Someone told me it’s all happening at the zoo

4 09 2014

We briefly became an animal free household but something wonderfully awful had ignited in My Very Own Newfoundlander. Some might say boredom, kinder folks would call it charity or a big heart. Whatever the reason, MVON had essentially become St Francis of Stoneybatter. I would round the corner after a day at work to see hoards of stray cats racing out of our house, like illicit lovers hoping to avoid being caught. Another day I arrived to find another dog being fed in the kitchen while a litter of hungry kittens were being accommodated in the front room.

I started getting alarmed when he devised elaborate traps and began to speak about trap, neuter and release campaigns. I tried to remain stoic about this, fully expecting to someday arrive home to find a badger being nursed back to health or a depressed otter being entertained in our yarden.  

He spent his days making animals’ lives better and mine more stressful until one day he succeeded in capturing two young feral kittens with the intention of bringing them to the vet the next day. While they created havoc in the bathroom we attempted a night’s sleep only to be woken up every 30 minutes or so by their mother who launched a full scale screeching protest outside our front door –  apparently distraught by the kidnapping of her beloved offspring. Instead of just releasing the kittens, the next day I came home to find the mother had also joined our household. Now that she was on the inside, she had no desire to be anywhere near her kittens and hissed at them. In fact she hissed at everything: at us, at the TV, at herself, her food. She had some serious anger management issues.

MYON, decorated with an assortment of vicious scratches, brought them to the vet for checkups, vaccines, flea & worm treatment and a later appointment for mum to be spayed. All of this meant they were now residents. Despite the fact that I HATE cats we had three living with us. And so it went for months on end until we eventually found a home for the two kittens.

A year later we are still harbouring the mother. She regularly throws evil glances at us, as if to question why we exist at all. She scratches our furniture, demands to be stroked when it suits her, and other times leaps away from us in terror as if she’s never seen us before. More often than not she positions herself on the couch, a metre away from me and stares at me for hours on end with an icy look that would make Satan jealous. Then she’ll stroll over to me and demand to be worshipped, battering me with her claws if I take my hand away for even a second. We haul heavy litter and food from the supermarket regularly, and spend our evenings shoveling dirty litter and googling phrases such as ‘How can I make my cat love me?’. MVON still feeds all the strays of the neighbourhood and threatens every week or so to take more in.

Mercifully he now has a busy job and his menagerie has taken on a moonlighting role.

I still live in fear of coming home to find I need to share our tiny cottage with the latest creature in need. And I still hate cats, especially now that we find ourselves living under the tyrannical reign of a feline dictator.


The dog days are over

25 08 2014

Our cottage is very small. Tiny really. As you walk in the front room you stumble out the back door. We’ve rearranged the furniture repeatedly in the hope of gaining an extra square inch of floor space. We had to move the table into the front room so that there is space to take things out of the oven. My Very Own Newfoundlander managed to score ‘nesting tables’ from neighbours so that we have two coffee tables for the space of one – magic! Even at this optimum arrangement you can hear the other person breathing no matter where they are in the cottage. It’s kind of comforting really. Just as well we love each other. While we didn’t have space for an extra stool we found we did have a  smidgen of extra love to bestow on a creature in need and had been following Dogs in Distress (DID), overcome by how many dogs were in bad need of looking after – even temporarily till they find their ‘forever home’.

In the days before MVON had found a job he reasoned that there was still a dog sized space that was free in the kitchen. Considering one of europe’s biggest parks is on our doorstep we had already devised walking routes and catch games by the time we contacted DID. Before we knew it Paulo was delivered to us one sunny Saturday morning. He had been found abandoned in a supermarket car park. ‘Hello lovely Paulo’ we chorused outside our front door and he responded by immediately lying on his back – legs akimbo and eyes begging for a tummy rub. In less than 30 seconds we were in love. All three of us.

Paulo2 Paulo

In truth he was about two dog sizes bigger than we said we could foster but about 50 times more adorable. He sniffed every single centimetre of the cottage before retracing his steps to ensure he did it correctly. He did this three times before having a cheeky pee in front of the fireplace. And so we began the process of house training him, in between long walks and belly rubs. ‘Did he have a poo?’ I’d ask MVON when they’d return and I’d squeal in delight if a solid had been achieved. In only a few days and a gallon of bleach Paulo knew the park was his toilet with our yarden as an emergency space.

When I’d get home from work he didn’t just wag his tail, he wagged his entire lower half, with an urgency that made me dump my bike and immediately run up to him for a huge hug and belly rub. A gift of a rawhide on day 4 was like Christmas to him – it became his world – until he rediscovered the tennis ball that he’d chase about the cottage, dodging our nesting tables and slamming repeatedly into the oven. Exhausted he’d slump down against the bathroom door trapping anyone who happened to be inside. On day six we gave up protesting and allowed him on our bed. Our choices were between sticking to our principles and being kept awake by his impressive all night protests or relent and have all three of us sleep through the night.

We settled into a routine. Walks, belly rubs, food, belly rubs, napping, belly rubs, food, belly rubs, napping, walk, belly rubs, sleep, belly rubs… Then one night we headed out for a couple of hours to meet friends – the first time he was left alone for more than 5 minutes. We set him up in the kitchen for the few hours, turned the radio on, gave him toys and assurances that we’d be back soon and he’d get all the belly rubs he missed then – with interest.

We had a great time and returned eager for hugs and excited wagging. We opened the door of the kitchen and Paulo torpedoed out at lightning speed. Before us lay a scene of destruction and chaos. He had ripped up the lino trying to dig an escape tunnel, moved a chair so he could jump on the counters and knock everything off – dishes, plants, chopping board, glasses… There was earth and wee everywhere. None of us were wagging anything. There was one contrite face and two exasperated faces as MVON began the 3 hour clean up process. The lino was beyond repair and Paulo was canine non grata – no hugs or cuddles or belly rubs that night.

We reluctantly came to the conclusion that he was just too big for our tiny cottage. His puppy energy needed a garden or large space to burn off energy. He needed another dog so he’s never alone. He deserved a better home – one that doesn’t have a desperate need for nesting tables. With a heavy heart we contacted DID and told them that Paulo’s needs sadly couldn’t be met by us – no matter how much we loved him. And we did. An awful lot.

And just like that, they found him a new home. Hurray – we’ll have our lives back we rejoiced – not looking Paulo in the eye. Our yarden won’t smell like a toilet, our clothes wouldn’t be covered in a layer of dog fur.

We still had a week together before he was to move on. We began hugging him more. He stopped jumping at the table during meal times, there were even more belly rubs and he grew to love the park as much as his toys. I raced home everyday , more and more eager for my bum waggle welcome. He was extremely well behaved and we were even more in love. His rawhide bone was lovingly chewed and he was well settled into cottage life.

But the day came. His new carers came to pick him up. I left for work unable to say a proper goodbye. I had whispered in his ear the day before that he would always be loved by us – no matter where he was. MVON had to do the handover on his own. He let me know when Paulo had left, gazing out the car window at MVON till the car rounded the corner.

I sat at work fighting back the tears. MVON was at home alone with less success at keeping his eyes dry. 

We’ll be finding Paulo hairs about the place for months – no matter how often we vacuum. Paulo had hidden his bone the night before and search as we did that damn thing wasn’t to be found. That bone is going to be found one of these days reducing the two of us to a weepy old mess.

But for now it’s just the two of us in the cottage again. And the place has never felt so big.

(I scribbled this on a notebook about a year ago – He’s now living in London with a doggy brother, a big garden and a loving family. We get Christmas cards and the odd email from him – by all accounts he’s finally found the happiness he deserves. Even now, we still miss Paulo. A lot.)


It’s been over two years you know, my old friend

21 08 2014

Nobody blogs any more. Everyone’s on twitter cramming their exciting lives into 160 characters or fewer. I would struggle to seem interesting these days without any restrictions let alone in a short sentence or two.

I got a permanent job, moved to Dublin, got married and acquired a cat.  I live a stone’s throw away from Rosie & Andrew and Back Pedal Brakes who are now bona fide ‘real friends’. We mind each others’ cats and have dinner parties. Our cottage is a sneeze away from Safari Kent and Annie. Safari Kent and I lend each other bottles of wine and invariably drink them together. He ensures I don’t go too insane and I encourage him to allow us both to become more eccentric. So you could almost say that my blogging life has turned into real life.

And nobody blogs any more. Right?


I spent more than a good few days reading Coffee Helps and became so immersed in her world that she woke up all sorts of dormant feelings and ideas in me. So much so that I wrote her a fan letter. It doesn’t really matter if nobody else is blogging – the best of the best is still at it.  

Her superb writing made me so nostalgic. For the days of living in a foreign country, constantly meeting new people, travelling to new places, learning new languages…

I still travel a lot, just these days it’s for work. Which is great, but it’s still work. I usually cram in an extra evening or day to do a little discovery but I have a busy job so it’s never the same. Still, I won’t complain. This year I’ve been to India, Japan, San Francisco twice and have New York and Vegas coming up. All for work. It certainly beats twiddling my thumbs in Tralee looking forward to the arrival of the postman so we can chat about the weather.

I stopped blogging because I had nothing to say. Or when I did I was afraid to do it. Too many people I know read my blog and as I work in a very tech savvy environment it would have been clueless to write about my adventures in the workplace.

But reading Coffee Helps brought back all the reasons I loved it so much. The friends I made through blogging, being able to look back at a unique record of my days and looking at the world through the frame of ‘how could I write about that?’.

Plus My Very Own Newfoundlander and I are going back to The Netherlands for a holiday soon. It seems like a good time to start again. Maybe. I don’t know.

High Flying Adored

17 05 2012

Checking the post in the morning is always an exciting moment of my day. If a package I’ve ordered has arrived I can fool myself into believing it’s my birthday – even if I paid for it myself. Of course these days the mail is polluted with referendum literature. Try as I might I find my interest wavering after the second sentence and the booklets invariably find their way quickly to the recycling bin. Of course I never mention this when I complain later that we don’t know enough about this damn austerity/stability treaty.

Anyway a couple of days ago I was overjoyed to find a letter addressed to little old me and tore it open with unbridled excitement only to discover it was an invitation to a ‘Group Engagement Session’. It was from the Social Welfare Department and they cunningly followed up the word ‘invitation’ with a string of straight forward threats. If I didn’t attend I’d be forced to declare bankruptcy and locked in a room for a week with 2Unlimited played at speaker-busting volume.

Instantly I had images of ending up betroth to a random Kerry job seeker and wondered why we were being required to get engaged en masse. Shouldn’t my Very Own Newfoundlander be invited too? Before I let myself getting carried away with the idea of an engagement party, instead, I worried about what to wear and then became distracted by something shiny and promptly forgot about it until yesterday morning when I set off to find the venue.

As I walked through the doors I began worrying that it was going to be like Pauline’s sessions in The League of Gentlemen and we’d be divided into the occupational groups of Bramble Pickers and Babysitters. I’d have to ensure no matter what that I’d be chosen to join the pickers side as I have very little patience for screaming kids.

Instead of Pauline and her pens we had a stereotypical Kerryman with an impenetrable accent going through information that I had already received many times before. He informed us of our options to start our own business. But it has to be realistic he warned. You won’t be allowed set up a company offering helicopter rides of North Kerry. You’d be bust in a week – nobody can afford these sort of luxuries these days.

And just like that, without ever knowing before, it became blatantly clear that this is exactly what I wanted to do all my life. What’s not to love about helicopters? They’ve got to be easier to park than cars and there’s hardly ever a traffic jam up there! Mine would be a sturdy but sleek shiny green specimen with an alternating black and grey border.  I ran through some possible names – Conor’s Copters – Air Borne Identity –  Sky Sports. Legal issues surrounding names aside there would be no way this could fail. How on earth could this man dash my brand new life dream – literally before it even began?

In a full on excitable daydream I looked up from my doodles of helicopters to notice that people were leaving and the session was over. Not one wedding had been planned, although we were ‘invited’ to a one-on-one meeting next week, presumably to hone the marriage arrangements.

I’ll bring up my helicopter business idea then I decided. I have a week to perfect it. All I need to do is devise a business plan, obtain a helicopter pilot licence, overcome a mild fear of heights and change this egregious economy so people can again afford ‘these sorts of luxuries’.

Now, does that mean I should vote yes or no I wonder.  Will the third sentence in that booklet make things clear? The recycling bin it is!

Please mister boss man I need this job more than you know

28 01 2012

The biggest use of my time has of course been attempting to achieve employment. This, it turns out is a full time job. I am signed up to a torrent of job alerts which litter my inbox every morning with vacancies that bear little relation to any of the search terms I requested. Driving instructor, air steward and stripper have all been suggested in the last week along with Japanese translator and Head of a nursing unit. As time goes on I find myself forced into wondering about the merits of a complete career change. Sadly the anti-social working hours of stripping has put me off somewhat.

I have attended three interviews so far. All went very well but it seems not well enough. For two, I met the requirements completely. They were ideal matches and I knew I could have performed brilliantly in the roles. What more do they want from me, blood? My friends keep telling me that something will come up and how could they resist me, they’d be lucky to have me. I’m thinking of rounding up a bunch of them to bring along next time, decked out with pom-poms and Conortje t-shirts. You just never know, perhaps that’s what they’re looking for…

I can’t shake the idea that in Ireland a lot of it comes down to who you know and having lived outside of Ireland for eleven years I’m afraid I have an alarming deficiency in this field. I’m working on dealing with the repeated rejection but boy does it ever make a dent in your ego. I’ve come to loath the bad news e mails that invariably thank me for my interest in their organisation.  It’s increasingly difficult to read that ridiculous sentence without assuming a voice dripping with sarcasm and bitterness. I’d prefer they just concluded with ‘I know this sucks but you know what, just deal with it!’.

My Occasionally Spanish Friend suggested I request some feedback after the most recent interview so I spent a morning composing a friendly e mail asking for any suggestions or advice to help with future interviews. They didn’t even acknowledge my e mail. I’ve been pondering the idea of sending them a follow up thanking them for their disinterest in Conortje.

The scary thing about unemployment is that the longer it continues the less confidence you have of ever getting a job. Your belief in your own abilities begins to evaporate and this is a dangerous snowball.

What hasn’t yet disintegrated is my optimism. When the ‘thank you for your interest’ e mail arrives I spend the following hour or so repeatedly refreshing my inbox in the ludicrous hope that they sent me the wrong message and the correct one will arrive shortly.

Perhaps I need to build on this optimism and learn to turn negative thoughts into positive actions. Should I start learning Japanese or how to remove my shirt in a titillating manner. I’ve a feeling Japanese would be easier. Maybe I could combine both or even incorporate the driving instruction too. I’m sure that’s just what Ireland needs, a Japanese speaking driving instructor who can remove their pants while shifting from third to fourth gear.

It makes me want to hear it on and on and on

1 01 2012

Between looking for a job, jabbing people with needles in Ghana, popping in and out of Canada pretending that I live there and befriending the post man I also heard some great tunes. Just in case anyone is interested I’ve gathered them all together . It’s like a box of Quality Street, surely there’ll be at least one or two that you like!

15. Safari Disco Club – Yello

Just great pop music that makes me wish I was in Paris swinging my bits to the hits.

14. Velcro – BellX1

Doing what BellX1 do best – making catchy, listener-friendly nuggets of fun

13.  Sweet Dancer – The Waterboys

One of a number of standout tracks from the album An Appointment with Mr Yeats. The words are by WB Yeats and the music by Mike Scott, a match made made in heaven it would seem.

12. Oh Sleep – Lisa Hannigan & Ray Lamontagne

A wonderful duet by two singers I’ve always loved. A sweet lullaby that was the golden moment of Lisa’s album for me.

11. Written on the forehead – PJ Harvey

It’s kind of ridiculous choosing just one song from this incredible album – my favourites change constantly and the whole is far greater than the sum of their parts. But this was the first song I heard from the album and instantly loved its bizarre reggae and the image of people throwing dinars at the bellydancers.

10. Ü Berlin – R.E.M.

A classic R.E.M. song from a pretty great final album. I for one will definitely miss them.

9. Ah! – Linnea Olsson

A great song to jump right into the world of Linnea Olsson and see if, like me, it makes you say Ah!

8.Train – Younger Brother

A wonderfully atmospheric song that grooves along like a train bringing you to a place you’ve always wanted to go to.

7. January Hymn – The Decemberists

An exquisite tune about a separation in the depths of winter when shoveling the snow brings the green ground below. What were the words I meant to say before you left, when I could see your breath lead where you were going to. Stunning!

6. The Stand – Mother Mother

How I absolutely love Mother Mother, the combination and harmonies of their voices with that special pop sprinkled rock is just something I need more of in my life. This was the lead single of their great new album.

5. Shattering Sea – Tori Amos

Just Like with PJ it’s close to impossible to pick just one song from this collection but as the first on the album it’s a great representation of what you might expect. Just like the rest of this album, Shattering Sea is remarkable in its music and scope. It is not necessarily accessible on the first listen but it didn’t take me too long to fall in love.

Shattering Sea

4. Bad as Me – Tom Waits

Waits returned this year with a guttural roar. This track makes me want to pick up a megaphone and shout to passerbys how utterly fabulous this man is. No good you say, well that’s good enough for me. It’s classic Waits’ twisted lyrics, dirty beats and it even has a mid point countdown in Spanish. Crank it up loud, the world needs this!

3. Lose it – Austra

Just a delicious song from a totally new name for me. Austra is clearly ridiculously talented and I look forward to where she goes from here seeing as this is the standard of her debut! So good that you have two versions, stripped down or 80’s-tastic – take your pick.

2. Somebody that I used to know – Gotye

Pop songs don’t often come as well rounded as this. He may not be the most consistent artist but when he gets it right he really excels. Everything about this song is perfect.

1. Do you remember – Ane Brun

I think I knew I wouldn’t hear anything finer all year when those first drums beats announced the return of the incredible Ane Brun. I love the rhythms, the melody, the excitement, the vocals, and of course the extraordinary video. Superb! My very favourite of 2011.

A Simple Prop to Occupy My Time (4)

21 12 2011

Prop 4 – Conversation Mugging

Most of my conversations of late have been with people I hardly know or have never even met before. Being ‘stranded’ in Tralee means that I am so far away from my real friends that I’ve had to improvise with anyone who crosses my path, whether they are willing or not. Or even if they haven’t gone anywhere near my path.

It’s a highlight of my day if I can spot the postman and rush out to collect the mail directly as this means we can swap a few words. Even if they might be mumbled in a thick Kerry accent. One nasty wet and windy day when I felt glad I didn’t have to leave the house I spied the man coming up the drive clutching a few envelopes and the promise of some human interaction.… ahirid.. day he said with a concerned look and gestured around him. Wading through the impenetrable dense Kerry fog of pronunciation I assumed that he was complaining about the weather. I mean everyone’s at it – it’s either that or the economy really so I felt pretty safe in responding oh I know, it’s terrible isn’t it? All of a sudden his enunciation improved dramatically and he looked at me in fierce alarm as he replied with accusation I said isn’t it a grand soft day. 

After that I took to conversing online. Well not so much conversing as leaving opinions on news articles on  I was delighted when people replied. It stroked my need for interaction, at least somewhat. And then I discovered that people not only can show their appreciation of your view point by clicking a little ‘thumbs up’ icon but also convey their disgust by choosing the downward pointing alternative. I began to quickly despise those nasty little thumbs and wondered with hurt how so many people could vote me down. Butthe more comments I read the more I was shocked at how many horribly racist and narrow minded people are on that site thumbing down anyone with reason or a progressive mind. I vowed to abandon this medium of communication but not before I sprinkled a shower of thumbs up in the hope that a few there would feel good about themselves.

Instead I found myself texting radio shows and writing to newspapers. Unexpectedly I then became penpals with my local Supervalu supermarket. But the less said about that the better as it more than borders mortification (although I will admit that they subsequently provided a box to recycle batteries and restocked my favourite products).

One successful venture was my communication with the Oxford English Dictionary. On the topic of same sex marriage one (of the many) fools on had said the word marriage should not be used as the Oxford Dictionary defined it as ‘The formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law’. Cue the following frantic e mail to said dictionary;


Dear Sir/Madam,

I wish to question your definition of the world marriage as ‘the formal union of a man or woman’. I have countless friends around the world who are married to a partner of the same sex. Their marriage is completely recognised by the law and society. In fact there is no other term to describe their union. This is not a judgment or an opinion but a fact.

Even more puzzling is that the OED further implies that there is an informal use of the term between married partners of the same sex. I will admit that there can be an informal use to describe other unions between differing and same sex couples however a legal marriage is clearly different. I must reiterate that my friends are legally married – this is not informal in any way and there simply is no other term that can be used in this case. It is not a civil partnership but a marriage, as recognised by the law.

I would appreciate if you could clarify what English word they are to use to describe their union as the OED would seem to imply that there is none.

Thank you for your time and attention,



I was ecstatic with joy when I received the following the very next day;


Dear Mr Conortje,

Many thanks for your email to Oxford Dictionaries regarding our definition of marriage. Your point is a very valid one, and we have been considering this issue in some detail recently.

As a result we have revised the wording of the definition so that the subsense previously reading ‘informal a union between partners of the same sex; a civil partnership’, now reads ‘(in some jurisdictions) a union between partners of the same sex’. This revised definition will appear on our website at the next update (which should be in around a month’s time).

Thank you, once again, for your comments on this matter. They are most appreciated.

Best wishes



While I have all this time on my hands nobody is safe from me pouncing on them to elicit some sort of response to remind me that I am still alive. Most of my attempts sadly end up annoying or embarrassing me, but I have time on my hands and I can only take so much daytime TV. Although it’s startling how your tolerance for mediocrity can change when you’re unemployed. Of course all this means that if you write to me I will definitely reply, probably every day for a month. Whether you like it or not!


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