Friday, June 14, 2013

Today I felt really angry.

There have been times I've felt annoyed. Other times I've been peeved. Disgruntled. Miffed. But I've never felt this before. Read on...

Two weeks ago, May 31st I was supposed to be getting the keys to my new flat. It was a Friday. I'd swapped my day off with a girlI work to have the entire day to get things done. Collect the keys. Check the radiators. Plan out what I had to do with the place. Late in the afternoon I got a call from my solicitors. To summarise, I wasn't getting my keys. The mortgage offer had the wrong address on it, the bank had released the funds but my solicitors couldn't use them. Being a Friday afternoon, not much could be done. My solicitor advised it could be a few days before we could go ahead. I sighed. A setback. It was inevitable. I phoned my mortgage adviser at the bank. She apologised for everything and assured me she would get on the case would right the wrongs.
The next week went quite quickly. I assumed the bank were hard at work changing that 7 to a 5 on my mortgage offer. (By the way, the incorrect address had been spotted before. My solicitors informed the bank and asked them to change it. The bank have this request on file, they just did nothing about it.) I had the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off, I was planning on using the days to paint, get my broadband set up and whatnot. Instead I watched X-Men cartoons, played a videogame about a magic wolf and ate weird cornflakes Sainsburys had on offer.
Friday was the next milestone. On Friday I got a call from a girl in my bank's HQ. She advised the funds now needed to be returned to the bank. They needed four working days to clear at which point a new offer could be drafted and I'd be on my way to my new home with my keys jingling in my pocket. Four working days.
My parents came over that night. It was a flying visit, originally planned so they could get a quick look at their son's first property purchase. We looked at the front. They went home, slightly disappointed.

Four working days. I hate this bank nonsense. They can transfer my deposit of well over ten grand out of my account in nanoseconds but it takes then four working days to make sure my funds had been returned to them. It's not real money. It's digital, imaginary, internet hyperspace money. IT'S NOT LIKE THEY LENT ME IT IN POUND COINS.
The money was returned. That was this day (Friday) last week. On the Sunday, to get some kind of a rise out of me, the bank added a mortgage account to my internet banking. Now I all of a sudden owed well over a hundred thousand pounds for, get this, the flat at the wrong address. I was paying the mortgage for the people who'd be living above me. On the Monday morning they took my first mortgage payment, again for a flat I had never set foot in.
This whole time I remained calm. Anyone I'd spoken on the phone to had remarked on this. I knew things would be sorted. Shit was falling apart but I trusted my solicitor and my mortgage advisor. They both seem genuinely interested in fixing things for me. Also, I'd in some way planned for this kind of thing. I had an overlap of the whole of June to move from my current flat to the next.
Yesterday, Thursday, I talked to the HQ girl again. The funds had cleared. She could push on with reissuing the relevant documents. The wheels were turning. This was good.

Which brings us to today. I was doing a late shift today. I was also due some time back from the company so I wasn't starting until 1.30. I made all this clear with the bank. Everything that was going to happen today had to happen by noon. I left the flat early and hovered around the city in various coffee shops from about ten onwards. At 10.20 my phone rang. I smiled, I'd have my keys by 11.
It was the HQ girl. She explained to me that, for one reason or another, she couldn't reissue the mortgage offer today. The earliest it could be done would now by Monday.
That's when I felt angry. I'd never felt that way before. I couldn't speak for a while. I held the phone to my chest and tried to think about what I wanted to say. I looked around the street, somehow expecting a familiar face to be there for support. There was noone. My free hand did it's own thing. Short of a face to punch, it did a weird action that looked like it was playing an invisible piano. I felt disappointed. I felt confused. This phone call was supposed to be the bank, after leaving me adrift for two weeks, giving me a hand-up. Instead they kicked me in the face. Five, maybe ten seconds passed. I composed myself. I stopped my hand from doing the piano thing but it still shook uncontrollably. I spoke in a low voice, slowly and clearly. I made it very clear to the girl how much of an inconvenience all this had been to myself, to my family and to my solicitors. I explained that I was now coming close the the very real possibility of being homeless.  I explained that the girl was to liase with my solicitors on a regular basis until I had my new keys in my pocket and that, the instant anything changed I was to be informed. I explained that, when all this is over, that I would be having an in-depth conversation about compensation. Afterwards I realised I may have came across a little like Liam Neeson. I texted some family and friends with an update and sat on a bench in silence for half an hour before heading to work for an early start.

So Monday is my new date. I'm off that day. I should get my keys early enough, let myself into my new flat and plug in the kettle my parents brought over for me. Then I'll sit down, make a phone call to a girl in an office somewhere and have a long conversation about compensation.
And that will be quite the interesting phone call indeed.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Nolan's ark.

I mumble.

If you know me, you know this. I have to repeat myself a lot in person, sometimes slowly, sometimes with gestures.  If the guy in Costa doesn't quite catch what size I want my coffee I tend to follow it up by saying 'large' once more while holding my hands out flat with one about ten inches above the other. The 'cardboard box' gesture. Try it.
Big fish, small fish, cardb-, there you go. That's my symbol for a large coffee. To go, please.
It's one of the reasons I don't like talking on the phone. A lot of people have difficulty understanding me on the phone. My deep tone and my south Monaghan accent together just don't travel down a phone line well. (Also, on the phone or in conversation in general I have to think of stuff to say on the fly. That's HARD. In a text, in an email or even here I have better control over what I say. This sentence alone was probably rewritten three or four times before you got to read tit.)
So, yes, I mumble.
This is leading to a story. You know it is. I'll try keep it short.
My first eye test of the day was a girl from down in England somewhere. She was nice, polite and almost inhumanly cheery for 9.10 on a Friday morning. I popped my head out of testing room door, addressed her by her name and invited her in got her eye test. I gestured towards the testing chair and told her to "rest yourself there". I know I said those exact words because I tell everyone I test to "rest yourself there". I like that phrase. I feel it puts folk at ease quicker. (Though maybe it doesn't. Maybe nobody understands that either, maybe all they hear is "Reshyurrshelfder" and somehow find the chair on their own.)
I then introduced myself. Again, this tends to go like clockwork. I said, word for word, "My name's Noel, I'm the optician here today" and, before I had a chance to continue, she was straight in with a compliment.
"Noah? That's a nice name!"
I smiled a little. This happens a lot. I've drank many a coffee from a Starbucks cup with "Noah" written on the side.
I smiled, apologised lightheartedly for my thick accent and repeated my name. To hammer it home I told her I was born near Christmas. (I was.)
She smiled and giggled.
"Ohhhh, Nolan? Sorry! Nolan, that's a much nicer name."
I didn't want to correct the poor girl twice. I'd be spending the next fifteen minutes telling her the little N on the bottom left was actually a H and I didn't want to crush her spirit altogether so I let it go. I smiled again and went on with the eye test.

Nolan Finegan, pleased to meet you.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

You go, grandpa.

I laughed today. I laughed out loud. I couldn't help myself.
I was walking down Victoria Street, the curved street that leads down into the Grassmarket. You know it, it has a sandwich shop with a dead pig in the window and an antique book shop.
Yes, that street.
Anyway, up the street came an Aston Martin V12 Vantage, the kind of car James Bond had in Die Another Day. This one wasn't invisible, though it *was* a convertible and had its roof down. Bitter as I am, I began to imagine in my mind what kind of WANKER was driving the car. I imagined a a young Duke of someplace. I imagined a Spanish football player, maybe with a supermodel in the passenger seat. I imagined that fat man who won the Euromillions and still can't help the fact that his head looks like a thumb.
The driver was none of those.
Behind the wheel was the oldest man I've ever seen, surely in his 90s and barely big enough to look over the wheel. He squinted at the street ahead of him with eyes that were almost closed. His skeletal fingers were covered in gold rings and he wore the BIGGEST fur coat I've ever seen. It looked a bear was trying to swallow him.
I don't know where he was going. Maybe he was away to a fox hunt, or to buy the whole of Aberdeen. At his age, he may have been on his way to his own funeral. I couldn't help but laugh at the whole situation. Out loud.
But then I thought, fuck it, fair play to the old chap. You can't take it with you. Spend your money while you can. Blow it all on fur coats and gold rings and £150,000 cars. To hell with the grandkids, they can earn their own money.
You go, grandpa.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Dinny Card.

In the backstage are of my blog I can see a little bit about what kind of people wander onto my blog. It tells me it tells me 26% of you people use Firefox while 11% use Safari. It tells me where you all come from too. The majority of you fine, fine folk log on from Ireland, followed by the UK, the US and a string of other weird countries like Bermuda and... France.
Those of you back home in Ireland probably won't need much help with the next few paragraph. The Bermudaens amongst you, though, might need a wee bit. So I'll talk slow.
There's an amateur sporting organisation in Ireland known as the Community Games. It's mostly for young folk and covers a wide variety of sports such as Gaelic football, swimming, hockey and Judo. Throughout the year children compete in local tournaments and, over the summer, the regional champions come together in Ireland over a few weekends to see who comes out on top.
Needless to say, I attended the finals a few times. Oh yes. Me and Ireland's finest young people in Mosney holiday centre. What did I participate in? Oh, well, that's not important. This blog post works perfectly well without you knowing that.
Oh, fine, I took part in the under-14s quiz, draughts, art and... recitation.
Recitation, the past-time of KINGS. Loser kings who liked boring the tits off their friends with woeful poems.
Yeah, I did the shite stuff. The kind of activities I got up to had their own weekend. The "special activities weekend". A nation of thirteen year old oddballs with inhalers, Gameboys and thick glasses came together to see who was the best at board games or knew the capital of Peru.
One thing that always raised attention, however, was the Variety show. For this, a team of youngsters would get together on-stage for fifteen minutes to sing songs, dance a bit, do a few comedy sketchs and get the audience clapping. Even though it wasn't a true sport like draughts, folk went mad for it.
I was watching this back in August 2001. I can specify the month because I remember the country reeling from something else at that time. Joe Lynch had died.
Joe Lynch, 1925-2001
Joe Lynch was a familiar face on Irish television. He played Dinny Byrne on Glenroe, surely the best thing to watch on a Sunday night for ten years running. For those of you still here not familiar with Irish culture or heritage, Glenroe was a little like... Emmerdale? It was a weekly soap set in a village with storylines centered around farming, praying and adultery. It was, for many young, folk, the last bit of television they'd get before going back to school on a Monday morning and, tragically, the subject of many schoolyard conversations at wee break.
But let's get back to the variety show. Monaghan had a good show that year. I half remember a song from Grease, and there might have been a sketch about cavemen or something. Someone definitely wore a Fred Flintsone costume. The audience were mesmerised. We had it in the bag.
The next few acts didn't change that. Cork were woeful. Sligo looked like they wrote their show the night before on the back of an envelope. With their bad hand. Monaghan were cocky. We were smug. But that changed. Another county came on stage near the end of the day. I can't for the life of me remember who so we'll go with Carlow. Fucking Carlow. Ten minutes of mediocrity did little to wow the audience but then, out of nowhere, a familiar tune chimed through the PA system.
The sly bastards low-blowed the entire country and played the Glenroe theme tune. Someone came on stage in an old trenchcoat and wellies and walked around in circle with a picture of Joe Lynch on a placard while the song played overhead. To an outsider it would look like madness but, to an Irishman, it was... beautiful.
They'd done it. They'd played the Dinny card. Carlow (or whatever county it was, it sure as fuck wasn't Monaghan) won the Community Games Variety competition 2001.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Refereeing a week of mud wrestling.

I've never been a particularly athletic individual. Growing up, I didn't play football, I'd always 'forget' my gear for PE and I'd scoff at my mother going for walks around the roads in the evenings.
But I never minded walking with a purpose. Walking somewhere. I did it back home, I did it in Dublin and still, in Edinburgh, I'll walk most places.
It's one of the reasons I'm in no hurry to get a car (or indeed learn to drive, still something I'm not overly proud of).
Back home in Carrick if there wasn't a lift available I'd have no issues with walking into town. There are two main ways of getting into town from my home. Both go via a route known as 'The Lurgans'.
The first way is the easy way. It takes about an hour, half uphill and half downhill. It's all road and there's not much traffic.
The second way, the hard way, is quicker. It cuts twenty minutes off the time but forces you up a wee lane only used by tractors and cattle. It brings you out halfway along the easy way somewhere near Mark Sheridan's house.
Howwurya, Mark.
On a good day you might get through it with only mild damage done. A bit of dust on the bottom of your jeans, maybe a couple of snags on your sleeves from thorns and only a mild sweat on your brow. On a bad day you could end up looking like you've been refereeing a week of mud wrestling.
I've never once taken the easy way into town.
I pick my steps. Done properly, you can gracefully step on grassy bits and avoid the muck and puddles.
I've never done it properly.
Which is why I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Carrickmacross looking for the world like I was dragged through half of the first world war.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Back when I was wee I watched a lot of telly. At least that was what my mother thought. We had a big old telly with no remote control. You had to go up to it, flip open a panel to the right of the screen and twiddle knobs to do things. Then we got a new telly.
We got a Grundig. Is Grundig still about? A quick google would say 'no'. Oh well.
Shame, they had a lot of style.

Our sitting room at the time was quite small so we went with a little one, probably in or around 14 inches. A man came out and helped install it. It wasn't a technical thing, plugging in a telly, but I think something on the roof had to be hit with a hammer. Twenty minutes later the man was showing my father how to use the new telly. He showed him how to tune in channels and how to use the remote. He gave him the gist of teletext too. I remember seeing the RTE 'Aertel' menu page. I remember seeing the 'KIDS ZONE' advertised, it was page 440. I asked my father to navigate towards this magical zone but by then he was busy trying to tune in Channel 4.
This telly also had a security feature. You could set up a code without which you couldn't watch TV. You'd turn on the telly and just see static until the correct 4 buttons were pressed. And it wasn't just 0-9 either, it was the contrast buttons, the volume, the four coloured quicktext buttons. If you didn't know the code, you weren't watching telly.
My mother, not usually one for technology, figured this out with blinding speed. A day later she had the telly locked down.  I couldn't watch a thing without her approval. My all-encompassing knowledge of Power Rangers went to fuck very quickly. My mother even figured out a timer function so she could turn it on and set it to turn off again an hour later. She had me. She had us all.
I remember trying out different codes. I tried versions of our phone number. I tried the coloured buttons in a row. I tried typing out WORDS on the number keys hoping the telly would respond to me typing out "please turn on". I was desperate. But then I thought of something. I went rooting in the drawer where we kept all the manuals and documentation that came with electrical stuff. That stuff never got thrown away. As a family, we must have been terrified we'd forget how to use the toaster someday. (I always liked the troubleshooting bits at the ends of those manuals. Every single fault that could happen is covered by "Ensure the device is plugged in." and "Ensure the device is powered on.")
I found the TV's manual. I flicked through the features and found the bit about locking the telly. It mentioned a failsafe code in case you forgot the one you specified. It said the failsafe code was on the back page. I smiled. I flicked to the back page. The bottom right hand corner of the back page on the manual was neatly cut away.
I must have been about eight then. That may well have been the first time I sweared.
A few months later I'd settled into things. I had a Gameboy, it wasn't so bad. My friend Niall nearby had a VCR and lots of great films taped.
1993? Maybe I was 10.

Around the same time, though, my aunt Patricia and her husband Declan had just finished building their new house. We went out one evening for some chat and tea. They had bought a *big* telly for their sitting room. It must have been 32 inches.
It was a Grundig.
I sneakily opened the cupboard under the telly and found the manual. It was the same layout, a similar model only scaled up. I flicked straight away to the back page.
There, at the bottom right of the back page was a little rectangle about an inch high and two inches wide.
There were four symbols in the rectangle.
They stood for 'volume up, volume down, channel up, channel down'.

I went home with those four symbols burned into my brain. They're still there, evidently. The regime soon fell. A year later we even got a VCR and I could watch shite films about capoeira in the comfort of my own home.

Monday, January 21, 2013

I like to shave in the shower.

Any of you who've seen me or my face will know I'm not the kind of person that gets through razor blades too quickly but I do like to keep my face someway manicured. And one of the ways I do that is, every so often, shaving my neck. I like a clean neck. I like the feeling of it and, I'll be honest, I like the way it defines my jaw line. Without a hair/no hair division, my jaw line is too... hazy. My face and my neck seem to blend in leaving me looking a bit like a thumb. Also I look too young. Like a thumb who's barely out of his teens.

Anyway, yes, so when I do figure it's time for a shave I tend to do so in the shower. Men, if you're not shaving in the shower, you're missing out. Your pores are open, you've suds a-plenty and a constant supply of hot water. The only drawback is you're doing it blind so you've to be careful. I tend to do the body of the work without much caution and then slow down when I get to the edges. I run my hand over the area and nod at no one in particular when I'm happy with how smooth it all feels.
And, each and every time, I get out of the shower, look in the mirror and see a neck shaved in such a half arsed manner it looks like I rubbed it with a belt sander. I sigh, fill the sink with hot water and finish it off.

So there's a little story for you. I've not been updating this blog a lot recently so I'm going to try smaller, more frequent stories for a little while. Right-oh, close this tab and get back to facebook, you lot.