Sunday 4 September 2022

The king of wishful thinking


Doing nowt but a bit of thinking is more enjoyable than we imagine, according to latest research. So sat in the garden on Saturday to think. After a lot of tea, I thought of all the visitor complaints about our downstairs convenience, and the inconvenient inability to properly flush.  Beyond building a new lav in the garage, only one visitor, a cousin formerly known as my fave, offered a solution to the many complaints: a new syphon. I didn’t know toilets had syphons but on thinking, realise this is obvious.


My uninterrupted thoughts were interrupted by Uni-gal’s Uni re-pack. I taught that child many things, but clearly not how to pack effectively. In return she taught me the joy of finding out things you didn’t know, aided by the net. I told her my syphon story. She didn’t class it as a story. I’ll show her. A quick web crawl and I was elbows deep in the cistern, measuring bits as instructed on They didn’t tell me how tricky it is to read a tape measure submerged in water without your reading glasses, but I think ‘that’ll do’ and a new one is on order.



Head to the Flea with the ScFiFan for the ‘exciting vintage and makers market’. Briefly looked for something fabulous and unusual, but being ‘over’ the accumulating phase of life, I decide against adding to my collection of dust collectors. A jolly and eclectic mix it was, but too early for the promised Vinegar Yard lunch we headed to the tried and tested Borough market for the guaranteed delicious offerings. The taking of wrong turns, and wearing of the wrong shoes, won’t add much to a market exploration series. But a sunny afternoon drink in the roof top garden bar at Queen Elizabeth Hall is thoroughly recommended.


Home again, Home again. And a return to toilet tales. The Syphon is not yet shipped. A brief encounter with the Boy’s forceful flushing, and the flusher has gone from a bit ineffective to total breakdown. Yesterday’s thinking led me to know, more intimately than I would like, toilet innards, and without any expensive tools I managed a temp fix, simply aided by a discarded tent peg found among the debris discarded by uni-gal. That counts as win.



A bank holiday bonus day, where I got to clear personal paperwork without wasting my weekend. In the depths of middle age that also counts as a win. A dull day was buoyed up by sitting in the garden with friends pretending it is still summer, wrapped in blankets.



To the west end for a lovely supper with the super Producer, where we took a large breath on meeting and didn’t come up for air until the long overdue gassing was done. 


Wednesday and Thursday

A blur of activity to fit in the work I won’t be doing while taking time off on a long weekend away. Still no sign of the syphon. 



Leave a sweltering muggy London and land in buckets of rain in the Emerald Isle.  Didn’t bother with my usual beach pit stop for the taking of deep breaths, while marvelling at some of Mother Nature’s best work as the entire Kingdom was under back clouds and a grey mist so thick you couldn’t see the sea.  This was not the trip I was thinking of. Discussed the world, woes and wonders over dinner in the Dingle Bay with a favoured relation and ended the evening with some of the black stuff and more of my faves. Carrying on with the thinking business I think it strange the last time I chatted in depth with a faved niece - who lives a stone’s throw from me in London - was here in Dingle.

Friday 26 August 2022

Crazy Train


Out of touch with the bed-time weather watch, start early at 5am in lashing rain. Running round the garden in PJs in the pishing rain, regret the volume and assortment of patio cushions and throws that I a) own and b) have left out. Opted to avoid the Tetris game to get big wet things in the not quite big enough cushion box, so just threw them in the door. Back in bed, dreamed of dining room dramas in a damp cushion shop.  Awake for the second time I  prepped for work by stalking t’net for wedding pix of my friend’s daughter. She totally nailed that beautiful bridal look.


To the hospital for yet another post-cancer check. My life-saving surgery left a mutilated mess, that due to Covid and other waiting list pressures took four years to resolve. Was relieved that my recent MRI shows all is well: the implant is not leaking, just my body pushing back agin the alien invasion.


To the South Bank for a work white-board sesh. Can’t complain about travelling South when my lovely colleague was schleping from Wales. In the muggy weather I ditched travel trainers and opted for sandals. A tap dancer preacher sharing notions of peace, love and harmony serenaded my Piccadilly Line trip, but redeemed himself by calling me ‘his queen’. Footwear error materialised as a tourist’s oversized suitcase spun out of control and caught my almost bare foot as I changed lines. Limped to the Northern Line which was working overdrive in the heat, with a brain-splitting racket, only a fraction more jarring than tap shoes, and with a lot less rhythm.  A walk along a corridor, downstairs, up some other stairs, around a corner and into a lift - a quick and easy station exit does not make. Mixing with work mates is lush and productive n’all that, but the sweat box office and missed connections home add to why I prefer watering the allotment to commuting. Inspired by feedback on the blog, spend the evening on the old cliché collection that is my oeuvre.  Don’t think Alan Bennett need worry.


A thunderstorm woke me. Two cushions left in the garden last night, were left to drown as the dining room remains a dank cushion emporium. Welcomed the lack of watering now needed at the crispy patch, especially in this latest hose-pipe ban. When it dried out long enough to do some harvesting I thought it's a great year for blackberries, tomatoes and spuds. No clue what's happened to the courgettes, squashes and pumpkins. Spied a fox carrying a single shoe across the lottie. Wonder at the symbolism but then raced to pick up the boy’s car. It’s a manual. I’m out of practice with the gear things. Think his little black insurance box may just have got his worst score ever.


Wake. Write my journal. Drink a pint of water. March for 30 minutes and start the step count towards 10k, ablutions, laundry, dishwasher, wordle and still at my home desk by 9.05am. At lunchtime I think about practising mindfulness and gratitude, but wonder instead why I put obstacles to time wasting in my day. Think about 5 portions of home grown freshly harvested veg and fruit, but opt for more deliciously unhealthy munch.

Making plans for the long weekend, am inspired by Alan Bennet’s diaries, where, if only for the sake of his diary, he records his visits to tiny churches. This weekend Britain’s biggest SciFiFan and I will explore more of London’s markets, as Churches aren't our thing. And there's not too many lighthouses in London, as diarised by another author. We’ve rejected Portobello as the Notting Hill Carnival is on. And although I am seeking thrills/looking for blog fodder, the crowds are likely just too much.

Monday 22 August 2022

I can’t wait for the weekend to begin


Finally the rains came after the driest of dry spells in decades. The biblical proportions kept me home, and plugged into work longer than usual.


The rain relented. Apart from that small window when I left the house, out of practice in carrying an umbrella.


Arrived early enough in the City to enjoy the magnificence of London's engineering and architecture. I do love art in any form, and firmly subscribe to practicing senseless acts of beauty. Question though, in an urban environment, the creation of a metal tree, instead of an actual green real one. Still, the metal tree, in the shadow of the Gherkin, did look cool. Uncomfortableness increased by sitting outside Swingers Club, while awaiting my work tribe. Thoroughly enjoyed team building, the breaking of bread and fun and games involving bats and balls. My sporting prowess in calling a golf club a bat, shows my pride in said prowess. Loved achieving one of the largest scores, even if the game was won by one with the lowest score, confirming my sports skills.


Tried to process the desperate sadness that a special fellow traveller on what we call our ‘cancer journey’ who started out before me, and inspired my own recovery - including chemo quilting - is no longer with us.


Uni-gal returned for one whole hour to transform her ‘pit of despair’ bedroom. As I had already tackled it, sent her off to buy ice for my 'rewind' festival weekend guests. My lovelies who  morphed over the past 5 decades from disheveled convent school girls into the accomplished and elegant group now known as our very own Personal Board of Directors (PBoDs). We listen to each other’s challenges, make recommendations, and vote on actions. This weekend the agenda included the important business of fat chewing and making merry with cocktails, to the anthems of our youth, with our dedication demonstrated through an 8 hour 80s playlist.  

Attending overseas business, our Chair was missed. Though, I like to think her role as a commercial CEO for a global outfit was shaped, somewhat, by her proficient performance aged 12, to ‘Never smile at a crocodile’.  We met in our second decade, before ambitions, opinions, partners, offspring and professions were imagined, let alone realised. Although in truth our Chair was probably born with ambition.

Hoping the neighbours shared our delight at garden disco lights and 80s revival into the wee small hours. But we don’t often get to gather, free of the debris of our lives. Was surprised at how little we know of each other’s professional lives and discussion did briefly turn to the world of work. After extensive education, training and experience the Psycho(therapist) wondered why she’d bothered when my Forensic friend summarised a difficult issue with a cuttingly quick quip. As the Forensic one mentioned her ever expanding professional role, it was noted, she hasn’t done bad for that girl in the grey ra-ra skirt, fag constantly in gob, who was so brilliant at glaring. The Artist, obviously mainly looked cool, and despite not actually pursuing a career as an artist, will forever retain that school-day signature.


The PBoDs walked through fields and woods to shake off the Friday night excesses, to enjoy brunch, cooked and cleared by none of us. En-route the Spaniard joined us - a label from a couple of years spent on an Spanish island, many moons ago. Like the Artist I pay no attention to the intervening years of career and business building, and retain nicknames of bygone days.

Youth was relived in getting the bus back from brunch. We resisted seating ourselves at the back of the top deck, as once we might - though the giggles and squeals returned, I am sure to the amusement and enjoyment of our fellow travellers. I hope the neighbourhood agrees how lovely these guests were, with the beautiful sounds of raucous laughter, screaming stories of highs and lows, blaring out about boys we may, or may not, have intimately known, and the obligatory and obviously hilarious cock jokes – surely a convent education hangover if ever there was one. We are bound by much: shared and lived experiences, rejected religion and somehow knowing that three is the magic number for offspring.  

Each are lovely, no matter their troubles, all kind, concerned and funny. Really really funny. And I discovered middle aged moms make the best guests: toilet rolls are replenished, washing up is done, recycling finds its way past the kitchen, patio blankets are folded, bathrooms and bedrooms are left as found, and laundry is deposited by machines, without expecting or asking for any of it.


Writing this on Sunday night the house is quiet, but full of flowers, chocolates and cocktail remnants. I ruminate on the joy of old friends, and smile at shared memories of a French teacher chasing a tall boy with a fire extinguisher, around a sports field, cheered by 600 girls hanging out windows.

Feel blessed. And determined that in this next while we will make plans beyond the responsibilities that fill our days and forever include time to laugh at cock jokes.

Roll on the next rewind.

Saturday 13 August 2022

Locks, stock & broken barrels

Last night in London’s latest heat wave I fell asleep in the garden, amid the beauty of blink-and-you-miss-em shooting stars. Magical dreams of stargazing and daring do’s were rudely awoken by my favourite boy shaking me to tell me I was asleep in the garden. Well the house was hot as toast and the garden’s cool breeze allowed me to do community service to the many mozzies and midges who feasted happily enough on me. 

The boy wanted me awake in the wee small hours to share his irritation at being awoken himself by a gaggle of drunk uni-gals trying to break in as the front door was not opening. I tried the door in equal disbelief and irritation. Unusually they were right and open it would not. 

By the time I properly had my bearings, the girls were trundling down the road. With the ever so excellent plan of going the long way round to the back: down our road, into another, across a dark field, to climb through a brambled ditch, and hedge of holly, while wearing the thin and skimpy things so loved by uni-gals on a hot and balmy night. All while ignoring the detail that the locks at the back of the house are as impenetrable as the front. In hindsight I’m glad my boy woke me instead of marauding girls breaching the back boundary. 

I cut through the internal assault course that is our garage and tried to not wake the whole neighbourhood in chasing the girls down the road and pssssting them to join me via the garage. 

Like a gift that keeps on giving, this morning the really convenient door fun continued as my boy came and went a couple of times, before 7.30am via the garage assault course. We take security seriously so opening any of our doors is not easy. To protect our prized possessions such as the laundry, a thousand unfinished art projects, bulk buy specials of toilet roll and the discontinued hobbies of lockdown, opening the garage door is particularly tricky, requiring at least one of you to be awake and inside. My boy, doing the pre-work favours to the dog was outside obviously. 

I had another go at the front door lock but still it would not play.

By this time my uni-gal was up and said she’d let me in via the convenient garage route if I needed to go out. Returning from the crispy patch formerly known as my allotment I knocked to be let in. Then I phoned. Then I rang the doorbell on the useless front door. Again. And again. After a not-so-short short while, stood in the blistering heat, in a moment of karmic harmony the uni-gal was finally roused from her own al-fresco slumber by me holding a finger on the door bell. If I hadn’t woken all the neighbours last night with my slip-slapping flip flops and loud pssssting at the pissed ones, the morning bell should have done the trick. Our previous residents must have been deaf as posts as the doorbell sounds like a fire drill. All so I could be let in to my own home. And yet. She couldn’t open the garage door. In addition to requiring a lock-and bolt negotiator on the inside, a little brute force is also needed. 

Home and dry after her hefty shove, I set about finding somewhere open on a Saturday that both sold and stocked locks. Being a lazy old sort I sought an exact replacement to avoid any filing of holes or repainting of our ancient front door. I now know the usual lock selling shops either don’t open on Saturdays or do not stock our specialist model. Aided by google, I finally found one that both answered the phone and had our lock in stock. After I picked myself up off the floor at the price I wondered if having a human door controller inside the garage at all times was feasible given our many comings and goings. Luckily the available stockist knows his locking onions and asked some pertinent questions. After flummoxing me with lock anatomy and barrels and finishes, he offered some simple advice. The lock might not need replacing. And may not in fact be dead. Just dead-locked. I didn’t know that was a thing. But then again, as life so often demonstrates, you don’t know what you don’t know.  And in my experience, most often, once you do know more of what you didn’t, life and the universe, make so much more sense. 

Back through the garage assault course, squeezing past overflowing shelves and the boiling water tank, in climbing temperatures, and outside with a key I coaxed the lock back from its dead state to the life we know and love as a thing that opens the door to easily let us in and out. 

So, if ever you find yourself in need of locking tips or stock, especially on a Saturday, I can thoroughly recommend

Friday 12 August 2022

Til we meet again

 I took comfort in receiving this picture from my relation on Wednesday evening. It’s a red moon rising over Coum, the place of my mother’s birth, just outside Dingle on the west of Ireland, in the Kingdom of Kerry. It is my happy place so views from there are always welcomed, no matter the darkness of the day.  

Earlier that day we bid final farewell to my brother Jarlath. With his twin John they were the eldest cousins on my mother’s side, from my generation of the Clann a’ Choma, as the Quinn’s from Coum are sometimes known. By strange coincidence, the eldest cousins, my twin brothers, shared a birthday with our youngest cousin, Padraig. 

Today is known by some as the glorious 12th and the start of the grouse season. Shooting ain’t my bag, as in my world mom’s don’t do guns. But it is how I remember my sister Cathy’s anniversary. I saw my first shooting star the night she died. I later discovered it wasn’t any kind of a celestial celebration of her life, as I first thought and hoped.  Apparently clusters of shooting stars are common in mid-August. Still, on the glorious 12th, with shooting stars, she will forever be remembered by me. I’ll be out tonight looking for them in her memory.

We said our goodbyes to her and Jarlath’s twin, John, more than a decade ago.  

Earlier this summer, on the twin’s 70th birthday, and Padraig’s 42nd, Padraig passed. 

I truly wish to not be so acquainted with death and grief. My memories, shared experiences, and photo frames are full of the dead. The symbolism of my surviving siblings now fitting into one car as we accompany a final journey multiples the heartbreak of the individual losses. Despite the distress of the changing ratio of the living to dead in my phone contacts I will not delete them. I want to remember them, without letting the guilt of grief steal my potential moments of joy. For as Buddha said: joy is never diminished by being shared. And I do believe, life is for the living, while we can. But also maybe grief might not weigh quite so heavy in being shared. 

As is the way of families, I share a name with Jarlath’s daughter, Shivaun, and Padraig’s sister, Siobhán. 

On September the 3rd, Siobhán will walk the Dingle Marathon in aid of The Kerry Hospice Foundation, in memory of Padraig. Friends and family plan to join her for sections of her walk.  I hope to as well. 

Padraig received great care from the Kerry Hospice Foundation, a voluntary palliative care organisation. This is Siobháns fundraising page for the Kerry Hospice in memory of Padraig:

And this is Shivaun’s fundraising page for the British Heart Foundation in memory of Jarlath here:

Tuesday 9 August 2022

Rest in peace brother

As Jarlath’s youngest sister one of my earliest childhood memories was him bathing us little ones (most probably as a parental punishment) and his horror at having to deal with my wild long hair, getting shampoo in my eyes and then singing to me to stop my tears, or to stop Mom hearing!

But I can’t think of Jar without thinking of his love of Cars. Cars. Cars. And more cars.

Knowing his car mania our sister Cathy once gave him the money to find her a car. He turned up at our parent’s house in surburban Cockfosters with a bright pink American monstrosity. According to another car obsessed brother it was actually a Chevrolet Camero but it’s position on the driveway was a horror to our Mom.  Jar loved it, and had fits of real belly laughs whenever it was mentioned. He thought it was pink, and therefore a proper statement girl’s car.  Our Dad loved it too and wanted to keep it, although gawd knows what that would have done for his pensioner street cred.

Jarlath was also a very happy camper, which extended to mad-cap camper van conversion plans. Another obsession of his was checking my tyres, oil and water, and would shout in horror at my lacking car maintenance, and general disinterest in motors. The thrill he got from being a petrol head and driving, was lost on me.

Recently I was delighted that he got to take his beloved wife and daughters back to our mother’s birth place in the west of Ireland. I can only imagine what that meant to him after staying away for so long. To me, it is the most magical place in the world.

The legend of where the name Jarlath comes from might go some way to explain Jar’s car thing:

In the province of Connacht, in Western Ireland, within the County of Galway, a 6th century Abbot sent out his monk, Jarlath, to cure his wanderlust.  "Go, and wherever your chariot wheel breaks, there shall be the site of your new monastery". 

Less than 5 miles out, at Tuam, the chariot wheel broke; Jarlath the Monk built a Monastery, and the town of Tuam grew up around it. Today the broken chariot wheel remains the heraldic symbol there. 100 years ago our Pa was born in Tuam (before the Irish Free State was established).

Tomorrow I join my siblings, family and friends to accompany Jar on his final journey.

Rest in peace brother