The Career


[Ostrich metaphor to become apparent next time. Meanwhile: what a bizarro and wonderful creature!)

Hi all. Sort of a blog one-liner, though not of the witty Woody Allen sort. Days rather packed here. Of course, in true FEAST or famine style, this teaching job has neatly clashed with this illustration job, on precisely the same five weeks. OF COURSE they have, of course. This is the immutable law of the freelancer. The rest of the year's diary pages are untouched and virgin-like but these five weeks are full of smudged instructions to self, such as: practice music, make soup, buy ink. I am having to Plan Ahead. Adult.

Speaking of adulthood, I have a moral dilemma I need some guidance on, regarding some people I have inadvertently come to Know Something About in a way they could never suspect. Oh! It is difficult, isn't it, all this responsibility and Application of Judgement. I want to go back to being a teenager with nothing more to worry about than missing Top of the Pops on Thursday evening at 7.25pm, followed by Fame.

Off to visit parents now while the sun is weakly shining. (Btw, my mother seems to be still improving, if not dramatically. Thanks for your kind responses thereto. You are lovely people.)

Till Thursday, all.


Well. I think the letter is done. Like many embarrassing things, it was in fact Useful to push through it, in an amateur Aversion Therapy kind of way.

The expression on Brother's face in this one never fails to make me smile. Doesn't he look hilariously resentful? And I, pure smug? Ah, sibling rivalry.

Hombre, I have been up to my [insert appropriate upper part of anatomy] with work this week, but am feeling strangely optimistic, nonetheless. I accept fully that this makes me weird, but I like this time of year. Ooh, chill in the air, melancholic last gasp of summer, how I love thee.

I have a couple of  minor stories on the subject of: How easily I am influenced, one involving Spike (nephew), the other a previous Head of State. But now, I must go back to work. I am working on a well-known Christmas tale by Dickens. Yes, that one. And the Very Small Timothy character keeps coming out deranged-looking. Why this should be, I cannot say. I was going for delighted. Perhaps the full moon?

Till soon


stir crazy

I have been on house arrest these two or three days due to a Cold of Filth © May, and before that due to Tax Season with all its attendant feelings of woe-is-me inadequacy.  Tax Season! It's the diametric opposite of Christmas. Instead of decorations and bonhomie, we get out the spreadsheets and financial embarrassment.

I am not feeling sick, just a bit under-powered, and my mind, to which apparently my body has decided it can afford to cut the supply of energy, as it never saw the point of it anyway, has gone on a kind of brown-out. It's a dim cavern, with just the occasional flare of a naked bulb lighting the air for a moment before dying altogether. Frankly I have no clue what I submitted as a tax return. A sardine? Some chocolate coins? Eh. Fingers crossed?

But! There is light at the end of the tunnel of dimness. You'll see!

I am going to a comicon next weekend. In Leeds! I am very excited about this. There'll be cosplayers, comic artists and other exotic creatures like the actual, much-respected Alison Bechdel -  of whom Bean approves! I will rattle over there on the boat and train because I have to be different I like that sort of thing, clutching my business cards and cherishing the hope deep in my heart that I'll catch a glimpse of someone with a flat cap on. Perhaps with a whippet? COULD I BE THAT LUCKY?*


I will document. But now, I venture out for the first time this week.
Stand by, Dublin 9, I haven't been Out for ages.

*I do realise the flat cap and whippet is a stereotype that probably never existed. It's just such a charming, particular one, I can't help wanting it to be real. I mean, if there was a town in Ireland where people wore tam-o-shanters and had Irish Wolfhounds, wouldn't you want to see one?

I wouldn't blame you if you did.


I don't know, folks, I DO NOT KNOW. Do they not have a class in Medical School called:

My GP, huffing her way through the medical report tickboxes (part of the Indian adoption pack), declaiming the "generic diseases" as Not A Real Thing, as predicted, also felt the need to explain to me that the Authority likes you to have done lots of fertility testing, so that's all resolved. (!!) Huh, I thought. Next she'll say I need closure and I'll have to kick her in the shins and run away, like a reverse leprechaun. And then we came to the HIV test and she felt inspired to remark all gossip-like:

They had to add this because so many gay men are adopting now, and you know, they're a high risk group.

I MEAN, REALLY. Sadly, as so often in these situations, my brain shut down in sheer disbelief, saying What? What? Do not compute! Do not compute! and all I could think of to say was:

So we'll get tested too, it's only fair.

Yeah, THANKS, BRAIN. What I wanted to do was make a stand in the form of an incisive diatribe on the nature of fairness and equality and ferfeckssake, DOCTOR, it's called DISCRIMINATION, and you're passing it on. Never mind the assumptions that: you know the testing criteria of India (who don't even accept gay adopters!) and that "so many gay people" are adopting, which can't even be true, because they can't! And you feel the need to gossip on that basis!


Before she took the blood test, she managed to fit it a quick: 
Chances are you don't have it!

Which was lovely too. Grrrr.

(As it happens, she just rang me and said the tests came back all fine.)


Even Kittaloo doesn't want to know.



Okay, calmness, calmness.


In other news:

  • I am still a salt fiend. Except when I am a sugar fiend! Why is moderation so hard?

  • I went to visit my parents yesterday. When I left at about 11am the JB was relaxing on the sofa taking in a few swimming heats. I returned from said parental social interaction at about 7.30pm to find him in exactly the same position, but now with feverish gaze. He'd be persuaded to leave the box of extreme attractiveness for a minute but then he'd mutter oh! A FINAL! and would be gone again.  

    I admit I am enjoying it too. I find it tremendously diverting to be impressed by these extraordinary feats of human endeavour, and make dopey remarks like: My goodness! That is bendy! or Oh no! A stepback on landing! (which constitutes our expert commentary on the gymastics) and such-like. How about you? Do you know about such things?

  • OH SUCH HUGE massive relief for Valery. PHEW, PHEW. Phew.

comfort zone


Ouch, I've been learning.

At no point in my life have I more frequently had the feeling I am driving a 1974 Mini in a Formula One race; where the Mini is my poor, underpowered brain,  you understand. It's all frantically learning on the fly, rushing around with the doors rattling, engine roaring, gears grinding, overheating madly. For a sociable hermit like myself who stages an internal battle every day simply as to whether to just stay at home or make myself go out and make the world reckon with me, it's been a challenge. Character-building, you could say.

[Hands up the introverts reading this - I would guess that amongst bloggers, introverts represent more than the 25% of the general population, does that seem reasonable? Tell me about being one, if so. Go on, share.]

All this being Out There has taught me some stuff, which I am very excited to share with you. For instance, I have had to Speak Publicly, (DREAD) recently, and stumbled upon the following solution to the sweats and shakes. This is inside information, mind, but the answer is:


Yes! Turns out if you are really, really tired, you just can't be bothered to get nervous. You just want to go to sleep. You don't care! You're welcome!

However! I don't know if it's just the tiredness, I am burnt out, or if at my advanced age my memory is simply full, (surely that happens?) but I have been making some fantastically silly mistakes recently:

TWANGY to JB (in reference to Mad Men): Guess what, they made Tuesday Jones put on loads of weight!

Yes, yes. Completely crackers. Why Tuesday and not Monday or Thursday, you might ask? I have no idea. Apparently, in my brain, Tuesday is considered a feasible name for a woman. But not Saturday or Sunday. That's just silly? Oh, I don't know.

See also:
My discovery this week that Donna Summer was not actually Diana Ross. Entirely separate people! ASTONISHING.

A classic, worthy of my first visit to NYC, at some point during which I realised that it's the FLAT-iron building, like, you know, a flat iron, not the FLAH-tiron building.

Well. That's it for the moment, I think. More of this half-baked nonsense later.

Your overheated

Mr Blue Sky

Most improbably, I have finished my cone project in plenty of time for hand-off this evening, an event which will require me to walk for 10 mins, take a bus, walk for another 20mins, (or MAYBE, I'll just take a taxi, though that kind of thing makes me as nervous as W4I. Apparently I believe a taxi is the thin end of the wedge that will inevitably lead to a online gambling addiction, thousands of euros of debt and end with my living under a bridge) knock on a door I have never seen before, go: Martin? in hopeful tones if a man answers or: Hi! Is Martin there? if a woman answers. Then I will dump deliver the Big Black Portfolio and SKIP SKIP SKIP away feeling OH-SO-LIGHT and who even cares what it looks like anymore? I've got rid, as they say on Corrie.

I've been having a bit of a time of it. Do you remember this, kindly readers?


This is what it's been like, for months, but with extra juggling and exhaustion-induced despair/irrational thoughts. I am so burned out I am actually a Walkers crisp, and those illustrations still need to be done by end of month. (Those fecking things - it's like trying to outrun your own shadow. It's getting mystical, as this point.) While this is just feasible, I am reminded of that saying about people who have been made partner in a law practice: It's like winning a pie-eating contest. And your prize is more pie.

Next week, my students have exams, an event that involves a vast amount of forms called (things like) Learner's Assessment F11-R456. On the other hand, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Only! 6! weeks! to! the! end! of term! Holiers needed URGENTLY.

Other things I have noticed of late:

  • The JB has been away for the last week, at a conference. In his absence I have been shocked to discover my breakfast dishes are still there, lying around in grey water, when I get home after school. Proof he does do dishes. Huh! I thought I did Everything Around Here. That's the thing about housework, isn't it? It's only noticed if it's not done.

  • Also. Yes. What was the other thing.

  • Ah. Our floor in The Hotel Tallafornia now hosts a weekly vist from Slimming World. A whole world of slimming - imagine! Continents of svelteness and seas of self-confidence! I am reassured by its logo every morning: Slimming World: Because [I am] amazing. Huh, ta, Slimming World.

  • I think, anyway.

  • It seems that the Authority may be sorting something out with regard to India opening - soon-ish. Also hopeful signs float over Florida. Too tired to be excited, but I presume I am, really.

  • Alrighty then. I am going to go and do the drop-off, I reckon.

Be well, friends.








A couple of weekends ago:

TWANGY, seeing an opportunity to bond with DAZZLE, (the three-year-old niece) while the rest of the family are engaged in an interminable game of Capitalist Market Forces Monopoly, extends 'claws' and roars, experimentally:
Rrrrrar! I'm a tiger.

DAZZLE smiles indulgently.

TWANGY: What are you?

DAZZLE: I'm a people.

How deflating.


Further conversation, this time with a student:
ALEX(not real name!): So, in relation to.. I just want to understand. My head is wrecked here. When you copy a file, where is that?
TWANGY: Emmm. Well. What? It goes on to the clipboard.
ALEX :  But.. where is the clipboard?
TWANGY (not feeling terribly patient at this point): It's just out there, Alex. In virtual space.
In your computer's RAM or something, Alex.
ALEX: But. It's  just these notes don't talk about the clipboard. I think these notes are a bit...
TWANGY considers a rapid exit out of the window.

Speaking of the Hotel Tallafornia, and the "learning" that takes place therein with my unemployed would-be designers, it should come as no surprise that we are dealing, per usual, with the Usual Suspects. The same ould cast of characters. There's the one with the attitude, there are the moaners, there are the gigglers, there are those afflicted with shyness, those encumbered with laziness. The sickly, the smart, the motivated, the dense. 'Twas ever thus, was it not, teachers, educators, librarians? The moaners were moaning at me last week, and I had this lightbulb revelation: these people (whispered The Little Voice of Obviousness) are not my friends. In this relationship, here,  it's my job to hold the thing together, and be respected.

This is stunningly self-evident, I do realise. Maybe it's the chronic informality of the Irish, but up to now, I have always assumed that friendliness, a general enthusiasm for the subject, respect for their efforts and a pretence at a flat hierarchy would see me through this teaching gig. Now, I realise that to act as if there is no difference between us, except that I just happen to be standing at the other side of the table is just not going to work. After all, I am in charge of time-keeping, and there is money involved in that, this being a state-sponsored training course. So, how to play it? Shall I become (gets carefully into American character) a 'hardass'? Would this be better for all concerned? Thoughts on this welcome. What is your style?

I've told you about the hotel as venue of higher education in this brave new world, haven't I?
We are in the one heated room on the fifth floor of a mostly empty office block, (itself mysteriously part of the hotel), surrounded by empty offices like this:


It's so fantastically creepy, like some weird art installation. The other morning, the previously abandoned and chilly reception area had leaflets scattered around and a big poster over it:
Presumably they checked-in-but-can-never-leave the night before? Yet no sign of them since.
And then, odder yet, and, to use  The Young People's favourite word, 'totally random':

Bridge tables sprang up overnight. Bridge tables. 

What next, friends? The Annual Trapeze Artists' Convention? The League of Capuchin Monkey Handlers? YOUR GUESS IS AS GOOD AS MINE.

Rest assured, I will keep you posted.



Love my magnets! LOVE. HFF sent me these, you know.

Well, my darlings! I'm in that awkward state of mind for which there should be a long composite German word - I have left it so long, that I don't know where to start, and the longer I leave it, the more I feel I have omitted Vital Stuff, and go into a further state of avoidance. And yet, I sincerely love my long-cherished blog-comrades and miss the interaction I find through this blog. I feel like the lovely Belgian Waffle, whose first paragraph here says it so much better than I could. That happens to me a lot. People expressing my thoughts better than I can. Thank Gawd for 'em.

Let's barge ahead, here. Nothing else for it:

  • I've been singing, in the choir. Every night this goes on, for the season, including one bizzarro combo performance with Another Choir, composed of undergraduates, this time. On one occasion, I was late. I disapprove greatly of myself for this, not least because I had missed by minutes the meeting at the gate, where we were to be ushered to the appropriate room in the college to rehearse, and had a frantic Indiana Jones-like run-and-search down long lino-ed corridors, under arches, through courtyards, trying doors and stopping to listen intently for choir sounds. I needn't have worried, when I finally burst in to the room, there was a kindly Robert Hardy-look-a-like banging away at the piano, and the room was filled with The Young People all whispering, giggling, and singing, just a little. Robert Hardy looked at me over his glasses and said "Welcome" and the whole thing was like a three way cross between a seminary musical, a boarding school and a Harry Potter book, all set in the 1960's.

  • I've teaching unemployed people with the State Training Body. This happens, weirdly, in a hotel in a peripheral suburb of west Dublin. It's all very Sign of the Times. I sit for an hour on a tram to be launched into this alternative reality, where you must travel on lifts and know codes and finally be delivered into an abandoned office building, where we occupy the one heated room on the fifth floor, to light a fire under the unemployed people, or at least offer them some hope, or so I hope. They are, so far, a dream to teach, getting on with their work, and only stopping to ask me intelligent questions.

  • Also, steady money! Hurray.

  • Which reminds me, I made a wonderful discovery out there yesterday. Near the hotel, there is a large 1990's style shopping centre, through which one can take a shortcut on the way back to the tram. There was a line of unlikely looking wooden huts in a line at the back of the centre, full of Christmas gift "ideas", personalised mouse pads and slippers, each presided over by a frozen but hopeful retail hutter, the type you feel sorry for. But then! A hut of The Most Beautiful Etchings, like a gleaming jewel amongst the dross. Like this! My eyes nearly fell out of my head:

    As thus it was that the problem of five Christmas gifts was solved on the spot. Well, I thought to myself, Suchandsuch should like this, and frankly, if he/she doesn't, I have no truck with him/her!
    (This is the artist/hut retailer: Jan Goede.)

  • Ermmmm.

  • Oh. Yes. Many applications for Art Stuff have been made, including a frightening one, which (life being like that) I might get. The application process is itself an art, I am realising. If I get that one, it'll be shown for an entire month in a public place on a huge wall. No pressure then. Gulp.

  • I have been making art with a group of Other Young People, this time ones affected to varying degrees by cerebral palsy. They are great fun. I have discovered exactly how bad I am (appallingly) at boccia with them, and made some stop-motion animation with them as actors. It's cool.

  • Kittaloo, who has been living here for what seems like a century, continues to hold us in her thrall, stroll inconveniently on my keyboard and hog the nearest source of heat. She is exactly as clever as she needs to be, the little maggot. When she feels slightly peckish/bored/cold, her latest thing is to sit beside me and put her heavy paw coercively on my arm, as if to whisper, threateningly: I will not allow you to forget me. Feline mafia tactics! Chilling.

  • The spa was salutary, mostly because of the redemptive presence of my dear friend R, with whom I had a long debriefing session on the subject of the JB. She recommended counselling, and is going to get me the name of Someone. At least I can go, and the JB may feel encouraged to go at a later stage if I break the ice, so to speak.
    Other than that, the spa was as if conceived by the people who made those Philadelphia ads set in Heaven, all muted colours and nice candles - deliberately unstimulating and cocoon-like. Which was lovely for a day. After that, it started to feel a tiny bit like a psychiatric hospital, what with everyone being reduced to a white uniform and floating about. Just a bit edgeless and suffocating. However, no doubt this is me, and my Methodist background, again, making me uncomfortable with .. er.. comfort.

I've gone on, haven't I? Better stop now, before you lose the will to live entirely.

I have missed this.

Back soon.


on blogging

I don't know if I really am busy. I seem to spend a lot of time thinking how busy I am, if that's anything to go by. There are lots of worky things going on which I dare not mention, for fear of being revealed. Naturally enough, the more personal you are on your blog, the more important it becomes to hide your identity. And yet, what is a blog for, if not to have a safe place to vent? And having more than one seems fragmented and complicated.

Tricky, eh? I'd like to able to tell my whole story here. You're my friends, after all. All this dodging and diving, role-playing and image-projecting - pfffft.

What do you think? Do you limit what you write to one specific area of your life? I think sometimes it'd be nice to be able to be all open and out there, just write in my own name, no fear or favour. So what if my family cut me off!


How much would you curl up and die if the wrong person read your blog?


*Thinks of a few people, curls up and dies.*

And now, a calming look at some trees:


Oh dear. I seem to have dropped the blogging ball, so to speak. I have left you with The Question for an age. (Thank you for your consoling answers. I am Not Taking It Personally. You know, the fact my beloved niece acted like I might stick her with a fork and toast her on the fire, and ran away from me, screaming. Hah! I forgot to report her charming question: You not my mummy. What are you?
Me: WHAT AM I? Just a child-toaster!
Not. Taking. It. Personally.)

It's back to school-ish, cover your books-ish weather here. Time for new shoes, and a new geometry set. Sharpen your pencils! Lay out your uniform! The air has had that delicious autumn chill (I like the Irish Winter. I readily accept that this makes me Odd.) the leaves are turning, there's that wonderfully gloomy smell of decay in the air, with all its intimation of mortality. Ah, yes! Mortality! Don't you just love it?


So, yes. I have been busy with these and other preoccupations. I have been drawing a lot. I have been to lots of meetings, and been doing lots of planning. I made a cognitive leap or two.

And today we finally saw our social worker, the dear Detective, who handed over our report to read, and left the room - surely the closest I'll ever get to the red book moment in This is Your Life. Other people from my group have reported finding it tough to read their life story, but I just, for whatever reason, didn't. I mean, it's not like you don't know. None of my life events are a no-go area to me; I've taken the sting out of them by processing them here (And I thank you for reading. That's so important.) or in my work. I don't think anyone could accuse me of living a life unexamined - probably, like all of you too, of the online writing persuasion, I have had ample opportunity to think about My Stuff. We do that, don't we? And, it turns out, that is good for you. Like Guinness.

However. It is very interesting how much of a story resides in the manner of its telling. There are so many ways to spin a life; the details you select are so telling. My mother, the home-maker, the baker of cakes - well, all that is true. There's so much more, though. My mother, defender of the proper use of the apostrophe, arthritis sufferer, stalwart, stoic, charitable figure, nice person, repressed, passive, defensive person, with the sardonic sense of humour. You know? And the fact my father's rather florid temper becomes "a more old-fashioned parenting style". Dramaboy was characterised as "moody and dramatic". Also, to be fair, a massive over-simplication. So where is the truth, exactly?

All that said, our detective friend did a beautiful job for us, in distilling the reams of material to a coherent, credible account of us. A great relief. Now to wait a couple of weeks before the next Adoption Council meeting, where she will go before the board. She doesn't foresee any problems.

Progress, then! Good!

And now, for a picture. I find myself drawing and redrawing this view, it's endlessly interesting to me: