Saturday 18 May 2024

Tramp tramp tramp

Today 18 May 2024 was the Saturday picked for The Blackstairs Challenge, an up hill and down dale yomp that has been an annual fixture at Castle Blob since our long-flown daughters were tots. They missed a few pandemic years, despite hill-walking being the least covidy social activity known to epidemiologists. Just like last year, I set out my stall, about ⅓ of the way along the 33 km route.

I set up Bobby Buoy Boy to make sure that nobody took too many flapjacks.

There are stewards at The Off between 07:30 and 08:30 and the challengeers have to be through the checkpoint at the bottom of our valley by 13:00. We usually expect people therefore between ~09:30 and ~12:30 . . . and it was so: the first pair trotted past the gate at 09:23 in full metal lycra. Such people have no time for water and it wasn't until an hour later that the first dehydratees pulled into the yard to fill water-bottles . . . and sample the flapjacks: of which there were ~3 kg.  I think Wayfarers limit participants to 300, so not everyone gets a flapjack. 

It started off overcast with the peaks lost in cloud and reports were that the ground was right soggy above us. That's what happens when the gods deliver 9 months of continual rain. There are reports that spuds may be rationed later this year because the weather has been so much agin potatoes. 

One of the ironies was that, having promised water to ~300 strangers, the water pressure went all feeble on us in the last week or so. Then providentially Roy the Plumb rocked up Thursday lunch time, presumably to settle accounts, exactly a month after installing a new submersible pump and hydro-accessories. I almost hugged him and he was quite happy to put in an hour's pro bono to keep a customer happy. Turned out the water filter was all gunked up with bedding-in sediment. All it needed was a nail-brush and a few buckets of cool clear water. Now that I know what the problem is, I can rinse and repeat if symptoms recur.

By 11:30 the sun peeked between the clouds and the day shaped up for being a lot brighter. Not enough to dry out the ground for the walkers, but enough to put a spring in their step. The self-styled Roll Up came down the lane at 12:30 and that was it for another year.  Income: €5.60 [half the take for last year], one water-bottle with a 15c deposit, a half-used tube of lip balm. Zero tinkle-tissue, so that's a Win.

STOP PRESS: . . . and [14:00] a bottle of whiskey from Wayfarers. This is getting to be a tradition.

Update 15:30: Zero tinkle-tissue, so that's a Win one tinkle tissue, behind a dwarf wall in my yard. FFS: is there anything else I can do for these people? wash out their garbage bin? change their infant's nappies? Next year there will be signage to our compost heap, then I won't need to clean up after "adults".

Friday 17 May 2024


The Blob's Waterford Correspondent - and a communicator in his own right - alerted me to the midMay edition of Ireland's Own which bills itself as "Ireland's Favourite Family Magazine" but is rarely read by anyone younger than 60. But what do I know? We don't even buy the local paper - that's how blow-in and out of touch we are. The reason why I should buy a copy of IO-IFFM is apparent from this pic of the front page

I paused in the local Supervalu and discovered that it's quite difficult to purchase Ireland's Own because if gets lost in a wide array of dead-tree publications in colour. I wasn't about to do a consumer report on Irish magazines, so I don't know the titles, or the pitch, or the audience of these other pubs. But there were A Lot. I do remember being in Eason's Newsagents+ in Dublin 30 years ago and reflecting that there were regular publications catering for every imaginable niche interest: angling, beauty, cars, dancing, early music, food, gardening. The digital revolution will have done for many of these as advertisers fell away. But Ireland's Own is still going, perhaps because it's general interest is never short of copy.

Turns out there is data supporting my pensionable readership hypothesis on the inside back cover where there is a section called "Penfriends". Here lonely or bereaved readers can put a Free! small Ad, hoping to pull. The sex-ratio is exactly 50F:50M because the calls to are edited MFMFMFMF interleaved.  The men (ave. = 66) are slightly older than the women (ave. = 63½]. Nobody is looking for BLT. Nobody is looking for VGSOH; being content with GSOH. Nobody in this cohort is looking for CW (they must all be dead, now?) but one requires OHAC (own house and car): but really what's not to love about going on a date on the free travel for Olds?

Wednesday 15 May 2024

washer needs washer

In the early days, when internal combustion engines were a minority sport, drivers would purchase gas /petroleum / l'essence from pharmacies. Pharmacies would carry a wide range of products including olive oil in tiny bottles for the treatment of earache; laudanum for any old pain; dill water at 4% ethanol for tired and/or tiresome babies. Soon enough however there was enough traffic to justify setting up 'garages' as specialist ventures dealing with all aspects of car maintenance and repair and even 'petrol stations' which couldn't replace a fan-belt or fix a puncture but did sell fuel to keep folk motoring along.

Recently the wheel has come full-circle as petrol stations extend their inventory to include breakfast rolls, Red bull, Werner's toffees, crap coffee at riotous mark-up; cigarettes. Not only goods, but also services. Car wash is a natural extension and they have been attached to service stations for decades now. We were tickled last year to see a couple making a sudsy mess with their cocker spaniel at the far end of Pickardstown Service Station outside Tramore. Dau.II was driving and said that if her Rashers was still alive, she would SO be down at Barks & Bubbles on the regular.

I was down in Pickardstown, for reasons, over the May bank holiday weekend and had time to walk over to read the small print of what B&B offered and how much it cost. Q. Would it cost more, or less, to suds your mutt or your wheels? What I saw close up:

. . . nipped that research project in the bud! The machine's waist-level for easy handling wash-trough was filled with clots of hair and other matter. Call me sensitive but the thought of it put me off my dinner later that day and ensured that no dog of mine would be using the patient zero facilities at Pickardstown. ugh!

The reason I had time to hang out among the robots of NE Tramore was that I was delegated to mind an emergency duvet wash. Thankfully the dog-bath was not involved in the project. It was rather the Laverie Libre Service laundrette:

I was leery about going inside because the signage was all in French, and I didn't want it to suddenly relocate itself Tardis-like to the docks of Marseille at the height of the 1968 strikes and marches. If it's fine you can sit on the CocaCola bench looking at the car-wash and the traffic coursing by on the road out of Dodge. If [more likely] it's raining there a three little seats facing the machines. Someone else had started the process, I was merely instructed to transfer the said duvet to the drier when it was clean. For sure, I would have balked at paying for a cleaning project which involved starting with this

as the detergent input unit. The centre right orifice was actually pulsing with life, the other three merely filthy. The French have a word for it: dégueulasse. The washing machine finished its cycle but was showing an error message Error 5: tilt high sp. which I felt morally obliged to report the company's Service Line. Some poor family in Tramore might need to use that big machine, and not have the option of buying a new duvet. At least the drier was clean to my cursory inspection and had our duvet dry and toasty warm 30 minutes and €7.00 later. 

I spent several months sudsing the family laundry in the bath of our rental flat in 1983, before choosing to load everything into an enormous hand-sewn laundry bag and draping it over the back-carrier of my bike. What I did when I got to the laundrette wasn't my shiniest moment. So [clothes] washing-machines are IMO one of the benefits and boons of late-stage capitalism. Having one at home, at the ready, 24/365,  has some downside for the planet because clothes which have been merely worn are put through their cycles at some cost to the planet and water-table.

Making a machine to wash a dog is just a stupid exploitative idea. And IMO car-washes are not far behind as an idea that sounds good but is actually a redundant layer of extractive capitalism. I wash the car occasionally. I use a bucket, a soft broom, and a smidge of detergent. 15 minutes later, the car is clean enough for the poor fellers who have to carry out the NCT test. And I get a moderate work out. While waiting for the duvet to dry, I watched a succession of cars pull up beside the self-service car-wash and apply soapy water with a wand on the end of a hose. A few minutes later, they waved a power-washer at it to rinse off the soap. But they still had to scrub at their wheels with a water blurfing brush. It therefore costs them €5 to get their work-out - I bet they're members of a gym [€350/year!] too. 

While I was duvet waiting I noticed that one of the car-wash hoses was making a poor connexion [you can't see the fine mist on top of the steady stream] and went, wearing my best civic duty uniform, to tell the STAFF in the shop. A few minutes later, a young feller came out and untangled the hoses which was a wrong-wrong-almost-right not-a-solution. In contrast to the other extractive robots on the site, which badly needed a Wash, this one only needed a Washer [Har har, Bob, a waggish quip forsooth!]. Something needs to be done to minimize the consumption of clean, fluoride-treated drinking water to . . . wash cars. Wot are we like?

Literal me also likes the generously expansive statement IF IN ANY DIFFICULTY PLEASE SEE A MEMBER OF STAFF FOR ASSISTANCE. ANY DIFFICULTY? my corns need cutting . . . the lawn wants mowing . . . I have 3 sticks of celery and half a cabbage in the fridge . . . 

Monday 13 May 2024

Stranger meeting

Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,—
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell. 

We're last farmlet in the County and the last [only] still inhabited home up the scruffy, bucketty, grass-centred, bohereen on which we live. Car traffic up the lane is either determined . . . or lost. I was on the stoop surveying the yard hmmm, far too wet to mow, I'll sit down again, when I heard a very quiet car. The driver was reversing s l o o w l y down again having met the gate above us beside the ruined cottage. He turned out to be both lost and determined.

Young chap sprang out of the car with a glittering eye [but no grey beard] and announced that he was a) 24 b) is from Ballinabranagh [=almost Kilkenny] c) Fianna Fáil d) running for the CoCo elections in June. It was mid afternoon at the tail end of lambing, so I daresay he'd knocked on the doors of a lot of empty houses, and he was determined to talk. I R retire, it wasn't actively raining, so I was prepared to accommodate his needs. Three planks of Young Dan's platform are a) mental health b) rural buses c) housing for young ppl like him and Dau.I. Here he is [L], with his future empire as backdrop.

The links say that The Blob has had rather a lot to say about all three of these topics and I was happy to give him both barrels of my exec summ. I suggested that, if we had a society rather than an economy, rural transport could be solved by the local community. The public health nurse and the postie could do something for the mental health fallout of loneliness and isolation, and someone could take Old Colm in for his doctor's appointment. The trouble with the ubiquity of personal cars is that it sets the baseline of being able to get anywhere at a moment's notice. Even if few folks over the age of 25 actually want to spring in their car to get more butter, let alone go for spin

It's not for nothing that my mother held onto her own wheels long into her pension and called her car SS Independence. She also did a good bit of heavy community lifting taking the old or infirm into town. In her younger, "married woman" kids-at-school, days she'd been a cog in the Meals-on-Wheels machine in Plymouth, Hazelmere and Harlow. Old Sonny, across our valley, benefitted from a volunteer driver service getting him in for dialysis. I guess I'm saying that, with planning and fore-thought, having a bus service once or twice a week might make carless rural living sustainable and kinder to the community carbon footprint. We're still mullocking along with one car now that I have no work to go to even it means one or other of us being marooned for a few days up the hill or in town on Costa na Déise.

Mental health is another matter entirely. It's easier for an old chap like me to get a triple by-pass than for a young fella to get adequate help for his despair and suicidal ideation. But a hanging in the garage is just as fatal as a myocardial infarction. Good luck with that, young Dan. As for housing, that doesn't seem to be solvable without a revolution. My neighbour, TD, and very briefly cabinet minister, Mary White was a County Councillor for a number of years. Her experience was that you had to focus on One Achievable Goal. As a Green she pushed to keep recreational vehicles off the county uplands . . . with limited success before retiring from active politics. A word from the wise to young Dan: (mental health OR housing OR rural buses) NOT (mental health AND housing AND rural buses).

Sunday 12 May 2024

Sunday MiscellaMay

In(troit) Saturday's wee hours, my Irish Nuclear Family were trudging towards Dawn [above] for the 2024 Darkness Into Light event in Phoenix Park, Dublin. It's the 15th such annual event organized by Pieta House which holds the brief for reducing suicide in Ireland. There's a trade-off. If they walked to sunrise in January on St Fursey's Day the event could kick off at 07:07 and people could get to The Off by public transport. On 11th May otoh, with a start at 03:48, it's hardly worth going to bed the night before.  otoh-otoh, yesterday the weather was perfick and such an outcome is more likely in May than Jan.

More on the Do Good Front

Saturday 11 May 2024

Subverting the glitterati

I really don't give two shakes of a rat's arse about the Eurovision Snog Contest. I would no more spend this evening in Malmö, than I'd watch the Budapest F1 Grand Prix or I'm A Celebrity Eating This Beetle. And it's not just because we don't own a telly. Occasionally, The Blob will have an offhand swipe at Eurovision if someone subverts the smugness of the corporate glitz. Like 2014 when drag-queen Conchita Wurst won for Austria.

Now we read that Bambie Thug, the non-binary, queer, entry from the  People's Republic of Cork  has been told [shock!] to remove some of her temporary tatts. Thug and their team thought that writing Saoirse don Phalistín in Ogham upside their face would show they were “pro-justice” and “pro-peace” in Gaza. The apparatchiks of the Euro Broadcast Union EBU insisted that cold cream be poured on the sentiment because Eurovision is not political. So not political that they continued to include Israel in the 2024 shenanigans. Although the EBU climbed on the barricades in 2022 and banned Russia - and then voted the glittering prize to Ukraine.

Thug has agreed to be silenced, on this matter, in this context, and tonight will be sporting "crown the queen" in Ogham instead. The "queen" in this case being something something Wicca. I love this nonsense: writing messages that can only be understood by Adepts; épater les bougies; the perfick little triscael on their forehead. 

More Ogham including write yer own.

Friday 10 May 2024

Express Irony

Gorra a letter 10 days ago from An Post . . . so meta for the Post Office to be sending its own post. And not without irony also, because it has been sent Express but is their response to a query / complaint about a parcel which I sent in September last year! My beef was about paying a premium to send a package of Bob's Famous Flapjacks to Gdau.I when she was feeling under the weather in England. The choice was €12.50 for "Standard Post 2 -3 working days Convenient service for non urgent post" or €19.00 for "Express Post 2 days Tracking Fastest delivery option Delivery confirmation". Of course, we wanted to get cookies to the poor wee petal ASAP, so naturally we ante-upped the premium.

Well, damned if it didn't take nine [9!] days, seven of them working days, to get there. At least they did arrive, though. My Boston correspondent P sent me a book in 2020 and it is still in limbo [maybe dropped behind a counter in a warehouse at Logan Airport, maybe going the rounds in Iran] . The USPS service swore that it had been delivered to Ireland, AnPost denied they had received it. There is no way to resolve this without lawyering up.

But really . . . corporations can't charge a premium and then not meet even the bog-standard service aspirations. AnPost makes it complicated by having a third slow-but-insure option "Registered Post 3 - €17.50 5 days Tracking Insurance included to protect your valuable items". There is no option for Full Monty, Bells&Whistles Fast&Insured. Because we'd paid for "Tracking" I had a number (LK887225965IE) and AnPost has a webform for complaints, so I contacted the Customer Service Team CST. And forgot about it. After all, the goods did arrive eventually, they weren't too furry. But it's important to flag when corporate things go wrong; else they may never get better.

Exactly 7 months later, I got the letter, in the Post, shown above. I imagine, that without the Express sticker, we'd have to wait until my birthday or, like,  Christmas. " . . . I must advise that the service used to mail the item is a non-insured product and as such we are not in a position to grant your request for compensation, however you will find enclosed a refund order for 15.00 euros, the amount being paid as a gesture of goodwill as we failed to respond to you within the stated time-frame for dealing with international investigations I am sorry for the loss and inconvenience you have experienced in this matter . . . David Hickey".  Phew! and pause for breath. My PhD mentor chid and chid me again "don't use run on sentences" and I proffer the same advice to Mr Hickey at AnPost CST. 

Also, and for heavens sake, we've all been using the Euro since 1st Jan 2002! When will AnPost CST find the € symbol on their keyboards? [hint: AltGr+4 or ctrl+alt+4] But whatevs - when a written-off compo claim comes through, it's found money and that's me on the batter tonight a handy addition to the Cookies By Post sinking fund.