Archive for November, 2010

It seems churlish to find an upside to the recession, but many of us still – gratefully – in the world of work have noticed our commuting times shortening because there are of course far fewer people making their way to and from work.  Thus, journeys themselves are becoming, if not quite pleasant, then certainly not filled with the remorseless grinding indignity of yesteryear.  You occasionally get a seat now.  Even if you are standing, you can fold a newspaper over.  You can do a crossword and not struggle to manage the pen.   Would that it had been ever thus.

Commuting at peak times by means of Irish Rail during the Celtic Tiger was not something anyone did to recapture the golden age of the locomotive.  Brief Encounter it was not.  It was much more like Close Encounters of the Excessively Close Kind.  It was at times eye-wateringly intimate.  There were mornings where the only thing that distinguished it from the thronged trains of downtown Tokyo was, frankly, punctuality.  There were mornings where it was just as easy to read the other person’s book as your own.  And times where you could make an approximation as to what someone had eaten by a close study of the crumbs down their front.  If you forgot a pen to do your crossword, you could have filched one off someone else’s person with barely a flicker of movement.  There were evenings where we were huddled so closely together that I wept for the hygiene norms of the nation. I don’t know where those pretty boy metrosexuals were during the Celtic Tiger years, but I can assure you they were not on the 17.22 from Dublin Pearse to Drogheda.

But burned forever into my consciousness is the time I stood so close to one particular man that in some cultures we would have had to marry.   When I got home, I was overcome by the need to confess all to my Present Husband, who was very understanding and in time learned to forgive me.  I can’t speak for the other man in the affair at all, but I daresay he still has quiet moments when he ponders where it all might have led.  I read a story a few years ago about a couple who had sex on the DART one evening and I wasn’t a bit surprised.  Hundreds could be at it in moving trains and nobody would notice.  Unless they lit up a cigarette afterwards, of course.  Then there would be tut-tutting.


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One of my all-time favourite TV characters was President Josiah Bartlett of The West Wing. Witty, articulate, principled, engaging, intelligent – so like me in many ways, I think many would agree.  Well, a few might.  So of course it’s no surprise that I will similarly be awarded a Nobel Prize for Economics for my great advice on how to get us out of our current crisis.

My next suggestion is controversial and likely to cause a knee-kerk reaction, but give it a few minutes and the wisdom of it will unburden itself to you.  It’s so brilliant in its simplicity.  We have a National Museum full of gold treasures from our rich archaeological heritage.

Torcs, earrings and other mysterious, beautifully crafted objects that I would classify under the general heading of “yokes.”  They are sitting there, looking lovely, yes, but requiring much maintenance – you should see what this country is shelling out on chamois leathers despite the precarious national finances.  Meanwhile, cash for gold outlets are springing up hither and yon about the place paying out money for all sorts of broken bits of tat.  So we send off those beautiful but ultimately useless yokes to those nice people at the cash for gold place – they even supply jiffy bags, how helpful is that – and, ke-ching, we are solvent again.

And if any cash-for-silver outlets spring up, we can make some serious wedge with the Ardagh Chalice.  Think of all the people we could get off trolleys in A&E with that baby.  And we could have schools lousy with SNAs if we cashed in the Tara Brooch.  We could maybe do them a deal where we throw in the Derrynaflan hoard too and – boom! – there’s your new state-of-the-art children’s hospital conveniently not located amidst traffic chaos and not ex-Taoiseach adjacent.

While you are digesting the utter brilliance of that idea – and running your tongue along your teeth to check if any of your fillings are gold – I will give you a sneak preview of one of my other ideas.

National Sell your Kidney Day.  If you are healthy, you could probably survive on one.  It’s a surprisingly lucrative idea.  In fact, my Present Husband and I are of such offensively rude good health that we are going to survive on one between the two of us.  We will work out a sharing arrangement so that we get the remaining kidney on different days.  I will have it on all days with a ‘y’ in them.

(Disclaimer: Seek advice from a qualified medical professional before following this advice, or indeed any other that I might give)

Yet another brilliant idea to solve our economic crisis.  Fear not, there are plenty more where those came from.  The National Museum might be a bit peeved at losing all those lovely shiny wotsits, and of course the place will look a bit bare.  But they will be more than compensated by getting to display my Nobel Prize in the Quite Contrary Wing.

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WB Yeats: A Life

There once was a poet name Yeats

Who went on to be one of the greats

His poems of note

Kids still chant by rote

Which is the highest of all accolades



Born in Dublin, but then where’d the guy go?

The whole family then fetched up in Sligo

He felt such a duty

To tell of its beauty

For example, how colourless the sky’d go



His dad was the painter John B

Quite talented too was he

Though what he was missin’

Was his own pot to piss in

So the family moved frequently



He was a very poor pupil in school

His teachers thought he was a fool

He just could not spell

Or do sums that well

And was tone deaf too. Not cool!



But did he overcome this? He did

The seeds of greatness were deep in this kid

He won a Nobel

Was a Senator as well

And had his face on the old twenty quid



His poems concerned nature and love

Myths, legends and stars above

He wrote about mumbo

And a great deal of jumbo

Stuff normal adults tire of



He fancied the pants off Maud Gonne

Proposed marriage to her on and on

In his love unrequited

His readers delighted

‘Cos fair Maud thought he was all wrong



When she gave him his P45

What did his heart do to survive?

He proposed to her daughter

Which is not something you ought’er

Consider unless of sense you’re deprived



He married young Georgie Hyde-Lees

There were a few dire prophecies

They’d a girl and a boy

Two poems marked his joy

They were as happy as a pod with two peas



He founded the stage called The Abbey

They put on lots of plays, none shabby

The riots that did spring

From The Playboy by Synge

Made the old man grow quite crabby



When revolution came he seemed keen

But then after 1916

He thought the Free State

Cheap and third-rate

He really loved venting his spleen



He went through an unfortunate phase

Where he thought Fascism the coolest new craze

But his views ill-advised

He later revised

Fascism’s not really something you praise



So when a line pops into your head

From a poet now sadly long dead

That you learned by rote

And can’t properly quote

And from which all feeling has fled



Remember Yeats had a strong duty

To imagine a world filled with beauty

Where true love conquers

Though you may be bonkers

And the whole sodding world thinks your fruity

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When you drive a car of a more mature disposition, it’s important to focus on life’s little pleasures.  Every time your car starts, gets you to work and gets you home is a little undistilled joy.  You realise that AA patrolmen are a lovely bunch.  You know your local mechanics so well that they give you marriage advice.  And when your car goes in to be repaired and it doesn’t cost more than €100, you feel something akin to what it must be like to win the Lotto.  Certainly there is elation, followed by joyous phone calls to the relatives, pumping of the air and a rush of liquidity to the wallet.  I presume the difference between that and winning the Lotto is, ultimately, just scale.

My car was in the garage.  It was there for ten days.  It was a shock.  Literally, the driver’s side one.  We got a courtesy car from the AA for two days.  The car was brand new and lovely.  I have never experienced anything like it.  Every single thing in the car worked.  Every. Single. Thing.  And every single thing that worked, worked straightaway.  Not after a random interval and no small amount of pleading.  It was slightly disorientating.  I felt like I was cheating on my old reliable wagon with a young, racy nymphette.  But 48 hours of torrid and illicit love went by and my lively minx had to go back home.  But we’ll always have the M50.

And so the wait for my trusty blue steed began in earnest.  First there the shock.  Then there was talk of a spring and then a bearing.  My bearing, meanwhile, was not so good.  My patience was wearing thin.  People labour under the misapprehension that the automotive industry is highly mechanised.  This is pure malicious spin put out by evil PR people.  Or, at least, it’s malicious spin by the people at Volkswagen.  The truth is that parts for VW cars are whittled by hand by tiny elves in a little workshop in Germany.  Talented elves, no doubt.  And I imagine they work in a lovely little workshop in the Alps south of Bavaria, where they wear lederhosen while they work and eat apfelstrudel during their breaks.  But whittling by hand is how parts are made.  That is the only explanation for how long it could take to get parts for a VW Sharan.

But finally my car came home.  It was a joyous reunion.  Or at least it was after I had reminded myself that it was indeed my car, such was the length of time since I had seen it.  But then the battery died.  And now the engine mount is gone.  I have been driving bangers for so long that I can diagnose a broken engine mount in seconds.  Between all the cars I’ve owned, I think this will be my sixth.

So tomorrow my car goes back to the Little Car’s Hospital.  Like our conventional hospitals, there will be an interminable delay with no obvious cause.  Nobody will know what’s going on and a lot of inferior coffee and sandwiches will be consumed while hanging around.  There will be mindless pacing of a corridor.  There will be concerned looks and furrowed brows.  And in the end,  I will come away bewildered, broke and tut-tutting about the recession.

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