Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A one constant in my life

She was always there for me. Invariably late but she would never let me down. I can picture her now - coming around the top of the road sometimes alone but all too often in a crowd. Without her I don’t know what I would have done. I would have been lost. She witnessed my transition from child to adolescent to university student and more recently to an ageing married man. She was the one constant in my life and I will never forget her.

What you need to remember is that my family were motor less until my mother in a moment of madness bought a 2nd hand blue Volkswagen Beatle despite having nobody in the family who could actually drive the thing. A trip to town for me did not start with a key in the ignition but with my mother pouring over the well thumbed bus timetable. An algorithim of numbers. Time selected, hand in hand, we would make our way down Brewery Road and wait patiently for our bus to keep it's promise. And it always did - maybe late but it always turned up. The 46a you see was our link to the outside world. I can still sense the rush of excitement and adrenaline as it appeared at the bend on the Stillorgan road at the ESSO building. There was a few seconds while mother and child strained their eyes to get confirmation that it was indeed our 46a and not some impostor. The "46" without the "a", easily detected as it was a single decker had to be avoided as it took the Lower Road into town. This would have left us too faraway from the Anne Street post office where my mother, every week, picked up her widows pension. The 86 was a rare bird - very welcome on the return journey when we might be laden down with shopping- but to be avoided at the outset of the day as it detoured via Ranelagh and would have upset our carefully planned morning. Likewise the 84. No we needed to see the "46A" in the little box at the front of the bus before we could relax safe in the knowledge that we would get to our destination. My mother never liked sitting upstairs but she knew I would be heartbroken if we did not tackle the twisting stairwell. As far up to the front as possible. If really lucky at the very front seat. Sit back and enjoy the journey all the way to Grafton street. We relied on it for short hauls too particularly at Christmas. Buying the 6 packs of coke in SuperQuinn knowing that it would not be possible to walk home with such largesse. Loaded down with plastic bags hanging off every finger and crossing over to Nimble Fingers to await "our" bus. Two stops only but a mighty relief to avoid a trek along the busy Stillorgan road. I can vividly recall the first time being on it without my mother. A trip to Dun Laoghaoire with John O Farrell to go to a meeting of the SeaScouts in Dun Laoghaire. This became a regular Friday night odyssey. Sitting bolt upright wearing our round sailors hats and being easy targets for the "knackers" who would invariably board the bus as it passed through Sallynoggin. The journey back. Playacting with the Pilkington brothers and eating our chips. The night I was alone getting off at the bottom of my road not feeling great and fainted just as I stepped off the running board. Lying on the ground having chipped my front teeth and being ignored by other passersby. They assumed another drunken sailor ! In my Blackrock College days it represented the first leg of a highly complex journey planned with military precision. I needed to get to the bottom of Trees road in order to catch the 5 bus which would take me down Merrion Avenue. If I failed to make the connection all was lost unless Gerry Coll happened to come flying by on that odd looking but oh so welcome bicycle of his.

My old reliable saw me in to university and home again. It was always there along side the wall of trinity college waiting amongst a flock of other buses. You would go from bus to bus looking up at the number waiting to see that magical combination of numbers and one letter - 46A. Salvation. Nothing now between me and the comfort of home.

So on my last trip to Dublin to visit the lady who had taken me by the hand on my very first 46 A trip I decided to travel on it again. I did so in the knowledge that it may well be the last occasion that I would travel on the bus that has stood witness to my life in Dublin. It was only 4 stops to the top of Merrion avenue where I dismounted to walk down the avenue to the Blackrock Clinic. Four Stops but a lifetime of happy memories.

History lessons

Am I the only one who views all world events through the prism of exam questions? Ok maybe I am but I have my excuses. I blame the inter cert/leaving certificate curricula. At a very early stage in the history course one's mind jumped to the exam at the end of the year. That was the real skill that separated the good from the mediocre and left a yawning gap between the excellent and the unsatisfactory. You see you did not need to learn about the Weimar republic or German inflation, the Versailles treaty or national socialism - but you did need to know that all these events could be captured under the exam question "Please describe the origins of the 2nd World War. Once you had broken the formula life was easy . Just group various events under the appropriate exam question . Late 19th/ early 20th century Russian history became the "Track the rise of Bolshevism". The long drawn out demise of the Irish clans and the gradual English/Norman plantation was better known to the schoolboy as "Celtic Ireland disappeared at the battle of limerick- please discuss. And so on and so forth.

This is where I have to admit to something even more weird. I have started to predict or at least anticipate future events in the guise of an exam question - particularly in view of recent events on the European stage. Will our grandchildren be scratching their heads as they struggle to answer "What Germany failed to achieve in two World wars they achieved via their economy - discuss and cite to examples". Or "Discuss the demise of Greece as a sovereign state". How about something closer to home. "The transition of Sinn Fein from illegal organisation to a Governmental party" (extra points for those who can cite to the role of the GAA and TG 4) . In very dark moments and thinking way out in time I envisage a soft question such as "Describe how Chinese became the dominant language in Europe - please identify the specific stages of it's development" (Extra marks if answered in Mandarin) . More real might be the "Trace the origins of the Franco German 2020 War and describe the role played by America". And then if in need of a laugh I can go off on a tangent - "The emergence of the European Super state and the role played by Dana." My ego sometime gets in the way "Assess the contribution of Brian Hartnett to the rebirth of European Theatre". We can but dream.

I think it always reads well to finish these thoughtful pieces with a quote. So I give you Einstein " I never think about the future as it comes soon enough"

The Colonel

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Chuchdoorandback has secured the services of Colonel Brusselsblue as Guest Editor for the next week to ten days.

Speaking to an excited audience, Yiddo commented "I'm delighted to have the Colonel onboard for this trial period - his literary dialogue over the years is renowned, he had a broad range of subject material to work from - flyfishing; thespianism; toffees; the EU - and his humorous and sometimes quirky approach to mundane matters will certainly provide a whole new perspective. We look forward immensely to his contribution."

Go for it Colonel!

The Quality of Mercy

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest. It becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway.
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute of God himself.
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this:
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea,
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.

Shakespeare at school was a real challenge – the language archaic, the plots tedious and so many of the characters uninspiring.

We were lucky as we had arguably two of the more notable of the Shakespearian works - Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice - but even with them we remember the words and the players now for two reasons – firstly an exaggerated fear of the Leaving Certificate and its’ attaching points system and secondly because of the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia which we donned as soon as we received our results from Hughie Boyle and walked out that door.

Questioning my own critical assessments of Shakespeare, and without Brusselsblue and Chelski cogging my essays on the subject, I decided to take another look at the works that kept us so occupied back in the early seventies. Let’s start with the Inter Cert and The Merchant of Venice.

One can’t talk about The Merchant of Venice without immediately focusing on the most memorable character, Shylock. In terms of bang for your buck, Shylock certainly punches above his weight. Research reveals that he was a minor character appearing in only five scenes and having only 360 lines to deliver. Yet his Jewish appearance, his demands for his pound of flesh, and his court performance make him a highly provocative character - readers end up either despising him deeply or felling immense sympathy for him over his treatment in court. Is this because he is a Jew (for sufferance is the badge of all his tribe) or because he is so mercilessly treated by Portia who if the truth is told is the real villain.

Portia wins her case on a technicality, the “exact” pound of flesh becoming impossibility, having failed with an earlier appeal based on Christian morality and mercy. But how can she of all people ask anyone to be guided by Christian virtue when she has entered the court on false pretences - a woman dressed as a man - to “impartially” state the case for Antonio, the friend of her suitor? Honesty and independence out the courtroom window in one fell swoop.

Additionally where was her mercy when the Court forces Shylock to convert to Christianity – a punishment of unthinkable magnitude to a Jew – but then again, as she stated in her famous speech, mercy is an attribute of God himself. Not expected of mere mortals like her, Gods only; and of course, maybe the Jews. A warped sense of standards clearly.

Portia therefore is the truly evil character in this tragic comedy. Anti-Semitic, and maybe racist if we are to drive deeper into the issue of the caskets of gold, silver and lead. A Venetian chosen ahead of a Spaniard and a Moroccan, with another rigged competition.

I’d like to meet with Shakespeare and ask him of his intent, when he wrote the play. Certainly the play appears to cast Shylock as the evil one and subsequent history and its attaching anti-Semitism has made his image more and more reviled. Was it Shakespeare’s intent to join the growing movement of hatred towards Jews at that time or was his devious portrayal of key characters as I have interpreted – a hidden treatise on the injustices and double-standards he saw developing around him? That the problem really resided with the fairer than fair Christian Portia?

Eitherway Shylock’s legacy will live on, the debate will continue. And maybe, just maybe, Shakespeare was dong more than writing a play to retain the patronage of whoever funded him. For the time being therefore the (Venetian) jury’s out on whether he was a clever and cunning linguist or a boring old fart that has destroyed the lives of so many schoolchildren around the world. In other words was he the English Peig?

Monday, November 14, 2011

St Webcars Day

With all the euphoria about the soccer over the weekend, many of us will have missed the fact that Sunday was the second anniversary of St Webcars Day, when one of the classic email bloopers in the history of the Blackrock College Union took place.

Rejoice in its' stupidity.

Friday, November 11, 2011

There's a warm summer breeze, it makes the red poppies dance

In memory of the Irish Fallen. 11.11.11

I love the last one, I can just imagine the answer she got. Also the first one seems to indcate that Ryanair were causing problems a century ago as well.

Gary Mackay and Smokie

Its’ been twenty four years to the day since Gary Mackay scored that eventful goal in Bulgaria which saw Ireland qualify for our first major championships, Euro 88. Playing for Scotland against the Bulgarians (who needed a draw to qualify) he poked home a goal in the 87th minute and Paddy was off to Germany. Mackay apparently still gets cards from well-wishers in Ireland on this day.

Sadly this qualification for Euro 88 was our only one for the European Championships although tonight we get the opportunity to right what many would view as a large anomaly. Qualification attempts since that year have been a combination of play-off agony, heroic disappointments (although less of these than in the good old days) and shambolic disasters. Do not come back Steve Staunton, all is not forgiven.

In the words of Smokie, it’s been twenty four just waiting for a chance, to tell her how I feel and maybe get a second glance, no, I’ll never get used to not living next door to Alice Springs.

I know that the prospect of telling my wife the holiday plans for next year involve Gdansk and Kiev is a little bit daunting. I know Crimea and Odessa have little to offer. I know the food will be crap, the transport difficult and the accommodation dirty. But it’s not really about such trivialities. It’s about being there and for that reason we need Robbie and the boys to knock seven shades of shit out of Estonia tonight in Tallinn, and then finish the job on Tuesday at the Aviva. After all, let face it in the words of Smokie, who the fuck are Estonia?

Monday, November 7, 2011

I want you to go back, back in time........

Early nineties.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Deja vu

I wonder was this guy a reinsurance broker as well? Is there any chance it's the same guy?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Poetry - Stony Grey Rod by Darren O'Keeffe

With Monaghan United about to clinch promotion to the Premier League via the pay-offs and Cork City already Division 1 Champions, I'm sure O'Keeffe has mellowed in his fear of the boxer's gobshite brother.

O stony grey Rod of Monaghan
Don’t make us hurt and aggrieved
Or take my child's football passion
And give us your Rod deceived.

You clogged the feet of my boyhood
With Dundalk in ninety one
Had the poise and stride of Apollo
And ended our unbeaten run

Don’t fling a ditch on my vision
My Premier dream don’t pollute
O stony grey Rod of Monaghan
With your Louis Copeland tin of fruit.

Lost the long hours of pleasure
Cork City, us women and men
O can I still bear First Division
Or write with unpoisoned pen

Brandywell, Dalymount, The Showgrounds
Wherever I turn I see
Not the stony grey Rod from Monaghan
But places we’re meant to be.

Movie Star now

He may be a bloody good footballer but let's face it, he's a bit fucking ugly as well. Gareth Bale -coming to a zoo, or cinema, near you.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

We never had it so good

I always felt we got a raw deal with the Seventies.

Our older brothers and sisters got the swinging sixties; the later generation got the anarchic early eighties; both vibrant and influential in their own way. Musically the Beatles and Stones formerly; the Clash and the Stranglers latterly. And what did we get – Boney M and the “Rivers of Babylon” and Baccara with “Yes sir, I’m a Lady (and I need a certain song)”, and going back earlier - Mud, The Bay City Rollers and Showaddywaddy.

They now refer to this musical phenomenon as Glam Rock – tell me please what the hell was glamorous about stomping around in platform boots and parallels with hair trailing along your shoulder singing “Shang-a-lang”? We must have looked like a complete bunch of tossers (I know Gerry did), nearly as bad as the kids of today leaving their underpants showing, a foot above their trouser belt-lines. The tendency and ability to make a totally fool of yourself continues through the generations.

Our fashion sense was certainly highly questionable, a fact we can once again blame on the decade that was in it. Was the seventies austerity (cueing for petrol; miners strikes in England; rising unemployment) the reason why we wore shirts and ties made from the same material – job lot maybe – “cut a tie from it as well” - or the reason why everyone aged 15 to 25 wore a Levis or Wrangler jacket? Flair and individuality were sadly missing and it’s little wonder we were depressed. At least the Punks shook things up a bit and left their mark on society.

Television brought little to excite us – four channels including BBC Cymru, game shows, scripted and predictable comedians - and all this with the multi-channel environment of MTV only around the corner. Michael Parkinson, the Two Ronnies and the Generation Game. Essential Saturday night viewing, a lead-in to Match of the Day and Leatherhead beating Leicester 3-0 in the FA Cup with Chris Kelly, the Leatherhead Lip, scoring twice.

The political landscape was bleak – Tories v Labour in the UK; Fianna Fail v Fianna Gael in Ireland, with occasional interruptions by Brendan Corish. There was no Green-inspired talk of rainforests, no far-left republicans and the only Christian Solidarity movement was provided by Mad Mary on O’Connell Street as she danced among the passing citizens telling them about the glories of the Immaculate Conception.

In short, all things considered, we should have had no hope.

And you know as I contemplate it further I can still hear my mother’s voice from the seventies, her downstairs and shouting up to me - the angry teenager - “And how badly off you are”.

She knew about the “prosperity” and “improvements” which were to come.

Take a look at us now, in our digital age.