Friday, 25 December 2009



Hello again to my follower. And a very happy christmas. This year you'll be relieved to hear I've gone a bit Zen.Not quite the full extent of a spanner waving mechanic , but who knows, in this bright new world.
Anyway back to Christmas. Its my birthday. In fact this accident may well have played a large part in my overbearing nature, for looking back, I have to say the second world war was well over before I was able to concede that the reason people were jolly on that day at least, had anything to do with any event other than me. Of course it could well have had some thing to do with booze too. Anyway there I was growing up in a small village in the west of Ireland while in the distant world a war was about to rage.1939 and all that.
For a child it didn't matter and it wasn't until a lot later that I began to realise how incredibly lucky the timing of my arrival was because the we were stuck, brigadoon like, in a period little changed for maybe 100 years. Most of rural Ireland was without electricity, women still drew water from wells - frequently a distance from the house,the level of poverty was still brutal unless you were frugal and very clever.
But one of my strongest memories and one which still lingers, is the pervading smell of sheep - or more accurately lanolin, clinging to the rough black tweed in which the Irish farmer came encased.His wife, seen only on high days, was also clad in wool but in her case this included a fine big shawl and a large capacious skirt. lanolin again. And since one of the few times the whole household would be out in public together was the run up to Christmas when there was business to be done.This was the farmer's wife's chance to make a bit of money on her geese and chickens. At this period turkeys were rare and exotic.Having sold the fowl at the big pre-christmas market, the family would buy provisions for most of the year with the proceeds. This big shop was light years away from a trip to supermarkets and had more in common with the sort of expedition frontier women in the wild west would have done. All food for the house was either grown at home or cooked at home.
So newly provided with money and provisions,before setting off for the badlands of Sonnach the old women would assemble in the back bar, and seated on firkins - barrels of beer, they'd sip hot port and brandy, or maybe a sweet sherry or two. In our bar, I remember my grandfather, Willie, a jovial man serving behind the bar and shedding goodwill about in the manner of a former politician, now retired from the fray.
But once again it was a smell of old wet wool, compounded by old dried sweat and old mature lanolin and the pungent smell of GUINNESS and hot toddy that brings it back as sharp and true as ever.
Today I'm 70 and I find it entirely incongruous. In my head I vary from maybe 12 , or 23 or absolutely unstoppably sexually alluring. the truth may have been other than I remember.
But still, when on a steroid high I'm still no more than a really good 50. Which of course bring me back to Zen and this year I am recommending it to all my friends.
Also high on the list of recommendations for the future is the brilliant idea my good and talented friend Aidan Hodgins had. In view of everything he suggests that everyone with a half-decent sized garden should plant five common ash trees. In our climate the ash will be ready to fell in five years and one well- grown tree will keep a house in fuel for a year. Eco friendly - economic and just great good sense.Do it.But remember to plant a new tree for every one you cut.
Which brings me finally to my latest great thought.
If in life you happen to say a bit too much and perhaps bruise some deep sensitivities, apologise, of course. But it would be a fool to think that would end the matter. And should you inflict pain on a mountainy man it won't be solved that easy. Therefore if you-re going to get on the wrong side of someone, make sure its someone who can really hold grudge. That way you have some comfort.
Joy to you all.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

parking permits galore

Due to my muscle problems, I have been on the hunt for one of those disabled driver stickers without which almost every driver in this neck of the woods, whether disabled or not,wouldn't dream of taking to the road. At first, I made the usual mistake of thinking that this must be straightforward. A note from the doctor, and for good measure a declaration from the cops, and Jack's your uncle - or so I thought.First off - try finding the relevant phone number to ring. Under Disabled perhaps ? No way.Turn to the HSE for a clue - forget it. Eventually the doctor's receptionist took pity on me and tracked the thing down. An hour after the start of the search, I was on to the right person, hidden away in the wastes of Mayo. The woman seemed almost pleased to hear from me. Perhaps I was the only caller of the day who had actually managed to make contact.I gave her my details and was surprised to hear that she wanted a brief medical run-down on why I needed a sticker.I was surprised. I'd have thought the doctor's word would be enough. However, not so, my claim would wither on the bough unless I wrote a brief note outlining my disabaility. I was surprised to learn that the reason for this is that the Disabled Drivers association can " create a paper trail". Is it any wonder the country is up the proverbial without a paddle, when a jumped up mob can demand medical details from an unqualified person to satisfy their appetite for a paper trail? Supposing I had listed my many neurosis, failing eyesight, tendency to road rage and periodic inattention to other road users, as well as lousy muscles, would they have turned me down or sent me permits for every condition outlined? However life is much too short so I did as I was told and set off in search of some passport photos.Since the last time I did something similar not only has the hair on my head grown but also the beard on my double chin is looking pretty lustrous. The overall effect is not just a picture of a fairly benign example of care in the community, but the slightly manic gleam in the eye, no doubt the result of jousting with the Disabled mob, is just a bit worrying.But the business is done and the application form, complete with cheque, dispatched.Now all that remains is to settle into a deep Zen like trance and wait to see what happens. In the meantime I will concentrate on the newest regime of self-improvement that opens before me. Goaded by my once baby sister, I am about to take to the water. A friend, of proportions almost as generous as my own, asked how I entended to get into the pool. I hadn't thought of this. But on reflection, visions of seals slithering into the waves sprang reassuringly to mind. The only remining problem is how to get out.It may be necessary to install a small crane to hoist me from the depths. I could perhaps open the event to the public - all donations to charity- would red nose day be interested I wonder? Perhaps a quick phone call- so long as they are not as hard to track down as the disabled sticker mob and their paper trail.

ps. an informant tells me that the reason for the paper trail is to eliminate the flourishing blackmarket in fake parking permits. A bit more enterprise like that and we'd solve our financial crises.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Since I became a cripple my perspective on life has changed. You might think this is predictable.What has come as a surprise to me is the way in which my new condition has affected me.Of course the extra time I have to lie in bed has brought on waves of lucidity, one of the more revealing of which is how much you still need to know as you clamber up the lower slopes of old age. For instance, through much of my adult life I cherished the notion that I knew pretty well everything, especially when it came to sexy stuff. Yet I was closing on 50 before I came across Auto Erotic Asphyxiation. And even though I had the process explained to me by a doctor, and have heard the CSI's of LV, Miami and NY mention it as casually as they order a coffee, I'm still not entirely sure I've got it right.I mean, why would you bother ?However the new knowledge is a bit surperfluous for persons post menopause.And only last week, while listening to Woman's Hour I heard Jenni Murray mentioning that Nicholas Sarcozy was having a spot of trouble in the perineum region.Do they make cheese there or what ? And if not where the hell is it. The thirst for knowledge was so sharp that I shot to an upright position thereby endangering my many dodgy ligaments.Could I have a perineam ? And more, could that be the source of all my troubles? And finally , horror of horrors, could it be somewhere you should keep to yourself, like pyles, for fear of provoking gales of ribbald laughter.Finally, I inserted myself into my crutches and the clapped-out Corsa, and headed to Ballinasloe. I had three things to be - get petrol - tax the car, and buy a replacement iron. All of these involved manoeurvres that would test me in my new persona as a cripple. But, game to the end I set out and achieved total success. It was while I was driving home that it struck me that the judicious use of a crutch, or a walking stick can elicit all sorts of help, especilly if you pass yourself off as a charming and helpless old biddy.Of yourse its possible to look at my performance as disgracefully manipulative. But surely not. I'm just nicer, that's all.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

A mental work-out, before the crack of noon

The genius in London and I were shooting the breeze.As usual the subject had fast-tracked itself to the contradictions inherent in life in Ireland.On this occasion it was the attempt I am currently making to get the HSE to arrange a temporary Home Help while I'm on crutches. I hadn't mentioned the crutches ? Extraordinary. As readers will know I am not usually given to stoicism. But briefly, they came about when I presented myself to my friendly neighbourhood vet and asked him for a diagnosis of my state - as if I had been a horse.He took a measured look and said I buggered up a tendon somewhere in the groin-thigh area and he unearthed the crutches. Since then, they have been my only method of locomotion.
Now ten days later, the state of the house has deteriorated to the point where even I notice it. Therefore having given my predicament a lot of thought, I decided to call on the Heath Service for help.In theory they should have been chomping at the bit.
In practice I discovered that getting them to act involved filling out a form which asked probing questions about my mental state, the level of incontinence I experience, and finally demnded that I return the completed form by post. And there's the rub. How can I get to a post box when I can neither walk nor drive and a written note specifically denies me permission to email them.
As I was saying, the genius and london and I were tossing this one about when he called a halt to the fun by declaring that I was up to my tonsils in a Kafka-esque situation.
That was enough to launch the morning chat onto a different tack and after only 20 minutes or so, I heard myself using the word " exponentially" , without even blushing.
At this stage the genius pointed out that we had conducted a conversation before the crack of noon, in the course of which the words Kafka-esque and exponential had both cropped up and since it was unlikely that we'd be able to keep that standard up we'd better call it quits while we were ahead.
And still no sign of the revolution.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Waiting for the Revolution

Unaccountably, there is no sign of the revolution - yet. Its possible that this is always the way. Fellow visionaries, having read my last blog, may be mulling over the propositions made in it. It could be that they hesitate to embrace the freedom of anarchy, or that the prospect of all our politicians banished to a dismal island strikes them as too severe. Or maybe not severe enough. All I would say is that the idea of banishment is a well tried method of punishing miscreants. Back in ancient Rome placemen who failed the Emperor were always being banished so there's nothing new there. Of course it could be that people are mulling over the appearance of Balls O'Leary from Dalkey and Andrew Martin in my account of life in Loughrea.
Ballso sounds like the sort of wastrel who would wash up in the west, fleeing from the respectability of life in Dalkey. You can just imagine him fag in mouth,hat at a rakish angle, hiding the thinning strands of hair on his head and the brim shading the glowing red of a bibulous nose. He's be great craic in the pub, full of yarns about the fast life of Dublin and just enough irreverence to endear him to the west. But the clincher, the quality that marked Ballso as one of our own would be an intimate knowledge of the horses.
Andrew Martin, on the other had had something shady about him.Where Ballso had an address of sorts, Martin could have come from anywhere. In fact the name is so anonymous you'd be hard put to place him anywhere. No provenance, that's the fellow's trouble - even though it was said he was related to Dusty Martin - well known to the stewards of every racetrack for using the whip. However there was no question that Andrew Martin's reputation was connected to unspecified shennigans of a sexual nature.
As an example, I would refer to a case that came up before the District Justice lately where a young man was waiting on a window ledge at the West Bridge for a lift home. Having had a drop or two(in other words he was legless)he was letting his mind wander back to happier times when he shared a flat with a young person directly across the street from the window ledge. In the circumstances it seemed to him that the time had come to renew his acquaintanceship with the girl in question, so he popped across and got in a window. Once in the house - which was empty- he realised he had made a mistake and it was while he was climbing out that the squad car came upon him and led to his appearance in the court. There his solicitor Gerry Moylan explained to the judge that his client's behaviour was down to him being carried away by amorous thoughts. Or as my aunt Eilish would have put it, he was up to his Andrew Martins.Or would have been, if he'd got the right house.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Ballso and Andra -and the revolution

I spent Christmas mulling over the responsibility of the serious blogger. At my age, I decided, I HAD to put my thoughts in order. The state of the country demanded no less. As a former hack, I realised the vital importance of a good intro and thus the festive season bubbled along without any definitive sentence coming to my rescue. History repeating itself.
The problem was that every time I peeped into the abyss, I was distracted by - hope?
This may well be a universal trait of humanity. We cling to the hope that something will turn up when, in fact, Corporal Fraser in Dad's Army got it dead on the nail . "We're doomed" he'd bellow, eyes twirling "Doomed". And that's pretty much where we are this first day of 2009. Nothing short of total revolution will do.
I am not one of these blood-thirsty types who fantasise about rivers of blood flowing from the remains of our former rulers. In fact I favour Mao's approach of transporting the lot - FF and FG without exception- to a remote and stony island, lashed by Atlantic gales, there to cultivate the soil . This will be essential because the prospect facing the rest of us is the dismantling of the State as we know it. All office holders, all recipients of permanent and pensionable jobs, all CEOs in semi-state industries, all holders of official credit cards, all the crutches of the corrupt state would be obliterated. This has to happen because if any trace of the patronage of the present continues, the mob will recreate itself.
These were the thoughts that buoyed me up over the last week or so, and highly diverting they were. For hardly had I started on the deep thinking bit than errant strands of thought intruded. Inevitably I'd begin with lists of favourite candidates for the chop. Before I knew it I was forced to introduce a system of alphabetical order in case any bastard escaped in the confusion. Some parts of it were easier than others. The obvious suspects went first, thereafter I racked my memory banks until the B categories were denuded and we moved on to the C's. As a way of lulling yourself to sleep this is infinitely preferrable to counting sheep.
And then , without warning I found myself looking out onto the lake from what used to be Murphy's kitchen window as Phyllis, between paroxysms of cigarette coughing, launched into a tirade against Balls O'Leary from Dalkey. There was no secret who Ballso was. He was her husband, Peter.
My aunt Eilish when goaded by unacceptable behaviour in others, would claim that they were up to their " andra martins". Maybe Andra was really Andrew but noone, to my knowledge, ever attempted to identify him. Both Ballso and Andra have been my companions as I drew up my blueprint for the brave new world of 2009.
Well - you have to have a laugh.