Sunday, November 28, 2010


I didn't know my Granddad growing up. He was there, walking around, cap in hand, or sitting in his chair, but I didn't know him. My mother told me that he was always talking and playing with them when they were children. I couldn't believe it.

When my cousin was born almost 18 years ago, when I was 13, my Granddad came back to life. A child around the house again stirred him out of his quiet. I continued to ignore him. I had no memories of him speaking to me kindly or bouncing me on his knee, so why should I bother I thought?

When my Granny got sick 13 years ago, when I was 18, he would get up before her, make tea and bring it to her in bed. He'd light the fire and feed the animals and other jobs she used to do. I didn't come down, I couldn't bear to see her that way, weak and without her hair.

Over the years he softened and so did I. I grew up and realised a number of things. That my teenage angst had gotten in the way of me knowing this man, my mother's father, my Granny's husband, and that really he wasn't so bad after all.

Now, on the weekend of his 90th birthday I know him better. I understand his ways and I accept them. I believe he's earned the right not to change or fall in line at this stage.

So, on the weekend of his 90th birthday I want to share some of the things I know about my Granddad.

At 90 years of age he can still lift his feet for you to sweep under them. He can still remember every hurling match he has ever seen or heard. He will only go to Mass in his parish church. If he won the lotto he would go to Dublin. He has outlived all of his friends and his younger brother. He loves fishing, though I'm not sure if the appeal is in the catch or the peace. He won't go near the milking parlour after getting kicked years ago. He knows the difference between the two tabby cats by the markings on their tails. He played wing back for his local hurling team from 1946 to 1952. He won't drink out of the Fine Gael mug someone brought into the house as a joke, nor will he drink out of a china cup. His favourite TV programme is the news, followed by the weather forecast. He loves Oatfield Emeralds. He has lived all his life in the one house, from son, to husband, father to grandfather.

I'm glad we both grew up so that we could get to know each other.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Feel sorry for a banker?

The previous head of my department used to preface delivering bad news by saying ‘the good news is we’re getting paid this month’ as if this was enough. Another personal favourite is ‘aren’t you lucky to have a job’ and yes, I am. I am very aware and glad of that. 

I’m also lucky that I don’t have any major commitments, bar keeping a roof above my head, clothes on my back and, one that is very important to me, not starving. I’ve no mouths to feed, no debt that can’t be wiped with either savings or selling back what they paid for. So, all in all, I’m in a good position. Aren’t I lucky?

However, I [insert favoured expletive here] HATE my job at the moment! Even my manager agrees that no one really sets out to be a banker, it just happens. So when you realise that it’s absolutely, positively, not what you want to do with your life in the middle of a recession caused by people higher up and better paid in the very industry you work in, what do you do?

Many people blame ‘The Banks’ for what has happened to ‘Ireland Inc’ as it is currently, affectionately, or not as the case may be, known as.

I blame people, and also basic economics. To quote Superfresco by Graham & Brown, ‘what goes up, must come down’.

To talk about The Banks, let it be said, by me, that The Banks really refers to a few people. Those high up, long in the tooth and massively overpaid. I’m none of those people. During the boom years, I was a glorified typist. I’m not much more now.

In the last couple of years anyone working in a bank has gone through any number of the usual methods used to keep a company going through difficult times: a pay cut, a pay freeze, no bonuses, no overtime, redundancies, departments closed, merged, etc. The normal things you would expect and indeed accept. 

What we’ve also seen is increased workload, stress and pressure, to bring in business while ensuring absolute compliance so that The Banks don’t mess up again, no end in sight, no light at the end of the tunnel, no prospects, just doom and gloom and fear of telling anyone, especially taxi drivers, what we do for a living. 

I’m not asking for violins, I’m just venting, on yet another day when I’m doing the work of three, in an office for two, with just me in it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I have rhino monkey disease

Over the last couple of weeks I've been sick, which is fair enough you say, it's the time of year, the change of weather and so on. However, the mixture of symptoms has been just odd.

Last Sunday, going into Monday I had an earache, which at first I assumed was just a reaction to going back to work after a good weekend. 

I woke up on Tuesday morning, at 6am, feeling tummy sick. For the next few days the earache and nausea continued, leaving me thinking 'but they don't go!'.

Then on Sunday evening, just gone, I was sitting watching TV in my folks' after a roast dinner and all of a sudden there was a disco in my left eye. A spiky circle of flashing light, with some colouredy bits. Techno techno. There it was, a migraine. So I took off to a dark room and an early night. 

Woke up yesterday morning and the migraine appeared to be gone, only to be replaced by a very sore and swollen throat! Ok, I thought, I'd rather the sore throat than the migraine. It hung around in the background though, for the day, making me fuzzy. All the while I'm thinking 'but they don't go!'.

You can imagine how I felt when the tummy sickness returned this afternoon about an hour before I had to go to the dentist for a file and polish, or whatever the dental equivalent is. I have no fear of the dentist, so it was purely down to the rhino monkey disease.

I know I'm probably just run down, blame the weather, daylight savings time, the government, the banks, Prince William getting engaged, but really.

Certain illnesses go together, your throat bone's connected to your ear bone and all that, so I am not happy with this random mix of illnesses! So far I've taken disprin, pepto-bismol, lemsip, sinutab, more lemsip, honey and lemon, tea and biscuits.

A friend described this phenomenon as being similar to that 80's cartoon with the part monkey, part rhino character. On googling I recalled the Wuzzles with great excitement, the only good thing to come of this.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The adventures of Ms Talks-A-Lot and Slurpy McNoseblower

I have worked with many people over the years who I would quite happily throw out the window if my life was a cartoon, which unfortunately it is not.

Two of these people stick out, who I’m sure everyone can relate to. If you look around the office and you don’t know who this person is, it’s you.

First, we'll meet Ms Talks-A-Lot...

You know what she had for dinner last night, what she did for the weekend, what she’s doing next weekend, what she’s wearing to her friend’s wedding, where she went on holidays, where she’s going on holidays, what her other half does for a living, what days he plays football, what her kids are getting from Santa, what colour she’s painting the spare room, what carpet she’s getting for the hall, stairs and landing, what she had for breakfast, what diet she’s on this week, all about her health issues, what she thinks of Cheryl Cole, Colleen Rooney, Desperate Housewives and every other television programme known to woman.

She knows you work in the same building.
Then, there's Slurpy McNoseblower ...

Most people will believe that we evolved from the apes. I’m not so sure I believe that. I don’t think everyone has evolved.

In the 80s this guy he would have a moustache and get bits of his egg and beetroot sandwiches stuck in the bristles. Now it’s sushi, but the moustache remains. Movember is not just for November it seems.

He pours himself a glass of milk and settles down, spreading his food and newspaper over two tables, taking up space for four. He opens his chicken ramen, digs in his spoon and proceeds to slobber and slurp his way through. He picks up the salmon nigiri with his dirty, fingernail bitten fingers, sloshes on some soy sauce, dips into wasabi and gobbles it down. He finishes with a packet of Japanese rice crackers, eaten with gusto, mouth open so you can hear every crunch.

When he finishes, and you attempt to start eating the food you haven’t been able to touch during his feeding time, he stands up, gets a napkin, blows his nose clear of anything that ever lived there, sloshes a bit of cold water in his glass and leaves it on the draining board to drip out the remains of milk.

If only my life was a cartoon.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

There’s nothing worse

I work with a guy, who no matter what you say is wrong with you (including, today, having ‘The Fields of Athenry’ stuck in your head) says ‘there’s nothing worse’.

So leaving broken limbs and falling off heads aside, here’s a countdown of my current top ten of ‘there’s nothing worse’.

10. Having a song stuck in your head – This really depends on the song and what you associate with it. If it’s a four word loop of something by the Cheeky Girls, Whigfield or, to be more current, Jedward, then that’s seriously head wrecking. However, if it’s a song that reminds you of something or someone good or if it’s along the lines of ‘We Are the Champions’ then it’s fantastic!

9. Getting to the phone as it stops ringing – This is made worse when you then go to call the person straight back and you can’t get them because they’re leaving you a voicemail, are ringing someone else or have just dropped the phone and ran away, as some stand up comedian once said. 

8. Banged knee – I used to work with a guy who would bang his knee off his desk or the drawers underneath at least 3 times a week and would curse blue blazes every time he did so. Oh how I laughed. I still see him occasionally, and he still does it, and I still laugh. 

7. Cough – Chesty or tickly, I never really know the difference and both are annoying but (and I don’t include coughs belonging to asthmatics here) cough bottle generally tastes good and they’re usually just irritating more so than painful. Also, at least they’re an obvious sign of illness so result in sympathy at best, or at worst a little disgust. You can use it to scare people off sitting beside you on the bus, in the least creepy way. 

6. Headache – No fun but really (and I don’t include migraines when I say this) they aren’t so bad, and I get them often enough. They’re a bit debilitating but generally to be expected, accepted and are controllable with fresh air, water or any one of the many over the counter, no need to sign your life away, pain killing drugs. 

5. Stubbed toe – Who moved that flipping doorframe / fireplace / coffee table again?! How is it that some days (or maybe this is just me) inanimate objects that have been in your surroundings for significant periods of time seem to jump out and get underfoot, or rather in front of foot? I also bang my shoulders off doorframes for the same reason, they move.

4. Sore throat – Ouch, now as someone who once had tonsiltennisitis for four months I really find it hard not to place this higher. I get serious fear when I feel the slightest twinge, ache or scratch in my throat. Even if it’s the morning after a late night spent in a smoky room signing ‘Hold me now’ into my hairbrush for hours on end I’m convinced it’s back. I don’t take my winter scarf off until 31st May, when I usually switch to a summer scarf, for fear. 

3. Toothache – Anything that means you can't eat is a very bad thing. If it causes pain and no eating it's even worse. If it means paying for your dentist's grandchildren to go to college for the pleasure of him drilling, filling, using your chest as a table for his tools and asking you 'how're things in work?' while you've four fingers, a teeny tiny mirror, a scrapey pokey thing and a mini hoover in your mouth, then it's even worse again!
2. Paper cut – Beats the toothache to reach number two for two reasons. 1. The element of surprise (and by surprise I mean absolute shock and horror that you've managed to slice yourself open with a regular old piece of foolscap!!) and 2. The fact that’s it’s generally entirely your own fault that you are in such pain, from an injury that is oh so very small.

1. Earache – You feel like an alien is attacking you, boring some implement into your ear. Don’t believe the writers of South Park, real aliens conduct ‘aural probes’. Every sound hurts, every move hurts, someone breathing on the other side of the room hurts. You can't sleep on the sore ear on the pillow because it hurts; you can't sleep with the sore ear up because it really hurts. Earaches win the 'there's nothing worse' stakes by a country mile.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fally down socks

There’s nothing worse than fally down socks. Ok, so there are actually lots of things worse, but for the purposes of today’s discussion there isn’t.

I don’t know what causes fally down socks, but they are such a pain and so random. You buy a packet of socks in a packet of three and the pair with the pink toes and heels falls down, but the plain pair and the blue toes and heels ones are fine. Sometimes it’s just one of the pair and it seems not to matter which foot it’s on, left or right, it’ll still slip down under your shoe and bunch up under your instep.

I think they’re worse on rainy days too, somehow affected by the damp? Making them swell or soften or something, to make them extra fally. Also, they’re worse on rainy days because you can’t put your bag on the ground while pulling them up or you have an umbrella to manoeuvre as you do so and you end up poking yourself in the eye or someone else in the behind.

You always mean to throw them out too, but you can’t bring yourself to it. You think maybe it’s the shoes and next time they won’t behave so fally downy? But they do and you still persevere thinking 'next time, next time they’ll behave' and they just laugh at you and mock you to their friend ‘odd sock whose match is bound to show up some day’.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stupidly happy floaty day

Do you ever have one of those days where the grass seems greener and the flowers are smiling up at you? Sometimes there's a reason, sometimes there's not, but you just feel good. You walk tall, you smile at strangers, you chat to shop assistants and apologise profusely to anyone you bump into because you didn't see them as you floated along.

Those days are so much better than the other days. On the other days I'd hate to meet stupidly happy floaty me. Walking along, head in the clouds, banging into people with her big happy head on her!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The accidental banker

I didn’t want my first proper blog to be about work, but sometimes life doesn’t turn out how you plan, which is sort of what this blog is about. Stupid, annoying irony!

I’m 31 years of age and I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. When I was actually growing up I wanted to be a shopkeeper, so I could eat all the strawberry jam; a doctor, choosing biology and chemistry for the Leaving to assist; a psychologist, but my uncle convinced me there was no money in it; a teacher.

After two years (both first year mind) studying French and Irish, the teaching idea long forgotten, I changed course and decided on a degree in Business Studies.

During college I got a part time job, as you do, which involved telephones, typing, numbing of mind, having a laugh, going to the pub and generally flittering away my brain cells and whatever I was paid for my 16 hours a week.

Then suddenly, college was over and I was going to have to get a real job. I figured September or October would be a good time to start looking, being the start of the year and all. By December I had a job, in a real company, earning real money, which involved telephones, typing, numbing of mind and well you can see where this is going.

Luckily after two and a half years, and during Celtic Tiger years I did consider it lucky, I was made redundant. So I escaped a job that gave me some of the best friends I’ve ever made, but little else. Times were good, jobs were plentiful and I tested the water a bit with a job in recruitment before landing back in Financial Services.

Some five years later, here I am, still. I've moved offices, changed roles, but after a few months it's the same thing. I described it best, to a friend a few months ago, by saying ‘I’m not a suit, in here’, while holding my hand to my heart.

I’m 31 years of age and I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I dream of a lotto win or some miraculous end to this recession. Or even an idea?