Wednesday, March 8, 2017


I am still keeping my Penzu diary, which I've been keeping from June 2015. (It's now over half a million words long.) Penzu allows you to label your entries, and one of the labels I've used is "oddity". I had occasion to use it today, because of the "Twilight Zone" experience mentioned in the previous post. 

It occurred to me a (non-exhaustive) list of oddities might be amusing. (Non-exhaustive because some would be too sensitive to publish on a blog. But I've had to leave out some crackers, believe me...)

1) The time I met a husband and wife from New Jersey, one of whom posted on a G.K. Chesterton Facebook page and who contacted me to ask what there was to see in Ireland. I had a rush of blood to the head and offered to meet up with them. So I ended up going to have a drank with a couple I have never met before and would presumably never meet again. I felt very nervous but it went fine, we had a nice chat, and the husband later sent me a DVD of the Andy Griffith Show in the mail. He told me that was his ideal of America.

2) The day of jury service where we were in the actual court-room for about fifteen minutes all told, and we mostly spent the day putting riddles on the whiteboard and playing charades. (We weren't being naughty as you're not actually supposed to discuss the case until all the evidence is in.) It made me feel sad that opportunities for such parlour games are so rare in modern society, with all our distractions. I was annoyed when one of my fellow jurors said: "We should have a television." Yuk.

3) The time I had to travel all the way back from Ballymun to UCD Belfield (a two-bus journey) because I had forgotten to check for an important message on my office voicemail before leaving work. It only occurred to me when I was getting off the bus in Ballymun.

4) The time I went to look at a scale model of the flats where I grew up, built by my brother for a documentary he was making about the area. (It was shown about a week ago in the Dublin Film Festival.) The model itself was constructed in the local supermarket, which had been closed for some months and which was allowed to be re-opened for one day, for this purpose.

This supermarket was a hugely important part of my childhood and my youth. It always seemed like the epicentre of Ballymun, if not the world. The artificial light and the sense of being surrounded by aisles gave me a sense (entirely pleasant) of eternity. I've always loved enclosed spaces without natural daylight. The housewives on the various boxes and packets were my first model of female beauty, other than Diana from V. I used to read my comics as I followed my mother around the aisles, and try to step on all the orange-coloured tiles.

The day it closed was an emotional one, and I made a few final laps around the old aisles, bidding it farewell. So it felt strange to be back in such odd and even more nostalgic circumstances. (Especially as it was in semi-darkness.)

5) The day a well-known Irish language television presenter came to the library and starting speaking in Irish, just a week or two after I had started making an effort to improve my own. I've had about four such customers in my sixteen years in the library. If I hadn't been practicing, I would have been as tongue-tied as I was with all the others. As it was, I didn't do too badly.

6) The day I told my father he had won two thousand euro on the Irish lottery. I really thought he had, because the website told me he had, after I had checked and double-checked and triple-checked. Turned out he hadn't, as he found out days later. He'd gone into the General Post Office to pick it up. He told me that, when they told him he'd actually won a three euro scratch card, he walked out saying to himself: "Other men have walked out of this building facing much worse". (A reference to the 1916 Rising, where the GPO was the rebel headquarters.)

I know this makes me sound awful, but I honestly don't think I was to blame. I entered the numbers on the Lotto site, many times over, and it told me he'd won. It turned out he would have won if he'd played 'plus', which is a bit extra. (The website was silent on this condition.) Now he always plays 'plus'.

7) The time I saw a guy with a pair of crutches fall to the ground, rushed to help him, stumbled, and fell to the ground myself. He was up before me.

8) The day I spent eight hours praying in the chapel in the Ilac Centre (minus short breaks for food and drink). It was partly for my own benefit, partly for the sake of an article that I published in The Irish Catholic. Very interesting experience.

9) The time a lady from the UCD Folklore department (recently amalgamated with the library) drove me into work during a bus strike, responding to an SOS. I'd never actually met her before, so when she was driving to Ballymun library to pick me up, I texted: "I'll be standing on the wall." (It's a low wall.) As I was standing there, a woman I'd known in school passed me with her two kids. For a moment I thought of explaining myself, and then I thought: "Why should I?". 

The lady was an Irish speaker so I got to chat in Irish for the journey to work, and the journey home. She said I wasn't as bad as I thought I was.

10) The time I was telling a colleague in the library that Leonardo DiCaprio is by far my favourite actor. A student who was in the vicinity at that moment said: "He's my favourite actor, too", took out her mobile phone, and showed me its wallpaper-- a picture of Mr. DiCaprio, of course. OK, I think she beats me.

11) The time I found myself sitting on the bus beside an African man, and I couldn't tell whether he was one of our local priests or not. This is a priest who I've seen and heard celebrate Mass scores of times, and who has often heard my confession. I exchanged a few words with the man and I still couldn't tell. In retrospect, I don't think it was him, but I'll never again be dismissive of plot devices whereby some character mistakes another character in the half-light, or because of some rudimentary disguise.

12) Rick Parfitt of Status Quo dying on Christmas Eve, one day after I'd watched the movie Bula Quo!, which my office mate had bought me (mostly ironically) for Christmas. Quo are not a big part of my life so this seemed very odd.

13) The day I took two buses into work after the Christmas holidays, and spent at least ten minutes trying door after door into various UCD buildings before I deduced that I'd come back from the holidays a day early.

14) Yesterday, when I gave up my seat on the top deck of a crowded bus to offer it to an elderly lady who had just come upstairs, saw she had begun to walk downstairs, went to get her, had my seat taken by a hale and hearty young man, went downstairs myself, decided to get off the bus because it was so crammed, didn't get on the next bus because it was full and drove past me, and finally got another one half-hour later. That's where chivalry gets you!  

I love hearing about little oddities like this. I'd be very interested to hear of any odd experiences anyone else has had. As you see, the bar isn't very high.

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