Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Knight in Gleaming Armour

There I was this morning, zooting along on my nice shiny new big motorcycle, laughing as I passed the cars that were stuck in a traffic jam stretching from the city centre all the way out to where I join the motorway, about 18km outside of Dublin. Biking is great - being stuck in traffic is pretty much a thing of the past.

And then something weird happened; I opened the throttle a bit and where the engine should have revved, nothing happened. There was a slight jerk, and then it took again, then another slight jerk and the engine pretty much died. When I initially realised something wasn't right I had moved over to the edge of the road, so when I stopped I wasn't causing an obstruction.

"Waaaah! My bike's broken!!!" was my first reaction.

Because, you see, at first I'd thought I'd done something silly like run out of petrol. There's no petrol gauge on the new bike so it's hard to tell. But I'd checked the tank last night when I got home and I could see what looked like plenty of petrol in there. So surely it couldn't be that?

I had only just stopped and was still turning the key in the ignition when another biker pulled over in front of me to see if I was OK; when I shrugged to indicate I wasn't sure what the problem was, he dismounted from and came over to take a look.
I found myself looking into bewitching blue eyes, and a silky voice with a French accent asked, "Is it gas? Do you have a Reserve switch?"


It's unreal how quickly an intelligent, educated, 35-year-old wife turns into an airhead blonde in the presence of a hot, leather-clad Frenchman with smoldering baby-blues..!
I pointed in the general direction of somewhere under my seat, he flipped a switch, leaned over and with a masterful flick of the wrist, restarted my bike.

I smiled, embarrassed, with a lame, "It's a new bike..."
He smiled back kindly and suggested I find a petrol station.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

moving along swiftly

At first I was afraid - I was petrified,
Kept thinking I could never really learn to ride a bike.
But then I spent all summer long
riding back and forth to work and I grew strong,
and I learned how to move along

I made it through,
I did the deed,

and now it's time for me to move onto a bigger steed.
The little one it was okay
but it's too small for motorways
and so I got myself this beauty, ain't it gorgeous, watcha say..?

Yep, I've graduated!
To a Suzuki GS500.
The final straw was when I was rudely pushed into the yellow line along the motorway not so long ago by a truck. I had no choice - my 125cc bike just didn't have the oomf to get me out of the way any other way and the truck driver was pretty single-minded about wanting to be where I was.

When I first test-drove the new one two weekends ago I thought, "Nothing this much fun could possibly be legal!"
But it is - it's street-legal, and learner-legal, and it seems there is absolutely no reason for me not to have it. I really did need the extra power. Half of my daily commute is on the motorway and I need a top speed of over 100kph to be safe.

But yes, I confess, the throaty growl and zippy acceleration were what actually sold me....
And it's purty, dontcha think?!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Six years, six things

Six years ago today two incredibly good-looking (if somewhat clueless) South Africans stepped off a 'plane at Dublin airport for the first time. They had been married a mere 6 months and since the wedding their lives had taken on a whole new and rather unexpected direction. Their cars, motorcycle, house and all it's contents had been sold, debts settled and farewells bidden. They had with them a grand total of IR£3500, which was all they had in the world apart from their clothes and a few boxes which were neatly (sort-of) packed in corners and garages of various relatives' homes.
It was the beginning of a new life; their aim was to settle in Ireland and move forward. Their cash was enough to maintain them for 3 months, at the most. It was make-or-break time.

The short version is that at the end of 3 months, they thought it was "break". 9/11 happened, the job market froze and they were down to their last week's worth of grocery money... and then one of them found work. And from there things started moving forwards.

Six years on and I'm pleased to say it turned out to be "make". To the point where they often turn to each other and smile, giving thanks for how lucky they are.
They have all the trappings they left behind in their homeland, and more.

In honour of the day, I thought I'd share with you six random things:

1. There is, in fact, good reason for all those Irish jokes you hear.

2. The reason Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle is because the fields and grass are greener here than you would ever believe possible.

3. The reason the fields and grass are so green is because it's pretty much always raining!

4. The Irish are the friendliest and most fun-loving nation I have encountered.

5. Guinness really is good for you!

6. Places like those you see in TV programmes like "Ballykissangel" and "Father Ted" really do exist in this day and age.

Thanks, Ireland. You've been good to us.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

saying nothing

She plops down in front of her laptop, rubs her hands together and then stares at the screen, hands poised for when the moment strikes; the moment when pure genius inspiration will flow from her soul through her fingertips as they fly over the keyboard.

But... nothing.
Only five more minutes before she simply must switch off the laptop and pack it back in its bag (because of course leaving it out just would not do - far too untidy) and the pressure is getting to her. Because she has to write something today. It's been over a week since the last one and since then - nothing. No clever thoughts; no funny anecdotes (except for the guy in the canteen last week who had a piece of toilet-paper trailing from the back of his trousers but really, how much can be said about that?).

Two minutes to go and she's staring out of the window, wondering if the cat perched on the wall is going to pounce on whatever it's stalking in the neighbour's yard, or not.
It doesn't. Instead, it stalks off further along the wall that stretches from yard to yard all the way down to the end of the lane.

Time's up now. She sighs and sniffs, defeated.
Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Sometimes I just need someone to tell me it's OK, that I am good at my job, that I am good enough, that something terrible isn't going to happen just because things are going well at the moment...

It's like this, you see:
I was really glad to be back after our holiday. I was happy to be in my own house again, and to be back into routine. And then I started having weird dreams. I'd dream about my step-son who is still in SA. I dreamt I was dying of cancer. I dreamt someone stabbed me to death. I dreamt about my grandmother. And I was convinced something bad was going to happen.

Something bad did, in fact - the father of an ex-boyfriend passed away last Friday. I was really sad to hear about this. I met his son when I was only 15 and we dated for over a year. I spent loads of time at their house and went away on holiday with the family. When my boyfriend was drafted into the army, his parents took me with them to visit him on "Parents' Weekend" at the end of his basic training. This man was one of the nicest I've ever known. Growing up without a father, I used to feel very uncomfortable around my friends' fathers. I didn't really know what they were about. But I never felt uncomfortable around Bob and he will have left a hole in the world. It is probably years since I saw him but I mourn him a little nonetheless.

And the sane part of me is telling the crazy part of me not to read anything into my weird dreams.

Actually I think most of my angst is work-related. We have a Contractor in at work as our little team is a man down at the moment and until someone is hired permanently we have a string of highly experienced and knowledgeable DBA's filling the seat next to mine.
All this does is make me realise how limited my own knowledge and experience are.
Bah humbug - just when I thought I was doing well..!

And on a completely unrelated topic, last night I forewent (Is there such a word? Past tense of "forego"?) watching a movie with Hubby in favour of sitting down for some uninterrupted and dedicated blogging. Well, blog-reading to be more accurate. It was fun. Lots of fun. You guys are quite entertaining, y'know that? I kept getting dirty looks from Hubby 'cos at one point I was laughing so hard the tears were rolling down my cheeks, during what appeared to be a Very Serious Moment in the movie.
Oops ;-)
I haven't had a couple of hours to read blogs in ages and it reminded me why I do this thing.

So thanks, all of you.

Monday, August 13, 2007

well colour me surprised

Following on last week's revalation that I am rapidly approaching middle age* I decided yesterday that it was time (again) to disguise the most obvious symptom of this condition.

I found it mildly disconcerting when some of my hair colouring creme splashed onto the bathroom wall and promptly stripped the paint right down to brick. Well okay, it's not really brick but I can't bring myself to acknowledge that we are separated from our neighbours by little more than glorified cardboard.
That aside, I'm thinking that hair must be pretty robust stuff if it willingly copes with chemicals that literally strip paint off walls... and even comes out shiny and bouncy on the other side!

And in case you were wondering the answer is Yes; blondes do have more fun.**

* See how I've cleverly convinced myself that I'm not actually there yet?
** More fun than grey-haired middle-aged women, at least, I'm sure.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

older and wiser

I was chatting with a couple of colleagues this morning - the conversation went something like this:

[Terri] "Hey, L, can you give me the name of the people who did your attic conversion? They did a great job and we're thinking of getting ours done."
[L] "Sure, it was (xyz) - they have a website so you can look them up. They're very professional."
[W] "You know, ladies, this is a very middle-aged conversation you're having, hahaha!"
And we all laughed.
And then I asked (still chuckling), "OK so what is middle-aged, officially?"
[W] "Well I suppose mid- to late thirties."

Uh, back up here. Are you trying to tell me I am officially Middle Aged???! When da hell did dat happen?!
I suppose the fact that young Cinderella turns 17 tomorrow should have given me a hint. That and the fresh crop of grey hairs over my right temple (why only the right?!) which I've been steadfastly convincing myself are actually blonde, not grey. Ahem.

However, I cannot really complain about growing older, as my wisdom apparently has no bounds... [insert raucous laughter here]...

Hubby and I decided that since this past weekend was a long weekend we would take a drive down to County Cork. You may recall we have made numerous trips to Cork to visit our good friends in the past. Well those good friends went back to SA a couple of months back, but as if on a relay system, Hubby's sister and her family have taken the plunge and moved over to Ireland - County Cork, to be precise.

Welcome to Ireland, guys!!!

So on Friday evening we packed the car and after several false starts ("Forgot the camera!", "Forgot my phone!","Forgot the directions to their place!") we hit the long and winding road to Cork.
Some of you may also recall that last summer, on our famous (though as yet un-written-about - sorry 'bout that!) bike trip around Europe, we occasionally took a wrong turn. This prompted Hubby to declare that life was not complete without a handy little Sat-Nav / GPS thingy. Having bugger-all imagination when it comes to gift-giving, I bought him one for Christmas. My position as Family Navigator had been usurped but who am I to argue? Even I must admit defeat; after all, Paris and Brussels are indeed nowhere near each other.

So there we were, happily driving along on the big N8 road down to Cork, and Mr SatNav in all his wisdom decided that we should take a left. Personally, I would've elected to go straight but sure, it's a clever little piece of equipment, right? Perhaps it knows something we don't. Besides, we weren't heading for Cork City, but for a (much) smaller town on the coast, east of the city.
The roads narrowed, then twisted. We didn't mind - it was really pretty and we had made good time so far. We were happy to take the road less travelled. It began to rain, but we weren't too concerned, after all, life is an adventure, right?

And then as the road steepened and narrowed even more as it climbed a mountain I confess I had no idea existed, the windscreen wipers sort of ground to a halt.

We stopped at a lay-by to see if there was anything obvious like a loose wire and of course while we were staring blankly at the Audi's engine compartment a Local in a van pulled up and with a smirk at our smart car and blank faces, asked if we needed a lift. You could see he was thinking, "Eejit Townies, stuck out here in the back o' beyond and not a clue how to fix their fancy car."

We smiled and said no-thanks, shut the hood, smoked a cigarette and continued along our not-so-merry way. The road continued to worsen, as did the rain. I left the radio off - somehow in the gloomy, misty half-light in what can only be described as Deliverance country, music seemed out of place.
I was making like the co-pilots in the rally cars... "Sharp left in 5-4-3-2-1... Mind the sheep!"

Eventually we neared civilisation again, I turned on the radio and the rain lightened up. And the car screamed at us in it's peculiar electronic voice, causing me to almost dive for cover. Hubby grinned and pulled into another lay-by, confidently telling me that he'd been expecting this.
"This" turned out to be a low-on-coolant situation but being the boy-scout that he is, he had a jerry-can of water in the back. Apparently the water-pump has a minor (?) leak.
So we topped up and set off... and about 2km down the road the windscreen wipers suddenly creaked back to life. By the time we reached our destination they were working as if nothing had ever been wrong.
El-GPS, however, had been well and truly abandoned for a good old-fashioned paper road map, which yours-truly used to ensure we stayed on main roads for the rest of the trip.

Pah! to these new-fangled electronic gadgets, I say!

And on the subject of weather - this is what our Irish summer looks like from the side-mirror of our trusty (?!) Audi...

Sunscreen, anyone?