The deadliest, jelliest site ever. Brought to you by Niamh Shaw

Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

Niamh Meister-Leifburger

Before we married, Andrew and I agreed he would wear his wedding ring for a minimum of 6 months.

In return, I would take his surname.

Well, it wasn’t written into the marriage vows – and anyway, Andrew only wore his wedding ring for 3 months. ALSO, my ulterior motive for the request was the expectation that the band would become an extension of his finger. In the event he was involved in a terrible accident resulting in severe arm trauma and his left hand swelling alarmingly, he’d fight off the doctor advancing with motorised cutters, deliriously screaming, “Get away from my ring! You’re not having it!”

Since that situation never came to pass, it seems pretty clear to me it constitutes a breach of said agreement rendering it null and void.

However, over eight years after the happy day when we yoked ourselves to each other till death or a misunderstanding involving a transsexual called Clarabelle and secret offshore bank account do us part, I applied for a new passport.

In fairness, I always intended to change my name. One reason I didn’t was because Andrew and I thought we might be able to engage in dodgy tax fraud that somehow turns out to be legal if I were still Shaw (in retrospect, I’m not sure how we envisioned that working). Another is I never got around to it. And finally, I wasn’t gestating a crotchfruit. If The Asset weren’t imminent early in the New Year, I would have waited until my passport expired in August 2012 before I became Niamh Meister-Leifburger or whatever Andrew’s surname is. I suppose I should really look that up.

Last time I renewed my passport, all that was required was a call to the Irish Consulate asking them to make out a passport in the name of Niamh Shaw, thanks a million.

THINGS HAVE INDEED CHANGED.

Three months ago, upon my request, the Consulate General of Ireland sent me a passport application form. I knew it was for an Irish passport because, hilariously, it included an information pamphlet on how NOT to take a passport photo, with pictures of random people wearing clown noses and sticking their faces up against windows etc.

To issue a passport in my married name, I had to submit our original marriage certificate (The Consulate General of Ireland evidently doesn’t trust Notary Publics) – and my original birth certificate to verify my maiden name. If I wanted my original documents returned – along with the new passport – I had to include a self-addressed sign-on-delivery courier bag. Rather makes you wonder what the $160 fee was for – for which the only accepted payment was a bankers’ cheque.

The passport photos – four according to the application form, although the supplementary documentation stated two – had to be confirmed as a true likeness of the applicant by an authority figure, e.g. a policeman or, you know, librarian.

I have no idea what the big deal is about getting a passport. I mean, they’re not exactly rare. Pretty much everybody has one.

Anyhoo. It took a while to put the application together. Andrew took some photos and I selected the image which looked least like I was contemplating assassinating John Key. After spending an hour on MS Paint arranging it in a collage, I took it to the pharmacy to get it printed.

Then I went to the police station.

“I’m looking for someone with the appropriate authority,” I announced at reception, spreading the forms across the counter.

“Well,” said the personable Jason, “you’ve come to the right place, ma’am.”

He was required to write the application form’s unique reference number on the back of two of the passport photos, and sign them.

“Do you have a black pen?” I asked. “Because it says on the form you need to use a black pen. Oh, and if you can find a pair of scissors- no, wait. I have some here in my bag.”

“What else do you have in the bag?” he asked, suspiciously eyeing me snipping up photos.

“Nothing I wish to disclose, thanks.”

Jason got so carried away by the power vested in him that he signed all nine of my passport photos.

“Don’t want you coming back,” he said.

“Oh, come on. Are you trying to tell me I’m the dodgiest character you’ve seen all week?”

“Don’t know. You might have a bomb strapped to your waist.”

“No, no; it’s a foetus I swear.”

Policemen are MUCH more fun than Customs Officials. Except, I suppose, when they’re trying to get you to breathe into the nozzle.

Off I went to NZ Post to mail the application – which was where/when I found I’d forgotten my original passport.

Back at home, Andrew pointed out another problem.

I’m not even sure how to coherently relate this. Ok, so. Look. *sigh!* You see. On the form was a box for my signature. And I kind of panicked and put the wrong one. Well obviously it was my signature – I mean, I wrote it – only it didn’t look like it usually does. It’s like I had a fleeting personality change halfway through signing, resulting in a squirmy bit in the middle. I think I was intimidated by the stringent instruction to keep within the lines of the box, which was WAY too small to adequately express my personality.

In any case, after I had written my signature – outside the box, with a wobble in the middle – I realized it was supposed to have been witnessed by an authority figure.

So before going to the police station, I Tippexed it out.

It almost looked like I hadn’t touched it at all.

Jason hadn’t noticed anyway.

But THEN I got home and made the mistake of saying to Andrew, “Do you think it matters my signature’s blue?”

And he said, “No, but the TIPPEX MIGHT BE A PROBLEM.”

Seriously, I don’t know why I bother talking to him. It always ends in tears.

Since you can’t download the application form off the Internet, I sent off to the Consulate General of Ireland for another. Then I printed more passport photos and returned to the police.

I wasn’t looking forward to explaining The Tippex Affair to Jason – or persuading him I wasn’t stalking him. Apart from exceptional circumstances I’m not really into that and anyway, to be honest, I prefer firemen.

Thankfully Jason was off giving out speeding tickets, so I got Angela. She was evidently more clued in than Jason since she actually asked to see my ID. Although I’m glad I didn’t get her the first time around, because no doubt Angela would have detected Tippex.

However, when she went to stamp the back of my passport photo it rolled up into the stamp and, when she finally prised it out, my face was covered in blue ink.

The information pamphlet on how not to take a passport photo hadn’t mentioned anything about not having a blue face, so I licked it a bit and scrubbed it with a tissue from up Angela’s sleeve. I sent it off, even though I still looked like one of my recent ancestors was a full-blooded Smurf.

Two days later, the Consulate General of Ireland called to say our marriage certificate isn’t valid.

First love

The other night, Agent of Death, Her Goatiness and I somehow got to talking about first loves.

Honestly, I was just grateful the topic wasn’t pus.

However, much to my embarrassment, I realised my first love was in fact a girl.

I was 4 or 5 years old, in Junior Infants in primary school, and still firmly of the opinion that boys were entirely nasty. I couldn’t fathom how one was supposed to coexist with them at all – never mind LIKE them.

There was a girl in 6th Class called Diane Hannagan and I loved her. She had blond hair and a wonderful round, smiley face. At the age of 12, she was the height of sophistication – not that I had any idea what sophistication was, but it definitely sounded like something I should aspire to.

My parents were friendly with her parents, all being members of the Limerick Lawn Tennis Club. I used to love when Mum brought me to the Hannagan’s house, which was big and had lots of windows, and a dog, and Diane’s mother who smelled incredibly exotic.

I condemned my parents for not calling me Diane, and desperately wished I had blond hair rather than brown, and a wonderful round, smiley face instead of a face that was just . . . facey. I bitterly regretted my mum didn’t smell like Diane’s (many years later, I realised Irene Hannagan’s magnetic musk was ‘Opium’ in what must have been scandalous application in 1970s Limerick).

I used to hang around the playground hoping Diane would notice me and say hello and maybe even tell me my schoolbag was nice. Indeed, she often did say ‘hello’, because she was a lovely, friendly girl – although she never did tell me my schoolbag was nice, which was undoubtedly an oversight on her part but did nothing to diminish my lustful thoughts that she might one day admire my finger-painting.

One day I was running in the playground, when I fell and grazed my knee. To my abounding joy, my howl of anguish was answered by Diane, who scooped me up into her arms. I still remember precisely where we sat, on the stairs beside the 6th Class prefab building, me on her lap. I couldn’t believe my luck when she applied a plaster.

It still remains one of the most stunningly profound moments of my entire life.

I was evidently a discerning admirer, because Diane Hannagan won the Rose of Tralee in 1984. I defy anyone who could not love this:

Rose of Tralee 1984

Dogs make me cry

I don’t cry at movies – apart from Finding Nemo because doesn’t everyone? Also anything starring Tom Cruise, but that’s a visceral rather than emotional response.

I’m much more susceptible to an intense, emotionally manipulative advert. Like the National Bank ad showing at cinemas here that always made me choke on my Malteser, and this one  from NZ Post always mists me up – although more light condensation, really.

However, when I was back in Ireland, there was an advert on telly that showed frequently. In it, the camera shows a Labrador, slumped in a small, bleak cell with bars across the front. He’s bored and lonely and quite obviously hasn’t chased a ball for what might be DAYS. Suddenly, his dull eyes spark; the ears prick; he jumps up, mouth falling open, tongue lolling; he darts to the front of the cell and sits eagerly; tail thrashing; he strains to see past the bars.

As People approach his cell, he looks up hopefully. And as they pass by barely breaking stride, his little ears sag, the tail wags ever more feebly; and as they walk out of frame, his whole body droops in defeat.

Sorry; did you say, what was it FOR? I have no idea. It seems reasonable to assume it was for K9 Friends or cell manufacturers or some such.

Every time this advert showed on telly, it reduced me to tears. One moment I’d be sitting there cynically monopolizing my parents’ Sunday Times magazine; the next choking back seismic sobs on the sofa.

I suppose it might have had something to do with missing my dog at the time. Also because Jed strives so hard to please me (when he isn’t distracted by a moving tennis ball); and looks at me like I’m the most wonderful thing in the world. I mean, Andrew stopped looking at me like that long ago – around the time he discovered me biting my toenails in the kitchen.

(Well, most of my boyfriends were TURNED ON by that.)

ANYWAY, I am grateful I no longer have to see that advert because it was pure embarrassing.

Then the other day, I was reading The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness. It’s an AWESOME BOOK, and I would recommend it unreservedly but for the fact that it ends on a cliff-hanger and now I’m completely stressed that the sequel is out on loan at the library until NOVEMBER.

So the protagonist, Todd, has a talking dog called Manchee. The villain, Aaron, is trying to kill Todd and Viola, when Manchee attacks him and gnaws his face long enough to allow Todd and Viola to escape in a boat. This is the relevant passage:

“Manchee!” Viola yells.

“C’mon, boy!”

And Manchee looks up from Aaron to see me calling him-

And that’s where Aaron takes his chance.

No!” I scream.

He grabs Manchee violently by his scruff, lifting him off the ground and up in one motion.

“Manchee!”

 “Todd?” Manchee yelps.

“Let him go!” I scream.

“Last chance, Todd,” Aaron says, no longer sounding so calm.

“Todd?” Manchee’s still yelping. “Todd?”

And no-

“I’ll kill you,” but my voice is a whisper-

And no-

And there ain’t no choice-

And the boat’s out in the current-

And I look at Viola, still rowing against it, tears dripping off her chin-

She looks back at me-

And there ain’t no choice-

“No,” she says, her voice choking. “Oh, no, Todd-“

And I put my hand on her arm to stop her rowing. The current takes us.

“I’m sorry!” I cry as the river takes us away, my words ragged things torn from me, my chest pulled so tight I can’t barely breathe. “I’m sorry, Manchee!”

“Todd?” he barks, confused and scared and watching me leave him behind. “Todd?

“Manchee!” I scream.

Aaron brings his free hand towards my dog.

“MANCHEE!”

Todd?

And Aaron wrenches his arms there’s a CRACK and a scream and a cut-off yelp that tears my heart in two forever and forever.

Well, I wept for a good ten minutes. When I finally unwracked, I was compelled to track down my own dog for lots of extremely reluctant cuddles.

Late breaking pics

Sitting here in Port Underwood on a sullen day, with mist shrouding the peninsula and the sea a chilly slate-grey, it is hard to believe that these photos were taken just over a month ago, in Ireland coming into summer.

All pictures are courtesy of the Wednesday Walking Group’s photographer, El Bruno.

I would like to point out that I did not buy the t-shirt, and only wear it for its sentimental value because a dear friend gave it to me. Also because I don't have any more. MarkJ, can you get me another? Preferably one that doesn't inspire strangers to approach me in the street and whisper, "I'm totally with you, that Angerlina Jolly is a slut." In fact, a t-shirt that would compel strangers to buy me coffee would be ideal. Thanks.

In addition to being a photographer, El Bruno is also a Frustrated Rock God - but then aren't we all?

 

Waterfall off the Old Kenmare Road: This is me contemplating the beauty of nature, whether my t-shirt covers my arse, and whether it matters since I'm sitting down.

  

The Wednesday Walkers (subset) L-R: Ann, Claudia, Niamh, Eileen.

I'm not sure I was on this walk, but I like this picture because you see the dude on the rock? The one with the ski-pole and two false hips? That's my dad; and I love the way he's perched up there, because that is so completely HIM.

 

L-R: Eileen, Claudia and Dad

Technically in Cork

Recent events have prompted me to muse with delicate frown and pursed lips on my history with transportation. The origins of this tempestuous, codependent relationship can be traced back to:-

  • 1984: Twelve years old, and for reasons that will remain forever obscured by the mists of time, I was required to catch a bus from Dublin to be reunited with the bosom of my family in Limerick. After a long journey, the bus shuddered to a stop. I sat there long after the remaining passengers disembarked, kicking my legs and reading a ‘Bunty’ magazine by streetlight.Half an hour later I was getting cold, so alighted and, keeping an eye on the coach in case it took off unexpectedly, I backed up to the only human life-form present and enquired when the bus would be leaving for Limerick. Which is when I found out the bus was not going to Limerick.

    Also, I was technically in Cork.

    I must be able to blame this on some family friend or relative – I mean WHO’S RESPONSIBLE FOR A TWELVE YEAR OLD CATCHING A BUS?

    I was gasping for a wee, so I decided my first priority was locating the bathroom. Then disaster struck: I had no money, and access to the toilet cubicles required a 2p piece. (If you think I sound pathetic, really it was WAY worse.)

    Luckily, there was a 20cm gap between the foot of the door and the floor. I stuffed my bag in, thereby committing myself, then wriggled under the door after the bag. It was a tense widdle; I was terrified someone with 2p might creep in and burst into my cubicle and accuse me of weeing for free.

    Afterwards I went outside, sat on my bag in the deserted carpark, and considered my predicament. Luckily, my parents had equipped me to deal with adversity. Back then, what that meant was that I knew how to make reverse charge phone calls, rather than identify perverts. Indeed I wouldn’t have recognized a pervert had he asked me to sit on his knee and waved a flesh-coloured stick at me, but man could I place a reverse charges phone call.

    I rang my mum, who was good enough to accept the call.

    “I’m in CORK!” I sobbed, suddenly struck by the tragedy of being abandoned in a strange land.

    The next bus to Limerick was the following morning, so my parents arranged for me to stay with some people they chose at random from the telephone directory.

  • Circa 1993: On my first business trip, I missed not one but two flights AND lost my passport and ticket along the way. I finally arrived in Switzerland 24 hours late. Thought I’d blogged about the incident, but it seems not, so can’t provide a link. If anyone wants the grisly details I’ll see what I can do.
  • 2000: Job interview in Bahrain. The Interviewer arranged a ticket for collection at Dubai Airport. Even though I arrived a full half hour before the flight, the Emirates representative claimed the check-in was closed and refused to hand over my ticket.“All right,” said Husband during an emergency debrief. “Call The Interviewer, and tell him there was a problem with your passport. No- your residency visa. An issue with your residency visa, and you’re sorting it out, and will get the next flight in two hours.”

    “Ok. Problem with residency visa. Next flight. Check.”

    I dialed The Interviewer: “I MISSED THE FLIGHT!”

    He hired me.

    Can’t explain it.

  • 2000: Fast-forward three weeks to a business trip to Bahrain to meet The Company’s biggest client. My phone rang at 06:00. It was The Floridian, formerly The Interviewer.“I’m at the check-in counter. Where are you?”

    “I’M IN BED.”

    However, not only did I catch the 07:00 flight – triumphantly arriving at the airport 10 minutes later – I even had time to demolish the buffet breakfast in the Emirates lounge.

  • Probably 2005: Róisín underestimated timing from Paddington to Heathrow (so entirely her fault; I have a signed confession). Emirates Airlines – at this stage totally accustomed to me – rescheduled me on a later flight. At the baggage check, I realized I had left my mobile phone in Róisín’s handbag (don’t ask. Just . . . don’t). Located a pay phone and called Róis, who returned to Heathrow to give up the phone.
  • Possibly 2008: Husband and I arrive at Dubai Airport, totally overexcited about our first ever skiing holiday: two weeks in Austria. We had booked a hire car, arranged accommodation; we were sharing the chalet with friends who were en-route.Passports: CHECK! Tickets: CHECK! Luggage: TRIPLE CHECK!

    Bags sorted, we proceeded to passport control. I went to the e-gate, already planning where I should wait for Andrew, who was at the manual passport control. When I scanned my fingerprint, a buzzer sounded and a big, red X blinked on the gate.

    The man on the passport desk beckoned me over.

    “My finger’s not working,” I giggled, wiggling the digit at him.

    I forgot how ineffective charm is on airport security.

    “Your rrresidency visa,” said the administrator. “It is expire.”

    “Oh. Well. No problem. I’ll renew it when I get back. I’m going skiing!”

    Never have I been more mistaken.

    Never has Husband come closer to divorcing me.

    In a vain attempt to conquer the moral high ground I told Andrew to go without me, but he opted to stay. For a while it looked like he wouldn’t be allowed to leave the airport, since he was fully checked onto the flight. He sulked for roughly a year. He still wins arguments on the strength of that ONE LITTLE INCIDENT.

  • Near miss: Once, I got to the boarding gate for an Emirates flight before realizing I had left my passport and ticket in a tray at the baggage check.

Tie me kangaroo down

On Thursday, my father and I launched an expedition on Carauntoohil. We didn’t quite make the top. Can I blame it on my father? No wait – it was the weather. Yes, that’s more loyal. Also, potentially more true.

Thick cloud rested on the top of all the Reeks, although it lifted marginally as the morning wore on. A fairly serious track has been cleared from the farmhouse at the head of the Black Valley and we followed it to Curraghmore Lake. We turned back halfway up the slope to the saddle ridge linking Carrauntoohil with Cnoc na Péiste. You might say we were vanquished by dangerously violent sheep.

Also I fell off a stile.

Dad gets ready

*

Hello? Is that the horoscope hotline? I'd like to check my horoscope for today, specifically as related to heights. Oh, you don't- hey, is this a recording?

*

Big boulder

*

Deadlyjelly negotiates the rockery

*

Resting up at Curraghmore Lake

*

Dad leaning against Rock Art

*

Looking down into the Bridia Valley

*

Rolf Harris

Snot vapour

Four days ago, I contracted a headcold. Prickly throat, grumpy cough. It was mild to inclement, as colds go. I self medicated with 5000mg of calcium in powder format, and congratulated myself on my stoicism in the face of disease.

Turned out the cold was just warming up. Yesterday morning, it struck me down in my prime. I am currently a scene of carnage: small, rubbery red eyes; backfiring lungs; my throat an acrid furnace; snot exploding from every orifice and several pores. It might be the calcium.

All I felt like doing was lying in bed, moaning in between sips of brandy. Unfortunately, I was flying to London. I was going to decant a few million milligrams of calcium powder into an empty jar, but feared Security might think it was cocaine. So I didn’t. Doesn’t seem to have done me much good, *cough!*

My ears popped with unprecedented violence on the plane and have not fully unpopped. Chantal met me at Liverpool Street Tube Station. Conversation was tricky, because everything sounded like it was under water. Or it might just have been the effect of a dense, humid cloud of snot vapour

Tag Cloud