Thursday, November 30, 2006

And now for something completely different

Just woke from an afternoon nap (plenty of wine for lunch) - Mom's still snoozing in front of Without a Trace.

Big news today is that the tree outside my window got a trim - it's a whole new world.

We're at the Codebreakers this evening. Mrs C said it would be "light fare, with plenty of booze and conversation".

Great, that'll be a shocking change.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Look! You know who that is...

So we had a busy day - shopping, cinema (Entre Inimigos, aka The Departed, which we loved; had the usual conversation about "so are you saying it was his daughter you taught English to, not Coppola's?").

Anyhoo, the cool bit was that Mom was spotted, like a genuine celebrity. We went in to a café to order beer & brandy, and she asked if they had any Courvoisier or Hennessey and the owner piped up "No, and we've no campari either".

She figured it was a normal thing to say to anyone over the age of twelve, but I reckon otherwise. I think she's becoming 'the Campari lady'...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Happy Shona, Happy Michael and Maria

Us again.

Shona's rarely happier than when she can have a good "root" around MUJI, her favourite "no brand IS our brand" store. In Hong Kong, they have a big one, and the news of the day is that Shona found new pens. You may be lucky enough to get one in the Chimney, but I wouldn't count on it.

In case anyone's feeling sorry for Michael and Maria and the childer, stuck out here in HK far away from the freezing rain at home, here's the view they wake up to every day.

Just out the window and to the left is the outdoor pool, where Sean has passed an hour or two this morning. Although its about 24 degrees here, its too cold for the locals to be swimming in the outdoor pool, so Sean is a happy camper!

Bye for now.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hello from Sean and Shona

Well Hello Everyone!

Apologies, but the usual service is now being interrupted by Sean (Orlaith's brother) and Shona (Orlaith's friend and Sean's girlfriend of many a year). Orlaith asked us to blog - as we're on a trip to Hong Kong to celebrate Shona's Special Birthday (she turned 40 with some style and pizazz last weekend, Go Shona!) .

Anyway, Shona got a surprise present of a trip to Hong Kong to spend a week and a bit with Michael, Maria, Finn and Milo. Michael's her brother, married to Maria, with two delightful small people that they made.

We arrived here last Friday, and stayed in a luvly hotel Friday and Saturday night. If we uploaded this properly, then you should see the big round bath they gave us in our room!!

We went sailing on Sunday. Absolutely fan-tastic -thanks to Michael for organising and Peter for taking us out on his boat and being a top host.

Now we're staying with MMF&M, and are chilling out and enjoying HK. I think that's enough for an initial Hello!!

More anon. Thanks for listening.

The kidding around is pretty much over

It normally takes Mom a few days before she starts trying to sell me to passers-by at random. She's into the full swing of it now: the scale of fees is worked out and she's designing a 'VENDE' sign.

I think I'll stay in today.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Baby steps

A short story I wrote a while back has been shortlisted for a crime story competition.

Needless to say, I'm chuffed to bits. Yippee!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Blustery Day

So, it's a little windy here today.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Brain food

As a result of waffling about pomegranates, I've been sent a few great recipes. I'm trying one out for Mom today. She's decidedly suspicious of the fruit, so it'll be surrounded by stuff I know she likes.

This is what I'm not making.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ciggies ahoy

Fab looking sea today.

In other news, Mom has found the perfect consulate substitute. Cigarettes are so cheap here it would tempt anyone to take up smoking just to save money!

We spent much of the afternoon chatting over wine in a local restaurant. When they came to close up the owner said we could stay as long as we liked, which we did. Then home for a nap, followed by the arrival of Mrs Codebreaker bearing avocados. I am so spoiled...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Astral and other etiquettes

NASA runs a website of daily astronomy pictures, and I caught up on recent images today. Yesterday's was pretty phenomenal, but if you go back further there's also a shot of a car that's been smushed by a meteor, with some handy advice on what to do if you're lucky enough to come across things that have fallen out of the sky.

Geez, the things Martha Stewart doesn't tell you about...

In other news, the codebreakers popped in to meet mom. Mr C wanted to take his rubbish downstairs before he got settled, and asked if he'd take ours. Well I said "no no don't be silly", but mom eagerly pushed me into the kitchen to get the bagged rubbish. So when I gave the eighty-something year old man a single small bag, mom chirped up with "the kitchen bin needs emptying too" and pushed me back in to prepare a second bag for him.

It could only have been worse if he'd suffered a heart attack on the way.

Needless to say, I quickly opened a bottle of vinho verde for us all and ensured everyone was well rested before they made any further movements!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cool as a mountain stream...

We've spent days chatting over various drinks and meals. There's a certain 1970s feel to the afternoons - given consulate ciggies and a campari & soda, my Mom is one happy lady!

I'm afraid to look at my 'daily word count target' - will start writing in earnest tomorrow!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

All kinds of reasons to celebrate

Mom is becoming Super Tech Girl, making webcam 'postcards' to email home to Dublin. I bought some of her favourite music from iTunes: she's currently swinging her teeny iPod shuffle to 'I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair'.

She did ask when the CDs would be delivered. Hmm.

In other news: it's a stunning day here, and the goldfish are well. One of them shed its elegant swishy tail during the week. It lay panting at the top of the bowl for a couple of days, but seems back in fighting form now, except a bit - you know - stumpier.

Obviously, I find it adorable...

Friday, November 17, 2006

All is calm, all is bright...

Well, all is bright anyway. We went in to Funchal for the turning on of the Christmas lights, which we finally got around to after beer, shopping, movie, meal, wine. There was a fair crowd gathered in front of Sé Cathedral, with some music, miscellaneous dignitaries, and a lovely atmosphere.

Mom was especially excited. She plays it cool though...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The precious

I'm fascinated by regional word usage & slang (like the way "where is it?" becomes "where's it to?") in Devon. Mom brought me over a Dictionary of Cork Slang, which is good fun.

And so, in that vein...
The pawny was down all afternoon, and the place was fierce shlowny. The old wan is a dooshie little thing, but had a great lip on her for drink, so we had a gwall of wine, and then had wagons more. It's fair to say she wasn't far off rotto. We razzed each other loads, and then she had a good stroke so we vamped across the road for dinner. We had great taspy on us, and caused ructions in the restaurant - it was great hack. She's getting used to having her steamers indoors here, which is a change from Dublin. Anyway, she was flahed-out pretty early. Today she's had a gander around doing her traditional knawvshawling. She's cut the tripes out of me already regarding a variety of transgressions, involving the fridge, towels, coffee, bed, hangers etc., and she gave me down the banks for not having an extractor fan.

Still, it's me daza to have her here!

Pawny = rain; shlowny = slippery; old wan = mother; dooshie = small & neat; have a great lip for = desire; gwall = large quantity; wagons = loads; rotto = intoxicated; razzed = teased; good stroke = appetite; vamped = walked; taspy = high spirits; ructions = uproar; hack = fun; steamers = cigarettes; flahed-out = exhausted; gander = inspection; knawvshawling = fault-finding; cut the tripes = criticise severly; gave me down the banks = reprimanded; me daza = very pleasant!!

I couldn't work in 'scuttling' which means to smoke the butt-ends of cigarrettes, but what a verb!

So basically, all's going extremely well. Mom's somewhere around doing her famous Gollum impersonation. Adorable!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Goodbyes and Hellos

Martin's on his way back to London, and Mom is on her way here. She just texted from Lisbon to say she's been upgraded; her new flight will be getting in 90 minutes earlier.

90 minutes is coincidentally the amount of 'tidy up' time I figured I needed.

There's a certain symmetry to that...

Martin signing off

Broadband on the blink most of yesterday, so we missed Martin's last guest blog.

Apparently it would have contained something about ovicide, genocide (he's finishing a book on Rwanda) and being hungover (the kind of hangover where as a hostess, all you can do is put plenty of food within reach throughout the day and leave them to it). It was a very laid back day, ending with a spectacular lightning storm.

Ovicide - that's the killing of sheep. I didn't ask too many questions...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Yoga Conspiracies

Martin is off playing on the buses again, scenes from The Italian Job in his head as he zooms around corners.

The weekend was gorgeous, filled with wine and conversation (shock horror). I still managed to get some writing done, although my 'daily word count target' is at an all-time high. Need to churn out a couple of scenes and bring it back down again.

But first some yoga. I often wonder if it's deliberately orchestrated to suck you in to practicing for life; you stop doing it for a week and joints and bones start creaking. Well, at least the session ends with a nap - er, I mean a meditative relaxation period.

And then Reid's for cocktails this evening. It certainly is a tough life :)

Friday, November 10, 2006

don't nobody get off the bloody bus either

I am currently winning 2-0 (yes I know shock horror... Orlaith is losing again) in my attempts to get out of bed after her. Deep down I know that she is upset, but she is pretending that she's not competitive - she can't fool me). Today I had another two journeys into Funchal courtesy of the suicidal municipal bus drivers of Madeira. If you have yet to experience the death-defying mountain roads of this volcanic Island these journeys are a essential part of any visit to this fair isle. Picture the scene; state of the art 1970s vehicular technology, together with 1950s design, complete with fake plastic leather seats (no expense spared) combined with a near Hindu belief in the virtue of death - a bargain at one Euro forty.

You may have heard about the main industries of Madeira being wine, wicker baskets, or as hosts for massive cruise ships. Whilst no doubt important contributors to the island's GNP, they appear to have forgotten the massive work being undertaken by the population in gearing up for Christmas - especially the light decorations. I can only imagine the countless unswept streets, poorly maintained Levadas and the general lack of untidyness that is currently being endured by the proud Madeiran nation as they attempt to outdo last year's light extravaganza. In this noble aim, every available hand - and let's be clear, only male hands are deemed safe enough for this important job, for this onerous task is too important to be left to the weaker sex. And no one with even an elementary knowledge of Madeiran history needs to be reminded of the great light disaster of 1972, when the fair maidens of Madeira electrocuted all single men between the ages of 18-35, a disaster from which the island is still recovering - has been called upon to wear yellow safety jackets, receive basic health and safety training in ladded ascending/descending techniques and complete a course in the subtleties of colour co-ordinattion kindly sponsored by the Dulux corporation, this year's generous sponsor of the newly named "Dulux Festival of Colour and Light".

It will be a spectacular to beold!
(Copyright Martin Samuel 2006)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Watching the Bay

Great day - wrote for much of the morning, caught up with my sister, then went into Funchal with Martin. We pretty much just sat around chatting for hours, which was heavenly.

Funny moment was when we got on to the subject of scabbard fish: he happened to mention that the boat in Baywatch was called The Scabbard. He insisted he wasn't a fan of the show or anything, you know, he just picked up the information along the way.

Doth protest too much methinks...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

All tidy

Yep, yesterday was doomed in terms of getting stuff done. Chatted to Mrs Codebreaker (who came in with The Guardian) and Landlady (who came bearing raspberry chocolate) for a while. Then Landlady decided I should have a washing line across the terrace, and went and got her husband, who was sent off to get the drill, go and buy hooks, a washing line etc.

Meanwhile Landlady couldn't help herself from straightening things up - you can see it's an overwhelming unconscious urge in her. She checked over the plants, removed dead leaves, tidied the kitchen surfaces, arranged the fridge magnets - it was a haven of activity! I could see relief wash over her when she saw the pantry - it truly looks like something Doris Day put together. I love pantries :)

I made some Lady Grey tea in the background, then through a clever rationalisation whereby I 'deserved' a treat, went out and bought wine and cake.

Anyhoo, I got it all done this morning - and his plane doesn't land for seven minutes! Landlady just phoned from the police station (about the cheque fraudy thing) to say they may need to come over and look at the machine.

Good thing I tidied!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Billy in the Bowl

I have a friend arriving tomorrow, and the day he leaves my mom arrives. The neat 'To Do' list I drew up last week has been ignored until this morning.

And what am I doing? Getting stuck into a big bowl of fresh pineapple, and writing away. I'm still in 18th century Dublin. There was a guy who used to go around Oxmantown called Billy in the Bowl, "having been introduced into the world with only a head, body, and arms". The historical account is worth sharing:

When he grew up he conveyed himself along in a large bowl fortified by iron, in which he was embedded. This man was the original "Billy in the Bowl," for though many other personages who got along in various ways were honoured with the same sobriquet, yet this fellow was the king of them all.

He soon ingratiated himself with the simple servant maids from Meath in the respectable houses of Oxmantown. "It's only Billy in the Bowl, ma'am." "Oh, very well," and Billy's bowl was filled with beef, bread, etc. Nature had compensated for his curtailment by giving him fine dark eyes, an aquiline nose, and a well-formed mouth, with dark curling locks, and a body and arms of herculean power.

It turned out that this favourite of the ladies was also a thief and murderer, who took on two women at a time - he'd grab one while turning the iron bowl over the other one to knock them out!

Sufficeth to say I'm engrossed. I can probably distract my visitor with the sea view as I hoover quietly tomorrow...

Monday, November 06, 2006

The thin blue line

Today's horizon is the neatest ever.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Burn baby burn

When I moved to the UK I had to get used to a mostly bonfire-less halloween - instead we had Bonfire Night a few days later. Several villages in Devon have developed their own unique traditions for celebrating. In Ottery St Mary it's the night of the tar barrels - a crowd of thousands line the village and try to stay out of the way as people run through with flaming tar barrels on their backs. In the village of Shebbear they 'turn the Devil's stone' (which weighs about one tonne) to ensure good fortune for the coming year.

My favourite celebration is in Sticklepath, where a massive stage is built in a little paddock in Finch Foundry. A surreal play ensues, with huge papier mache figures, maybe some Abba music, and a plot that no-one can really follow. Now, the year I went the stage was an ice palace; the play featured flying horses, some disco divas, and a Mommy and baby dragon. It ended with a firework display, so everyone gazed upwards for a bit. When I looked down I noticed that baby dragon had caught on fire. In fact, the whole stage was going up in flames.

And that's the point. They build this fabulous set, and it becomes the bonfire at the end of the night. No better place to have a bonfire than in a teeny paddock, surrounded by ancient protected trees - and eighty fire officers.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Up on the roof

Purdy sunset from the roof terrace.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Enough to make one blush

Apparently when you blush the lining of your stomach also turns red.

I don't challenge this. What I ask is, how would anyone know that?

What was the idea, tease someone and when they're embarrassed enough slice them open???

Sounds like the work of the Pinkindindies to me...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

News round up

I've been immersed in the history of Dublin for days now, and have finally made it to the eighteenth century. This is the century of the Hellfire club, kidnappings, battles between the Liberty and the Ormond boys, and plenty of other general trouble-making. For sheer flamboyance of name, my favourite rabble-rousers are the Pinkindindies. As a gang name, it doesn't exactly instill cold fear. There's one account of them trashing a Dublin brothel, led in the violence by balloonist Richard Crosbie. Ooh a balloonist, scary... Anyway, I was highly amused just imagining the headlines from the period.

Listening to RTE and BBC radios this morning - everyone's talking about security on flights - I was reminded of the Eddie Izzard unattended bag sketch from the early 1990s. Don’t watch it if you’re travelling soon, because giggling when the safety announcements come on just makes everybody else nervous.

In other news, it's a stunning day here :)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Appropriate Weather

There's thunder right over the building, windows are rattling, the world is all white and misty with the palm trees doing their Dance of the Arcs.

The job for the afternoon was to write a stormy scene, so all is ordered for the best!

And the mermaid on the terrace is happily drenched.