My Disreputable Dad popped by for a cuppa today. He does make me laugh. He was telling me about his business trip to Santo Domingo (I don’t know either, you’ll have to look it up).
I’m really not sure he should travel alone. He was telling me about the amazing seats Iberia have in business class now – there are loads of buttons and apparently you can lie almost horizontal ‘although when I was just waking up, I pushed the button of the lady sitting next to me instead of my own and shot her bolt upright from her reclining position, in the process showering herself with hot coffee’. Oops.
He was also telling me about the nasty cut on his calf:
DD: ‘Oh, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you’.
Me: ‘Go on, try me’
DD: ‘Well, I was on one of those travelator things in the airport, and there were a load of nuns pushing wheelchairs…’
Me: ‘Rrriiiiggghhhht… empty wheelchairs?’
DD: ‘No! Wheelchairs full of old people and people with no legs and things.. So we’re all going along this travelator, and there’s a nun pushing a wheelchair in the front, then another nun pushing a wheelchair behind her, then an old man, then me, then another nun pushing a wheelchair…’
Failing to see how this could possibly have caused the nasty cut on the back of his calf, I allowed him to push on.
DD: ‘So we get to the end of the travelator, and the nun at the front doesn’t realise that you’ve got to lift the front wheels of the wheelchair over the little lip. So her wheels stick fast and her wheelchair stops dead, then the nun pushing the wheelchair behind her piles into the back of her, then I pile into them, the old man falls flailing to the floor, then the nun behind us rams into the back of me. Hence the cut calf.
Me: ‘OMG! What happened next?’
DD: ‘Well then the first nun realised her mistake, lifted the wheels of the wheelchair up and everybody started moving again and fell onto the floor in a big heap.’
‘Nuns’, he informed me solemnly, ‘are the worst drivers in the world’ (this is actually true – ask anyone who’s lived in Ireland).
You just couldn’t make it up.
My Disreputable Dad is back from his holidays. Bronzed and beautiful.
Two weeks in the south of France. They ate in the same restaurant every night.
‘Every night?’, I ask, incredulous.
‘Well yes’, he says, ‘except one. Their steak frites was incredible. We tried another restaurant for one night, but it wasn’t as good, so we went back to the original one’.
He’s a creature of habit, my father.
On my visit, we walked around his beautiful garden. The plum trees are groaning with hard, green fruit. A bumper crop.
And the apples got so heavy that they actually broke the bough of the tree.
I left with treasure of the appley variety.
Perfect for rustling up a simple apple crumble:
500g apple (weigh after peeling and coring)
Sugar for sweetening the fruit
175g plain flour
110g cold butter, cubed
110g golden caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas 5. Then just tumble the apples into a baking dish and sprinkle on a little sugar (these apples weren’t too sour, but taste one to judge how much sugar you’ll need to add). If your apples are a bit ‘floury’ (like Bramleys can be sometimes), you might need to add a splash of water or fruit juice.
In a bowl, rub the butter into the flour gently with the ends of your fingers until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Don’t make it too uniform – the odd lump of butter is nice.
Stir in the sugar. If you like here you can add a handful of porridge oats, some nuts, orange zest, cinnamon… whatever you fancy.
Sprinkle over the fruit and bake for about 30 minutes until the fruit is tender and the top golden.
So thanks Dad. I’ll be back when the plums ripen too.
So after months of planning, #1, the Mad Professor, has gone to visit The Disreputable One and EnglishGrandma (not together, obviously) - they have five days of carefully planned custody each, plus two neutral territory days with my brother, the Lycheeni demon: Uncle I, Auntie L and the fleas (what? no of course I wouldn’t let him stay with Mad Uncle Alg. Are you mad? – he’ll no doubt take him out for alcohol and loose women somewhere during the trip).
The build up to this event was more than stressful, and involved me doing this approximately every five minutes:
‘So keep your passport and boarding card safe, and don’t talk to anyone, and don’t wander round the shops and lose track of time, just get to your gate quickly okay? And don’t put your bag down at all. And leave plenty of time to walk to your gate…’
I was worrying that it wasn’t all sinking in, especially when, in the car on the way to the airport, his précis of the task in hand went:
‘and I have to go to the checkpoint place and, like, sign in yeah?’
So anyhoo, I took him to the airport, I signed a disclaimer at the Aer Lingus desk (basically a piece of paper that says ‘no of course I don’t give a shit about my child, otherwise why would I be letting him travel on his own all the way to England without anyone to look after him?, and if you happen to lose him or kill him well sod it, that’s fine with me, I didn’t want him anyway’), and walked him through to security.
We hugged. We kissed. We hugged again. I squeezed tighter. I might have detected a little tremble.
He went through.
He looked back at me with a slightly wobbly smile and all of a sudden didn’t look like the clever 14 year old Mad Professor, but like a little lost and slightly bewildered toddler again.
I sent him a text from the car park which said: ‘now remember, don’t go shopping, just get to your boarding gate, it shuts at 4.30′.
I send another: ‘oy. Are you at your bloody gate or not?’
Finally the phone beeps:
‘Yeah mam. Of course. Lol.’
So I drive home, worrying, and by the time I get home he’s in the air (hopefully) and there’s nothing I can do but wait for the phonecall. It comes. It’s my Dad’s mobile. Oh good grief…
Disreputable One: ‘Did the child not get on the flight? I waited ages at arrivals and there’s nobody here…’
I think I might actually be sick.
#1: ‘Ahaha yeah, I’m here. Everything’s savage. Grandad was here to meet me. Oh and I spent all my money at the airport. What? Yeah, the Euro and the Sterling. What? On some savage PSP games! Ah it doesn’t matter, I’ll get some off Grandad. Yeah, and I had to sit squished between these two massive Polish blokes, and one stole my window seat. No of course I didn’t say anything, he was, like, HUGE! Yeah love you bye’.
So that’s it. My world is a quieter place for a week and a half. Bert will have to find other comfy perches in the garden:
And his Grandparents? Well, I hope they’ve got plenty of food in…
Which leads me swiftly onto other news and here, in all its glory, is Anouk’s rather luscious version of my Rhubarb Crumble Traybake thingy, which has the right amount of rhubarb, and which looks a lot more gorgeous than mine:
First up, there’s little teeny Don’t Bug Me - isn’t she cute? Who’d have known she’d grow up to be a really clever doctor of insecty stuff (erm, bit foggy on that bit). And she assures me she didn’t receive any splinterage to her tender places…
And here’s me Ma, frolicking in the surf with her cousin. Ahhhh….
And finally, here’s a little #1 telling his Disreputable Grandad something of vital importance:
And here’s Val’s Kodak moment - ooh, sparkly!! How’s your hunt going? Anyone else found some crackers?
Ooh, and here’s Natalie’s one over at Eire Rules – cuteness!!!
Ah, there’s a lot of girly squealing around English Towers at the moment. No, it’s not Hubby chopping the wood and missing, that was last week – it’s me Ma with the photos. From the same batch as the last lot, here’s me and the Disreputable one getting off the plane. I LOVE this - only DD would wear the full shiny buttoned blazer/sunglasses/shirt and tie ensemble to go on holiday. Mind you, he looks rather dashing (lovin’ those sideburns Dad dad daddyo):
And this is the one that caused all the hilarity. Look at Sensible Uncle I (although we really should think of a new name for him after the Lycheeni debacle at Christmas). Giddyup!:
And who says I’ve never been fashionable? Here’s me working the jumpsuit, years ahead of my time:
I’m loving this, Ma. Next!
So remember that every time we visit the Disreputable One we have to go and watch bloody Morris dancing? The kids love it and to be honest, it’s a bit of a craic so when I found out that a friend of a dear friend made this cracking movie about Morris dancing, I just had to have a shufty. And seriously, it looks really good fun.
Starring Greg Wise, Sir Derek Jacobi, Sophie Thompson and the lovely Richard Lumsden (left in photo – remember him in the Catherine Tate show?) it’s right laugh, and a bit reminiscent of the sort of tongue in cheek Hot Fuzz stuff that my kiddlies adore. Here’s the trailer. Go and visit the website here and sign the petition for the film to go on general release. Those Morris dancers need you.
EDIT: I’ve had to remove the trailer because, frankly, it’s driving me crackers every time I log in. But you can still see it on the website.
Oh, and for all of you who send me an email every time I don’t put Bert up as the Friday photo, here he is giving his shoe collection a quick cuddle. Enjoy!
So lovely Kieron the postie’s back at work today. And true to form this morning found him whizzing up the drive to English Towers in his little green van. He bought me a parcel. Not just any parcel though; the best parcel a girl could possibly wish for. Four big fat slabs of chocolate from the divine, sublime Hotel Chocolat from the Disreputable One. He may well think I’m still 18 but bloody hell, I don’t care if he sends parcels like this little baby. Hell, I’ll even backcomb my hair and sing ’99 Red Balloons’ if it makes him happy. First up, then people, we have the classic fusion of milk, dark and plain chocolate – a big, huge, chunky wodge of it:
Bit ‘conventional’ for you, maybe? Okay, perhaps you’d prefer the scrumptious Caramellow: “caramel milk chocolate drops, cinder toffee and tiny pieces of caramelised hazelnut stirred into a swirled fusion of caramel chocolate and milk chocolate”. Oh yeah. Drooling yet? But hang on, maybe – just maybe - you’d prefer some Rocky Road…
“Handmade chocolate chip cookies, generous white chocolate chunks and lively pieces of puffed rice all stirred into a silky smooth Belgium 70:30 milk and dark chocolate fusion”. My favourite, by a country mile, though, is the Praline White chocolate. I can’t find the official description on their website, but no matter, because shortly it will have been devoured.
Pop round and share it. No, really. I’ll save you some.
Back live, then, after a bank holiday weekend of fun and frolics with the Disreputable One and his better younger other half (seriously, someone’s got to rein him in – she has her work cut out). Bert lubs his Disreputable Grandad and the feeling’s slightly mutual – although he drew the line at being accompanied into the bathroom (Bert had to be hoiked off Grandad’s towel, where he’d curled up and gone to sleep).
First off, then, we went down to the lough where the smalls spent a happy hour messing about in boats while we got the Guinness in (when in Rome, and all that):
I have to say that I did get a teeny bit worried when they pedalled so far out that they became just a idgy speck on the horizon, but nothing that a few beers in the bar wouldn’t solve.
Yesterday, though, was the highlight of the visit when we finally got to visit Bellinter House in Navan. I’ve been dying to go for ages and it was definitely worthwhile. Here’s the smalls with their beloved Grandad outside the front door:
Worryingly, to get to the restaurant you have to climb down a very scary spiral staircase (bit dodgy for RoboGrandad with his titanium knees, but he managed – could probably smell the wine), but once you’re down there, the dining room is light and airy with quite a trendy 60s feel to it (as usual my photography is more David Jason than David Bailey):
The food, though, was absolutely spectacular, complemented perfectly by a couple of bottles of amazingly good chilled Rosé. Highlights included Eden Smokies (smoked haddock, spring onions, crème fraiche and cheddar – yum), and our roasted cod main course on a bed of bashed up potatoes (I’m sure there’s a technical term) and the most amazing asparagus:
The desserts were nothing short of mindblowing. Get #1′s beautifully presented raspberry and chocolate gateau (sorry about the tongue, he was desperate):
…and my Iced Nougat in some sort of apricot coulis stuff:
So I’ll give you two guesses who unscrewed one of the balls and bowled a googly with it down the garden. Tsk.
Right, indulge me here. I’m going to dazzle you with incompetence, the like of which you’re never likely to see again in your lifetime. You may know part of the story but hey, indulge me.
Monday 14th July – we’ve received your order!
On the Monday, we decide to buy my Dad a camera. I go to Pixmania.com, find a nice black one that’s in stock and order it. I pay for it, and receive an email confirming that the delivery will be 3-4 days. Fab, says I, that means it’ll deffo be here by his birthday.
Tuesday 16th July – oh dear, it’s not really in stock after all
But uh-oh, Pixmania have other ideas. They send me another email telling me that the camera is out of stock. This is not good news.
Every time you contact them, you have to find the little FAQ bit on their website, pick the heading and the subheading that best apply to your problem, and then fill in a little box. A customer service email address? Pah, that would be too easy.
I fill in the little box explaining that it’s my Dad’s birthday and I don’t want him to be disappointed. Isn’t there another lovely camera that you could send him please?
Ooh, I get an email – ‘yessiree‘, say ‘Team Pixmania’, ‘we’ve got green, red or orange in stock!!!‘
I go to the FAQ bit, pick the heading and the subheading and fill in the little box again. Please can you send him a red one? I’m in a bit of a fucking hurry.
Wednesday 17th July – erm we think we’re sending the red one – are we?
I get another email from Pixmania. This time it says ‘I would like to inform you that your request has been sent to the After Sales Department. As soon as we have an answer from them, we will get back to you with further information.’ Have I ordered the red one now, then? I’m not rightly sure.
Thursday 18th July – don’t know what the hell’s happening with your order, but do you fancy a barbie?
No reply from Team Pixmania, but they send me an email telling me they’ve got 58% of barbecues! Woop de fucking doo.
Friday 19th July – we’ll just ignore her. She might go away
I don’t hear anything still, so guess what?
I go to the FAQ bit, pick the heading and the subheading and fill in the little box again. I’m getting a bit cross now, I tell them, it’s my Dad’s birthday on Sunday. Please can you send him a fucking camera? I don’t care if it’s red, black or sky blue bloody pink. Oh, and get someone with a brain to contact me. OKAY?
Guess what? I’m ignored. Dad’s birthday comes and goes and he gets… er… fuck all.
Tuesday 22nd July – I know, let’s really piss her off and send the black one
So then I get another email pretending nothing out of the ordinary has happened and informing me that they’ve received my order for a BLACK camera and it’ll be delivered in 3-4 days! So guess what?
I go to the FAQ bit, pick the heading and the subheading and fill in the little box again. Hang on, I say, I thought you were sending a black one last week? What happened to the red one? Am I going to get a camera at all? Please? Pretty please? I suppose I’m not really in a hurry now because the poor old sod’s birthday has come and gone, but still, I think he’d still like a camera, don’t you?
And guess what? They reply!
Further to your last e-mail, I would like to inform you that the Black Camera has come back to stock as the Red one is out of stock at the moment. A request has been sent to the After Sales Department to resend you the Black Camera.
Friday 25th July – we’ve got our fingers in our ears: la la la la!
Still nothing. I’m REALLY REALLY CROSS now, so I get my bloody telephone and I bloody ring them. Eventually I am put through to perhaps the stupidest woman in the whole world, who tells me that yes, my camera is in stock and being prepared for despatch. Yes, it will be despatched shortly She thinks it’ll arrive on Tuesday. And no, she can’t tell me exactly when, and no, she can’t put me through to a supervisor, or a manager, because they’re in Paris, and no, she can’t help me any further. Good day. I stare at the phone for a long, long time.
And then I go back to the website, I go to the FAQ bit, pick the heading and the subheading and fill in the little box again. This time I’m really rude. I tell them they’re useless tossers, that all I wanted was a bloody camera for my Dad’s bloody birthday and they couldn’t even handle such a simple fucking request without messing it up. Adding, for good measure, that they should all go and boil their heads.
I get another email. The order’s being prepared in our warehouse and is due to be despatched shortly!
Saturday 26th July – I know! Let’s REALLY piss her off!
I get another email. This time, it’s serious. We take great care when we process orders so that deliveries are made within the deadlines stated…
it says, without barely a hint of a smirk. But wait…
…however, a technical incident in our logistics platform has delayed the distribution of your order. Your order will therefore be delivered with a delay of 24 to 48 hours.
Monday 28th July – send it? Ooooh, we might. Then again, we might not. It depends how we’re feeling…
So that’s it. That’s how the land lies so far. Just for the hell of it, just for FUN, I’ve gone back to the website, gone to the ridiculous FAQ bit, picked the heading and the subheading and filled in the little box again, this time asking exactly what a technical incident in our logistics platform is, and whether maybe, just maybe, my Dad’s likely to ever see a camera before he gets so old he can no longer hold the bloody thing.
Right, if you’re still here well done. I’m boring myself now. I’m off out into the garden where I’m going to find a nice solid object and smash my head against it repeatedly.
So it was the Disreputable One’s birthday on Sunday. And seeing as his other half is in the process of dragging him kicking and screaming into the 21st century, she suggested that he might like a digital camera. So I set about contacting my siblings.
Me (via text): Alright siblings! Any chance of us clubbing together and buying Dad a digital cam 4 his birthday THIS SUNDAY?
Mad Uncle A (via text): Alright saves me a job. U get it send it & I’ll send u the cash. Don’t spend too much I’m not f*ckin Bill Gates.
Sensible Uncle I (via text): Fine.
Well, he’s a man of few words. So, great, I thought, might have known as the token female I’d get lumbered with the shopping, so off I go, spending a happy afternoon researching cameras on the internerd… and finally I come up with an absolute corker. Hubby is a Fuji man (he’s got one of those great big black yokes like the paparazzi are always sticking up Britney’s skirt), and my little red Fuji Q1 is fantastic, so I settled on a really flash new black Fuji Finepix one at 7dayshop.com – less than 2cm thick (ooer!), equipped with a 2.5″ LCD screen, 7 million pixel CCD sensor (no, I don’t know what that is either), a 3x optical zoom, image stabilising system, face detection and an infrared transmission system (not that I expect he’ll be transferring his photos wirelessly but hey, it’s there if he needs it) and an extremely fast shutter speed to ensure his photos come out clear and bright even with a little alzheimers-induced hand wobble (just joking Dad). Anyhoo, I couldn’t get my order to work on 7dayshop, it kept asking me to login again, but Pixmania.co.uk had it too so I sent off my order and sat back all smug. How easy was that?
So you know this is going to go all pear-shaped, don’t you. Two days later, I got an email saying it was out of stock and would be delivered as soon as possible. Poo! I fired off a quick email: ‘No! It has to be delivered by Sunday. It’s my Dad’s birthday! Can’t you find something similar that you DO have in stock?’. Another day goes past and, finally, I get an email back: ‘the black’s out of stock, but we do have Wasabi Green (oh dear), Sunburst Orange (oh dear again) and Cherry Red in stock. Quick text to Dad’s other half and we settle on the red, which I order with another ‘please, please hurry up and deliver by Saturday’ message.
Long story short – Dad’s birthday came and went with no camera in sight – in either black or cherry red. Sensible Uncle I sent him a card saying ‘hope you enjoy the camera’ (oops, that buggered that surprise then), but still nothing. Then this morning, I check my email to find, completely out of nowhere – a completely new ’thank you for your order’ email from Pixmania, saying that my black camera will be delivered in 3 to 5 working days. Give me strength. Next time he can have his usual port and stilton and bloody lump it.
So you know when you have those conversations with your kids? Lazy, half-hearted chats on the way home from school, or sun-baked after lunch holiday lounger conversations about ‘what it was like when you were little’, or ‘what’s your earliest memory’ type things? Well one thing that’s always guaranteed to get my kids going is hearing about their Grandad when I was little.
He wasn’t (and still isn’t) your average, run of the mill Dad, granted; but oh the excitement, the adventure of having the Disreputable One for a Dad made up for the fact that he was rarely there at bedtime and could be absolutely, utterly, counted on not to be there for parent’s evening either.
We used to get scribbled postcards (he needs a new spider) from exotic places like Barbados and Dominica (‘why can’t we ever go, Mum?’), and have to sit through interminable slide shows of beautiful beaches and colourful tropical birds when he did finally get home. When he was around, though, there were long summer days down the Cricket Club, building dens out of hay bales and paddling in the stream while the men baked out on the field. I remember doing mad things like driving to the Sheraton Hotel at Gatwick Airport and having lunch in a really posh restaurant while planes jetting off to foreign climes whooshed over our heads. And then there was The Royal Tournament (field gunners…phwoar!!), cash incentives for passing exams, a treasured memory of glimpsing him in the audience when I played the judge in Toad of Toad Hall, late-night car journeys to see the Christmas lights on Oxford Street, or being woken at 4am to get in a taxi to go on holidays to all sorts of exotic (to my 8 year old self) places: Fuengirola, Tunisia, Tenerife…
When he left, I was ‘grown up’ but still we fought and shouted and I hated him for breaking up our family, ruining future Christmases, happy visits to Grandparents for my boys, etc. But hey, he’s my Dad (you generally only get one) and I kind of suspect he’d agree that my Mum’s happier without him (a Disreputable husband too). Now it seems the norm that they’re not together and they’ve even talked on the phone (a milestone).
One memory amongst others sums up my Dad. The night before I got married (for the first time), I sat in tears on their sofa when he came in and sat next to me. I told him I didn’t want to go through with it and that I was worried I was making a huge mistake. After spending all that money on invitations, suits, posh Laura Ashley wedding and bridesmaid dresses, a sit down meal for hundreds, did he rant? Did he tell me I was a nightmare (as usual)? Nope, he held my hand and said ‘Titch, it’s never too late to change your mind’. I didn’t change my mind, and it didn’t last long but, hey, I went down the aisle on his arm knowing that he wouldn’t have cared wasting all that money as long as I was happy.
Disreputable? Yup. Unreliable? Surely. The best Dad in the world? Absolutely.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
Ooh, I love post. One advantage to living here is the extra excitement that builds on the walk down the drive to the postbox. Nobody in Ireland seems to have a letterbox in their front door. They all have a lovely little tin box thing on the front gate that you have to open with a key. A key! Hubby hates post because he gets all the bills and crap, so I get the special job of walking down and emptying the post box. Sometimes it’s even a parcel. I reallylove a parcel. I must be the only 38 year old woman who still gets excited opening her pressies on her birthday (and I got some right corkers this year). I am also lucky to have incredibly thoughtful parents. Me Ma sends little cards and letters (often with a very welcome €10 for the boys) and The Disreputable One will often send jokes and stuff to the boys, and cut clippings out of the newspaper about things that he thinks will interest me. A recent photocopy of an article about censorship in Ireland being a good example: did you know that as late as 1967 (when the Censorship ofPublications Act was finally reformed) Ireland had probably the toughest censorship laws in the ’free’ world? And did you also know that the list of authors whose books were banned by the Irish Censorship of Publications Board included Hemingway, Steinbeck, Shaw and even Raymond Chandler (my goodness, how did the people of Ireland live without Philip Marlowe?)? Anyhoo, digressing. The point is that my Disreputable Dad knew instantly that I’d like it, and was kind enough to stick it in the post. Ripping it open and reading it as I wound my way back up the drive absolutely made my morning – like a little chat with the aul’ boy even though he’s not here.
One downside of this love of parcels is a serious Ebay addiction that knows no bounds. This, though, combined with the memory of a goldfish, means that I’m permanently pleasantly surprised by my purchases. I’ve been trying to cut back, as you know, but this morning even our seriously overworked Postie had to admit defeat and leave one of those little yokes in the box that means you have to pop to the Post Office and pick up your bulky items (I love those too).
Four parcels offered up such wonders as ‘The Water Boy’ DVD (LOVE that film: ‘Youuu can doooo it!’), a DVD of the original ‘Italian Job’ which I really want the boys to see (‘you were aownly suppaowsed to blaow the blardy doors off!’), a copy of Helena Frith Powell’s ‘Two Lipsticks and a Lover’ which I’ve wanted for ages (I just really need to learn the secrets of Parisian women), and the pièce de résistance: a signed copy of Nigel Slater’s ‘Eating for England’. I just love a deliciously new pile of books by the side of my bed. And you can almost guarantee that by the time the pile’s back down to two or three, the ‘To Do’ list in my phone will have another huge list of books and films that I’ve read about, or been recommended, or just remembered that I liked, and after a couple of glasses of Merlot and a lubly Ebay session, the little tin box at the end of the drive will be full again. Bliss.