Author Archives: Slightly Bemused


Slightly Bemused writes:

So I have no bathroom.

I went to bed all nice and cosy on Thursday last with a bathroom. Then Friday morning a very nice man turned up, and by lunchtime a new, clean, blank canvas was there, waiting for whatever was to come. At least they left me the toilet for the weekend. That was nice.

And then Tuesday morning happened. By 8:30, that was gone, and this could get awkward (and possibly messy)! At least until Friday.

This made me realise something I have known, but pushed to the back of my head. It is the little things that are important, like access to a bathroom. Amid all this talk about shared accommodation recently, this is surely one of the most basic issues. Not to mention for the homeless.

It also reminded me of a family story. When I was doing my Inter Cert (yes, I am that old) my father decided to renovate our heating system. Out came the old anthracite boiler and in went a brand spanking new range, which would not only heat but roast, cook, and I think may have been able to juggle too from all my Dad said about it.

As part of this, the hot press was moved from our bathroom into the kitchen. In the space freed up, my Dad intended to put in a shower. He even bought the tray. This was a job he would do himself, being an engineer and a consummate DIYer.

Ten years later I returned from my first overseas posting. Still no shower installation. After a chat with my Mum, we headed down to the local hardware shop and bought one of those units that you fit onto the taps of the bath. Voila! Instant shower. Just had to be careful with the spray not to wet the floor too much.

When my Dad got home and saw this, he was really quite irate and turned to my Mum and said “Stop rushing me!”

I came home the next evening to find that a set-up had been rigged to hang the showerhead, shower curtain had been installed, and all was right between him and my Mum. But roll on another ten years and they moved out to a house designed for those with special mobility issues, and still no shower installed.

In fairness, he had been doing quite a lot of other work, including in the community, and it was not laziness. It turns out that there was not enough height under the floorboards for the correct fall to allow proper drainage, and the bathtub was in the way if he raised the tray enough. As the issue was not critical, it was put on the back burner. I heard the new owners just ripped everything out and started from scratch, so no worries. Kind of like my own bathroom now.

Anyway, back to Friday. Shortly after my bathroom started appearing on the grass as it awaited the skip, my next door neighbour pops his head in: “I see the plumber has arrived” and proffers a set of keys. His spare set, and the invitation to make use of his facilities for the duration. Messy avoided.

A short while later, the neighbour on the other side popped in, and showed me where the spare key was kept, with a similar invitation. And an admonishment to close the porch door before I open the inner, or the little Jackie would get out.

I have two great neighbours, and I would not trade them for a hundred new bathrooms.

Slightly Bemused‘s column appears here every Wednesday.


Slightly Bemused writes:

I think I was adopted by a cat.

Every day a black and white male cat wanders through my garden. On several days, an offering is left on my back doorstep. This little fellow has lived around here for a number of years. I remember one time, when he must have been little more than a kitten, watching him try to stalk a number of crows on the green outside where I live. He was really good, low to the ground, stealthy, creeping forward.

But his tail was up, the end twirling gently. And of course the crows knew he was there. As he got close, they simply hopped a little further away. I think between them, it became a game. He was learning to hunt, they were not the hunted. But crows are very smart. They were in no danger, but it was no harm to teach a young hunter to hunt. And so I think it is he who leaves the offerings.

Why is it important to say he is a male cat? Well, recently a female cat has decided to wander my back garden. I watched one day as they passed each other, one coming in, one going out.

They walked very slowly past each other, pretty much keeping eye contact. Until they had passed by, and each just went on about whatever business cats do. Both tails were up, so no aggression intended, but I think they liked each other.

The new lady is a ginger cat, and I think I know who her ultimate father was.

My now sadly departed aunt used come over, and stop off with us. Often she was heading up to the big smoke to visit other relatives, but a haven, and to be honest a bathroom, before making that part of the journey was something she enjoyed. She usually spent at least a night, and my Mum and she would be up all night talking. I often wondered what they could talk about for so long, now I am starting to understand.

But this one time she came, and she asked for help from us young ones. She had her cat in the back – she did not want to leave him alone while she was gone, and intended to ask us to look after him. His name was Teddy. So we all stood along the back of her car as she very gently opened it. She had made a lovely bed for him for the journey, and had made water and food available. And a ginger streak of lightning whizzed out of the back and made for the trees at the front of our garden.

My aunt’s reaction was pretty much ‘Oh no, not again!’ He did not come back, but ever since then there have been a large number of ginger cats in my town where previously there were none.

So I am kind of curious to see what happens between the black and white, and the ginger. Will Teddy’s legacy live on?

And it makes me curious. Which one is actually leaving the offerings?

Slightly Bemused’s column appears here every Wednesday.

Pic posed by model

Gifting books ‘comes with a price, perhaps several prices’.

Slightly Bemused writes:

For a number of years a friend and I have had a little bit of a book challenge. He might not call it that – basically he is winning by leagues. I think over the years I managed one or two wins, his are in the thousands.

In this time of lockdown there are a number of things you can do. I know many go to Netflix or similar and watch filums and series (I must admit I finally am getting the time for Breaking Bad). But honestly, my greatest joy has been rekindling my joy for reading. When I can find my old person glasses.

My friend gifts me with worlds I can get lost in. I have a reading chair so that I can get lost, but still have a glass of water next to me. I tried getting lost in other worlds with something more potent. Water works best, or occasionally tea. We can have the argument over Lyons versus Barry’s later. I have a cousin who works for one of them who explained some things about the difference.

But the gifting comes with a price. Or maybe several prices, I have never really been sure.

Firstly, and foremost, you have got to give the book back before you get the next.

A few more years ago than I think I care to remember I gave a book of mine that I owned (not my friend’s, I am not that crazy) to a colleague who had a passion for the genre, but no access to the books. My friend and I had an interesting series of discussions about this for several years. I bought the book again. It is one of my perennial favourites.

And before you get worried, he was not against gifting the book, quite the opposite. It was the book I gifted. I think I was forgiven when I bought it again.

The problem at the moment is the book I have currently been gifted is a paperback. There is no crease on the spine. A certain part of me worries that if I put a crease in the back, will I get the next one?

A while ago a college ‘mate’ took a book I was reading before class, and threw it across the room. needless to say, damage was done and a bit more than a crease on the spine.

Occasionally I am still asked for that guy’s name. This might worry people. Don’t.

What I really want to say is that the treasure of a book, of a world you can get lost in, is probably more important now. Having that world damaged does not help when trying to manage this world.

If you have a world you want to get lost in, find your reading chair. And get lost in it.
By the way, this is going to get me an angry text. Or at least a text with a ‘we are going to talk about this’.

Pic: All Stock

The scene yesterday outside a farm at Assolas, Castlemagner near Kanturk, County Cork, where three members of a family lost their lives in a suspected murder suicide early on Monday

Slightly Bemused writes:

One thing that struck me when reading and listening to interviews about the tragedy in Cork is with this lockdown the community cannot rally around the bereaved wife and mother, and their families, cannot show sympathy in the way Irish normally do. They are limited in how many households, and household members may interact. And how many may attend the sending off of the loved ones. But the whole country empathises.

October last, my family said goodbye to one of my brothers. He was struck by a car along with two others in 1978, and at that time my town would have been about similar in size, population, and occupation to the community of Castlemanger (although I think we may have had more horses). In many ways, this was the third of the deaths from that event, I guess the closing act of that day.

Pretty close to the entire town who were around at the time of my brother’s accident turned up last year to celebrate his life when he finally left. Many who would not have known them, but were in school with us younger ones still turned up a year ago. The community rallied round us then, and rallied around us again.

I am sure they all know each other in Castlemanger, and would want to all be there for that family. I know the mother is the only one left in that immediate family, but there are the extended families of sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles. And the entire community wants to help them.

But cannot.

One year on from the strength we were offered by our community is not available to this one in the same way.

Or so it seems. It is not the public outpourings of grief or support on the day that matters, for all that it is vital at the time. It is the other little things that help. The things that continue beyond that first day and week.

I went out for my shopping today, and was surprised only when I got home to think about it that I realised how much support was still there. From the lady at the counter who was a school buddy and wished my family well, to the wonderful hairdresser who cannot now but gave my mother all the gossip, to waving at my geography teacher (who taught all of us in a cold prefab in a field that is now an Aldi) even today as we passed a healthy social distance away. Just a few of the community I live in that still supports us.

Coming from a community that still rallies around a family that was in grief, I know that the community of Castlemanger will rally around this family. And it will not end once the headlines go away.

Such communities are there, always. They may not be able to embrace, but they will find ways. While I wish my deepest sympathies to the families affected in Cork and beyond, the real support that will keep them going is their community

They say time heals all wounds. I disagree, but the communities help you bear them, help you face another day.

One more PM to be completed following Kanturk deaths (C103)

Kanturk unites around bereaved as garda investigation into triple killing continues (Irish Examiner)

Pic: C103