New Year, New Hails…

Went to a Murder Mystery party at the Monkeyperson house on Saturday night. It was a lot of fun, particularly because I got to play a world famous journalist and also wear a blonde wig. I think I like the blonde look, you know. I’m seriously considering it. “I felt like a girl!” I exclaimed in wonder to a friend today as I was describing it.

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I went to collect Red, who emerged from his mother’s house as an East End gangster, complete with top hat and revolver. “Alright, dahlin’?” he drawled as he got into the car, “Champagne Charlie’s the name.” I nodded in the manner of one who is completely accustomed to suave gangsters getting into her car. “Kitty Killer,” I said snootily. I was introducing myself rather than accusing him of caticide, but he did look momentarily confused. The moment was ruined anyway by Ma coming to the door to wave goodbye to her wee son. The moment she caught sight of me she began to laugh so heartily that she couldn’t even speak, and eventually I gave up and just drove away, leaving her doubled over at the end of her garden path. I will admit that the scarlet lipstick and the beret were extremely Un-Me, never mind the golden curls.

Neither Red nor I spoke for a few moments, Ma’s laughter still ringing in our ears as we left the estate. “Hails,” he said eventually, gazing at me in wonder, “you look…”

There was a short pause as he searched desperately for the words. “Like a hooker?” I suggested. “Yes!” he agreed, looking relieved. “Exactly like a hooker!”

Well… it was about time for a change of image, I suppose.

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Stuffed cat – the new Christmas delicacy

Did you miss me?

I have returned home, complete with my bags full of presents from Santa, and a sick cat. My parents haven’t quite got the concept of cat stomachs being smaller than human stomachs, so every time I turned around I saw Kat gorging herself on a turkey leg or a cocktail sausage. I went to put food in her dish the other night and discovered it was piled high with gammon slices. It’s all very well, but I’m now faced with the problem of a gastronomic feline who looks at me with utter contempt when presented with my humble offering of Go-Cat or Felix cat food.

Never mind the fact that the second we got home she wandered huffily into the conservatory and promptly threw up all over the floor.

I texted Mum to inform her that because of her giving spirit I was having to deal with something that nobody should ever have to face: cleaning up cat boke. I expected sympathy and apologies. I received neither. Her reply was instant, and said it all:

Poor Kat!

Merry Christmas!

I’m going to stay with The Parents for a couple of days. Kat’s coming too -we’d be lonely here on our own. Anyway, they don’t have a computer, let alone internet access, so I’ll be taking a break from blogging for a wee while. Don’t worry, I’ll take notes and write it up when I get home…

Hope you all have a great Christmas!

“And so this is Christmas…”

Tonight was our annual Family Night Out.

The Parents, The Sister, The Boyfriend and myself went for dinner at a new place in town called Hussh. I’m pretty sure they’ve made a mistake with their phonetics and it should probably be spelt “Hushh”, but not to worry. It was a lovely meal. I had one of those pizzas that are so hot they make the skin underneath your eyes sweat. Fabulous.

We went on to the Blackstone afterwards. Sitting at the bar, I was slightly startled when a woman with very loud Belfast accent grabbed my handbag, threw it at me, flung herself across the bar and yelled “*£$%#  @***$£!£*!  *$%****!!”, or words to that effect. The gist of it was that her sister (whom she referred to as **%&$*  &**!!*  @~#!*) had taken her credit card to pay for a round of drinks, and it was my fault. And also the barman’s.

Bemused, I looked around nervously for an escape route. “‘$!&*@~#!” howled Angry Girl. I stayed put. “I am totally calm!” she announced to nobody in particular. Mum and The Sister were giggling into their drinks beside me, and made no effort to engage me in any form of fake conversation. “Excuse me!” added Angry Girl, her face suddenly appearing half an inch from my nose, “Did you – did anyone – my @*#&! sister!! – did anyone steal your money?” “Err, no” I replied politely. This appeared to be the wrong answer, because she glared at me and pounded the bar. “I’m so totally calm!” she yelled violently.

I twisted desperately in my seat. “Hello!” I said suddenly to a surprised-looking guy standing nearby. “Hi,” he replied uncertainly. “My @*&#! sister!” screamed Angry Girl. “What, now? Yes, of course!” I babbled insanely, leaping off the bar stool and diving towards the now-very-confused-looking man. “I’m totally calm,” mentioned Angry Girl in a ferocious roar. “Please just walk, please,” I hissed in Confused Guy’s ear, as Angry Girl began screaming her drinks order at the barman. Mum and Sister were in convulsions in their safe little huddle. Confused Guy scurried off in the opposite direction, and I followed him determinedly as if I’d been waiting for him all night. Crash! Fizz! @~#!$&!@! came the distant sounds of Angry Girl spilling drinks behind us.

“Thanks,” I said to Confused Guy, rummaging in my bag for my car keys. “Enjoy the rest of your night. Merry Christmas.”

I left him standing looking totally bewildered, and marched out of the pub. As I walked to where I’d parked the car, I phoned Mum. “Thanks for dinner, Mum!” I said cheerfully. “I’m away. Have to get up early for the radio show tomorrow, y’know.” Mum was laughing a lot. I could hear muffled squeals of @!$*%!!! in the background.

And that was the Christmas Night Out. Season of goodwill. Joy, peace and all that. It’s beautiful.

Driving in a Winter Wonderland

How pretty! I am driving to work for the last time before Christmas, and God has been out overnight with his snow-spray and glitter, decorating the landscape. The countryside is a real, live Christmas card, all frosty white and glimmering and shimmering and glittery.

How festive! The radio is playing back-to-back jingly fa-la-la songs, and I crank up the volume and sing along cheerfully, smiling broadly at every fellow motorist I meet. A wee robin perches on a frost-dusted hedge, and the morning sun glows orangely in my wing mirror.

How perfect! Everything around me shines with a dazzling white sheen, and the very road ahead sparkles like fairy dust. I feel a great surge of love for all of creation, and sigh contentedly as I turn left on to the road where my workplace awaits.

As Rio the Clio, quite independently, continues to turn left after I have finished doing so, it occurs to me belatedly that second gear might have been a good idea. “Crap!” I exclaim suddenly, as we spin merrily on the pretty glittery surface. Words of wisdom from wiser friends flood my brain in a split second, having been stored there previously for just such an occasion as this. Don’t brake! they say calmly. Steer into the skid!

An inner battle takes place between these recalled snippets of advice and my small reserve of common sense, which points out – albeit slightly less calmly – that if I steer into the skid I will just drive nicely over the hedge and land in someone’s back yard. I make an executive decision and turn right. Rio continues to turn left. “Crap, CRAP!!!” I shriek panickily. Both common sense and words of wisdom fly out the window and I yank the steering wheel furiously in both directions. Happily, Rio the Clio turns at the last second before entering the hedge. Less happily, she slides gracefully sideways and veers over to the other side of the road.

“Crap, crap, CRAAAAAAAAAAP!!!!!!!!” is actually all I can think of to say, despite having a much larger store of appropriate words than you might imagine. The hedge is no longer my immediate problem, as I reckon I have approximately 5 seconds before the approaching truck is upon me. Rio is whirling around like an ice skater on drugs, and I might as well be sitting on the roof knitting a scarf, for all the use I am in the driving seat.

Finally, into my frazzled brain pops the sagest piece of advice I have ever heard. It was once spoken by Homer Simpson, and is simply this: Note to self – Stop Doing Anything. I sit very still, apart from the involuntary trembling, and realise that – yes! – the car has slowed down and glided back on to the correct side of the road. We are even pointing in the right direction. With a shaky sigh, I sheepishly allow Rio the Clio to skid into the gateway, slide along the lane, and come to a gentle halt in the car park. I lay my head on the steering wheel.

Stupid, sparkly, frosty, glittery roads.

Baggy Science

It is with mild interest that I have just been reading a carrier bag.

Not many people can say that. Mainly because most people don’t read carrier bags, but also because anyone who does probably can’t say they do so with any degree of interest. This plastic bag is 100% degradable* but you can still reuse it! Thus says the large print on my Co-Op bag. Normal people probably glance at it and are content to leave it at that; I, however, cannot ignore the enticing lure of an asterisk in any circumstance. Hence my opening statement about my detailed reading of said carrier bag.

Apparently my plastic bag will start to degrade in approximately 18 months from the date of its manufacture (which, helpfully, can be found on the bottom of the bag). The whole process will take about 3 years.

I am understandably intrigued.

What will the bag look like as it starts to degrade? Will I be able to keep a photo diary of the degradation process? At the end of the 3-year-long ordeal, will it just have vanished into thin air, or will there be a small pile of dust in its place? Obviously, this will be a fascinating scientific study. Also, perhaps I can sue them under the Trade Descriptions Act if the bag is still in existence after the agreed time period has elapsed.

So, for the record, my carrier bag was manufactured in June this year. That means that by this time next year, the plastic should have started to degrade. By Christmas 2011, it will have vanished completely. Like magic, only scientific! It is all very exciting. I have placed my experimental bag in the kitchen, inside a camel-shaped mug that The Sister brought me from Tunisia. Now all we do is wait expectantly for the magic to begin.

Not that I’m likely to forget about an experiment on such a level as this, but if you happen to be someone who has randomly stumbled across this blog entry in December 2011, do you think you could be a sweetheart and leave me a comment to remind me to check on my science project? Awfully good of you, thanks.

Stupid is as stupid does.

Have just found the following rant in my saved drafts. I have but a vague recollection of writing it on Saturday evening, having just returned from experiencing the delight that is Ballymena town centre one week before Christmas. In my defence, my annual migraine was in full swing, and I was exhausted…

Stupid town full of inconsiderate morons who stop for a yarn right in the middle of the street and don’t budge, so that the only way to make any progress whatsoever is to put your head down, square your shoulders and bore through.

Stupid shops playing stupid loud music and making it impossible to think straight over the already headache-inducing roar of stupid spoilt screaming brats throwing temper tantrums over selection boxes and stupid noisy toys.

Stupid one-way road layout in stupid town centre, with cars queued as far as the eye can see and stupid impatient eejits blaring their stupid horns as if it’s going to change the situation.

Stupid sodding PIPE BAND standing playing wailing and screeching outside the Fairhill Centre in their stupid uniforms, and then parading through the mall when you’re trying to get into Starbucks in a last-ditch effort to regain some sanity.

Stupid queues tailing back throughout every single stupid shop, meaning you have to stand for half an hour every time you buy something, even if it is just a stupid, tiny keyring.

Happy Christmas? I quit.

By the time I eventually waded my way through the bagpipers to stand in the mile-long Starbucks queue, I was on the verge of tears. As I neared the counter, Kate appeared, weaving artfully through the crowds of shoppers and kilted ‘musicians’. “I think I’m going to cry,” I greeted her as she joined me. “Not-a-tall,” she replied briskly in her most no-nonsense voice, taking instant control of the situation and getting to grips with the ordering process. We fought our way to a table, bringing with us 2 gingerbread lattes, a muffin, and several chocolate-smothered pastry thingies. A brief silence ensued. The desire to cry did indeed fade. However, the headache remains even now – it is only just starting to fade, 3 days later.

Ballymena + Christmas: not for the faint-hearted (or the prone to migraines).