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Dreadful Nonsense

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

30 August 2006
In the never-ending quest to do things in London that can only be done in London, I struck gold two weeks ago with my suggestion that we go nose around the houses of the rich and famous. Once He Who Only… had put a stop on my breaking-and-entering scheme, and made me both take off and burn the balaclava, we settled instead of taking a guided tour around the State Rooms in Buckingham Palace.

Now, neither of us are royalists. Indeed, neither of us are loyalists. We’re not even particularly British, in that I definitely am not, and I’ve long forgiven He Who Only… for it. We entered upon this visit for two reasons, and two reasons only - (1) because I like to have a nose around people’s houses, and (2) because He Who Only… breaks after only about 20 minutes of me screaming “I WANT TO GO TO THE PALACE!” in his ear in the middle of the night.

Having dropped quite a large wad of cash (or, more accurately, having swiped the old plastic past a lady inexplicably dressed in the manner of an air hostess, all hair raked back and piles of make up), we then had two hours to kill, as old Buck Pal (as we started to call it) was maggoty with tourists, and we didn’t fancy standing against the wall for two hours, loitering with intent.

We took in the sights of St James’s Park, neatly side stepped a rain storm in the tea rooms and were generally quite touristy, while still holding the right to tutt at tourists when they walked too slowly for our liking, or when some Spanish children ran past us chasing geese.

I took photographs of far away landmarks:

We then returned to the walls surrounding Buck Pall to loiter, but this time with real intent. Our ticket was for the 4.30pm tour around the Pall, and it was already 4.15pm, so we thought there would only be the minimal of loitering. I had, because I am so inclined, dressed myself that morning in a skirt and small shoes, all the better to scandalise the elderly tourists with the abomination that is my foot tattoo, and the variety of bruises I always seem to sport around my thighs and calves for no reason whatsoever. It was, I am afraid to tell you, quite the cold day, colder than I had expected, and I was all of a chill, so I was looking forward to entering Queen Elizabeth The Second’s intimate chambers, all the better to have a sniff about and see what I could steal.

However. We stood against the outside wall for about 25 minutes, with an elderly Irish man and his wife standing *thisclose* to me the whole time. The elderly gentleman was pressing something hard into my lower back and I swear to you all I checked each and every time it happened - about 4 times a minute over the 25 minute period - to make sure it was only his umbrella.

When we got past the wall section and into the official queue for the palace, we were herded into a small holding pit, the kind of which is used to frighten sheep just before they're either dipped in... well, in dip, or taken to their deaths. There we stood for a further fifteen minutes. Palace officials would every now and again yell that we were to take all of the change out of our pockets, that all baggage would be scanned, that mobile phones were to be turned off, and that liquids were not to be brought into the palace. They yelled all of this, over and over again, entirely in English, and therefore the majority of the people queuing up didn't understand a tiny word. This is why the queues lasted so long - confusion among the ranks.

We had decided that morning that there were three things we would do while we were in the Queen's Inner Sanctums. One of them was that I would say the word "penis" and He Who Only... would say the word "boobies". The second one was that, as mentioned above, we would steal something. Anything. The third one I'm not going to tell you about. Suffice it to say that we didn't manage to do any of them, because when we finally got through all of the security measures we were too exhausted.

The palace tour itself is one of those where they strap you into headphones and let you wander off at your own pace but in their strictly defined direction. You end up being swept along with the crowd, and meandering at the rate of an unsteady 2 year old around the place. It takes about 40 minutes, all told, although you could lengthen that to about an hour and a half, if you listen to all of the extra options. However, since there are no toilet facilities until right at the end, when you've actually left the building and aren't allowed back out again, I think most people take it at a fairly steady pace. This, I suspect, is not a design fault but a design feature.

The only frustrating thing is that you're not allowed to take any photographs. I had to settle for taking photos of all of the Queen's Tat in the Royal Shop of Tat set up in her garden for the three months of the year the palace is open.

I think you'll agree that it's a lot of tat.

I really enjoyed the tour of the palace, and I would urge you, if you've got the time and the money and a strong bladder, do please bring your granny or an elderly relative along. I'm sure He Who Only... will have something to add in the comments re his opinion on the outing.

29 August 2006
I've been so bad. I'm ever so sorry.

We've got two rules in our household - our Household'O'Love, if you must - these rules are

(1) Don't Be Bold
(2) Don't Be Grumpy

I've certainly not been the latter, but I admit that I have been the former. I've also been ever so busy with essays and bank holidays and all sorts of things, and I've still got some stories to tell you all, including the time that we went to Buckingham Palance and the Ongoing Story About The Return Of The Fucking Mice.

But in the meantime, because you've all been ever so lovely people, here is a video made by some boys that I know that made me laugh. Look upon it as an apology from me. Watch it all the way to the end, because I like the ending the best.

It Takes Two

22 August 2006

I kept making a point of saying "We’re on holiday!" to He Who Only…, every time it occurred to me to say so. This, I think, was adorable when we were in Kings Cross on Friday night, and also while we were on the train on the way there, doing the Irish Times crossword. By the time it was Saturday afternoon and Liverpool were 1-0 down, He Who Only… was finding it a little tiresome.

While we were on holiday, we did our best to do holiday things. Having the parents that we both have (two different sets, obviously, although they are strikingly similar in some ways. They're not related though. No. We've checked. Lots of times), our impression of what constitutes holiday things are traipsing around the country side with jackets tied around our waists and wandering around areas of historical significance, pointing at follies and grottos and counting the ducks.

I remarked to He Who Only… on Sunday afternoon after we had gotten up early enough to fit in one more National Trust site before we had to catch the train home, that when we were in our late teens, when we dreamt about a time where we would be devoid of parental supervision, have enough disposable cash to take us anywhere in Western Europe and have access to a car and be legally allowed to purchase alcohol, never did we think that we’d voluntarily spend our spare time traipsing through Sherwood Forest trying to name all of the different species of birds and loving every minute of it.

We were standing on the bridge across the dam, staring across the wetlands to the rows and rows of fields stretching out behind it. A swallow swooped in and out of the rushes. Piles of well ordered hay stacks stood out in surreal shapes in the background. Ducks took off and landed around us, shouting back at each other, making the only noise to be heard other than the constant busy rushing of water. He Who Only… turned to me and very seriously declared that this would be what he’d be thinking of, the next time he was standing in the middle of the stench and unpleasantness that is Dalston Kingsland station.

21 August 2006
"That’s it!", we screamed at each other one night last week, as we lay in bed listening to the sound of drug-addled crack children stab each other in the hoodies, as police sirens squealed and screamed and screeched up and down the road outside and gangsters blared their loud music out of the stolen windows of the stolen cars while shooting both bullets and heroin, and across the street some foreign types took part in illegal suburban fox hunting, or something.

"That’s bloody it!", we said again, for good measure. "We’ve got to leave London!"

And so it was that we found ourselves going on holiday on Friday evening, catching a train from the centre of hell - or Kings Cross as its known these days - to the much more civilised environs where He Who Only… was raised. The village in which we were staying had that special quality we were looking for - air that couldn’t be both tasted and also physical felt as it entered your lungs. Clean. Crisp. Fresh. Not actually visible. Oxygen, in the purest of forms.

And stars! You can see stars in the night sky. And a serious lack of noise that made me think, for a while, that I had gone deaf. And the night time brings darkness, rather than an orange hue almost as bright as day, which made me think, for a while, that I had gone blind.

I will defend with my dying breath every last quality that makes London great, and I do love it more than any other city I’ve lived in. However, you really do need a break from it sometimes, and our weekend break was absolutely thrilling.

We had access to a car in which to zoom about, and so we spent an enormous chunk of our weekend in National Trust sites, wandering about staring at open fields, marvelling at the sheer greenness of things. I took to giggling every time I realised that there wasn’t a single person in sight, and began to take the series of photographs I kept declaring with great satisfaction were entitled "This. Is. Not. London." I also began a second, more disturbing series entitled "Sheep".

I basically spent the weekend taking photographs of sheep. I was trigger happy, in sheep terms, to the point of trespassing across golf courses in order to get closer to the sheep. We walked among the sheep. We walked around speaking directly to the sheep, and then telling each other what the sheep were saying to us, and what the sheep were saying to each other. I kept crouching down, zooming in and out, getting closer, leaning back, being the most crazed paparazzo these sheep had ever seen, trying to get some good sheep shots.

This is one of the approximately 800 photographs I took of sheep:

I like this one, because his legs look bendy.

The only other photograph of sheep that I am going to bore you with is printed below, and that is because it is one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever seen in my (relatively short) life.

I always thought that the phrase "black sheep of the family" referred to the fact that there was occasionally one sheep in every flock that was a bit different and wrong. If that’s the case, they’ve either shipped all the bad ‘uns together from all corners of the country, and this is some kind of sheep Guantanimo Bay, or they’ve started breeding a race of Evil Sheep.

Sheep On A Plane, anyone? Anyone?

Just me, then.

Again, we literally strayed off the beaten (and National Trust affiliated) path in order to stare closely at some sheep.

We had a brilliant weekend.

20 August 2006
Hello! I've been on holiday. It was brilliant. Photos all week.

In the mean time, here's a brilliant joke Little Sister Edel sent to me:

A man was on holiday in Kenya. While he was walking through the bush, he came across an elephant standing with one leg raised in the air.

The elephant seemed distressed so the man approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot. There was a large thorn deeply embedded in the bottom of the foot. As carefully and as gently as he could he removed the thorn and the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man and with a rather stern look on its face, stared at him. For a good ten minutes the man stood frozen -- thinking of nothing else but being trampled.

Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned and walked away.

For years after, the man remembered the elephant and the events of that day. One day the man was walking through the zoo with his son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to where they are standing at the rail. It stared at him and the man couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant.

After a while it trumpeted loudly; then it continued to stare at him.

The man summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder.

Suddenly the elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of the man's legs and swung him wildly back and forth along the railing, killing him.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.

13 August 2006
My essay title is: "We have little control over the ways we conduct our relationships - Discuss."

I have therefore spent the last hour making a myspace.

That's right: I done a myspace.

It's here: www.myspace.com/dreadfulnonsense

Please be my friend.

I've just had the most fun in the world traipsing through other people's sites and trying to make them my friends. It's the most stupid website network I've ever seen and yet... and yet I've just been in contact with Ben Parker which has left me some kind of gibbering wreck. This is the same Ben Parker who I have stood in the same room as FOUR DIFFERENT TIMES (once within the last month) and failed to talk to him despite how much I LOVE HIM and kind of want to touch his bottom in a sexual way. And we know someone in common, so it wouldn't even have been that frightening for him. At least not to begin with. Ahem.

Myspace: A new way to stalk.

09 August 2006
In my defence, I've been away. I've been at home, and I've been drinking heavily. HEAV-ILL-LEE. So very much booze I can't begin to tell you, mainly due to the brain damage inflicted by the amount of alcohol I have imbibed.

(And, let you into a little secret? I'M DRINKING WHILE I WRITE THIS. I think I might have a problem.)

Anyways. I've been home, and now I'm back, and the next few days entries will be backdated, and peppered with photographs of all the animals that I left behind.

The important things that I will be talking about will be:

1. Flying
2. Dublin
3. My crazy family
4. Being forced to talk about my boyfriend
5. Booze
6. My own dog growling at me.
7. Flying

In the meantime, here is the dog that I adore, who growls at me (but more about that in a bit):

07 August 2006
I have never in my life, compared to the past few days, been forced to talk about someone who was not in the same country as me, and with the same kind requests for frightening introspection and clairvoyence, as I have been in the last few days. I haven't been home without He Who Only... since Christmas, and I think the strain of it all was beginning to tell on my relatives.

Allow me to clarify: In the UK, and most of Western Europe, you do things in a number of ways. The stages of the average relationship go thusly:

1. Getting together
2. Becoming close
3. Sleeping together.
4. Moving in together.
5. Getting married.
6. Having a baby.

The speed at which you go from stage 1 to stage 3 depends, I believe, on the religious power of your country. The fact that 3 and 4 now come before 5 in most of Western Europe reflect, I believe, the wayward nature of young people's attitudes and the fact that we are all on a highway to hell.

But according to my relations, the fact that 1, 2, 3 and 4 have alreayd happened between myself and He Who Only... can only logically mean that number 5 is JUST AROUND THE CORNER.

Don't get me wrong. I love my boyfriend. I could talk about him for days without getting bored. I've got photographs of him on my mobile wearing my bra (on his head, I add) which I will happily display for all to see, and yet I don't feel the need to discuss our future with anyone but the closest of my female friends because it is nobody else's freaking business.

Maybe it's because I've never made the daring step of moving in with someone of the opposite gender, and moving exclusively in with them and no one else, that makes my relations think that some quite drastically inappropriate questions can be asked of me.

It's funny, I wouldn't have thought we were a particularly backward looking or religiously intolerant family in any way, but there are some things that people love to goad you about, and marriage is one of the last things that is taken incredibly seriously in Ireland. Everyone loves the big day out, and I have to admit that I have been one of those people who have recklessly teased people in the past as being the next one who will provide us with our big day out, but now that I suddenly appear to be the most obivous next in line, I seem to have lost my easy sense of humour.


This is my Uncle Joe's dog, Sheeba. She was at the party too.

06 August 2006
Post Three, in a series of Some: Entitled: MY CRAZY FAMILY

I went out disco-dancing with my best friend Mrs Bishop and He Who Only...'s little brother (more about that tomorrow, gossip fiends), and this morning I woke up at 12.45pm - THREE FREAKING HOURS AFTER I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE AT HOME.

I woke up bolt upright and covered in a panicked sweat (and also some booze-fug which gathered during the night). I was not at home. I wasn't wearing pygama bottoms. I had miscara all over my nose. I was dehydrated. I was Three. Hours. Late.

I turned on my phone and had a message from Little Sister Edel that read "The house is full of fucking [my family name]s it's a bit scary".

It was my Dad's 60th birthday, and they had all been gathered in the same place at the same time to celebrate it. As one of my uncles, who was very drunk at the time, and standing in a shed, observed, we usually don't see each other in the same place unless it's a funeral. And there's usually less crying.

That last bit? I was joking.

In the end, my Dad's birthday party was superb. Since the heatwave that's been torturing me in London has also been affecting Dublin (but don't think you've had it hard, you paddy bastards - you don't know what fucking heat is!), my parents decided to have a garden party, for which they hired a bar.


One tap had Guinness and the other tap had something that was beer-like in essence, but nothing that I ever managed to identify, but that's mainly because one tap had Guinness - Guinness was literally on tap in my house over this last weekend, and what the fuck more do you want from life?

My brother's fiancee taught me and Little Sister Edel and Mrs Bishop how to draw shamrocks in the top of a pint of Guinness, and even though none of us actually managed to master the skill, we still made a good grab at it each and every time we poured and pint, and I think it's that kind of enthusiasm that matters. I myself was very dedicated to mastering this new skill and when there was no one else about for whom I could pour a pint, I took to pouring myself half-pints (or "glasses", as they're known at home) and practicing, and then selflessly drinking it all so that I could try again.

The rain, he came down early and he came down heavy. The reason my uncle was able to make the above observation while standing in the comfort of our garden shed was because it was raining so heavily that your drink had no alcohol content at all after standing less than five minutes outside due to the pure volume of water filling up your glass. Garden party? God mocks.

The majority of the day was taken up being told how much I looked like my mum/dad/aunty/uncle/grandparent/cousin/random member of extended family, and also how good/old/young I looked, how much/little I'd changed, admiring/being revolted by my tattoos. On a whole, though, every single female at the party who had met me at least once before in my lifetime spent the day telling me that (a) they had never seen me looking any better and (b) that my boyfriend must be incredibly good for me.

But, ssssh, people. Don't tell him. He'll only get ideas.

This is my Granny's dog. She was staying with us for the week while my Granny is in Norway. There is no reason for this photo to be here.

05 August 2006
I always feel a bit melancholy coming back to Dublin these days. It's really strange, because in the olden days, when I lived in Edinburgh or Derry, I would always feel joyous the first time I saw, say, the patchwork of Dublin from the airplane or the first Dublin bus from the window of the train. But in the last year - and people of Dublin, please don't take great offence at this - I have always felt a bit melancholic.

I'm not sure why this is. I've been thinking about it for the past few days, and I've still not been able to put my finger on it. I think it might have something to do with being bloody minded and determined to make some sort of life in the city in which I have chosen to live right now. Before now, living in Derry was merely a term-time event, and living in Edinburgh was a six month adventure that happened to last nearly four years. This time, living in London has been not just a geographical but a lifestyle choice. It's not just a convenience, it's a necessity, if I'm to continue to live with and annoy He Who Only... as much as I'm doing at the moment. And due to the fact that he hasn't recently come to his senses and realised his life was a lot more quiet before I turned up, and that he could sit from one end of a football match to another without someone asking (a) about his plans for the rest of the week, (b) about his feelings and (c) for a kiss, I am still in London Town.

I love Dublin. I really do. There are so many brilliant things about Ireland, but specifically about Dublin, that thinking about them for longer than about a minute leave my innards with the same texture and make as melted marshmallows. I love the accents, I love the people, I love the sense of humour, I love the dignity, I love the tradition, I love the sense of pride, I love everything about it. And yet, when I'm landing in it, I don't feel that spark any more.

I think what I'm trying to say is, I've fallen out of love with my home town.

MY HOME TOWN, though, people. Mrs Moo, please don't go and have a baby right now upon reading this post, I'm just saying that Me and Dublin no longer have that certain something that used to set my heart a-flutter. I freaking LOVE Ireland and there is nothing anyone could ever do, nothing that any other country could ever offer me that would make me disavow the glory that is the auld country. Dammit, y'all, I'll break into a chorus of the national anthem right here and now if it'll make you feel any better.

But landing in Dublin, cruising through town, catching the Luas, looking at all the inexplicable statues of hares that have appeared around the place with no obvious explanation, looking at the cleanliness, the new buildings, the people, the places that I'm used to - they just didn't ignite in me the old spark that used to be there.

And that's a bit weird.

This is Kesh, looking adoringly at Little Sister Edel. I love this picture.

04 August 2006
I got on a plane today. My routine for getting on planes used to go like this:

1. Two weeks beforehand, begin to have recurring nightmares about plane crashes, experiencing them both from on the ground and on the plane (mental note: Never watch Flight 93).
2. One week beforehand, lose the ability to sleep. Begin to halluicinate during the day about plane crashes.
3. Two days beforehand, write up will.
4. One day beforehand, text everyone I know/love/stroke to tell them that I know/love/want to stroke them. Post flight details on blog so that everyone could mourn my loss when they realised that, yes, I was on that flight.
5. On the day: put ribbons around my suitcase, for luck.
6. On the day: put on lucky bracelets.
7. On the day: put on lucky necklace.
8. Find and wear Dad's signet ring.
9. Pray.
10. Get to airport. Panic. Have cigarette, even if I don't smoke. Feel sick. Panic.
11. Check in.
12. Go straight to gate, even if I'm there about 6 hours too early.
13. Pace.
14. Go to bathroom.
15. Pace.
17. Go to bathroom.
18. Repeat steps 13 - 17 until blue in the face.
19. Speak to Little Sister Edel on the telephone, who would tell me everything was fine, and then end her phone calls with a note of affection which always convinced me that YES I AM DEFINITELY ABOUT TO DIE.
20. Take valium.
21. Calm the fuck down.
22. Go to bathroom.
23. Board plane.
24. Cry.
25. Take off.
26. Count five minutes in my head without opening my eyes while crying.
27. Open my eyes.
28. Cry.

It's hard work.

So today, I got on a plane, and I skipped almost all of those steps. Yes, I tied some lucky ribbons on my suitcase, but I didn't wear the lucy bracelet or necklace or ring. I didn't ring Little Sister Edel. I didn't have a cigarette. I didn't post on the blog, and most importantly I DIDN'T CRY.

I did have valium though. Fuck, what do you take me for?