Run away to the circus

I held up my long-delayed end of a bargain on the last Saturday before school started back and took Tori to The Ark in Dublin for their summer circus programme. Which was wonderful.

Getting there, slightly less so, since the Enterprise on a Saturday morning is invariably packed out, and this was no exception. I ended up appropriating the fourth seat on a table which already had three people on it and wedging her on my knee, with many pleas that she try not to kick the gentleman opposite. She’s always been a long creature, but seven came in with equal inches in legs.

But we managed, and we entertained ourselves with the fairy story drawing game on my tablet, much to the entertainment of the nice gentleman opposite, comprehensively de-and-re-constructed our bacon bagels for Reasons and I stood firm on the hot chocolate being for the trip home, not down. And cracked and got a taxi over from Connolly, since I couldn’t quite face trying to navigate an over-excited seven-year-old when I wasn’t completely sure of the directions myself. Taxi driver asked what we were going to do at the Ark and got an endless stream of chatter that boiled down to “Clowns!”

And so to the circus. We collected our tickets and name stickers, and were gently chased out again for half an hour until the rest of the group arrived. So we had a little wander round the farmers market that lives in the entries on a Saturday and Tori asked for apples and the man warned her they were tart and she was undeterred.
“I like sharp things! … that’s very sharp.”
“You don’t have to eat it if it’s too much.”
A small girl making lemon-faces every time she bites her apple is one of the funniest things on earth.

The first session was designing and creating their own clown make-up and costume. Little lecture on the Clown Museum and how every clown has their own face, kept in the archive on an egg so no-one else will use it until the clown retires or passes it along. Then they were set upon the dressing up box to try out ideas. They dressed themselves up. Then, because I was sitting on the floor, I was comprehensively bewigged and be-hatted, and only narrowly avoided being be-nosed.

Then the eggs were handed out, and the scissors and glitter and fabric and glue and I was delegated to make a bow-tie and one of the Ark girls started making glasses, and firm instructions were issued to the effect that ONLY the grown-ups were allowed the UHU glue. Apparently there is a story to that. I can make a fair guess.

Silky the Clown

Then onwards to a desperately rushed lunch and an afternoon with the circus. Fossets had joined in to provide photos and videos – the boys who are learning to be horseback acrobats in particular were brilliant. The kids were got up to be ponies in the ring, then they went up to see the clown (comprehensively heckled for his terrible jokes by a four-year-old), and up again to see Lizzie and hear the tale of the night of the red feathers and the magic circus, then up again to make their own shadow puppets.

Constructive Criticism

Which was yet more UHU glue, and the most complex shadow pony anyone had made all week. Tori is mildly dangerous when let loose with an entire table of stuff. We ended up trailing out with a string of glitter behind us and a great many balloons. Down the Boardwalk and onto the train and the great amusement of the lady opposite.

Clowns and Horses and Bears

And then we took pictures of ourselves reflected in the luggage rack. For Reasons.




We have moved house. We have moved house and nobody has been murdered, despite some extreme provocation.

We have moved from our plumbed-by-a-maniac, Bakelite-fused, 3-bed terrace built about 1870 two streets up the road to a 4 bed terrace house built in 1907 and now owned by an architect who when they bought it did sensible things like redo all the plumbing, strip back the original red tile and pale oak floors, extend the kitchen, install fire doors and put eight sockets in every room. And also left one wall in every four as bare brick, which is one of several décor choices I find mildly boggling in a house with a Queen Anne Revival frontage and Art Nouveau windows but am prepared to live with as a condition of two bathrooms, gas heating, sufficient power points and a usable living space. And Belfast brick is lovely and warms the light, if you’re looking into the kitchen in the evening, anything on the counter looks like a Dutch still life painting.

Mostly I love the frontage. The front door is TARDIS blue is recessed deep into the house, the step is tiled in red and cream, there is heavy architraving above and at the sides, there is a fancy scooped sweep between the gable and wall, the front window takes a solid third of the wall and is topped in the same Art Nouveau stained glass as the door. So is the back window ground floor, which basically nobody but the woman of the house would even see, as that was the original kitchen. I am a sucker for this kind of thing and the ghost of Charles MacAllister can come build me a house any time.

The windows and the fancy frontage make it a listed building. Hello Belfast, where listings are erratically applied but enforced with great prejudice. This is why the last time I lived in this street we had horrifying dangerously loose single-glazing, the owner was too cheap to update it in a way that preserved the stained glass, or in fact kept the house water-tight. Current owner has done all but the front room window the proper way – sandwiching the old glass in the original frames or close replicas and rebalancing the sashes. Apparently the reason the front window wasn’t done was that the glazier looked at the long-jammed opening mechanism, muttered something about the parentage of the designer and refused point blank to touch the thing.

The letting agent and I looked at it on Saturday and agreed that that the ‘you must open the windows and air out the damn house’ section of the lease could be overlooked for that particular window, never mind the condensation. It looks like you were supposed to be able to wind the centre top section of the window open along a long screw, probably to stop people carelessly banging the lovely stained glass about. The handle does not move. It hasn’t been painted over, and in fact has clearly been hit with every lubricating agent known to man, but it ain’t turning. We’re leaving it strictly alone.

I  like this house. I think we can function here. I think bookcases exist which will fit in my room. I think we can probably find Other Housemate’s bourbon eventually. I think the fan oven is the new favourite toy. I think I’m spending the rest of the week limping and I don’t even care.

“Shakespeare always seems to end, not with an action, but someone sucking their teeth and saying …

… ‘Welp, that went a bit to shit…'”

In other words, Mike had his second attack of the ‘I live in London and fail to be cultural!’ this summer and so we went to Othello in the National. And had dinner in the National too. Excellent food, very tolerant staff, and a collection of older ladies bemoaning the queue for the bathrooms with great hilarity and cheery admissions that they were hoping for the male leads to get their shirts off. 

Which. Adrian Lester as Othello and Rory Kinnear as Iago. Stunning.

The set design was lovely – everything modular and sliding in and out to give exterior and interior without too much faffing about. They made the logical follow-through of a modern-dress production, which was to use guns instead of swords, with the result that much of the final act featured those of us who hadn’t read the play recently enough jumping a mile every five minutes.

I honestly don’t like Othello very much, usually, because of the overwhelming idiocy of basically everyone except Emilia. But they played Iago as the complete conniving bastard that I’ve always read him as (because really, he’s a manipulative, calculating, jealous monster who is completely aware of what he’s doing, don’t try and get me on his side), which made everyone else falling for it somewhat more understandable. Othello remains an idiot, and his being an idiot causes the general cascade of failure, inspiring Amy’s commentary above.

I have a terribly low opinion of Othello, even when he’s being played by Adrian Lester, sorry. An excellent, magnetic idiot, but sweet god, just TALK TO YOUR WIFE, man.

I did love and adore Lyndsey Marshall’s Emilia (I always forget how tiny she is! She has such force of personality that I just didn’t notice until I saw her up against Kinnear and Lester). I really really loved the relationship between her and Desdemona – she’s aware that her husband is frankly a quite terrible person, but he’s manipulating her as much as he is everyone else and she’s trying very hard to be good to Desdemona, who is so, so young, and doesn’t really know what she’s let herself in for.

Spent a certain amount of the last act in a bit of a funk, but it was very much worth going.

“The jukebox part of the night is over!”

Took  myself and the visiting Australian off to the Black Box’s Open House Festival last night to see Luka Bloom. Because I enjoy random bits of his stuff and she was up for a gig sold with: ‘well, they put him down as folk because … oh never mind, you’ll see.’

We started with the compere accidentally flustering support, leading to some operational difficulties, since if the guitarist has to play the first three bars on his own before the flute and fiddle come in, it helps to have the guitar plugged in. Actually Luka Bloom proceeded to do exactly the same thing half an hour later, so I think the trio from Glengormley School of Traditional Music weren’t doing too badly. And they were absolutely excellent.

Luka Bloom is an entertaining and funny man in the habit of wandering on stage with the teaspoon still in his mug and leaping backward so hard from the feedback he’s accidentally caused by hanging the guitar lead off the mike that he knocks over the other mike stand behind him. I think everyone was just grateful he didn’t take out the guitar stand. He mostly veers between romance, emigrant songs and social commentary with the odd song about mermaids. He’d probably have been a hippy in the 70s if nice boys from Kildare went in for being hippies, as it is, he mostly hits a nice line between idealism about the power of music in his songs and an excellent grasp of what people are actually like in his chat. And has views on the turf-cutting ban.

This was a no set-list gig “I’m just playing what comes into my head and the next song that comes into it after that, and we’ll see how it goes” and requests taken (“Could you ask for things I’ve actually played in the last five years?)”. Which caused a row down the back, because Belfast audiences are just like that*. Also five minutes of deep confusion while the requester and Bloom attempted to line up what she was asking for with a song he’d actually written. Dear everyone ever, please do not ask for songs by giving a random line from the second verse, it confuses the life out of everyone, particularly the man who wrote it.

Post-jukebox, he brought Conor Byrne up and went a bit more trad, but he also played ‘Bogman’ and ‘The First Time Ever I saw Your Face’ back to back, thereby making the entire room boggle gently at the tone shift. Byrne is a superb trad flautist, which led to some shameless one-upmanship over the reels.

I wasn’t looking for much, he’s not the kind of singer I generally plan to go see, I don’t have a stack of his albums and I don’t have a deep attachment – more the sort of thing where you rock up because you’ve noticed he’s playing and it’s a guaranteed solid show. But he played ‘Sunny Sailor Boy’ so I went home perfectly content.



* Dylan Moran complains that Belfast is the only place he’s ever been where the hecklers footnote each other. This is possibly an understatement.

I clunk when I walk

I got the cast off (eventually, amid much confusion and a fun encounter with a man who will henceforth be known as Bad Attitude Registrar). And was given an air cast.

An air cast is a large grey contraption in two parts, with three velcro straps, it has to be inflated and deflated at four different points to go on or off and your leg looks like RoboCop’s. They’re really large. I’m wearing an adult small size, and my toes are sticking out the top, but the medium size wouldn’t tighten enough around my leg to work. I am on week four of six, we are having the coldest March in twenty years and MY TOES STICK OUT OF MY BOOT. If I get through this without frostbite I will count myself lucky.

The entire point of it is to let me walk on the ankle without rotating it in any direction. The idea is that you can walk unassisted in it, for values of walk that include clunking along in a painfully halting fashion, but as the consultant gloomily observed ‘A lot of people find it hard to balance’. I fall over if you look at me funny to begin with, this is not an ideal state of affairs.

The thing is completely rigid, and the sole is the best part of three inches thick at the back. And it’s a rocker. So unless I’m in a situation where I can get away with my awful FitFlop boot on the other foot, I am distinctly off kilter. Taxi drivers HATE watching me progress, to the point where they make worried noises and take my bag away for fear it’ll overbalance me.

(Taxi drivers have been universally wonderful, and sometimes I even get a bus driver who will kneel the bus for me.)

I start with the physio on Wednesday. The consultant sent me to this one specially, because of my ridiculous freakishness. Slightly terrified.

Ongoing ongoing

Thursday, went for check-up, which required the cast coming off. The plaster tech felt I was tensing up to much. I felt the plaster tech should be slightly less gung-ho about shouting at people to stop tensing up while he was waving a rotary saw at them. The nurse came in, rolled her eyes, and left us to it.

Consultant had a poke, hummed and hawed, called me a freak again and told me the ankle was looking as good as he could have expected considering what it looked like when he got to it, BY THE WAY YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT*, and I could start putting some weight on it in the new cast, NO MORE THAN 25%, DO YOU HEAR ME?

Then they put a walking cast on. And failed to realise that just because my foot squidges up, you should not necessarily squidge it that far, so the cast ended up wildly tight and much misery ensued over the weekend. I stuck it out on Friday because I reckoned it was swelling from the poking and prodding on Thursday, plus the attempts at putting some weight on it, but by Sunday I’d had four hours sleep and my toes were going funny, so Monday morning, I rang up Fractures and whimpered at the staff nurse, who told me to come in and get it changed.

This meant much waiting about, because I wasn’t on the schedule, but I got the lovely plaster tech Paul, who sorted my first two casts out, knows about my completely irrational conviction that my foot is going to fall off and understands the need for my toes to be free. He also made me take my other shoe and sock off so he could make sure my foot was lined up properly for standing in the cast, which makes him a) a genius and b) my hero.

So now I am staggering around making utterly wussy attempts to put weight on my ankle. A walking cast is essentially what I had before with an extra layer of fibreglass around the bottom and an obnoxiously heavy velcro shoe thing to protect the bottom. It takes an astonishing amount of concentration and I overheat and get exhausted incredibly fast when I try it outside. It’s also incredibly sore – not when I’m doing it, but when I sit back down and get my foot up again. I’m hyper aware of the ligaments I tore, especially the one to my second smallest toe, which is making its opinions known every time I put my socks on.

I’ve been sent a care parcel filled with books and floofy socks from the Londiniums and am working my way through it. My peanut gallery may have a collectively evil sense of humour, but they know their floofy socks. My mum recommended a gilet with a hood instead of my big winter coat to solve the overheating issue, so I bought a nice deep pink one with a fluffy trim and it arrives tomorrow. I’m very glad I didn’t ditch all my big flared jeans before Christmas, as I was tempted to do, they’re about all I’ve got that goes over the cast and have pockets. This is what happens when your default wardrobe is skinny jeans and knee boots. You buy three pairs of nice work trousers and YOUR FOOT FALLS OFF.

*He’s taking the fact I completely dislocated my ankle without breaking it surprisingly personally. I have slightly broken a senior orthopaedic consultant. Yay?

There is no name for being banned from your natural folded up position.

There’s a fair difference between knowing theoretically that having a leg in plaster requires propping it up and not standing on it and actually doing it.

I am a terminally fidgety person. Sr Teresa spent a lot of Primary 1 patiently training me to fidget quietly with my pencil instead of bouncing off my chair like a Jack-in-the-box. I am currently supposed to be putting absolutely no weight whatsoever on my right foot and keeping it up as much as humanly possible. My natural state of being is to be ricochetting off things at some speed or curling up in a variety of unlikley cat-like poses. Keeping one leg up does not allow for either of these things. Nor do crutches.


Also nerve endings are reviving and making a lot of noise. The tingling I can deal with, mostly, if it wasn’t being accompanied by a) itching and b) a combination of horrible dull ache and random stabbing pains. Especially unfun since I’m not allowed to take anything in the anti-inflammatory family, due to being in a cast and therefore on blood-thinners, so basically I have paracetamol or things which make my brain fall over. So various other twingey bits are acting up too AND I STILL HAVE TO STAY IN ONE PLACE ALL DAY.

As a result, this week is a bit of a state of crankypants. It’s very good that Mike is here, otherwise I’d be a lot less sane and the housemates would probably have had to put me out of their misery. I’ve been treating the poor man’s arm like a safety blanket and sleeping on him all week. He’s being very good about the whole broken, addled, cranky girlfriend thing.

Essentially, I need to have a good flail and I can’t. Three more weeks. Argh.