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I can’t confess to a proper understanding of how it came about.  But somehow I own a smartphone.   Some ineluctable force brought together the unrelated events of me losing my phone and my camera dying.  Although it’s important to clarify that no celestial energy on its own can make those events into a smartphone in the mind of an unreconstructed luddite.  I suppose the fatal detail that drew these disparate impulses into one, as is often the case in history,  was the special offer.  Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon river in 49AD only because he was offered unlimited any network texts.  The Muslim commander Tariq ibn Ziyad ordered his troops to burn their boats upon landing on the Iberian peninsula in 711AD only for a better data allowance.  But it turned out the network coverage was terrible.

And so I find myself with a smartphone. And this is what I now know.

1. The Dow Jones is up 2.11%.

2. It is 27 degrees and raining in Mumbai, where it’s  now two o’clock tomorrow morning.

3. Smartphones are catnip for children, and my experience in this area has not be an unqualified success. It has in fact been a highly qualified failure.

4. I should wipe sunblock off my hands before I touch the screen.

5. I am facing north-north east.

6. The alarm on my phone is not as smart as my old one and I have been late for work more times than a “smart” phone should allow a non-smart person to be.

7.  The camera is, I will concede, an all-too-brilliant 8 megapixel affair which will burn your retinas with its vibrant hues.

8. I had to download apps for stuff that previous phones did, just because some thought they should but has since changed their mind.  For example, a stopwatch.  And it’s not even as good as the one on my old phone.  When did a ‘feature’ become an ‘app’?

9.  The battery life is appalling.  There are consumptive heroines of Victorian melodramas with more energy.

And, finally…

10.  Universal USB charger my a*se!!!

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Anaemia is a misunderstood condition.  I am a late and reluctant convert to its cause. But it has an upside.  First and most important, anaemia gives the skin a lovely pale quality that teenage goths spend a fortune trying to get from makeup.  Anaemics can be disgruntled goths for free.  Neglecting your iron-intake costs nothing.  If the goth look isn’t your thing – and I don’t blame you, the black wardrobe is wildly impractical in the summer – and you are female, you can let your hair grow out and cultivate a pre-Raphaelite quality.   Assuming your hair is worth growing, that is.   The blood count might dictate otherwise.  Regardless of which look you choose, it’s important to stay on the pale-and-windswept side of anaemia.  So you need to arrest the decline of your blood count before jaundice sets in and you merely look yellow, haggard and ashen.

Furthermore, the shortness of breath that comes with anaemia will give you the feeling of being a breathy cinematic heroine, a sort of thinking man’s Marilyn Monroe.  (You may regard the “thinking man” bit as optional, that’s fine) Everything you say will take on the ethereal delicacy of a latter-day Kate Bush. If you can also get an increased heart rate going, you can persuade yourself you are a passionate, tortured artist with a tempest in your soul.

The poor concentration and forgetfulness that often accompany anaemia can also be your friend if you care to embrace them.  Letting responsibilities haemorrhage out of your mind – if you forgive the unfortunate blood-related metaphor – will cause you to feel a sense of purposefulness and achievement that you would otherwise find unsustainable.  A new carefree, strident you will emerge phoenix-like from your iron-deficient ashes.  I can quite confidently confirm that allowing vast chunks of information to leak out of my mind has been the making of me.  It’s possible that those around me have expressed objections, but I can remember.

Finally, and possibly most significant if you are a bit of a deadbeat, is that anaemia causes the effects of alcohol to become greatly exaggerated.  If heretofore it took five glasses of wine for you to produce witticisms and bon mots of Oscar Wilde proportions, the new anaemic you will be able to accomplish this with at most two.  Dorothy Parker said, “one more drink and I’ll be under the host.”  Your motto will be, “just one drink and I’ll be the new Dorothy Parker.”  And, encouragingly, it doesn’t even need to be good wine.  Pretty much any old gargle will do.   It’s very much in keeping with the spirit of the recession, too,  I feel to go for maximum impact with minimum outlay.   Remember that just because you are tired and run down, there ‘s no reason why you can’t do your bit for economic recovery.  There I go again.  I start off trying to find an upside to anaemia and end up dispensing advice on how to weather our economic crisis.  George S. Patton said ” a pint of sweat, saves a gallon of blood.”  In fact, I would argue that a pint of blood saves a bottle of wine.

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It took thousands of years for the Swedes to develop their resourceful nonchalance with snow.  However, the Irish as a race are new to this powdery nemesis.  The current cold snap has been a steep and expensive learning curve.  So, ever helpful, I thought I’d bring my immense wisdom and rich tapestry of life experience to bear on some of the dilemmas facing people dealing with the cold weather.

First of all, old people are very vulnerable to the cold.  They feel the extremely low temperatures much more acutely and are of course at considerble risk of falling.  Most difficult, though, is that the cold weather can make them ferociously whiney.  They regard the whole thing not so much as a meteorological phenomenon but rather as a personal assault on their rights and well-bring.   If you nip round to check on an elderly neighbour, bring groceries, the newspaper and most importantly earplugs.

On the other hand, children can be utterly enchanted by the winter wonderland that is unfolding before us.  Get them outside, let them make snowmen, let them improvise sleds out of old shelving and encourage them to work out neighbourhood tensions via the medium of snowball fights.  Thus are precious childhood memories made.  You, however, will freeze to death during all this enchanting merriment, so teach your kids the early warning signs of hypothermia and go back inside the house.

Stock up your cupboards and freezer with supplies in case you are completely shut in.  Most important of all, keep cash in the house to pay the guy from the local takeaway. They’ll deliver no matter where you are.

Your bin probably won’t be lifted for weeks, so don’t dispose of anything incriminating in it.

Alcohol lowers the freezing point of water.  So ward off cold by getting drunk.

Don’t salt your front path to such an extent that there’s none of it left for the aforementioned takeaway.  Civic-mindedness has its limits.

If you see someone advancing on what you know to be a very treacherous patch of ice, shout out a helpful warning.  Then discreetly film the whole thing and upload it to YouTube.  No need to be selfish with these comedy moments. I believe it was Andy Warhol who said that in the future everyone would embarrass themselves on YouTube for fifteen minutes.  (It’s possible that I’m paraphrasing)

Be a total wagon by talking to everyone about your forthcoming sun holiday.  (They don’t know need to know that you mean a week in a caravan in Clogherhead.)

If you fall, and are lucky not to end up on the Internet, do embellish the saga.  Everyone else has a sob story about the snow (see above re: our lack of resourceful nonchalance) so you might as well join in.

Don’t begin every conversation by telling the person it’s cold.  Unless you are speaking to a cadaver, they know this already.

If you drop your cocaine in the snow, you can pretty much kiss it goodbye.  Ditto an open Sherbet DibDab or an open box of Persil.  And try not to confuse the three.

 

 

 

Bookmark this one, you’ll want to back to it next year.  And, if the forecasters are to be believed, the year after that, and the year after that, and the year after that.  See?  Helpful!

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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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It is a silent scourge that is sweeping our nation.  Well, not so much sweeping as cropping up in the oddest places and some people are banging on about it a bit.  It is the deadly menace of low cholesterol.  We know so much about high cholesterol.  We know of the risk to our arteries and hearts.  There are drugs.  There are newspaper articles.   There are support organisations.  But less is known about the very real threat of low cholesterol.  It is a pernicious problem and, sadly,  you cannot raise a dime for it.

I appreciate that not everyone has my brain for complex scientific information, so let me try to render this in terms even George W Bush would understand.  Cholesterol is important for your cells.  It is important for brain function.  My low cholesterol explains why I can be .. frankly … a bit dim. (I know this may come as a shock to many of you, but it’s true)  Those fried egg sandwiches my Present Husband makes me are what fish oil supplements are to everyone else.

Cholesterol is thought to act as an antioxidant, which goes some way to explaining why I look so raddled.   Cheese toasties are like my Oil of Olay.

Cholesterol is important for the production of bile, which explains why I’m not nearly as sarcastic as I could be.   I could be one dangerously venomous wagon if I gave up being a vegetarian, beat into the jumbo breakfast rolls and got my cholesterol up beyond the magic number of 5.  Who could have predicted all those years ago when I gave up meat that it would have such a deleterious effect on my well-being?  If I weren’t so selfless and civic-minded, I’d be pounding into the Big Macs day and night.

The public ignorance and apathy on the subject of low cholesterol can be laid squarely at the feet of the pharmaceutical industry.  They will not knuckle down and invent a pill to cure this dreadful blight.   Instead, treatment is left in the hands of an uncoordinated, rag-tag bunch of dairy co-ops, butchers and fastfood outlets.  Don’t get me wrong, some of them are doing sterling work in this regard.  I especially applaud the fastfood restaurants who are doing very innovative work in the area of combining cheese with fried meat products, which if ingested in large quantities can achieve huge efficiencies in terms of raising cholesterol.

But it’s not enough.  Frankly, this problem will not go away until some greedy, unscrupulous pharmaceutical types get a vested interest in it.  Until then, people like myself will have to endure the horrors of endless rounds of fried bread for many days to come (while looking old and haggard, being a bit thick and lacking in sarcasm).

 

 

 

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Euronews

There are certain things that distinguish the child-free from those whom I suppose you might term child-ful.  Chief among them is sleep.  Of this no more need be said.  But an interesting side effect of this is the nocturnal TV viewing habits found amongst parents of small babies.  Programmes you would not watch by day for the length of time it might take you to tie a shoelace will burn themselves in their entirety onto your retinas.  In particular, programmes you are forced to watch because the baby has in fact now fallen asleep – oh blessed mercy – but you find the TV remote is out of reach.  Do I move and risk waking the baby or do I stay and endure televisual torture?  It is the kind of agony that might prove to one so inclined the existence of a vengeful God.

But enough of theology. I always resolve this dilemma in the same way, which is to stay put and endure the appalling TV.  Hence my familiarity with all manner of nocturnal nonsense, such as Doctors or Telly Bingo. (Yes, I know these shows are on at other times of the day, but I am not trapped in front of a TV at those times.)  And this brings me neatly along to the coup de grace, Euronews.  It is a 24-hour multi-lingual public service news channel of the EU.  Almost every word of that sentence is apt to fill one with dread.  In Ireland, it is broadcast on two channels simultaneously during the night, so you are doubly trapped.  It shares many of the qualities of conventional 24-hours news, such as being achingly repetitive.  Two hours of programming will in reality contain about twenty minutes of material.  The scale of the recycling is spectacular.  I watched an interview with the EU Energy Commissioner – a German guy by the name of Gunther Oettinger, seems harmless enough – where he discussed the EU position on a gas pipeline in the Caspian Sea.  They’re all for it, by the way.  They think it’s just a peach of an idea.  And then the following night I got to see it again.  I suppose it was conceivable that there might have been a plot twist that I missed.  Maybe a car chase.  But no such luck.

When not reporting news, there are interminable public service announcements, such as how bureaucratic changes to the Schengen Agreement will now make it easier for Romanians to travel to Belarus. Or some such. There is an admittedly quirky little segment called “No Comment” where a minute of news footage is broadcast with no sound, so you have to play a little guessing game with it.  It can be thought-provoking the first time you see it.  But after the fourth time, you beg for mercy.  There is also an interesting round-robin style way of showing the weather forecast for major cities in Europe and worldwide.  It is oddly compelling the first time, but after several viewings you can’t quite summon a whole lot of enthusiasm for the impending downpour in Valetta.  And, at the back of my mind through all of this are two thoughts.  One is that I am a TV licence payer and am being robbed.  And second is that this torture will be relieved only by the arrival of children’s TV on RTE2 and informercials and home shopping on RTE1.  If I can change the channel when my baby wakes around 6am, over on TV3 is the repeat of  Tonight with Vincent Browne which, in my state of advanced sleep deprivation, is like a televisual warm bath.

But there is something faintly odd about realising when Vincent Browne says goodnight (again) that you have absorbed all your current affairs information for the day, much of it now out-of-date, and it’s only 7am. Because throughout the day even though there will be a TV or radio on, you will have the attention span of  gnat and will take in nothing.  And you will of course be crashed out on your couch when the 9 o’clock news comes on. Yet another of those things that distinguish us from the child-free.

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