Dirk’s Painful Conversation

Dirk From Next Door is a lovely guy. He’s very smiley, happy, friendly, chatty and likeable. I saw the real contrast in our personalities tonight, when, at a barbeque at Richie Rich’s house, he approached a group of people he didn’t know and just introduced himself and started to talk to them. I didn’t know them either, but my reaction to this situation was – as always – to slink past and hope I didn’t do anything stupid that might make them point and stare. I envy Dirk’s easy confidence. Maybe he can teach me.

Anyway, as we were leaving, he and Jay were giggling like schoolboys, and we three girls (for E2, the fourth and final intern, has now joined the ranks next door) demanded to know the cause of this merriment. Once we were in the car -Dirk clutching what appeared to be a bowl of fruit, and Jay carefully balancing a cheesecake on his knees – the tale was told. Dirk tells a story very well, always managing to sound innocent and slightly incredulous. For example, I choked so hard on my coffee the other night that it came down my nose, when he told me that they’d all been sitting around the dinner table at Mrs. C’s house (Mrs. C is a very holy, spiritually deep, prayerful woman – the kind everyone runs to for guidance, biblical answers and prayer), and he’d asked, in all innocence: “Hey, what’s a w**ker?”.

Tonight, his story was as follows:

“I started talking to this dude, the one with the Jaguar and the prettiest girlfriend in Ireland, and right at the start of the conversation I started to smell this really overpowering smell of fart. It was seriously bad, but everyone was just pretending not to notice so I just went along with it. Then the guys asks me “Hey, are you French?” and I said no, wondering if it’s a smell-related insult to be called French and he was implying I’d done the fart. Everyone laughed, but I didn’t, and then there was an awkward pause. So I asked “So do you go to Hillside?”. He said “No”. I said “OK… So do you live near Richie Rich?”. He said “No”. I wasn’t really getting anywhere with this line of questionning, and I was choking down vomit by this stage because of the fart aroma, so I got desperate and said “Hey man, I’m Dirk, by the way. What’s your name?” And I kid you not, he said “I’m Elmer.” I was like, OK, dude, you are called Elmer – you so do not deserve to have a Jag and be dating the prettiest girl in Northern Ireland.Then I realised Jay had somehow escaped from the building, and I started to back away and then made a run  for it and found him waiting outside in the shadows with food.”

There was more to the story but I missed large chunks of it due to the laughter that was erupting in the car as Dirk told it. Love having these four next door. Life is so much more fun. It’s like Ramsey Street without the bad acting.

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Nightmare in Kells

Went round to Joy’s tonight – her hubby, The Climber, is away, and she fancied a girls’ night in with pizza and silly chat. Was greeted at the door by the sound of Mini Joy (her 3-year-old) screaming blue murder from upstairs, Betsy (another of the dying species of Single Girls  From Church) hovering uncomfortably in the hallway, and Joy zooming around in that harrassed way that only parents of small children do, rinsing cloths and informing me of some kind of peeing-on-carpet incident which had seemingly just occurred in the bedroom. Single Girls cannot cope with this kind of situation. Hid in kitchen with Betsy until screaming stopped and nobody was talking about urine any more. Had a lovely evening once initial screaming horror was over.

Stayed too late, though. Have got to have an early night soon, you know.

The Madhouse

Most Tuesday nights I take part in a women’s group in the estate. It’s held in Ma’s house – Ma being Red (my ex)’s  mother – and she is a loon. I have said this to her face, and she doesn’t seem to disagree, so I don’t feel bad about saying so here. I’ve decided I need to keep track of some of the things that occur during a typical Tuesday night, lest I ever lose sight of the sheer ludicrousy of it and start to think my life is ordinary.

The main thing to grasp about Ma is her total lack of understanding of the basics of the English language. She’s particularly prone to pronouncing words incorrectly, spelling them unrecognisably, confusing similar-sounding ones (a favourite of mine is “It’s just a phrase I’m going through”, although I did also enjoy a recent conversation about “tarantula rain”) and, quite bizarrely, combining 2 or 3 different ones to form a whole new one. In the latter case, I’ve noted with interest that the words don’t even have to share similarities of meaning, e.g. “flemished”, which appears to be a combination of “flinched” and either “famished” or “blemish” and is said in sentences like “He was trying to pick a fight, but I never even flemished.”

Ma aside, there’s such a mix of characters in that group that sometimes I just sit in complete bewilderment, trying to take it all in. There’s Jo: hot-headed, direct, honest and highly-strung. Kate: innocent, gentle, polite and easily embarrassed. B: loud, often crude, says what she thinks and ends every sentence with “But do you know what I mean, like?”. Me: easily amused, giggly, unshockable and pretty quiet, all things considered. Others drift in and out of the group, but that’s the core.

One day, when I have less desire to sleep than I do right now, I may tell you some of the Madhouse Tales, like when Ma took off her trainers and the smell forced us out of the house, or when some Southern dudes called to see the washing machine doing a dance in the kitchen. For now, I’ll make do with sharing my top three snippets of conversation tonight…

Breast Enlargement: Ma’s way

Jo: I’ve prayed for bigger boobs.

Ma: You should book yourself into hospital for one of those… boob… transplants.

Me: (suppressing insane laughter) I don’t think they do those on the NHS, Ma.

Kate: Should we be carrying donor cards, do you think?

Friendship: Ma’s way

JoMa landed round with a packet of chocolate digestives and a flippin’ multipack of crisps.

Kate: (soothingly) Maybe she didn’t know you were fasting.

Jo: (indignantly) Course she did, she sponsored me!!

Similes: Ma’s way

Ma: She’s lovely, but she’s as mad as a bag of nuts.

Me: (in delight) Mad as a what now?

Jo: (dubiously) I’ve heard of mad as a bag of monkeys…

Kate: (helpfully) Cross as a bag of weasels?

Ma: Half a pound of WHAT?

Tuesday nights at the Madhouse. Free entertainment by the bucketload.

Average night

So, tonight I’m staring blankly into the fridge wondering what to have for dinner, when E1 from next door comes round.

Hayley, can I use your tumble drier? Ours is tumbling, but not drying.

Sure.

Also, there’s men in our house… can I hang out here for a while?

Err… sure.

Should probably tell you at this point that E1, Dirk and Jay are my new next door neighbours. They arrived 2 weeks ago from Alabama, as interns staying here for a year with a local charity, doing outreach work in the estates. They’re all my age, and they are so much fun. Anyway, the house belongs to the guy who runs the charity (who also happens to be my boss – it’s all very intertwined), and they’re still using it for their various meetings and so on. Being one who is slightly intimidated by Men And Their Meetings, myself, I’ve said to the interns that they can treat my house as theirs, and come and ‘hang out’ here any time they need to escape.

So, tonight, I told E1 to make herself at home, watch TV, get something to eat – you know, whatever she wanted to do. As she was coming in with her washing, my phone rang, and I retreated to my room to take the call. I heard various noises throughout my conversation, but it was a fairly intense, emotional discussion, so I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on downstairs. An hour and a half later I emerged to find all 3 Americans, Red (my ex fiance – you will discover in time that my life is complicated), and 2 local (stoned) teenagers, all crammed into my living room, with – inexplicably – 2 guitars, a keyboard, and a poetry book of some description.

The cat ran off in the middle of it all. The front gate fell off its hinges, the electricity meter started to wail for more money, and every time I looked, someone was in the kitchen making coffee. Jay disappeared at one point and as I happened to glance  out of the window I spotted him creeping along my garden path in a most suspicious manner. Then I realised he’d spotted a stray dog roaming outside, and also my cat, who isn’t smart enough to know that she’s meant to be scared of dogs. Kat was looking like she wanted to go and ask the dog for a cuddle, the dog was looking like it wanted to put ketchup on her, and Jay suddenly swooped in like Superman and lifted my gormless pet out of harm’s way. He is now my hero for this reason. Well, that, and the fact that when he returned he simplified all my favourite songs on the keyboard so that I could accompany him with my guitar.

It was a very strange – but fun – evening. I realised I was living in a sort of parallel universe when Red wandered in at around 12.30am after having had a cigarette, and, in answer to the question “What’s Dirk doing outside?”, replied “Oh, Dirk is walking up and down the garden wall.”

And he was.

It’s 2am now, and I still haven’t had my dinner. I think I might go to bed.

Routine

Why is it that I absolutely cannot get out of bed until I’ve hit the snooze button at least 5 times? My planned morning sounds so mature, responsible and even godly:

7.15am – Alarm goes off.

7.20am – Leap out of bed praising God for another day. Make coffee, eat cereal, feed cat, prepare healthy lunch for work.

7.40am – Quiet time of reading and coffee to set me up for the day ahead.

8am – Shower, hair, make-up, clothes.

8.30am – Pick things up, tidy things away, ensure house is presentable and neat.

8.40am – Leave house.

Every single night, I go to bed fully intending to put this dream into practice. And what usually happens is this:

7.15am – Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

7.25am – Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

7.35am – Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

7.45am – Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

7.55am – Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

8.05am – Alarm goes off. Realise time. Leap out of bed not so much praising God as asking “Why, God? WHY?”.

8.20am – Emerge from shower and do clothes/hair/make-up things whilst falling over hungry cat winding itself around my legs and crying pitifully (the cat, I mean, not me. Most days.)

8.35am – Feed cat. Note dying plant beside cat food and say “I MUST water that later.” As per every morning.

8.36am – Contemplate feeding self. Dismiss idea in favour of grabbing a packet of crisps, the stale heel of a loaf, and and out of date yoghurt. Assemble these items in plastic bag and call them ‘lunch’.

8.39am – Search for phone.

8.42am – Locate phone under ‘lunch’ bag. Search for car keys.

8.45am – Sheepishly remove keys from fridge. Run from house in flustered manner.

8.47am – Return to house. Lift lunch bag and phone. Leave house.

That Sunday feeling

Sundays would be fantastic if it weren’t for the thought of Monday morning. The sense of impending doom just takes away from the otherwise relaxed, comfy ambiance.

Have to say, I am particularly enjoying the fact that our communion time – once a 10.30am experience –  now happens in the evening service, meaning that I don’t need to be in church till noon these days. I took full advantage of this today, lying in bed till just after 11, my first real lie-in for months. I woke up at one point struggling to breathe, with a cat on my face, but apart from that one small incident it was a pleasant, lazy morning.

Went to the BonBons’ for lunch. One of the advantages of Singleness: you rarely have to cook a Sunday dinner. People feel sorry for you and allow you to experience a few hours of cosy family life with them. Made polite conversation about holidays and house prices, then came home to contemplate deeper issues.

For example, the toilet seat has fallen off and I’m trying to decide whether to repair it or just get a new one.

Also, it’s Monday tomorrow.

Depressed Cat

Hey – someone actually read my blog!

I must confess, I only started it to put off all the things I had to do re: moving house, and then forgot all about it when I entered my nervous breakdown concerning the actual process of moving house. Didn’t think anyone noticed I was here in the first place.

 Since I last blogged, if you’re dying to know, both the house and car situations have been upgraded from “dire” to “happy”. Rio the Clio (as I affectionately call my car – mainly because when someone comments on her, I get to sing “Her name is Rio, and she dances on the sand…”. It’s the little things in life.) went away for a few days and returned all shiny and new. My single-woman-in-distress fears were dispelled when my very nice friend McLovely took the keys from me without even being asked, sourced a second hand door for me, and got a guy he knows to do the repairs and respraying at a very reasonable price. And Rio dances once again.

The house, also, is fabulous. The rent stings a bit, but it’s worth it. It feels like a real home. More on that at a later date. I do have to mention that Kat the Cat does not, in fact, see it as her home, and has spent the past month staring obsessively out of windows in the exact direction of Cullybackey, and making a bolt for the great outdoors at every opportunity. It’s all very worrying. I’ve started letting her out for short periods, most of which have concluded with me walking dismally around the block shaking a box of Go-Cat and yelling “KAT!” like Crazy Cat Lady. I just know if I let her roam for a few hours she’ll head for Pottinger Street and get flattened on the Cullybackey Road, which just wasn’t intended for cats.

 Take yesterday morning, for example. I left the bathroom window open after my shower, and returned to find the cat had somehow sneaked in past me and was sitting on the windowsill with this possessed expression, watching traffic whizzing past. Admittedly, yelling “Hey!!” and diving for her was not the most constructive action I could have taken. Wretched creature took a kamikaze leap out of the window into mid-air. I felt a little foolish about my hysterical scream of horror when I realised she had of course just landed on the conservatory roof, a mere 5ft down, but still. Hanging out of the bathroom window trying to grab a stubborn cat in full view of rush hour traffic on the Grove Road is an experience you can do without, at least before you’ve had a cup of coffee.