Friday, December 24, 2010

10

In this home on ice

Snow builds up outside our door alarmingly fast. When any way untidy, our Portobello basement flat looks a lot like a storage cupboard, the kind where you keep all your old coats and where the cat goes to shit (though that may just be in my family). But she found a way to make our two too-small rooms look like a home to be proud of. And every time I gaze at our bookshelves that feels like us. And every time we mistrust the rust on TV and stick on something better it feels good. A pot of tea feels like an event. I asked her to marry me here. We spent our wedding night here.

I don't get, more often than not, why she'd even want to live with me at all. When I tacked up fairy lights with electrical tape they fell down, probably minutes after I rushed out to the pub. It must have looked like someone had mugged Christmas when she got home, deserving far better than that. And me, bumbling home hours later, all "What? Sorry." Slinging my clothes everywhere but the shelves. Jesus, she'd have to love me.

She has the fairy lights sitting beautifully above the fireplace now, like I knew she would. Black ice permitting, we could be spending Christmas here, and that'd be fine. This place is big enough for the both of us, and my many varieties of cuddle attacks, but it couldn't take the strain of a puppy or a baby or a hamster or a goldfish and so we both know that it's an interim house, here to keep us warm and build on all the massiveness we have, until the next good thing.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

3

I defy anyone to tell me something funnier they heard this weekend

Monday, December 6, 2010

10

Since we broke up I'm using lipstick again

"Are you going to write a post?" asked Rosie on gchat, earlier. I asked her for an idea to write about, and she suggested this assignment. The particulars of your first kiss. A meme, I suppose, but without the the tagging bit that everyone hates.

So, my first kiss. Were you not there? Fucking everyone else was.
Her name was Jane. No, it wasn't and it isn't but she's the type who might even be reading here without knowing this is me so I'm gonna leave it at Jane. We were 14 and Jane fancied me, despite my skin looking as though I was prone to rubbing it with the inside of a chip bag. I fancied Jane, too, though at 14 I fancied anything female between the ages of 12 and 90. Jane was, umm, an early-developer and the source of much macho muttering during warm-up laps before P.E. class. Double D, I was to find out later.
Jane flirted outrageously with me in science class and I didn't know what to do about it. I was no doubt supposed to seize the initiative in some way, but that was years beyond me yet. So one of her brassier friendds simply marched up to me at lunchtime one tuesday and said "Will you go with Jane?" I mumbled my assent and, even then, wondered why American teen films propagated this whole myth of 'dating'. You didn't date people in school, you just went with them and instantly assumed the status of boyfriend and girlfriend. And if you tired of them after an hour or so you dumped them, with the message preferably relayed by one of your friends.
Anyway, Jane was now my girlfriend, though I didn't know where she was. Apparently, we had to seal the deal by shifting (it was still 'shifting' then, 'meeting' didn't make it's way to Wicklow till I was about 16). This was to take place around the back of the bike-sheds. Yeah, I know. Even at 14 I think I found the cliché distasteful. But that's what we did. And word got around our classmates, so most of them came too. My first kiss ended up being much the same as my wife's experience, only that I was the one against the wall, and I was the one not knowing where to put my hands, not sure what the fuck was going on. In other words, I was the girl. Jane had boasted, during our times of awkward, stunted flirting that she had kissed nine guys. Previous action for me had consisted of some hardcore hand-holding with a girl at summer camp, but I implied that I was on a respectable total, and that a gentleman doesn't discuss such things. Jane must have seen through this because she guided things entirely, slipping her tongue into my bewildered mouth and swirling it around, as per the fashion. Our large audience stayed respectfully quiet, but drew the attention of a teacher on yard duty, meaning things were wrapped up hastily. But, like some shit out of Harry Potter, flesh memory meant my tongue stayed revolving for about 24 hours after. I didn't hug my mum when I came home from school that day in case she could smell it off me.
Jane and I went out for six months after that - a startlingly long time for 14 year-olds. By "went out" I mean "spent six months searching for secluded areas in which to grope each other", before she broke my heart by declaring that she would like to shift beaucoup d'autre blokes on our French exchange trip. Five years, and then six years, later I took great relish in toying with her emotions when I should really have been long over it, and she me. I was like that, once.

Monday, November 29, 2010

6

Frozen Assets

"I don't want to sound paranoid, but this is a fucking government conspiracy" I opined to Rosie as we slipped n' slid down the snowy streets to collect Annie on our way to the protest march on Saturday. I was temporarily convinced that local roads were deliberately being left ungritted in order to immobilise the population, thus denying many of them the opportunity to attend the protest. In hindsight, I may have been crediting the leaders of this country with a greater level of intelligence and creativity than they possess. They don't really need to put any thought or intent into being inadequate, they just are.

As we neared the starting point of the march Annie and Rosie started to discuss whether or not it would be a good idea to withdraw all our cash from bank accounts, in case the banks collapse and they freeze everyone's assets. "It won't come to that," I started out grandly, in that way I have of pretending to be knowledgeable on subjects I haven't a fucking notion about. Even I know it's annoying, at this stage. "The bank bail-out guarantees that won't happen." "But, umm, aren't we on our way to protest against the bank bail-out?" asked Annie.
"I dunno, isn't NAMA separate to this...IMF...interest rates...burble burble..." I trailed off, realising that I was definitely not sure of my facts, and that crossing the road towards Christchurch was going to be something more of an ordeal than I thought. Truth is, it's very hard to know what affects what any more, and what the repercussions of anything are. I never thought for a second that marching on Saturday was going to stop the government from signing us up to the IMF bailout, and I don't think many people really did. No, for me it was about standing on the street and saying Fuck you, Brian Cowen, fuck you for being a fat, boozy, embarrassment of a leader. Fuck you for never looking like you care what anyone else thinks, fuck you and your party for always putting yourselves first, for being such pathological liars. For being such snivelling cowards. For never once telling it like it is. Fuck you for never saying sorry.

It felt good, for a while, being on that march. We skidded and slushed along the streets and enjoyed the pageantry of it all. I wanted to eyeball the gardaí and say You are an evil tool of The Man, and if you come swinging for me with your batons I won't be responsible for my actions. But they were smiling and convivial and, perhaps through their sheer weight of numbers, never looked unnerved by the event. Placards were, as ever, delightful in their schadenfreude. An early favourite, spotted at Wood Quay, read "YOU USELESS BASTARDS!!" on one side, with "Not you, the government (obviously)" on the other. This was only equalled by the sight of an eight year-old on O'Connell Street,trudging along with a sign bearing the legend "My mam told me Justin Bieber would be here." And then there was this little beauty.

Later, back in the comfort of home, the alarmingly superficial RTE news coverage will tell us that official estimates put the attendance of the march at around 50,000 and not the 100 odd thousand the organisers were claiming at the time. I'd probably throw my tinfoil hat back on and scream PROPAGANDA BULLSHIT! at that one, were it not for the fact that I feel it necessary to limit myself to one conspiracy theory a day. But I've been to enough football matches and music festivals to know what a crowd of 50,000 looks like, and Saturday's was far, far more than that. Later still, as we mosey home after an evening of alcohol consumption and snowball-dodging a man on the far side of the road is chanting, a full twelve hours after the end of the march, "Brian Cowen take a hike, we demand a national strike." Wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which fills up first, I think to myself. But still. Still.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

3

I trust I can rely on your vote?

From the excellent Wheel Spinning Hamster Dead
It's weeks like this when you feel like you really have to write something on your blog about Irish current affairs. I never quite know what to say. We know that we have been let down by our government, we know that life is about to get financially harder for just about everyone, we know that the next generation are likely to still be stifled by things the current administration has done.

We also know that there will be a general election before too long.

This should represent a simple opportunity to kick Fianna Fáil and the Greens out of government and, with any luck, reduce their political influence to that of a sparrow farting in the breeze. But you wouldn't know, not in Ireland. Or perhaps, with 17% of the polled electorate still saying that they would, even at what must surely be their lowest ever point, vote for Fianna fucking Fáil. Sure, throw in a bit of spin, some canny canvassing and some snazzy posters and they could probably have that figure up to 30% or higher within a month. And that, with the vagaries of the proportional representation system, could amount to them getting back into government. Just imagine it. A vote of confidence for their lies and their conniving and their startling incompetence. A slap on the back for their slavering alcoholism. And a mandate (a real one this time) for their four year plans and whatever other havoc they might like to wreak on the country.

A sentence you may hear a lot in the forthcoming weeks is "Ah, those politicians are all as bad as each other." People who say this fall into two categories:

1. Those whose unspoken follow-up sentence is "So I won't bother my hole voting or attempting to influence things in any way."

2. Those whose unspoken follow-up sentence is "So I'll carry on voting Fianna Fáil just like I've always done. Just like my parents and grandparents do."

The election, and the decisive change that this country needs, will be decided by how many of each category there are. And, sad to say, it won't much be influenced by what we read or write on blogs. There have been some excellent examples of articulate rage floating around the internet this week, in the usual places as well as interesting new blogs like Rise Like Lions! , but it is not going to be the blogosphere (or whatever other disgusting term you might have for it) where the decisive battles are fought for this election. It would be easy to gaze around and see like-minded souls everwhere; a critical mass of people who want this government to become one of those anomalies that history students will ponder in the future and think "How the fuck could people ever have put up with them?" I've been reading a wide range of blogs for three years now and I've never seen so much as one comment indicating any level of support for Fianna Fáil. Not one. But the average punter doesn't read blogs. Most of my friends don't, my family don't. Tonnes of twenty and thirty-somethings are still far more concerned with reality TV than reality. Without wishing to talk in very broad strokes, I don't think the elderly (the most committed of voting demographics) are checking in on Twenty Major's polemics with any great regulaity, either. Which means not many people are seeing stuff like this. Which means not enough people are seeing the important work that the likes of The Story are doing.

We can contnue to entertain ourselves in a kind of "No, I hate Fianna Fáil even more than you do!" kind of a way, but we might as well carry on being frivolous because it is surely only preaching to the choir. Standing outside your local polling centre hectoring every young apathete (I may have invented a word there) to get in and vote, and chiding "Don't do anything stupid, now, dear" to every OAP going in might prove to be a more effective tactic. Blogs will continue to provide a useful point of catharsis in these enraging times, but it might be foolhardy to expect much more.

Friday, November 19, 2010

5

Ajai Chopra: economist, saviour, deviant

A student asked one of my colleagues today why Irish people are so obsessed with economics. It's funny now to think of a time when we weren't. Terms like I.M.F., toxic loans, bailouts, Olli Rehn, mortgage arrears and E.C.B. certainly didn't always have such a large part in the vernacular. But while it's hard not to feel like the sky is falling in at the moment, I still maintain that most of us don't really have a fucking clue what's going on. Sure how could we when we're lied to by the government on a daily basis and receive a drip-feed of misleading and contradictory information. In much the same way as it seems that property developers and bankers made out like bandits during the boomtime it might just be that financial journalists and economic experts will be seen (along with politicians, inevitably) as being the villains of the busted years, for having made a mini-industry out of the public's confusion. For every genuinely well-informed commentator there's some cowboy who knows no more than the average barstool economist making a living from shit-stirring and scaremongering. There's something vaguely immoral about it.

With this in mind, Chancing My Arm took it upon itself to get hold of Ajai Chopra, the man leading the IMF's rescue mission to Ireland, in order to cut to the chase and find out what exactly the bloody fuck is going on. Here, exclusively, is the complete and unedited transcript from my exclusive interview with Ajai:

Ajai, thank you for taking some time out from bailing out our sorry asses to talk to the readers of Chancing My Arm.

You're welcome, Andrew, I myself have a blog , so I'm totally down with this. I love your blog, that shit you wrote about nailing both of the Sweet Valley High twins in a hot tub was righteous. High five, dude!


Thank you, Ajai. Though I must confess that it didn't really happen. First and only time I'll make stuff up to put on my blog, I promise. Now, down to brass tacks. Tell us, did this whole global economic ooopsy entirely originate with the collapse of Lehman Brothers?

Well, yes and no. After Lehman Brothers defaulted in September 2008, global trade collapsed, capital inflows into the region plummeted, credit growth suddenly stopped, and domestic demand plunged.
But pre-crisis domestic imbalances and policies made a difference in how these shocks affected each country’s economy. Some countries saw declines in gross domestic product (GDP) similar to those in the Great Depression (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine), while others avoided declines altogether (Albania, Poland). But the seeds of the crisis were sown, in large part, in the five years before the crisis. Between 2003 and 2008, much of the region experienced a boom in bank credit, asset prices, and domestic demand. This boom was fueled and financed by large capital inflows.
With low interest rates in advanced countries, banks in western Europe expanded aggressively into emerging Europe—where returns were higher. And, while the influx of capital boosted growth, it also led to rising imbalances and vulnerabilities.


I see, but what kinds of imbalances and vulnerabilities, exactly?

Current account deficits increased to unprecedented levels in some countries, and inflation accelerated. And substantial vulnerabilities emerged in bank and household balance sheets, particularly because much of the borrowing was in foreign currency.

Fascinating. Tell me, Ajai, in your brief time in Dublin have you had a chance yet to savour any of our local delicacies?

Oh, yes. Strawberry and vanilla YOP is famous the world over and after a good skinful at the bar in the Merrion Hotel a few of us ended up hopping in a taxi and telling yer man we were really jonesing for one. They were harder than expected to locate but we finally achieved success at a Shell garage on the Dargle Road in Bray.

Lovely part of the world. I once dated a girl from Bray, she was a right goer.

Is this Mary Coughlan woman from Bray? She introduced me to brown flavour Hula Hoops. I love her.


It's barbecue flavour, Ajai, not brown. Have some respect. Now, tell me, why was Ireland amongst the hardest hit by the global collapse?

Countries that experienced the fastest credit growth during the boom years saw the deepest recessions. And it now appears that average GDP growth over the full business cycle in this group was no higher, and in some cases was lower, than in countries with more modest credit growth.


In other words, we talked ourselves into believing our own bullshit?

To be succinct, yes.


Right, when you're walking into a high pressure, cards-on-the-table, heart-in-your mouth, cocks-in your-hands meeting with the likes of Brian Cowen and Angela Merkel do you choose to freshen up beforehand with Lynx Africa or Lynx Nevada?

Truth be told, I always favoured Lynx Tempest. I certainly associate it with the years when I did most of my shifting - is that what you call it, "shifting"? - with girls in nightclubs. I fell into a terrible depression for years after it went out of production and chose to wallow in my own faeces instead of deodorising. My career briefly stagnated as a result.

No doubt. Did the high price of housing in Ireland have a lot to do with our misfortunes?

Well, you all thought it was worth spending about 750 grand on a two bedroom semi-detached in Ballaghaderreen, so you tell me.

Don't knock Ballaghaderreen, Ajai. The wildest retirement party I ever went to was in Spelman's Motel there, you know.

The wildest retirement party I was ever at was my uncle Sanjay's. I snorted petrol and got off with one of my cousins. I wish I could remember which one it was, it would have been prudent of me to have made a note of it. Speaking of prudence, Ireland needs to learn to adopt a more prudent fiscal policy. This is a policy of saving money when revenues are growing instead of increasing spending and boosting public wages. Prior to the crisis, fiscal positions in emerging Europe looked good—better than in other emerging market regions. But those good-looking headline numbers masked a deterioration of the underlying fiscal position. Public expenditure was surging, financed by a temporary revenue boom. This not only further contributed to overheating; it also set the stage for large fiscal deficits. So when revenue plummeted in 2009 and fiscal deficits increased sharply, many countries had no choice but to cut spending precisely when this was most painful.

Uh huh. And if things start looking up a bit, what would you advise?

When revenue takes off during the next boom, it should be used to build up fiscal buffers rather than boost expenditure. Politically, this may be very challenging—when revenues abound there is strong pressure to increase expenditure or cut taxes—but this will help dampen the boom and create fiscal space that can be used to soften the impact of the next recession.


So no public sector pay rises ever again, ever?

Nope. Do you have Mary Harney's number? I would like her to be my wet-nurse.


You're a sick puppy, Ajai. But our futures rest in your hands. Now, Cash in the Attic is on soon and you're boring me, so any other pearls of wisdom before we wrap this up?

Going forward, growth in the region should become more balanced, and less dependent on domestic demand and capital inflows. Much of the shift will come about through private sector actions. Now that profits in the nontradable sector (finance, real estate, construction) have shrunk, investments will seek more promising venues. More balanced macroeconomic policies and wage restraint can also help maintain balanced growth by preventing the overheating that pulls resources from the tradable to the nontradable sector.
Above all, it will be important—when the next boom comes—to be wary of claims that “this time will be different.” Such narratives often have some plausibility and attractiveness in the heat of the moment. But a careful analysis of the drivers of growth, current account deficits, asset price developments, and credit growth should always be used as a “reality check.”


Lovely. And finally, if I may change tack entirely for a moment and imagine that I am a radio presenter, is there any particular song you'd like me to play for our listeners today?

Yes, it being the only song I'm aware of to namecheck the I.M.F. it has to be 'Electioneering' by Radiohead. But I'd like to dedicate it to Marek and Sklopek for indulging my whims at the hatch of the Dargle road Shell station and to Larry the cabbie for making the magic happen. Yiz fuckin' rock and I wish success and fiscal solvency to yiz all!

Monday, November 15, 2010

12

Are you carrying a weapon? I know a lot of you are.

When I was 15 I was suspended from school for being a little bollix. It had manifested itself in various ways, such as shoplifting on a school tour, but had culminated in me and a mate getting busted for our 'convo book'. Bored as every other student, wary of getting caught passing notes, before the advent of teenagers and texting, we took to writing down our every waking thought in a copy book and then sliding it across the desk to the other. This meant that teachers were not inclined to notice anything, and merely assumed we were doing our work. Fancying ourselves as devastatingly witty we prided ourselves on the collection of stuff we wrote, even fancying that one day someone might want to publish our observations. Like Adrian Mole.
But, inevitably, we got caught by a teacher. Who confiscated the copy. And read some of its content. And looked horrified. And passed it on to the principal.
He was not amused. Our book was filled with the usual teenage complaints about school and parents, sometimes fairly bile-flecked. And, of course, lustlorn paeans to female classmates and teachers we fancied. Far from depraved, it was, but it was honest enough and it probably looked mildly deranged in accumulation. My defence, when confronted with the disgust of principal and parents, is that there was nothing there any worse than what everyone else was saying. That everyone had these complaints, these turns-of-phrase, these desires. They did, and much worse, but I learnt the painful lesson then that what you say and what you write down are two very different things. The written word can be taken vastly out of context and can be augmented in a tone that was never intended. And it's there for posterity, not blown in a breeze down the corridor. My mate and I had never intended to offend anyone, but we did, and we came to regret it badly. He wanted to keep hold of our other convo books that he had squirrelled away at home but I insisted that he burn them. As a pretty accurate record of teenage selves that slip further and further away they would probably crack us up to look back over now, but I still feel the right call was made.
I think of that situation, now half a world away from me, when I see stories like the PricewaterhouseCooper one, the Twitter joke trial, and the stupid Tory tit who thought it was merely 'glib' to tweet about stoning someone. As we choose increasingly to replace conversation with online interaction and to inscribe our every brainfart, people are going to have to realise that this kind of shit can't be unsaid, that words are still potent and that they go a fuck of a lot further these days than they used to.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

14

Mo' money



I have, largely out of vanity, signed up for Movember, whereby I'm supposed to grow a moustache and get sponsored lots of money for it, in order to fight cancer. I had initially intended my good deed for the month to be the Mini Miss Ireland competition, but the lassies from St. Pat's declined my help, on the spurious grounds that my appearance onstage in a bikini might spark riots in Copper's on Thursday night.

Truth is, I rather like having a mo'. A coat of arms for your face, as the website puts it. As arduous fundraisers go it's certainly not up there with running a marathon or appearing half-nude in front of a load of cops and farmers, but should you, Strangers from the Internet, feel so inclined as to stick something towards prostate cancer research my Mospace is here. If not, then see if you can identify me among this craftily constructed mo'saic (see what I did there?). I join some illustrious company, I can tell you. Super extra bonus kudos to anyone who can name all eleven of my moustachioed brethren.

Friday, November 5, 2010

5

feelgood friday

I have, despite being told my job was up a week or so ago, been given something of an indefinite stay of execution at work, and carry on for the time being. I could use the respite of unemployment right now, if I'm honest. The only real time off I've had since February was nine days in which to get married twice, interview for a better, ultimately unattainable job, and go on honeymoon. Mornings are a hazy fugue at the best of times, but these days they're met with a new level of melodrama. "I don't think I can do this much longer" I croaked to Rosie as I shambled out of bed on Tuesday. I was tired and had a mild to middling headcold, you see. My wife, who gets up earlier, works a longer day, does a more important job, commutes much further and gets paid a lower hourly rate for the pleasure gives me a hug and makes sympathetic noises when I make these statements. I must stretch her patience fiercely at such times. I've passed on the headcold to her, too.

Still, in these DJ-wanking budget-looming student-rioting garda-bashing garda-retaliatory-bashing red paint-slinging days it can be difficult to feel too fucking chipper in the morning. What we need is a song by a bunch of Canuckistanis from thirteen years ago to capture the national mood perfectly.




Do give it a listen, if you can have ten minutes to devote to full-on gloom, and feel free to mumble along apocalyptically with the opening monologue and somehow feel a little better:

the car's on fire and there's no driver at the wheel
and the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides
and a dark wind blows
the government is corrupt
and we're on so many drugs
with the radio on and the curtains drawn
we're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine
and the machine is bleeding to death
the sun has fallen down
and the billboards are all leering
and the flags are all dead at the top of their poles

it went like this:
 

the buildings tumbled in on themselves
mothers clutching babies picked through the rubble
and pulled out their hair
the skyline was beautiful on fire
all twisted metal stretching upwards
everything washed in a thin orange haze
i said: "kiss me, you're beautiful -
these are truly the last days"
you grabbed my hand and we fell into it
like a daydream or a fever
we woke up one morning and fell a little further down -
for sure it's the valley of death
i open up my wallet
and it's full of blood


Yeah.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

9

Normalcy







Notice anything wrong with these posters for films released in Ireland in the last year?

Stop being thick.

'All Right' and Traveler'. A superfluous L and gap and a missing L. Without wishing to go overboard, this blogger is firmly of the opinion that once we start welcoming weird American spellings into our world we might as well, oh, I don't know, salute the stars and stripes and snort Sunny Delight and suchlike. It's a slide that began when we accepted 'cool' as meaning anything other than 'pleasantly cold', took 'awesome' to mean 'quite agreeable' and used 'totally' to mean 'I fully agree'. It will soon reach its nadir when we begin using 'sick' as a positive adjective.

We can, it's fair to say, blame the youth on such tendencies? But now they're smearing it all over our film posters like H-Block protesters. Mark my words, good people, this may very well be the beginning of the end, if the end didn't already begin on the day my mother deemed it appropriate to use the word 'guesstimate' in my presence.
Of course, one might suggest that I am indulging in such pedantry and curmudgeonliness out of an anxiety caused by my impending unemployment leading me to be slightly more on edge than usual. Well, you can all fuck off back to Texas too. It's ignoring the likes of this that led to the rise of Genghis Khan and Idi Amin and those lads, and I'm registering my displeasure at this growing tendency before Uncle Sam has wiped his "butt" with us entirely.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

12

the fucking view is fucking vile for fucking miles and fucking miles

Having watched the final episodes of The Sopranos over the weekend my next post was set to be all about the majesty of that show, featuring a detailed analysis of crime and society in America and the definitive opinion piece on whether it, or The Wire, is the best TV show ever made, ever.

And then I was told on Monday that I'll be losing my teaching job on Friday week. Spaniards and Brazilians, unfathomably, don't want to be in Dublin during the winter. And immediately I was overcome with that old sensation of no-one gives a fuck what you think about anything, Andrew. It seems to be the hallmark of unemployment, and I remember it well.

My last period of joblessness (Oct. '09 to Feb. '10) was characterised by early depression and onanism, followed by an upswing in mood brought about my reading lots of books and doing volunteer work.

This time around I plan to synthesise these disparate strands by writing a pornographic novel to be sold in aid of grieving kangaroos.

Monday, October 11, 2010

13

Coldmember

A couple of weeks back I was away in Bundoran for my brother-in-law's stag party. A group of his friends are as much my wife's friends as his, so I know them pretty well at this stage and get on most chummily with them. One of the lads, Kevin, who is also soon to be married, was laughing at the fact that his bride-to-be had, at one stage or another, snogged several of his mates. He doesn't care, this was long before his time and such things inevitably happen between any group of intergender mates. Then he looked mischievously at me and, expecting to get a rise out of me, said "But do you know which of the lads has snogged Rosie?"

It so happens that I do. Barry is sitting opposite me and, bless him, has started shifting uncomfortably in his seat. Barry is the very definition of a decent skin and is happily settled with a lovely young lady, so I really don't have an issue with my wife having kissed him on a night out many moons before we even met. We don't talk about exes much but she had told me about Barry, perhaps to help me avoid an awkward situation such as the one Kevin has just tried to engineer.

"Yeah, just Barry, right?" I hope Barry doesn't take my just as being dismissive of his tonsil-tickling abilities, more that I'm glad he was the only one. The direction of conversation is swiftly turned to the direction of 'Members of the Irish rugby team whom Kevin has nearly come to blows with in a nightclub' and everyone is drunk and happy.

The next morning, cruelly, we go surfing. I manage to avoid everyone seeing how bad I am at surfing by never even attempting to mount the board. "Waves just weren't right for me, man" I opine to anyone within earshot. Back at the surfclub everyone hits the scaldingly hot showers to try and reverse the damage two hours in the North Atlantic in October can do to a body. Barry is in before before I am. He is the only bloke to have dropped his trunks. Barry is a hurler and you can always recognise the lads who play team-sports as the ones who are happy to let everything hang out in public showers.

Here is, roughly, my thought process:

1. Dropping my shorts will surely help my frozen, shrivelled bollocks to resume normality that bit faster. It's only sensible.

2. Barry's a hurler and I'm a hockey player. Hockey players get a bad enough rap in the man-stakes without people thinking we're afraid to get it out.

3. Barry (and everyone else there) might think he has a far bigger lad than I do. I can't honestly tell if he does or not but, nevertheless, This Will Not Do. Sometimes things are just that primal.

4. HE KISSED MY WIFE.

So I strip off my shorts and stand there with Barry and six uncomfortable-looking, beshorted men. Hot water dribbles down our flaccid mickeys as I will a restoration of girth and pretend not to be sneaking glimpses.

Monday, September 27, 2010

16

No I in Threesome

When I was born and lived in Cork I was from Cork and that was simple. When I briefly lived in Birmingham I was the Irish boy and kids at school asked me if I was in the IRA, or knew anyone in the IRA. I was seven, so I probably said I did. And when I lived in Tanzania I suffered the odd Irish joke from my Australian friends, but I could laugh those off because I recognised them as re-badged Kerryman jokes that Irish people had written in the first place. Coming back to Ireland after three years abroad was the hardest adjustment of all because of the Antipodean mishmash of an accent I'd picked up and the fact I didn't own a polyester Ireland shirt or a sega Megadrive made me more of a foreigner than ever.

Life got easier, but deep into my teenage years I still harboured fantasies of my family moving to America. Anywhere in America would do, though I reckoned Californian sun might work best for my greasy, troubled skin. I'd negotiate the cliquey, hierarchical minefield of U.S. high school and win. Girls would be blown away by my adorable accent and my roguishly, anachronistically Colin Farrellish looks. Yeah, and the jealous jocks would keep their distance because ofmy biting Irish wit and the assumption I was IRA; a notion I would take few steps to relieve them of.

I'd become a sporting superstar and have a college scholarship sewn up within days of arriving, due to my single-handed transformation of the "soccer" team's fortunes. This, I was confident, was the most realistic element of my fantasy, not due to any great skill on my part, but by sheer dint of my not being American - and therefore inherently superior with the ball at my feet.

Despite the attentions of most of the popular girls in school, including the icily beautiful Shelley Aryanski, my heart would be set on Naomi, the awkward art student whom I knew would be a stone-cold fox if only she'd take off those thick-rimmed glasses of hers. I'd capture her fragile heart by playing Damien Rice songs on a ukulele and pretending I'd written them. With the new strength she found in me she'd overcome her bulimia and her sculpture would really flourish.

I'd garner the devotion of the nerds through my powerful and outspoken stewardship of the school newspaper, and the black crowd would have my back after an impromptu rap-off saw me proclaimed "the illest, chillest honky muthafucka since Vanilla Ice", such was the impact of my mad skillz. 'A-Dogg' was how they would choose to address me from then on.


Jessica and Liz: strong swimmers
Naomi and I would hit a bit of a speedbump after word of me banging both of the twins from Sweet Valley High in Frankie Lopez's hot tub during a party to celebrate the team winning the championship after I scored seven goals in three minutes to beat our cross-city rivals 7-6 got back to her, courtesy of the bitter, spurned Shelley Aryanski. Naomi dumped my cheating ass initially, but she soon came around after I tearfully reminded her from beneath her bedroom window that it's not hard to fall when you float like a cannonball.

And then one day, perhaps as we were making our way to be crowned Prom King and Queen, Naomi and I would encounter Chuck Logan. Chuck had been captain of the soccer team and an A grade student before my glorious arrival. Now he was a high school dropout slinging crystal meth for a living. "Oh look, it's the Irish fag and his fag-hag" he'd sneer to his crackhead buddies, who definitely carried an air of menace. And I, I'd whip a can of Lynx Africa out of the back pocket of my Ralph Lauren suit trousers, and spray it against the flame from my lighter to form a blowtorch to scorch the skin off Chuck Logan's face. As he lay writhing acridly on the ground I'd douse the rest of his body in Lynx Africa and then take the cigarette out of my mouth and say "No, this is a fag, ya fuckin' eejit!" as I calmly flicked it onto him and watched him burn. Then I'd force-feed his charred remains to Shelley Aryanski for being a meddling bitch.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

11

Leave your livestock alone

My ten-year school reunion was on last weekend and I didn't go. Not being on Facebook meant that I was the last to know about it, only hearing at all because my brother happened to have been talking to a guy I was in school with. By that stage I had made plans for Saturday night anyway. Not plans that couldn't be changed, mind, but plans.
It would be easy for me to get in a huff and launch into one of my tirades against the privacy-thieving monster of a social network that dominates our lives, but I won't. "How else would they have organised it?" asked a colleague, who's really old enough to know better. "People had fucking reunions before 2006, you know," I managed not to spit back at her. In reality, though, I appreciate that posting a simple statement on a forum that no doubt 99% of my classmates are affiliated to is infinitely less hassle than tracking down current postal addresses and snailmailing every single one of them, or even emailing each person.
So no, my failure to attend was not because I was fucked off that people think that if you're not on Facebook you must be dead. It was something more intangible than that; and that troubles me. There was, perhaps, a time when I thought I might skulk into my ten-year reunion like John Cusack in Grosse Point Blank, all angsty and in need of some sort of redemption. I would confront those who were the biggest bastards to me, make a few quips and, with any luck, stab someone to death with a pen and make off with the startlingly compliant Minnie Driver.
Turns out school just didn't matter enough to me for any of that to be necessary. People weren't really bastards there, or at least to no greater degree than any teenager is. We were all just folks cooped up together for 35 hours a week in a place where we didn't particularly want to be. It was only oppressive in its mundanity, rather than its cruelty. I find it hard to think of the experience as anything beyond humdrum, and for that reason don't find celebrating with my old classmates any more of a logical thing to do than to celebrate with people I see on the bus to work most mornings. I'm still in touch with the ones I want to be in touch with, and I seem to lack the gene to make me curious about the ones I'm not.
Nostalgia? What is that? We still play video games and we still listen to The Prodigy and Radiohead. If nostalgia for people my age is pretending you liked the Spice Girls more than you did and sitting in a kip of a pub drinking until you overcome your mutual lack of interest in each others' lives then Nostalgia can fuck right off. And so can Facebook.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

16

A Chugging on Wicklow Street

Hey man, how's it going? Do you have a moment for Concern? Could I ask you a couple of questions?"

"I'll deal with these one at a time, if I may. Firstly, it's going alright, though I kinda need a piss after all the coffee I drank this morning and, frankly, my balls are sweaty to the point of discomfort in this weather. You know how it is.

Secondly, if I may wilfully misinterpret your question for the sake of a blog post, I have many moments for concern. I am concerned by the continued existence of reality television, I am concerned by the closing-in of the seasons, for I believe I may very well be a seasonally disaffected man. I am concerned that my fellow man is more preoccupied with Bosnian puppy-drowners than Bosnian war criminals. I am concerned that the only notable response to a British war criminal in our midst came from a few Sinn Féin nutjobs. That Mental Morrissey continues to be given a platform. I am concerned that with the dampening of Dublin comes the drying up of furriners, and that, on any given Friday, I may be dismissed from my employment with a shrug. I am concerned that I will take my anxieties about unemployment out on my wife. She doesn't care about money, but sometimes I'd love for her to not even have to not care. I am concerned that slowly, gently we will start to trust our government again, that we will vote the bastards in again, that we are falling victim to an indefinable propaganda machine as effective as Fox News.

To take your question as you meant it, no I do not have a moment for Concern. I am on my way to HMV to try to spend a gift card on whatever gems might still lurk in there beneath layers of Jedward and Adam Sandler. I am concerned by the rapid deterioration of that shop, too. And anyway, I've been Concerned enough to give your lot 12.70 a month since it was still a tenner in old money. It made me feel like an ethical student and I think I thought it would make the girl on Talbot Street who signed me up fancy me. Tell me, man, are you Concerned enough to waive your wage for even one hour? What do you get, about 12.70?"

Can you ask me a couple of questions? You've already asked three, fuck off."

Monday, August 23, 2010

8

i wish i was a neutron bomb, for once i could go off

Syntax

I want to call you thou, the sound
of the shape of the start
of a kiss - like this, thou -
and to say, after, I love,
thou, I love, thou I love, not
I love you.

                Because I so do - 
as we say now - I want to say
thee, I adore, I adore thee,
and to know in my lips
the syntax of love resides,
and to gaze in thine eyes.

Love's language starts, stops, starts;
the right words flowing or clotting in the heart.

Carol Ann Duffy



Had I been aware of the above poem three weeks or so ago I might well have used it as my reading during our registry office wedding. Not for all the soppy 'thou' stuff - though the worshipful tone can ring true - but for the last couple of lines expressing the awkwardness of finding the right words to talk about love. I scoured various volumes of poetry in the days before the wedding and even made the mistake of typing in 'poems for marriage' into Google. Unable to find anything that wasn't wilfully oblique, or cloyingly, clingily, cringingly awful I wrote my own poem instead. How embarrassing. I won't publish it here, not due to any sense of modesty or privacy, but because it is not, in hindsight, very good at all. But the sentiment it expressed, I think, was right.

Sadly, I don't think I can say the same of my speech at our Saturday wedding, the one with a hundred or so people at it. Years of wandering into a class full of baying teenagers with nothing prepared and winging it to a reasonable degree of success had lulled me into thinking it would be OK to do the same thing on my wedding day. It wasn't. I burbled a lot, glanced at the skimpy notes I had made with utter incomprehension, and forgot to thank half the people I really ought to have thanked. I was thinking of things I should have said for the first three or four days of our honeymoon - a kind of esprit d'escaliers without the prior insult. Perhaps I could blame blogging for giving me all the time in the world to think about what I want to say. Articulacy is easier when you only write something every couple of weeks.

But it was when I came to acknowledging my beautiful wife that words failed me most and I blithered on with a crack in my voice. The sense of what a significant moment in our lives this was meant that my brain was simultaneously simpering and squalling, cooing and caterwauling. But that's alright, I think. My feelings for my wife should never, all being well, be less than a maelstrom of thoughts that I can't easily express.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

27

On Being Read

Here's the thing: I think about you, my readers, probably far more than I care to admit. Late at night, quite often, when I wonder if I'd get to sleep faster if I told you about what's going on in my head. Even when all that's going on in my head is the horrendous feedback loop of wondering what's going on in my head. I wonder where and how you read me, and why. In an office, on the bus on your iPhone, in a college computer lab, on a rickety laptop on the couch as you growl with frustration at your slow connection (that's usually how I do it). Or as you watch football, as you drink, as you grin and grimace, as you pick your nose, as you go through someone else's blogroll out of sheer boredom. As you confusedly land here by googling song lyrics I've nicked for my post titles, as you follow someone else's twitter link and then stop and wonder if life isn't a mite too short to be on Twitter if this is where it brings you. And I'm fascinated by the very notion of being read in far-flung parts of the globe, and constantly wonder what it is that I might write that tickles someone's fancy in Laos just as it turns someone off in Laois. If some of you are just hoping that I'll pick another fight, or that I'll write a little more about love, as love happens to me.

I'll think of you, dear readers, even on Thursday as I get married to the loveliest creature I've ever encountered. Or at least in the immediate aftermath. And on Saturday, when we do it again more publicly. I'll think about how I'm marrying one of you; how we first recognised a kindred spirit through each other's words. How a few more of you will be there to celebrate with us as friends.

How I'll tell you all about it (and the job interview sandwiched on the Friday in between) when I have words that are good enough, if there are any. How good it is to have been read, then seen, then loved.

Photo taken, like most good photos, by the wonderful Annie Atkins

Friday, July 9, 2010

12

What others were feeling like today #16

1938

'He has found a purpose in life for himself in his children'. So that they in turn may find the same in theirs? But what point is there in this endless procreation? We care so little about other people that even Christianity urges us to do good for the love of God. Man prefers to punch his fellow man in the mouth, and is such a fool that to give himself an object in life he has to produce a son.


I like this one a lot. Pavese manages to get such a wealth of ideas into a few lines of writing. I haven't been able to find out where the quote he opens with comes from, but while googling the phrase I learned that Usher, that most anodyne of popstars, said much the same thing a couple of weeks ago. Attributing all your 'purpose' in life to your children is a dangerous thing to do, as I see it. Surely it can only mean that you've given up on finding any meaning in your own life and are now only seeking to do so vicariously through your children. Or is it just something vapid that people say? If merely producing humans to produce humans to produce humans ad infinitum is our 'purpose' in life then it is really no purpose at all. I very much hope to have children some day but I'd like to think that even without them my life might have some purpose, and that if I do have them I won't subscribe wholeheartedly to the cult of the child.

Extract taken, as always, from The Assassin's Cloak.

Friday, June 25, 2010

8

Icerain Icerain, baby

I did not get that job, as I thought. I suspect that the postion was sewn up long before they even advertised it, and that my interview last week was the kind of sham that educational institutions are obliged to conduct, for reasons I'll never understand. This surly fucker does not appreciate having to take an unpaid day-off from his temporary job to get suited and booted at crack of dawn o'clock for a joke of a ten minute interview. There will be other jobs, but it's hard to imagine one that I would be better qualified and experienced for. Fuck 'em.

It only started to really get to me when my mother called as I was on my way to work this morning and sounded genuinely heartbroken for me.


Further to this, some bollix decided to invade our home in the middle of the night the other day (I'm leaving Rosie to write all the descriptive stuff about our shared experiences these days, as she's so much better at it), leaving us both sleep-deprived and a little shaken. My system has yet to sort itself out and the primal rage that had me barking threats and obscenities at him like a rottweiler at a postman has yet to fully subside. A fat American nearly got me run over by a bus earlier and I didn't know whether to bellow at him or burst into tears.

Time for a holiday.

Fortunately, our renowned skills in assisting people with house and dog-sitting have brought us a free stay in this place, starting tomorrow. Not bad, I suppose. Still, the downside of it is that if i want to use the local municipal swimming pool I have to follow French law and abstain from sporting a nice comfortable pair of swimming shorts. Apparently I'd be refused entry in loose trunks but the bienvenues would be a-flowing were I to rock up in these bad boys. You gotta love them.

However, to fully achieve rehabilitation fully I reckon I may have to treat les femmes francaises to the sight of the semi-legendary Andrew gooch in these:



Mais oui.



Disclosure: Oddly bulbous crotchal region not blogger's own.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

8

Pigs and needles






















Music-wise, I'm all about the dead guys at the moment. Mark Linkous (otherwise known as Sparklehorse) and Elliott Smith - two men who were appreciated by many before their respective suicides but whose brilliance will probably only be fully recognised in years to come.
It's disarming the way every now and then music can still make you feel like an insecure teenager finding meaning and empathy where most likely none was intended.
 You ought to be proud that I'm getting good marks.
It's there when I'm yelping internally at everything that makes me frustrated.
And watching pounds and pounds on the digital scale.
I wanna new body right now, I'm a butchered cow.
The staking out of our house by a mentally-ill sparrow who goes for my face when he's not going for our door and just wants to live with us, just wants to be like us.
I wanna be a pig, I wanna fuck a car.
And the job I interviewed for last week and would love to get and should get but won't get.
Needle in the hay.
And the tension and burn to write but not the words.
And make music but not the skill.
Needle in the hay.
 And wishing, come to think of it, that I enjoyed my love's company just a little bit less so that everyone else didn't seem so crap by comparison.
I wanna be a tough-skinned bitch but I don't know how.

And my own jaw-clenching ineptitude.
I wanna be a shiny new baby with a spongy brain.
I wanna be a horse filled with fire that will never tame.

Wanting to blog more and not having time.
Or not knowing how.
Wanting to be able to make her smile every second of every day.
Looking to surpass myself just the tiniest bit, for once.

Needle in the hay
Needle in the hay
Needle in the hay.



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

14

Save Me From Apathy, Save Me from Hell - Flatlake 2010


Yes, dear readers, this is a photo of me with the mighty Crystal Swing. Now, you might have thought that I'd be altogether too surly a sort of fucker to request photos with such folk, but you'd be wrong. As of this moment, Andrew is happily going on record as stating that quasi-incestuous, hucklebucking langerpop is very much the way forward.

Now, a few questions you may have regarding said photo:

Where? The Flatlake Festival in Co. Monaghan, a glorious mix of parish fete tweeness, Monaghan underager boozefest, and serious literature thinktank. As curated by Patrick McCabe - warped mind behind The Butcher Boy.

Why is the photo so blurred? When I saw Crystal Swing being harangued for photos by passers-by I decided that this was an opportunity to good to pass up. Rosie concurred, but was silently laughing so hard that her hand wouldn't stop shaking as she snapped. The group just looked bemused, as I was about seventeen years older than anyone else asking them for a shot.

Andrew, why do you look like such a paunchy buffoon in this shot? This is an optical illusion, caused by the fact that Crystal Swing collectively resemble a cricket wicket when standing next to each other. I kinda fancied the gamey-looking ma beforehand, but Jaysis love, Skeletor wants his face back. I am, in reality, a svelte size 8, and not remotely bloated by the bottle of Captain Morgan and coke in my left hand.

Was there other good stuff going on? Yes, yes there was. There was Anne Enright doing a powerful reading, there was Jinx Lennon causing sore necks through vigorous head-nodding during a ditty entitled Stop Picking on Nigerians, there was roasting sunshine for more or less three days solid, there were hundreds of Chinese lanterns on the last night, there was only bumping into bloggers I really like, there was Shane McGowan droning " wurgle gurgle gurgle" over the verses of Mundy's tedious July, there was being able to camp right beside our car, there was the successful road-testing of our honeymoon tent, and there were dogs bloody everywhere for me to try and cuddle-attack. And there was Crystal Swing, making a horrendous racket with Lily Allen.

I may never need to go to another festival again.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

8

Beware of Small States

A few years ago I spent about a month working in an orphanage in Tanzania and staying in a youth hostel there. Among the volunteers there were two brothers from L.A. in their early twenties. Let's call them Dumbo and Follo. Volunteer work is, much as I am loath to admit it, an egotistical pursuit in many ways. The volunteer gets a kick out of knowing that they're helping someone and gets a kick out of people saying "Oh, aren't you great to be doing that!" Nevertheless, these two clowns took the vanity of the exercise to magnificent levels. One brother could not encounter a Tanzanian child without the other brother making sure it was caught on video. Whereupon the child's ears would be assaulted with something along the lines of "You're WELCOME!! WE'RE JUST DOING WHAT WE CAN, LITTLE FRIEND." On one magnificent occasion Dumbo was calling home to his mother when the emotions of working in the orphanage overcame him and he started to cry. As he did so he quietly beckoned Follo closer and indicated that he was to start recording him. They didn't see anything comical in recounting this story to the other volunteers. Another time, the two were painting a classroom when Dumbo's wrist suddenly went limp and his brush began dribbling paint onto his pristine new boots.
"Dude, what are you doing?!" cried Follo.
"Bro, when we're back home I can wear these shoes to bars and when girls ask why there's paint on them I can tell them I got it painting an orphanage in Africa."
A grin flashed over Follo's face. "You're a fucking genius, dude," he said as he tastefully daubed his own footwear.

But I digress. Wildly. All you need to know about these guys is that they were chumps. They took chumpishness to transcendent levels. They were also Italian-American, as Italian-American as Paulie Walnuts or the gang from Jersey Shore. Guidos, as I believe they call them in the States. Only for some reason they fancied themselves as Jewish, despite the fact that they had no lineage whatsoever to that effect. They liked to prance around the hostel louding chanting and dancing at sunset on Friday evenings because that's when The Sabbath began. At other points one brother would wander into a group of entirely disinterested fellow guests and tell them not to look for the other one for the next half hour or so, as he was busy praying. Such spiritual fellows they were. It took only a little prodding after a couple of drinks to get Follo to admit one day that Madonna and her high profile Kabbalah guff had more than a little influence on them, and that that shit was hot in L.A. right now. They chose to wear their Judaism on their sleeves with obnoxious Israeli Airforce t-shirts, rather than red strings on their wrists. You could not have made these guys up.

And then there was Dani. Dani had just finished her two year stint of mandatory military service in the Israeli army and was now travelling for a bit before starting university in Tel Aviv. Dani went about her day quietly, and did not care one jot for the posturing of Dumbo and Follo, or the sorry advances they made at her. She laughed off jokes we made about Israeli military training consisting solely of throwing stones at Palestinians, and expressed exasperation at the whole situation. Two years of army bullshit still didn't seem to have put a warmongering thought in her head. She didn't think being Jewish made her better than anyone else. She wished it was all very different.

Ack.

This all seemed to make a lot more sense when I began it a couple of night ago, feeling more shocked and saddened by a news story than I almost thought possible of my jaded head. I don't know exactly how I feel about it all. But I know that the actions of the Israeli army the other day weren't done in the name of people like Dani, but that they are enabled by people like Dumbo and Follo, stuffed to the gills with the romantic, dangerous bollocks that they attach to the idea of the rightful home of God's Chosen People.

As for the boys themselves? They couldn't be reached for comment as they are currently on a Buddhist retreat with the Jonas Brothers and three of the backing dancers from Glee.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

17

Aisha, we've only just met and I think you ought to know...I'm a murderer

What with there being nothing sad at all about sitting around the flat on your own watching the Eurovision semi-finals I am doing precisely that. Perhaps only for a few minutes longer though, as I'm starting to hate my ears, and the ironic appeal of all that kitsch has a limited lifespan before it just makes you start to despair.
Still, if there's one thing I dearly love it's a good and proper mangling being handed out to the English language, Engrish style.

And bless me if Latvia's entry, a mildly discordant, comely young lass in a dressing gown who goes by the name of Aisha, hasn't obliged me nicely. What for? Only Mr. God knows why. My favourite bits are in bold.



I’ve ask my angels why
But they don’t know
What for do mothers cry and rivers flow?
Why are the skies so blue, and mountains high?
What for is your love, always passing by?
I’ve asked my uncle Joe
But he can’t speak
Why does the wind still blows and blood still leaks?

So many questions now with no reply
What for do people live until they die?
What for are we living?
What for are we crying?
What for are we dying?
Only Mr God knows why
What for are we living?
What for are we dreaming?
What for are we losing?
Only Mr God knows why
But his phone today is out of range
The sun in colour black is rising high
The time is turning back, I wonder why
So many questions now with no reply
What for do people live until they die?
What for are we living?
What for are we crying?
What for are we dying?
Only Mr God knows why
What for are we living?
What for are we dreaming?
What for are we losing?
Only Mr God knows why
What for are we living?
What for are we crying?
What for are we dying?
Only Mr God knows why
What for are we living?
What for are we dreaming?
What for are we losing?
Only Mr God knows why.

Thank you, Aisha, thank you for the words.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

13

oh what a small sky for so much rain

The day is humid and stifling, or, as auld ones love to say, very close. We mosey about the place, out of the house just to be out of the house. Rosie is delicate today, after having her Mary Bridget interfered with yesterday in a non-sexy manner. I'm a little delicate too, because I'm just a little delicate sometimes, and I've needed to pee since three minutes after we left the house. There is more hanging in the air than humidity and tender pink bits, but it's hard to talk about because it's not of our making.
We sit in Cathedral Park, beside where an arm might first have been chanced, and spectate on an adorable Chinese toddler as she first makes advances on a group of unsuitable pubescents ("Ah, she's after kissin' ya Jayo!") before finding a more appropriately-aged friend, whose ball and father's attention she quickly commandeers. Then we putter home along Clanbrassil Street, as I hold court on the theme of 'Dickheads I Have Known, and Regarded as Dickheads'. We're both lathered in sweat when we get home from this most sedate of walks.
Later we fire up an episode of The Sopranos as she makes popcorn and I pour drinks: a fancy cider for her, a White Russian for me. As we near the end she opines that the drink has made her want a cigarette. We both gave up ages ago but I always buy a cheap carton or two when abroad just, y'know, in case. 'Palenie zabija' the packet warns. Which, if my rudimentary grasp of Polish serves me right, translates as 'Andrew, with this cigarette in your mouth you will look brooding, virile and ferociously intelligent. No harm can come of this.'
We're both already wearing pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt, and I add some grubby adidas trainers and my tattiest of hoodies for our trip outside for a fag. She effects much the same look, only with some brown leather heels. "Skobie chic, wha'?"
The recent shower has passed and she breathes deeply and says "The air's much better now, after the rain."
I suck in my Camel Blue and my dregs at the same time. "Yeah, it's much better now."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

14

More tea, Gicker?


Click to make it big and hairy

Sometime last year Rosie's blog turned two, and the indolent wagon asked me to write a post for her to mark the occasion, as she couldn't be ringed. So I did. I asked her to return the favour for my second birthday and, clearly reluctant to write anything as fawning as I would've liked, she produced the above graph for me. Smart lady.
The geeky book blog she refers to is Slightly Read - a book blog I started working on a few weeks ago when I realised I that I kept feeling an odd urge to write book reviews here. I decided to stick them into their own grubby little corner instead, so as not to put my legions of readers off this place. Head over there and have a gander if that's your sort of thing, or just sit tight and wait for my next gibbering missive here instead.

Friday, May 7, 2010

4

7

and moreso
that they think it feels it flows it harps it hurts it flanges about every way
it
isn't and
writhing everything preordained preordained small means of mens drool by shooting solipses it snot like this is going to tell you anything you so far alone you so
light up you sized up you
knowthatimademymillionsandididntcareididntcareifuckeditupandilostitallandicarednotawhitiheldittightandthere
might
be
other ways
andmeansandends kwakkrak
elegiac notwithstanding
verisimilitude templates
eating disorders
rampant
yog-urt yo-gurt
titillation
hinges on
it
not
gurning getting or not being

Saturday, April 17, 2010

17

How To See Yourself As You Really Are

One of the many books I have lying by my bed is How to See Yourself as You Really Are by the Dalai Lama. It's one I picked up while working in the charity shop (His Holiness and his publishers would have liked me to have paid seventeen quid or something for it, but hey, I guess that's not who I really am). There's some good advice in it at times, and even the odd sniff of genuine profundity. Still, one can't help but wonder, at times, whether yer man's quest to see himself as he really is has ever taken in that noblest of pursuits in the pursuit of self-actualisation,the one known as "snorting vodka."

I've this friend who snorted a bit of vodka, in his time. The first time was on New Year's Eve, at a house party, when he was seventeen. Another lad, undeniably the smartest in his year, told him it that it had never done him any harm, so it must be fine. Solid enough logic there. He sniffed it right up and it burnt his nostrils and gave him brain freeze but just that one teaspoonful made him feel like he'd drunk three naggins so he had another one. A few minutes later he jumped up really high in the air thrashing around on his air guitar to the intro to Radiohead's Just and he landed hard on his left hip. Everyone laughed really hard so they put the song back to the start and he did it again. He only started to feel his hip ten minutes later. He reckons now that he cracked it, but he was far too embarrassed to ever seek medical attention for it. Still gives him the odd sharp pain now, eleven years on.

The second time was when he was eighteen, about to finish school, and he and his entire class mitched off to celebrate this step into adulthood by going and getting absolutely fucked in the sand-dunes of Brittas Bay. This was to be achieved through a cunning combination of cider and sunburn. And a capful or two of uncle Smirnoff, route one through the nose and into the good times. He remembers deliberately head-over-heelsing down a steep, high dune, and little else. A few of them headed straight to The Forge once they got back to town. They weren't all eighteen, but no-one gave a fuck at 5 o'clock in the evening. He remembers ordering gin and tonic and smoking a cigar, in what he can only imagine was intended as a display of louche decadence. He remembers blowing cigar smoke in the face of a toddler who looked over from the neighbouring booth. He remembers the child's mother not seeming to mind, as she said they were keeping him entertained. He remembers being warned that he had tapped cigar ash into his G&T. He remembers drinking it anyway. And how he vomited all over the table a few minutes later. And how they just changed tables and how, inexplicably, no-one kicked him out, this friend. Someone should really have kicked him out.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

13

You're toxic, I'm slipping under

"It's not fair!" Words you haven't uttered in years, now directed at two Leinster Hockey Branch referees on the occasion of your team being dumped unceremoniously out of the cup by a team bolstered beyond all recognition by a load of illegally unregistered players from a much higher division. A team whose legitimate side you had strolled to a 6-0 victory over in the league just a couple of weeks earlier. Yet another example of the skulduggery that dogs lower-level hockey to a surprising extent. Not fair at all, but your team are slowly learning how to play that game. Come to think of it, it isn't really fair that you're a hockey player at all, being a refugee in its middle-class bosom for over a decade now. Forced out out of football - a game you're much better at - as a delicate 15 year-old by one too many taunts of "Proddy bastard" from your own team-mates. And they laugh at you, these elder gentlemen, much as you do when teenagers approach you with the same whinge when confronted with a punishment they don't feel they deserve. Life's not fair, lads, I'd kick you up the hole too, if The Man'd let me.
The words come rising to your throat again in an acid bubble tonight, as you sit down with one of your best mates to watch the football over a few pints and he comes clean about who his new employer is. AnglofuckingIrishcuntingBank, of all people. The ones costing the state about 30 billion euro; you may have heard mention of them recently. Good to know they're hiring, innit? Loath to hear too much about the bastards, you fill him in on my recent own employment status. Which is that, after more than four months without a speck of paid work, things have been a bit better recently, a few TEFL hours and a bit of secondary subbing work making things feel a lot better. You don't bother spitting in his pint when he says that he's glad the hourly rate for  subbing has come down a bit, as it was too high. You don't bother pointing out that it would take his new friend Seán FitzPatrick a full 1200 years as a full-time secondary teacher to pay back the debts the government reckon he won't be able to get back to them. You just let him get the next round in and you sit and watch your team take a hiding with an odd mixture of glumness and awe and you think that it's also not fair having to play possibly the best club side in the world with five of your cast-iron starters missing. Trying to counter  Lionel Messi, the best player in the world, with Mickael Silvestre is most likely a contravention of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. .You console yourself with the fact that at least the horrible little banker fuck beside you is a Liverpool fan, so he knows something of pain. And a job's a job and a mate's a mate, right?
Right.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

6

he did make some observations

Having a bonsai tree really is like having a child, a puppy or syphilis: you have to bring it fucking everywhere. And so it was that Stella joined Rosie and I on a week-long jaunt to the west of Ireland, where we indulged in our customary pastimes of walking a bit, grumbling at the rain, reading a bit, watching DVDs, gorging ourselves like sows with tapeworms and cooing at each other a lot. It was precisely like that Discover Ireland ad, especially the bit with the couple looking affluent and aroused in Westport. We also flew (yeah, flew) to Inis Mór like motherfucking rockstars. More about all that another time, perhaps.

I was planning on throwing in a few grumbles into this post of odds and ends, as it's been a while since I've used the 'gripes' tag. Then Holemaster shows up in my feed-reader with a worthy list.
To his complaints I add:

People who won't switch their headlights on before the sun sets. Try driving down the M50 in a driving rainstorm with the backwash from a truck obscuring everything and tell me you wouldn't notice the fucker in a silver Audi cutting in front of you just a split second sooner if they had their lights on.

Bohemian Rhapsody. Tonight I sat through all two and a half hours of Channel 4's unfathomably unfunny Comedy Gala. It climaxed, like a sixteen year-old jizzing his pants, with one-trick pony Lee Evans performing his one trick, sweatily, to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody. And I realised that that song, far from being the 'greatest song of the twentieth century' that it is so often feted as, is a bloated monstrosity of a yoke that should have been left alone to enjoy its Wayne's World based resurrection and then banned from public consumption. Think about it: you don't like it half as much as you've been told you do, do you?

Overuse of the word 'rant' on the internet. There is a tendency among bloggers to preface and/or conclude any strong statement of opinion with a caveat along the lines of "I hope you'll excuse this rant", or "Don't mind me, I'm just ranting". It seems almost apologetic - anticipating the fact that some fucker will come along and take offence at something you've said. If your 'rant' is in any way blog-related you can be absolutely certain that someone will take offence, and will probably read far more into your words than was ever there. It happens. if you have something to say that may cause a few snarks then write it, read over it, sleep on it if needs be, then if you stand by everything you say then publish the fucking thing and don't use dismissive words like 'rant' for your own thoughts unless that is truly how it reads, in which case delete it. Or call it a rant, by which you might as well type "I'm not sure I mean this at all, I'm just not thinking right now."

And now, to close on an upbeat note, two splendid blogs that have recently come to my attention: This Limbo and Conor Creighton. Both well worth a click and a bit of your time. And Jennie, for fuck's sake, if you haven't already been round there.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

8

The Hills of Donegal

Old man, when you spoke to us in that proper rural pub, where everyone played cards and sat in rickety seats on the lino floor and had tea and sandwiches, when you told us you were 89 and only ever came here for one wee whiskey, I was beginning to think that I was in some TV Oirish drama, or a play written in the 50s. Then you told us of the poetry you used to write while you worked in America, and you started to recite one, at length, in your rolling northwestern burr, rhyming throughout and full of sentimental imagery about dreaming of "the hills of Donegal" and suchlike. And I resented the fact that I was now undoubtedly taking part in a cliché, in some McGahern wannabe's awful short story. But I was also enthralled, despite myself. And when you told us, both teachers, that there was "no education" in your poems we loudly disagreed. And you told us that you burnt your books of poetry after your wife died, and that your sons and your grandchildren don't bother about you but that's alright because that's the way life goes and we struggled to believe you because isolated, abandoned, sad old rural poets only exist in fiction, surely. And you bade us goodnight and Godbless and hobbled out into the dark and we didn't quite know what to say, but we recalled how you had started to recite the same poem again before slowly realising you'd already said it and we reckoned that maybe your memory is just bad and maybe you see your sons more than you let on.
And you stayed in my head and the next night, reading a novel into the small hours as the lake lapped outside my window the author quoted Joseph Brodsky in saying that "If there is any substitute for love it is memory" and I had to leave my book down on my chest for a moment because my eyes hurt.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

11

Da Po'leese. (aka Monkey Tennis)

Early Monday morning I abandoned Stella to the mercy of Rosie, and embarked upon a transition year outdoor pursuits trip to Donegal. No, I haven't landed a teaching job, I just provide cheap, grateful labour to the secondary school I last taught in. Not many teachers want to go on these sort of trips, but I'll take anything right now. I went on much the same trip last year, only to Killary Harbour. But there'll be divil a cute-faced German girl sniffing around this time. I'm engaged these days, and the women can smell it off you sooner than you'd get a chance to even drop the casualest reference to a fiancée into a sentence. Which is handy, because I don't get to wear the early warning system that the ladies so usefully sport on their left ring finger. I kinda wanted to have an engagement ring too, but was told that would be both lame and gay. It would be. And Rosie's jeweller sister is refusing to make our wedding bands until pretty close to the day itself because she reckons I would immediately start trying to wear mine. The perceptive bitch.

But this all academic right now, my friends, because what I wish to alert you all too is something the ginger foghorn of a kid sitting two rows back from me was anxious to be back home in time for on Friday night. It's Traffic Blues, Ireland's very own answer to Police, Camera, Action! and Road Wars. But there's little in the way of drugs, shooting and helicopter chases. Instead, you've got Garda Gerry ordering a Nigerian woman to pick her chewing gum up off the ground while he breathlessly, needlessly recounts the story to the camera over a dramatic soundtrack that just screams "check the fuck out of how intense this shit is!" Or another occasion where the boys in blue board an empty schoolbus, leaving the driver trembling in their wake as they admonish him with "Five of those seatbelts are broken, would you maybe get them fixed sometime, like?"
The only shocking thing about this show is how RTÉ managed to dream this up before TV3.

Update: A quick check on Youtube shows me that this yoke's been running for nearly a year now. Why the fuck did no-one tell me? I thought I was going to blow your minds with this shit! Clearly I'm way too cool to be sitting in watching telly of a Friday evening.

Monday, March 15, 2010

16

Stella, I love you!

Lacking in words, as I am recently, I thought I would abort all the half-formed, moth-eaten posts I have been labouring on and post, instead, a picture of me staring at my new bonsai tree.


Her name is Stella and I have decided that I love her. I will caress her while my fiancée is not looking and gradually, gradually, I will have coherent things to say again.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

4

codeine for a mouth abscess

I'd say that it was the greatest feeling ever, only that i can't feel anything at all. I assume this is what it's like to be a bran flake.

Monday, March 1, 2010

5

this city you know, get paid, you get laid

There's an art to finding the right song, or songs, to listen to on any short, purposeful walk. These days Simple Kid's Serotonin is the tune I'm using to soundtrack my brief trips to and from Charlemont Luas stop as I ponder the canal in that same way that I seem to stare at any mass of water, as if to dredge some kind of meaning from it. The canal sparkles in the cold sun and tells me it doesn't honestly give a shit what I think about anything.

Serotonin is that classic example of a song with lyrics that might sound like they were written by a 16 year-old when read flat, but then assumes a new profoundness when put to music. Songwriters rarely have half the way with words that poets do, but they have the assets to make them mean much more to us.

Nice video, this one. Makes me think about maybe having a shave sometime. I could even do my own tribute video.






 


Laying on the floor I think about superman: and did he ever lay around drinking, telling his friends, reefer in his hand, “Hey man some day I'm gonna make a big splash”, or does that kind of talk just come to us folk who can't find 'S' on our chests? So just keep wheeling, dealing, bus-stop dreaming, laying on the floor just staring at the ceiling.
Laying in the tub I thought about rock 'n roll and has it already been done before? Guess so, it's just getting your dick sucked, don't make it any less good than it once was, oh my god I wish that this brain would stop. Start again.

When I get well I'm gonna move to the country, breathe clean air man, turn the televisions off for a while, Eskimo style. Gonna just breathe in, breathe out, breathe. In the city you know, get paid, you get laid, go to the clinic and you listen as the doc says: “Don't drink, don't smoke, work hard, be fun, don't eat no junk,” ain't it just enough to make you wanna go get drunk? That's what I done. Well anyway the drink got me thinking what a friend had said, guess what he said:


“Happiness is nothing but the flow of serotonin in your head, hasn't got to do with Jesus Christ, nothing got to do with wrong or right, oh help me out Simp, can it be right? That it all boils down to how the chemicals flow to your soul?”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

14

and on the lazy days the dogs dissolve and drain away

A while now since I've posted anything. Thing is, I blog every single night in my head. All sorts of wonderful posts about everything both zeitgeisty and, um, the other word. And I write stories, all kinds of touchingly lovely ones that will probably save short-form literature as we know it and persuade millions upon millions of people to abandon heat and nuts and now hello VIP you cosmopolitan zoo mirror smut. Probably. But they're not on a page, like, or on a screen. They're in my head and they will stay there for the time being until I can stay up late at night and have the patience and the mental strength to churn them out and save all your sorry lives. You will be glad.
But for now I will take the sleep that I get so that I can take the work that I get to fix broken fillings and pay the lecky in this longest of long fucking winters.

Friday, February 12, 2010

8

how it makes of your face a stone that aches to weep

My aunt told a story at the dinner table the other day of how the mother of a colleague of hers died sitting in an armchair while a birthday party in her honour bubbled gently around her. She might have been dead  quite some time before anyone noticed her sitting motionless amidst the throng of friends and family. She was pretty elderly, so the story occupied the warmer end of the tragi-comic spectrum and we laughed. The consensus at the time, apparently, was that she would have died happy, perhaps expediated slightly to impending demise by her excitement at seeing all the people she cared about gathered in one place.
My grandmother, who died two years and three days ago, didn't have such a luxury. Cancer robbed her of her hair, a breast and her weight before it took her entirely. And her words. My mother and I sat with her one evening in the hospital as she tried to tell us something, both of us straining for meaning in her well-formed, well-spoken nonsense. But there was no sense to be made from the words she used whatsoever and she deteriorated into further gibberish as she grew more and more frustrated at this breakdown in communication. Already wracked with guilt over a previous occasion when she had woken up only to catch me crying over her, I was determined that she wouldn't feel that our inability to understand was her fault. "I'm sorry, granny," I said, after this had gone on for about fifteen minutes, "I think we're just not listening properly. We must be tired."
She smiled patiently. "Yes, I expect you are."
And with this, the last thing I remember her saying to me, she refused to let cancer take the politeness and consideration that had been her hallmark for over eighty years from her.