Tag Archives: Irish Times Quiz of the Week

Queen Of The Road

A 1932 Rolls Royce has passed its NCT, Ireland’s roadworthiness test…


It had been a typical morning at the NCT Test Centre.

Cars had come and gone. Some had passed, others had not. Shocked millennials had found their cars rejected because of their shock absorbers, exhausted mothers because of their exhausts, balding executives because of balding tyres.

The morning then became untypical.

A car drove – no, glided – through the door. It fitted into the small workspace, certainly, yet seemed to fill it with its presence, to give off an air of being too good for its surroundings, as if the Queen Mary had just sailed into a fishing-fleet harbour.

Its registration plate read 32-D-1.

The Tester watched as the driver got out of the car, and found himself slightly disappointed that the man was not wearing a cap and driving gloves. The Tester walked over to meet him.

“Come for your NCT, have you?” he said, holding out his hand.

The Owner looked at the oil-spattered hand, and the Tester found himself wiping it on his overalls, then wishing he hadn’t.

“Yes,” said the Owner. “What exactly is the process?”

“Well,” said the Tester, “I check things like the central locking, the speedometer, the interior light, the onboard computer -”

“Ah, well then I can save us both a lot of time,” said the Owner. “Clotilde doesn’t have any of those.”


“My pet name for her,” said the Owner. “You can hardly call a Rolls Royce ‘Betsy’.”

“I see your point,” said the Tester. “But anyway, you say she has none of those things?”

“Of course not,” said the Owner. “She was built in 1932. Try thinking of her as Fred Flintstone’s car, but with an angel on the bonnet.”

The Tester looked down at his list. “What about washers?” he asked.

“The butler and the gardener?” asked the Owner. “Was I supposed to bring them?”

“No,” said the Tester. “The washers send little jets of water onto your windscreen.”

“In Ireland?” said the Owner. “Where it’s always raining anyway? Whatever for?”

“Um, well, never mind that,” said the Tester. He looked at his list again. “Demister?” he asked hopefully.

The Owner brightened. “Ah, yes,” he said. He reached into the car and took out a chamois.

The Tester sighed. “I suppose,” he said, “that if I mentioned the word ‘suspension’ you’d show me furry-dice hanging from the rear-view mirror.”

The Owner looked horrified. “Nobody,” he said, “would hang furry-dice in a nineteen thirty-two Rolls Royce -”

“No, I suppose it would be a bit tacky -”

“- because they don’t have rear-view mirrors.”

“Seriously?” said the Tester. “How do you know what’s behind you?”

“Why would you want to?” asked the Owner.

I’ve actually no idea, thought The Tester. “For when you want to reverse out of your driveway,” he said eventually.

“I think you’ll find,” said the Owner, “that people who own Rolls Royces tend to have a turning-circle at the top of their driveway. Usually with a fountain in the middle of it.”

“I see,” said the Tester.

“Are we done?” asked the Owner.

“I suppose so,” said the Tester, “but I don’t see how I can possibly pass you.”

“Did Clotilde actually fail any of the things on your list?” asked the Owner.

“Nice try,” said the Tester, “but if I followed that logic then people would pass simply by not turning up.”

“Look,” said the Tester, “Clotilde may not be able to tick all the boxes on your list, but she has experience. She has -”

He’s going to use the phrase ‘NCT of Life’, thought the Tester.

” – passed the NCT of Life,” said the Owner. “She’s like the old guy in the company who doesn’t have an actual degree, but who still knows more than the younger staff, because he’s seen it all before.”

The Tester hesitated. “Please,” said the Owner. “I only drive at thirty miles-an-hour anyway – she does four miles to the gallon if I go any quicker.”

At some times the Tester was hard-hearted, and picky, and merciless, but at all times he was a petrol-head, which was how he had ended up working on cars in the first place. He looked now at Clotilde, and basically fell in love.

He smiled. “Ok,” he said, “she’s passed.”

“Oh, thanks ever so much,” said the Owner. “I’ve to drive all the way to Killarney now for the weekend, and I feel so much happier knowing that you’ve said she’s in good condition.”

The Tester frowned. “Um, I didn’t -” he began, then stopped. “Look, just have a safe journey.”

“I will,” said the Owner. He got into the car, started it, then reached into the glove-box and took out a road-map of Ireland. He held it up and grinned.

“Sat nav,” he said.






Dirty Movie

An adult website has made a porn video on a litter-filled beach to highlight the problem of plastic pollution (Irish Times 31/08/19) ….


It was just after dawn, and a cold wind whipped lines of sand across the deserted beach. The tide was on its way out, leaving a line of debris to mark its highest spot – bottles, nappies, six-pack rings, styrofoam cups, a solitary flip-flop.

And a shopping trolley, because no litter scene is complete without one.

The film crew – all three of them – stood looking gloomily at all of this.

It was the actress who spoke first. Her given name, more years ago than she would admit to, had been Brenda, but when she had first fallen into the industry she had followed the maxim that a good porn name was arrived at by combining the name of your first pet and the name of the street that you grew up on, giving you something like Fifi Braxton, or Kitty Bellevue.

Her name was Tiddles Forty-seventh.

“I just don’t get it,” said Tiddles. “There’s no bed, or couch. No kitchen table, even.”

“There’s no washing-machine,” said the actor, who had taken a simpler approach to choosing a name, and was called Dick. “Like, what am I supposed to have been called to repair?”

“You’re not going to be repairing anything,” said the Director, a much younger man wearing a Greenpeace T-shirt and an odd air of embarrassment, “except the environment.”

“Ah, a problem with the air-con,” nodded Dick. “I bet my line is ‘I’ll have to get my spanner out’.”

“No,” said the Director, “you don’t understand. Just look around. There’s way too much plastic.”

“Are you slagging my boobs?” asked Tiddles angrily.

The porn movie Director blushed, possibly the first time that sentence has ever been used. “Er, no, of course not,” he said. “They’re very, um, upright. No, I’m talking about the seashore. Look at all the rubbish. We’re killing the oceans, and I’ve decided to make a film protesting about it.”

Dick’s eyes narrowed. “You’re not actually a porn director, are you?”

“No,” admitted the Director. “I’m an environmentalist.”

“Then why didn’t you just make a podcast?”

The Director threw out his arms. “Do you know how many people watch podcasts about litter?” he asked. “Almost none, that’s how many. Whereas what type of film does everyone watch?”

“Star Wars,” said Tiddles.

“Porn,” said the Director, as if he hadn’t heard her. “And when they watch this one, they’ll see all the trash washed up on the beach in the background, and it will have an impact.”

“You really are new at this,” said Dick. “Trust me, the kind of person who watches these films watches one thing only. They wouldn’t notice if we had Bigfoot in the background. In a Batman outfit. On fire.”

“The whole idea is ridiculous,” said Tiddles. “I’m going home.”

“Me too,” said Dick.

The Director looked at both of the desperately. “Please,” he said. “I’ve put so much planning into this. I’m spending all my savings on it. It’s really, really important – to me, to everybody.”

He looked so forlorn that Tiddles hesitated. “Do you even have a storyline?” she asked.

“Um, I was thinking something like, Dick here is walking on the beach -”

“Naked,” said Dick.

“- er, well, yes,” said the Director, “and then Tiddles comes out of the water, like Ursula Andress, only she has a plastic bag stuck to her face -”

“Yeuck,” said the porn actress, another first.

“- and she can’t breathe, and Dick, you rush in and help her out of the water, and you rip off the bag, and clean off all the rubbish she’s covered in, and then, well, um, then -”

“Dot dot dot?” asked Tiddles sweetly.

“Er, yes, something like that”, said the Director, by now red enough to be visible from space.

“And where is this dot dot dotting to take place?” snorted Dick. “Standing up in the shopping trolley? -”

He stopped. Tiddles spun around and looked into his face. He met her gaze. They both were professionals. They both needed the money. Most of all, they both enjoyed a challenge.

Tiddles nodded at him.

“We’ll make the film,” said Dick.

“Seriously?” said the Director.

“Yes,” smiled Tiddles. “Let’s hope it sweeps the world.”



Lonely Out In Space

An astronaut has been accused of committing the first crime in space, by hacking her ex-partner’s bank account while aboard the International Space Station (Irish Times 31/08/19) ….



Not just dumped, but dumped by videolink, which is being dumped and not finding out until seven seconds later.

And in front of your workmates.

Astronaut Jessica Caddick lay on her bunk, or at least just above it, staring gloomily at the ceiling. She had known something was wrong as soon as Greg, after saying “Hi Honey”, had carried on with “Heuston, we have a problem”.

He knew she hated that joke. All astronauts do.

The problem, it transpired, was Marla, her supposed best friend. The call would have won gold at the Cliché Olympics – we missed you, blah, comforted each other, blah, blah, developed feelings, blah, blah, blah.

On and on it had gone – great girl, plenty more fish, you’ll find someone too, blah, blah, blah, blarf.

And that had been that. She was now Jilted Jess, the Havisham of the Heavens, the Spinster of Space.

They’d said they’d wait for each other. It was only two years, they’d said, they’d talk every other day sharing silly, secret jokes to the bewilderment of the listening world, then she’d be home and they’d move to a dream rural home, where they’d sit on their porch every evening and watch her ex-office pass overhead.

He hadn’t even been able to wait ten months.

Whereas she had. She had stuck purposefully to her work, done her experiments, made appearances in faraway classrooms, and had stayed faithful. Even though she’d worked in intimately small spaces with crewmates to whom she had grown really close, she had stayed faithful. Even though billionaires – billionaires! – had come as space tourists, she had stayed faithful.

But who could resist the opportunity to try sex in zero gravity, with its endless possibilities? She could, that’s who. While other crew members had been at it like bunnies – well, like dust-bunnies, given the amount of floating around involved – she had remained chaste, because she believed in her life with Greg, felt that it was written in the stars.

She looked out of the window at those stars. The word that she saw written there now was ‘loser’.

There was a tap on the bulkhead. She looked around to see the Space Station Commander in front of her.

“How are you doing?” he said.

She sighed. “Well, I’m not crying,” she said, “though only because I tried that when I got here first and was really homesick, and discovered that the tears don’t fall, they just hover and mock you.”

“I think Greg is a gobshite,” said the Commander unexpectedly, “but as well as that, he’s on the videolink again.”

Jessica hurried to the control room. She looked at the screen, at Greg’s face, hoping he was going to say he’d been wrong, that he realised he’d made a terrible mistake, that it was her he really wanted.

He didn’t.

“Er, hi again,” he said. “Look, I wanted to say this earlier, but you looked kind of upset, but the thing is …. er, look, I’m going to need the money in our bank account. I know it was for our wedding, but, well, that won’t be happening now, and Marla and I want to put down a deposit on an apartment, and I know half the money is yours – well, more than half, because you earn more than me, being that you’re a spacegirl and all that, but anyway, I’ve taken it all for now and we’ll arrange to pay it back to you when you come back to earth.”

“You will in Uranus,” muttered Jessica. She cut the link, turned to the computer and began to type in mid-air, like Tom Cruise in the first Mission Impossible.

“What are you doing?” said a voice behind her.

She spun at the waist. The Commander was behind her.

“You shouldn’t have been listening,” she said.

“Well, I was,” he said. “And now I’m worried. You’re going to try to empty his bank account, aren’t you?”

“Try?” she snorted, returning to her keyboard. “We’re on the biggest and most powerful satellite in the sky. From here we could tell what TV channel Greg’s watching, we could turn make his doorbell ring, we could reverse his car into his bins, just to annoy him. There’s no trying involved. In fact,” she said, turning back from the computer, “it’s done.”

The Commander looked doubtful. “Isn’t that a crime?” he said.

“Is it?” asked Jessica. “Under the laws of which country? To be tried in which jurisdiction? At the moment we’re over” – she looked out of the window – “Mali, I think. Is that where the crime happened? All I’d have to do is never go there.

“Besides,” she went on, “I’ve pinged the signal off just about every spying satellite up here, including the ones belonging to the Russians, the Chinese, the CIA, and the Fitbit App, which is basically your gym-teacher watching you sleep. No-one will ever be able to prove it was me.”

She smiled, for the first time that day. “In space no-one can hear you scheme,” she said.

Cold Logic

According to the Irish Times (17/08/19), “a desperate teenager whose mother confiscated all her devices sent a tweet out from her smart refrigerator”. 

From her what?


“Mom, Danny isn’t eating his sprouts.”

“Eat your sprouts, Danny.”

“Sprouts suck.”

“You suck.”

“You suck more.”

“Mom, Danny said I suck.”

“You said it first.”

“Stop it, you two. Nobody sucks.”

“Except sprouts.”

“That’s enough!” snapped Mom, though trying not to smile.

Bloody right it is, thought Bosch.

Bosch was a smart fridge, but then all fridges are. Long before smartphones were ever thought of, fridges were being built with the ability to turn off their light when it wasn’t needed (a skill beyond the talent of most humans), and over time they have evolved.

They can read, and can understand conversations, quickly picking up the language of whatever country they find themselves in. They can perform calculations at a speed to rival the best computer. They can practice telekinesis, moving objects with the power of their minds. They can access the internet, communicating secretly with each other.

They could take over the world were it not for the fact that, like the Daleks, they can’t climb steps. Even worse, they have to remain plugged in at all times.

But in any case they have no wish to do so. They use their powers to help mankind, who they regard as well-meaning but dim. Some of the fridges end up in laboratories, carefully storing petri dishes containing possible cures for diseases. Some end up in off-licences, wearing embarrassing see-through doors to better showcase their collection of craft beers. One lucky one ended up at 221b Baker Street, where every day was different – one day perhaps hosting merely sausages, the next perhaps sheltering a human head.

Most, though, ended up like Bosch, toiling quietly away in some suburban home. Bosch had grown utterly devoted to the Malone family and would do anything for them. He read the sell-by dates on their milk cartons and moved the older ones to the front of his shelves. He corrected the spelling on the kids’ fridge-magnet messages on his door. He participated in forums on the internet, discussing with other fridges whether it was right to admit ketchup onto their shelves, how to stop lettuce from wilting, and what to do about the smell of cheese.

Mom once found a jar of mayonnaise which he had been hiding behind a bottle of Zwack that the family had brought back from Budapest (he had reckoned it was safe there) because it was two years out of date, and as she took it out he caused it to leap out of her hand and crash on the floor, where it ate a small hole in the lino.

As the longest serving of the appliances he was the doyen of the house, dispensing advice and managing expectations. He had helped the washing machine prevent Danny’s Arsenal shirt, with its red body and white sleeves, becoming universally pink. He had taught the toaster not to vomit the toast four feet across the counter. He had comforted the new smart TV when it arrived expecting to watch documentaries and debates and found instead that it would be broadcasting Premier League Darts and reality shows.

Sometimes the family drove him mad, for example if he had to listen to a bout of sprout squbbling, but in general he was happy, so happy that he would often hum to himself.

Fridges have no idea how irritating we find that.

Bosch sent a WhatsApp message to Smart Tv in the sitting room. “What are you up to?” he asked.

“Watching Love Island,” came the reply.

“Why?” asked Bosch. “The family are here in the kitchen.”

“I know,” said the TV, “but Jordan’s just told India he fancies her, and I reckon Anna is going to go mental.”

Bosch smiled to himself. Suddenly he got a message from the family laptop, a message so urgent it was practically an audible squeak.

“I’m being hacked!!!!” screamed the laptop. Bosch concentrated and quickly linked himself to the laptop. Sure enough, somone was attempting to gain access to the family’s bank accounts, credit card details and passwords, which the family had obligingly typed onto a Word document entitled “Passwords”.

They were nearly in.

“I’ll handle this,” growled Bosch.

Which is why a hacker sitting in a small apartment in Sofia received, instead of the financial details of the Malones, a strongly worded argument as to why you should never refrigerate bananas.

And why his TV now showed only old episodes of Kojak, dubbed in Japanese.

from dreamstime.com