An idle moment

Do you know what I just did, “out of sheer badness” as my mother would say? I’m sitting at the kitchen table, and I happened to glance out the door, across the hall, into the front porch, where Kat was perched on the windowsill on the left of the front door. She was doing that crouching thing she does when she’s about to jump forward, and I realised she was intending to spring across to the windowsill on the other side of the door.

Feeling experimental, I idly wondered what would happen if she lost her concentration mid-leap.

“Psssssssssssst!” I hissed suddenly and loudly at the precise second she took flight.

Thud! replied Kat, as her head whirred round to look at me, all four legs shot out in opposite directions, and she landed in a confused heap on the floor. I laughed the insane laugh of a woman who has too much time on her hands. Kat picked herself up, trying her utmost to look dignified, and shot me the filthiest look I have ever received from an animal. She stalked off to sulk in the living room.

You have to entertain yourself, somehow.

Post-Girl Hails, Post-Girl Hails, Post-Girl Hails and her black and white Kat…

This week, I have been mostly delivering leaflets.

I volunteered to distribute the 4000 or so direct mailers for our upcoming sale at work, thinking it would get me away from the desk and give me some breathing space, exercise and time to think. Three days and 1500 leaflets later, I weigh much less, have decidedly sore feet, and feel a little differently about dogs than I used to.

I have learned a great deal, so far. For example, there are some houses in Ballymena which have driveways longer than my actual housing estate. (Well, no – that may be a slight exaggeration. But it certainly feels that long when you’re trekking along the 6th one in a row, usually uphill, with a bag of mailers over your shoulder.) Also, certain types of letterbox are unspeakably difficult to open, and can seriously damage your health, or at least the health of your fingers. And finally, there are some very intelligent dogs in the world. (This is setting aside for now the not-so-intelligent ones that assumed, without even giving me half a chance, that I was a burglar, and hence tried to maul me, eat me, bite my hand off, jump on me, deafen me, scare me, intimidate me and/or kill me.) In no less than six houses, I was greatly entertained and surprised by a small but efficient dog waiting patiently on the other side of the door for me to push the leaflet through. I got it halfway in when the clever wee thing jumped up, took it gently between its teeth, pulled it all the way through, and trotted off through the house to deliver it to its owner. “Well, isn’t that something?” I found myself murmuring in delight (after initially pulling my hand away with a panicky “Oh, crap!”, thinking I was under attack again). Well done, intelligent dogs of Ballymena. I salute you.

Also, saw this sign in someone’s garden. I liked it.

I’d get one myself, but the only wild flowers I know how to grow successfully are weeds.

Camping Snapshot #2: Star-gazing

Late at night, we are gathered around the lightbulb (camping just doesn’t have the same rustic feel to it, these days), gazing up at the stars. The sky really does look quite spectacular, here at the foot of the Mournes – clear and vast, like a dark velvet canvas on which God has idly painted a shining, shimmering masterpiece of twinkly lights.

“When you see all those stars, what does it make you want to sing?” asks McBouncy, dreamily.

Monkey Man clears his throat. “Look at the stars,” he begins in his best Chris Martin voice, “see how they shine for you…”

We all nod appreciatively.

“Stars shining bright above you,” I add softly, “Night breezes seem to whisper I love you…”

“Starry, starry night…” another voice chimes in, sweetly.

It is truly an enchanted evening. We pause in silent contemplation. The stars twinkle and glimmer in a romantic, thought-provoking way.

McBoy breaks the silence. “Do you want to hear my song?” he asks hesitantly. We all nod in encouragement. He takes a deep breath.

“I feel like chicken tonight, like chicken tonight…”

He is an unusual boy. The moment is over.

Camping Snapshot #1: The Little Things In Life

It’s the midges that get me. I mean, literally get me. They’ve always been interested in me, but since I got my hair cut short and applied liberal amounts of styling product to it, the wee sods seem to make a bee-line (midge-line?) for me. Of course, my hair is so mad that it’s the equivalent of a lost explorer finding themselves in the middle of the Catacombs of Paris without a map: once they’re in there, they simply ain’t finding their way out. Or maybe they get stuck in the gel, I don’t know. Anyway, the fact remains that when night falls and I’m outdoors in a wooded area, my scalp becomes an adventure playground with on-site diner for travelling midges.

I itched and scratched and jumped and complained and wriggled and yelped and rubbed.

“Would you like me to spray you?” offered my dear friend McBouncy, kindly. Alarmed, I backed away. Fortunately the bottle she was brandishing turned out to be insect repellant, and I grudgingly allowed myself to be doused. “Let us spray,” remarked Monkey Man, observing the scene from a distance with some amusement.

The spray was about as effective as a scarecrow made of birdseed. Itching and half-eaten, I jumped at the chance to go into the town for a while, and joined some others in Dee’s car. “Argh!” said Betsy, flapping wildly in the back seat. “There are 2 midges in here!” She rolled down her window, looking alarmed and confused at my yells of protest, and watched in dismay as 893 midges swarmed in. “Oh, right,” she said, meekly rolling the window back up. 895 more midges joined the party in my hair.

I love camping.

Inspirational Lyrics

Leave My Kitten Alone by The Beatles (From the album Anthology 1)

You better leave my kitten all alone,
You better leave my kitten all alone.
Well, I told you, big, fat bulldog tom cat,
You better leave her alone.

You better leave my kitten all alone,
You better leave my kitten all alone.
This dog girl is gonna get you
If you don’t leave her alone.

Well, Mister Dog Tom
I’m gonna hit you on the top of your head.
That child is gonna miss you,
You’re gonna wish
That you were dead.
If you don’t leave my kitten all alone.
Well, I told you, big, fat bulldog tom cat,
You better leave her alone.

Well, alright!
Hey! Hey!
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

Well, Mister Dog Tom
I’m gonna hit you on the top of your head.
That gal is gonna miss you,
You’re gonna wish
That you were dead.

If you don’t leave my kitten all alone, oh yeah.
Well, I told you, big, fat bulldog tom cat,
You better leave her alone.

You better leave,
You better leave,
You better leave,
Yeah, you better leave,
You better leave,
Oh, you got to leave
Yeah, hey!
Well, I told you, big, fat bulldog tom cat.

A Sordid Tail (boom, boom!)

Kat the Cat is playing up again.

She’d become almost normal for a short while there – you know, just sleeping a lot, eating, purring, lying on the windowsill and doing other regular, lazy cat things. In the past 24 hours, all that has changed, and she has run away, been found, half-eaten a very large spider (and left the other half on my bed), burnt her whiskers on a candle, started illicit affairs with some local tom cats, bitten my big toe, brained herself on the conservatory door, and got stuck on the roof. It has been a rather stressful time.

She disappeared yesterday evening – not a big deal for cats, generally, but Kat always stays within earshot in case I decide to give her more food – and I eventually took off walking around the estate with Red, forlornly shouting “KAT!” and yet again wishing I’d had the foresight when I was naming her to realise how ridiculous and embarrassing this scenario would be. (Red thought it might be quite funny if every cat in the estate tried to respond to the crazy woman shouting for “cat”, in a sort of Pied Piper-ish type of situation.) I even got in the car and drove up and down the Grove Road in a most pathetic manner, scouring the sides of the road for dead cats. You can’t say I don’t know how to enjoy myself.

Eventually I accepted that she was dead and returned home to mourn. Jay, who was being very sweet and comforting (possibly out of shame and repentance for all his anti-Kat remarks and threats) came round to distract me with a guitar lesson, and left after midnight, telling me to go to bed. I refused, and sat on in the living room, staring sadly and dementedly at a chewed purple mouse and a little pink jingly ball. My grieving was interrupted by wild cheering and whooping, and I looked outside to see my neighbours dancing in a line down my garden path, singing loudly. It seemed an odd way to cheer anyone up, especially so late at night, but they do things differently, sometimes. I opened the door. “We found her!!” shrieked E2, thrusting a startled and totally indignant Kat the Cat into my arms. I was very happy.

I was not so happy this evening, when I realised why she’d taken off. It seems that she’s come into heat again, and is seeking ‘companionship’. This in itself wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t for the 700 or so desperate male cats that have set up a vigil in my garden. They are just sitting there, staring at the house with wild, obsessive glints in their eyes. And the noise! They’re howling and yowling and moaning and groaning like zombies, and I feel a little surrounded and vulnerable. What if they break in and take over my house? If one bites me, will I turn into a howling cat when there’s a full moon? Plus there’s just something sick about the way they’re all prowling around waiting for my innocent little kitty to come outside so that they can ravage her. Evil, horrible creatures. Kat doesn’t exactly diffuse the situation by sitting in the porch glaring out at them and hissing, giving the odd blood-curdling wail for good measure. It’s getting to be a bit much, to be honest. I’d like to scream, but I don’t want to get the toms any more agitated.

I just wanted a simple life, you know.

Driven to Despair (Part 2)

Continued from yesterday’s post.

I look at the passing delapidated buildings, murals, flags and gangsters with mounting concern. How has this happened? I was so close to Belfast Central Station that I was practically on the railway track, and now here I am, apparently in the ganglands of the Bronx. A text arrives from Dirk as I’m sitting at a set of smashed traffic lights outside a shop with a smashed window, studiously ignoring a smashed man who is staggering around my car. We here says the text. Well, that’s great. They’re there. Where is there, and how did I get here, when I was so nearly there?

I dither nervously at the crossroads as the lights turn from red to green yellow to yellow. It would seem that I have 4 options. Go left: all streetlights broken. Would be venturing into unknown. Go right: crowd of hooded men walking down middle of road. Possible car-jacking scenario. Go straight ahead: road bends sharply after a few metres. Who knows what could be around the corner? Give up and go home: tempting. But selfish.

I opt for straight ahead, going on the theory that things can’t really get any worse. Obviously, I am completely wrong about this, and I find myself driving into a rather terrifying housing estate. It’s a labyrinth of roads, sub-roads, and mini-roads. I am more lost than the 100th sheep, and I don’t think anyone is looking for me.

I pull over to reply to Dirk’s text. Got stuck at roadworks. Be there ASAP. This is true, in a really vague, clever kind of way.

10 minutes later I am in full-on panic mode, as there is No Way Out of this housing estate. Scary men are everywhere, watching me as I drive up and down and round and round and in and out, with an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, my nose pressed against the windscreen (my instinctive reaction when I don’t know where I’m going). Tears well up in my eyes as my driving becomes so erratic that Rio the Clio begins to leave the ground when we hit the odd speed bump here and there. Oh my Goddddd! I wail pathetically, Listen, God, I’m scared, and I’m late, and I don’t think there’s any way to escape this place, but please, please, get me the hell out of here, please, please, please… there is no amen, as I begin to mindlessly chant these last words, sounding quite hysterical and maybe a little bit mad.

I swerve to avoid a snarling dog in the road, panic as I almost smash into an oncoming car as a result, and make a rapid left turn in an effort to escape the situation. I emerge on to a main road in a vaguely familiar looking part of Belfast. There is a sign with an arrow on it, which reads Central Station. I consider weeping for joy, just so that I can write it in my blog. (e.g. Weeping for joy, I follow the signposts to Belfast’s Central Station, where my friends are delighted to see me, and we all live happily ever after.) Instead, I pull myself together and focus furiously on not misunderstanding the sign.

Five minutes later, I pull into Central Station and try to enter the carpark through the Exit Only gate. I am severely reprimanded by a stout and disinterested security man who blows smoke in my face and calls me ‘Lav’. He suggests I use the Entry Only gate instead. This sounds fair; however, I am forced to admit to myself after a few rather embarrassing minutes of driving past the same security guard at regular 20-second intervals, that I cannot in fact locate the Entry Only gate. Fortunately, no one seems to mind when I park at the taxi rank, where I phone my travelling friends and demand that they find me. (Which they do with no difficulty whatsoever, because they are Not Like Me.)

I feel it was one of my more successful journeys. Bloggably speaking, of course.

Driven to despair

I went to Belfast last night to pick up some friends at Central Station. For this reason, they were very fortunate to get home at all.

It’s a relatively new thing for me to have the confidence to drive through Belfast. The lanes confuse me and the traffic scares me, because everyone else knows what they’re doing and I’m the Effin’ Woman Driver dithering and swerving like a disorientated child playing blind man’s buff. However, thanks to Google Maps and their handy routefinder, I’m beginning to venture in now and again, trusting their step-by-step directions to get me to my destination.

Confidently I headed off along the M2. Continue on to the M3 said my Google Map print-out. I obeyed. It was easy. Take the A2 exit marked Belfast (E)/Newcastle said my Google Map print-out. MAJOR ROADWORKS AHEAD said the large luminous signs on the motorway. That’s OK, because I’m taking the next exit said I. A2 exit Belfast (E)/Newcastle CLOSED said the large luminous signs on the motorway. Oh, crap said I, as I sailed dismally past the exit I needed to take, all cordoned off and forbidden.

I drifted helplessly along the proverbial creek, having lost my paddle.

Before long, I found myself in the middle of Belfast, frightened and alone, with 20 minutes remaining before the train arrived at the station that might as well have been in a small village in Co. Wicklow, for all the hope I had of finding it. All my directions had depended on me coming off the motorway at that particular point. I realised with a sudden surge of impending doom that the only way I had even a hope of finding the station was by thinking rationally and employing a large measure of Common Sense. This was quite a depressing realisation, as these are not characteristics that are generally associated with me.

I decided to pray fervently instead. Dear Lord, I said in a wobbly, panicky voice, clutching the steering wheel like a drowning man clinging to a piece of wreckage, please get me to Central Station. I am very lost, and I don’t know where to go. If you don’t help me, I will get even more lost. Please don’t let me end up on the Falls or the Shankill. Amen. I opened my eyes. (Only kidding. I had, of course, kept my eyes open. Driving with your eyes shut is apparently quite dangerous, and should be avoided.) Just around the next corner, I saw a sign marked A2, and figured it would be a good place to start. I followed it. A few minutes later, I saw a sign marked Central Station. I whooped and cheered and grinned like a lunatic. Thank you, God! I announced gratefully. The sign had a large arrow on it. I like signs with arrows because they are absolutely impossible to misunderstand.

It’s fairly unsurprising, then, that I managed to misunderstand the sign, and found myself hurtling into a dark, eerie, flag-draped area of East Belfast, the kind with shady-looking characters standing on street corners, concealing guns underneath their jackets.

This was it. I was going to die.

To Be Continued