Wednesday, November 30, 2011



The other day I pounced on a novel set in Tanzania called 'Exile' by Jakob Ejersbo, a Danish writer. The author had, like me, done some of his growing up there and I was thrilled to think that I might see some of my experiences reflected in the writing of someone good enough to do it professionally. That the book looked rough and cynical and was by the author of 'the Danish Trainspotting' boded even better. Mentions of places I spent time in, the view of Kilimanjaro in the morning and a liberal sprinkling of Swahili words took me back, right enough, but it was the simple word 'bilharzia' that tipped me into a full vat of reminiscence. Bilharzia was the reason why our mothers told us we could never swim in any of the lakes we encountered in central Tanzania, though some older guys I knew claimed that they often did it, and you just needed to make sure your feet never touched the bottom. I doubt many of the lakes were more than four foot deep.

I tended to trust my mother on this, as I did when it came to scorpions, jiggers, green mambas and most other issues of health and safety. I was never stung by a scorpion, jiggered by a jigger or bitten by a green mamba. I never really even knew what bilharzia was, just that it was to be avoided. I don't think I had ever seen it written down before and can't say I recall hearing the word once since we came back to Ireland, nineteen years ago. Nor did I think about it much. Turns out it's caused by Schistosoma parasites*, which burrow into your kidneys, bladder, rectum and any other private, precious parts you can think of and cause you to bloodily shit yourself to death.

Nostalgia is a rum beast.

*The Internet tells me that they swim freely in open water, which means that those older braggards were either full of shit or, y'know, minutes away from violently shitting themsleves. Ha!

Monday, November 7, 2011


What Others Were Feeling Like Today #17


One wonders how a nation's intelligence resists the radio. Moreover, it does not resist. The radio is a faucet of foolishness. The only thing I can bear listening to is the sports reporting. The high-speed precision of the speakers. They are forbidden stupidity. Which exists only in the fact that some men are kicking a ball around a field and the whole world is excited by the fact.

Cesare Pavese

It's been over a year since I put one of these posts up, and the previous entry was also from Cesare Pavese (whom I had never heard of before). One can only assume that sixty years ago Cesare and his contemporaries didn't have to suffer through the phenomenon known as 'the co-commentator'. Driving home the other day I caught the end of Liverpool v Swansea City on Today FM. As the home side pushed for a winner Dirk Kuyt thought he had scored, only for it to be ruled out by the offside flag. "Ooooooohhh, I don't know about that," piped up Ronnie Whelan " and it's the female official over the far side, too, so let's just see if she's got it right."

She had, though that is neither here nor there. Being female is not an obstacle to understanding the offside rule, having it explained to you by someone who doesn't understand it either, is. I can forgiven the flagrant abuse of grammar and meaning by football pundits, we've all got used to it. But the sexism makes me squirm for you, Ronnie, you faucet of foolishness.

Friday, November 4, 2011


sometimes i feel like i'm over and out

It is one of the oddities of Dublin life that if one is fortunate enough to live close enough to one's place of work to only have to pay a €1.20 fare on the bus every morning then there is no other way to pay one's fare but by having that €1.20 counted out in exact change.* This morning, I finally succumbed to the eternal battle with change by not having any of the fucking stuff. So I hopped into Freddie's cornershop on my way to the bus stop and bought an 80 cent packet of chewing gum and a €1 scratchcard with a twenty, providing me with the requisite change. I was still on time for the bus and my scratchie showed three little €2 symbols, meaning I had covered the cost of the scratchie, endowed myself with minty fresh breath and netted a tidy profit of 20 cent.

Some days I swear I am invincible.

*Unless, of course, there is. I am open to correction on this.