Friday, December 27, 2013

Oh Tommy

A story about a boy and his Nan...

I open the front door, fling my bag in the hallway and go into the sitting-room. She's waiting there expectantly, like she always is.
Well. How d'ya get on?”
I smile, savouring the moment.
A hat-trick Nan,” I say with a grin.
Ooh Tommy,” she squeals as she clasps her hands together in glee.
I got an assist too,” I add, eager to maximise her delight.
An assist?” she says, “What's an assist?”
It's when you set someone else up to score a goal Nan.”
Oh I like that,” she smiles. “Unselfish.”

But here's the thing, I didn't get a hat-trick or anything even like one. Instead I just wandered up and down the sideline like I do every week. At one point I thought Dixie was beckoning for me and I set off at a gallop towards the dug-out - but t'was one of the other lads he was looking for. He'd never take a risk on me in a game like tonight's; a top of the table clash against our fiercest rivals. I usually only got a run-out if we were winning comfortably or losing horribly, no risk situations with nothing at stake. The rest of the lads probably wonder why I even bother turning up, and sometimes I wonder it meself. I guess I just want to feel part of something.

You might think that telling lies to my Nan is a bad thing, but it's not really. All I'm doing is putting a little sunshine into her life. If I were to tell her the truth; failing miserably in school, not many friends, little success with the girls and a quite terrible footballer it would crush her, and neither of us want that.

I've been living with my Nan since I was five. I woke up one morning and they'd all gone. My mother, her boyfriend and the new baby. I didn't know they'd gone forever at the time so I just turned on the TV and waited for them to come back. When it started to get dark I got the first inkling that something might be up. So I went in next door to Mrs McManus and asked her if she'd make me a sandwich. Next thing I know I'm sitting by a big, lovely fire with the McManuses eating chocolate digestives and watching Coronation Street. I wondered if I lived with them now. But then my Nanny came and took me to her house.

Nanny said I'd be staying with her for a few weeks while Mammy was on holidays. Why didn't she bring me, I asked. Where's she gone? Will she bring me back a present? I was little put out that she hadn't brought me but sure staying at Nanny's was a holiday in itself! Meself and me Nan got on great and she always let me stay up past my bedtime. She had nice things to eat too, not like our house where you were lucky if you got a mangy custard cream with your tea.

As much as I loved it at Nanny's I still couldn't wait for my Mammy to return. I missed my own room and my own bed, I missed all my toys and I even missed my shitty little brother. But most of all I missed my Mammy. She sometimes gave out to me and made me cry but I loved her. But after two weeks had passed with no sign of her return I began to get a little worried. I came home from school every day eagerly expecting to find her sitting at the kitchen table with Nanny, but she was never there. I took to gazing out the window watching out for his car but it never came. Eventually I stopped looking out that window, she wasn't coming back. It was just me and my Nanny now.

Tommy! Tommy! Wake up! You'll be late for school!”
I awake with a start. School. Oh no. But instead of the early morning gloom flooding in through the curtains my room remained in pitch darkness. I immediately look to the fluorescent alarm clock on my bedside locker; 03:23. Fuck sake Nan.
It's not time for school yet Nan,” I call out, “go back to bed.”
I listen out for a response but none arrives. All is silent for a moment until I hear the shuffle of Nan's slippers as she crosses the landing back to her own room. I sigh deeply and sink back in to my pillow. My last thought before drifting back to sleep is that today is Saturday.

Later that morning, having had a thoroughly good lie-in, I descend the stairs for what I hope will be my customary Saturday morning fry-up. But instead of standing, stationed by the pan I find my Nan in the back garden. She's on her hands and knees and is furiously digging into the earth with a trowel. This is odd for two reasons; my Nan has never taken the slightest interest in gardening for as long as I've known her, and it's pissing rain upon her silky thin white hair.
What ya doing Nan?” I enquire.
She looks up at me startled by my words. For a second or two there is no hint of recognition, her face is a total blank as she struggles to ascertain my identity. But then things click seamlessly into gear and she's all smiles and warmth.
Ah Tommy my love, how was school?”
No school today Nan, it's Saturday.”
Ah of course Saturday,” she says propping herself up on one knee, “best get your fry on.”
I help her to her feet and we head into the kitchen together.
What were you doing in the garden Nan?” I ask as I dry her down with a towel.
Oh your Granddad asked me to do a bit of work for him so I thought I should get started.”
Okay Nan, but maybe leave it 'til a drier day eh?”
Hmmph,” she snorts, “you know what your Granddad is like, everything has to be done yesterday, rain or no rain!”
I watch her potter around the little kitchen and, not for the first time, wonder how she'd cope if anything happened to me. My Granddad Joe died four years ago and since then her dementia has got gradually worse. If anyone found out she was in this state it'd be a nursing home for her and God knows where for me. We've managed up to now, but after her last mid-afternoon wander which concluded in a bookies four miles from here I've been forced to lock her in when I go to school.

I collect her pension every Friday and I've set up direct debits for all the bills, but I know it's only a matter of time until someone finds out. A 15-year old boy and a senile old woman; it's a social workers dream. I've resolved to leave school and get a job. The plan is to earn enough money to get Nan some proper home care. But finding work is not going to be easy. This isn't the dark ages where kids my age are sent to work as if they're men, mores the pity. And even if I do get a job it's unlikely I'll get one in this small village. I'll probably have to go further afield and where will that leave her? A nursing home that's where. And I've seen how they treat people in those places. No way am I subjecting my Nan to that.

My Nan might be as mad as a box of frogs but she's not stupid. If she finds out that I'm leaving school it'll break her heart. But if I were to leave school for a once in a lifetime opportunity, a shot at the big time, then she might think differently. And so it is that after another ninety minutes spent standing in the cold I return with some exciting news.
I think there might have been some scouts at the game today Nan.”
Scouts? Like them little boys who tie knots?”
I suppress a giggle, “No Nan, football scouts. They're talent spotters who travel around the country looking for young players.”
Her eyes light up, she doesn't even need to ask the question.
Yes Nan, I think they were there to watch me.”
Oh Jesus Tommy,” is all she can muster.
I think some of them might have come from England.”
She comes to me and cups my face in her hands, “If only your mother could see you now Tommy eh? Scouts from England! My God.”
I flinch at the mention of my mother, I don't even like to acknowledge her existence.
But Nan, here's the thing....”
She takes her hands away and looks at me earnestly. “What's the thing Tommy, what's the thing?”
If these scouts think I'm good enough.....I might have to move to live.”
To England Tommy? To live?”
Yes Nan.”
The enormity of the situation hits her and she fumbles her way to the armchair. I sit beside her and take her hand in mine. “I'd be earning good money Nan, enough to send some back here. I could get you some home help.”
She flashes me an indignant scowl, “Home help? I don't need home help, I can perfectly manage on my own thank you very much.”
I sigh in resignation, this isn't going to be easy. Then, as if to underline my point, she gets up and primly announces, “Now if you don't mind I'm off out to the pictures with that lovely boy I met last week.” And with that she's away out the front door to go a'courting with some distant memory from her past.

How old did you say you were son?”
The foreman eyes me suspiciously, I've always been big for my age but I'm also cursed with maddeningly cherubic features.
Nineteen,” I reply in the gruffest tone I can manage.
Hmm,” he looks down at my application form and then back at me again. “And if I were to ring these references they'd all verify that they would?”
They would,” I nod assertively.
He leans forward in his chair, “Listen kid, we both know you're not nineteen, I'd give ya seventeen at best but if you're willing to work off the books then I'm willing to take you on.”
I flush with joy, I can hardly believe it, a job, a real job. I don't even know what working “off the books” means but it can't be all that different to working on the books.
Brilliant,” I say, “when can I start?”
He rises from his chair and escorts me to the door, “Be here Monday morning, seven o'clock sharp, and wear some working boots, no poxy trainers allowed here.”
I walk through what is soon to be my workplace and out the large factory gates; I entered a boy but I'm leaving a man.

With an hour to spare until my bus home I head to the library to complete some important paperwork: a letter certifying that the mighty Manchester United wish to acquire my services as a professional footballer. I procure a PC and set about penning my masterpiece. 'Dear Mrs Devlin, It is with great pleasure that we contact you today. We have been watching your grandson Thomas for some time now and with your permission we would like to make him a part of our esteemed football club. Our scout called Thomas “one of the finest talents I've ever seen” and the entire staff here are very excited at the prospect of his arrival. As he is so young it is unlikely he will feature in the first team just yet but given his abilities it surely won't be long before he is knocking on the manager's door...'
I pause and read back over it, I try and imagine Nan's reaction as she fetches her jam jar glasses and slowly peruses the document. How her eyes will slowly widen with each sentence, until, at it's completion, she'll beam with delight and hug me 'til it hurts. Is it worth it? You bet it is. I add the official club crest, and some other administrative info which is sure to impress her, and I'm finished. I collect the print-out and hurry to the bus station.

When I arrive home I find Nan in floods of tears. She's sat on the edge of her bed surrounded by old photos, they're littered everywhere: all over the floor, on the bed beside her, boxes of them some unopened others overflowing, it's a mess.
Aw Nan,” I say, “you been reminiscing again?”
She looks at me, all teary and sad, “He was just a little boy, not even four years old,” she says with a gasp. I sit down beside her, put my arm around her shoulders and press her head to my chest. The little boy in question is my uncle Frankie who died from polio sometime in the 1960s, he was Nan's only other child apart from my Mam. I've never asked her why she didn't have any more children because I already know the answer, the trauma of Frankie's passing sucked the life right out of her and she was neither willing nor able to countenance the arrival of another baby. Sometimes when her Alzheimer's is really bad she'll mistake other people's children for Frankie and scare the life out of both parent and child by grabbing the little mite and vowing never to let another doctor within ten feet of her “poor Frankie.”

Her plaintive moaning eventually dies down and I gently extricate myself from her. “Nan? I've got some good news.”
She gets up and take a tissue from the box on her dresser, blows her nose and returns back to me.
What is it Tommy,” she says the spark returning to her eyes.
Remember those scouts Nan?”
Yes, the scouts, talent-spotters who roam the country looking for young players.”
That's right Nan.”
What about them Tom?”
They've been in touch Nan,” I say as I reach for the letter in my pocket. I've purchased an envelope in the stationery shop and even gone as far as affixing a stamp for extra authenticity.
Here, read this,” I say as I pass it to her.
Oh God, where are my glasses,” she says as she scans the room hopelessly, she moves to get up but I stop her short, “I have them here Nan, they were downstairs. Now go on, read.”
She needs no further invitation and I watch in silence as she digests this life-affirming news. She takes an age to read it and then pauses briefly before starting again, I sit there patiently waiting for her response. I want to see that smile and I want to get that hug. After several more reads and re-reads she sets the letter down among all the photos of poor, tragic Frankie. She's crying again, but this time the tears are different, they're tears of joy. She pulls me to her and we cling to one another as if our lives depended on it.

I lay flat out on my bed exhausted from the day's work. This being a man malarkey isn't all it's cracked up to be. But it's serving it's purpose and I can't ask for any more than that. I made nearly five-hundred Euro this week, half of which has gone toward home help for my Nan. It feels good to know I'm looking after her. All those hours spent humping animal carcasses around the factory are worth it if it means she's happy. But I know something that will make her even happier; a call from her talented grandson, all the way from Manchester. I clear my throat and try to imagine myself in a digs amidst the shadow of Old Trafford, instead of a dingy bedsit not forty miles from home.
Hello Mrs Devlin speaking”
Howya Nan”
Ooh Hellooo,” she coos, she does this every time I call her even though she hasn't a clue it's me on the other end of the phone.
It's me Tommy,” there's a pause as she tries to figure out who she knows called Tommy, “your grandson.”
Ahh Tommy my pet, how are you getting on? Are they treating you well? Are you eating okay?
I am Nan I'm fine,” I reply as my stomach grumbles.
And how's the football? Any more assists?”
I envisage her grinning away on the other end of the phone.
I played my first game the other day Nan, for the youth team,” I say as I pick at some raw meat embedded in my boot.
A hat-trick Nan, a hat-trick”
Amid the frenzied hysteria I can make out but a few words, “so proud”, “your uncle Frankie”, “a real Devlin” and “Oh Tommy”.

Mrs Annie Devlin sits by the fire waiting for the woman to bring in her tea. She better make it right, she thinks, my Tommy always made it right. The woman returns with her tea and by golly it might just be the finest cuppa ever made, fair played to her. In spite of herself Annie feels her attitude towards the home helper soften. She turns to her conspiratorially, “See that picture on the mantle?” she says pointing to one of her Grandson Tommy.
This one Mrs Devlin?” says the woman as she beckons to the smiling youngster in the football kit.
Yes, that's my Grandson Tommy.”
Aw Mrs Devlin he looks lovely”
He is lovely, and you know what else?”
Yes Mrs Devlin?”
He plays for Manchester United”
Manchester United?”replies the woman, “Wow.”
I know."
You must be very proud of him.”
I am," says Annie Devlin, "more proud than you could ever imagine.”

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Seven days and one week

A round-up of the week's major news stories as seen through the eyes of an inattentive, misinformed moron.

Boomtown rat

Calum Best, Paris Hilton and Jack Osborne, what do they have in common? Well obviously they're all annoying cunts but apart from that? They've all exploited their parent's fame for their own benefit. None of them have any particular talent of their own but that hasn't stopped them becoming worldwide celebrities. And they're not alone, it seems that as soon as the children of famous folk hit a certain age they themselves are flung into the spotlight whether they like or not. Most shy away from it and contrive to make something of their lives away from the public eye, and others...hello Calum.

Peaches Geldof falls into that category too I'm afraid. “But she's a journalist!” I hear you exclaim, “and a model!” Fuck off. I'm not having that. She got where she is in life because of her surname, simple as that. Although her journalistic skills should be praised in light of her efforts to shine more light on the Ian Watkins case. Using her super sleuth skills Peaches went online, read the names of women alleged to have allowed Watkins access to their children, and then tweeted those names to her 160,000 followers. She must have been absent when ethics and standards was being taught.

How stupid could she be? The power of the celebrity ensures that should someone in her position so much as fart the whole world will know about it within minutes. And with a case like this, which has garnered huge attention, she may have lit the blue touch paper and watched the whole thing go up in flames. Peaches now risks being prosecuted herself, but of course the identity of her superstar father ensures that this will most likely not happen. The contradictory benefits of fame eh? As for Watkins – that fucker is going to, quite literally, get torn a new arsehole once the boys in C block get their hands on him.

A level playing field?

I like Boris Johnson. How could you not? He's your atypical bumbling Brit and appears blissfully oblivious to his own shortcomings. But not everyone agrees with me, there's always been certain sections of the British media that have had a problem with Boris and boy did they have a field day this week. And for what? He simply pointed something that we all know; that your intelligence plays a major factor in how you fare in life. Here are his words in full, “Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests, it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16 per cent of our species have an IQ below 85, while about 2 per cent have an IQ above 130.” Taken on it's own that statement might not resonate but in the context of his speech, which included discourses on inequality, Gordon Gekko and cornflakes, it has caused hysteria among the liberal left.

The complaints stem from the belief that Johnson was mocking the underclass and making light of their plight. 'SOME PEOPLE ARE TOO STUPID TO GET AHEAD IN LIFE' screamed the headlines. It's true, some people are too stupid to get ahead in life. The inability to make the most of your lot is not restricted to the 'stupid' though, there's plenty of supposedly intelligent folk who can't get their shit together either. In fact the main issue with Boris' statement was that it didn't factor in social class and how big a part that plays in someone's life regardless of how clever they are. You could be the brightest fucker in the world but if you live in the wrong part of town, and don't have access to the resources needed to make the most of your talents, then forget about it.

Johnson didn't once suggest that the 16% came from underprivileged areas, the namby pamby press did that for him. And by doing so they merely added to the stigmatisation that these people suffer on a daily basis. This self-congratulatory reporting on Johnson's innocuous speech merely shows how far removed the British media are from those who they claim to represent.

Sacked in the morning

 A few weeks ago I defended the right of Spurs' fans to sing songs about their Jewish heritage. I've always been of the opinion that football supporters pay a lot of money to watch their teams and are entitled to sing what they want – within reason. But I'm not sure the manager of that very same club would agree with me. During Tottenham's two nil victory over Norwegian minnows Tromso AVB was subjected to some seemingly good-natured taunts from a member of the crowd. Reidar Stenersen Jr, who was seated near the Spurs dugout, took to telling Villas-Boas that he would be “sacked in the morning” during the early stages of Thursday night's game. For his efforts he was rewarded with an ice-cold stare.

But when he resumed his one-man assault towards the end of the half he found himself being asked to move seats after Villas-Boas complained about him to the police. Aw, diddums. I'm not sure what's worse, the fact AVB complained or that the authorities acted on his behalf. This is what happens in football, you take abuse and if you're lucky you get to give a bit back at the end of the game. Perhaps Stenersen Jr was unfortunate in that he was by himself, if he'd managed to corral a group of rowdy Norwegians to have a go at the beleaguered Spurs boss then it's unlikely they would have faced censure. The lesson to be learned here is if you've got something nasty to say about someone make sure you do it with the backing of a large crowd. Power in numbers that's what it all about.
And as for Stenersen Jr? He declined the offer to move to a different part of the ground and retired to the pub for the evening, presumably to shout obscenities at AVB from the comfort of a bar stool.

 I'd give my left bollock for one of those

The human body is a quite resilient piece of kit. You can break its bones, poison it with alcohol and even take parts of it out, and it'll still keep on chugging away. But for the majority of us it truly is a temple and we treat it with the respect and care that it deserves. Unless there's red sports car on offer that is. Mark Parisi, from Las Vegas, has revealed his plans to sell one of his testicles to US scientists for the princely sum of £22,000. Poor fella he must be really down on his luck to have to do that. Not really, he plans to use the money to buy a Nissan 370.

He could at least get a Ferrari, if you're going to all that trouble and plan to spend the rest of your life with just one veg to accompany your meat you should be aiming higher than a fuckin' Nissan! But maybe he's working his way towards that. We often hear of people donating kidneys to loved ones, perhaps Mark will sell his to generate funds for a helicopter. What else have we got that we can live without? I'm not sure but I bet Mark knows. If you see a limbless, earless figure driving along in a high-end sports car any time soon chances are it'll be Mr Parisi just living the dream. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Seven days and one week

A round-up of the week's major news stories as seen through the eyes of an inattentive, misinformed moron.

Balon Bore

When did the annual crowning of the best footballer on the planet become such a big deal? Time was when the Balon d'Or and the separate World Footballer of the Year award were handed out with a minimum of fuss to the players that most agreed deserved them. But that was before the days of Messi and Ronaldo, the greatest footballing rivalry since, well since ever. In a team sport it's rare to see two individuals develop a conflict like their's, even more so when you consider they're rarely in direct contact on the occasions that they line up against one another. And you could argue that if it wasn't for Cristiano's gigantic ego there wouldn't be any rivalry at all. Messi appears happy to just plod along and receive whatever plaudits come his way, Ronaldo on the other hand..

For what it's worth I prefer Ronaldo as a player, because you have to pick one don't you? His ties with United may have something to do with that but my reasons are my own and I won't bore you with them right now. But even as someone who believes Madrid's number seven is the finest talent on the planet I've found myself getting irked by the continued campaigning for him to win this year's Balon d'Or. His backers point to his goalscoring feats and his individual masterclasses as evidence of his credentials, they compare the stats of his competitors and declare each and every one of them his inferior. I think they're missing the point.

The Balon d'Or, like any annual award, is not about who is the best player but who has had the best year. Yes Ronaldo has scored five-hundred hat-tricks and broke records that were never meant to be broken, but for what? A runners-up spot in La Liga and a Champions League semi-final. His international exploits can't be overlooked, but does his performance against a pretty average Swedish side suddenly propel him to the top of the list. Not in my opinion. The players that have had the best year in the world of football all currently play for Bayern Munich. They may not have wowed audiences with their goalscoring feats or had historians scrambling for the record books, but they won everything. Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery and even Arjen Robben deserve the gong more than Cristiano, because what they did mattered, what they did brought glory, and ultimately that's all that counts.


Remember all the excitement surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey and it's successors? Women worldwide were visiting book shops for the very first time and getting all hot and bothered by the antics of Mr Grey, or whatever the fucker's name was. It was a sexual revolution and hardware stores reported a sizeable increase in the sales of chains, ropes and other bondage type materials. The female population were outed as the kinky little tarts they were and us blokes simply sat back and enjoyed the ride. But it couldn't last, neither the depraved coitus nor the interest in literature. Where are those ropes and chains now? And more importantly where's your copy of Fifty Shades?

If you loaned your book out to a friend or an acquaintance you might wanna think twice before asking for it back: because you have no idea where it's been. Researchers at a Belgian laboratory undertook a study which involved running chemical tests on the ten most popular books at their local library. All ten tested positive for cocaine; that's hardly surprising though given the prevalence of the drug in most urban areas. More concerning is that two of the books – one of which was Fifty Shades – tested positive for herpes. Oh my. 

And just in case you were thinking this was just a strange coincidence you should be aware that the other book which had traces of the clap was also a romance novel, Tango by Pieter Aspe. But don't text that slutty friend of yours telling her to keep your book forever just yet. Because although traces of the herpes virus were found on the books the researchers were quick to point out that there was no possibility of catching the disease from simply handling the saucy tomes. So you can rest easy, unless of course you're one of the filthy fuckers smearing your dirty microbes all over one of E.L James' novels, in which case you need to get yourself to a clinic and hand back that library card right now. 

The wait is over

The relationship between the déise and the good folk of neighbouring county Kilkenny is at best, fractious. But for the most part this antipathy is rather one-sided. Sure what have us Cats got to be angry about? A constant, steady stream of All-Irelands makes one very content with their lot. And that in turn explains the sourness of pusses in and around Waterford county and city. They hate us, fuckin' detest us they do, and in reply we ruffle their hair, pat them on the back and say “maybe next year lads.”But 'tis only sport at the end of the day and I personally have great fondness for Waterford and it's people having lived and worked there at various intervals in my life.

There's one thing that Waterford has that us Kilkenny people are all secretly jealous of though, no not the minor All-Ireland sure we've loads of them! The Blaa. Ooh I'd love a Blaa now, but I'm in Limerick and you can't get them here. Which is how it should be. If you've never heard of a Blaa you need to get yourself to the South-East to sample their floury delights, but in the meantime I'll describe them as best I can. They're kind of a round little bread roll, with flour dusted on to the surface. And they're crunchy on the outside and squidgy in the middle. They go great with corned beef, luncheon, salad cream, crisps, bananas, cheese, pickles and anything else you can think of – although not all at the same time obviously.

And in a testament to their delightfulness we, and people from the surrounding counties, took to naming our Waterford neighbours as...the Blaas. And they weren't even offended, if anything they were proud to be named after their finest export. That pride swelled even further this week with the news that the Blaa was finally to be granted European Union protection, meaning that it is now illegal to use the name Blaa to describe any other type of bread. To give you an idea of how big a deal this is other foodstuffs to be awarded the same protection include the likes of Champagne, Cornish Pasties and Gorgonzola cheese. 

So all in all it's a proud moment for the Blaas, both the people and the bread. But while we'll continue to sneak into their land and nab some of their lovely rolls they have no chance of laying a finger on a single one of our All-Irelands. 

Yes, I'm seeing someone

Single men have it tough. They might not have to contend with the daily stresses that come with being in a committed relationship but all in all the negatives far outweigh the positives. Yes they can head to the pub whenever they want and, in theory, they can shag as many women as they want but it can be a quite lonely existence. It's all very well getting pissed with the lads and waking up beside strangers but all most of us really want is a good woman to cuddle up to of a chilly winter's night. But by far the biggest problem any single man faces is how other people perceive him. 

If you go a couple of years without entering into a serious relationship chances are your sexuality will be brought into question: “Jaysus I haven't seen himself with a young wan in a while, dya reckon he's, yknow, gay?” If women decide to be single for a while then they're congratulated for being independent. But if men do the same, well then there's clearly something up with them. Arrive at a family gathering by yourself and straight away suspicions are aroused, “When you going to find a nice girl for yerself?” “I know someone who'd be lovely for you,” they say, automatically assuming that you're a lovelorn loser incapable of meeting someone all by yourself.

But now a solution is at hand. Whether you're a single man who's enjoying his freedom or someone who's hapless in affairs of the heart then the Invisible Girlfriend app is the thing for you. For just €7.35 a month you can fool friends and family into believing you've finally landed the girl of the dreams. Interactive text messages, voice mails and a false Facebook account to be 'in a relationship' with should go some way to convincing them. But that's just the basic package, stick another €30 on top to avail of the 'Almost Engaged' plan which includes random gifts and phone calls from your mystery lady. 

Many fellas will be looking at this and thinking “€37, that's a lot cheaper than the bitch I'm with now, and I wouldn't have to listen to any nagging either.” But until they offer a deluxe deal which includes a few extras I think most of us will be happy to remain with our living, breathing and all too visible, better halves. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Seven days and one week

A round-up of the week's major news stories as seen through the eyes of an inattentive, misinformed moron.

Smokin' hot mama

If there's one sight guaranteed to rile even the most mild-mannered among us it is that of a pregnant women with a fag in her mouth. You don't see it so often anymore but according to Minister Alex White almost a fifth of smokers continue their habit while carrying a child. This is a quite staggering figure given the evidence available to any would-be mother. There is no argument; smoking while pregnant greatly increases the risk or miscarriage, sudden infant death syndrome, premature birth and asthma. Of course this is on the mother, if she's not willing to ditch her habit for the benefit of her offspring then she must live with the consequences. We'd all like to step in, whip the ciggie from her mouth and stub it out on her face but it is not yet illegal to smoke while up the duff.

However our government think they might have a solution, but as usual they seem to be missing the point. Their idea is to offer free nicotine patches for pregnant women. In theory it sounds like solid reasoning and anything that leads to healthy, bonny babies gets my vote. But if you give pregnant women nicotine patches what do you do with the ones who drink to excess, take drugs or eat unhealthily? Do you provide Michelin Star chefs to prepare nutritious and delicious meals for the expectant mother who's addicted to Maccy D's? Ten-step programmes for those that fancy a can of Stella first thing in the morning? And lovely, yummy morphine for the mammies who chose the needle over their child? Prospective parents need all the support they can get but a line must be drawn somewhere. Unless you have good reason for not wanting your child then the responsibility must lie with the mother. Because if you're responsible enough to become pregnant then you have to be considered responsible enough to carry the child through it's gestation without harming it.

Friend or food? 

Is it too soon to say that I found the outcry regarding the 'horse meat scandal' a tad excessive? I wasn't the one chowing down on fetlocks and hooves so I'm not in any position to comment but at the time I noted that “there's worse things you could be eating.” But you can't say that, we keep them as pets and use them in sporting events and in this country the horse is considered friend not food. That hasn't stopped Princess Anne ruminating on the topic however.

Now we all know the Royals are a bunch of wrong 'uns and therefore nothing they say can ever be taken seriously. But in this instance maybe Annie has a point. She believes that by raising horses for meat it would increase their value. Okay so that part is a bit Sweeney Todd, but she goes on to say that doing this would greatly reduce the number of horses suffering from neglect. And is there anything worse than seeing one of these great beasts reduced to a shadow of it's former self in some parched plot of land at the side of the road? Many of us would balk at the notion of eating one but are then content to turn a blind eye to their mistreatment at the hands of unsuitable owners.

Here in Limerick it's almost impossible to go a day without seeing an ill-equipped horse being driven along a main road by members of the travelling community. I personally would much rather see that horse slaughtered and used to feed the masses than have it endure such a miserable existence. But the problem here is an ethical one. It's easy for me to say “yeah chop him up and make him into a lasagne”, I've never owned a horse and have no particular fondness for them. But thousands in this country have, just in the same way that thousands dote on their dogs and their cats. And you can bet your bottom dollar that I'd be at the front of the line of protesters if someone were suggesting we eat Labradors for lunch. Although that would mainly be because dogs are dirty buggers and their meat is probably disgusting.

A great bunch of lads

The Catholic church is slowly rebuilding it's reputation after a spate of torrid revelations, most of them concerning evil Irish priests. But no matter what happens from this point forwards that spectre of holiness has been forever tarnished. And the veil was further lifted when reports emerged that someone in the Vatican was watching naughty videos on the Internet. Personally I didn't have a problem with that story, if you're not gonna leave the poor buggers get married then the least you can do is allow them to sample some smut during their quiet hours.

In a way it humanised those living in the Holy City, here we were thinking they spent all their time praying and reading the Bible when in actual fact they're just a bunch of bored lads browsing MILF vids on Youporn. And when they're not doing that? Why they're playing Football Manager of course, aboy the lads! And they're downloading the flipping thing illegally into the bargain. Fucking hell, Holy City? More like den of iniquity. Of the ten million copies of the game obtained by illicit means one of them was traced back to the Vatican. Ah only one, that's not so bad. Maybe not, but there's only 800 people living there! We'll never know who the culprit is unfortunately. He's probably in confession as we speak, getting a spate of Hail Marys for his sins. Unless it was the big dog himself, the Pope. He answers to no-one and is probably laughing his bollix off while he leads Yeovil Town to Champions League glory for the third season in succession.

Fair trade

Ah we're all so feckin' fat, look at the state of us; wobbly bits everywhere! And sure why wouldn't we be with all them lovely cakes to be eating? The government and the foodies can issue all the warnings they want, we don't care. We'd rather die at forty with a fried Mars bar in our gob than live 'til a hundred on a diet of Quinoa and lettuce. Put simply you're gonna have to put a better incentive than 'health benefits' in front of us before we'll stop stuffing our faces. Free public transport in exchange for exercise? Well why didn't you say so?!

That's what the Russians are doing (as seen in the video above). With next year's Winter Olympics just around the corner a special automated transit machine has been installed in a Moscow subway. It's goal is to promote physical well-being in advance of the games being held in Sochi by asking commuters to perform 30 squats or thrusts in exchange for a free train ticket. How genius is that? Tell us to exercise for our own good and we'll laugh in your face, but offer us free public transport for touching our toes a few times and we're all over it. This could just be the beginning, a true solution to the worldwide obesity epidemic. I can see it already; national airports heaving with star jumping tourists, bus stops reverberating to the sound of hot stepping excursionists, we'll dance and jive our way around the world without having to pay a penny for the privilege. And we'll all be as skinny as fuck.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Seven days and one week

A round-up of the week's major news stories as seen through the eyes of an inattentive, misinformed moron.


A few weeks ago I criticised Roy Keane for his blasé attitude towards filling the vacancy left by Giovanni Trappatoni. He had been asked whether he felt flattered to be linked with the Ireland manager job and in typical Keane fashion replied “No, not really. I shouldn't be flattered by that, should I?” At the time no-one seriously thought he would be considered for the role but his stance was galling given his managerial record. Now look at him. John Delaney is his new bessie mate and I think I actually saw him smile during ITV's Champions League coverage the other night.

The issue of Roy Keane and his patriotism - or lack of it some might say - has long since been the subject of national debate. There are far too many arguments and viewpoints to list them here but suffice to say his involvement as Martin O'Neill's assistant will have infuriated as many as it thrilled. But now is the time to forget about the past and put all those tiresome mantras to bed - it's boring, let it go. For me it's always been quite simple: Roy loves his country, fuckin loves it he does, but he hates 'the suits.'

Those suits were the same ones he railed against in Saipan and again during a press conference filled with invective following Ireland's elimination to the Hand of Henry. And now they're his bosses. Or is Martin O'Neill his boss? In fact can anyone ever really call themselves the boss of Roy Keane? And therein lies the problem with this appointment. It's great that Roy is all buddy buddy with the FAI, and it's great that someone with so much love for his country is part of the fold, but there's no way it'll end well. It just won't. Somewhere along the line Roy's instincts will take over, he'll see something that he doesn't agree with, and he'll want to change it – only to be told he can't because that's not his job. And when you tell Roy Keane he can't do something? That's when the trouble starts.

Personalised shopping

Do you know what cookies are? No, not those chunky segments of biscuity delight, online cookies: the ones that are tailored specifically to your needs? I bet some of you don't. Essentially what cookies do is track your Internet browsing history and, in theory, make your online experience a more enjoyable one. That ad for a peephole bra from Ann Summers which seems to be constantly at the top of your screen? That's there because you're constantly looking at sexy underwear ya feckin' tramp. But are cookies invasive? Do they impinge on our privacy and violate our rights as human beings? Probably not - and anyway you can always turn them off.

Alternatively you could go out in the real world, where cookies don't exist, and browse around Ann Summers all you like. Or can you? It would appear not. At least not when you're going to Tesco anyway. The supermarket chain is installing the 'OptimEyes' system at 450 of their petrol station forecourts across the UK. So what does it do? Put simply it scans the face of each customer, estimates their age and subsequently tailors adverts to that person upon future visits. So if you're a woman in her early thirties you're going to be most likely bombarded with ads for Pampers, and her male counterpart can expect to be treated to videos extolling the virtues of Regaine. In theory anyway.

At this early stage in it's development OptimEyes works quite crudely, we are all thrown into one of three gender groups and then targeted based on what people of that age generally like. Which in turn means that a large proportion of those scanned won't be subjected to adverts that interest them. Instead it'll be the same mind-numbing content you see on television every night, if you're gonna invade our privacy at least fucking do it right. Create an X-Ray machine that can tell how much money I have in my pocket, or better still hack into my back account so you can see what's in there. Then, when that's done, find a way to read my mind so you can see what I really want. And hey presto, I'm walking through Tesco with a fiver in my pocket thinking how great it'd be if they made gravy flavoured chocolate bars and I see an ad for? Yep you guessed it.

Only a bitta crack

Barack Obama admits to smoking a joint or two and is considered cool, the Mayor of Toronto confesses to dabbling in crack cocaine and is castigated by all-comers – where's the justice in that? Okay, okay I admit it, crack is probably a teeny weeny bit more serious than cannabis and Rob Ford indulged in recreational drug use just last year rather than in his youth, but still, a bit of perspective here people? Oh alright then Mr Ford is clearly a bumbling buffoon incapable of fulfilling his duties or stringing a coherent sentence together even on his good days, but look at the picture below, he seems a right laugh.

This is what we need in politics, not half-hearted dilettantes like Ming Flanagan who won't even put their weed where their mouth is, but deviants like Ford. All we ever do is moan and criticise about those in power so why not put a total headcase in charge; it worked for London, they're having a great time giggling at Boris Johnson's antics. I'm not suggesting we make the local drunk An Taoiseach, that'd be folly - just appoint him Tanaiste or something similarly pointless. It would lighten the nation's mood at a stroke, we could still grumble about the inefficiency of our Government and call them all a shower of bastards, and then we could watch our pride and joy cartwheeling around a NATO convention while flashing his cock at the wife of the Japanese Prime Minister.

God complex

Synthetic biology or synbio has been summed up by one expert as “essentially about how we design life.” Remember Dolly the cloned sheep? Well synbio is like that, only way more fucked up. Human's giving birth to dolphins, mice with the personality of Elvis, that kinda fucked up. By using the DNA of one organism and then merging it with another synbiologists are able to create....well just about anything really. So far this has only resulted in armpit cheese and e-coli bananas but those at the forefront of this new radical science claim that the possibilities are endless, going as far to compare the birth of synbio to The Enlightenment.

They claim that by fusing Elvis's DNA with that of a rodent we could have a suspicious minded mouse on our hands. That sounds great but it'd be circus freak fodder at best. More interesting is their belief that a human body could host an animal foetus. Worried about the decline in Siberian Tigers? Well give birth to one if you care so much. How far this thing can go is as of yet unknown, the ethical implications alone should stop it from ever progressing beyond the cheese/banana stage. But it's good to know that the option to create a spider-baby is out there should we ever need it. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Seven days and one week

A round-up of the week's major news stories as seen through the eyes of an inattentive, misinformed moron.

Legally blonde

I don't like Romany gypsies. My dislike of this ethnic group stems from personal experience and I have now reached the point where I routinely tar each and every one of them with the same brush. And many in this country share my opinion, not to mention other countries. In an attempt to develop a deeper understanding of the Romany people I have looked into their heritage and discovered how they came to be one of Europe's most disliked tribes. But it still didn't change my opinion on them nor, in my eyes, justify their behaviour on these shores. However in spite of my antipathy towards them it's hard to argue in favour of our law enforcers when discussing recent events.

In the wake of the suspected kidnapping of a blonde, blue-eyed girl by a Romany family in Greece the Irish authorities acted upon on a tip-off from a concerned citizen. They were informed that a similarly fair-haired child was living with a Roma family in Dublin and acted as they saw fit. What this meant was taking the child from it's family and bringing it to the hospital for DNA tests. But now before documents were requested, produced and then subsequently deemed insufficient. There was no indication that the child had been mistreated by it's guardians - no bruises, no signs of malnutrition - just a confused 7 year old being dragged away from it's mother and father.

And in Athlone it was a similar story, a two-year old boy spending the night away from his family while they fretted and worried for his safety. But it's easy to be wise after the event you say. And you'd be right. If these children had turned out to the victims of kidnapping we would be praising the actions of all those involved, those who had tipped off the guards would be solemnly brought forth to be showered in confetti and Enda Kenny's mug would be smiling out at us from every TV screen. But these children weren't abducted and there was never anything to suggest they were – other than the colour of their hair.

As it turned out the child in Greece was not the daughter of the man of woman she lived with, but she hadn't been kidnapped either. Her mother, unable to support a child, had given her away to the people she now lived with. And we thought our police had problems? Try sorting that one out. In truth you have to give credit to whomever alerted our Gardaí to the presence of these seemingly out of place children. Such vigilance may have saved the lives of several children over the years and I sincerely hope that the disastrous consequences of both cases doesn't deter further concerned citizens from following suit.

But would those people have been so quick to alert the cops if they had, for instance, spotted a black child getting into an SUV with a well-heeled, prosperous family? Highly unlikely. Through a combination of saturated media coverage and our own in-built prejudices we were led to believe that Romany gypsies kidnapped blonde, blue-eyed children as a matter of course. It's something they'd do, we thought, I'd put nothing past them bastards, we said. And now, thanks to our racism – and that's what we are, racists, myself included – two young children have been scarred for life. 

Walking away quietly

When Sir Alex Ferguson vacated the manager's job at Old Trafford he vowed to learn from the mistakes of the past. It wouldn't be like before, when Sir Matt Busby retired from the same post but never really left. Unlike his fellow Glaswegian Fergie would not linger around the club, casting a shadow over his successor and ultimately undermining him, instead he'd take a back seat and allow the new man to get on with the job. Well so much for that. He's been true to his word in so much that he hasn't been knocking around the corridors of the stadium offering advice to his former charges, but he's hardly kept himself to himself now has he?

All I have to ask Sir Alex is why? Why release a book at such a delicate time for the club? Why use it to open up old wounds with ex-players? Why not use this platform to open the lid on things the fans really want to know about? Like the Glazers, or J.P McManus and that infamous horse spunk. Sadly the answer to all of these questions is relatively simple: money. It can't be anything else, he's spent a career in the spotlight and has had numerous opportunities to lambast Roy Keane, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard or any of the others he's taken to task in his second autobiography. His only motivation for doing so now is to ensure the book sells well.

It's made this great man - arguably the finest football manager of all time - seem quite small and petty, childish almost. Taking cheap digs in a public forum where there's no chance of reprisal was never his way. One of his most admirable traits as a manager was his loyalty to his players, even after the most shambolic of performances he would never criticise them, at least not openly. You can be sure they felt the full wrath of his tongue once he returned to the sanctity of the dressing room, but in front of TV camera? Never. Now it's taken him a matter of months to do a volte face.

I'll always love Sir Alex for what he's done for United, but not for the first time I find myself questioning his actions away from the pitch. He has always been fond of recounting tales of his tough upbringing in Govan, the rough and ready working-class district in which he grew up. He has spoken at length about how this environment instilled in him the morals and principles required to survive, and excel, at the very top of his field. But where are those morals and principles now? Where were they when this self-confessed socialist conveniently ignored all he believed and jumped into bed with the Glazers? It would appear that Fergie has learned all too much from his newly found American pals, he has learned that in this life only one thing talks, and that thing is money. Money, money, money.

An institute you can't disparage

I'm not usually one for stats but these figures speak louder than any rumination on my part ever could: 49% of unmarried women between the ages of 18-34 in Japan are not in any kind of romantic relationship, that number rises to 61% when examining their male counterparts in the same age. But that's not all, a third of Japanese people under the age of 30 have never dated at all. But wait, there's more: 45% of Japanese women between the ages of 18-24 are “not interested in or despise sexual contact” and a quarter of men feel the same way. As a result of this aversion to a bit of jiggerypokery the population of the country has plunged and is expected to drop by a further third by 2060.

I don't need to tell you that this doesn't bode well for one of the traditional super-powers of the Far East. Their economy has been stagnant since before the days of our current global recession and fewer people quite naturally leads to a certain amount of downsizing across the board. But the big question is why aren't Japanese people having it off anymore? There doesn't appear to be any definitive answer but several theories have been aired. Unlike the westernised world it is still very much the norm to form a conventional family, ie; Daddy goes to work while Mammy stays at home and minds the kids. Becoming a single-mother or even having a child out of wedlock is very much frowned upon in Japanese society.

Others cite this 'celibacy syndrome' as a symptom of recent national disasters; 2011's earthquake, tsunami and radioactive meltdown chief among them. Why run the risk of procreating when the entire country could go up in smoke any minute? Most interesting is the assertion that the Japanese obsession with all things technological has led to it's young peoples inability to form meaningful, loving connections. This for me is the most salient argument, we're constantly being warned about the dangers of living your life online and it's effect on our capacity to interact with real-life human beings, and now here's the proof!

So what can the Japanese do? How can they redress the balance and get their repressed youth fucking again? I have an idea. They need to recreate something that was a rite of passage for virtually every child growing up in Ireland over the past fifty years: the teenage disco. Monitored by a handful of responsible adults - preferably parents of some of those attending – the disco will promise good clean fun for all those present. Upon arrive you're corralled to your section, boys on one side girls on the other. Then the music starts, something soft and slow a bit of Barry Manilow perhaps, and the couplings begin. It worked for us and we were some of the most shy, awkward and self-conscious feckers to ever draw breath. And look at us now! Take note Japan.

I'd plant a grenade for you

The thought of marriage can be terrifying for a lot of men. It signals many things, the end of their freedom, the start of a life of drudgery, finally having someone to do your cooking and cleaning - and oh yeah their love for a woman or something like that. But you can't escape the inevitable, eventually they will wear you down until you're standing in the church, looking at a priest and thinking “what the fuck am I doing here?” There have been cases where the condemned has wriggled free though, we've all heard tales of the fella who did a runner to the Bahamas; leaving nothing behind but a sobbing bride and her vengeful father.

But now there's a new way of getting out of it, a quick and easy method which allows you to swap a life sentence for a relatively shorter one. Neil McArdle was just like all the rest of us, railroaded into a coupling of which he wanted no part. In an act of true chivalry he conveniently forgot to fill out the relevant forms required to seal his fate: marriage to a Miss Amy Williams. This wasn't enough for Neil though, he had to make sure he'd fucked things up. So instead of telling Amy that he'd botched the paperwork and their big day would have to be postponed he decided to ring the Registry Office and tell them there was a bomb on the premises. That's the spirit Neil she definitely won't want you after this!

And his ingenious plan worked, the wedding was called off and his skin was saved; back to nights out with the lads and the occasional sleepover at her's. Not quite. The call to the registry office was traced and silly ole Neil was charged with communicating with false intent, or in layman's terms 'frightening the shit out of folk for no good reason'. Neil's punishment? A year in prison, now every night will be a night with the lads. But hey at least he doesn't have to worry about getting married anymore. If only. Amy is going to stand by her man, she is still determined to be a bride, his bride, and when he finishes his stint in the clink he won't be a free man for very long.