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Tools, Sockets, and Birds

Day 3, Northern Ireland, September 2, 2013

This morning’s blog presented a couple of challenges to even get started. I got up before Dad, tiptoeing about so I wouldn’t wake him in the bedroom across the hall from mine. I crept round the house, opening blinds and curtains, because Dad doesn’t like the neighbors to think he sleeps late. He never used to, actually, so this is a nice, easy pace for me here. In the past I felt I was in the army; so stringent were the rules about when to get up, when meals should be served, what time the dog should go out for his walks. (Not a typo: walks!)

My new smart phone continues to amaze and scare me. Although it can’t be used to make or receive calls over here, it can get on the internet via Dad’s Wi-Fi, which is a lot faster than my Netbook. Scary because I was looking up my honorary wee sis’s phone number last night and accidentally tapped her snail mail address listing. The phone pulled up Google Maps to pinpoint her location, and then displayed a photo of the building she lives in. I had no idea it could do that. Have any of you seen the episode in ‘Weeds’ where the protagonist’s brother-in-law joins the army? Cellphone… soldiers… missile… triangulation… pierced through the heart…? Not that I’m paranoid or anything. ;-)

Back to the blog. The phone’s no good for word processing, so I got the Netbook out and dug out my international travel adapter plug. I remembered from my last visit that even with that I couldn’t just plug straight into the mains, at 240 volts. Dad had jury-rigged a filtered socket last time, so I searched about to see if it was still around. I eventually found it high up in a cupboard with the dog’s treats and canned food.

The socket’s screws have come loose and been lost, so it hangs open, revealing the U.K. three wires inside. I plugged the international adapter into the filtered socket. Then I plugged the filtered socket into the wall. Nothing happened. I got down on my hands and knees to investigate, and discovered a tiny switch on the wall plug. I flipped it and a red light came on beside it. No lights on the computer to indicate power, though. Muttering, I unplugged everything and pulled the filtered socket apart to see that two of the wires had come loose. I knew what to do. Last time I’d spent the guts of an hour looking for a screwdriver to fix this bloody thing, but this time I knew exactly where to look. Heading out to the utility room off the kitchen I searched for the saucepan that Dad keeps the garage key in. It had gone! I did a systematic search of the utility room and came up with the key, in the midst of a plastic child’s bucket containing clothes pegs. First challenge over! Now to find the back door key. The clothes pegs didn’t reveal any more treasures, so I moved on to the next drawer. Success! Back door key lying in solitary splendor in the middle of the drawer.

I unlocked the back door and scurried down to the garage. Unlocked that and went toward the metal shelves that housed the toolbox and various maintenance items. The toolbox was on the top shelf, just within reach. I stretched up and used both hands to pull it toward me. A loud BANG made me jump and I looked over my shoulder back toward the house. Dad had just thrown something in the trash can outside the kitchen door, letting the lid slam shut.

I don’t know how it happened, but with me reaching up and trying to look over my shoulder at the same time… somehow I managed to haul the toolbox off the shelf and it crashed down. Luckily, the self-preservation instinct kicked in and I stepped back and out of the way just in time. My ears rang from the noise of multiple metal items hitting the concrete floor.

Dad appeared in the doorway. “What the hell are you doing?” he demanded.

“Looking for a screwdriver,” I explained, gesturing toward the scattered contents of the toolbox.

“I don’t know,” he muttered, retreating. “Making that bloody racket first thing in the morning….”

Sighing, I bent down and lifted the tools one by one, placing them back in the box. I took the screwdriver I needed and shoved the box on one of the lower shelves.

Returning to my Netbook and the offending filtered socket, I quickly got the wires back in place, held my breath and plugged everything in again and clicked on the wall switch.

Whee! All the lights that should be on, came on. Now to boot up the computer. As I waited, I got the feeling I was being watched. Peering out the window to the back garden, my stomach lurched to see a scene right out of Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’. Assorted sparrows and bluetits, magpies, starlings, and a couple of robins perched on various of Dad’s statues and retaining walls, regarding me solemnly through the glass.

I remembered that Dad brings them breadcrumbs every morning, and now that I’d woken the entire wildlife population for about 20 miles with the toolbox incident, they were waiting for me to bring them breakfast. Expecting them to lose patience and start pecking at the window to get at me, I sidled into the kitchen to get a slice of bread out of the bread pan.

A noise like a thousand wings beating… (well, maybe twenty) accompanied me. The greedy flock had come round the side of the house and were now perched on the high wooden fence, walls, and bushes outside the kitchen window.

Bread in hand, I hesitated before going outside. Hitchcock’s movie had scared the absolute shit out of me as a child; I was terrified at the thought of all these birds launching an attack on me for being so tardy with their food.

Fortunately, they scattered as I opened the door and stepped outside. Breaking the bread into little pieces, I laid it out on the various wall surfaces and scuttled back into the kitchen. From that vantage point I watched the birds descend on the breadcrumbs, fighting and flapping outraged wings when two tried to snatch the same piece. In seconds the food was gone, consumed by these piranha fish of the sky. Only one robin stayed around to watch me through the window, blinking curious eyes as he tilted his head to the side.

And that brings me to a point where I must stop… again. I started to write about the Hertz Car Hire Catastrophe, but had to tell you all about my computer challenges this morning! Tomorrow I’m heading up to the glorious Dunluce Castle on the north coast, so it’ll be a couple of days before I post again.