September 11th, 2003



Was a real bastard of a day. Data centers are boring boring places if you finish your book at lunchtime.

At the suggestion of iresprite

Introducing Wombat's Annals of Pain!

So, the year is something around 1993 or 1994 and I'm walking through some fields with a friend. It's the deepest darkest wiles of cavan and I'm somewhat lost. I know home is a mile or two off but not in what direction it lies. My "friend" decides that it would be incredibly funny to run off and leave me lost in banjo country and heads for cover.
Not pleased with this, or the prospect of having to find the long way home by wandering until I find a landmark I recognise I run after him. He vaults a stream which is just a bit too wide for me to manage (being quite short at the time) so I keep up with him on my side while he runs off on the other side.

Since I'm watching him and not where I am going I completly failed to notice the electric fence.
Note to townies: An electric fence is a nigh invisible piece of nylon with metal wires threaded through it for the purpose of conducting a large amount of electricity. They are VERY hard to see sometimes, despite being bright orange - this one was grey to make things worse. They are designed to deliver a shock great enough to hurt a large cow or larger bull and have been known to kill people sometimes if the voltage is too high (some can be like sticking a fork in a power outlet). The electricity is delivered in pulses so there's little chance of actually being electrocuted but....

This one is turned up high by the standards of anything I've come into contact with.

So I ran into it at full speed, which was respectable for a fifteen year old guy who isn't carrying the results of several years of smoking and drinking too much regular cola.

I took three heavy electric shocks to the gonads before I managed to stop moving forward and another four as I ran backwards, perhaps five, things get a bit fuzzy around that point. Between the shock of... well shock to the nards, and running backwards at speed I tripped, fell backwards and underneath the fence which then snapped back into place, but not before it made contact with my forehead to deliver another one to the brain.

I found my friend though, he was the one howling with laughter, on the ground in the bushes.

Annals of Pain II

I grew up on a farm, or what was once a farm before our greedy bastard neighbours used a clause in the long term land rental agreement to buy out most of the land in the area (around the time I was born we owned everything you could see from our house and well beyond - which is less than you might think since Cavan is entirely hills, lakes and potholes). A lot of land basically.

So anyway, there were a lot of barns and sheds around the place, they were great, they were our bases and bunkers and castles and sniper points as kids. Mum refered to them as "those fucking deathtraps" but she knew nothing. We lost a fair chunk of hiding places one summer when our neighbour decided to help Mum and Dad out by clearing out the loft of one of the sheds of all the ancient hay that was up there (no kidding, some of the hay up there was thirty years old - vintage hay) in preperation for knocking out the floor of the lofts.

So there he is, pitchfork in hand, shovelling hay out into a massive pile to one side of the yard, cigarette perched on his lip.

He burned the fucking shed to the ground.

Not that I did much better, a few years later I was moving some lumber around from shed to shed. We stockpiled it in one shed across the road from us and chopped it in another one beside the house. So I'm driving the tractor to and fro with a transport boxes full of wood to be chopped. See, when other people say things like "I never wanted to be a software developer, I wanted to be a lumberjack!" they're probably lieing, personally I actually wanted to be a lumberjack, I was pretty handy with an axe too, chainsaws weren't my thing exactly and I nearly took out my grandad the one time he actually let me cut down a tree, but I could have been a contender nonetheless. So I'm making the return trip to get the last load for the day having probably reduced about two tree trunks to firewood.
Now the woodshed is basically an ancient barn that the walls rotted off of several years ago leaving only the supporting legs. Getting between the house and the woodshed required careful driving but I'd done it several times already that day, which turned out to be my downfall.

I momentarially forgot the difference between reverse and first gear and tore one of the supporting legs at the ground. Birds stopped singing, grashoppers ceased their chirping and looked at me. Even the dogs gave me a look that said "You are so fucked"

I stopped the tractor and climbed down to survey the destruction I had wrought and realised there was no way in hell any amount of judiciously placed wood or bushes was going to disguise the fact that she shed was now creaking alarmingly and well on it's way to falling in half, probably taking out the now stationary tractor for good measure. I hopped back in and restarted it, moved it around and tried to push the support back in by reversing slowly into it. Panic making me forget that there is no "slow" or "fast" in reverse on an old tractor, there is merly "jerk back quickly and then move really quickly". One alarming crunch later I abandoned the plan and got out again.

Even the dogs had made themselves scarce. I grabbed the support and tried pushing it back myself with no luck. Realising that I couldn't make it any worse I decided to go for broke, grabbed the support firmly and gave a herculean heave and through some sort of divine intervention I could never explain, managed to actually lift the collapsing end of the shed and heave the support back into place. If I tried it now my spine would probably come out through my ass but I managed it nonetheless.

Anyway, where was I?... oh yeah.. sheds.

Dad rebuilt a garage where that shed used to be and did a pretty good job of it all things said. He put in electricity and everything (these sheds were built in the time of King Arthur and never updated) and also wired up some of the other sheds with lights and stuff with whatever he had left. Unfortunately this meant he used some dangling wires and an old ceramic wall switch. A perfectly okay setup if the bloody switch was attached to the wall.
I went into the shed one night to get something, I forget what exactly (and some other portions of my life) and reached around for the switch, my flailing arm hit it and sort of missed. I heard something clatter to the ground and though I'd knocked something over. I reached around again and found the wires and though "I will merely drag my hands down these wires, find the switch and flick it on" or to be more accurate "stupid dad, why couldn't he just put this beside the door"

Some of you might see what's coming at this stage. My hand followed the wires down, reached the end and grabbed the bare live wires that were exposed when I managed to knock the switch off them. I was thrown back (or threw myself back, God only knows) and woke up in some old carpets on the other side of the shed a minute or two later able to remember the war of independence with amazing clarity.

Annals of Pain III

My teachers in secondary school were very typical of irish primary school teachers at the time. Old Skool, disciplinarians and batshit crazy.

One of them had us convinced at one point that Santa Barbra in the states was a training facility for every store santa in the world. The same one had me spelling religion wrong for about twenty years and one of them hit me with a cricket bat once for standing funny.

Crazy santa barbra teacher lady once told us that nettles were a perfectly edible food once boiled for about ten minutes. Being an experimental child at the best of times (there are still stains on the kitchen ceiling from my first chemistry set when my brother decided to jazz up a reaction between acid and base by dumping in a spoonful of baking soda - actually he sounds a lot like a former flatmate of mine now I think about it)

That evening I went out and gathered some nettles, stinging myself in the process naturally. I brought them back the house, gave them a rinse, chopped them up, popped them in a saucepan and set them boiling.

Now my mum was watching this and... well I get a lot of mannerisms from her, like me she thinks that pain is funny if it's someone else's and that people learn best from experience, bad experience if possible. I realise now why she didn't nip this in the bud but it's a lesson I could have lived without. Now I think about it, I think she actually stopped me from using the pot I wanted to use and gave me an older, rustier one... one that, now I think about it, was used to boil eggs and dishrags in..

Twenty minutes later, unperturbed by having to fish out a few boiled insects from the pot I sat down to a delicious meal of boiled nettle, and in fairness it's not bad. I don't really like spinach that much, and it tasted like spinach but it was okay, I ate the lot.

Half an hour later I puked up everything I had eaten between 1982 and 1985, including a good amount of ancient chewing gum I had once mistaken for a normal sweet. Apparantly you're not supposed to eat the fucking stalks.

Annals of Pain IV

We have two rabbits as I may have mentioned previously, they're very cute, fairly tame and perpetually hopped up on caffine as rabbits are wont to be. With this summer's unusual heat I've taken to wearing shorts a fair bit, or to be more precise, some old combats I cut off below the knees.

One day the rabbits are out in the back yard running around, we had the back doors open so they could come in and jump up beside us on the couch. The brown (male) came in, jumped up onto my lap and sank his teeth into my weiner.

I've been mauled or injured by a fair number of animals in my time, par for the course living on a farm. I was kicked in the head by a lot of livestock at one time or another, in fact many people attribute a large part of my mentality to three formative concussions.
1) When my mother brought me home as an infant my dad was wallpapering the hall and landings, she slipped on some paste and dropped me on my head.
2) At the age of two or three I decided to get out of a moving car as it was pulling into the yard, fell out and cracked my head on a flagstone.
3) Some months later I managed to get into a field where we kept a cow and her calf. She got protective, I got concussion.

I still have the scars from the first two actually.

There were others, when I was seven I caught a basketball with my head, when I was about 12 I was helping shear sheep, had to chase one of the skittish bastards and ran into a wooden beam at full tilt, bounced off it and cracked the back of my head on a flagstone. I'm pretty sure I got kicked in the head that day too, but it's hazy for obvious reasons. Age 15 while rescuing a puppy from it's ill advised trip into the donkey shed to see what donkey feet looked like I got kicked in the head by a cranky lesbian donkey. Not animal related but: I fell out of the back of a trailer, head first onto a rock when I was about 10.

Years later I had problems with ingrowing toenails, so bad in fact that they had to surgically remove large chunks of my big toenails permenantly. Cavan hospital (or my mutant healing factor) being what it is, they grew back eventually and still cause me troubly today occasionally. They were great for getting out of PE for my entire secondary school years though since our PE teacher only know one kind of physical education, football... Well.... two if you count rubbing himself. Amazing the kinds of things you only remember after particularly vivid nightmares.
So after I got them out and sorted and so on, I had stitches on either side of both big toes. For the first and last time in my life I was trod on by animals - A pony, two cattle and a horse.

Mum saw all this as a learning experience. Technically it wasn't since I'm sure they all made me forget things, scream in pain, cry like a girl or require medical attention, of course this is the woman who accidentally rapped my knuckles with a breadknife and opened my middle right knuckle right to the bone.. I mean you could SEE THE BONE!, NO IT WILL NOT BE FINE I NEED STITCHES!.

Anyway, that amount of damage should have left me drooling for life no doubt, or... I dunnow, with the ability to see dead people, or read minds or see the future but nothing so far, and I'm not inclined to make any experimental efforts to remember civil wars these days. That doesn't stop me from, for example, mixing up the handles for the fridge and freezer in our house and since the freezer door sticks badly, giving it a mighty yank while bending over, bracing myself against the bench, pulling the freezer door open and smacking myself badly with it. I dunnow, I brain myself repeatedly and I'm fine, I turn around in my seat to watch Will and Grace, I feel something snap and I can't move for a week.

Of course my family was very helpful, my Dad once accidentally slammed a car boot shut on my head and my brother once decided we should play swordfights with metal bars, it was cool, we even used different fighting styles, I was zorro, he was conan the fucking barbarian, clocked me on the right of my head and from that day to this I can't hear properly out of my right ear (expensive corrective surgery aside).

And since I never said this was all about me, I might as well mention the time my brother set fire to the kitchen floor. He was a young lad, maybe seven or eight at the time, cute as a button, big blue eyes (for which he was teased mercilessly at school but man alive do the ladies love them. The preening little peacock bastard...) We'd been warned not to let the fire in the stove go out, this is before the days of gas fired heating had hit the countryside and sure enough we never looked at the thing the whole night. I was busy with computer games, he was tinkering with something lego, my sister was doing something with dolls, probably dismembering them if I know her. In the end though it was my brother who noticed the ice in his hair and decided to do something about it. He was always the more mechanically minded of us, the problem solver.

He solved this problem by getting two firelighters (lumps of parafin and charcoal and petrol and semtex and C4 and depleted uranium - Mum never bought the big brand name lighters since they were crap so we bought store brand ones, or ones with names like "Inferno" and "Gunpowder" and "Dirty Sanchez's eyeblinder" and "First degree burns to the hand and upper arm") putting them into a discarded teabag box. I'll get back to the fire in a minute, first I'll explain the teabag box thing. Firstly, for you colonists over the pond, I don't know if you even have teabags or have even heard of tea: It's like coffee except it tastes nice and doesn't make you shit liquid fire if you drink too much. You can get it loose as tealeaves or in convenient bags that keep the leaves inside a cottonish sachet so you're not picking leaves out of your teeth for hours afterwards. Tea in ireland is traditional made to have a consistency that can only be described as "slicable". Tea made in the morning is still fine that evening, even if it went cold, you just put it back on the heat.
There was a brand of teabags, which I believe is still around today (I'm a lyons tea man myself) which went by the name of "Minstrels". It had one of the most spectacularly racist brandings you'll ever see outside of kansas. Basically the cover was emblazoned with a picture of five or six "Minstrels"... or as they are better know, "Gollywogs" - white men who painted themselves black with big white lips to sing songs about slavery and yell things like "Yes Massah!" and carried canes and those hats that are sort of like a top hat only shorter. Seriously... I mean even as a kid who had never even SEEN anyone with a skin color other than pasty white I knew something was a bit fucked up there. There were also a brand of sweets with the same kind of branding now I think about it. This shit would have gone down a storm at a KKK rally, get my drift?

Now we start to veer slowly back to the point. The teabag boxes had tokens you could cut out and save for something, I seem to recall the prospect of winning a car being involved. My mum collected them for about fifteen years, we had thousands of them around the house, there were so many they were a fire hazard all of their own. Little did we realise the irony of this.

The tokens safely stashed beside, I dunnow... probably our fireworks collection (yup, they're illegal here but far be it from us to let a little law stop us from having them. Another quick aside, I lived in Artane in dublin for a year or so some time back. One weekend when I wasn't there a friend came over with some fireworks he'd found in his place, set them off and the neighbour's bushes several doors down was filled with a pretty blue and red flame for about five minutes.

My brother now takes the tokenless box and puts the fire lighter into it. His idea, apparantly was to put a lit match to the lighter while it was in the box, balanced on the edge of the fire compartment, push the box in and let it all catch fire, Mum would never be any the wiser once we thawed the dog out (remember why we were doing this?, mum wanted the fire to be kept lit). He lit the firelighter and when pulling his hand back, knocked the box onto the floor, the box opened and the lighter fell out onto the linolium.

Remember I said my brother was mechanically minded? Well he made up for it with a lack of common sense. When faced with a lump of loosely bound burning petrol and charcoal you should lift it up with a dustpan or something, not try to stamp it out with your foot as you would a match or a cigarette butt.

Unfortunately this is exactly what he did. I didn't see it but from the scene I arrived to (and the holes in the lino for years afterwards) I summarise that the fucking thing exploded and scattered everywhere in little burning lumps. Naturally he chose THIS point to ask me for help, loudly and repeatedly. I ran to the kitchen to see whatever the matter could be and saw something which can really only be understood using the miracle of video or photo. In the absence of those however: He is standing by the oven, surrounded by flames an inch or two high doing the panic dance - a dance that involves hopping from one leg to another while sort of doing an impression of a tyrannasaurus rex's stumpy little arms. Getting the picture yet?

Then you'll understand why I fell over onto the floor laughing.

My dad, who was out in his garage making something twice as powerful as the manufacturer ever intended to be safe heard the screams, ran into the house in his overalls, stamped out what was left of the fire. Stood there a second, looked at me and said
"yeh little bollocks"