foliage, and incredibly still picking up speed as it continued its descent from balcony to bird. A muffled thud resonated in the early morning air, ousting the remaining fowl from their perches. I leaned over the balcony to assess the damage, only to find I had indeed hit my target but not with the full force I had intended. A large crow with severe concussion was staggering about on the footpath below. That’s just bloody great! That in no way solves my problem. A dead bird sends a message. A concussed bird can't even relay a message.

Bert picked me up at 07:14. I dragged my suitcase down two flights of stairs, past the flustered crow, which was now flying in circles a foot off the ground. I resisted the urge to kick it as I walked past, since there were people around, who undoubtedly frowned on that sort of thing. What ever happened to the circle of life? The natural rivalry between all God's creatures in a constant battle for survival. No-one gets on the dog's case for chasing the cat, or the cat for chasing the mouse. It's not my fault the crow is my natural enemy. If I discovered a human singing in the tree outside my apartment, I assure you they would receive exactly the same treatment. Man, woman, animal, black, white, hairy, bald, young, old, religious, atheist...I don't discriminate. I hate you all equally.

The journey began on a high note, as Bert spotted the crow frantically orbiting the bin, now three feet in the air and climbing. Bert, bent over the steering wheel in hysterics, started to cry as I explained to him the reason behind the bird's antics. See? The mistreatment of animals can be funny. You just have to know your audience. Despite the purpose of the trip, Bert tried to maintain an upbeat attitude, demonstrating his own version of I Spy. This version is not the fondly remembered game of your childhood but rather a fishing expedition for the ugliest person in the vicinity, (Not only a fun game, but also a test of your observational skills, and a lesson on local wildlife). For example: “I spy with my little eye a fat bird in leggings and a hoody that could double as a hammock”. You get the idea. One girl was so ugly Bert made an illegal U-turn in the middle of a busy street to show me, thereby claiming his title as I Spy King. That might seem unnecessarily cruel but he was absolutely right....won him the game.

We arrived in Baltimore at half ten and pulled up outside what could only be described as a mansion, previously referred to by Bert as “the farmhouse”. I'm not sure if Bert has ever seen a postcard but I think he'd be surprised to find that this was not your conventional representation of rural Ireland. It had two stories, a gravelled driveway, and no live stock or smell of shit to speak of. Even more confusingly, the sun was shining, and I thought, if I closed my eyes I could be anywhere right now. Ah, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts...it'd be Christmas every day for paedophiles.

Familiar with my aversion to small talk, Bert ushered me past the grieving friends and relatives that were gathered throughout the house. After showing me to my room, he disappeared to another part of the castle to get ready, allowing me to do the same. He returned a while later dressed in black jeans and a grateful dead t-shirt, while I donned the customary funeral attire of women worldwide, the black dress. Not to be confused with the LBD or little black dress...an outfit designed for pulling men, a task not usually deemed appropriate at funerals. I'll be the judge of that.

The funeral proved far more entertaining than anticipated. Bert organised the entire event and as such, it was not your garden variety funeral. As with every other aspect of his life, Bert dealt with the situation the only way he knew how, by mocking the long venerated traditions upheld by the Catholic church and offending the sensibilities of anyone with the ability to hear, see, and on more than one occasion, smell.

The ceremony began at noon in the dining room, where Bert's father, Joe, was available for viewing between the hours of twelve and one, for genuine mourners and the unashamedly curious. Funerals are a much loved pastime in Ireland, for where else might one be in the company of misery and free food. It never fails to amuse me, that after the burial of a loved one, it is not unusual to hear the contradictory statement “It was a great funeral”...an opinion generally expressed by strangers and avid readers of the obituaries. We gathered at the graveside to mourn the loss of a friend, relative, and respected member of the community. A small, local choir stood at the foot of the grave, patiently awaiting its cue. Tears were shed and hugs were shared. Flowers were placed reverently on the coffin, their hands lingering on the satin wood as they said their final goodbyes. The coffin was lowered gently into the earth and the mourners bowed their heads in silence, as Bert gave the nod of approval to the waiting choir.

My knees buckled as the opening verse of 'Going underground' reverberated across the cemetery. I made a grab for an equally faint Bert, who in turn grabbed the elderly lady standing next to him. Not built to carry that kind of load, she stumbled forward, following the still descending coffin into the freshly dug grave below.
To say the crowd's response was negative would be an understatement of such magnitude, it would be like saying the North Pole's a bit chilly, or Ireland's a bit damp. Or Americans a bit fat (McDonalds on every corner), or the English a bit greedy (Six counties, six counties, six counties), or the French a bit rude (I do not speak English, spoken in perfect unbroken English). I could go on and on....

As the rescue mission for the fallen pensioner got under way, her cries for help lost in the impressive vocals of the Baltimore Baritones, Bert and I made a feeble attempt to compose ourselves. However, the sight of an old lady scrambling up the side of a grave, desperately grasping for outstretched canes and walkers was more than we could bear. We made a hasty retreat, sidestepping nosy spectators, clawing their way to the front for a better vantage point. Our getaway car, a 1998 Nissan Sunny, awaited us at the cemetery gates and after much spluttering and a blast of smoke we were away.

Back at the farmhouse, Bert and I prepared for our nettled guests, by getting completely hammered and interfering with the finger food left by the caterers in our absence. It all started off innocently enough, with the odd sneeze sandwich here and there, but it wasn't long before we were playing Frisbee with the cold cuts and juggling the vol au vents. Bert licked every slice of cheese and grape on the cheese board whilst I took care of the crackers. By the time the guests arrived, there wasn't a crumb in the house that wasn't covered in the saliva of one or both of us. Just to be clear, there was only one item that contained both our saliva, a piece of smoked salmon, and I can assure you, that was an accident. Just a drunken miscommunication on our part.

They greedily consumed every morsel like the famine was making a comeback, and declared it all delicious, thereby forgiving us our earlier misdeeds at the graveside. With all the food gone, the small talk began, fuelled by copious amounts of alcohol. Anecdotes spilled from every corner of the room, and Danny Boy echoed from some distant corner of the house. In my drunken stupor, I somehow became embroiled in a battle of the woes with Bert's aunt Morag, a woman tragically afflicted with a terminal case of the “me too’s”. The poor woman seemed to be plagued by every disease known to man, and in the end I started making names up. We discussed at length the painful symptoms of Conjunctivinal Syphilitis and Haemorrhoidal nasal blisters. Swollen Rectal abscesses stopped in her tracks though. She didn’t seem to want to commit to that one.

It was after ten before everyone left and I was glad to see the back of them, shower of whiny old biddies and cantankerous old men the lot of them. But then not everyone can be the perpetual font of positivity that I am. The reading of the will is tomorrow morning, and Bert is nervous Morag, and her band of monkey children will get the house. I don't know who he hates more, the old battle-axe herself, or her attending offspring...unwilling to leave the well until it has completely run dry. But I don't think it'll come to that. He'll burn the place to the ground before he'll let them have it. Bert's insisting I go with him tomorrow and since its taking place in the very house in which I'm staying, I see no way out of it. We stumbled to our respective beds, tired but surprisingly jolly all things considered.

Saturday 20th August

Wandered into the living room in my underwear, bleary eyed and generally confused, with the nagging feeling I had forgotten something. Through half closed eyes I scanned the room for clues, in the vain hope that something would jog my memory. Nothing. Can't have been too important.

My bum was mere inches from the couch when it all came screaming back to me. I dug my heels into the carpet and desperately flapped my arms in an attempt to return to a standing position but it was too late. Gravity had bested me. As my ass hit the couch and I heard the unmistakable crunch of Charlotte beneath me, I couldn't help but wish I was wearing more than a thong.

One long shower later, I returned to the living room, fully clothed and feeling a bit delicate if I'm honest. Spider against bare ass was not an experience I wished to repeat. Although considering our positions, and the possibility of their reversal, I couldn't help but feel I came out the victor.

A homeless guy has taken up residence on the steps of my building. He looked about mid-thirties and despite his ragged clothing, appeared reasonably well groomed. An empty hat lay between his outstretched legs and in his hands was a large cardboard sign that read: Has anyone seen my keys?

Not one to miss an opportunity, I rummaged through my bag for my camera and some cash, and proceeded to introduce myself. His name is Jack, very friendly, reasonably attractive, and a former estate agent. Oh the irony! I offered him twenty Euros in exchange for a photograph of him holding the sign, and unsurprisingly he accepted. Happy with the result, I said my goodbyes and set off for work, again.

Bert took a personal day, leaving me to fend for myself, and giving me a glimpse of my work day without him in it. Can only hope that more of his family don't go and die on him. I'm not sure how much more of this self-harm inducing establishment I can take on my own. Sure, there are other employees I could talk to, but to be honest I think I'd give the self-harming a go first.

The day eventually came to a close and just to be different, I went home. Another note awaited me at the apartment. This was getting out of hand. Is confrontation a thing of the past? How am I supposed to defend myself against these allegations of noise pollution if no-one is willing to face me? I am aware that they are not so much allegations as they are complete truths but I'd still like to be given the opportunity to lie through my teeth about them. Surprisingly, the note was not from George. Far more worryingly, the author was actually my new and residentially challenged friend, Jack.

Thank you for your generosity. I hope you liked the photo. Love your apartment by the way, very accessible! See you tomorrow.

That’s just what I need, a stalker with no prior commitments.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Friday 19th August

Accidentally keyed in the wrong numbers on the remote and ended up on Sky News. Not a bad thing as it turns out as I may be a little behind on a few issues. Apparently Londoners have been rioting this past week and I knew nothing about it. Have to start reading the newspapers I buy. The crosswords don't tell you squat, except to better your words and learn you to read good…money well spent.

From what I could gather, the rioters were on a mission. Not simply looting for lootings sake but standing up to the powers that be to reclaim their taxes, and take back what was rightfully theirs. They stood together as one, marching on London with their heads held high and their loot bags slung triumphantly over their shoulders. This was a proud moment for any Brit. Robin Hood and his merry men were back and ready to recoup the losses. Hear ye hear ye...trainers and flat screens for all! And all the mobile phones you can carry! Truly inspirational.

The rioting quickly spread to Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool...shockingly! I’d imagine, as news of the riots aired on TV, there were a few unsympathetic Paddies with an opinion or two to share. Over the years, we Irish have developed a certain taste for tragedy, and our palate has never altered. Misfortune is like bullshit in Ireland, it's not rare but we like it. And an English misfortune? Well that's money in the bank.

Switched over to RTE news for the Irish version of events, and they were stopping people on Grafton street, asking them stupid questions like “So what do you think of the riots?” As if they were going to say “I love it. Can't get enough of the riots. Really breaks up the week.” They went on to discuss the rumour that the riots would be in Dublin before the weekend, and the indignant responses were laughable. The standard line seemed to be “Oh that would never happen over here.” Like we don't have our own breed of asshole, our own special brand of opportunistic pricks willing to loot our fair city for an i-phone 4 and a Burberry cap. And I'd imagine finding the culprits would be considerably easier in Dublin. The Guardai triumphant as Abrakebabras are raided across the city.

Current affairs quota met, I got ready for work, eagerly awaiting Newbie's tears. With twenty four hours to prepare, I could only imagine the kind of spirit breaking plan Bert had in mind. I considered taking my camera to work to document the occasion, but if caught, it might appear premeditated. On the other hand, if I did manage to capture Newbie's tear stained face on film, I could blow it up and use it to wallpaper my ceiling. When God gives you lemons…

I got stuck behind a bottle blonde in a queue for coffee, on a rant about excessive foam in her cappuccino. The rant continued for another five minutes, detailing her ever decreasing disposable income, inflation, the state of the economy, and of course, half-filled coffee cups. And then she turned the argument on me.

Blonde- I'm not going to stand for this.
Me- Good for you.
Blonde- I ordered a cup of coffee, not a cup of foam.
Me- Me too.
Blonde- Doesn't it make you furious?
Me- Some days it's all I think about.

Christ on a bitter bike, she didn't half go on! She should get a bit of Sky News into her; see what they're dealing with in London. In some areas there are children as young as ten having to loot their own dinner. It's fucking tragic!

The moment was upon us! I pulled Bert to one side and demanded to know the details, but Bert simply shook his head. There was no plan. There would be no tears and humiliation for Newbie today. I prepared to launch into a full blown tantrum, when I noticed something odd. The arch was gone. His eyebrows were parallel to his hairline. He looked almost sad.

-Jesus Bert, who died?
-My dad.

The funeral's in two days in the small fishing village of Baltimore, in west Cork, and he wants me to go with him. I explained, as gently as I could, that given my precarious state of employment, I didn't think time off was a possibility. Bert gave a nod of understanding and quietly exited the room. Moments later, an argument erupted in the back of the restaurant. I crept into the corridor between the kitchen and the offices, where two of the wait staff were loitering, and earwigging. All they'd managed to work out so far is that there was definitely an argument taking place, but they had no idea who it involved or what it was about. Won't be pilfering these wasters for my restaurant. Can't earwig worth shit. The shouting continued as we crept closer to the source of the racket. Crouching outside the office of Jacintha Hackett, I recognised the unmistakable voice of Bert. I caught the occasional word, but the general account of the conversation eluded me. Unless; “Bitch......time........work.......Sunday.......quit”, has some special meaning I am unaware of.

Bert came storming out of the office, slamming the door as he left. Holding me by the elbow, he dragged me into the kitchen and signalled for me to sit. He looked pretty angry so I complied, taking the stool farthest away from him. His face was all red and pinched with rage. I'd never seen this side of Bert before. He slowly massaged his temples, his knuckles kneading the ruddy skin, pulling it back with each circular motion, which gave him a sort of temporarily deranged look. He struggled to speak, repeatedly clearing his throat to get the words out.
-The bitch is giving you time off work. We leave at 7am Sunday morning. Bring rain gear.

For the next two hours, I contemplated the horrors of the impending trip, which will be the closest I've come to a holiday in years. Pretty sad considering I'll be spending two full days in the wettest region of Ireland, in a black dress and rain gear. I will begin my holiday by watching my friend's dad being lowered into a hole in the ground. And when that nightmare is over, we will all return to the house where I will be forced to make funeral small talk with strangers. In case you are unaware, funeral small talk is just regular small talk, but with a mournful twist. Think of the most tedious small talk you've ever experienced. Now imagine what it would be like, after you've stuck someone in a box, buried them in the ground and then gotten together to talk about it. Pretty grim, I can tell you.

The day grew steadily worse, as food was sent back time and time again, and dissatisfied customers had the waiters carry messages of disappointment back to the kitchen. The most popular complaints of the day were “This is under cooked”, “This is over cooked”, and “This is cold”. But the complaint of the day, and all out prize winner was “This is taking too long”, and it was this particular complaint that sent Bert over the edge.
A man, sitting alone, ordered beef medallions in a port and red wine jus, with leek and baby potatoes, but he apparently did not want to wait for his meal to be cooked and Bert thought that this was an excellent idea. To that end, he grabbed the nearest frying pan and onto it, slapped a large raw steak, surrounded it with a mix of raw leeks and potatoes, and then doused the lot with a generous splash of port and red wine. He carried it to the table himself, and presented the still bleeding meal to the offending customer.

Customer- What the hell is this?
Bert- Is there a problem, sir?
Customer- I should think so. It...It’s, well it's raw!
Bert- Oohh, you'd like it cooked? Well that takes fucking time!!

Bert left not long after that. Completely his own choice.
I got home after eleven to find a spider the size of my fist, waiting for me on the couch. Cheeky git was actually sitting in my spot. I had two options. I could either, relinquish the living room and hope to God he didn't follow me or, I could strap on a pair and deal with the situation like a grown up.
In bed by half eleven. Didn't want to watch TV anyway.

Thursday 18th August

As I left for work, I passed the new family in the process of moving in. Tried to do a quick head count as I crossed the crowded lobby, but all I could see was a horde of blonde heads and dirty hands as they dashed between stacked boxes and black bin liners. A little girl in a tartan dress approached me, extended a grubby little hand and in the sweetest voice possible managed a single word. “Chocolate?” I looked at her adorable face, and the dimples set deep in her chubby cheeks and thought...not even if I was Willy Wonka himself. I deftly avoided the grimy hand still outstretched and made it to the front door without a single dirty paw print.

The sun made an appearance for the first time in weeks, and I decided to make the most of it. With an unmistakable spring in my step I walked to work, ignoring the bitter stares of my fellow citizens. Two cappuccinos and a forty minute stroll later, I descended upon Greenpeas in an uncommonly good mood. Whistling a jaunty tune, I sauntered through the swinging doors of the kitchen, only to be met by the cold hard stare of my boss. Murphy's Law: If your boss seems like a soul destroying, obnoxious, harbinger of death, then she probably isWith a menacing look in her eye, she started towards me.

Familiar with the rules of combat, though clueless as to what this was about, I reluctantly closed the gap. However, fear of unemployment caused me to hold my breath and just as we were nose to nose, I let it all out, along with an unanticipated burp. From the corner of the room, Bert let out a snigger, which he attempted to pass off as a cough. The Boss turned an unhealthy shade of purple, slapped a red plastic pocket on the counter and stormed out. No need to inspect the contents of the folder, as I am more than familiar with the details of my business plan. How she got her filthy paws on it is another matter.

Bert examined the document carefully, muttering the occasional “hmm” and “I see”, finishing it off nicely with the obligatory head shake. He looked up at me with a wry smile and said “You are so fired”.

Images of moving back home flashed through my mind...me sitting at the kitchen table getting the latest on who's died this week, me sitting at the kitchen table listening to regular updates on the health of each and every member of my family, me sitting at the kitchen table openly weeping now because I just can't take it anymore. Traumatised by memories of a down trodden upbringing, I snatched the folder from Bert's hand and made a dash for the boss’s office. I'm not too proud to beg! Bert grabbed me before I even got a foot out the door and offered another solution. His advice was simple;

-Quit. She can't fire you if you quit.
-That's true. Doesn't really solve my problem though.
-Fair point.
-Bert, I burped in her face.
-I know. Fucking priceless!

Rent: €900 p/month. Utilities: €200 p/month. Food: €300 p/month.
Burping in your bosses face: Fucking Priceless.
Will people ever stop ripping off that ad? Not me.

Bert made fun of Newbie to cheer me up, but nothing could distract me from thoughts of home. I wonder if anyone was diagnosed with prostate cancer or liver failure while I was away. Or maybe something sexier, like TB or gout. The Irish love a bit of old fashioned disease, reminds them of the good old days. If I'm very lucky, and that's a big if, I might even get to attend the funeral of my second cousins' great aunt, twice removed, whatever the hell that means. If I'm to believe my parents, I'm related to half the bloody town and the next town over. I hope to fuck it's not true or there's a good chance I was involved in some seriously incestuous relationships as a teenager.

The boss made an unusual number of trips to the kitchen today but made an obvious point of ignoring me. Feeling brave, I asked her about my hours for next week, but got no reply. Half expected her to turn to Bert and say “Did you hear something?” It quickly became apparent that she saw my exclusion from the conversation as a form of punishment, but all in all it was pretty good.

To add insult to injury, Newbie got a pay rise today. I have a dream and am punished. Newbie's a twat and is rewarded! I would truly be hard pressed to think of someone more idiotic and undeserving of a job, let alone a pay rise, than Newbie. He's about as useful as tits on a bull, a lighthouse in a bog, a twat in a restaurant! I informed Bert that we are not yet done with Newbie and I expect a plan by tomorrow. I want to see him cry. Time to take it to Def con 5 or Def con 1…whichever's worse.

Home time! I picked up dinner from the non-English speaking, Polish run, Chinese restaurant on my road. Food's only OK, but the service is entertaining. After my Polish Chinese, I got into bed with Jon Richardson's new book, “It's not me, it's you”. So far very good, I'm all about passing the buck. So single for eight years Jon? Strong wrists indeed.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Wednesday 17th August

Wake in a cold sweat and state of total panic. Can't see a thing and there is something covering my face and I can't breathe! Jump out of bed and blindly circle the room, tripping over yesterday's clothes and several plugs. Christ the fucking pain! I frantically tear at whatever is over my head, repeatedly gagging on cotton fibres and what I hope is my own hair. Still running, I plough straight through the open door of the en suite, greeting the bath with my shins. What the..........

Woke again several hours later cold and alone, in an inch of water, with a pillow case over my head. I hobbled to the bed to survey the damage. Severely bruised shins, a third eye on my forehead, and stigmata like wounds to both feet. Hell hath no fury like an upturned plug in the dark. One painful shower, four humble Paracetamol later and I'm beginning to come round. The sun was just rising over the rooftops as I poured my first cup of coffee and pondered the whereabouts of the menacing letter. Somewhere on the other side of the Liffey, Bert is curled up in bed, safe, warm and sleeping like a baby. The prick.
I get to work early, determined to have a substantial discussion with Bert regarding our recent pursuits. Before I can utter a single word, Bert places a small present in my hand, haphazardly wrapped in an old sheet of brown paper.
The note attached read:

You'll not bend over
With this pressie.
Unless you want,
Ya great big Lezzie!

Intrigued, I tear off the wrapping, and stare at the simple but loaded gift nestled in my palm. Soap on a rope. Thanks Bert. I was worried before, but with soap on a rope on my side I am now fairly certain I can cope with my upcoming prison sentence. The real let down I quickly come to realise is that though it may prove useful in a shower situation, it is absolutely no good to me back in my cell. The soap itself is alright, but there isn't nearly enough rope to hang myself. About as useful in prison as a pair of slip on shoes. Intending to return the favour, I wonder if I can bring myself to buy a butt plug from Ann Summers. I could order it online but I suspect it would show up on my bank statement as www.yousickbitch.com. Facing my bank manager after that would just be plain old embarrassing.

Made a quick trip to Ann Summers on my lunch break and spent ten minutes perusing the most chilling array of products legally available to man. While the purpose of some of the merchandise was blatantly obvious, others were a complete mystery to me. Regrettably, I made my confusion evident, attracting the attention of a young sales clerk. He descended upon me before I got the chance to return the chocolate penis moulds and offending butt plug to their rightful places. In a bout of panic, I dropped the illicit paraphernalia, made a hasty retreat and set off in search of the nearest off licence. A wine stopper would have to do. Back at work, I offered Bert my heart felt gift with a similar note attached:

If an inmate rates
Your ugly mug,
Just make good use
Of this butt plug.

It's not Yeats but Bert enjoyed it. Headed home in a taxi as my stigmata was really starting to ache. Got back to find a note pinned to my door, from George, the building handyman, and all round pain in the ass.

“The apartment above yours will no longer be vacant as of tomorrow. So please keep your usual racket to a minimum. Tearing around your apartment at 3am will not be tolerated. George.”

Great, I'm going to have to come up with a plausible excuse for last night's antics, and I don't think “I had a pillow case over my head” is going to cut it.