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Dreadful Nonsense

"I've read your blog. it's really funny. you should write a column." - Jon Ronson

30 April 2004
I had complaints that the orange colour was making people's eyes bleed, and that was never my intention. Perhaps this is a more soothing colour? Are we all happy now?

29 April 2004
The more observant of you might notice one or two changes to the site. Some of the even more observant will actually know that the entire thing has changed. Isn't it orange? It might not stay this way for long. Let me know what you think. I'm not sure I like it, but it's taken me an hour and a half to make it look like this. Time well spent? Email me and let me know. Cheery bye.

28 April 2004
Now that my stretch of unemployment is rapidly rushing to the finish line, I've been reflecting on all that things that I've been doing that seem to have been taking up all the time during my days. For example, today I have spent two hours at the gym, where me and my sister made fun of each other and the way we look while walking; I have been on the phone to the Mac Daddy JC, discussing suits and ties and other office related monstrosities; I have been busy messing around with other people's blogs and changing their appearance (I'm the queen of weblog html, you know); I have been singing loudly to B&J's 10 Songs About You and SP's When It's All Over...; I have been swearing blindly at the computer trying to install a programme I need for my OU essay that was due in yesterday and that I have already told my tutor is in the post when I haven't even started it yet; I have been tidying my room; I have been texting an unhealthy number of different people. Busy, busy, busy.

Mrs Bishop is on hiatus this week as well, being in the middle of her metamorphosis from being a trainee in a solicitors office to being a student of the law again. This is her last chance to be free, to break out of the mould, to run free of the constraints placed on her by a society who expect her and everyone else in her chosen profession to be sensible, holding high standards and higher morals, and what has she been doing with her free time? I'd like to say she's been mud wrestling / apple scrumping / pheasant poaching / breaking minor by-laws / killing or maiming innocents... No. She's been learning how to play golf.

JC has a lot of free time too. Today he decided to spend much of it in pain, having made the strange decision to run at a door frame with his face. Each to their own, that's what I say.

The sinking realisation that I'm going to have to go back to work soon fills me with dread and fear and boredom and trepidation and a slight feeling like I'm being asked to jump off the edge of a cliff, or at least just stand by the edge of a cliff, with my eyes closed, with someone's hand on my back, and they're whispering in my ear the words "Trust me..." and then chuckling away to themselves.

27 April 2004
I was lying on the bed in the physio department today, legs in the air propped up by a large orange ball, half heartedly bending, stretching and clenching (in that order) because it was quite early in the morning and I am not, as is well documented, a morning person. I am a very late night person. I can bend, stretch and clench as much as is required late into the night, and still be able to carry on, but early in the morning it's not the thing for me. But I was gamely trying, because I really quite like my physiotherapist since she loomed above me on our second meeting and said the immortal words "You are going to get better, you know", and made me want to cry.

My physio was off with another patient, walking him back to the ward from whence he came, and I was left to bend, clench, stretch, clench and repeat while breathing and staring at the ceiling. On the bed next to me, curtained off for privacy, was a new patient and a physio going through the initial assessment we all go through when first seeing physios - the one that simultaneously depresses you and makes you hate the physio more than anyone you can ever imagine. The poor guy seemed to be having a hard time getting it together after having a stroke. He was coughing quite a bit, and the physio offered to help him out by putting his name down for a special service the physios provide for in-patients in the hospital - special therapy to help them shift their phlegm. She then asked him to take off his shirt, and again he sounded like he was having some trouble. She asked what the plaster on his arm was. He, sounding more depressed than ever, replied that it was a nicotine patch.

On the bed on the other side of me, a lady was sitting with a great big grin on her face, studying my every movement and swinging her one leg off the bed while the other stump hung stiffly beside it. She greeted every member of staff who walked past by name and then carried on murmuring under her voice while staring at me and my preposterous rubber ball. A nurse approached her carrying a piece of paper, and explained to her that they were collecting signatures so that the hospital could have a smoking room added for the patients. It's not fair, the nurse explained, that patients aren't allowed to leave the wards after 9pm when the night shift come on, because then they're left hanging until the next morning to get out for a fag. The lady with one leg signed enthusiastically, although the nurse had to hold the paper steady for her due to her severe left sided weakness. The lady thanked the nurse profusely when she was finished, and asked her how she knew she was a smoker. The nurse gave her a little wink and left.

Now. I'm not crazy anti-smoker. I've smoked in my time. I've even smoked in the last couple of days. All smokers know that they're cool, that they look cool, that they are the essence of everything cool. I'd agree with that, after a couple of pints and my reservations are down. A cigarette is especially lovely when you're upset or in pain.

But I'd like to think that the day I can't shift the phlegm out of my lungs on my own is the day that I quit smoking. The day I wake up paralysed down one side of my body thanks to the clot in my brain caused by smoking is the day I quit smoking. The day I wake up and a limb has been lopped off due to the clot in my heart that blocked off the blood vessels down to my leg that was caused by smoking is the day I quit. I've quit in anticipation of that day. And I do think that a hospital is the ideal place for someone to start, oh, I don't know, considering the possibility that maybe they should quit. Especially when you're being battered and bruised by lovely physiotherapists who are just trying to help you to stand up again, or walk straight again, or just plain cough again.

This blog entry was brought to you by Shazzle, very very tired after 2 hours in the gym with physiotherapists shouting instructions about keeping arms straight and shoulders down and buttocks clenched and chin up and CLENCH, ALWAYS CLENCH!

26 April 2004
Today I was being the truly kind, caring, wonderful, selfless style person that all of you who know me will already know full well that I am. I, without a thought for myself, my own wellbeing, my own lack of sleep or the alcohol poisoning induced by spending a week with The Dimpled One (JC), I dragged myself out of bed at SEVEN O'CLOCK OF THE MORNING and went to sit behind a desk ticking off names on a sheet while wearing a red t-shirt.

My mother is running a course in a hotel in Dublin this week, all about autism and various related disorders, and the newest most recommended treatment thereof. I volunteered, about two months ago, to pop along and help her with registration, selling books and directing people to the toilet and smoking areas. Two months ago, this seemed like a great thing to be doing. This morning it seemed like the most surreal thing in the world.

Ongoing hangover aside, I have always been reminded of the scene from the childrens book The Witches whenever I see a group of people gathered in a hotel room for a conference. You know, where the two kids have been turned into mice, and they hear all of the gathered witches plotting together to capture and eat all the children in the country, and they have to try to find a way to stop them all? That book, like all other Roald Dahl books, freaked me out when I was a child, and left a lasting impression. And coupled with the fact that all but 2 of the 102 delegates at the conference were women, I couldn't shake that image off for ages today.

Seven in the morning looked lovely and peaceful on Sunday when myself and Mrs Bishop arrived back at my house, having spent Saturday night in Dublin's one and only most wankery - sorry, most prestigious - venue, Lillie's Bordello. We were in the private room where I have literally just discovered from looking at their website you have to be over 32 to be a member. Goodness me. While Mrs Bishop was queuing for the loo (even in private wanky members clubs with private wanky members, there's still queuing), a tiny blonde child started asking her if she thought the tiny blonde child needed to wear a girdle. Mrs Bishop, being the kindly creature that she is, turned around the study the tiny blonde child before returning with her verdict, and discovered that the tiny blonde child was none other than famous wife of ex-Westlife chubby man Brian, Kerry McFadden. Mrs Bishop dashed back from the toilets (after finishing her ablutions - Mrs Bishop is nothing but the essence of cleanliness) and told me all about it. I was just as excited, as I do think that tiny blonde child wife McFadden is a lovely little thing, full of joy and bubbles and with no harm in her at all. We saw where she was sitting - in actual fact on a seat at the table beside us - and we discussed whether or not we should approach her to say how darned great we thought she was. We decided against it, but while leaving (at 5am) we gave her a little wave instead. I think she understood our intention.

Also present in this most pretentious of Irish night spots was the former chat show host and sports commentator once immortalised by Zig and Zag as Amoan Grumpy. Amoan is a law unto himself, and therefore above the law of this great country of ours, and we were very concerned to spot the fact that he was SMOKING INDOORS and apparently enjoying every minute of it. We thought about ringing the smokers hotline to dob the bad man in, but instead settled for some very cartoon style tutting and wagging fingers and raising and lowering of eyebrows in a disapproving manner, led on by a tall man who appears on a cheese advert. Yes, I know everyone.

But. Yesterday was a day of terrible mourning, of teeth-gnashing and hand wringing and all manner of crying. JC has left the town and we are all a-feared that he will never return. The depression set in early on Sunday morning, when I woke up lying beside Mrs Bishop after three long hours of kind of sleep. The beeping noise from my phone heralded a message left by JC at 7am, as he walked back from his friend Bungalow Bill's house. The message went something as follows: "I'm cold. So cold..." And that's how all of Dublin city feels. It's just not the same without his magic.

24 April 2004
I really do feel quite ill this morning.

There's no one in the house, and I don't seem to be able to do more than shuffle around in my big wooly socks, listlessly picking up old newspapers and carrying them from one room to the other. It's my Mum's birthday today you see, and I haven't got around to buying her a present because I am the worst daughter that ever lived, so I've decided that in the meantime I will tidy the house, and buy her a present tomorrow. But I can't, because every time I bend down to pick something up, all the alcohol-poisoned blood in my body rushes to my head, and I have to grab on to something to stop from falling over and dying in a puddle of my own misery.

Mrs Bishop and JC are supposed to be arriving up in a few hours, as a result of something arranged in the pub last night at 1.30am. Now, I have learned many lessons in life, and I think it's usually best to experience things first hand, so that the lesson really sticks, but here's a piece of wisdom that I'm going to share with you all for free, and you can do with it what you like: Never Make Arrangements While In Pubs. They never make sense in the morning, but everyone - maybe because they're too hungover to really think clearly about them - feels like they're committed to carry them out anyway. So at 5pm, Mrs Bishop is arriving, Worcester Sauce in hand, to make cheese toasties for us, and then we're going to sit and watch American Idol.

It just won't work out.

Incidentally, Mrs Bishop last night revealed something of a major crush on funnyman Richard Keith Herring, since she's started stalking him through his weblog. I think her affections for Mr Bishop may be waning somewhat, so there might be a name change lurking on the horizon. And considering the things that she calls me on her blog, I think naming her after a fish (or implying that she's married to an ageing fat English comedian) is still me being quite kind.

Ick. Me not well.

23 April 2004
Many, many things to do today. I should be writing my stinking essay, now beginning to annoy everyone who knows me because I keep talking about how I should be writing my stinking essay but never actually writing it. I need to type out some completely illegible minutes from a meeting my Dad needs typed out. I need to email some people who I very much owe emails to, and I need to lie down and get some sleep that isn't induced by alcohol or sleeping tablets or both. But I'm not doing any of the above. I'm listening to Ben & Jason play for the 186th time in a row, getting slightly depressed and blogging instead. It's a curse, a terror, a tragedy, a huge waste of time and energy. But Oprah says it's okay to be me today.

It's already 3.20pm! I'm screwed!

Last night we were out once again with the joy that is the JC, dapper man about town. Him and his t-shirts and his comic books and his special way of saying things, and all the smoke. We were standing outside the comedy club, waiting to go upstairs and some of my companions were using the time to have cigarettes. I wasn't. I was standing slightly down wind from them, looking smug and aloof and also at my shoes because I was tired and felt sick and was jealous that they were smoking and that I wasn't and I was merely instead passive smoking and trying to work out a way to take a drag off a fag without anyone noticing. While I was thinking through all these things, and many others beside because my internal dialogue is loud, insistent, and more interesting than you will ever know, a little Eastern European man come up to us with a bucket full of roses and kept telling us they were only €1 each.

We looked about us, we looked at each other, we examined our own and each other's shoes, we muttered things about no thanks and that's okay and we basically did all the things you do in polite society when trying to get rid of someone without telling them to bugger off. JC, on the other hand, being both a worldtraveler and a man of the world, instead managed to somehow talk the rose seller (who - implied strongly by his job title -traditionally SELLS the roses) into GIVING him a rose absolutely for free. It was a very beautiful moment. The rose seller looked confused but pleased, JC looked stunned and amazed at the Derren Brown powers of suggestion he didn't realise he possessed, we all were in floods of tears laughing at what had happened, and at that moment I didn't feel sick any more.

Mrs Bishop did the right thing and handed the lovely jolly rose seller €1 for bringing such a happy moment to our lives, but the rose seller - at this point totally mesmerised by the Paul Daniels style confidence trick JC had just pulled out of his dapper sleeve - instead just handed her another rose. We protested, we laughed some more, we eventually accepted the second rose momentarily, but then D hit on a wonderful idea and asked the rose seller to instead walk down the road and hand the second rose to a lady who was standing in white waiting to go into the comedy as well. This the little man did, a tired expression creeping across his still smiling face, almost as if the David Copperfield style JC magic was wearing off and the cloak was being lifted from his eyes. The lady in white took the second rose wordlessly and looked, her face totally void of any expression, down the street at us. We didn't wave.

Later in the night, me and Mrs Bishop kicked JC's arse at pool.

22 April 2004
Two things:

1. Just because I haven't said it recently, Ben & Jason are fucking brilliant.

2. A message to Mrs Bishop - those lights that we kept seeing in the sky last night that we had no explanation for? It wasn't aliens after all, and we weren't hallucinating. This time. The answer lies here.

21 April 2004
It's been absolutely ages since I was near a computer for long enough to answer emails, let alone update the old blog. And it's all been so interesting I can't even begin to think about how to start this. Much more annoying, I only had 20 minutes on the computer to blog all of this, and I've spent the last 10 minutes trying to solve the second catchphrase conundrum on plastic cat. I can't do it. I'm going to have to retire as reigning champion now. It's not fair.

So. Instead of backdating the last few days, I'm just going to bore you all with a one massive great entry - as David Beckham once said. So let's get on with it.

I've recovered from the knock back from UCD through my usual method of every time I pass it on the 46A, yelling out the window and hurling abuse at all the student types that are around. (Pah, they don't pay taxes, they sponge off the state, they spend all day watching telly and surfing the net... they do all the things I do. Why didn't they take me? Why??? WHY???)

To try to get over that, I spent much of the weekend drinking, and have carried that habit over to the beginning, middle and end of this week. It's the time of the month again, you see - the mood swings, the temper tantrums, the hot flushes and the minor blood loss - that's right, JC is back in Dublin for the week.

Today I am taking a day off from the joys of JC, something that would have probably have been better to do yesterday. This morning, you see, I had my driver's theory test, a compulsory test you must sit in Ireland before you're even allowed to sit behind the wheel of a car, or else the devil will appear and then you'd have to get a priest to come over and scrub you down with holy water. I wisely didn't bother my arse to study the rules of the road at all until last night, and obviously the best place to start that kind of dedicated learning is in a series of pubs and a theatre in which 14 different Irish comedians are pimping their own arses for a free trip to Canada.

Myself, Mrs Bishop and Mac Daddy JC were out and about on the town last night, the third successive night I've spent in the company of JC this week. I have to admit - and I'm embarrassed to do so - that I was flagging slightly last night, and my mind was not entirely on the fun that we should have been having, but was rather dwelling on the thought that I'd spent €30 booking this stupid theory test and I would have to pay that amount again to re sit the blasted exam when I inevitably failed the test (Do you see what you've done to me, UCD? DO YOU SEE?! I USED TO HAVE CONFIDENCE IN MYSELF. YOU HAVE DESTROYED ME).

So I made Mrs Bishop look through the rules of the road book I had helpfully brought along and test me on things in between acts, and I managed to get most of the questions right. At 2 in the morning when we were shredding beer mats and making a neat pile out of them to distract us from the fact that we were indoors and therefore not smoking, I was still getting the questions right. I even got the taxi driver to ask me questions on the way home at 3.30 this morning, and I got those questions right too. Really, I should have been more confident this morning, but when I woke up I was the crankiest thing you could ever see this side of a 2 year old child who has just been told that they're not allowed to do what they're currently doing. I was mumbly and muttering and the DART didn't come for ages, and I couldn't find the test centre and everything was just rubbish. But then I stormed through the test like the Driving Goddess that I obviously am destined to be and I passed it. (I PASSED IT. YOU HEAR THAT, UCD? IN. YOUR. FACE.)

The questions on the theory test are very weird. One of my questions, and I'm not making this up, ran as follows:
"You are driving a tractor over a hump-back bridge and pulling atrailerr. Which one of the following dangers should you be aware of?"
I wasn't sure where to begin, and all of the options presented seemed reasonable enough. For a start, you can't get into a car or tractor unaccompanied by an adult, three priests and a bishop unless you have yourlicensee here, and you can't get yourlicensee until you've passed this test, and you can't pull atrailerr until you've passed this test, then the driving test and then taken another test, so that kind of thing hadn't concerned either me or the authors of the basic rules of the road book that I had been studying from last night. I can't remember what the options were, but I got that particular question right. Thus, I both rock and win.

Me and Mrs Bishop placed a bet - witnessed by JC and sealed by a sinister handshake - on who would pass the test first. Mrs Bishop contends that she will, and I think she's horribly mistaken and wrong and also that she might as well pass me the €30 now to save the embarrassment later. I rock, as is evidenced above, and she is nothing but a non-driving fool.

I also finally got my OU essay back after a month's waiting. It was the first one I'd done this time round for the psychology course and I'd kind of winged it, so I was a bit nervy about what might have happened. In the end, obviously, I got a first. (A FIRST, UCD. DID YOU HEAR THAT?) Mum suggested that I photocopy the comments from my tutor ("well written... professional writing style... excellent points") and send it in to UCD, but I don't want to waste my genius on the UCD fools because I am obviously too sodding great for them.

Tomorrow morning, I have horrible physiotherapy with the evil Rose West at 9am. Then, I have lovely soothing warm hydrotherapy at 3pm. Then, off to the comedy club with JC, D, Mrs Bishop, potentially some members of my family and apparently the star of a major BBC1 sitcom. The excitement is palpable.

16 April 2004
I was standing outside the pub last night, cursing my friend and her slacker boyfriend, and their combined inability to be on time for anything at any time ever. I really really hate tardiness, particularly when it's me being the tardy one. I texted the usual suspects: Mrs Bishop, Susan, JC, but none of them were having any of it, and I didn't get any replies to pass the time. So I decided to try to play matchmaker, and set about finding out what two lovely people thought of each other, and whether or not there was a future in their daliances.

Apparently not. Got the reply from the "him" part of the equation, and him didn't think so much of the "her". Apparently, she's "too nice".

What the freaking hell does that even mean? "Too nice"? I mean, I'm emotionally retarded, but I can at least think of a better excuse than that to come up with. Too nice my arse.

Also, just found out just this very second that I didn't get the place in bloody UCD for bloody September. This day continues to increase in suckingness.

14 April 2004
Well, thank God for that. Back where there is traffic, street lighting, people living within screaming distance, television, steady radio signals, steady mobile phone signals, the internet, E4, Sky One, people that aren't related to me in some way, and lovely, tasty, chewy air pollution. It's good to be back in Dublin. Much and all as I'd like to be 'at one' with nature and be able to go back to the wilderness and live off berries and shrubs and possibly grubs if I got hungry enough, there isn't sufficient money in the world that would persuade me to live somewhere that, once the sun goes down, you don't see a damn thing until morning. I mean, without the light coming out through the house windows, you can't see anything at all outside the cottage, no matter how long you stand outside there or how long you give your eyes to adjust. Sure, something seems to get through after a while, but that just gives your mind the ability to see weird boogie men creeping up past the bushes, and produces images from the rustle of the leaves that can only possibly be vampires or rapists or terrorists or mentalists, and who is going to hear you, here, where there are no neighbours and no mobile signals and nowhere to run? And lord help you if a cow chooses that moment to go for a wander near where you're standing.

I like the light pollution of the cities. I like that stars are something you see on telly and in magazines and not in the sky. I like that when you are outdoors, you can see everything as clear as day. And sure, there are a lot more rapists, terrorists and mentalists (and probably vampires too) in the city than in the countryside, but at least there are also mobile phone signals, cyber cafes and understandable accents.

I'm going to update the blog below, assigning each entry to the day on which it should have been published. You have been warned.

12 April 2004
We went for a long walk on the beach today, because both of our labradors Honey and Butler like walking in water, and Butler loves chasing things in to the sea so that he can rescue them and then abandon them beside the car on the way home. We went to the beach we used to spend full days on during the summer when we were kids, damming up rivers, climbing rocks, swimming in the sea, making sandcastles and having "quiet time", something my parents used to insist on for a hour after lunch, which I now see was just an excuse to get us to shut the hell up for a while.

On the way down towards the sea, at the start of the walk, Honey was poddling along happily in the fresh water stream that runs down the beach and joins the sea at the bottom. Butler was rushing on ahead, and me and Honey were trailing behind everyone else, because her back legs don't work very well, and I like to keep an eye on her incase her legs give way and she gets stuck. I saw Butler struggling slightly against the sand which is quite soft at points and tends to pull you down a little, and I was just thinking to myself that it would probably be a good idea to call Honey out of the stream until the ground was a bit more solid up ahead when she suddenly sat down and started to whine.

The poor old thing was sinking.

I walked out towards her, as the water was only at around ankle level and I have no respect for my shoes or socks. I started to pull at her collar to help her get back up when I realised the extent of the difficultly she was facing. I had started sinking too.

My immediate reaction was of course to start laughing and get my mother over to give me a hand out. I was standing with my feet planted apart, Honey's collar in my left hand and my right hand stretched out with my Mum trying to drag us both out without stepping in to the stream herself. It was only afterwards, thinking back on it, that I realised that at this angle in the normal course of things I'd be screaming in agony, because my back just doesn't twist that way anymore. But at the time I didn't feel a thing, because at this moment I was really only concerned with keeping Honey's head over the water.

We quickly got her out, with my dropping one knee down in to the water to get more leverage and then just dragging the terrified, breathless dog out with sheer force and determination. We laughed at the state of my jeans, the fact that my shoes were destroyed and the bemused look on Honey's face, picked up her back legs for her and carried on on our walk.

It really only was that night when I closed my eyes in the pitch black and tried to go to sleep that I started having really horrible thoughts about what might have happened, and I couldn't shake off the feeling that I was sinking and that I couldn't breathe. Happily, the stupidly unpredictable text messages Gods were smiling down on me, and some texts from JC got through the mountains to distract me with talk of his night out. I still had to get out of bed and make sure Honey was okay before I could settle down. She was, so I did.

11 April 2004
We are staying in a cottage in Co. Galway, sitting right at the end of the Errislannan peninsula outside of Clifden. The house belongs to my granny, who bought it with my grandad in 1961 when it was but a wrecked, roofless, two room famine cottage and rebuilt it adding a toilet, kitchen and extra bedroom. We have been going to the cottage every year for our summer holidays for as long as I can remember (and I was conceived there, something I never need to know, but something my parents gleefully insist on reminding me). It really is a beautiful place to be. The weather has been gloriously sunny, and I even got slightly sunburnt today while we were walking on the beach.

There's no tv, the radio can't really pick up a very strong signal and my mobile phone only works when standing in the end bedroom, and even then messages seem to come through in frustratingly sporadic clumps, and I'm not convinced that people are getting my messages out. So walking, sitting about and reading while poking at the genuine West of Ireland cliched turf fire are the orders of the day by which to combat the onslaught of boredom. I've already finished two books, and am steadfastly ignoring my OU books that I dragged down with me in the hopes of inspiration that has yet to strike.

The only thing that's really marring my enjoyment of the holiday thus far, other than the fact that there is no one within reasonable walking distance to talk to other than people I am related to, is my granny's dog. My granny got a rescue dog about two months ago, after her dog died suddenly. The rescue dog is as small as a mouse, truly a tiny little thing, and when she moves from one place to another, she never walks. She always runs in a pleasingly cartoon manner, with her legs moving impossibly fast underneath her tiny body. She has long, curly snow white hair which is in desperate need of a trim as it hangs over her eyes and paws and makes her look unbearably cute and scruffy. The only drawback of this cute little dog is the fact that it is unbearably yappy.

It barks. At everything. And it's not proper, manly, threatening, business like dog barking. It's high-pitched, ear-bleeding, whiney, teenage yapping that makes you want to tear her head off and use it as a football. It annoys everyone but my granny, and since the cottage belongs to my granny, we're hardly in a position to unceremoniously (or even ceremoniously) slaughter her pet.

Since there are only two bedrooms in the house, I am sharing a room with my granny, and her ridiculous pretend mouse-like dog. Every time I sneak in to the room to get something out, the dog yaps. When I turn over in bed at night, the dog yaps. When my parents wake up next door and turn the radio on, the dog yaps. When someone gets up during the night, the dog yaps. When the wind blows outside, the dog yaps. When my dad snores, the dog yaps. When I give a huge sigh of frustration that I've been woken up yet again by the sound of the dog yapping, the dog yaps.

Are you starting to sense my frustration?

10 April 2004
The small, neat and deceptively deep hole had been dug just inside the gates to the church, lined with leafy branches and surrounded by the old funeral wreaths, which look tired and sad. Two big sods of grassy clay lie apologetically beside the hole.

The church is only open two months of the year, due to the lack of local congregation. In July and August it is boosted by seasonal visitors and tourists, so my uncle and aunt run it for those two months, and tend to its upkeep for the rest of the year.

New bunches of flowers are brought out of the church, as we all troop together, walking slowly and staring at our feet. It's only a small gathering, the main funeral having been held weeks ago in front of a huge crowd of people wearing their mourning best. Now it is just his wife and his children, with us standing in the background to support his sister in law, my grandmother. His daughter is tearfully clutching to her chest the green plastic container inscribed with his name and containing his ashes.

The vicar dons his purple sash, and begins talking about how appropriate it was to be performing this ceremony on Easter Saturday, a time my uncle would have been very busy organising the church in town for the Easter celebrations. In the silence that followed, his daughter stepped forward and carefully placed the ashes in to the grave, in the manner of a mother putting a baby down to sleep. The vicar began to read the burial service as the sun shone above us. Nothing else could be heard for miles.

Today was my uncle's birthday.

08 April 2004
Just back in from what was quite a good night at the comedy club. Most of the acts did really well, and the audience were a really lovely, enthusiastic bunch - probably driven by the fact that Friday is a Bank Holiday and therefore the weekend starts tomorrow. Wednesday is therefore the new Thursday this week.

But then we had a really odd altercation in the pub afterwards with the act that had headlined, Neil Delamare. We popped along afterwards with the MC, who I'm not going to the trouble of naming because he probably googles his own name day and night in the hope that someone will have acknowledged his existence and I'm not giving him that kind of encouragement. Oh, go on then, it was Evil Andrew Stanley. Anyway, Evil Andrew Stanley kindly introduced me to the headline act, Mr Neil Delamare, with the words "This is Sharon. She's the one that gave you that really bad review."

Now. I've read and re-read that review since meeting Evil Andrew Stanley, because he's gleefully managed to bring it up in conversation every single time I've met him since. And I do remember that one show - one out of over eighty shows I saw at the festival last year - because it stuck out in my mind as one of the worst shows I saw at the Festival. It was one of the worst because the room was suffocatingly hot, the acts were incredibly lack lustre and un-arsed about the whole show, and the audience were all dead in their seats. This does not make for a good show, and in this case reflects badly on everyone but is the fault of no one - Edinburgh venues are notoriously hot, lacking in air conditioning and atmosphere in equal parts, and the heat builds up during the day so that evening audiences get the worst of the deal.

Even so. For more than just the one comment quoted in the review, I felt that Neil's take on the night in question probably wasn't the best direction to be going in, considering that three quarters of the audience were in fact English. I'm not English. My family aren't English. I am not a raging republican, nor am I a raging loyalist. But I'm still offended when someone starts their act by slagging off the majority of the people in the audience for something that started over 800 years ago, and something that is still ridiculously defining the mindset of a nation that really needs to move on from here. For me, Irish or Scottish comics telling anti-English jokes is just as lazy as someone calling Jewish people tight with money, explaining that cats/dogs or men/women are very different, or listing off the names of sweets from the 1970s that are no longer available to buy.

I've been taken to account over reviews that I've written before, obviously. I've been writing reviews for 4 years professionally, and a lot longer for school/college/free papers. I'm well able to fight my corner, and only ever write what I believe to be true. Therefore it's not difficult for me to justify any and everything I've written in the past. What really annoyed me tonight, and no harm to Neil for taking me by surprise, was the really odd way he was arguing his point. I honestly didn't understand at all where he was coming from, or what he was talking about. And when he kept saying "Do you know what I mean?" I couldn't do anything but nod, because to get him to explain it to me for a fourth time would have been insulting to him and too draining for me.

And, reading over that review again for the 1,000th time, I feel he got off lightly. Look what I said about the second act, for god's sake.

Ridiculously, myself and Mrs Bishop instead upped sticks and left to catch the last night bus, which we missed by a matter of moments. I hate having arguments with people, and I hate even more frustrating half-arguments that go nowhere and leave neither party satisfied.

But anyway. My point in this post was:
1. To put Neil Delamare's name up a number of times, so that Neil Delamare could find this post and therefore email me via the address on the left hand side of the page so that he could properly explain his position and I could properly answer him, without the difficult medium of a pub, the lateness of the evening and my inability to form coherent sentences.
2. To let everyone else know that I'm off to Galway tomorrow morning and won't be back until Tuesday, at which time I will back date posts and give Mrs Bishop something else to do with her work day.

Good night, and have a lovely Easter.

07 April 2004
Brilliant! Blogging is catching! You wait for years for people to notice how fabulous it is to blog every day, boring strangers and friends alike with your tired observations about Angel and your links to things other people have known about for years, and then all of a sudden everyone you know is leaping atop the bandwagon and riding along side you. On blogspot.

Yep, two of my friends have started blogs, and both today informed me of their existence. So I've trawled through them both, obviously primarily looking for references to my good self, and I found them both wanting slightly. I think more about me is what both of them need to pep up their readership and get the party truly started. I'm not going to link to either of them just yet until I get permission off both lovely people that it's okay to do so, and also I'm not going to link to either of them until they both get their acts together and work out how to link to me. And while linking to me, say nice things about me. Really nice things. Obscenely nice things, but things that are, none the less, absolutely true.

I went to see my new physiotherapist today. We shall call her Rose West, or Rose for short, because I am convinced that this is all some ridiculously complicated ruse to try to kill me. She was insistent about the fact that I'm no longer experiencing the same degree of pain that I once was, and that we should be seizing the moment (and our own ankles) to try to break through to the other side, and from there have wondrous flexibility and range of movement. I tried explaining to her, firstly by using words and facial expressions and later by using just basic screams of pain, that I am actually experiencing quite a good deal of pain, with or without the epidural injection. And yet. Rose still continued to push, press, pummel and stretch things that really shouldn't be bending that way.

She was nice, this lady, honestly she was, but she took the position of pointing out to me everything that I do wrong. Like apparently I walk all the time while adopting the posture of walking downhill - apparently I lean in to the pavement. I laughed, because honestly I didn't realise that, and she looked at me as if I'd just suggested stealing a pair of crutches off another patient and beating the patient to death with them. (Which I hadn't. And anyone who says I did is lying.) I find that laughing at things like that is the easiest way to cope with these new realisations, because otherwise the only other thing I can do is lie on the floor in the fetal position and cry myself to death. I know I walk with a slight limp lady, it's not an affectation. It's a way of coping with the pain.

It was the moment when she had me lying on my back, feet on the bed, knees raised up, and she shoved her hand underneath the curve of my back and told me to arch it that I realised I was in serious trouble still. I can't curve my back. How weird is that? I had no idea I couldn't do that. It's not really something I've been in the habit of doing every now and again, so I didn't know I couldn't. It's a horrifying thing, telling your body to do something, and your body utterly refusing to go ahead with the simple instruction.

So Rose has given me five exercises that I have to do, and told me I don't have to do the things that the consultant told me to do, which I have been doing faithfully every day since last Thursday, as apparently they're really of no use to me at this point in time. So I'm going to do all those exercises and prove to her that I'm best and she's nothing. And Mrs Bishop texted me to point out that all physios are actually just failed doctors and that Rose is obviously just bitter and twisted and hateful.

06 April 2004
From the 24th of May, Buffy DVD sets are going to drop considerably in price, something that makes me incredibly happy. I've been loathe to spend money on them up until now, considering I have the stupid things on video, and the only advantage I can see on owning the DVD would be the ability to skip to whatever episode you wanted to watch. Which is a huge advantage. A really huge one. Nevermind all the extras and cool commentarys and things. Amazon are already listing them for just under £30, which is a huge leap from the €99.99 they're currently selling for in Virgin. Fantastic. That's June and July sorted, then.

Now, everyone, look here, to the beautiful Peter Baynham and his Guardian article on why it's okay to laugh at spakkers and death.

05 April 2004
Mrs Bishop, I have found something else for you to read while you're bored at work. JC, this should probably keep you busy too. To the rest of the world, I announce the fact that I have just stumbled across: Des Bishop's weblog.

I have received a special request, via text message, from Pimp Daddy JC, in which he begs me to update my weblog, because he has nothing better to do with his life, and nothing else worth living for. The problem is that I have nothing to write about at present. Not that there's nothing especially fabulous happening in my life, of course. Let me make this abundantly clear now: I have things going on that you would never be able to even dream about thinking of. Things that your tiny, unopened minds, when faced with the truth of my life, would make you run to hide under your mother's skirts. Oh yes. My life is full to the brim and bursting with excitement, scandal, profanity and just a little illegal trafficking on the side. But the thing is, I can't be bothered writing about any of it.

Now, King of Bling JC has sent me a little list of things that I could write about, two of them of course being how great he is. And although I'm sure a lot of you out there could vouch to the greatness (or otherwise) of Jam Master JC, I'm not about to add to the general chorus that swells his ego on a daily basis. Therefore, I'm still rather stuck for a topic.

I've applied to take a theory test for my driving licence. This will be happening on the 21st of April. I could write about that, or the fact that I'm probably going to kill myself and about 20 other people (pedestrians, drivers, my driving instructor) in the south Dublin area the first time I get into a car on the right hand side, but I can't be bothered. I could write about how appalling it is that I rang an 1890 number in Ireland to get a date for my theory test and got put through to the UK to a man who didn't know where Blackrock is, didn't know what the DART was, and even asked me for a postcode when no postcodes exist in Ireland. But I can't be bothered. I could tell you all about the new health club that I've joined, where I've been going for the last four days, and all about the freaks that frequent that establishment. But - and I think you know what's coming - I can't be bothered.

While I've been writing this, self styled truth kicker JC has been kicking out the truth to me via text message. So, because this post isn't going anywhere, I'll leave the final word to him.

"So is that a yes or a no about writing about how brilliant I am? 'JC: Poet, Lover, Warrior. If he didn't exist somebody would HAVE to invent him.' Something like that? I for one would read it."

Thanks, JC.

02 April 2004
This week's friday five hasn't appeared yet, so I'm doing one from 2002 instead, because I am totally unable to formulate ideas of my own.

1. What are the first things that you do in the morning to start your day?
Turn on my mobile and read the hundreds of messages received, usually either from Susan, JC or my sister. Move the cat off my toes so I can get up, have a shower, swear at my mother's insistence that she speak to me within two hours of my waking. Then I usually wander around the house looking lost, and finally check my email.

2. What are the last things that you do at night before going to bed?
Wash and apply any of the 17,000 different clinique products I have, turn off my mobile, watch a DVD or E4 for about an hour and a half, move the cat off the bed and then lie awake for hours trying to get rid of whatever song in my head that is keeping me awake (last night it was "Army" by Ben Folds Five).

3. What daily routine have you recently added to your day?
Yesterday my stinking consultant gave me three extremely painful exercises I have to do every day. "Do this one 100 times a day," he says, smiling smugly down at me as he looms above the hospital bed pulling my leg back behind me in a way that is seriously threatening to prolapse my prolapsed disc to the point of no return, "you'll soon notice the difference." Oh, I've already noticed. And what is worse is that my mother was there at the consultation and now every time I'm sitting down doing nothing, she's yelling at me like Harvey from Fit Club to drop and do twenty.

4. What routine do you wish you could get rid of?
The fucking exercises. Although obviously Mr Consultant said that it would all get easier over time. Which is darned easy for him to say, when he also pointed out that I will have set backs and I will probably need another epidural in six to eight months time to deal with the pain again. Woo. Hoo.

5. What's the one thing that makes you feel like something is missing if you don't do it some point within your day?
If I don't send and receive at least 20 text messages a day, I feel like I've become cut off from the world. Luckily I have friends who also appear to have this complex (some of them to the point of OCD), so I can manage to achieve that total usually within three hours of turning my phone on. Yesterday, I made a phone call that cost me €35. On one call. You have to admire that kind of dedication.

01 April 2004
Myself and Mrs Bishop ventured out last night for the first time since the smoking ban was implemented last Monday. And what an adventure it was!

We went to our usual drinking hole, where the comedy is held upstairs, and quickly turned on our heels and left, as there was a game of football being played between two teams of men representing their countries of origin, and therefore there were not seats available for us to plonk our delicate behinds. We instead went round the corner to a pub we used to go to while teenagers and in our early twenties, O'Neills. And that was a sight to behold.

Walking in to the pub, you are immediately thrown by the fact that the air you have been breathing outside has continued to be palatable inside the pub. What is more, you can see the other end of the bar, and your eyes don't instantly start to water and itch. Furthermore, the length of time you stay in there is not directly linked to an increasing ache in the area of your lungs, and you don't end up on the floor coughing your guts up and gasping for dear, clean oxygen while slowly slipping in to unconsciousness.

What I'm saying is, there was a noticeable lack of tobacco smoke.

This astonishing turnaround continued on into the comedy club, whose queue we managed to join just as the doors were opening and therefore once again we managed to slip inside and get good seats without the tiresome trouble of taking our turn in the waiting. The club upstairs tends to become one of the most unpleasant places in the world after about 40 minutes, when the build up of smoking produces a rather large fug across the proceedings. To be honest, it used to bother me even when I was still smoking.

But last night! When the time for the interval was announced, approximately half the audience leapt to their feet and jogged down the stairs to stand huddled in the doorway of the pub (it was lashing rain outside) and light up. It was like being back in school again, when everyone used to dash to the end of the field for their nicotine fix while all the teachers pretended they couldn't see them.

What would attract me back to this kind of social smoking is the camaraderie you do feel with everyone else who has been forced outside to partake in the toking of the evil weed. I love the sideways glances that people give to each other, the apologetic shrugs and grins that turn into full blown conversations about the last six times you have tried to stop smoking, the conversations about how rubbish the Alan Carr book really is, and the fact that, after this packet, you're really going to put the effort into not smoking altogether. And then we all wheezed our way back up the stairs.

I do need to point out at this juncture that I was merely accompanying Mrs Bishop outside for the cigarette. I myself did not smoke a jot while we were at the comedy club. This is because I am great, and not a weak willed fool like Mrs Bishop.

It really does make a lovely difference to the whole proceedings though. We wandered off to another pub after the comedy club finished, and as we approached our destination we were struck by the amount of people standing around outside the door. It looked like a large queue had formed around the door and although the pub is a nice pub, it's not so nice that you'd happily stand about in the rain to get in to it. But, of course, you've already worked out that all those fools were standing outside so that they could get their fix of the evil coffin nails we call cigarettes.

So having been in three pubs, you'd expect to come home stinking and coughing, but instead we ended the proceedings on a high note, going home with a cab driver who was 15 years off the fags and loving every moment of lecturing people about how easy it is to give up smoking once you actually put your heart into it.

I'm actually really against this smoking ban on principle. We're the first country in the world to declare that its people are not allowed to smoke virtually anywhere outside the confines of your own home, and it's a very brave and many think fool-hardy decision to make. I don't like being told what I can or can't do and where I can or can't do it, and I hate the idea that Ireland is becoming such a restrictive nanny state. But then again, I woke up this morning looking and feeling floral and nice and shiny and unsoiled by the evil tobacco giants and their tiny wheezing stooges, and I'm quite pleased about the whole thing.

It's difficult being this conflicted, I can tell you.