How much is a billion?


1 billion = 1,000,000,000 = 1,000 million  (in European terms)


1 billion seconds = 11,574.074 days = 31.79 years (start counting now)


1 billion inches = 15,782.83 miles (roughly the distance from Dublin to New York, then back to Dublin, then back to New York, then back to Dublin, then back to New York)


1 billion people = roughly the population of the USA x 3


1 billion acres = roughly seven-and-a-half times the size of France



Mothers -who’d have ’em?

A while back myself and Mrs. Rumm brought our two mothers to dinner in a nice, remote, quiet restaurant. It was a quite-stylish place, in an old-fashioned kind of way.

My mother doesn’t drink a lot, but that night she had a few glasses of wine.

Our waiter was a pleasant, pasty-faced, rubber-nosed ‘humble but snobbish’ type. He looked like Rowan Atkinson. Every time he came to our table my mother would start giggling quietly.


He became increasingly curious about her, pausing mid-sentence with a questioning rictus smile on his face, to hear if she had anything to say. She couldn’t say anything she was holding back so much laughter, just nodding to agree with whatever excuses/ distractions we were making.


Before we finished our meal, he returned and asked if everything was to our satisfaction. Again, my mother began giggling and this time it was obvious she was laughing at him. The rest of us were embarrassed.
I said “she’s not used to wine”.

He smiled and bowed his head and said “that’s quite alright I get that all the time.”

Then as he was reversing away, my dearest momma raised a finger in his direction and screamed “he’s like… MR. BEAN!” at the top of her wailing voice. We all broke out laughing even as I was dying from embarrassment.


The food was lovely, but I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.


Simple Solutions

In this (probably infrequent) series I intend to posit some unconventional/ will-never-be-tried solutions to problems of our times.


This time around…


THE PROBLEM: DRUNK DRIVING/ Reducing the number of road deaths caused by alcohol consumption.


THE SOLUTION: Allow Drunk Driving


I realise it’s a cause without a rebel, but let me toss this out and see what you make of it after you think it over (don’t rush to judgement)…


Cars should have a big red button marked “DRUNK”.


When you press it


a) the outside of the car lights up so it can easily be seen by everyone near and far.



b) it forces the car to travel at 10MPH Max.


Anyone caught drunk driving/ over-the-limit without the Drunk button pressed should be shot on sight.


I’m not joking. Drunks walking home are probably more dangerous to themselves and others than a deliberately-slowed well-lit driver.

What serious harm could a 10MPH car actually do? If the driver crashes and damages a wall or something of course he’d still be liable, etc.


Now tell me, leaving aside the fact that it will never be adopted, why is it such a stupid idea?


Accident at the Crossroads

A few years back I was driving around, trying to encourage the baby to take a nap in the back of the car. Eventually I realised she had no intention of dozing so I admitted defeat and headed for home.

I took a turn off the main road, through what I assumed to be a cross-country shortcut. This straight road soon narrowed and split. I stuck to the wider (though not by much) route and came to an intersection with many signposts. Choosing a path pointing somewhat in the direction of home I continued.

More intersections followed, mostly now with no signposts. Soon I was tearing past crossroad after crossroad, forks and T-Junctions. Where there were signs they mostly contradicted each other.  That didn’t bother me of course -I relied solely on my instinctive sense of direction. My internal compass points unfailingly to Home at all times.

Now I noticed none of these intersections had any Yield or Stop signs. Who was in the right when a narrow road intersected with a slightly narrower (or broader) road? Could the bigger narrow road be considered the ‘main’ road? Of course one should “yield right of way”, but here there were subtle size differences that suggested maybe one was THE MAIN road and another was where you need to stop. It was all somewhat confusing, but almost pleasantly so.

I turned a corner and came across a motorbike in the middle of yet another crossroads that had apparently just crashed into a JCB that was entering the junction. The biker was picking himself up and the JCB driver was already out of his cab. Immediately I noticed both were young -less than twenty, maybe eighteen.

The JCB driver was very distraught. He cried that he just came to the junction and the bike flew out of nowhere. The biker was limping but otherwise appeared ok. I asked if he was ok. He was. No bleeding or any other apparant cuts. We picked up the bike.

To my untrained eye the damage seemed “serious but superficial”, but both crash-participants gasped and cried when they saw it. Some plastic sections were smashed in and smashed out. There were a few large dents and scrapes. It couldn’t be driven right away, but the mechanics of it looked ok and it could be wheeled, so we decided to push it out of the centre of the corssroads, onto the embankment. Several parts stayed on the road as we did.

I hadn’t passed any other vehicles since leaving the main road, but just then another car arrived on the scene. The woman inside glanced and drove on, crunching bike parts under her wheels.

I asked the two guys if either of them needed to be brought someplace or if I could do anymore. The JCB driver said he had a mobile phone and he would ring somebody. The biker then looked at the other guy and recognised him “Gearóid isn’t it?”. The driver said yes.

I knew they weren’t going to come to blows or anything so I pointed out I had a baby in the car (who was stretching to see what was going on) and I had to go. They seemed calm and waved me off.

I continued my journey as I thought of the events that had ocurred. I had deliberately avoided asking exactly what had happened in case of dispute later on -I hadn’t seen anything happen anyway, so it’s not like I was a material witness.

More T-junctions and Y-junctions flitted past. Now I knew I was only guessing the way, but had complete confidence in my navigational prowess. GPS? Pah!

I looked behind. The baby was gazing happily out the window, musing on trees or bunny rabbits or whatever it is a two-year old muses on.

I turned a corner and came to a junction with several broken plastic parts in the middle of the road. A JCB stood directly in front of me. My head went dizzy as I realised where I was. I wanted to sink into the ground. The biker emerged from behind the JCB. At first I feigned concern “ye’re still alright are ye?”

He was in good spirits and told me they were fine and someone was on the way. I had to laugh then and pointed out I hadn’t a clue where I was going, but before the biker could reply the JCB driver stumbled past with his head in his open hands. “Oh God no” was all he was repeating over and over. Just then he paused and looked up as though realising for the first time there was a car nearby. In doing so, he caught the big stupid cheesy grin that was now frozen across my face. I didn’t think asking for directions was the right thing to do under the circumstances.

I straightened myself and became the voice of authority. “It’ll be alright” I assured him.

He paused as though snatching at a comfort and looked straight at me with pleading eyes. Clearly he needed more. “It could’ve been a lot worse” I told him.

His face dropped into his hands once more and he walked off.

“Don’t worry about it -It’ll be alright -its not that bad” I called after, more desperately as my hand found first gear and my foot eased down on the accelerator.

“Good luck” was my final authoritative gesture as I sped away, praying I wouldn’t end up back at that crossroads once again.

Thankfully I didn’t.

Underwear -The Whole Shocking Truth!

Growing up I had three brothers. Still do, but we don’t live together anymore. Well anyway, it was every man for himself in the underwear department. Yes we shared underwear. When it was clean at least. It was touch & go if you ever found any around.

Believe me I find that as awful now as you, but when it’s the norm you don’t see anything wrong with it.

Anyway, after I moved out (aged around 21) one of my younger brothers (aged around 16) moved in to my room. We were talking some weeks/ months later and he looked at me as though in pain.

“Did you have to take all the underwear with you?” he cried.

I assured him I took a couple of pairs of socks and underpants at most. He was always convinced I got up as early as a German tourist to hog the lot. No amount of persuading could ever convince him I had as much trouble as he did, only I didn’t cry as loud about it (maybe I wasn’t as bothered, I don’t remember to be honest.)

“I was convinced when you moved out I’d get a much greater share of the underpantses -like coming into an inheritance!” he said proudly. “But there’s still never any there! …My mam bought a load more, but there’s still never any to be found!” (We both knew he was more devious and underpants-conscious than either of the other two, so it was a mystery unsolved -to this day in fact).

He left me that evening with these heartfelt parting words: “I thought I’d find a secret underpants compartment in your room, or a stash down the back of the wardrobe or someplace. I never believed you never had any underpantses either!”


…Actually, I’m reminded of one particular incident where I came out of the shower and found the last spare washed underpants in a clothes-pile in the kitchen.

A half hour later, this same brother came out of the shower and began screaming that I robbed all the underpantses again. He could not be convinced otherwise.

“What am I supposed to do now!?” he cried and stomped around the house.

Eventually he shut up enough to listen to my suggestion… “Put on that one,” I said to him pointing into the dirty clothes basket at the one I removed earlier. “I only wore it one day!”

Of course he was disgusted -even we had our limits, but after a while he calmed down some more.

“One day?” he said eventually.

“Two at the most!” I assured him.

Can rats help clear Africa’s landmines?

I was pointed to an article on the BBC website a while ago that has the headline Can rats help clear Africa’s landmines?

As I clicked the link I imagined the idea was to set rats loose in a minefield so they blow up all the mines.

“Excellent idea!” thought I, immediately ironing out the specifics as I began to read… maybe they’d need to be weighed down so they’ll be more certain to trigger the explosion.  …Or, how would they ensure the remaining rats don’t infest the area? …Poison?

But I soon discovered the idea was something else entirely: Hero Rats, trained to detect the location of the mines so they can be dug up and defused. Not a bad notion I suppose, but I ask you, is my two-birds/one-stone “Evil” solution so wrong?

More rat encounters here.