Saturday, April 26, 2008

My Little Tip Factory

I had a bonus surprise today when my parents rang for the weekly call. The Kid was at their house and he was willing to talk on the phone.

Today is a big day for The Kid - he's going to play in his first soccer game. Coincidentally, today was my second Gaelic football match. (I didn't play at all in the first one and I was a bit nervous about having to play today. I really am a disaster at it right now.) I thought The Kid might be able to offer me some advice.

Me: So, Kid, do you have any tips for me today for my game?

The Kid: Yeah! Just run really fast and get to the ball first. That's what you do in football and that's what I do in soccer. Run fast!

Me: That's a good tip. But you know what happens when I run really fast, I get out of breath.

The Kid: Don't worry. That happens to me too. This is what I do. I touch my knees and wait. Then, when I'm powered up, I can run really fast again.

Me: OK, I'm going to have to try that. Although, you know, it's easier for you. You're all young and agile.

The Kid: Yeah!

Me: It's harder for me because I'm old and slow.

The Kid: Yeah!

Me: But I think what you've told me will really help me out. Thanks a lot.

The Kid: I'm full of great tips!

When I recounted this conversation to Peter, he smiled and pointed out that I love asking The Kid for advice. I enjoy watching how his little mind works and seeing what he comes up with. Plus, kids get tired of boring grown-ups and all the questions they always ask. How's school? Do you have any friends? What do you want to be when you grow up?

I'll have to send The Kid an email and tell him that I got to try out his tips for three whole minutes at the end of our match today. (We were losing so badly, the coach asked me if I wanted to go in and I figured it was a good place to start, absolutely no pressure.) I did run fast, but I didn't get to the ball first. The Power-Up seemed to work, but I think only more gym time and sprinting is really going to help.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

How Much is Three Trillion?

I've never been much good at math. I agree with Amy: math is intimidating in its black and white, right and wrong nature. The other thing I've always found intimidating in math are these nebulous concepts like negative numbers. I'm much more of a concrete girl. You either have three apples or you have no apples. You can't have negative-three apples. Solving for x, trains leaving stations, quadratic's all enough to give me heart palpitations.

My shortcoming in comprehending nebulous concepts also makes large numbers nearly impossible to wrap my head around. (Which is why I loved Amy's equating words with slices of bread.) Even though I'm a bit fuzzy on how far it is from the Earth to the Moon, I'm able to at least grasp that it's far, far, far away. So when I hear the Americans throw away 18 billion disposable diapers a year, that means nothing to me. But, if I hear that "Laid end-to-end, the 18 billion disposable diapers thrown away in the U.S. each year could reach back and forth to the moon 7 times", that's something I can begin to visualise and appreciate.

Two genius economists, Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, have been making the rounds on NPR recently, talking about their book The Three Trillion Dollar War. They contend that due to hidden costs, such as replacement of military equipment and post-war treatment of veterans, the real cost of the Iraq War is nowhere near the currently reported costs of 50 billion. (How much is it really? I'll give you a hint, the answer's in the title of their book.)

Three trillion. When I hear that, I think that's a three with several piles of zeros after it, right? But what does that really mean? What else could that money have bought?

The Three Trillion Dollar Shopping Spree let me answer that question. It's an interesting site, since anyone can enter an item for 'sale,' so some of the prices are a bit suspect. (Like I'm sure Scotland is worth way more than $30,000.) Also, for some things it would be difficult to determine an accurate price (world peace, for example). But the principle behind the site is sound and it really made me appreciate exactly how much three trillion is.

Let me tell you, it takes a LONG time to spend three trillion. When I saw all of the zeros after some items, it seemed like I could just buy one of those and I'd be done. Then I'd find out that I'd have to buy 27 of those items, or something equally ludicrous.

I was a girl on a mission, determined to spend every cent of my three trillion dollars. I'm embarrassed to say how long it took me although I'm pleased to report that I was nearly 100% successful. At the end of my spree, I only had 75 cents left over.

In case you're curious, my ginormous shopping cart included the following:
  • No Kill Animal Shelters World Wide
  • Provide Permanent Homes for Unwanted Horses
  • research to save all animal species
  • A Permanent Vacation
  • Secret Island Fortress
  • A Brand New House for my family & other relatives
  • Food and Vet care for low-income pet owners
  • Gift of Sheep
  • Free, Fair, and Unbiased Media
  • A copy of the book The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict
  • Horse farm in New Zealand
  • Health Care for Two People
  • 1 Eee Pc for EVERY person on earth
  • OC3 Internet Connection
  • Two of AnnTaylor's entire line (I think I had a double-click mistake here)
  • Two Salaries to Pay a Peacekeeper
  • Shelby Cobra That Runs on Hydrogen
  • College Education for All Family Members
  • Complete buyout to end house foreclosures.
  • Your own world Tour
  • A Pony
  • Baby Elephant
  • Chicago Cubs
  • Old Truck with a Nice, Happy Dog
  • Custom Roller Coaster
  • Three Student Loan Pay Offs
  • A Maid for everyday for 100 years
  • Paris apartment
  • The US Capitol
  • Make a Hollywood Movie
  • Desalination Plants
  • Google
  • National Security
  • Everglades Restoration
  • Go On Vacation to Space!
  • The World’s Most Expensive Fiddle
  • Buy the Beatles' Back Catalog
  • Every Song in the iTunes Library
  • Private Concert with Bono
  • Fusion Reactor
  • 30 HP NorTrac Bulldozer and Backhoe
  • 100 New Libraries
  • 60 acres and a mule
  • New York City Penthouse
  • Italian Vineyard
  • One of Oprah's mansions
  • Dodger Stadium
  • Achieve Universal Literacy
  • Personal Helper Monkey
  • Energy Independent Home
  • 1 nice home for family and friends in CA
  • cure for alzhiemers
  • Hire a Firefighter
  • Chuck Norris as Personal Bodyguard
  • MD, PhD education at prestigious university
  • Hubble Space Telescope
  • My Pet Goat Presidential Library
  • Get your favorite author to write a book for you
  • a chicken in every pot
  • Root Beer Factory
  • 200000 Cows for Gift of a Heifer
  • Lifetime Supply of Groceries
  • The Virgin Mary Sandwich
  • Danby 0.5 Keg Beer Keg Cooler Stainless Steel Reversible Door Auto Cycle Beer Keg -
  • DKC645BLS
  • Home Made Brew For a Year
  • Water Distiller & Power Generator
  • Career Help for Outsourced IT Pros
  • Ultimate Panorama Camera System
  • Giant Robotic Slave
  • Samsung - 70" 1080p Flat-Panel LCD HDTV
  • Customizable High-End Computer
  • Grant to Brave New Films
  • Produce Jericho seasons 3-8
  • Private Tropical Island
  • Own an Original Jackson Pollock
  • A Scottish castle
  • Dinosaur Fossil Coffee Table
  • Luxury Cruise Around the World
  • Funding for Retirement
  • Bell 430
  • Rubber Duckies for Every Bathtub in Texas
  • 3.6 MW G.E Wind Turbine
  • Caribbean Mountain Cottages
  • Lamborghini Miura
  • M400 Skycar
  • Tesla Roadster
  • 100,000 US Constitution, Pocket-Sized Edition
  • 1958 Fender Stratocaster
  • 1000 Trees in a Rainforest Reforestation Project
  • Skeeball Lighting 10ft
  • Ferrari 599 GTB
  • 36 in. All Gas 5 Sealed Burners, Double Oven Gas Range - DEFSGG36D
  • Build & Fill a New Library
  • SolarGro Cascade Greenhouse 20' x 40'
  • Super Chexx Bubble Hockey Table
  • STOTT PILATES: Professional Reformer
  • Bowflex Series 7 Treadmill
  • Sea Eagle 380x Kayak with Pro Package
  • Bushnell Sportview 15-45x50 Spotting Scope
  • Potato Gnocchi (Emilia) 500g
  • Hoof Pick With Brush Assorted Colors (You know, for the pony)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

War of Tug

When we had the behaviouralist out to help us with Toby last summer, she gave us an education in what she called "heavy duty guard breeds." Since we've never owned such a dog before, we were unaware of their special needs and requirements. Establishing dominance and the proper pack order is particularly important with a guard breed, since he will feel its his obligation to protect lower members of the pack. A great idea in principle, but your idea of a threat and your dog's idea of a threat may vary and result in less than ideal practises, like vicious barking at little old ladies and puppies.

The behaviouralist urged us to work with Toby on "take it" and "drop it" commands. We have been especially consistent with the "take it" command. He knows he's not going to get any treat out of our hands unless he waits until told. He's very good at this and is also quite funny in how delicately he'll take something from your hand.

Once during a workshop, Peter realised we were out of milk or bread or some important lunch ingredient. He left the student home alone with Toby while he ran out to the shop. While waiting, the guy was nibbling on a slice of cheese and decided to give Toby some. He told Peter later that as soon as he offered the cheese, he realised he may have been making a horrible mistake. He had a split-second vision of a large gaping dog maw clamping down on his hand. It was with relief and amusement that he report that instead, Toby had delicately grasped the cheese by a corner and then carried it away.

Peter can always get what he wants off of Toby. I have to work a bit harder with certain toys. I have been able to take bones off of Toby, after I let him know in no uncertain terms that growling and hanging onto the bone was not acceptable behaviour. It's just that with sliotars and tennis balls, he can dig his teeth in and get good enough purchase to deflect any of my retrieval attempts.

The other day, Peter decided to buy a Kong Tug-of-War toy. It was well-designed and he thought it would be fun for the whole family. In our dog training travels, we've heard more than once that in general, it's a bad idea to play tug-of-war with your dog. The theory behind the advice is that if the dog wins, then he'll get grand notions that he is the alpha dog and will consequently be more difficult to train and control. Like most things in life, this really depends on the dog.

Peter's relationship with Toby is such that he'll have no problems with tug-of-war. We knew that I'd have to work harder, but thought that the game could become part of my continuing effort to reinforce with Toby that I am, if not THE boss of him, then A boss of him.

When we got home, Peter eagerly opened up the new toy and waved it around in Toby's face. "Take it!" Toby obliged, gingerly easing his teeth over the edge of the handle. The second he realised that Peter wasn't going to release the toy, Toby dropped it.

Peter made several attempts to engage Toby in a game, but Toby was having none of it. He seemed a bit puzzled by the whole thing. I had a go, since if Toby was going to challenge anyone, it would be me. But the result was the same. In Toby's world, "take it" means "take it only if the human is going to relinquish it."

Peter took the toy and Toby outside, thinking that perhaps if he ran around with the toy, that Toby would engage with it. Instead, Toby ran around with a regular Kong toy in his mouth. I like to think that what he was thinking was "Hey, Big Guy, I'm so pleased that you've got your own toy to run with. But for real fun, you should carry it in your mouth so you can bite and run at the same time."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Living in Fear of Vegans

One of the unexpected side effects of our move to the Middle of Nowhere was the expansion of my role as the Lovely Assistant for Peter Cox Photography. Up until the move, being the Lovely Assistant was a seasonal gig, limited chiefly to art and craft fairs. A couple of weekends a year plus the month of December.

The move gave Peter the opportunity to offer workshops. Being the Lovely Assistant morphed into a second job with diverse responsibilities and deliverables. I answer the phone, book workshops, and do other general office duties. I'm also the chef, responsible for making dinner for workshoppers.

After I got over my fear of cross-contamination and spreading food-bourne illness to the students, I found that I enjoyed the cooking. It's easier on the weekends and sometimes, when I have extra time and motivation, I even bake muffins or some sort of dessert.

When we take a workshop booking, we always make sure to ask if the person has any dietary issues or restrictions. One time, Peter forgot to ask and it turned out that the guy was a vegetarian. Luckily, the subject came up at breakfast and it was shopping day, so I was able to make a nice pasta dish.

I've been fortunate so far that the students have been very un-fussy. Most people quite cheerfully claim they will eat whatever is put in front of them, and they do. A few students have had minor allergies or food aversions, but it has all be very easy to accommodate them.

I was thrown into a bit of a tizzy when we had a celiac sign up for a workshop. We got through it fine, by relying on simple and plain foods. It's amazing how wheat gluten can turn up in the most unlikely places, such as ketchup or ice cream. Having had the experience, I'm now confident of being able to prepare dinner for a celiac.

All that's left is vegans. I live in fear of the day that a vegan books a workshop. Vegans are a big mystery to me. I love cheese and cannot imagine a life without it. Peter jokes that if ever do get a vegan, we can send them outside to eat grass. Somehow, I don't think that's really going to fly with a paying customer.

I'm probably worrying for nothing. I imagine it's rare enough in Ireland, as vegetarianism has only really become socially acceptable in the last ten years. Still, I feel like I should prepare for the possibility. Do a few drills. Learn a few vegan recipes.

Anyone have a favourite vegan recipe to share?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I Need a Montage

In addition to mangling my finger on Saturday, I was also confronted with a horrible truth that I'd been avoiding for the last three years or so. I've gotten fat and out-of-shape. Before you flood my comments and email box with kind compliments and the contact information for shrinks who deal with eating disorders, let me show you the numbers.

We did a body fat analysis test in which measurements were taken with calipers. The measurements came from four locations: biceps, triceps, scapula, and stomach. The only bright spot for me was that my two biggest problem areas (ass and thighs) apparently do not factor into the calculations. That was quite a relief as I had horrible images of the tester putting down the calipers and intoning gravely "I think we need a bigger boat."

So, based on my measurements, I am at a whopping 29.47% body fat. We were told that a normal healthy percentage would be around 25% and that an athlete would be less than that, as low as 15%. Our coach would like us to strive to be around 20%.

But wait, there's more bad news. The 150m SAQ (Speed, Agility, Quickness) test confirmed that I am slow and unfit. The test is six minutes of abject torture. You have cones set up at 5 meter intervals (5m, 10m, 15m, 20m, and 25m). You have to do shuttle runs, in which you run up to the 5m, back to the start, up to the 10m, back to the start, etc. You have 30 seconds to cover as much ground as you can. Then 30 seconds of rest. Sounds easy, right? The first time, it is. It's the next five times that near about kill you.

A 'good' score on the 150m SAQ would be in the neighbourhood of 740. I think our fastest girl was around 650. I racked up an embarrassing 535. Our coach wants us to shoot for 700 at a minimum.

It's good to have the numbers in black and white because it's too easy for me to rest on the laurels of my endurance running and camogie. The truth is that my sort of endurance running doesn't require anything but a surfeit of stubbornness to ensure that I keep putting one foot in front of the other. It's all about carrying on and less about the quality of the performance. Camogie is great fun, but the ball does most of the work. (If my camogie team ever starts up again this year, I'll be well-ready for it. It'll seem like a breeze after football training.)

I was at the height of my fitness level back in 2004, when I was getting ready for our wedding. Part of me wishes I had body fat composition numbers from then, but most of me is relieved because the comparison would make me cry. And it's no use crying over spilt full-fat milk, might as well take the information and make the best of it.

If my life was a movie, this is where we'd have the montage. Many weeks of hard work would be compressed into a few minutes of images with a catchy pop tune playing as the soundtrack. I already use the Von Bondies' "C'mon, C'mon" for my sprint workouts, so that might make for good montage music.

In the beginning of the montage, you'd see scenes of me getting up early to lift weights alone, doing sprints in the backyard, running with Toby up the steep hill near our house (he'd be doing most of the work, dragging my sorry ass), coming in last in all the sprints at football training.

In the middle of the montage, you'd start to see a bit of improvement in the images. I'm lifting heavier weights. I'm doing core training exercises without falling over. I'm matching Toby stride for stride on the big hill.

Then, in the triumphant end scenes of the montage, I'd be noticeably more svelte and quick. I'd be dragging Toby up the hill. I'd be in with the pack during the sprint drills at training. Who knows, in the big final shot, I might even win a sprint.

Sadly, life isn't a movie. There's no way to condense all of the hard work I have ahead of me. I'm not sure I'll make 20% body fat and 700 on the SAQ test. But I want to make the most of this opportunity to get fit. I'm not getting any younger and losing weight is only going to get harder in the future. I like the focus on fitnes, the emphasos on body fat percentage instead of numbers on a scale.

The challenge in the next six weeks is to work on my fitness every day, for at least an hour. When the caliper-wielding fitness assessor returns, I probably won't be down to 20%, but I do aim to be vastly improved.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What Are the Chances?

At football training today, I f***ed up my other F*** You finger. The left one still hasn't healed - I can't straighten it all the way. The tip flops over like a snapped twig. Now the right one is swollen, painful and turning purple.

Two years of playing camogie, all I got was a split lip, some bruises, and a really disgusting black nail problem. Two months of football and both F*** You fingers are in tatters. What are the chances that the game without the stick is the more dangerous one?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

This is Our Life

Peter was up in Dublin yesterday, so I decided it was time for my most ambitious solo outing yet: a trip to the Dingle peninsula. After the wet pants incident at Barley Cove, I have become much more careful about preparing for these little trips. I packed up the car with a full change of clothes, a large packed lunch, a thermos of tea, a towel, my mobile phone, Emily the GPS unit, and, of course, Toby. We were out the door around 9.30, ready for anything.

The drive should take about two hours, so I was zipping along, enjoying the freedom and the sun peeking out behind the clouds. The drive to Killarney was old hat for me, but the other side was a mystery. At my turnoff for Dingle, the road narrowed noticeably. Not a huge deal, except that a few miles later, I learned an important equation:

Narrow Road + Oncoming Truck + Gaping Hole Directly in Front of Tyre = Disaster

The only question was how bad of a disaster. In a situation like this, you have a choice of how screwed you are. The best case scenario for each of the options all have downsides-
stay on course, you'll probably wreck your tyre.
creep over the median to avoid the hole, you'll probably lose your wing mirror.
swerve to avoid...since the only place to swerve as into the path of the truck, I don't think this option even has a best case scenario. Except for maybe escaping alive to drive another day.

It all happened rather quickly. I had some hope that I'd misjudged the size of the hole and that (ah sure) it would be grand. That hope evaporated when a car-shaking thud confirmed that I'd hit the pothole, which on closer examination was more like a gaping portal to hell. The car was still driving, but I could feel the steering wheel starting to pull to the left. With no place to pull over, I carried on until I found a rocky median in front of a building site.

One look at the tyre confirmed my diagnosis: bent rim. I could hear the air escaping and could feel the tyre was a bit softer. I knew (thanks to Emily) that I was only a few kilometers from Milltown, so I decided to risk driving there. I figured I had a better chance of finding help (and maybe even a mechanic) than I did at a vacant building site on a narrow road.

The drive was excruciating, as I crept along just hoping the tyre wouldn't catastrophically deflate. I found a petrol station with a Londis and parked the car.

A word about my car. It's a 12-year old Peugeot hatchback and it's a marvel of French engineering: everything is just a little bit different than you'd expect. For example, the horn isn't in the middle of the steering wheel. It's a little press button on the end of the little stick that controls the lights and the indicators. You can't even really see the button, so cleverly is it built into the stick. I don't have to use the horn very often, but when I do, I invariably waste precious time pounding on the steering wheel.

The spare tyre is also not where you'd expect. Since Peter already had to change the tyre for me once, I knew it wasn't just in the boot of the car like a normal spare. It's carried in a little cage that's part of the undercarriage of the car. (Poor Peter had to figure all this out in the pouring rain about a month after I got the car.) I didn't know how you got the tyre out of the cage, so I rang Peter. After laughing ruefully, he informed me that if I pulled up the carpet in the boot, I'd find a little nut, which I could then use the reverse end of tyre iron to loosen, which would lower the cage and free the tyre.

I started to work away but I couldn't get the nut to budge even the tiniest bit. A white van pulled up one spot away from me and a guy wearing working jeans got out. I called out to him "Excuse me, do you think you could please help me out? I need to get this loosened." I really only intended to have him get the nut loosened, but he was a prince among men. He refused to let me touch anything and completely changed the tyre. I felt awful, since getting the tyre out of the cage pretty much involves lying on the ground.

I also felt awful because every time the guy had to go near the open boot, Toby growled and barked ferociously. I didn't want to look like one of those eejits that reasons with their dogs, but I knew Toby could sense my anxiety and was attributing it to the guy. In reality, of course, I was upset about the tyre and was quite relieved to have the guy helping me. Since the car's a hatchback, there was only the flimsy boot cover separating my rescuer from Toby and his shiny white teeth. I told Toby to knock it off and eventually he did, sighing in his frustrated way and flopping down on the back seat, as if to say "Hey, I warned you. Don't come crying to me when this guy turns out to be Ted Bundy's Irish cousin."

The spare looked much worse for wear than I remembered. It was an old tyre that I'd replaced last year and the rubber was all cracked at the edges. You know how cheap shoes look just before the soles come away from the uppers? Well, the tyre looked a lot like that. The guy cautioned me not to drive too far on the spare, that it would have to replaced soon. I thanked him profusely and decided my best course of action was to return to Killarney, where I was confident I'd be able to find a tyre replacement place.

Two+ hours, one straighten rim/reinflated tyre, one new spare, lots of growls from Toby, and 60 euro later, we were finally back on track for Dingle. It took every ounce of willpower and sense of adventure I possessed to continue with our outing. Having a tyre go like that made me think of all the other things that can go wrong. It made me feel vulnerable and alone and I feared getting stranded. (Although, in a situation like that, the idea of Toby the Heavy-Duty Guarding Alsatian does provide some measure of comfort.)

I figured I'd already had my dose of bad luck for the trip and (ah sure) it really would be grand. I drove to Wine Strand beach in Ballyferriter, a beautiful strip of sand with spectacular views.

When we approached the beach, there was a hippie-looking guy walking around barefoot on the sand. I took Toby up along a ridge of sand dunes, so we could have a little walk. When the guy left, Toby and I went down onto the sand. We were the only ones on the beach and it felt like our own private world. I'm an introvert and I live for moments like these: peaceful, serene, blissful isolation in beautiful surroundings.

I let Toby off the leash and he made like a bronco bursting out of the holding pen. He was so excited - he leapt around the beach, dashing and play-bowing and generally acting like a puppy. I found a good piece of driftwood and we spent the next hour playing fetch. Toby also had a good time racing up to the incoming tide, and then retreating just in front of it.

Sometimes, when I'm taking Toby for a walk or we're frolicking during an outing, he'll do this thing where he walks right beside me and nudges my hand with his nose. When I look down, he's looking up at me with a giant grin, as if to say "This is fantastic! Can you believe that this is our life? That we live here?" He did that a few times during our time on Wine Strand. He's right, of course, I often can't believe that this is my life now.

When we returned to the car, my fingers were nearly frozen and my face was covered in salt spray. Toby's face was covered in sand. I gave him a bowl of water while I had a cup of tea and enjoyed the view from the parking lot. The whole trip, adversity and all, was well worth it.

Toby on the dunes at Wine Strand. I uploaded this picture to my laptop from my phone using Bluetooth, which I learned how to do using this fantastic tutorial.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Suspicious Activities

I love Fridays. I work from home on a flexible schedule. I get up early and open the laptop immediately, then work until around noon. From noon to around 4 or 5, I go into Macroom to do my weekly shopping and miscellaneous errands (like dropping off our trash and recycling to the Civic Amenity Centre). When I get home, I work the hour or two remaining in my day. It's a brilliant two-birds-one-stone approach that allows me to have both weekend days free from shopping and errands.

Today was an ordinary Friday, so a little bit after noon, I got in the car and drove off to do my shopping. Only when I came around the front of the house, I realised I didn't remember locking or checking the door. Bitter experience has taught me that it's quicker and more painless to go back and check than to carry on, especially when I'm so close to the house. I'm sure I've alluded to my OCD tendencies here on numerous occasions.

These issues don't really rise to the level of an honest-to-God disorder, but I would say I have a couple quirky habits that I can't seem to shake. My issues revolve around two things - locking doors/turning off appliances and the abiding fear that I will accidentally hit a pedestrian when I'm driving and not notice it. I tend to live inside my head and can quite easily carry on with routine tasks without noticing whether I've lock the door or shut off the oven. I'd like to think that I'm not such a space cadet that I could hit someone without noticing, but I still have a fear of it.

I say these issues don't rise to the level of a disorder because they don't seriously impact my ability to get through daily life. Sure, every once in a while, I have to turn around and check that I didn't hit someone, but it's not a daily occurrence and one check is enough.

After parking the car in the back of the house, I hopped out and checked the door. Locked. I turned back to the car just as a Garda car pulled around the side of the house. My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach and the blood started to buzz in my ears. What is it about officers of the law that can inspire feelings of guilt and panic in even the most law-abiding of citizens?

We don't really see the Gardaí that often. Maybe every month, you might pass a Garda car on the road. The garda for our little corner of the Middle of Nowhere lives right next to the Garda Station. Sometimes, the car is parked in front of his house. Other times, it's in front of the station. It amuses me to picture him driving L.A. Story-style between his home and work, but I know it probably doesn't happen like that.

When I saw the garda, my first thought (and fear) was that Toby had bit someone. He was out of my sight around the front of the house for about a minute that morning when he went out to do his business. So it wasn't completely outside the realm of possibility that he could have bit a passerby. Toby, who was in the house, started to bark ferociously, thus reinforcing his guard dog credentials.

I went up to the open window of the car and said 'Hello' to the garda, hoping that my face was arranged in an expression that was quizzical rather than guilty.

"So you live here, do you?" he asked. I nodded, wondering where this line of questioning was going. "Right so," he said. "I saw the car pull around and it looked suspicious to me."

I laughed and explained I was just double-checking the locked door. "Grand. Just wanted to be security-minded," he said. Then he waved good-bye and went off to patrol the rest of the Middle of Nowhere.

It's actually not unprecedented that someone would pull into our driveway, drive around the house, and then drive off again. One time, a few days after the mystery sheep incident, a red BMW pulled around the back of the house. A guy with wellies and floppy hat got out, did a lap around the garage, peering off into the far fields, then shrugged his shoulders and hopped back into the car. I can only figure that he was looking for the sheep.

So I've been trying to figure out what's suspicious about a car driving around the house in the manner that I did. I've no idea, but it's nice to know that the garda was arsed to check it out.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

No More L-Plates, Ever!

Peter passed his driving test today. He didn't have quite the mystical or exciting experience that I did, but then he's a much more confident driver than I am.

I had to laugh, though, when he came home from a lesson last Friday and said "Wow, Skibbereen really is a total maze." That's what I've been saying for the last six months.

We're both thrilled and relieved that we'll never have to go through the Irish driving test again.
We pretty much spent the day in the car (to Skib, then to Cork City to get his license, and then home), so any great plans I had to write a charming and witty post have gone out the window. Regular blogging service will resume shortly.