The House That Never Was

Gather round, children, to hear the tale of the house that never was.

Picture a Swedish summer house, a gorgeous little thing with two floors, built in the 1820s. It has no running water or indoor plumbing, like many Swedish summer houses. The owner bought it because it was located beside a parachute jumping course, and they did parachute jumping. So they used the house very occasionally to sleep in after jumping out of a plane. There was a well, which wasn’t working, a very basic outdoor toilet and no rubbish collection. But that didn’t bother them, as they performed all their bodily functions and collected water from the parachute club.

20190707_182852(0)I’d heard about this house through the person who stayed there occasionally as a caretaker, cutting the grass and such. I visited her and kind of fell in love with the place. Quaint didn’t begin to describe it. There was also a nice little shed, a half-built chicken coop, an earth cellar (collapsed) and ten thousand square meters of prime land. Also, a wood next door. Lovely.

There was also a man living in a box in the yard, but we’ll get back to him later.

The caretaker told me the owner was sort of interested in selling. In fact, she’d occasionally show up with people to view the house, totally unannounced. She’d also freak out occasionally over nothing. The owner, it seemed, was a bit special, with quotes around the special.

Anyway, I told the caretaker I was interested in buying it. She told the owner, who gave a price of 700,000 Swedish crowns (go look it up yourself). A good price, especially for the amount of land. So, as one should do, I booked a surveyor to go through the house and invited the owner along on the same day, so we could all meet. The surveyor surveyed, the owner shook my hand and laughed and nodded and only mentioned parachuting about eighteen times.

A week later, the surveyor sent me his report. The house was old so there was plenty wrong with it. Roof tiles incorrectly attached. Holes in the facade. Some rot in the wood. Also no water, and since the non-functioning well hadn’t been used for years, it might not even be drinkable. Water is quite important for most carbon-based lifeforms, so that was a concern. Also, their toilet solution was illegal, consisting of an outside loo where you shat more or less directly on the ground, violating environmental regulations. But, besides all that, still a pretty decent price.

There was also the man living in a box in the yard, but we’ll get back to him later.

I pondered the report. I would need to do many repairs, but the major issues were the water, the toilet and the roof tiles. So I adjusted down the offered price, put a bit back on for the furniture in the house, which I knew they didn’t really want, and offered 685. A good price. Or so I thought.

20190707_160702The owner didn’t think so, and flipped out, fuming that I was trying to change what she considered a fair price. That, however, is not how a fair price works. Both people need to agree that the price is fair, and I wanted a symbolic reduction, just to feel I was getting a deal, and to cover the costs of the vital jobs that had to be done – toilet, water, roof over head.

And then there was the man living in a box in the yard, who we’ll get to now.

The man was a parachute jumper, who stayed some weekends in a container they’d put on the property and wired up to the house’s electrical system. Badly. Possibly illegally. He paid enough rent to cover the house’s bills, and the owner had informed me that he couldn’t be thrown out, even if the house were sold, until the parachuting season was over (because we all know when the parachuting season starts and ends). She didn’t see this as weird at all.

Anyway, when she’d calmed down after my scandalous attempt to cut two percent from the price, she called me. This is a woman who likes to talk on the phone. I am not a woman who likes to talk on the phone (or, for that matter, a woman) and prefer everything in text, so that people who are good at talking don’t manipulate me. So I listened as she tried to manipulate me.

The lack of water apparently wasn’t a problem, as she’d been there for years and had never needed it. So that didn’t deserve any reduction. The toilet wasn’t a problem either as yes she knew it was an illegal solution, but she didn’t think the regulations were fair or even relevant, so that did not require any reduction. The roof tiles weren’t a problem as the man who’d installed them told her so, and the professional and independent (and expensive) surveyor I’d paid was therefore wrong.

The man who lived in the box in the yard wasn’t a problem either, as he was lovely, and he’d only need to be there until the end of the season, regardless of whether the house was sold and when, and could not be thrown out. He was even, it was argued, an asset.

DSC_0048Then came her deal. Instead of paying the 700, as was her original price, or the 685 I’d suggested, she offered that I buy the house for 650 thousand officially and pay her 50 thousand in cash. This would mean she had, officially, made no profit on the house, and would therefore pay no tax on the sale. And it would mean that I would pay more tax when I sold it in the future. Ten thousand crowns more.

She also wanted me to pay half of her fees connected to the sale, while I would pay all of my own fees. Which meant her “deal” actually made the price of the house go UP from 700 to 715. Win-win, was how she put it. Or, as I put it afterward, win-get-shafted-up-the-arse.

I explained my attempt to improve the price as a thing that we do in Ireland. Every price, I said, gets argued over, it’s just how we are. She informed me that she’d been to Ireland years ago, and I was wrong about that too, it wasn’t at all how we did things in Ireland.

It took me a few hours after vaguely agreeing to her terms (I’m not good at taking discussions on the phone, see above) to grasp the extent to which she was trying to fuck me over. I realised, as much as I wanted the house, that I was not willing to get screwed for it, especially by a person whose idea of a good deal is one where she gets 100% of what she wants and the other person gets sweet fuck all. I texted her to say thank you but no. She sent a furious reply, which I didn’t read.

I’m still looking for a nice little summer house, but now I think I’ll go through a realtor. At least I know in which way they will try to screw me. If you have one (a house, not a realtor) let me know.

But at least I learned something: Don’t trust a parachutist, they’ll always let you down.

/ paddy

Not Keeping It Down

Every winter in Sweden people cower in terror as the vinterkräksjuka (calicivirus) sweeps across the land like a plague of angry ducks (or whatever image appeals to you). I’ve watched people for years as they scatter in terror, washing hands frantically, avoiding workplaces, avoiding breathing, to avoid picking it up. And I’ve wondered – bloody wimps, what’s wrong with them? Shure it’s only a bit of puking.

Thing is, I’m immune to the vinterkräksjuka. Or at least I thought I was.

Enter early Friday morning, when the contents of my stomach emerged from my mouth, going the wrong direction, and kept on doing that for a day. I lay on my couch, staring up and pitifully groaning, too ill to sleep or read or Netflick (that is the verb, I’m calling it). All I could do was dribble enough water into myself so that I could puke it all up again.

not-knorrAfter a while, all I looked forward to was the vomiting itself, and the associated twenty minutes of feeling kind of okay that followed, before I descended into the valley again.

At one point, I really felt I needed to puke, but couldn’t face the old fingers down the throat. So I thought about bread. Just thought about it. And the floodgates dutifully opened wide.

Finally, a day later, it stopped. And some time after that, I felt I might try some food. Which I did – Knorr’s dried vegetable soup. It was like eating salty rainbows rolled in communion wafers. Marvellous.

Now, somewhat later, I am ready for the world again, wiser and a bit thinner. But I guess I learned my lesson – if you want to vomit, just think of bread. Mmm.

Interesting fact 1: People in Sweden pronounce the silent K in Knorr. It’s adorable.

Interesting fact 2: Pronouncing vinterkräksjuka is one of the required steps in becoming a Swedish citizen, along with inserting snus one-handed, forcing yourself to like dill, and incorrectly pouring a pint of Guinness. So get on it, would-be Swedes!

Interesting fact 3: Yes, I known it’s not Knorr, I can see it on the box, can’t I, but I needed that for Interesting fact 1 so just get off my back, will ya?

/ paddy

The Job Application Anecdote

I am the master of cringe-filled anecdotes. There’s the snus in the arse, for example. Or the one where I set fire to a newspaper while trying to impress a cute waitress at a café. But this one, my friends. This one is solid nuclear gold.

So I was applying for a new job. I got talking to some very nice people at company X, who wanted me to send in a work sample. That meant a simple game made in Unity, a nifty game motor. On this they would judge my game-making ability, and also me.

I had a game already half done, which I’d made to teach myself Unity. It was a novelty game in which you had to find swear words in a grid. I had an algorithm for combining swear words to make new swear words (arsenibbler, cumgurgler, fuckwaggler, and so on) to get points. The longer the swearword, the better. An odd idea, perhaps, but it amused me at the time, and nobody was ever supposed to see it.

swears

But the game I had to make for the new job had nothing to do with swear words, obviously. So I cleared out the files in my game, saved the code that was useful, and built my new game. Which I liked, and a few days of work later, I sent it in.

All was well. For four hours. Until I got a short mail, written in a shaky and hesitant hand. Basically, it said:

“Um … that ideas file. Um. What the hell?”

I swallowed. I went pale. And I checked. Ah. I hadn’t cleaned out all the files from my filthy words game. I’d left one – just the one – which was a list of filthy words and game modes I’d thought to use. Pussygrabber. Cockgobbler. Fuckwangler. Turdlicker. The filthiest words I could think of. They were all there, in a neat long list.

When you send a list of extremely filthy words to the female recruiters judging you for a new job, you know it’s not going to end well. With all credit to them, they did their very best to handle the situation, and after a discussion, they believed me that it was a dumb accident. But let’s be honest – there’s no coming back from that. None. So the next morning, I withdrew my application for company X. Because even if I got the job, I’d always be THAT GUY. Pussygrabber Paddy, in the flesh.

In the end, it turned out to not matter, as I failed the coding part of the test. God never opens a window without slamming a trapdoor on your knuckles. Or something.

So hopefully I’ll never make an anecdote any better than that one. But, you know, given my track record, I kind of doubt it.

(All respect again to the recruiters, who did a great job in dealing with that dumpster fire of a situation. And if they want to make it into an anecdote of their own, they have my blessing.)

/ paddy

Sunshine and Sneezes

You can’t beat a good sneeze. Especially now that the pollen season is upon us, which sees me doing it quite a bit. However, when it comes to sneezing, I have a superpower.

I am cursed / blessed with a photic sneeze reflex. Which means that when I emerge from an interior space to a brightly sunlit exterior space, I will sneeze. Violently. Usually twice. It also means that if I feel the tingle of a sneeze that doesn’t quite want to arrive, I can shove my face into a lamp and bring the sneeze on. Very handy.

For years I thought this applied to everybody and was quite surprised when I found out  it didn’t. Some mere mortals, apparently, only get to sneeze when the sneeze is good and ready. There are theories about why the photic sneeze reflex works, to do with nerves in the brain and such. Even Aristotle noticed it, when he wasn’t busy incorrectly counting women’s teeth. But work it does, and when it comes to sneezing, I’m no slouch.

genes-for-achoo-syndrom-sun-sneezingI like my sneezing so much that I am amazed by the number of people who block their sneezes. They clamp their noses, sending the sneeze booming around the insides of their skull, in a way that sounds physically painful. I’ve always wondered – why on earth would anybody do that. Is it a fear of contaminating others? A terror of seeing snot and spittle? Or a religious conviction that sneezing is too much like sex? Fuck knows, but lots and lots of people do it, in my workplace as well as in the great wide world in general.

If anybody knows why people do this, please share it. Because I fully expect to one day be a witness to a head boinging off, or an eye popping out and dangling from its fleshy wire.

In Sweden, by the way, you say “Benny!” when someone in your vicinity sneezes. The proper response to that is to yell “Björn!” and then go put on spangly trousers.

/ paddy

Jazz on the Train

I was on my way to work. It was a typical March morning in Stockholm, which meant the weather could be snow, or blazing sun, or icy gales, or all three at once.

On trains, I am peculiar, especially in the mornings. Things annoy me and they annoy me five times more than normal. These things include (but are not limited to):

People eating their messy breakfast on the train
People having loud conversations on the train
People shoving their massive luggage into other people’s way
People putting on makeup on the train
People with awfully leaky headphones

Of these, the headphone leakers are the worse. Yes, I’m sure your music is fun to listen to, but if you insist upon playing it so fucking LOUDLY then use good headphones and not those pieces of cheap shit they gave you when you bought your mobile telephone.

16073492-Businessman-listening-to-headphones-on-a-train-Stock-Photo

But no. People will play the most appallingly annoying music at full tinny volume, in total disregard for those around them (meaning, of course, me).

So on this particular March day, I was noodling about on my phone, reading news, playing a game, the usual sort of thing, when a man got on the train and sat close to me, wearing headphones. And the air suddenly filled with jazz.

Not good jazz either. Shite jazz, with the same piece repeated over and over. I did my usual scowling but the man didn’t notice or care. Then I wasn’t sure it was him, so I scowled at some other likely leakers in my vicinity, and shook my head, and muttered to myself.

dogThe music kept on going, becoming more and more annoying. So finally, I moved. At which point I noticed that the music, oddly, was now coming from ahead of me, and not from behind.

And it clicked.The music was coming from my own mobile, from a game I had been playing. Luckily I was spared any embarrassment as pretty much everyone around me had headphones on and couldn’t hear a damn thing. The sweet and awful irony.

Note that I didn’t mention dogs on the train being a thing I dislike. I’m trying quite hard to like dogs and so far it seems to be working.

Until someone invents leaky dog headphones and I am forced to go postal.

/ paddy

The Arse Tobacco Anecdote

I was in a pub a few weeks back, attending a concert, when I felt a pressing need.

I entered the toilet space, and read the notice on the inside of the door, which warned about the dodgy lock. Check it several times! it yelled. I checked it several times, gave it an extra tug, checked it again. All seemed in order.

I removed the clothing around my crotchal area and sat down for the commencement of my business. Said business was underway when I noticed that somebody had left a little container of snus on a shelf just within reach.

snus-2Note: Snus is Swedish mouth tobacco that people shove up under their upper lips, giving them stained teeth, a slightly deformed face and, one supposes, good feelings. It is banned in the EU, except in Sweden, as they really REALLY wanted Sweden to join. So they got themselves a mouth tobacco exemption.

Anyway, there I was on the toilet, reaching for the snus that wasn’t my own, out of boredom. It was further than I thought so I had to raise my buttocks from the toilet to reach it. Grabbing the container, I idly opened it to check if anything was inside, hovering over the toilet seat as I did so. I had taken out a snus portion (basically a small teabag) and was sniffing at it curiously when the door suddenly opened.

The person who’d defeated the dodgy lock was a young woman. For a second she stared at the man who was leaning forward with a snus clamped between his fingers, looking for all the world like he was about to shove it up his arse.

The unfortunate lady gave a terrified squeal and bolted. After a portion of numb silence had passed, I scuttled forward, trousers around my legs, shutting the door with sweaty fingers.

When I left the bathroom and crept back to my friends, I spotted the lady in question across the room, holding onto a beer glass with a glassy expression. As if she’d looked upon the face of evil and knew that nothing, ever again, would be any good.

I hope she one day gets to tell her own anecdote. I suspect she might.

/ paddy

The Green Tooth Fairy

I went to the dentist a while back.

“So,” she said, “do you floss every day?”

“Of course I bloody don’t. I floss whenever I think of it, which isn’t often, and then frantically twice a day in the weeks before I visit you, in the hopes that you won’t see through me. I know it, you know it, so let’s stop lying and get this over with.”

I didn’t say that, of course. I mumbled “more or less” and opened wider.

But after that visit I decided to get serious about fluoride rinsing. I bought a bottle of the nice minty stuff the dentist recommended, but as I had an old half-empty bottle of Listerine knocking around, I decided I would use that up first.

And fucking hell it hurt. It burned. After thirty seconds of Listerine gargling I was red-eyed and gasping. But I kept at it, looking forward to the day I’d empty the damn bottle and get to use mouthwash that didn’t cause pain. And finally that day came.

2017-02-23-18-21-23

I started on the nice minty stuff. And it was fine, but it felt oddly unsatisfying. And after a while it dawned on me why – I missed the Listerine. More precisely, I missed the pain. So a few days later I bought a new bottle and cracked it open, dribbling with anticipation.

I don’t know if Listerine works any better than the minty stuff. In fact, I doubt it. But now I’ve trained my brain to associate a burning sensation with freshness, and from there there’s no going back.

Next stop – wasabi toilet paper. Who’s with me?

/ paddy

The Leaving Of Twitterpool

So here I am, then. Sneaking back in to do a blog post. With my tail between legs.

After that debacle in the US in November, I pretty much left Facebook and Twitter and stopped reading the news. The world is sinking into bubbling shit and knowing exactly the volume, depth and consistency of that shit makes me feel only depressed and hopeless. Also, the less I see of that fat orange mouthy fucker with the hair, the better.

But I realised a thing — blogging is now old-school. It’s practically vintage. The kids are all up in their Snapchats and their Instantgrams, but blogging is hard-core, with text measured in pounds and feet and not characters. Something requiring effort. Like a thing your old grandad would sit in an armchair and reminisce about.

Being (almost entirely) social media free is also great. You sleep better. You are less worried. You don’t know who just died. And when you meet friends in the pub, you actually have something to tell them that they haven’t already read in minutely commented detail. Just like it was in the past.

passionBut the social media itch remains. So you know what I did instead? I started, to my eternal shame, to use Linkedin as a social media site. I know. Yes, I know. I scroll through that sleazy little feed, nodding at people’s new jobs and titles and what motivational videos they recommend. And I feel so dirty. Plus, people even there are going on about fucking Trump. There is no escape.

Due to my shameful presence on Linkedin, and my having clocked six years at the same company, I’m a tiny bit keen to get myself a new job. So I’ve been looking at lots of job ads. And apart from being over-wordy and packed with awful English, there is a thing I’ve noticed. Passion.

When did having “passion” for a thing become required to get a job with said thing? Why is it no longer seen as okay to just turn up for the money? In the old days, were people looking for carpenters with a passion for chisels? Or plumbers who were team players? Or cooks who burned for, um, not burning things? I don’t think I’ve seen a game developer job ad where passion doesn’t appear in the first two sentences.

meeting

My good lady has the theory that the whole passion thing emerged from the middle class. Once people of all social classes had to go to work, it became nice to pretend that fancier people did it mostly because it excited them. The thing about paying the bills was secondary. Only riff-raff worked just for the money. But we work because it sets out hearts and minds on fire, and not because of the paycheck and free buns.

Maybe that’s the reason. Or maybe it’s just the way you advertise jobs these days (although I’m fairly sure that ads for more mundane or unskilled jobs aren’t all about the passion). I don’t have passion for my work. I enjoy it. I happily do it. But they’re getting my hours, and not my soul. Should I happen to have one.

And that’s it. End of post. Now, you may notice I’ve turned off the comments. That’s because I don’t want any. Comments have done enough damage in the world already and nobody ever came away from a comment exchange feeling any better.

So if you have something to add, send me a mail. Or a telegram. Or a nice big cake. Or just take me to the pub and berate/hug me in person.

/ paddy

Old Blog

So I had that new website and blog, over at Swimming to the Sun. The idea was to showcase my writing and do blog posts there. However, then a thing happened.

The thing was that I grew bored with it. I became more and more uncomfortable with a website whose only purpose was to yell: “Hey, look at me and my stuff!” So I stopped updating it. I tried to forget it existed. Then when the website rental ran out, I didn’t renew it. And now it’s gone. Gone! Like having all your ugly clothes eaten by moths.

Now the world won’t know which articles I have sold and to whom. Big loss, I’m sure you’ll agree. I have a very yappy presence on twitter, and I have this blog, in case I get the urge to go a-ranting. Which I probably will at some point.

So yeah, it’s back to basics. And I’d kind of pleased about that.

/ paddy

New Blog

Perhaps some of my seven remaining readers have noticed I’ve been a little slack lately. But, I have an excuse! I was lazy, and busy with writing. Is that a good excuse? I also got engaged. Any better? Oh well.

2014-08-04 20.46.55But! The good news is, all is not lost. I have just launched my new writing site (“launched” in the meaning of telling people about it on Facebook and opening a beer to celebrate). This is to have a more professional writing-orientated web presence. The blog will focus a bit more on writing things, although not much. There might be less swearing, there might not. Hard to say.

That tree over there, by the way, is to symbolise my trepidation about the unknown, and my hope for the future, and my desire to fill up some column inches with random photos, just for the sake of it. Nice tree, though.

Anyway, thanks to all of you who’ve followed me on this blog, and welcome on over to Swimming To The Sun where it’s more of the same.

/ paddy

A Bouncing Baby Book

Breaking with my tradition of not blogging at all, I decided to mark this day with a blog post.

So. After three years of planning and thinking and a frantic four-month workathon, my new book is finally done. “Done” as in the first draft, which needs editing, polishing, poking and all that stuff. But still, I am sitting atop a pile of 117000 words, more or less in the right order, and they feel very comfy indeed.

I shall not reveal so much about this book, as the title and the idea are pretty unique. Suffice to say it’s an urban fantasy adventure kind of thing with some horror and it’s got a lot to do with dreams.

Some inspiration.
Some inspiration.

The last two weeks I have worked in a blaze and did fully one quarter of the book. That’s 27000 words in two weeks, which for me is a hell of a lot of words. I’ve been getting up early to write before work, going home every evening to write after work, and my son probably thinks I am now part of the kitchen table as whenever he comes home from school, there I am, slouched over, squinting on the screen.

When I put the last word on the page at 7.35 this morning, I stared at the screen, with no idea how to react. And then I started to cry. I’m not sure if it was from relief, or happiness, or exhaustion, but cry I did. Nothing has felt this close to having a baby than actually watching my son’s mother having an actual baby.

Now I’m ploughing right into the next book (not a sequel to this one) which, for once, I will plan meticulously before writing. I suspect this might be the best way for me to work as with a plan I’m free to just write and not look back. And the new-born book will be put in a drawer and allowed to ferment and steam for six to eight weeks like a Christmas pudding. Because that’s what you gotta do.

And finally, here’s some music I listened to a hell of a lot while writing this — a seven-hour long ambient piece called “Somnium”. So put it on, float away and watch this space. (Or, better yet, this twitter space where I tend to post more than once every three months.)

/ paddy