Friday, October 15, 2010

Matters of death

Yes, okay a bit of a morbid title there, but that's just where my head is at the moment. I sort of fell off the grid for a few days, see I received a phone call on Tuesday morning to inform me that my grandfather had passed away. Even when it's expected and I daresay even hopefully anticipated, it still knocks you out for six, doesn't it? Mr S. offered to come home when I rang him, but frankly I just needed time to cry my eyes out, which I proceeded to do. For the day. And a bit of Wednesday, too.

In Finland these things take a while longer than they do in Ireland. Which is good, because otherwise I wouldn't have had a hope in hell of making it home in time for the funeral. I mean, here they seem to bury you before you're gone cold, where as back home it's usually a week, sometimes even more before the burial.
There's loads to organise and I wonder whether that's just to keep the immediate family occupied. I dreaded going into work on Thursday, but frankly I was delighted once I got there. First of all, I was once again reminded of how lovely my work mates really are. And second of all, I was able to keep myself busy, and keep out of my head. And those around me have truly kept me in great spirits, and for that a heartfelt thanks to all of them, even though I doubt many of them are reading this blog but I'm going to put it out there regardless.

So I fly home on Wednesday, funeral is on Thursday and I fly back on Sunday. That gives me few days to touch base with my family, and to be there for my mum.

A few words about my grandfather. He was 87 and he fought in the second World War. Him and my grandmother got divorced when they realised they were much happier apart. My grandfather had "girlfriends", fair play to the man, and on one memorable Christmas he lamented on the fact how his relationship with his special lady friend had turned platonic since his doctor had forbidden him from taking Viagra on account of his pacemaker. He was 83 years of age at the time. He was complaining only last month that there weren't any women in the nursing home where he was so well looked after until the very end. He said he didn't like being cooped up with "these old men". He was the second oldest resident at the time, only being beaten by a man of 89 years of age.

He was always well groomed, his hair styled and plenty of aftershave on. He was a great dancer, and loved telling stories. He lived for his children (5), his grandchildren (9) and great-grandchildren (9) and never failed to hammer home the importance of a good education, something he never had but which never stopped him from getting places in his working life. He always spoke of the importance of having a mate, a companion in life. He believed nobody should be alone, and that there was someone out there for everyone. He hated smoking and smokers, but never voiced his opinion in the presence of a smoker. He was a hard worker and never turned down a neighbour, friend or family member in need. He was my grandad.

The photo below was taken on his 85th birthday, and the lady with him is a lovely woman who was his "special companion" for 16 years.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I love True Blood. Just plain love it. I think that makes me a “Trubie”. I’ve always been fascinated by vampires. Well I say always, but in the name of accuracy let’s say from the age of 12 or thereabouts. When I first saw Interview With A Vampire, I was hooked. I scoured bookshops for Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and am pleased to say that I own all of them. And do they bear marks of being read over and over again! My copy of The Vampire Lestat, which I picked up somewhere in Camden, looks much worn and I’m afraid it will fall apart the next time I go to read it.

I tried to read the Twilight books. I really tried, but I found them to be too childish for me. I understand, they’re this generations Vampire Chronicles. I’m too old. So now I would love to extend a heartfelt thank you to Charlaine Harris for penning the Sookie Stackhouse novels. And to HBO for making it into a fantastic TV series.

And I’m not the only one. But what is it about vampires and other sinister mythical creatures we find so fascinating? Do we have a secret desire to be drained to death? To be bitten? To be savagely attacked, fed upon and left for dead? Or is it indeed the idea that out there somewhere are people, creatures who have cracked the secret to eternal youth and immortality?

Imagine being an improved version of yourself. With better senses, greater speed, and some handy superpowers thrown in for good measure. Obviously there is a price to pay. That price being unable to see sunlight and having to feast on the blood of people. I for one was always more of a night person anyway. Seriously speaking, there is an allegory there about all of us having a dark, savage side and all that jazz but why thread onto a path so well travelled?

To be honest, I think the main attraction here is the fact that those vamps are really quite sexy. It’s not just the fact that they’re young for all eternity, although that is a bonus. Besides, none of these novels, films or TV series seem to have an ugly vampire in them. If you had all of time to do as you pleased, I’d imagine there’d be a fair amount of sex involved.

I know Anne Rice’s books were more sensual than they were sexual, and Charlaine Harris truly pushes the boat out in her work, but the premise is there nonetheless. Sex is great when you’re immortal. Or with someone who’s immortal. And ladies (and some gentlemen); would you be able to kick this one out of bed?

For those interested, you should check out Mick Farren’s The Victor Renquist Quartet for some bedtime reading, I found them quite good.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Miss manners

Is there such a thing as too good manners?

We’re all told how important it is to have good manners; say “please” and “thank you”, smile, ask how the other person is, not to offend anyone, etc. But I have actually begun to wonder whether or not it’s always the best thing to do. I mean, there’s good manners and then there’s being a door mat?

I used to be terrible at complaining at restaurants. I remember sifting through soup which resembled baby food in texture, and out of date milk in flavour. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself or to our table in this small, intimate restaurant. I was sure the horrid soup was an one-off incident and felt that I shouldn’t make a big deal out of it. I know now I should’ve sent it back seeing as it was my money that I was spending on what I was expecting to be nice, tasty food.

If somebody bumps into me on the street, I always turn to apologise even when it isn’t my fault. I know it’s not my fault but I do it anyway. Why, I’m not entirely sure. Probably for the same reason I’d clean my house before a cleaner got in to make it easier for them to get to work. Same method in the madness drove me to clean my car before getting in professionally valeted and to do my hair before going to the hairdresser in case she thought I wasn’t looking after her creation well enough.

Yesterday I sat at my hairdresser’s chatting away when she asked me if wanted tea or coffee. Now anybody who knows me, knows that I truly love my coffee. My coffee maker at home is one of the ones which grinds the beans at the press of a button making the coffee so beautifully fresh it makes me wonder how I ever drank filter coffee. I don’t even recognise instant coffee as being coffee. So, when asked, I of course asked for coffee. I was presented with a mug of brown water with a drop of milk in it. I dutifully said “thank you” and took a sip. It was vile. Did I say something? No, of course not. That would’ve been rude. Or would it?

All this is utterly ridiculous, I know. But I’m not the only one doing it. I’ve seen it happen so many times in so many different places it really got me thinking, who do we think we’re doing a favour to by carrying on like this? How many women will walk out of their hairdresser of 8 years sporting a look they don’t like just because they don’t want to offend someone they’ve known for so long? It’s hardly going to be beneficial to you, walking around looking like something out of the 80’s, and certainly not beneficial to the hairdresser because everyone is going to wonder who did that to you and you are going to tell. That happened to a friend of mine who wore hats for a week and then changed her hairdresser to one who actually listened to her.

I have mended my ways since the soup incident. If I’m paying for something, I do want it to be the way I like it. There’s always the problem of overstepping the line and landing all the way across to the land of the obnoxious, but let’s not go there. Having worked in the hospitality industry I can tell The Moaner a mile away. The one who will, without a fail, find something to complain about. It’s usually the price, or size, or temperature of the food. I met a Moaner once who complained her soup wasn’t hot enough. I heated it up to a boiling point, brought it back to her and had her turn around and complain that now it was too hot to eat. What can I say? You wouldn’t have problems like that with salad.

Lack of manners can be just as irritating as having too much manners. Asking for something without adding “please” to the end of the sentence sounds rude. I find it quite fascinating how fast I adopted frowning upon people who don’t say “please” considering how my native tongue doesn’t even have a corresponding word. We have 48 for “hangover”, though. Us Finns, hilarious. Being met by the Americanisms such as “Lemme have the...”, “Gimme the...” and “I’m gonna have the...” makes me cringe. There’s no excuse for not being polite, especially if you’re speaking the same language. Some faux pas’ can be forgiven because there is a language barrier. “Please” barked at you in a German accent is going to sound aggressive no matter how much you try. I German friend of mine, a lovely, pleasant and polite young man still says “I will have...” rather than “I would like to have...”. Unless I’m there to correct him, obviously.

I think I’m done now...Thank you for reading. Do pop by again soon. Please.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Raging road-aholic

I don't really have a great track record when it comes to rental cars. Not driving them, but driving behind them. Especially around these parts where the roads are built for 1.5 cars rather than 2, or 2 cars with half an inch between them, and overtaking or meeting other cars requires a hearty mixture of self-confidence, bravery and prayer to whatever higher power you happen to rely on.

And I am completely aware of the irony of me writing to moan about tourists, when, at the end of the day it's them who pay my wages, but still. I can't complain to their faces, now can I? Can I? Please?

There is just something about the tell-tale sticker on the rear window of the car in front of me that immediately makes my shoulders creep up to my ears, my blood pressure climb up a notch or five, and my knuckles turn a lovely shade of white as I grip my steering wheel while muttering aggressively under my breath.

Yes, I know you're visiting this country and while doing so, contributing to the economy, but it doesn't mean you get the right to drive at the steady speed of 30km/h, in the middle of the road thus blocking anyone unfortunate enough to be stuck behind you from even attempting overtaking. And every so often you see a sheep, or the sea, or a thatched cottage, a pile of turf on the bog, of all of the above, skid to a halt (okay, 'skid' is an overstatement considering you were crawling along to start with), leap out of the car (which is still positioned in the middle of the road), and start taking photographs!!!

I would like you to know, that as I'm writing this I am in fact, working myself up to rage. I would love to know how many accidents are caused every year by people either plowing into a car stopped in a corner or in the middle of the road, or in frustration overtaking in a place where you probably shouldn't but can't take looking at the heads turning as if they were at Wimbledon while the car sways from side to side on the road.

I was stuck behind a Nissan Micra not that long ago. Just seeing one of them makes me annoyed. I don't know
anyone who owns one, apart from car rental companies. The image it evokes is one of a middle aged European, usually German or french (Americans tend to go for the biggest car available even if it means shaving off the wing mirrors while trying to avoid being involved in a head on collision with an oncoming bus). Spanish and Italian people I find, in general good drivers for these roads. I would imagine the Greeks being the same way. A nice mixture of overconfidence and disregard of rules and the welfare of yourself and your rental car.

Now, this Micra in question was travelling along at a break-neck speed of 20km/h. After being stuck behind it for what felt like an eternity, I decided to overtake, as that part of the road was wide enough for me to do so, and there wasn't any oncoming traffic. i don't know what people usually do when they see someone behind them indicating that they're going to overtake. Me, I just carry on as normal, the decision to overtake lies with the overtaker, they have obviously deemed this to be the best moment to do so and there is absolutely no involvement required on my part. The driver of this little Micra decided otherwise. As I was going past, he had come to the conclusion that the road was too narrow for me to overtake, and steered his car into the bog. Seeing this from my rear-view mirror, I pulled over and went to see if they were okay.

I was met with an irate Frenchman and his wife, who started screaming at me telling me I had driven them off the road. Now, I can assure you, this wasn't the case. The man then proceeded to tell me how all Irish people drive like lunatics, how he had been driven off the road three times during his holiday and how he was never going to drive in Ireland ever again. As I tried, in vain, to explain to him how it wasn't necessary for him to drive off the road when someone was overtaking, the man launched into what I can only imagine being an extremely derogatory outburst in french. I held up my hands and walked away. I could still hear him as I got into my car and drove off.

I must admit, I did feel a little bit sorry for him. The roads here are something to get used to, I know it took me some time to be confident in the knowledge that even if I do meet my neighbour on the road, neither one of us is going to lose mirrors or paintwork.