Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Notes From the Loony Bin


I don't handle it well.

The pool pump gave up the ghost with a very loud bang this weekend.

While I was home alone.

A few feet from my ear. Outside my sewing room. Where I was sitting at the time

Causing my heart to momentarily stop.

In a word, stress.

Like cannon fire.


One loud and ominous bang!

I looked out the window in consternation. Old Faithful was spewing skywards---from the pool pump. I ran in circles, like a chicken with its head cut off, for just a few seconds, before some straggler of a brain cell told me

"Quick! Turn off the pump!"

A wall of water blocked my way---but, like a good chicken, I ran around from the other side, found the switches and turned them off. Old Faithful calmed instantly.

Whew! Thinking under pressure! Little Blister would be proud!

The menfolk returned from golf and stroked their chins.

Then one went to the airport and one off to school.

Leaving me to make phone calls, trying to sound confident and knowledgeable, so some charlatan won't get a gleam in his eye and think

"Aha! A pigeon, ripe for the plucking!"

Because pool pump parts are not cheap.

And Charlatans have a very strong union in these here parts.

Monday morning I had to go to work [avoidance tactic #1] I can't make difficult phone calls if I'm at work. See Molly smile!. Unfortunately I have lovely hours and was home by three. Plenty of time to make the dreaded phone calls. Hmmm.....

So, bracing myself, I made the calls, in great trepidation, being careful to sound like I knew all about lids and bands and filters and what-nots. It all made me want to curl up in a corner with my blankie. Make the world go away please....lalalalalalala!  I told them I was just getting prices and would call them on the morrow.

Now it is the morrow. The OC is still up north. The Bean is still in school. I stand in my sewing room and think frantically

  "I need to sew something!"

"No you don't!" declares a voice in my head, crossly.

"You need to grow some balls and make those calls!"

But, but, but I don't want to grow balls! Apart from the fact that it would be biologically impossible.... I want to sew....or, or, maybe I could make some cinnamon rolls? It's ages since I made any of those. Wouldn't that be nice? Mmmmmmm! Warm cinnamon buns...can't you just smell them? Divine! I even know where to get a great recipe!"

Cross Voice, losing patience fast, says " You need to focus and quit quibbling. The pool is the problem. It needs to be fixed. It needs to be fixed now. And you, Madam, need to do it!"

"But, but, its not fair! I'm not genetically wired for this."

Plucked as an innocent from the bogs of Ireland,  I'm wired for long walks over the hills,  making quilts,  dreaming, scribbling, baking and cooking and growing things, with  lots of help from the Bean, granted. I'm a persona non grata at the moment because the weeds have taken over the vegetable garden  he worked so hard to prepare for me, and I've done nothing about it---because---it's been too bloody hot here! Which is why I should get myself re-wired so I can tackle all this pool fixing nonsense [so people can jump in and cool off.]

Maybe I should call the Little Blister? [avoidance tactic #3]

Maybe I should go for a prolonged visit with her? [tactic#4] Back to where I can handle what life throws my way?  We sneaked, behind my mother's back, to the river at Corbally to cool off, in the summers when we were young. No pool pumps needed. It's been ages since we walked across the Burren together. Or walked along the Rine when the tide was out. And we're not getting any younger.

Now that I've decided which company to go with, the guy is taking his sweet [donkey] time about calling me back. Eating into my sewing, cooking, and cinnamon bun baking time.

I think I'll go make them anyway, while I'm waiting. Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pastry and Wit, a Match Made in Heaven

Today was an un-working day. Which didn't mean I didn't have a list as long as my arm of "things to do," just that I didn't have to be up, dressed and clicking my heels at 6:30 a.m.

After the departure, for the Halls of Academe, of the Bean, always a blur of books, coffee and slamming doors, with exasperated eye rolling on the side from GF, who arrives in plenty of time and then w-a-i-t-s, I sighed with relief, fed the cat, and took myself and my coffee to the sewing room to check e-mails and catch up on blogs.

I planned on maybe half an hour. But I got side tracked [can you believe it?] I clicked on an interesting link on someone's blog, which led me to more interesting links...you know how it goes. If you put a gun to my head I could not retrace the path that brought me here. Pastry Methods and Techniques --- Fascinating, right? Bet you're not even tempted to check it out. But you should! The name is the only dull thing about it.

List as long as my arm of chores to do? It had to wait. I was riveted by her writing and laughing out loud at the wit and general snarkiness and the recipes.

Oh. Not interested in food blogs? Me neither. They usually put me to sleep. But this one is different. I would read this even if there were no recipes. I guess what I'm saying is this woman is a talented writer first. She just happens to write about food. I usually lurk around for a few weeks before adding a new blog to my list. I knew there was no need to lurk here. Signed myself up on the spot. Check it out. You just might love it instantly, as I did!

Meanwhile the "To-do" list was being sorely neglected. I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Pastry Chef! The OC recently bought a truck. Men must have their toys.....It was to replace the Beast, whose untimely demise was documented here. It needed a liner, but what with the OC being back up north and the Bean back at school, it fell to me to take it to the liner place----and me without a pair of bib overalls or even a straw hat to my name! It's been with us for a month but I have managed to avoid driving it until today. When I had no choice. Turns out it's a bit bigger than the Nissan, but otherwise not much different to drive. No one ended up in the hospital, and the truck sustained no dents. Done and dusted! Until tomorrow....when I have to go and pick it up.

Phone calls to insurance company! I'd been procrastinating on that one. Least favourite people to have to call ---but it's done!

Visit to Father-in-Law. The irony. Of all people, he's stuck with me....must be karma! But what did I do? But, see that notch in my halo? Sat there and listened for almost an hour! Which in real terms means I'm off the hook for tomorrow....

And I got a haircut--no more woolly mammoth look-alike!

I'd say I took care of that "To-do" list down to about the elbow.

Which is a good day's work for an un-working day.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

My Life As A Scribe

*Warning: Long, rambling post ahead. A letter about letters to you, my bloggy friends. If you are at all inclined to read it, you might want to wait until you have a few quiet moments, a nice cup of tea and patience for a lot of blather and Blarney.....

Funny title from someone whose pen has been dry for almost a month! It doesn't mean I've stopped. It just means I'm overwhelmed. I'm in awe of all you bloggers---I'm lookin' at you Thimbleanna!---who work full time, run a household, bake cupcakes at the drop of a hat, quilt like someone's got a gun to their head, craft like there's forty hours in a day, and still manage to blog regularly!

Not content with the life of Reilly, I recently allowed myself to be sweet-talked into helping out at a friend's office. It's only two days a week, but what a difference those two days make! Life was passing me by at a gallop before. Now Monday is no sooner over than Whoosh! It's Monday again! It's making me dizzy.

The blog's been a wasteland as a consequence. But I'm on it! "Writer" magazine keeps repeating the same old mantra---If you want to write, you've got to write every day. So Molly Bawn has decided to heed that advice, for better or for worse....

Writing, after all, is how I bring order to the chaos. Whether what I write is good, bad, or indifferent matters not. The act of writing soothes me, satisfies me, and once in a while, something I write finds an echo out there. Of course there are exceptions. Take last night for instance. I'd been reading "Writer" magazine, which I borrow occasionally from the library, especially when the clue bag is on "empty." So, heeding the "Write every day" advice, I wrote down a word, and then another, and then a few more, in hopes that something would evolve. Something evolved alright. A few hours later I had a post. All I needed was a picture. Duly toddled off to Flickr and found an appropriate image. But between the hopping and the trotting, and "blog this" and "copy" and "paste," I ended up with a blank page. My howls of anguish were heard in Canada, I'm sure. So, add to my virtues Humility, hard won. Sometimes, though the blog gods seem cruel, one comes to the realization that they were right after all. It was a load of rubbish. Better not to have embarrassed one's self.

The scratch of pen on paper has always been music to me. After years of practice in the primary grades,I decided to go global in secondary school. Allison in Beloit, Wisconsin, was my first pen friend. She wrote faithfully for several years. Beloit, Wisconsin might as well have been on the dark side of the moon, but at least Allison wrote in English. She was crafty too, handy at the sewing. One year, for my birthday, she made me a red flannel nightgown. When the nightgown was washed it turned everything else in that laundry load a rosy shade of pink!

Then there was Anne-Marie who wrote from Alsace-Lorraine. In French. Which made me feel very sophisticated, though Mrs. Penny's drills on "La plume de ma tante" did little to help me understand letters from a French teenager, written in cursive. We were loved and sheltered and nourished, but there weren't many luxuries. So when Anne-Marie sent me a tiny pot of sweet-smelling perfume, I treasured it, eked it out for years. And I still have a letter-opener she sent me in the shape of a sword.

Anne-Marie sent photos of herself and her family, black and white with scalloped edges [the photos, not the family.]I poured over those photos, trying to imagine what it must be like to be Anne-Marie, to live in France and, [hardest of all to imagine] to have French dropping casually from my lips, something the long-suffering Mrs. Penny could only dream of!

Undaunted by the fact that the nuns didn't offer German at my school, I found another pen-friend, Gisela from Konigstein-Taunus. Gisela wrote to me in passable English, and I replied---in slightly more passable English. But I had a secret plan. Armed with a "German for Beginners" book I'd spent my scant allowance on, I planned to teach myself German. Now, who wants to say I'm not an optimist?

Eventually life moved on and letters to overseas strangers fell by the wayside, partly due, I'm sure, to my failure to advance, with any alacrity, beyond ""La plume de ma tante." How amazed I would have been back then if someone had told me that, in my life, I would live near each of the places those penfriends wrote me from!

Meantime, off to Dub-a-lin in the green, in the green.........to college, where I stayed in a hostel run by nuns. There was, apparently, no getting away from them. They were strategically positioned all around the country, bent on defending, for a modest monthly fee, the virtue of young innocents like myself. I'm sure my mother was overjoyed that I'd have three squares a day, responsible supervision and a curfew, all without breaking the bank. Not that I was financially in a position to be kicking my heels up with or without supervision of the nun-ly sort.

There were no cell phones, no computers, no texting, no voice mail, and telephone charges were astronomical, so that left the post office, whose services I used once a week to communicate with my family "down the cunthry." The letters home could have been as dull as ditch water. Life for a young "culchie" in the big city was fairly humdrum, especially for an impoverished young culchie, who got the princely sum of one Irish pound for pocket money every week. Besides, it was an all-girl college---what on earth had I been thinking? Not wanting to bore the folks at home to death, I set about making my letters interesting. I'd pick on small, inconsequential incidents and find the comedy in them. And so they looked forward to the weekly epistles and didn't forget me.

And when I went to a small town up near the border with Northern Ireland to teach, I hit a rich vein of material for those letters home. And in the fullness of time I met the OC, but most of the time there was an ocean between us, so that meant more letters! There's a box of them in a closet somewhere; better attend to it before I get much further into my dotage. Wouldn't want the children falling around after we're gone, helpless with mirth at the lovelorn ramblings of their staid parents!

I still have letters my parents wrote me after we were married. They're tucked away in the drawer of my night table...When I look at their distinctive hand writing it's like catching a glimpse of a loved and familiar face.....Faces I miss still, after all these years. In that same drawer I have letters from friends I've met and left, from all the places we've lived; letters telling me of the births of their children, the progress of their lives, of deaths and divorces, joys and sorrows, and asking about ours.

And now, even I, old time scribe [or chicken scratcher] that I am, hardly write letters any more. E-mail is so quick and convenient. But you can't hold it in your hand and it doesn't have the distinctive seal of a friend's unique hand writing. So, once in a while I do still write letters. And once in a while my old, scattered friends do too, particularly on birthdays, because we know the thrill of seeing our name on an envelope, in familiar handwriting, tangible proof that, though geographically removed from each, we still care enough to sit down and write. I never rip it open right away. I draw out the pleasure by tucking it in my pocket, waiting until I have a few quiet moments, making myself a nice cup of tea, and then settling down for a luxurious read.