b3ta.com user Innogen
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» The nicest thing someone's ever done for me

Not me but my whole family
My Dad's boss is possibly the nicest man on the face of the earth.

About 25 years ago Dad's dad died on a Sunday morning in his house in the arse-end of nowhere in Ireland. In those days there were no cash-points and my parents didn't have a cheque book so Dad had no idea how he was going to get to Ireland that day. Cue Dad's boss stumping up the cash, driving him to the airport and then checking that my Aunts and Uncles also had enough ready cash to make the trip. He then later denied that the money was a loan and refused to accept the money back.

His niceness continued unabated when he sent his employees a flipping enormous turkey every year at Christmas without fail. It would take us days to eat the thing but it knocked a bit off the cost of Christmas every year.

Then the man out-did himself. When Dad was diagnosed with cancer the first time, he paid Dad full wages for the whole six months he was off work. Then when the cancer came back and it was terminal, he paid Dad his full wages up until the day he died. This meant on both occassions that Mum could stay at home with Dad without worrying about money. And if this wasn't enough, after Dad died he sent my Mum a very large and very generous cheque to cover the cost of the funeral "in recognition" of all Dad's years of working for him.

The relief of not having to worry about money in the last few weeks was the best thing my parents could have had and so Dad's boss is the family hero. He made everything just that little less stressful at a time when you just don't need any pressure.

I might go and have a bit of a cry now.
(Fri 3rd Oct 2008, 12:51, More)

» The Dark

The strangest boreen in Ireland.
For those who are unfamiliar with the word, a boreen is a small country road. No paving or anything like that - more like a track. My family holidays more often than not consisted of trips to Clare where we would stay in a variety of damp holiday cottages situated along a boreen far from the nearest village.

One year the whole family went at the same time. Mum and Dad hired a cottage at one end of the lane and my aunts clubbed together to stay in another about half a mile further up the road, on the other side of the road. Halfway between the two, on our side of the road, was a ruined cottage with no roof, door or windows (you see these all over the place in Ireland) and that was it - no other houses or buildings for a couple of miles.

The boreen was kind of creepy even in daylight for no specific reason. Maybe it was the silence - it was the furthest out we had ever stayed. When we arrived the first night it was already pitch black and my uncle, who had picked up the keys earlier, was a bit jumpy after walking down on his own to let us in. He'd near shat himself when he walked into the bedroom and found himself face-to-face with a large statue of St Theresa smiling at him in the gloom. Now this was a man who was born and brought up in the wilds of Wales so it wasn't a townie reaction the dark. He was genuinely freaked out for no real reason.

A few days after we arrived, Dad pointed out that there was smoke coming out of the chimmney of the ruined cottage. We went up later and poked about but couldn't see any sign of a fire, recent or otherwise. My family all thinks of themselves as a bit fey and so no one was unduly freaked by this - there was just a bit of finger wiggling and making of ghostly noises. It was sort of intriguing but not really scarey. That said, Dad did tend to drive up and down to the other house, but that could have been laziness, so none of us, apart from my uncle, walked the road in darkness.

On one of the last nights of the holiday Mum, my sister and I spent the evening at the Aunts' house and were waiting for Dad to come and collect us. My uncle turned up in a friend's car, more than a bit worse for wear, and said that he and Dad had a few drinks in town and so Dad couldn't drive up. It late and so the only choice was for the three of us to walk down on our own in the dark.

As a cowardly teenager I did the only sensible thing and clung on to my Mum's arm for dear life as we walked along. My sister decided this was the best bet too so the three of started off down the road, all trying to talk naturally (none of us wanted to let on we were scared) but all walking far faster than normal. As we got nearer the ruined cottage the conversation trailed off and I had that panicky conviction that "something was about to happen" so I did the only thing possible and shut my eyes knowing that the other two wouldn't be able to tell in the dark. It turns out that on the other side of Mum, my sister came to the same conclusion and had decided that what ever it was, she didn't want to see it either. Thankfully, Mum was a bit braver than us or we would have ended up in a ditch.

All of a sudden Mum lurched into a run, dragging me and my sister along with her and didn't stop till we got home. Nothing was said as we ran, the adrenelin just kicked and we all legged it. Inside the door we could see that Mum was white as a sheet. According to what she said, the moon had come out behind us as we walked along and cast very clear shadows onto the road in front of us. The only problem was there were four not three.
(Sun 26th Jul 2009, 13:27, More)

» Dad stories

My Dad
was just lovely. I could fill pages with stories of how he could make you laugh so hard you had to sit down or how he would do anything for anyone (He once drove me 150 miles because I wanted to see a pygmy sheep I'd read about) or how he had the knack summing up a situation in a pithy, witty phrase. There is one story, however, which captures his loveliness in all its glory and makes me glad he was my Dad. I apologise in advance as it is a bit syrupy.

Dad came from a poor area of Ireland and his family were one of the poorest of all in the area. He had 5 brothers and sisters - he was the second child and the oldest boy. The family didn't have a great reputation due to some unmarried pregnancies (this was Ireland in the 1950s), the fact that my grandmother sodded off when Dad was about 11 and wasn't heard of for another 25 years and, finally, because my granddad was rather fond of the drink. Some of the stories Dad told made Angela's Ashes sound like a memoir of a jolly childhood. Dad was often hungry, always fairly dirty and generally made to miss school to go out to work. What always surprised me was that in later life he didn't seem to think he was badly done by. His childhood had been rackety but there was no point sitting down and weeping over what couldn't be changed.

Dad left home to work full-time at 13 and came to England to live when he was 16. One by one his siblings followed suit until my Aunt, the youngest, was left at home with Granddad. I can only imagine how grim that must have been for her. She was expected at 11 to run the house, including cooking over an open fire, scrabble together what education she could when she could get to school and spend evenings alone in a house in the middle of nowhere when Granddad was off in the pub. She was teased a lot as it was generally held in the village that Granddad wasn't her real dad and it was a local sport to play 'guess the daddy.'

After about a year or so of living on her own at home, Dad came home from England for a visit. I think he must have known how bad a time my Aunt was having. Over the course of the visit, my Aunt mentioned that one of the biggest bitches in school had recently been bought a wristwatch. This girl's dad was the local doctor and was comfortably off as a result. In that time and place a watch of your own was a major status symbol. It became clear to my Dad that my Aunt's two greatest desires in life were to (a) get some kind of revenge on the girl who made her life miserable and (b) one day own a watch of her own but both dreams seemed pretty much unattainable from her 11 year old perspective.

On the last day of Dad's stay, he said he needed to go into the nearest town to pick up some bit and pieces and asked if my Aunt would like to come. As they walked past the jewellers, Dad stopped and asked my Aunt which watch her nemesis had been given. She pointed out the identical model and then gaped as Dad walked into the shop and purchased the next model up the line. He came out and strapped on my Aunt's wrist without a word. My Aunt says it was the best day of her life when she swanked into school with the *best* wristwatch on her arm. A tiny bit of joy for a little girl who was having a miserable time.

See, slightly sickly but it does illustrate perfectly how lovely my Dad was. Dad has been dead for nearly four years now but I know I was lucky to have him.

Apologies for the overload of sentiment and length.
(Fri 26th Nov 2010, 13:58, More)

» Guilty Laughs

Laughing in the gas chamber
A couple of years ago at the Edinburgh Festival, my friend K and I decided to take a break from the relentless stand-up comedy fest we were indulging in and spend an hour seeing something worthy. Having studied the programme in detail, we plumped for a play set in a concentration camp. All we knew was it was in a cellar and it had some goodish reviews and that the tickets weren't too pricey.

Clutching our tickets, we arrived in good time to find a slightly nervous looking queue watching an actor in a striped camp uniform leaning against the wall, muttering to himself in an anguished fashion. It all looked a bit intense and K and I exchanged looks of consternation. K has just begun to whisper 'Are you sure you want to...' when a *very* shouty actor appeared and, while yelling loudly in our ears, pulled us into pairs - making very sure to split up groups who looked like they were together. I think this was my first inkling that this was going to be a slightly more active hour than I had first banked on.

We were led into the first room in a series of interlinked cellars where for 5 minutes solid three shouting actors stood on either side of us banging sticks against sheets of metal. Behind me was an actress who kept clutching at my arm and whispering something about avoiding eye-contact with the guards. The general idea was that we had all just arrived at the camp and were lining up for processing. To this day I haven't worked out what the banging metal was supposed to signify.

After some more shouting (and possibly some movement in the plot but I wouldn't swear to it), we were split into new pairings and yelled at to move two-by-two into the next room. As me and my new companion got to the door, I did what any mannerly person would do, and standing back said "After you." Then it occurred to me that this was supposed to be a concentration camp and that my speech had to be one of the most incongruous ones I could have uttered. The same though obviously occurred to the poor woman at the same moment and we sniggered... well, she sniggered and I snorted through my nose. Somewhere behind me I heard K giggle. I think that was the point that any suspension of disbelief disappeared for me.

The next two rooms followed the same pattern: You were split into new pairs, told where to stand and the actors playing the prisoners mingled in with you while the play was acted out. I am sure it was a worthy attempt to try and recreate the horrors of WW2 but, once my giggles had started, I spent all my time biting my lip and trying not to make eye-contact with K or the woman I had tried to be polite to as looking at either made all three of us laugh even harder.

In the penultimate room, the actors were told to strip in what I am sure would have been a powerful scene had I been in a less hysterical frame of mind. We lined up again and were marched into a tiny little room which would hold about 20 people standing up and no more. This was the gas chamber. K had gone in ahead of me having been paired with one of the naked actors while I was against the opposite wall with another audience member. The two final naked actors came in last and squeezed through everyone to stand with their colleague so they could play out the last scene of the piece. Now K is quite a short person - about 5ft 1 - and all the actors were tallish. So the last thing I saw of K was her horrified expression as she realised she was about to surrounded by three naked people in a very confined space. As the they acted out their last anguished moments, all I could see was K's head bobbing about as she tried to extricate herself from the centre of the action with no success. My self-control gave way entirely and I wept with laughter while hoping that the rest of the audience would think it was raw emotion that was racking me. I left that cellar a total wreck for all the wrong reasons.

Apologies for the length but even thinking about this still makes me laugh like a loon.
(Fri 23rd Jul 2010, 16:00, More)

» "You're doing it wrong"

During a conversation about reading on the loo
a friend's husband said "I can never do that. You can't stay balanced for long enough to make it worth-while." Cue many confused looks from the others at the table as they asked what he meant. He expanded his explanation with "Well, you get cold up against the porcelain if you actually sit down on it." More confusion and demands for clarification.

It transpired that as a small child he had somehow been given the impression that toilet-seats were for the exclusive use of women and no self-respecting man would dare set his buttocks on one so he either squatted or balanced his backside on the rim of the toilet bowl. So deep-rooted was this conviction that he took some serious persuasion before he would accept that all the men who said they made use of them daily weren't just trying to wind him up.
(Thu 15th Jul 2010, 16:15, More)
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