Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Driving on the Wild Side of the Road...

One of my sisters is learning how to drive. 

Yes, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, oh yay, that's grand, you'll be able to scab lifts off her the whole time! Yay! And yes, I do. And you're thinking, sure isnt that well enough for you, don't you have the easy life? But I don't think you quite understand the risks I take, the dangers I face everytime I accept the offer of a seat from Salty the Danger-Driver. Well buckle up lads, coz its quite a journey from when she first drove a car to where she is now.... and its about to get bumpy...

Not one of the naturally spacially-aware members of society, one of the biggest challenges for my sister Salty was remembering that there were two sides to the car. And they weren't both the drivers side. As a result, Salty often drove too close to gates on the passenger side of the car, leaving plenty of room for her own side, but forgetting that being aware of your own side of the car was the easy part. On one particular, fateful day, my brother was sitting in the passenger seat of the car, and my sister was driving laps around a large shed and yard in a sort of circuit we had mapped out. Now normally this circuit was kept relatively clear of...well.. anything that could be crashed into. But this day, something was different. My father had moved the plough to the side of the circuit!! (And by the side, I do mean off the track that should have been driven on, leaving more than enough room to pass by.) As Salty approached the plough, my brother reminded her to watch out for the plough, and she answered that she was. But he repeated it more sternly. And she repeated her answer. And suddenly, he began to yell, the plough! The plough! The fucking plough! Finally grabbing the steering wheel and wrenching it to the right to narrowly avoid the passenger side of the car and his own person being, well... ploughed. And Salty giggled nervously and said, oh, I thought I'd left enough room. She had. On her own side.

Now if you thought that a narrow brush with a farm implement like that would be the necessary kick-in-the-arse that my sister needed to concentrate more and develop that whole-car awareness, you were most definitely wrong. Not long later, in a little circuit journey by herself, Salty managed to crash the little Toyota Starlet at 10km/hr into a 12 foot wide gate, when she panicked upon seeing that she had taken the turn a bit wide and was going to crash straight into it and froze. Neglecting to brake. And crash straight into it she did. On the passenger side. But it's ok. She wasn't hurt. Because she had left herself enough room.

Now as you can imagine, this put poor Salty out of action as far as driving was concerned for quite a while. And in the meantime, she went to the merry old land of Oz for a year and a half, and when she returned to these fair shores, and returned to the back-arse of nowhere without independent travel to work or anywhere at all in fact, she quickly took it upon herself to sign up for some lessons. And she took some lessons. And got insured on my mothers car. And used to drive to and from work with my mother beside her. Until the day she drove home, took our driveway too fast, panicked, hit the accelerator instead of the brake and drove my mothers car right up the steps to the porch door. Yes, the car was damaged.

More lessons came and went and my sister was trusted with a little beep-beep of her own! A Renault Clio. Sports model. Partly coz if she crashed that she'd have to pay for the damage herself, and partly because having to get to and from work at different times during the day, at the same time as my mother retired and needed her own car so she could be free to go galivanting around the countryside doing God knows what at God knows what time of the day meant that Salty really did need her own car.

And guess what. She hasn't crashed it. Yet.

Although, there has been some scares. For example, on several occasions while I've been in the car, she's made some mistake or other that I will not have noticed. Until she will point out the mistake she just made to me and I will remember that she's a silly-billy and sit less comfortably for the rest of that journey. My personal favourite time has to be the time when, and in fairness to her she did warn me that she was tired, but she literally fed me a blow by blow account of all of her mistakes along a journey home at night time in the semi-darkness.

For example, as we passed a cross-roads she turned to me and said,

> Oops, almost forgot to dip my headlights there
And just as I processed the danger level of that statement, she corrected herself

> Oh no, I meant stop. I almost forgot to stop!

I don't know what worried me more. The fact that she doesn't know the difference between dimming her headlights and stopping, or the fact that she almost forgot to stop!

And as I contemplated that fact, we flew over a speed-bump, bumping our arses, and she found it necessary to exclaim
>Speedbump! Sorry, didn't see that there!
With a happy chirpy note to her voice.

Other comments to that tune on different days have included things along the lines of:

>Oops, almost ran us off the road there.
> Ooh I took that roundabout waaaaaay too fast, didn't I! Definitely should've stopped there!

And today's gem, which was said more in a hypothetical, imaginary sense than realistic... and with slightly more menace than maybe made me feel comfortable:

>You realise that if I ran us off the road on your side right now and into one of those poles, it'd be you who got hurt and not me...... Remember that. What if I swerved here? Hmm?

Which, considering the fact that one of the neighbours always protectively raises his arms in front of his face when she passes him in her car.. regardless of whether he is driving himself at the same time or not.. does make a girl wonder how many of those seemingly offhand comments are as innocent as they come across and how many are sly reminders of the fact that she holds the power when she's driving the car. (And I'm never allowed to drive it, so it will always be her, just to clarify.. she has actually specified that. Not even over her dead body. Not even if there's a fire.)

And then you remember that this is a girl who got lost driving us home one day and took us down a narrow road with nowhere to turn back. Until we reached a GAA pitch and she decided to pull in there and turn in the carpark and go back the other way. However the carpark turned out to be at the end of an avenue, but it was a narrow avenue so she had to keep going til she got to the carpark to turn and there were people training and arriving to train who saw this apparent cruise-by of their session and must have wondered who the stranger with the L-Plate who drove slowly by the pitch, turned in their carpark and drove slowly back again was.
And it's the girl who collected me from my boyfriends house, drove from there to the local town to drop off my brothers girlfriend and asked in a confused tone on entering the town... Where are we? Its not a large town. And we have been driving through it and in and out of it and up and down it for as long as I can remember.

But sure listen, she's a grand driver. And isn't she better than she was. And don't you go to mass on Sunday and pray for your safety and always wear your seatbelt and never go to sleep in the car while she's driving, and make sure that in your own head you're driving the car yourself so you can be on high alert..... just in case.....

And don't we all love a bit of adventure now and then....

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My parents: funeral addicts.

My parents love death... I know what you're thinking, get out of the houuuuse! But no,really, don't worry, they're of that generation. That older Irish generation that loves nothing better than a good auld funeral. 

First of all, you get the wake the night before. Oh they love a good wake. Everyone crowding into a house, the rosary going in the background, tea and cake, and of course, a good old gossip. The current deceased, of course, and anybody else who may have died recently, and then, among certain company, anyone who may be on the way out. Though you keep that talk to a minimum among the older folk, in case they get paranoid that you're talking about them.

Then there's the funeral itself. Another excuse to meet up with the neighbours, have a spy on what's going on around the church. A reason to see people from bye-gones, and check up on how everyone's getting on with life, the universe and everything. And a good few prayers by a freezing cold grave-side for your penance. They love those. If you're lucky, of course, you get invited back by the family for tea and sandwiches after the mass. And best of all, you don't even need to know the deceased that well..at all even, to attend! They won't know!

So why wouldn't my parents like a nice old funeral every now and again. ..every now and again. If only it was every now and again. But lately those two crazy kids seem to be attending a new funeral every week. And it reached its crazy-point pinacle last week. When we came home to find a list of dead people on the table in the living room.

You read it right. A motherfucking list of dead people. 

Naturally we were freaked out. Til it was explained that it was a list of people who had died so that they could send mass cards to the family. Very convenient. And a reasonable explanation. But it got me thinking.. And worrying..

Because there won't always be a funeral every week. And they seem to be a little bit addicted to this funeral malarky. And I fear that at some stage there will be a dearth of funerals to attend. A sort of funeral drought. A famine of the funeral variety. And instead of a list of dead people on the living room table, it'll be a list of predicted deaths. And where does it all end???

What if this list of predicted deaths starts to come true? And we begin to find blood-stained clothing in the laundry. And tired of predicting deaths for funerals that may or may not happen, my parents have begun to plan deaths instead??

Now, its common knowledge that I am not the biggest fan of old people. But even I know that this murder business for the sake of a funeral is going a bit far! I knew my parents were secret serial killers.

This funeral pastime needs to be stopped. And soon. It's for their own good.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Speaking of feet.....

A number of days before Christmas, my mother broke her foot.

...She fell down some steps...seriously.... Although judging by my fathers reaction, you'd swear I pushed her!
On my own admission that I heard a noise and then her calling dad's name but no more until a few minutes later when she was already back in the house and he was there too, he immediately yelled,

>You heard your mother fall and yell for me and you left her there for 10 whole minutes until I came in and found her?? You did nothing to help her?? You left her for the wild dogs and rabid wolves to eat??!! (There were no wild dogs or wolves. I made that part up for dramatic effect. You get the idea though)

It took a solid 10 minutes to calm him down enough for me to explain that I hadn't heard 10 minutes worth of shouting and since I had heard no more, I had assumed that everything was ok. Apparently that wasn't a good excuse, and neither was my argument that my psychic radar which should have told me that my mother was injured and not just calling for him to help put up Christmas lights must have been off. But I digress...

As it turned out, my father, who also had not heard her calling for 10 minutes I might add..... couldn't bring her to the doctors to get her foot checked out, but luckily one of my elder sisters is driving now (more on that another time) and she, saint that she is, was able to take the patient to the doctors. From my sisters account it was a nerve-wracking drive.

Already driving slower than normal in order to protect the injured foot from bumps and the like on the bad country roads, she was subjected to complaints from a very agitated and nervous front seat passenger/ back-seat driver in the form of my mother who complained that she was going too fast, with her hand hovering constantly in the vicinity of the hand-brake. (In the early days of my sister's forays into driving, this hand often took swipes at the hand-brake at the first sign of a stop sign or a traffic light, inevitably causing tension and irritation for my long-suffering sibling). However, understanding that the mother was in some pain and no doubt on edge, the sister chose to ignore the hand of doom and focus on getting her there in one piece.

There was, of course, one more test to her patience. Half-way along the lane that passes as a main thoroughfare through one of the townlands, a car was spotted in the distance, just coming around a turn. With any number of gateways to pull into, and the warning of a number of hundred metres for both cars, my sister was not worried. However, the mother let out an ear-piercing scream, and shrieked,

>Stop! A car!!!!!!!!!

For the rest of the trip, the mother was on the edge of her seat, and keeping an uncomfortably friendly relationship with the handbrakes personal space. A very agitated sister later stated to me, 

>I swear to God, if she'd pulled that handbrake I would've got out of the car and sat on her foot!!!!! 
...I worry that this wasn't an idle threat... I've seen her angry. She scares me.

Never one for an easy solution to a problem, it was revealed that the mother had broken an exceedingly awkward bone in her foot and the question of surgery was brought up. In the end, (and I assume because it was so close to Christmas) a cast was put on her foot with the instructions to come back in a week for a check-up and they'd decide then.

I was concerned about who would cook Christmas dinner. And I worried I would have to have some part in it. I believe so did everyone else. As my boss said in work, 

>I've heard about the things you've put on the table! Sure you wouldn't know what you'd be eating!!!

Harsh.

I was assigned the much more appropriate task of setting the dinner tables, which my mother had instructed be placed together in a position which unfortunately resembled a penis. Everyone noticed except my parents and aunt.

There are many pros and cons about having a woman like my mother in a leg cast. However, to save you some tedium, I will be brief:

Pro: She can't get up the stairs to see the state my room has fallen into. I fear she would not be best pleased.

Con: We are now regarded as her personal slaves and she sends us on the most trivial errands around the house, waits til we have literally sat back down again, and then sends us on another. When questioned as to why she didn't just give us all of the jobs at the one time, she moaned,
>Well I didn't know what job I wanted you to do til you had the first one done.
..A likely story woman.

Pro: You can hear her approaching from a distance. The creak_creak_creak of those crutches gives us enough warning to appear busy, tidy small messes or generally disappear before she can arrive on scene to give out.

Con: In an unlikely turn of events.... Also 'You can hear her approaching from a distance'. When sitting in a room with only one entrance there is no escape, and the creak_creak_creak of those crutches is as ominous and bone-chilling as the footsteps of an approaching killer in the most eerie thriller movies. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. And the noise gets louder and louder and draws ever closer until......... You get the drift...

Pro: We are treated to the most hilarious comedy shows as she stubbornly insists on doing awkward jobs that take her twice as long as it would to ask one of us to do. For example, moving a chair from one room to another. Push, hop. Push, hop. Sit on a bench and push chair as far as possible, then use crutch to push it further again until she needs to stand and hop over and push again...And the mournful look in her eye as she does it, but then refuses your help when you offer with a hint of annoyance in her voice that you would even ask! Hours of entertainment. Or of course, the laptop case in the mouth like a dog, which is always a treat.

Con: One less taxi driver for the non-motorized members of the family.

Pro: The endless number of jokes about cripples, casts, breakages. It was her birthday today and my father wrote Hoppy Birthday in her card. And the messer of a neighbour in the church who whispered to my mother as he went by that there was an awful smell of feet that day.

Con: That foot. That bare foot. And no paint or anything on her toe-nails. The disgrace of it all. I hate feet.

And now we play the waiting game. Until she falls asleep in a position or place where we can assault her cast with pens and markers and the inevitable drawing of a willy.....