Friday, 6 December 2013

Grannysitting under Siege

These last few weeks I have been circulating this magnum opus among my contacts (in Estonian as well as in English). Now that I've caught up with the "present day"in my weekly chronology posts, it's time to publish it here as well. Playing dirty - sure enough. But hey, at least I'm broadcasting my own sensitive information in the process too.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: 23 November 2013 00:05
Subject: Social Spam: a bad case of Relatives, please help spreading the word

[I apologize in advance for such an out-of-nowhere Carpet Spamming. Viral news-spreading seems like a good extra remedy for the difficult situation I'm in. I’ve already sent out dozens of these in Estonian, now I’m reaching out in English.]

Dear folks

I turn to you in a gruesome exotic ailment - I have come down with a bad case of Relatives. Just one to be exact - my uncle.

As some of you might know, I have been “grannysitting” my elderly aunt in the countryside for some time now. In a nutshell, I keep an action-packed comedy-inclined one-resident senior home. This arrangement (while experimental) is not built on if-s and maybe-s - it stands on specific agreements. 

The people involved running the “grannisitting project” are:
- my sister (the aunt’s legal guardian)
- my mother (responsible for the aunt’s accounts; owner of previous, in-town accommodation)
- my father (moral support, aid in planning and logistics)
- myself (all-things-learning specialist and “expedition chief-on-spot”).

I provide the “walkthrough of a day” and tend the household; in return I get to earn my keep just by being there, receive a small expenses budget, and be exposed to the fresh countryside air with complementary birdsong. On top of that, the chores provide some physical activity (i.e. training) and I normally get enough available eveningtime to pursue my professional projects. The quiet, steady pace and purposeful attention directing means some training for the mind as well and makes a good post-depression rehab.

During this “project” I have worked out some beyond-tricky situations, such as foiling the aunt’s Grand Escape by redirection (at first she wouldn’t believe this was her home), built a safe fire pit (the aunt had a tendency to burn the unwanted clothing items under a bush), and activated her to the point of “mend my socks, almost make breakfast, read newspaper headlines” (about a year ago she barely spoke and hardly moved around, sometimes forgetting to eat in the process).

Just as began to notice there were actually some results to my actions here and the system had begun to reach an optimal working balance, I got a phone call from my uncle: he’s be coming over for a little while, “about a week or so”. The week passed and several afterwards, yet my uncle showed no signs of actually leaving; at the same time his expanding presence began to directly interfere with my assignment over here.
(For the uninitiated: my uncle surfs from place to place and crowd to crowd in a recurring pattern.
1) he shows up, briefly, of course, when some unfortunate circumstances suddenly force him to stay. You might not be too thrilled about the prospect but where else would the poor soul go? Just within few days he will manage to
- spill at least one powdery substance
- break or hopelessly mess up an important tool by misuse
- with garlic and alcohol as his accomplices, contaminate the toilet and his temporary quarters beyond all hope. (In case you rely on a dry shitter, may the heavens have mercy on you.)
2) Oozing enthusiasm all over, delivers a passionate speech about his ongoing businesses (speech includes and extra-passionate passage on how business should be done in the first place), ecstatically shuffles around the household, mentions a soon-to-be departure and then actually sails off for a little while. No more than two weeks pass and he’s back. Respectfully requests a share from the tobacco and booze you might have in stock for yourself.
3) Brief phase of low profile. Doesn’t meddle with household, appears modest and overall helpful. Among other things “helps” with cooking and supplies - would be better if he didn’t (especially within limited operations when storage and maintenance are as meticulously planned as the menu itself). Some goodies and treats, set aside for personal enjoyment (tobacco in particular) begins to mysteriously vanish, anything ethanol-based is obviously evaporating on its own.
4) A jolt of income out of thin air (often manifests as Friend with Finances - the other half of Mutual Enablers in Drinking duo). A new wave of euphoric enthusiasm ensues, now served with Extra Cocky. The euphoric high tide may include some grande planning, accompanied with a lecture on How Things Must Be Run in your household. Next morning, in the wake of a hangover, seeks out some simpler chore and shoddily performs the motions related to said chore for a while. Faulty handling and/or abominable planning renders another piece of equipment or territory functionally useless. The bioterror prevails. By that time he will have probably asked for you to lend him money; and/or requested a favour that doesn’t seem a big deal but somehow intrudes your privacy; and/or taken a piece of equipment or territory to his constant use. By that time he will have most likely “arranged” something in the household, without your consent or knowledge (“I brought this hobo in here, he removed all scrap metal, for free!”).
5) Repeat steps 2-4 til absolute despair. Don’t worry, my uncle won’t mind - or leave.
Objectively speaking, the described patterns’ tolerability varies. How acceptable his actions are is not the issue here, however. That discussion won’t change the one fact that matters - my uncle IS NOT part of the “grannysitting project”, nor do I wish him to be. Just as I would not accept him as flat-mate, no matter what the circumstances.

His prolonged stay, while understandable in some aspects (he’d spent a lot of time here as a kid - “in the country with the relatives”; also over the years this place has probably been the secret lair where he could hide from people he owes money to) - is directly interfering with the whole “grannysitting project” and my tasks in it. What’s worse, his household meddling activities (that also have negative impact on the “project’s” balance), appear like sincere helping out to an external observer. (The how-wonderful-it-is-to-have-a-man-in-the-house themed musings from the next door ladies make an extra cherry on top.)

Within three months my uncle has outgrown the “starry-eyed enthusiast” and “humbler than dirt” phases, and is increasingly picking up the “this is how we run stuff here” pace. Enduring his presence is in itself a magnificent mental feat - yet so far his antics had not directly crossed the “seriously, not okay - your welcome here just expired” line. (Some very close calls though. Like that time when his “co-enabler” friend drove him back from town and was promptly granted sofa space for napping out his intoxication and repeatedly reminded that he “really should” claim the free bed in the aunt’s bedroom. All that time the friend’s family was desperately trying to reach him - probably because the friend had a plane to catch the next day, a plane he somehow missed.) A week ago, however, the reality crossed over to explicit - loud and clear. (Okay, just loud.)
Going on a bigger groceries round with my sister one evening, I decided to lock the door to the room I’m using (i.e. “the expedition hearquarters”). The aunt had already tucked in, the heated oven-stove had been closed and double checked, the foodstuffs out in the kitchen, available. There were no specific needs or risks that would require access to the room. I did have some suspicions, though, that mysterious things might be happening in there when I’m out. I was curious too - would such territorial assertion give a reaction?

My sneaky provocation had some results, indeed. Upon return, we were greeted by a wave of laments and direct threats, starting with “should I ever find this door locked again, I’ll throw your computer into the river!” Next in line was an intense, high-pitched lecture about “how things really work in this house”. I managed to record some fragments of the whole litany and uploaded them: 

This is the point where all Folk Wisdom comes in handy. If any of you has ever suffered from a case of Relatives, you know full well, it does not pass on its own. Sure, the whole “project team” works on a firm statement to perform an assertive exorcism. But as you probably know, the Relatives are often recurring. Hence, I have developed a counter-infection that *ideally* would also work as long term precaution.

The counter-infection hypothesis goes like this:

- I broadcast some sensitive information: the time and place along with my uncle’s name.
- Among all the noise, the signal reaches people who have been unfortunate enough to lend him money and who might be interested in finding him. (The hypothesis includes the assumption that my uncle likely doesn’t want to be found.)
- Putting this intel out there on display, for the whole world to see, negates the location’s secret hideout value.
- The “grannysitting project” returns to its optimal course and pace.

And here is the “counter-infection” itself:


If you know someone who might know someone who might wish to know where in the world is Mart K├Árve, let them know that in November 2013 he can be found in Vana-Kastre village, in Tartu county, Estonia.

As you read my whine, feel free to spam it along, just two people will do.


In gruesome exotic ailment,




  1. Bad relatives are bad relatives no matter what part of the world you are in.