Minding my own business, doing no harm to anybody when my phone begins to fuss: I am trending on Twitter. This is rarely good. So I thank the senders and don’t go on Twitter because my moral fiber is so weak, when I read lies accusing me of all sorts of bad stuff, I tend to briefly believe them and hate me. Which may be good for me. It may be the electronic equivalent of the old religious retreat. But not right now. My FOMO doesn’t extend to finding out who currently hates me on Twitter.
It’s the people who want to alert you to your excoriation who are intriguing. These Twitter alerts are not unlike the phone calls in the old days to a woman about her husband being seen in an expensive restaurant with a female companion by whom the husband seemed … well … enchanted. I was lucky enough to avoid those phone calls back then, but Twitter stimulates today’s bad news bearers.
Some Northern Ireland politician wants the border closed to control Covid. Stephen Donnelly indicates this is not a game he plans to play, which is good, because me and my sister are headed, on this bright Monday, to Newry, where shops are open and shop assistants ask you if you have a wee bag and a wee credit card and a wee parking slip.
My sister borrows her husband’s car, which is roughly the size of Croke Park, comes to my house and — sensibly — visits the bathroom prior to our departure, coming out in high good humour, having encountered my Donald Trump toilet brush for the first time. This toilet brush came all the way from Manhattan, courtesy of my friends, Letty and Bert, and has never been used for its fell purpose because if it had been I would not be comfortable having it beaming its orangeness from such a high shelf. Pristine, it is. Which is not a word you could use about its eponymous model.
The only disadvantage to my sister’s borrowed big car is that she never affixes the toll bridge gadget to the windscreen behind the mirror, where it should be, so I have to l hold it in place and pray it works. I get so anxious about this that I start jamming it against the window seven miles before we reach the Mary McAleese bridge, which my sister regards as a little OTT. (My behaviour, not the bridge, which we love.) The shopping is fine, except when I come out of one shop and dither about going right or left and a man clucks at me. Nothing else describes the reproving noise, indicative of his deep dissatisfaction at my hesitating on one of the marked-out yellow circles telling you which direction you should walk.
If we ever get coffees, which doesn’t look promising once the guy behind the Perspex looks helpless when my card fails to register.
I try another. He looks even more helpless, at which point the woman beside me says impatiently that it’s nothing to do with my card, the whole mall system is down. Oh yes, the guy behind the Perspex says, light dawning so slowly you can see it happening, watt by watt. My sister comes through with cash. My sister lives in a state of eager general preparedness. Always hoping for disaster. Not picky about the type. I suspect she carries a pocket fire extinguisher and maybe a pepper spray, too.
Debenhams is a bright desert holding nothing but black lipsticks and tops frayed and tacky from handling. The Pound Shop has turned into a pop up art gallery. A surprising number of other shops are boarded up for good. We nearly get depressed about this on the way back, but console ourselves with the fact that we used our wee credit cards, filled our wee bags, got our wee parking discount and defied the wee Northern politician who didn’t want us up there in the first place.
The book won the 2020 Booker Prize and Douglas Stuart, who wrote it, looks happy enough on the inside back cover, but Mother of God,must be the saddest novel ever written.
Douglas Stuart with the cover of his book, Shuggie Bain.
It makes Bleak House seem like Ross O’Carroll-Kelly. It’s all about growing up in a Scottish slum surrounded by violence, alcoholism, gender prejudice and sheer bloody hopeless filth. Confessional, if fictional, it is unique in its terrible beauty. It has to be recommended, with the health warning that it is not a beach book.
Getting anxious about impending freedom. If you don’t have a golf course or a Penneys to which you are egging to go, and particularly if you were never that much into hugging before the pandemic, returning to normal isn’t that exciting.
I varnished a floor, which was a mistake because the furniture seems to scrape fresh varnish more visibly than stale varnish. I cleaned out and scrubbed down every shelf and every drawer, including going up on a ladder to attack the top of the kitchen presses, where I encountered the black cat who surprised me so much that I nearly fell off the ladder and broke/dislocated the other arm. I blacked the stove. I did, I promise you, like a Victorian scullery maid, I blacked the stove. I also cleaned and polished sixty-eight pairs of shoes and boots, and, in fairness, must acknowledge that not many Victorian scullery maids owned that much footwear. Lined up beside the front door are a bag of clothes for the dry cleaners and three cartons of stuff for the charity shop.
The thing about housework is that it makes you realise the number of things that are falling apart. Like the back door. It was new twelve years ago, and now it is disintegrating because of the weather where I live. I consider using pandemic savings to replace it.
Russian baddies have hacked the HSE IT system and are holding us to ransom. Gratifying though it is to have Micheál Martin and Paul Reid saying hell will freeze over before they pay a ransom, I briefly entertain the possibility that — like in most true crime accounts — the powers-that-be are just saying that while sending a secret intermediary to Novgorod with a bag of BitCoin. But then I get a grip.
The last day of this, hopefully, last lockdown. And this account of it. I get shot in the face with Botox and fillers and go home looking like I was mugged in a small but persistent way.