There has been a bit a changing of the guard down The Déise. The Girl Who Invented Herself has gone back to work in the Far East as VP Networks AsiaPac for Megacorp. Which leaves one less for the rota of looking after my venerable father-in-law Pat the Salt. For much of last year, I used to cover Sunday nights because I had no classes at The Institute on Monday morning. On Mondays we'd typically spend a couple of hours with the Heritage Club, playing bingo and chatting about the old times in Tramore. Then I did have classes on Mondays, so I haven't been hanging out on Sundays. Pat is quite sure that he not safe to be left alone: he's heard too many stories of old folk falling and breaking bones and lying in a heap for a couple of days until the postman can't get anyone to sign for a parcel.
I'll share one story here to clear it from my stuff-of-nightmares. In the 1980s we spent 7 years living in suburban Newcastle-upon-Tyne across the water. Early one Saturday, The Beloved and I went across the main road to Mr Patel's corner shop for milk. Almost immediately an ancient fellow came in and asked Mr Patel Jnr, who was behind the counter, for help with his younger brother. Jnr was non-plussed because there was no-one else to mind the shop. So we went up the street a piece with the ould chap to see what we could do. Turned out that the two brothers shared a nice neat Edwardian row-house. The night before, the younger (aet. 88) had trip-and-fallen and had been lying all night on the floor with a broken arm. The older brother (aet. 92) had been unable to lift him into the bed. He had rather sat vigil all night until the shop opened the next day; believing that the centre of our community would help with the lifting. It was beyond comprehension that they should call an ambulance for such a small task and they didn't want to bother the injured man's son who was a dentist out in the poshest suburb in the county. We set to making a pot of tea and used this to first moisten the sand-paper lips of the casualty and then start spooning the nectar in to start rehydration. The angles told us that the arm was broken for sure and we persuaded them that paramedics were definitely the best call. They were really reluctant because they suspected that, if the young-feller ever went into hospital, he'd never come back home. Anyway, the ambulance arrived, the paramedics came in and with shocking brisk efficiency sheared open the young-feller's tweed jacket and shirt to get a closer look at the damage. Half an hour later he was stablised, pain-killed, given another cup of tea and whisked off. We never followed up on the story . . . it was sure to be too sad.
The family agrees with Pat's self-assessment and with classes effectively finished I have time for elder care. The Beloved spends several days and nights a week two counties away, so we communicate by e-mail and phone:
TB: Can you mind Pat on the 20th while I'm in Dublin?
Me: Sure. That's the first official day of holidays. Will work for blaas
TB: Just how many blaas would 24 hours constitute ;)
Me: N = 415 at 24 hours minimum wage €9.95 and blaas at €2.30 for 4. That's a lot o' blaas.
To be more precise / graphic, that is about 3 x 20kg stack-and-nest crates full of the quintessentially Waterford white bap:
Movie-time Walsh's - M&D - Barron's - as gaeilge. And foreign johnnies from out-the-Déise might need some help on the pronunciation.
400 blaas is more than I could eat in a sitting. Heck, it's more than Takeru Kobeyashi could eat in a competition. Nobody except carers and junior doctors works for 24 hours on the trot. But that's a lot of bread (albeit at the pricier end of the bread market) for a little over half a week's normal M-F 9-5 work, such as I do at The Institute. You'd think a chap could live on the minimum wage if all he ate was blaas - obviously trading some of them for a scrape of butter and the odd tomato. But he probably can't live on the minimum wage because property / rental prices are wholly dysfunctional in this Our Republic. And we might pause to reflect on how we pay carers at both ends of life the bare minimum: for thousands of families across the country the carers get nothing at all - only anxiety, hard work and hardship. The rest of us pay creches and nursing homes to look after our loved ones while we go out to work. It costs a king's ransom and the workers at the coal-face of care get paid buttons. That's not right. It's not even sensible: these people are looking after our Most Preciousssses and we're throwing them crusts and apple-cores. Just wait for a case of The Revenge of the Crèche-Workers. We've already had The Frustration of Carers showing in Swinford, Co Mayo.