Terry Prone: I thought I was just being quirky but maybe I shouldn't count on it

I have to count everything: 100 weeds into the bag, 100 pages of a book read before I address the next. Things get put away in fives. I could tell you the number of steps in any of the staircases in office or home

24th Jun 2024
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Originally published in the Irish Examiner.

Five containers of salt for every 100 weeds plucked. That’s the rule. The salt goes on the weeds, because it’s more environmentally friendly than commercial poisons, even if buying 20 plastic table salt dispensers at a time gets you funny looks at the supermarket checkout.

After those tasks, you get to have a cup of coffee and read 100 pages of a book. It’s all organised and — if you were feeling positive — even quirky.

A bit like the daily task list, which I once found my late husband surveying when I’d left my diary open on the kitchen table.

“You’re not supposed to read my diary,” I snarled at him.

“This isn’t really a diary,” he responded mildly.

“Well, what would you call it, then?”

“I don’t really know,” he said, looking baffled. “I can see that every page has a list of 10.

“Ten tasks you complete every day? I just can’t figure what the clusters are?”

“They’re tisks,” I told him.


“Yep. Five tisks make a task. So completing one phone call is a tisk, but making five of them, because I hate talking to people on the phone, adds up to a full task.”

He nodded slowly and shrugged in a non-judgemental way.

“Whatever floats your boat,” was his only comment.

Up to last week, I viewed the numbers thing as just that: A method of floating my boat on a daily basis.

It also clumped hateful boring obligations into groups so, in toto, they didn’t swamp me. You will remember the old question about how you eat an elephant, the answer to which is “in thin slices”. My version of elephant ingestion would be “in five thin slices at a time”.

Tisks don’t have to be unpleasant. Just exigent. So, on Friday, one of the tisks was visiting Jane Brennan’s pharmacy to have them stick me with the latest covid vaccination boost. Easy, and gives the hope of avoiding an infection which has felled some good friends in recent times.

Sometimes, a competitive element sneaks in, with the possibility of completing three tasks before 8am, which improves the look of the whole day.

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