bookmark_borderWhoever called it necking was a poor judge of anatomy.

I stumbled across the above Groucho Marx quote and it reminded me of my very misspent youth..

Growing up in Belfast in the late 70’s my priorities were the following;

  1. Get a car
  2. Get a girlfriend

This was the priorities of all my testosterone drenched mates too.

Sure we had the Troubles going on but a car, and a girlfriend, that took all our attention. Staying alive? Nah, getting sporty rims on the car? MUCH more important.

I’d just swapped my old bone shaker Ford Escort for a Ford Capri which had a sunroof – somewhat of an oxymoron if you lived in Belfast with its constant rain! With my new car I was able to persuade Freya, a work colleague, to come out on a few dates with me. Yes, we were SO shallow ‘dem days.

One Saturday evening I met up with Freya and took her up the Craigantlet Hills (not a euphemism BTW), to admire the enchanting views over the magical city we’d come to know as home. In reality everyone knew you only went up the Craigantlet Hills to get frisky.

So, it’s dark and I’ve parked the car in the direction of the city, ahead of us are some woods but surprisingly for a Saturday night the car park is empty.

We’re in the car, getting hot and steamy when suddenly Freya jumps!

I ask what’s wrong and she says there’s someone outside! It was dark, the darkness being the reason why everyone went there but by the moonlight she thought she could see something moving quickly between the bushes… fucking perverts!

I turned around to look and looked and looked but I couldn’t see anything. So I said relax, probably just a fox. We carried on snogging for a bit when she suddenly let out a yelp and pointed out the window. I turned around and was gobsmacked to see black shadows sprinting across the road. I thought Shit! There was! I could see shadows moving quickly down the road!

Suddenly there was a knock on window!

Fuck! I nearly kecked my pants!! My heart leapt into my mouth!

Quivering, I wiped the steamed-up windows and looked up. Standing by the door were two soldiers in camouflage with their faces and hands blackened out. Oh God! Then it dawned on me, it was one of those army undercover patrols, they go off on patrols for three or four days at a time, keep an extremely low profile and watch certain areas for terrorist activity, probably SAS or something like that..

So that was what Freya saw running across the road, it was a group of soldiers out on patrol, all blacked out and running from field to field.

I wound the window down. A soldier asked to see some ID, I passed out my drivers license, he checked my number plate on his radio and then asked what we were up to?

‘ermm…just…ermm..you know…ermmm..necking..’

And he looked at me, grinning and said those immortal words;

“Well sir, probably best if put your neck back in your trousers and get home..”

We were mortified!

For all we knew they could have been watching us for ages!

We never went back there..

bookmark_borderIce Cream is VERY important..

When we were growing up in Belfast during the early 70’s life was just normal, or from our 8yr old perspective it was normal, there was the usual kids telly from 5pm each weekday; Scooby-Doo, Blue Peter, Magpie, Mr Ben, Captain Pugwash, The Magic Roundabout. And at the weekend we were all up early to watch The Banana Splits and The DoubleDeckers before the exceedingly boring Grandstand started with all that football nonsense, all watched on our huge B&W telly, just normal life for kids everywhere.

But then one afternoon when my sister and I were doing our school homework at the living room table mum rushed in and switched on the telly. The news was on and there were people rioting in the streets. We were normally in bed before the news came on but we watched this while pretending to do our homework.

I whispered to my sister “Why are they all fighting, what’s going on?” To which my sister replied “Well, them ones on that side STOLE AN ICE CREAM VAN and those ones are trying to get it back!”

My jaw fell open! “WHAT! How could they do that?! I don’t believe it! How DARE they steal the ice cream van, what are we gonna do for ice cream!! I’m going out there to help them, I’m going out there to fight!” Shocked! I was absolutely furious! I was so upset!

And for a surprisingly long time that’s what I thought all the fighting was all about and that’s why all those policemen were out there patrolling the streets, ice cream was REALLY important. I told my friends and they had the same reaction, they couldn’t believe it!

And isn’t it interesting how we as kids brought terrible terrible things down to our own perspective?

Fifty plus years later and when I see Mr Whippy these days I do a quick check around just to make sure everything’s OK 😉

bookmark_borderShared a moment

A doctor came to see me at work here in south London, he needed some tech support and noticing my accent he asked me where was I from? I told him a little fishing port in Northern Ireland, a longggggg time ago.

I looked at him and knew immediately he was ex-army. When you grow up through ‘The Troubles’ you know instinctively who’s army/police and who’s not, it’s a survival instinct.

He said to me “I lost a few mates over there in ’85, all at the same time”.

And he looked at me, I looked at him and we both know what he’s talking about, I’ve heard this before and there’s very little you can say apart from “I’m so so sorry, it was a terrible terrible time..” and we shared the moment..

And he continued, in a very sombre tone “Aye, they were in an army truck…” and I know what’s coming next, a fucking massive roadside bomb..

“and a tree fell on them..!”

“apparently the IRA planted it”

Fuck me! Bastard! IT’S THAT OLD JOKE! I burst out laughing, more out of relief, thinking thank Christ!

He had me going there for a minute, SUCH an old joke! I just didn’t expect to hear it in a hospital in south London of all places, he well and truly caught me out. I wonder just how long he’d been waiting for that moment, 35 years?? His life is now complete, I bet he punched the air when he left the office!

bookmark_borderConfession Time?

job-interview-irish-joke-job-interview-pzy-demotivational-poster-1283819019So I have a terrible confession to make, a dark secret that I’ve been hiding for the last 25+ years, one that I’ve been in denial about and tried to ignore. I’ve been fooling myself and trying to fool everyone else about it but I think it’s time I came clean and owned up.

The sad fact is that I am an Irishman. Yes, I know, the shame, the shame. I have tried to hide it since I moved from Ireland to London twenty five years ago but as Shakespeare said, the truth shall out ya and there’s no use pretending any more.

At the start it was difficult, when I first moved here I struggled with the lingo and it took me literally years to learn how to pronounce words the way Londoners do, at home we’d naturally say fur instead of fair, hur instead of hair, tar instead of tower. I practised and practised and after many years have finally learnt to say fair and hair but even now it doesn’t come naturally. And I have tried my best to stop using Irish expressions like ‘do you think I came up the Lagan in a soapy bubble?’ or ‘sure a blind man rushing past on a horse would’na notice’ or’ have you been up all night raking the streets’, perfectly legit expressions everyone uses at home but double-dutch in London.. And I have failed again and again the one big test for all Irish, we find it totally, congenitally and physically impossible to say film without sticking an extra ‘u’ in it so it becomes filum, it is our reverse shibboleth, everyone else can tell we are Irish because we can’t pronounce that word correctly.

I’ve tried to slow down my machine gun delivery, (no, I don’t get regular deliveries of machine guns – at least not these days) but we Irish naturally talk very fast and in a constant stream and at home it’s just normal but here in London no-one’s ears are attuned to it, to us Irish it sounds like everyone in London is talking really s l o w l y, like chatting with a child…very weird.

I’ve had to hide and deal with this affliction, I even signed up for Recovering Irish Anonymous but that didn’t really work out because it wasn’t really that anonymous, if your name wasn’t Shaun then it was bound to be Patrick. I would attend meeting and stand up and say ‘My names Patrick and I’m an Irishman’ and everyone would clap and offer support, we’d watch episodes of Brideshead Revisted and Downton Abbey and practise the pronunciation over and over again… like Julie Walters in Educating Rita until the chairman would say “by Jove, I think he’s got it, I think he’s got it!”

Being an Irishman does have one advantage; whenever I address a stranger I can say practically anything I like in my first sentence and I’ve done this frequently, I’ve said to folk on first meeting them “did you know your shoes are on fire?” and I know they are too busy trying to figure out where my broad accent is from to even think about what I actually said. In London by the second or third sentence they usually figure it out and then tune their ears in and I have to stop talking nonsense but when I go to America I can spend the entire holiday talking bollocks and no-one notices…they don’t think I’m speaking English at all, they think I’m speaking Gaelic constantly..

Sadly all this work on my accent (and my attitude) has been mostly in vain, yes most Londoners can now just about understand me but I only have to go downstairs at work and talk to the Irish girl who works there and instantly twenty five years of elocution lessons are undone and we ‘spake’ to each other like we never left home.

Perhaps I should just keep my gob shut and learn sign language..

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, number 17

Recent photo.

When I was growing up money was tight and as 12 year kids we were always on the lookout for ways of earning a few extra pennies. One of my friends heard that the local scrap-man would give you money for old lead so we struggled down the country lane with this huge (to us) car battery and he gave us 10p (big money those days) for it. We were well chuffed and headed off to the sweet shop to spend our ill-gotten gains.

However, there was a definite shortage of old car batteries lying spare around the streets and although the local church roof had lots of lead lining neither of us wanted to risk eternal damnation for a few pennies, a couple of quid and we might have been tempted though!

Next evening I’m sitting with mum, six brothers and two sisters at dinner table when I thought I’d ask them as they are all older and might know where there’s a stash of lead and so I says “does anyone know where I can get lead?”

Sudden silence descended upon the table and everyone stared at me in disbelief and then burst out laughing.

It took me an awfully awfully long time to understand their reaction.. DOH!

(for those of you that don’t get it, lead and laid sound exactly the same in our mother tongue..read it again 🙂

bookmark_borderHome Sweet Home

During my childhood in the sixties, getting up in the middle of the night to have a pee was fraught with danger. I had the run the gauntlet of the monsters in the wardrobe and bogeymen behind the door waiting patiently to pounce on me, like most ten year olds I hadn’t figured out that they never pounced on me during my previous ten years because they didn’t exist..  probably..

However, it wasn’t so much my fear of monsters and the occasional bogeyman jumping out on me (well, not just that) that made me reluctant to go pee but because I had to creep out to the bathroom in total darkness and silence. In my bedroom Colin, Terry and Gerald also slept, apparently comatose but never-the-less wide awake in an instant if the floorboard so much as creaked, for it was considered just cause for a beating if you ever woke one of them up. I got to know that floorboard very well and was well versed in avoiding the creaking ones.

So, after waiting for so long that you felt your bladder was going to burst and your fellow siblings would drown in a sea of pee, you HAD to get up but you snook out of bed very quietly. You didn’t dare switch on a light and awaken any sleeping giant, in your bare feet you had to feel your way around all the obstacles on the floor and grope your way out of the room in pitch darkness.

As an aside, did you know that the most perfect instruments for finding Lego bricks on the floor are bare feet? And that stepping on an upturned plug is possible even more painful than childbirth? I was painfully aware of these things at age ten.

Then when you got to the landing you had to do the same manoeuvre, feeling your way with your bare feet and holding tightly onto the banister hoping all those obstacles on the stairs didn’t trip you up or even worse fall and wake up the house. Occasionally I’d be half way down the stairs when I’d hear “WHO’S UP!?” shouted from my parents bedroom and I’d say it was me going to the bathroom only to hear them cursing at me for waking them up – they thought it was a burglar – not like there was anything at all to steal as we were so poor but burglars didn’t know that.

It was only when you got downstairs and fumbled your way to the bathroom and shut the door quietly did you dare switch on the light – hoping of course there wasn’t someone else from the tribe already sitting there warming up the seat. One year I got the fright of my life as I crept down the stairs only to feel someone’s cold hand touch mine as they groped their way back up the stairs. I don’t think my heart has ever jumped so much, so all those stories my mother told me were true – there are bogeymen..  It was my older brother Colin returning to bed and I think we both filled our pants that night – Colin for the second time.

I was reminded about all this fumbling about in the dark recently; I was in the maze at Hever Castle taking false turns and going down dead ends, trying to get to a place of safety, of security, of where I was meant to be. I think we spend a lot of our lives groping our way blindly, not having a clear path and not knowing exactly where we are going to end up – in the bathroom – or on our butt at the bottom of the stairs.

I’m sure it’s like that for a lot of people. I went to school with some very bright sparks and they seemed from birth to have their lives carved out for them, you knew they would get married to someone great and that they would end up running a large corporation before too long, but for me and the vast majority it was more about trying to find a path to some kind of half decent life. And we’d grope our way around, trying to find a path and come to a dead end and have to go back and start again.

And even these days, forty years later I still have that sense, probably always have had, of gingerly stepping out with my bare feet, feeling my way blindly, stubbing my toes along the way, trying to find my way, to somewhere I’m meant to be, to somewhere I’m loved, to home sweet home..

bookmark_borderIrishmen vs The Rest of the World

I got this in an email a few years ago, thought it was amusing (but still had a large element of truth) and added my own slant to it.

The Rest of the World

1) You spy a woman you’d like to sleep with and think of something witty to say.

2) You go up to her. You say something witty and unique (so you think). In her mind, it just sounds really corny but if you’re cute you’ve got a chance.

3) You buy her a drink and she thinks you’re cute (or she’s just desperate) and you exchange witty banter.

4) You exchange phone numbers and say you’ll give her a call sometime.

5) That sometime must be three days. Call too early you’re too desperate. Call too late she thinks you’re not interested.

6) Three days pass and you give her a call and ask her out to coffee. Coffee first because you don’t want to spend loads on her for dinner if she turns out to be a dudd.

7) You pick her up at her place. She checks out your car and the way you dress and sees if you brought her a token present, and if you open her car door. If she only gets 2 out of 4, then she’ll end the date at coffee.

8) Coffee becomes like a job interview. So what do you do? Where you originally from? What kind of movies do you like? What do you usually do on the weekends? What kind of food do you like? If guy likes girl then he’ll use the “What kind of food do you like?” to transition into the dinner date.

9) Dinner date. More of the date interview. At this juncture, she sizes you up by checking out how much you make by the type of restaurant you take her and how you treat wait staff.

10) Dinner is over and the bill comes. Girl does the wallet reach to test out if he’s a cheapskate. If he says don’t even think about footing for the bill, then he’s good to go. If he say, ok let’s go dutch, he’s toast.

11) You drop her home and say you had a nice time and wish her goodnight. What you do at this point will make or break a second date. Do you kiss her on the lips, forehead, cheek? Do you give her a big hug or a hug and a pat on the back? Or what? If the guy really likes her and wants her on the second date then he either kisses her on the cheek or gives her a great big hug. He wants to really get laid so he kisses her on the cheeks AND gives her a great big hug.

12) At this point she becomes smitten and anxiously awaits his call.

13) You call in a week. Guy wants to make like he has a life and has no time for her but despite his busy schedule has made time for her. She becomes even more smitten so he takes her to a movie.

15) After the movie, he tries the hand reach and tries to hold her hand. He does and she blushes.

16) He invites her for a drink at his house. She says it’s getting late and she is expecting him to kiss her on the lips. He kisses her on the lips.

17) Guy has a real good chance at getting laid. He sends her a text message and reminds her that he had a really great time last night. She’s smitten and showing the text message to her co-workers and friends.

18) You can’t wait so you call her the next day and set up another date ASAP.

19) You invite her over to your house for dinner. You cook her an elaborate meal.

20) Pop a bottle of wine and make-out in the living room and then you sleep with her. You bid her goodnight and tell her you will call.

21) She never hears from you again.

Irishmen;

1) Get yourself drunk enough to get the balls to walk up to a woman and talk to her.

2) Buy her drinks and get her drunk and make her laugh a lot.

3) You both stumble drunk to her place and end up in bed.

4) Once you finally become sober, you both realise you’re married.

5) To each other.

bookmark_borderChildhood Lessons

Was chatting to a new woman at work the other day, she’s from Ireland too and I asked her how many brothers and sisters she has, she told me eight including herself, I beat her by one as there were nine of us not counting parents when I was growing up but then I asked the non-Irish around the table and the most was five, and for everyone else it was one or two.

Having so many brothers and sisters wasn’t all that bad, for starters the toilet seat was always warm because invariably someone had just got off it, this was particularly advantageous during the bitterly cold winters and doubly so when we only had an outside loo, doing ‘the back door trot’ during those days was a test of endurance . There was a game we played at birthday parties called musical chairs and I always won because it was just like being at home – as soon as one of your brothers or sisters got up to go somewhere you immediately sat in that nice warm space they had vacated  – and this was especially true when it came to the toilet. Between six brothers, two sisters, mum, dad, assorted friends, dogs and cats, assorted friends dogs and cats..well, there really wasn’t enough space to ermmm swing a cat (as the cat can testify).

Just to make matters worse, the house was divided into the ‘sitting’ room and the ‘good’ room, we spent our evenings crammed into the sitting room watching the telly (or attempting to peer over older siblings shoulders) and arguing which of the three channels to watch (Scooby-doo on BBC1 or Wacky Races on ITV) but ‘The Good Room’ as it was referred to was strictly out of bounds, that space was sacrosanct, you only went in there when summoned, it was like being summoned into the Headmasters office at school, you knew that it meant you were in trouble and you never went there intentionally. It was exactly the same size as the sitting room but because it didn’t contain sprawling bodies, dogs, cats, piles of ironing, clothes drying in front of a smoky fire, comics, every newspaper printed since the dawn of time and assorted broken toys it seemed to be the size if the school assembly hall, I’m sure my voice echoed when in there. It was the room my parents kept good for visitors and contained a nice suite of furniture and a coffee table. My parents would have visitors in there – ok well my mother would have visitors and chinwag away in there as my dad would invariably have his visitors in the garden shed where he would smoke a pipe, whittle a bit of wood with a penknife and ‘chew the cud’ with his one or two friends.

Life at home was a bit cramped at times, as we all got older we gather up more and more friends and at times the houses did seem like it was under attack by a plague of locusts, privacy was non-existent and I have no idea how my two sisters survived with any dignity at all in that swarm of bodies. I had to share a bedroom with Colin, Terry and Gerald and it wasn’t just a bedroom; clothes, underwear, socks and just about everything else was fought over, I think the first time I wore a pair of matching socks was when I was seventeen – which was about the first time I wore ‘brand new underwear’ as I had bought them myself. You won’t understand what a treat it was to wear socks that only had the required amount of holes (one!) and underwear that hadn’t been passed down from your great grandfather and didn’t have the texture of sandpaper.

Growing up in the Northern Irish version of the Waltons did have it’s advantages, it was always easy to blame someone else (younger and more gullible) for any crimes and misdemeanour’s (of which there were many) and one did learn to fend for me’self at an early age and not to be afraid to stand my ground and fight someone much bigger than myself. This has become pattern throughout the rest of my life – as practically every boss, supervisor, manager and bully that’s ever come across me will testify much to their own chagrin. 😉

 

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, part 13

Closer to the truth than most realise

So, think this is crimes and misdemeanours number 13 and it would seem I have a lot to confess to..  I’ve had a job ever since I was 11yrs old; from delivering milk before school to a paper round after school and since the age of 16 and a half when I started working full time I’ve done just about every job except barman which I kind’a regret because it’s a handy skill to have when you’re trying to establish yourself somewhere new.

Anyway, things I really need to fess up to…

When I was sixteen I spent one Christmas holiday working on the production line of the Cantrell & Cochrane factory, we made bottles and cans of lemonade and it was the second most boring job I ever did. However…  the nightshift used to be fun for a couple of reasons, first of all most of the staff came into work to sleep, as a general rule if you didn’t sleep the first night then you slept the second night, it was the unofficially rule and a lot of the staff had part-time day jobs like Firemen and so when they got called out to a fire during the day then they would come in and sleep. And there was a lot of trading to and fro, if you were feeling really rough then you’d swap sleeps with someone and s/he would sleep the next night. Management didn’t know about this because the foremen did the exact same thing and management always knocked off at 5pm.

So, that was a nice little earner, on the nights when I was watching the production line I was busy and kept awake because I was doing the work of two but the next night I slept but got paid for it. Excellent. It was a nice little introduction to shift work and when I worked as a nurse there did seem to be a lot of nurses sleeping in the cupboards during the dead of the night, not for the full shift but some staff would take extended breaks and when the matron in charge came around you told her that the missing nurse ‘had only just’ went for break a few minutes ago.

The other thing that was good working for Cantrell & Cochrane was that we produced cans of own brand Coke and there was an interesting trick we could do (and did) on the line. What would happen was that the cans got filled with coke and then went into a huge machine that rammed on the aluminium tops to the cans, but the operator could slow the line down and this meant someone could make additions to the coke.. So, the party trick for most of the staff there was to top up a couple of dozen cans of coke with vodka and then once the lids went on collect them on the other side and take them home. Then next time they went to a house party they already had pre-mixed drinks. This proved particularly popular at events like concerts because the bouncers would quite happily let you in with cans of coke but would confiscate any alcohol… little did they know..

Cantrell & Cochrane was the second most boring job, the most boring job was working for Canadian Tapes in Bangor. I did that for about three months before I had to leave or slit my wrists, it was that mind numbing boring. I spend almost three months working in a lab doing mind numbingly boring repetitive work a trained monkey could do (better).

However, even here there was the opportunity to mess around. We made sellotape, day and night, the production lines never stopping – except for two weeks in the summer when all factories in Norn Iron shut down and Bangor emptied due to the mass exodus of everyone to Benidorm or Tenerife, the ‘July Fortnight’.

I, on the other hand, was too poor to go to Spain with all the other plebs so I would carry on working and that meant spending two weeks cleaning the factory.

Now, the thing to remember is that sellotape is tape covered in glue and Canadian Tapes had LOTS of glue…effing huge vats the size of houses for mixing up the glue and gradually over the months these vats would get a thick layer of glue slowly building up inside them. Eventually someone had to go into the vats with big scrappers and scrap the glue off the walls and floor of the now empty vats and that job fell to summer students and yours truly.

So, myself and half a dozen other kids would spend a few hours in these vats breathing in glue fumes. I don’t know if anyone else has tried nitrous oxide aka laughing gas but spending even a few minutes in one of these vats basically gets you high for free, in fact we actually got paid for it. This was in the days before Health & Safety became such a major concern, so for two weeks we scrapped and hacked the hardening glue off those walls and we spent practically the entire two weeks splitting our sides laughing. Seriously, it’s what I imagine it’s like to smoke really good weed, we just got the giggles from the moment we walked into the vats until we got home, someone would just burst out laughing for no reason at all and that was it, we were all practically ROFL in hysterics, I honestly haven’t laughed so much in my whole life and I think I would have done that cleaning job for no pay. I couldn’t understand why all the other factory workers didn’t want to do it, it was excellent. What I couldn’t also understand was, why didn’t the management give us gas masks, we could have cleaned those vats out in two days rather than two weeks if we could stop laughing and saved them a lot of cash..

I was told that the effects of the fumes wouldn’t have any long term effects. I’m not so sure, twenty five years later and I still burst out laughing with minimal prompting,  I suspect because of my two weeks working in those vats that my brain is now just hard-coded to find humour in just about everything, my long suffering work mates despair with me 🙂

bookmark_borderDried Water Anyone?

Non Fattening.

I think I’m going to have to make a new category called ‘Rain’ on this blog because I write about it so much. I was awoken at 5am this morning by the sound of rain pelting against my bedroom window. It’s kind’a ironic because one of the reasons …ok ok the main reason I left Northern Ireland was because of the awful weather and yet it seems to be following me, perhaps I have my own personal rain cloud like Jim Carry in The Truman Show or there’s a thunderstorm up there in the sky with my name on it. I’m starting to think I’m going to have to move a lot further than London to get away from my nebula horribilis.

I have a friend in Perth, Australia (Happy Australia Day BTW!) who occasionally mentions the searing heat there so I’ve been thinking what I can do to rebalance the equation, so I get six months of her sunshine and she can have six months of our rain. And then I was thinking about all those other countries that don’t get enough water but deserve it because they sit and gloat all the time about their nice weather; basically most of California really.

So I’ve decided that the solution (groan) to this imbalance is to export our rain to California and Perth. This isn’t really that difficult to do, you see, I could send a few sachets of dried water in the mail and this would redress the imbalance. When the sachets of dried water arrive then the users simply have to add water, what could be easier? For example, if I send a one litre sachet of dried water then the instructions on the side of the pack would read;

“To make one litre of water, carefully cut off the top of the sachet and mix the contents with one litre of water. It is advisable to wear waterproof clothing when undertaking this hazardous procedure.”

I’m really not sure why no one has thought of this before. But you see, I can also make much larger quantities of water, for example, I could send a sachet for 1,000,000 litres of dried water and by a miracle of modern science the packets of dried water would actually weigh exactly the same, one simply mixes the contents with 1,000,000 litres of water. Of course this miracle of science can be extended to the kitchen when making beverages but it’s important to remember that one must boil the water before making a cup of tea or coffee.

I await my Nobel prize.

 

bookmark_borderSam’s Story

Yup, a shotgun is involved in this tale..

The one and only time I met my biological father was when I was 19. Well.. I say ‘met’ but that would give a false impression, he shoved me out of the way as he ran past me and out of my life, this time forever.

When you’re growing up with adoptive or long term foster parents there’s a missing bit of a jigsaw in your head, it’s there constantly and it’s like an itch and until you scratch it it’s always going to be there, popping into your consciousness at unexpected moments, like when you are having a medical and they ask about your fathers medical history. The missing jigsaw piece is; what does your biological mother and father look like, what are they like as people, what health issues have you inherited from them…what are you going to look like when their age… Not all adoptive/fostered children think like this, some are more than happy to accept the loving parents they have now but for some kids there is this need, this desire to find that last missing piece of the jigsaw and put it in it’s place.

So, when around 18 or so my twin sis and I met our biological mother Doris, we had found Doris and that was frankly shocking, not what either of us had expected but our biological father was another kettle of fish. Doris told us very very little, just that her and Sam had met in church, dated, she fell pregnant and she was sent to Belfast to stay with his cousins during all her term, she had us, we were put up for fostering and she returned back to Kilkeel and nothing more was said of her time away.

I asked her about this on her last trip over here and she said that she saw us for a few minutes but Sam stayed down in his farm in Kilkeel and didn’t want anything to do with us so never saw us. I’ve actually no idea how anyone can give away a child, let alone twins and I wouldn’t like to ever have to be in that position, I know what it’s like from the childs perspective and I’m sure it’s even harder for the mother.

So, 19yrs old and still living in Ireland. We asked the Social Services where our birth father lived and they didn’t know, on our birth certificate the fathers name is blank so one Monday sis, with John (her then boyfriend doing the driving) and I drove the 50 miles down to Kilkeel.

We knew he was called Sam Keown and gradually we had weedled out of Doris that he lived in Leitrim Hill Farm, so on the OS map it was easy to see that Leitrim Hill was just outside Kilkeel so we drove there trying to find Leitrim Farm. The hill turned out to be a bit of a mountain and there were quite a few farms on it and the start of a housing estate..

So anyway, we asked around and we found this old guy tending cattle on the hillside, we asked if he knew where Leitrim Hill Farm was and he asked why; we said we were doing some family tree research and wanted to find the Keowns. He looked at us, in that suspicious way farmers do to out-of-towners and said it was three miles up the road and first farm on the left but you don’t want to be going there, they were all ‘a bit mad’ and they might chase you off their farm…

So we thanked him and drove on and found the farm, it was very ramshackle and run down but obviously a working farm, cattle in the shed and someone out cutting silage in the fields.

John parked the car in the farmyard and said “OK.. so now what?”

Sis and I looked at each other and I said “well, I’d better go and knock the door” ..as you do.. many thoughts spun through my head, what do you say to your father whom you’ve never met.. .“surprise surprise!”  “guess who?”  ..”hello, you may not remember me but do you remember this broken condom?”  .. Neither of us had given much thought (or even any thought) as to what to do if we met Sam and now the moment had arrived my mind was blank and my heart pounding.. so many ‘what if’s…’

So off I wandered and went to the door, there were glass panels on the door and I could vaguely see inside, looking closely I could see obvious movement inside, lights were on and a few old rusty cars in the driveway, so, completely unprepared, I took a deep breath and knocked on the door….

There was no answer……

I knocked again….

There was still no answer but I could hear people moving around……

So I opened the door, and peered in…despite it being 11am it was dark and gloomy and as my eyes adjusted to the gloom I could see two women and two men down the hall in a kitchen. they were sitting at a table looking like they were having soup, they all looked really rough and unkempt, the two men were unshaven and had really tattered clothes on and the two woman looked like they were dressed in rags, they looked very pale and thin and had a maniac look in their eyes, it looked like a scene from Oliver Twist, not at all inviting.

And they all just carried on eating, ignoring me completely.

I wasn’t really prepared for this – in fact I wasn’t really prepared for anything and hadn’t really a clue what to do, the last thing I thought would happen would be that I was ignored, so I shouted down the hall “excuse me, I’m looking for Sam Keown, ..is he here” at which point they stared at one of the men, stared.. more like glowered at him….

So I said “excuse me, are you Sam Keown?” at which point he suddenly stood up, threw his bread down, pushed the other bloke out of the way and came running at me!

I thought FUCK! He’s going to attack me or stab me! and I stood back, he came running at me and sort of shoulder charged me, pushed me against the doorframe and went running past. I was a bit surprised (to say the least!) but he just carried on running out the door, he ran across the yard and jumped into a red beat up Datsun, started it up and drove off at speed, just narrowly missing Johns car….

I tried to regain some composure and asked the others if that was Sam Keown but they ignored my questions and shouted at me to go away, to get off their property. The remaining bloke reached up and grabbed a shotgun that was on a high shelf. I watched him snap it open to insert cartridges in it – at which point I thought it would be prudent to leave…quickly…so I went out to the car again and sis was standing there… I told her quickly what had happened and we need to leave NOW just as the other three appeared at their doorway, one with a shotgun. We left in a hurry.

So that was the only time I ever saw my biological father Sam, when he was running past, trying to knock me over…but I have that image fixed in my mind like it happened only yesterday.

So we thought “’what now?” and we left the property and drove around a bit, then I decided that I wanted to find out more so we drove to the neighbouring farm. It was a modern house and it seemed pretty normal – by Kilkeel standards anyway..

I went to the door and introduced myself and said I was looking for some information about the people next door. The old couple there were very sweet and invited us in and told us the story..

Apparently the farm had been in the Keown family for generations, they were cattle farmers but they were a bit eccentric to say the least, they didn’t have electric or running water, they never had bank accounts and paid for everything in cash, they were marched off to church every Sunday in the same suit they had all their lives, they rarely spoke to anyone and hadn’t moved on from the Victorian age, the person who knew the most about them was the local minister. Their parents – our grandparents I suppose, started off that way of life and when they died the four kids just carried on with it

There were two sisters and two brothers but the sisters ruled the roost with an iron fist, if one of the “boys” didn’t do exactly what they asked they basically got whipped with this cane, they totally dominated the boys and wouldn’t let them go out with other girls, the only time they were allowed out to socialise was to go to church (where Sam meet Doris). They lived on bread, jam and tea for every meal and they never ever bought anything new. Sam was a bit of a rebel (doh!) and when he managed (somehow!) to get Doris pregnant it was them that arranged for Doris to go live in Belfast. Apparently Sam wanted to marry Doris at the time but they were having none of it, they just beat the shit out of him.

The family were well known throughout Kilkeel as a bit (very!) eccentric, none of them ever passed a driving test but Sam used to take the cattle to the market in this beat up old lorry and it was so slow and wobbly there was no danger of him killing anyone. This was the back sticks of Ireland during the 60’s, the police never interfered in the farming community them days.

About 6 months after that little adventure, Doris sent me a letter and said – in passing mind you, that Sam had died about a month ago,  I asked her when did she know, she said “Oh, the day it happened but didn’t think you would be interested..”

Then within 18 months the rest of the family died, the two sisters first and the brother – I think he was called Tom couldn’t look after himself and he was found dead after the police broke into his house. The neighbours helped the local council to clean out the house which was declared uninhabitable by the local council. In some drawers he found curtains and clothes from the 1940’s still wrapped up in paper and string, he found old gramophones and china and furniture from the previous century.

A long time later after we had discovered that they had all died it seemed they left the house and land to some distant relative and that was that, apparently the land was sold off and the book was closed but I will always remember the that day when Sam ran past me, I have it ingrained in my head and at least I know generally what I’ll look like when I am old(er) – the wild man of Borneo.. Actually, I think I look like that now. As Sam ran past me I made a mental note of certain things, his height, his weight and was he bald, I don’t have his height or weight, I’m taller and slimmer but I definitely have his hair, absolutely.

I tackled Doris about Sam years later and she would never talk about him, she just wanted that episode in her life to disappear but her neighbours, the McGregor’s were a bit more forthcoming.  When she fell pregnant with us and went to Belfast it was common knowledge what was going on and when she came back it just wasn’t talked about – to her face but as it is in country towns everybody knew. It seems that about when we were 10 years old, Doris’s dad died and she thought she might get back together with Sam, get married and “bring us together in one big happy family”. Of course by this time Sam was long off the scene and  basically told her to get lost but I do have a memory of her coming to visit us at that time so maybe that was a very close call for sis and me, life with the Johnston’s was awful but infinity infinitely better than living with Doris, out in the sticks with no electricity, running water, rat infested cottage, no radio even and constant reading of the bible every day. It’s interesting just how everything is a matter of perspective, we were desperately unhappy with the Johnstons but it was heaven compared to the alternative.

I’ve talked to Doris more these last few years about Sam and slowly she has told me more, it’s important to know these things because Doris won’t be around forever and the opportunities to find out about my past is limited. However, some things you don’t really want to hear, one thing in particular was that Sam was a bit of a shit, he wasn’t really that nice a person and the real reason why Doris didn’t marry him was because she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life with a shit, so it was her decision not to marry Sam but to have us put up for long term fostering.

In life we have examples of how to be but we also have examples of how not to be, the astute can take on-board the negative examples and know that they have no excuses now; they can’t misbehave because they have excellent examples of how not to be. There’s a Greek expression, “Na einai kalitero anthropo apo ton patera tou” which roughly translates as “Be a better man than your father”.  I fully intend to be.

 

bookmark_borderHatch’em, Match’em, Dispatch’em

An Irish FUNeral

Many years ago I watched a documentary on the telly about meerkats in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana. They would go off in little groups foraging for food and at the end of the day they would come back to the main nest and the groups would be all over each other, sniffing, greeting and getting reacquainted again and the social structure would be re-established.

I was reminded of the meerkats yesterday; I was at a funeral and once we left the graveside and came back to the convent where the reception was being held I witnessed much the same behaviour that the meerkats did. There was a great coming together of the extended family and close friends and everyone seemed to know absolutely everyone else, there was much sniffing, touching and even the pecking of cheeks and I could see the bonds between each member being renewed and strengthened.. And then I noticed something else, the matriarch of the clan was gone and I could see the younger females all subtly moving up the ladder one step, taking over roles and jostling/manoeuvring into different positions of authority within the extended social circle. There were an equal number of men there but they all seemed oblivious to this, perhaps it’s because I’m an outsider and I can step back and observe, I have no vested interest who becomes the next  matriarch.

There’s many similarities between weddings and funerals, for example, it’s really only on hatch’em, match’em, depatch’em occasions that I get to wear a suit these days. Funerals are aberrations as far as I can tell, funerals are not for the dead, they are for the living, the dead are past caring. We have this idea of the funeral being focused solely on the one who’s passed away, with moving tribute’s but that’s not what I witnessed yesterday, yes, the church service was solemn (actually it was dreadfully boring and full of religious clichés that I doubt even the priest believed) but as soon as everyone got into the reception then it was like “ok, that’s that out’a the way, now to chinwag with Arthur, I haven’t seen him for years..”. Just like a wedding really. It reminds me of the old joke about Irish weddings and funerals; what’s the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish funeral? There’s one less drunk at the Irish funeral…and there’s many a truth told in jest, I’ve been to funerals before where fights have started, of course this was in Ireland and that’s pretty bog stand behaviour.  And it’s no wonder, even the word ‘funeral’ starts with those other three favourite letters of mine ‘fun’ and we Irish take this attitude of fun to our hearts and raise our glasses to the dearly departed, it’s a celebration of life, not a mournful death but I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy at a funeral and I realise I’m actually listening to it.

And there’s something else that both funerals and wedding have in common, we all get dressed up and put on our best clothes and some of us even get invites but it’s important to read the dress code instructions carefully, ‘somber’ while only 2 letters apart from ‘sombrero’ is a world apart in tone. Apparently.

And one more similarity, when I was much much younger I used to go the wedding and the old dolls would poke me in the chest like witches and cackle “You’re next!” but now I’m 50 I go to funerals and poke them in the chest and cackle “You’re next!” Is that evil of me? Am I going to Hell? Too effing right I’m going to Hell, care to join me?

bookmark_borderThe French Mistress

Perpétuent les stéréotypes .. moi?

After three years of learning how to survive in the sprawling jungle called Bangor Boys High School I was expected to buckle down for the last two years and actually start studying for our ‘O’ Levels in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, English, Technical Drawing and Wood/Metal Work. You will note there’s no foreign languages there and there’s a reason for that, you see, in Fourth Form Miss Wylie started at the school to teach French and her classes were immediately over-subscribed. It’s not an understatement to say she was the French version of Marilyn Monroe, she had big hair, the most perfect nichons imaginable and butt cheeks that adhered to her skirt like two water melons covered in cling-film. When she reached down to pick something up 32 pubescent boys swooned in unison.  She would come over to us and breathing heavily in zee French axe-scent would talk us through our pronunciation.. at this point the recipient of her attention would just melt into a puddle onto the floor. We had pupils, obviously sick and on their death beds happily drag themselves in for just French and then plead illness and crawl home.

One day she caught two of the guys cheating in a test and for punishment she kept them in for detention after class for an hour to practice French with her. Jammy buggers. They came to school next day with huge grins on their faces, a one-to-one with Miss Wylie wasn’t punishment, it was the stuff of dreams. Next day everyone cheated.

We had Miss Wylie for a whole month of heaven until suddenly and unexplained she left and we got Mr Murrey instead. You can’t imagine our disappointment. He was as different from Miss Wylie as chalk is from cheese, not only that but he had a moustache, a cane, a leather strap and a nasty habit of throwing zee wooden blackboard cleaner at you if your attention wandered for more than a millisecond.

He spent the first lesson talking to us in complete gibberish, a language one would think the London Leprechaun would be fluent in but sadly not when he was fourteen. He was actually talking to us in French at the level he expected us to be at but it turned out that during the past month we had absorbed not one iota of French from Miss Wylie apart from useful phrases like ‘tas de merde’, ‘c’est un vrai con’ and ‘bite, couilles’ and obviously ‘nichons’. Mr Murrey wasn’t impressed at all at how little French we had actually absorbed, ‘you pile of shit’ and ‘he’s a real arsehole’ wasn’t ever going to feature in an ‘O’ Level exam paper, though to be honest if it did then the entire class would have achieved 100% pass rate. Perhaps the examination board should review the syllabus and include a few more dubious phrases, that way we’d enjoy it and the pass rate would soar.

I went to Paris in the autumn and missed the last train back home so I found a hotel for the evening and wanted to use their computers to book another train home in the morning. Their computers were absolutely merde so I complained to the sneary concierge who simply shrugged his shoulders and said ‘Je n’aime pas, monsieur’, it’s a shame that neither Miss Wylie nor Mr Murrey taught us proper French sign language because I know just from his shrug that this  translated into “I don’t care, life is indeed a pile of shit but tonight it’s not my pile of shit, it’s your pile of shit..” and with that he went back to inspecting his fingernails, you see, it’s all in the shrug.. I, of course, replied with ‘Tá tú chomh tiubh is leath aoileach ach amháin mar atá úsáideach’ which roughly translates from Irish as ‘you are as thick as manure but only half as useful’ and shrugged my shoulders too.. who says entente cordiale is dead?

bookmark_borderMerry Christmas

Bah Humbug on Christmas day is not an option

In the twenty five years I’ve lived in London, or should I say London’s reluctantly put up with me, I’ve never had a white Christmas but in Northern Ireland it’s a much more frequent occurrence. From the ages of eleven to sixteen I helped my older brother deliver milk and usually that involved trudging through the rainy streets of Bangor, cold and wet and looking forward to 1 Old Belfast Road, our last delivery and then it was off to school for me. As a general rule, apart from the postmen and the odd person doing The Walk Of Shame, we’d be the only ones awake and up, the vast majority of house lights would be off with the good folk of Bangor safely tucked up in bed, lovely and cosy, dreaming away whilst Raymond and I trudged around the streets and up their drives delivering milk. It could be a bit lonesome, him, me and the odd ferocious dog chasing us down the streets but around 6:30am we would start to see bedroom lights coming on as folk dragged their fat asses out’a bed and got ready for work.

However, on Christmas morning it was a completely different kettle of fish. We would see lots of houses with the lights on much earlier, sometimes even at 4:30 in the morning, and not just one bedroom light but all the lights and we knew there was a house with kids in it, we could even hear them talking excitedly and occasionally at 6am we’d see some child out on a new bicycle that Santa had brought, too excited and impatient to wait to try it out and riding it up and down the street. Invariably the parents would be standing at the bottom of the garden path watching them, nearly always dressed in their dressing gowns half smiling but knowing they had a snowballs chance in hell of getting back to bed.

One Christmas morning it had snowed quite heavily, a downer for kids with new bicycles – not like that didn’t stop them trying – but wonderful for me. There’s something special about snow, especially at Christmas, I have very clear  memories of doing my milk round through virgin snow, the air is always incredibly still when it’s snowed, the world quieten and the only sound is of your boots crushing the snow with each step.. magical. As a milkman – or should I say milkboy – one tried to be invisible, you want to deliver the milk quietly and not wake up the street and this is why we used electric milkfloats and by and large we were invisible – except to large dogs – and Jehovah Witnesses.  The whole world is transformed when it snows, snow makes everything clean and white but more than that it makes everything look like we are living in a fairy tale. Occasionally we would see tracks in the snow, tracks of foxes as they went about their nightly business but mostly Raymond and I would have the virgin snow all to ourselves and it was like a blank canvas, waiting for us to start filling it in with the tyres of the milk float and our clodhopper boots. We were always a bit quieter on these snowy morning, like we knew this was a special morning, something to be savoured – though of course Raymond would occasionally lob a snowball at the back of my head when I least expected it to wake me up!

In Australia it’s the height of summer and one of my friends will be on a beach watching Santa arrive on a surf board whilst she cooks Christmas lunch on a barbeque, it’s  strange to think of her catching a few rays whilst unwrapping Christmas presents but to steal a line from a 1954 movie White Christmas, which I’m sure will be shown many times around the world,  ‘May your days be merry and bright; and may all your Christmases be white’ – even in Australia! Merry Christmas everyone.

bookmark_borderThe Gucci Coochie

One is not pleased.

So, I’ve mentioned before that I’m glad I’m not a woman, after spending an evening feeling really bloated after a dodgy risotto I now know I can never get pregnant…yes, pathetic man I know, however, it’s come to my attention that there are other reasons to be grateful that I’m a man and one of them is that I’ve never actually had to have my bits waxed. I watched The 40 year Old Virgin and he had his chest waxed and stripped and I saw the look on his face and believe me, it wasn’t one of pleasure. Actually, I tell a lie, when I was 14 I had to go into Newtownards hospital to have my appendix removed and as I was still considered a child I was put in the children’s surgical ward. Before the op the Sister came along, inspected my abdomen and told me I would need to be shaved from ‘nipple to knee’, a common procedure in 1970’s Irish hospitals. She asked if I wanted a male or female nurse to shave me bits and as puberty was in full flood through my veins I thought it prudent to choose a male nurse as I didn’t want to disgrace myself in the sweet tender hands of some lovely female nurse.

I remember it being really itchy when it grew back.

My sister bought me my first electric razor when I was 15 and at that age I think I could rub my bum-fluff off my chin with a damp towel, however I went on a ski-ing holiday when 16 and Kurt Savage, one of my class mates mentioned to me half way through the holiday that he had borrowed the shaver the night before to shave the hair off his butt. I was grossed out because he choose to tell me as I was having a shave at the time, and yes, he was very hairy but you think he’d have his own shaver by then. This is what 16 yr old boys get up to, we try to grow up as soon as possible.

Now as a reasonably hairy 50 year old male I find the idea of getting all my short and curlies ripped out as somewhat unappetising, what modern woman go through is enough to bring tears to my eyes. I’ve had to go to the GP and have my prostate stroked, not as pleasurable as they say in the some less salubrious websites that umm a friend of mine visits but exposing my most intimate parts is kind’a ok in the doctors surgery because I know it’s to avoid prostate cancer. However, going to some salon and exposing your most intimate parts to a complete stranger, not for health reasons but for social/aesthetic reasons is something I’m keen going to avoid.

I was discussing this recently with a friend and she used an expression that not only made me snigger but also went some way to explaining the reasons for enduring this torture, she mentioned she didn’t want to look like a clown when wearing a bathing suit and it took me a few seconds to figure that one out. Pubic shaving actually originated in ancient Egypt and Greece when prostitutes had to shave for both hygienic reasons and as a clear sign of their profession. Although female body shaving was established as the norm between 1915 and 1945, pubic hair removal did not gain a strong foothold until the 1980s, part of the reason was because of the porn industry (umm.. so a friend informs me) but also because swimsuits tended to get more and more revealing and if you were very hairy then the danger of looking like Krusty the Clown down there increased greatly.

But it’s very very strange, female friends of mine go to salons, strip off, assume some very unlady like positions, have a total stranger discuss and inspect their private parts in detail, then paste molten wax on said parts and apply paper and rip it off… AND they get paid to do this torture??  I wonder about this, I’m going to assume it is always a woman who carries out this torture – ummm I mean treatment but are there any men doing this to woman, and is the salon called Helga’s House Of Pain..and is there an age limit, will woman continue to have their bits waxed when they are in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s? I try to go to the same hairdresser each time because whenever I go to another one I’m never happy with the haircut and I wonder if it’s the same with woman, do you try to go to the same ‘stripper’ each time..

And I recently learnt of another new term recently, ‘landing strip’, and I had to think about this too, I assume it’s called a landing strip because in some instances that’s where your man’s chin lands before feasting on the delights below. However, there seems to be a little cottage industry in landing strips and one can get them eventually in shapes that please, little hearts for the romantic, lighting bolts or you can even get it shaped into logos, the Gucci coochie as it’s referred to. Personally I think shaping your landing strip into the shape of an Irish three leaf clover would be fun, not for me of course but can you imagine telling your females friend’s you’ve done that in honour of your Irish boyfriend, I suspect they would roar with laughter…

And then if you dyed it green…

One of my friends tells me that it’s becoming more and more common for men to shave their bodies too and in fact go through much the same procedure, especially in the States, personally this is one trend I’m kind’a keen not to follow, I think I’m ok because wearing Speedos has gone out of fashion in the swimming pool these days and it’s too friggin cold in this country and one needs all the insulation nature kindly provides. One of my brother-in-laws is like a silver backed gorilla, he’s of Greek extraction and his wife says it’s like sleeping with a hairy dog, she refers to him occasionally as Scooby Doo,  every time she curls up with him he tickles her just by being so hairy and she complains about the amount of hair left in the bed when it’s molting season, yes, apparently he molts in the Spring but like I said to her; surely you knew all this before you married him, surely like a new car you took him out for a trail run and sweetheart, you make your hairy bed and you lie in it. She says he’s got hairier as he’s got older and by the time he’s 60 in 15 years time he really will resemble a silver back gorilla. She’s asked him about waxing his back at least but being another pathetic man he says he’ll need a general anaesthetic each and every time.

I think I’m kind’a lucky being born when I did, my generation tend not to get shaved anywhere other than the chin but I think peer pressure (or female pressure) will make sure that the coming generation will find themselves visiting Helga’s House Of Pain just as frequently as their girlfriends.

Oh, found this little gem on a bone fide medical site “It is interesting to note that the lack of hair around the anus will make it impossible to pass gas silently.”  Well, that does it for me, I’m definitely not getting me butt waxed.

bookmark_borderThe Accidental Girlfriend

Works for me!

I had to go pick beasties up last night from Tooting Bec and on the way there I passed Tooting Broadway tube station and saw a sight I haven’t seen for a while, it was blokes standing outside the tube awaiting their dates, each obviously made some effort and each looking up at the station entrance as someone emerged. It’s a scene I am somewhat familiar with as when I lived in Northern Ireland and didn’t drive it was always at the local bus station where you met your date, it was the same scene, one I’m sure is repeated the world all over, guys just hanging around, best shoes, coolest clothes (despite the cold rain) and freshly groomed..

..and the sense of anticipation..

A long time ago I was working as a manager of a large grocery store in Bangor, Northern Ireland and Caroline, a new girl started working in the canteen. She was nice and friendly and over the ensuing weeks myself and my bunch of reprobates got more and more friendly with her. One Saturday lunchtime I happened to mention that we were all going to catch the latest blockbuster movie at the local flea pit and perhaps she’d like to join us, it would be chaotic but fun. She said sure, why not and I arrived to meet her at the Bangor bus station along with a few others from the gang. So come seven pm and there’s about a dozen of us waiting at the bus station, a few of the gang get off various buses and we wait for everyone else – this is before mobiles – and then the Newtownards bus arrives and Caroline gets off. She spots us, waves, smiles and comes over and, astonishingly, gives me a little peck on the cheek and takes my hand as we start making our way to the picture house.

I was somewhat surprised, I should add pleasantly surprised for many reasons, I didn’t actually ask her there on a date, it was just as a part of our big group, I was as ugly as sin and there is no way she’d be interested in me but I managed to cover my surprise and act like I had asked her there for a date after all.

We went to the flicks and our gang messed around as usual rolling mint imperials all the way from the back row to the front of the cinema and chatting up members of the opposite sex sitting in front of us. At one point Caroline went to the loo and everyone in the gang took the opportunity to tell me what a dark horse I was, keeping a cracker like Caroline on the quiet! I of course played along and made out yes yes, I had been planning this all along but the reality was I was just as surprised as they were. My best friend Trevor later told me he was gutted as he had been planning to ask Caroline out the next week and I hadn’t mentioned my interest, I confessed to him that I was just as surprised as he was and he was even more gutted!

If only it was always so easy..

bookmark_borderSchool Daze

When I first came to London I had to learn table manners, or at least better table manners, at home it wasn’t thought of as bad manners to lick your knife during meals or lets be honest, use your fingers, but I remember getting the ‘looks could kill’ glare from then girlfriend as I sat there licking my knife during dinner with her parents, her eyes screamed bad words at me and I knew not why, what I didn’t know was that everyone else at the dinner table was glaring at me too over this faux pas but in my ignorance I was too busy chasing petit pois around my plate to notice.

Licking bits of cold metal isn’t something I make a habit of these days, well, not unless I want to starve but in Canada it’s said that if you lick a metal lamp post in the depth of winter then your tongue will stick to it. I’ve never tried that or felt the urge to lick anything metal outside the dining room but it appears to be a national pastime in Canada, at least according to Mr Google. I do wonder who discovered this and why would anyone be licking a lamp post in the middle of winter anyway and of course I’m curious now…hmmm I feel a trip coming on.. I have this image in my head of large swathes of Canadians attached to lamp posts and fighting for space with passing dogs, waiting for the spring when they can free themselves with cries of “free at last” just like MLK ..assuming their tongue isn’t still numbbbb.

So, lamp post licking isn’t my forte but I kind’a know how it feels because in my first primary school the toilet block was separate from the main building and one had to really need to go to the toilet during the winter. The toilet block was across the playground and the wind howled through it, it kept the air fresh (to say the least) but during the winter it was freezing cold in there, chilly on the willy and one didn’t hang around. The toilets themselves were actually metal – this was Northern Ireland in 1965 – and after trudging your way through the snow you’d be faced with the world’s coldest bog as we referred to them. You’d have to check all the cubicles and hope there was one with toilet paper as you jumped up and down impatiently, your bowels already gearing themselves up for a massive expulsion after a school dinner of prunes and custard, the most effective purgative known to man and beast. There was none of those new-fangled automatic toilets that wipe your arse with nice warm water and air like they have in Japan these days, in Trinity primary school you risked hypothermia exposing your lower cheeks to the elements and took your life in your hands every time you visited the bog in winter. As kids we learnt not to place our butt cheeks on the frozen metal surface out of fear of getting frozen to it and spending all of January and February attached to it. We knew that if we did then we would indeed get stuck, it was guaranteed because the older inmates – I mean pupils – had told us the story of how one of their lot had been stuck there all winter and had to eat his dinner on the toilet and have private lessons there too until Spring arrived – and the older pupils wouldn’t have lied…would they..? Consequently, Trinity Primary School produced a class of kids each year that knew very little about Canada but we all had excellent bladder and bowel control for you only used the school toilets in a dire emergency.

I spent my first three years at Trinity primary school and then we moved to Conlig, a little village in the arse end of nowhere that made the bright light (yeah, light, not lights!) of Bangor seem like Las Vegas in comparison and it was here that I endured years four and five. Conlig primary school was a four room building;  year’s 1,2 & 3 were taught in one room, year four and five in another room, year six and seven in the last classroom and the only other room was Assembly Hall/Dinner Hall/Sports Hall/Stage for Naivety Plays at Christmas.  It was a small village and even smaller school and I spent many a long hour staring out the window in a daze watching the assorted wildlife of Conlig use the school playground as a toilet. This was usually the local dogs who in those days roamed wild but one would see cats and squirrels and sometimes even foxes sniffing around the playground, especially after lunch hour when the opportunity for dropped food was highest.

There’s a scene in Monty Pythons ‘Meaning Of Life’ where John Cleese is teaching his class all about sex, it’s a sex education class and he hits the blackboard on the wall and a bed falls out in front of the pupils, then in walks his wife and lies down on the bed and he says to the class “OK, we’ll take foreplay as read’ and proceeds to make love to his wife in front of the class discussing his technique loudly. And of course the pupils are bored senseless and one of them is staring out the window daydreaming. And it’s the juxtaposition of all this, him making love to his wife in front of the pupils and they are so bored like in an English Literature class studying Henry The Fourth Part One or studying quadratic equations in mathematics.. and one day I had a similar experience at Conlig. Slightly. I was staring out the window one summer, bored to tears whilst the teacher was droning on about some dirge when I noticed a couple of dogs sniffing around the playground. Then two of the dogs started humping each other right in the middle of the playground – have these dogs no shame?  And so of course I woke up and said ‘HEY! look at those two dogs!’ and the whole class looked out the window, probably the entire school was looking out the window. These days the idea of having sex ‘al fresco’ is somewhat (ie VERY) appealing but I think I would choose my place carefully and definitely not in the middle of a primary school playground. Perhaps the dogs should have sold tickets. However, at this point one of the other kids said in all innocence (I think) “Miss, what are they doing?” and like the true pro she was, without missing  a beat she answered back “Oh, that dogs got a puncture and the other dog’s trying to pump her back up…” and with that we went back to our lessons..  For years after that I was sure that if two dogs got into a fight and bit one another then they would deflate and might even go flying into the air like an untied balloon. God, I was naïve… still am..

At my next Primary school, Bangor Central, I spent my final two years, years six and seven with Mr Iverson. He struck fear into all of us, he was ‘well hard’ as we would say, he had a cane and knew how to use it. We knew he was ‘well hard’ before even coming to Central because it was said that Iverson polished Hitler’s boots. We were told this by the outgoing pupils and we were suitably impressed – we had no idea who the hell Hitler was of course but the other pupils were very impressed and so were we.. and they wouldn’t lie to us ..would they?

Central Primary School had some good points and some bad points, by far the best point was indoor toilets, I considered this a real luxury – especially as I was living in a house with an outside privy so conversely I saved everything up for school in my last years rather than undertake the ‘back door trot’ at home. However the downside of Central was that there were a few bullies in the class I joined.  One guy in particular used to beat me up all the time, it was a pretty rough school, I was beat up all the time by the group of bullies in the class, they would take my lunch money and once  I actually was hospitalised and this was in year six. This set in a pattern that would later be repeated during my 20’s, the class bully would still take my lunch money when I was 25 – the only difference being that I would say “No, I don’t want fries with that..” as I handed over my lunch money.. ahhh, I tried not to gloat too much..  ha!

bookmark_borderTo pee or not to pee, that is the question

Idiots guide.

Hmmmm ..you know that point in your existence, the point just before you’re born and God says to you “OK my little spirit being, it’s time to choose, what do you want to be in this life, a man or a woman, ..you decide, it’s totally up to you” and I obviously choose to be a man and I can remember God saying “are you sure, after all, woman get to bring life into this world, they love so much more and so deeply, they have that special bond with their children and then there’s the added bonus of multiple orgasms….” and despite the attraction of ALL that I’m still glad I choose to be a man because I couldn’t cope with being preggers for nine months. I know this with certainty because I had a really nasty risotto the other day at lunchtime and spent the rest of the day feeling bloated, really bloated! It was awful, I was so full of gas I thought I was going to burst and if that’s what it’s like to be pregnant then you woman are more than welcome to it. If a man had to give birth then trust me, the human race would have died out long long ago, either that or artificial wombs would have been invented way before the steam engine.

When I did my nurse training I spent a few months on the Labour ward and had a fantastic time, I loved it but that’s because I was a man and had absolutely no insight into just how effing uncomfortable being pregnant really is. I used to say to my expectant mother’s when they came into the Labour room writhing in agony, “Hello, I’m dilated to meet you, I’m at your cervix”. It’s a wonder I wasn’t kicked out but at least it broke the ice (and maybe broke the waters too as they giggled). One reads about how wonderful being pregnant is and how some woman ‘glow’, in two months of working on the Labour ward I never saw anyone ‘glow’ except maybe in rage, usually at the poor unfortunate husband, if I had a nickel for every time I heard “you’re never coming near me EVER again!” then I’d be a rich man.

Of course I’m not equating one day of feeling really bloated with being pregnant for nine months (but being a pathetic man I will try my best), however it was interesting that I daren’t cough or sneeze for fear of peeing myself.  If someone had a knitting needle I would have quite happily allowed them to stick it in my tum and let all that gas out. Poor poor me. It reminded me of this.

When I was a kid and living in Conlig, Northern Ireland, the farmer up the road cut one of the fields of grass and left the cuttings in the field. There were a few mangy horses in the next field and somehow one of them managed to get into the freshly cut field and feasted on the large clumps of cut grass. The next day when we were coming home from school we noticed that the horse was laying on its side and looking very bloated, fit to burst in fact. I told the owner, he sighed and called the vet. The vet came, regarded the horse for a minute and told the owner that the horse had obviously been gorging on the grass next door and that a horse’s digestion system is not able to cope with large quantities of grass all at once so it was fermenting and producing copious amounts of gas. He went back to his van, retrieved a large metal knitting needle from a black bag and punctured the horse’s abdomen with it.  A crowd of us kids had gathered around as between thou and I this was the most exciting thing to ever happen in Conlig (and probably still is) and as the gas escaped from the horse’s abdomen every kid downwind immediately turned green and ran away, the stench was awful. The owner and vet just laughed but the horse got up almost immediately and obviously felt a large sense of relief as he went skipping off around the field.

That little tale reminds me of something else. When I was working in A&E (ER) as a student I had a bloke come in with a distended abdomen. He hadn’t had a pee for a number of days and an x-ray showed that his bladder was filled and distended massively. It was very obvious that his prostate was stuffed and blocking off his ureter completely and he would need a TURP (transurethral resection of prostate) but in the acute phase he needed to pee and the quickest way to achieve that was to insert a foley catheter. This man was in agony, complete agony which wasn’t helped by him spending the previous evening drinking pints at a stag party, his bladder was almost backed up into his kidneys and I lay him on the trolley to insert the catheter. BUT here’s the thing and if you are a woman you are going to have to take my word for this, if you are a nurse about to insert a foley catheter into any guy who has a blocked ureter, trust me, you can ask for his wallet, his car keys, even his house and he will without hesitation hand them over to you because he is in so much agony. Really, seriously, he would sign a blank cheque if you asked him and once that catheter is in and the pressure is off his bladder he is always as grateful as hell.

Reading that now, I’m not so sure I choose wisely at birth to be a man…oooeerrr

bookmark_borderLife’s Rewind Button – Part Deux

For a long long time in Northern Ireland the two communities, Protestant and Catholic argued, fought and caused a lot of heartache. It became almost a reflex that one side would take the opposing view of the other side, especially amongst the community elders and local politicians. However, there was one subject that all community elders were united on and that was sex, and sex education. Despite the need to reproduce, community elders were determined that no young person in Northern Ireland was going to have sex out of wedlock (and probably not in wedlock either). I suspect not much has changed these days in Norn Iron.

They say that ignorance is bliss, but I’m not convinced, they also say that sex is hereditary, if your parents never had it then neither will you. My parents never had sex. No-one in Northern Ireland ever had sex, at least that’s the impression I got from my parents as a testosterone sodden teenager. It was a taboo subject, never ever to be discussed, (exactly the same as when I asked our minister what happens to you when you die, uncomfortable silence), discussion to be avoided at all costs. I find it kind’a ironic that sex was never discussed but my parents were obviously engaging in it as I had eight siblings so they had engaged in it at least eight – oops I mean nine times. The big family next door obviously engaged in it a lot more. You’d think the penny would have dropped and that the community elders/politicians/local government would have actually pushed for sex education as the birth rate went in the opposite direction of the rest of the western world. They even fought against contraception, the pill took a lot longer to reach Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK and down south in the Republic of Ireland contraception was actually illegal until 1980 and then severely restricted.

It’s interesting how attitudes have changed, if my mum found a packet of condoms in my pocket when I was a teenager or young adult I think I would have got roasted alive, however these days mothers are practically forcing them onto their teenagers. I have visions of some mum shouting out to some teenager as he’s leaving with his pals “Johnny, don’t forget your packet of rubber Johnny’s” much to his embarrassment.

We never had the Birds and the Bee’s talk and school certainly didn’t do sex education, at least not in the 70’s. Consequently my generation grew up in blissful ignorance about sex which lead to a couple of unfortunate and embarrassing incidents with my parents. I never had to suffer the embarrassment of a parent finding condoms in my jeans but there is indeed an endless list of things I did do as a teenager in all innocence (mostly) and looking back now I wish I could press that magical rewind button and erase a few (more) selected moments of my life.

I remember being about thirteen or fourteen and watching telly one Saturday afternoon. As usual it was crap weather outside so we were all glad just to be indoors and reasonably warm doing our favourite past time – watching the box. It was some BBC Bristol nature programme about Shire horses and of course didn’t they start talking about reproduction and siring the next generation and next thing you knew the farmer was getting one of the Shire horses to mount the mare.

Two things happened simultaneously at that moment in time, (a) I discovered what the term ‘hung like a horse’ really meant and (b) my mum jumped up out of her chair (a rare occurrence, let me tell you) and immediately pressed the buttons to switch channels (before remote controls) to ITV and complained about that nature programme being ‘very boring’, not sure if she meant the pun but we settled down into The Dukes of Hazard and once again two things happened simultaneously; (a) the ubiquitous saxophone music started playing as Daisy Duke started taking off what remained of her skimpy clothes and (b) I discovered what the term ‘voyeurism’ meant.

My mum was horrified and once again jumped up and tried switching the channels quickly only to return to the horses going at it with great gusto, and then did what she always did on these occasions, she had a sudden urge to engage me in intense conversation about my school work in a transparently obvious attempt to stop me watching Daisy Duke getting her kit off, one of the few times she asked me anything at all about school,  I half answered as I tried to see past her and get a much better view of Daisy’s dukes.

It was pretty obvious that my parents weren’t going to educate any of us in the ways of making whoopie despite the fact that sprogs continued to keep popping out with startling regularity but I can’t really blame them, they weren’t really equipped to deal with that kind of discussion, like everyone else my age I got my sex education from my peers and it wasn’t comprehensive or indeed all that accurate. To be honest I’m pretty certain that the last thing I wanted to learn from my parents was sex education, I’ve no idea just how that conversation would go but considering the very formal relationship I had with them then I suspect it would be pretty awkward.

One afternoon not long after the Shire horse episode I was asked by my school to bring in my birth certificate for some exam. My mum kept all that sort of stuff in a large trunk in her bedroom so rather than disturb her – she was chatting to my sister-in-law Cathy- I went on ahead and rummaged through the trunk trying to find my birth certificate.  I couldn’t find it but found this strange object instead. It was about six inches long, was made of cream coloured plastic and for all intensive purposes it looked like a torch, it had an on/off switch but instead of a bulb and lens it was sealed at the end. I thought this was strange, I tried twisting the end off like a cap to see if the bulb was under a protective cap but it was stuck firm so I switched it on and had the biggest fright of my life when it started vibrating.  I almost dropped it but was immediately enthralled, being very mechanically minded I loved to take things apart and figure out how they worked but this contraption was a mystery to me. So I switched it off and took it downstairs to the kitchen where mum was talking to Cathy and stupidly I switched it on and asked mum what was it for..

To say I was taken aback at the reaction would be an understatement, mum was immediately furious but strangely embarrassed, she swiftly grabbed the ‘torch’ out of my hand, put it in a drawer and whacked me on the side of the head really hard. I had no idea why but she told me to go to bed immediately and I went upstairs with my tail firmly between my legs wondering WTF just happened. Doh, press that Rewind Button please.

The other incident that highlighted my glaring lack of knowledge about sex happened around the same age. I had been at school with my friends and someone had used a word I’d never heard before, so that evening at home and surrounded by the extended family I thought it would be a good time to ask the following;

“Mum, what’s cunnilingus?”

Shocked pregnant pause..

Much older brother “It’s a terrible, terrible disease”

I couldn’t work out why he started laughing. Really hard.

I finally worked it out a while later. Doh, I’m still looking for that rewind button and it’s not just when I was a teenager but in more recent times too. I’m not sure if this only works in the UK but if you send a text to a UK landline number then British Telecom has this system which enables the phone to ring and when picked up then a computer program reads the text in a voice that used to sound like Stephen Hawkings but nowadays sounds like Tom Baker.

A few years ago I sent quite a somewhat risqué text message to my then girlfriend but rather than select her mobile I mistakenly selected her landline and pressed Send before I realised my mistake. She told me the next day that her dad who was visiting stumbled down the stairs at two o’clock in the morning and answered the phone only to shocked to hear Doctor Who talk dirty to him. Ouch! Press the Rewind button please.

I suspect it’s not going to be the last time I reach for that rewind button..

bookmark_borderHow To Speak Fluent Norn Iron; Part Six

I'm going back to sign language. Less mistakes.

I’ve mentioned before in this blog that it’s not a good idea to call Native Americans ‘Red Indians’ when visiting the states, not unless you want everyone to drop to the floor! Being a child of the 60’s and 70’s, the term was used every weekend at the local flea-pit (Queen’s cinema) as the cowboys fought the redskins. It’s easy to cause unintentional offence with obsolete terminology,  and especially confusing when there’s an American football team named the Washington Redskins, and the Redskins serve as the mascot of Red Mesa High School on the Navajo Reservation in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, go figure.

During my nurse training it was perfectly normal to refer to the Elderly Care wards as the Gerry’s ward – as in Geriatrics – and this was to our tutors. Now I am pretty sure Gerry’s is out and I suspect even Elderly Care is frowned upon, I think it’s referred to Care of the Aged now and during training terms like physically handicapped and mentally handicapped was perfectly acceptable but now handicap is only used during golfing conversations and the term disabled or disadvantaged is preferred.

I was talking to an American member of staff today and mentioned the ‘red’ faux pas to her and she agreed that if she hadn’t been sitting down then she would have fallen over if I used that term in normal conversation, however I went from one faux pas straight into another because I mentioned that her fringe needs trimmed and she looked at me quite shocked, apparently whilst fringe is a common term here in Europe, it’s called ‘bangs’ in America, where she comes from to have your fringe trimmed means something much more personal. Oops!

We all know over here that fag is a cigarette but means something completely different across the pond and beaver is a small water dwelling damn building forest animal – at least in this country but can mean your butt across the pond, fanny here is considered vulgar and not suitable for polite company but not considered that racey across the water. However, during my twenties in Northern Ireland and then in London we had terms, that as young lads we used all the time without a second thought.

Vincent Van Gogh – Rhyming slang for ‘cough’.  As in ‘That’s a nasty Vincent you’ve got there’. As a digression, we had a tutor at school called Mrs Chesnokov and whenever she was mentioned in conversation it was de rigueur to skip her name but to quickly touch your chest then knee and then cough; chest-knee-cough..  geddit?

Salad dodger – an extremely overweight person. Sometimes we would also say busted sofa – an overweight woman wearing a tight dress/trousers. As another digression, I once sat on a bus with my very young son only to be mortified as he said in a very loud voice whilst pointing to the lady sitting in front of us, ‘Daddy, that ladies very fat, isn’t she?’.  The young couple sitting behind us had to get off because for the next five minutes they tried and tried valiantly to supress their laugher before finally giving in to it.  So did the rest of the bus.

OK OK digression #2, when I was at Secondary school we had a tubby chap in our class called George Burns and being the horrible cruel kids that we were, his nickname was ‘Fat Burns’ and loved our cleverness as not only was he obviously fat but because, of course that fat does actually burn.

Aeroplane blond – this is a nursing term and no, it’s not about dumb blonde’s, it’s a phenomena one got used to seeing, especially in A&E (ER) Units, it’s a reference to an attractive woman who has dyed her hair but still has a black box.  As yet another digression, we once had an unconscious patient in A&E who had dyed her pubes green and had a tattoo ‘Come Lie On The Grass’ above it.  She needed to be prepped for emergency surgery so one of the nurses shaved her and wrote in ink above the tattoo ‘sorry, we had to mow the lawn’.

Pearl Harbour – cold weather. Rhyming slang.  “It’s a bit Pearl Harbour out there!”. Meaning it’s a bit nippy out there or there’s a nip in the air. This comes from the well-known surprise attack by Japanese planes on the American port in Hawaii in 1941. We would also say ‘it’s brass monkey weather out there’ meaning it would freeze the balls off a brass monkey, I had absolutely no idea where that came from but if you wish to be educated then click here.

Mork and Mindy – Rhyming slang for ‘windy’, i.e. “It’s a little bit Mork and Mindy today, innit?”. This isn’t actually a reference to the weather outside but this expression is always accompanied with a grin as you flap your hands around your rear end.  Speaking of which, I was reading a blog  (yes, mine actually) about life’s most embarrassing moments and this girl wrote that when in sixth form her teacher asked if anyone could do something unusual…like wiggle their ears or somersault…so this 16yr old said she could do a cartwheel. The teacher thought that’s a good trick so the entire class pushed all their desks back and she stood up to do her cartwheel, unfortunately as she was in the middle of it two things happened simultaneously

1) Her skirt fell down and everyone could see her awful Bridget Jones knickers..

2) She farted…REALLY LOUDLY

The entire class fell to the floor laughing and she was humiliated.. even the teacher laughed…

She left shortly after that and became an axe murderer..

Blouse Bunnies – you can probably figure this one out from the following totally true story. Into a Belfast pub comes Paddy Murphy, looking like he’d just been run over by a train. His arm is in a sling, his nose is broken, his face is cut, and bruised, and he’s walking with a limp.
‘What happened to you?’ asks Sean, the bartender.
‘Micheal O’Connor and me had a fight,’ says Paddy.
‘That little O’Connor,’ says Sean, ‘He couldn’t do that to you, he must have had something in his hand.’
‘That he did,’ says Paddy,’a shovel is what he had, and a terrible lickin’ he gave me with it.’
‘Well,’ says Sean, ‘you should have defended yourself. Didn’t you have something in your hand?’
That I did,’ said Paddy, ‘Mrs. O’Connor’s breast, and a thing of beauty it was; but useless in a fight.’

Five Finger Discount – to steal something. Another completely true story. It’s Saint Patrick’s day and an armed hooded robber bursts into the Bank of Ireland and forces the tellers to load a sack full of cash. On his way out the door with the loot one brave Irish customer grabs the hood and pulls it off revealing the robber’s face. The Robber Shoots the Guy Without Hesitation!

He then looks around the bank to see if anyone else has seen him. One of the tellers is looking straight at him and the robber walks over and calmly shoots him also. Everyone by now is very scared and looking down at the floor. Did anyone else see my face?’ screams the robber.

There is a few moments of silence then one elderly Irish lady, looking down, tentatively raises her hand and says, ‘I think me husband may have caught a glimpse.’

bookmark_borderPaul O’Bear

Genuine never been near Photoshop photo!

Well now, it’s a long way from the Arctic to Tipperary, but scientists have discovered polar bears can trace their family tree to Ireland, isn’t it amazing what Polar Bears can do these days with the help of Mr Google..

Genetic evidence shows they are descended from Irish brown bears that lived during the last ice age. The full article is here (if you are a subscriber) but I find this discovery interesting for a few reasons.

First of all, why does everyone want to claim to be Irish? We had Barack O’bama in Ireland the other month checking out his Roots (groan!) and it seems that on Paddys Day just about everyone in the world seems to be at least part Irish but now even the polar bear is claiming to be Irish.  Previously, scientists say that we all are descended from one particular woman, ‘Mitochondrial Eve’, from West Africa but I’m starting to suspect that actually we all come from Mrs Doyle, c/o Craggy Island. (The Irish amongst you will now be ROFL at that!)

So lets see;

All polar bears have ancestors from Ireland
Barack O’bama has ancestors from Ireland
Barack O’bama is a polar bear!

So THAT’S what Kennedy meant when he uttered those famous words when visiting the Berlin Wall in 1963;

“Ich bin ein Berliner… feck! I mean PolarBearliner”

I know, un-bear-able to think about..

However, I do wonder, does that mean are polar bears Catholic (and the Pope does indeed shit in the woods, I mean snow), personally I’m not convinced, I think it’s a cynical and shrewd move by the polar bears to win votes at the next election..

And isn’t it typical of the Irish and a pattern that’s been repeated endlessly; we fall upon hard times and what do we do, we emigrate to pastures new (or in this case frozen tundra new) even our bears do and they adapt to climate change, dye their fur blonde and have a whale of a time – sorry, I mean have a seal pup of a time..

Which reminds me of this old joke;

There was a little itty bitty baby Polar Bear, who said to his mother one day, “Mom, am I really a Polar Bear?”
His mother laughed and playfully nudged him along with her head.
“Of course you’re a Polar Bear, sweetie.”
“Oh, ok,” said the little bear; but he wasn’t quite convinced.  So after a while he asked again,
“Mommy?  Am I really a Polar Bear?  Really, really?”
“Why, don’t be silly, sweetheart.  You’re a bear.”
“How do you know, Mommy?  How do you know I’m really, really a Polar Bear?”
“Well, sweetie, it’s like this: I’m a Polar Bear, your father is a Polar Bear — so naturally, you’re a Polar Bear, too.  Ok?”
“Really?”
“Yes!  Really!  Now run along and play!”
“I was just wondering. . .you would tell me, wouldn’t you?
“Tell you what?”
“If I wasn’t — I mean, if there was something — ”
“What, pet?”
“Am I really really — really and truly a Polar Bear?”
His mother had had enough.
“Yes! You’re a Polar Bear! For cryin’ out loud, what is the matter with you? Why do you keep asking such a silly question?”
And the little itty bitty Polar Bear looked up at his mom with his big, sad eyes, and said,

“Because. . .

. . . I’m FUCKING FREEZING, OK?”

🙂

OK, I think I have milked this story long enough, but PLEASE tell me you get the joke of the title..

bookmark_borderModel Teacher..

I hear they are looking for chemistry teachers in Belfast..

I’ve blogged about my school days in a previous entries here and here but I was asked why I am so mischievous and is it all down to my mother and it turns out it’s not all down to just her, it seems I may have to blame my chemistry teacher as well.

Perhaps I better explain.

The secondary school I went to was more like a Borstal/Reform School/Prison and it was a very tough school, the teachers were pretty brutal and when they said jump you shouted “Yes Sir how high Sir!”  However, in fourth form the Chemistry teacher left and the school got a new teacher in the name of Raymond Blair. Ramie Blair looked like he had just stepped out of a Scooby Doo cartoon, he was an unreformed hippy, long curly hair and he kind’a didn’t follow any rules – ever.

During our first month with him we found out that he and the French teacher, Miss Roberson had done the dirty deed in the store cupboard. We also found out that he and the Physics teacher spent most evening smoking weed and blowing it out via the fume cupboard. He also told us about the time he got struck by lightning in the Alps and lived (obviously), and that he used to be a roadie for Led Zeppelin. He was meant to be teaching us chemistry but one afternoon he took us all in the school mini-bus (there was only nine of us doing chemistry that year) to Helens Bay and we spent the afternoon messing around at the beach whilst he went swimming in the sea. I’m not actually sure if he brought swimming trunks or just swan in his underwear.. After that we always brought our swimming trucks to chemistry. We got to use them, more than once.

He used to play this trick on us when we were concentrating on some experiment on the workbenches, he would come along and bash the underside of the bench with a big hammer and we’d nearly have a heart attack. Bastard.

One afternoon when we were meant to go into the classroom he came out into the corridor and instructed us to come in very quietly and as we came in the previous class also left quietly. One of the pupils had fallen asleep at the back of the class so he left him sleeping there and we went in and he started the lesson. Eventually the kid woke up and realised that he was in a room full of strangers and was utterly confused. We all laughed.

Ramie Blair was entrusted with taking thirty of us on a ski-ing holiday to Italy, there was the Physics teacher as well so it was bound to be OK, wasn’t it? We arrive at the resort and there wasn’t a drop of snow so he told us all to sit together and think think think snow, so much snow that we could hardly open the doors. We all laughed at him but he insisted and we all sat there (in the bar!) praying for snow. We went to bed and next morning there was so much snow we could hardly open the hotel doors! We were totally amazed!

We vaguely remember seeing Ramie at breakfast time and that was it until next morning so we spent a lot of time falling down the nursery slopes during the day and drinking really cheap wine all night long, there was about 20 of us boys in each dorm and I’m pretty sure we never went to sleep before daybreak for the entire week. Ramie joined us most nights and told us stories about his LSD days. Did you know that LSD stays in your system for a few days and even after a few weeks afterwards you still have the odd whooaa moment but the strange thing is, if you eat just a tiny piece of chocolate the effects of LSD are completely nullified, it’s like an instant cure.

Needless to say none of us passed Chemistry.

(but since then I’ve been dying to try LSD!)

bookmark_borderDoris and Bob

You're getting some tonight - and some cake as well.

Most folk tend to write nice things about their parents after their death,  I thought I’d write about my mother, Doris whilst she is still alive. Occasionally I get asked questions like why I like to break rules all the time and why do I call my mother Doris and not mum. There is a reason for both and both are connected.

Doris, my biological mother fell pregnant with my twin sis and I out of wedlock in ‘60/61 and naturally being a very conservative Christian community it was a scandal to be pregnant and unmarried but rather than marry our biological father Sam McKeown, Doris chose not to marry but spent her entire term sixty miles from home, had us in Belfast and gave us up for long term fostering. She went back to Kilkeel after the birth and nothing was said about ‘her time away’, but everyone knew..

To cut a long story short, sis and I went looking for her when we turned 18/19 and then we went looking for our biological father as well and this is why I don’t call her mother, because she didn’t actually raise us. However, it’s been 30 odd years since we both found her and she’s getting on now (so am I!) so this is the Doris I know.

Without doubt she can be annoying, she will sit on the phone for an hour and I have no idea what she is saying because I have drifted off, it’s usually some story about getting some gravel spread over the track to her house, her house is on a dirt track in the middle of nowhere. However despite the fact that she can talk the hind leg off a donkey, she does have some endearing qualities as well, qualities I hope I have inherited, for example, she refused to marry Sam, our natural father and you may not understand just how incredibly brave this was of her, in 1960’s Ireland it was like the biggest sin to have a child out of wedlock, she would have come under enormous pressure from her family and the tightknit community as well to marry Sam but she refused and the principal reason was because she didn’t love him, actually it turns out he was quite a shit and she was wise not to but to be with child and not married in 1960’s Ireland was a huge sin and I’m sure even the local minister would have been putting pressure to marry Sam. However she refused and wanted to hold out for true love and incredibly bravely had both my twin sis and I out of wedlock and then bravely gave us up for long term fostering.

So why not adoption rather than fostering you ask, well, principally because she had faith that one day she would meet a man that she would be proud to call her husband and then she would come get us and re-unite the family. And so she and Sam went their separate ways and over the years there were various suitors but no-one lite her fire, no-one made her feel like this was the one and time passed, she settled into community life and the church became her life. Then three years ago she attended church at the glorious old age of 81 and there were some strange men there, they were part of a group called The Mourne Men (the Mourne’s being the range of mountains in Ireland) and they were all retired but spent their time going around local churches helping out the members with jobs that they couldn’t manage themselves like cutting hedges, putting up shelves, fixing roofs, painting and decorating and generally improving the lives of the parishioners.  So Doris was at church that day and she looked across the group of men standing at the front of the church offering their services for free and her eyes met Bob and it was thunderbolt city. She knew right away that this was the man for her and within six months they were married.

Since then they have been to London twice and been to Scotland and last year they made the trip to Australia for a wedding and explore, it was massively hot there and folk were falling over and dying but not Doris (83) and Bob (79), they are made of sterner stuff and then they came back home to one of Irelands worse snow storms with the country closed down. They were nonplussed.  They have a combined age of 162 and they didn’t care or fret, they just got on with things and I asked her about that, she said it didn’t matter as she had Bob and that’s all she needed, come rain or sunshine she didn’t care, she had Bob and that’s all that mattered.

So, what lesson and qualities have I inherited from Doris, well, the courage to give two fingers to any rules and the balls to go plough my own furrow, the courage to tackle anything and the wiliness not to settle for second best and stuff what the rest of the world thinks, and the wonderful habit of pitching up at Heathrow airport and going off on adventures when everyone else thinks you should be settling down to a quiet life. And probably the most important lesson I have learnt from Doris, is that no matter how long you wait, you will eventually find true love and be happy. Thank you Doris. Now if I could just get you to stop talking about the friggin gravel on your road..

P.S.  her last suitor had a big argument with her when she wouldn’t date him and stormed off shouting “you’ll never find someone as good as me”. She rang him up after getting married to Bob and told him he was wrong and cackled down the phone at him.  And you lot wonder why I am mischievous..

bookmark_borderStranger in a Strange Land: Part Seven

A touch of the black stuff! (This photo opportunity sponsored by Guinness!)

For a ‘slight’ change of format, this blog entry of Stranger in a Strange Land is not going to be about me banging on about my travels around the States, nope, this is gong to be about Barack O’bama’s (yes, that’s the proper spelling) visit to Ireland and England and Stranger in a Strange Land somehow seems an appropriate title. The O’bama’s have just arrived in the UK after visiting his ancestral ‘Roots’ in Ireland and like most Irish I’m thinking yeah yeah, yet another American (as proven by birth certificate) claiming to have Irish blood coursing through his veins, in Barack O’bama’s case this is a whole 5% heritage and I’m wondering which bit, his nose, his right hand, I’m not sure which 5% is Irish but I hope it’s not the finger on the nuclear trigger because we Irish tend to be a tad mischievous

Would you like a little more Irish in you?

One of my friends at work was saying he’s about as Irish as Arnold Swarcheneggers left foot because he’s black (the President, not my friend who has typical Irish colouring ie  pasty light blue at the height of summer) and he thinks there are no native black folk in Ireland but I had to disagree, most of my generation will remember the lead singer of Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott who was also black and Irish, as a sideline Phil used to have a wonderful line at concerts in America, he would shout out to the audience “is there anyone here tonight with a little Irish in them” and the crowd would naturally roar yeah and then he’d grin and say “are there any girls out there who would like a little more Irish in them…?” a man after my own heart. Apparently O’bama was asked did he like Gaelic and he replied “yes, especially on spaghetti but Michelle doesn’t like me eating it as my breath stinks in the morning..”

Anyway, Barack has been to his ancestral home in Moneygall and I noticed an interesting statistic, Dulux, the paint manufacturer had donated 3,500 litres of paint to smarten up every house — at least one painted in the Stars and Stripes. Potholes had been filled in, pavements patched up, floral displays hung from lamp posts and flags hoisted the length of Main Street. Now what I’m wondering is, just what sort of impression does this give the President about Ireland, does it just look like a rather wet version of Disney World and is his overriding memory going to be that Ireland smells of fresh paint? (I wonder if that’s how the Queen thinks the entire world smells like…and is that a required qualification to join the Royal Family, no allergies to fresh paint..).

The show has moved to London now,  it seems the visit was caught short due to that volcano in Iceland erupting again and fears that Air Farce One was going to be grounded, here’s a tip if you happen to be a superpower like Russia and you are planning a surprise attack on the UK, all you have to do is wait for that volcano to erupt again and you can fly your jets with complete impunity over our bases and airports because of course all bloody air traffic is grounded yet again.. It was not the first time in the day that the president’s travel arrangements had to be changed somewhat hastily. Earlier, the presidential Cadillac, nicknamed “the Beast” for its bomb-proof features, failed to make it out of the US embassy in Dublin after getting stuck on a ramp. You kind’a think the Secret Service would have done a trail run… The O’bamas had to abandon the car in front of waving crowds and switch to a horse and cart to drive them to the Marine One helicopter that took them to visit his ancestral home. Only in Ireland…

So now at 10pm GMT the president is attending a banquet in Buckingham Palace, nice place, been there once, the loo’s are difficult to find! but very plush, they employ folk to wipe yer butt, indeed they employ folk to kiss yer butt and there are 170 guests from both sides of the Atlantic at this banquet, so we have Tom Hanks sitting next to ‘M,’ the head of MI6, Sir John Sawers which is strange because I thought the head of M16 was Judi Dench, but that must be an interesting conversation, I dare say the head of M16 could reveal some stories that would be rejected by even Hollywood as defying reality.

Of course, what I’m wondering is, will Michelle Obama hug the Queen again, apparently that’s a major no-no here but like a red rag to a bull.. Interesting to see that Buckingham Palce hasn’t moved into the 21st century, one of the reporters asked “is there WiFi here?” to which the super cool as a cucumber courtier replied  “No, we haven’t gone completely Starbucks yet. “

From the US media point of view this trip is very much a non-news story and there is (or was) very little coverage of it state-side, at least there was little coverage until the Obama’s met the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, well, they have to do something to raise their profile, the Obama’s that is..

bookmark_borderHow To Speak Fluent Norn Iron; Part Five

and we don't mean in the biblical sense.

And yet another in my series of how to edumacate all you’s lot inta how to spake Norn Iron;

“Me gutties is neuked.”
My trainers/sneakers are leaking.

“I’m sick to my stummick luckin’ at him sittin’ there with a face like a cowl poultice.”
The long version of “he’s a miserable sod”

“She has as many wrinkles on her face as would hold a fortnight’s rain.”
She is not young.

“It’s that wee you could sit on the toilet and pay the milkman at the front door.”
The house is tiny.

“Yousens”
When addressing more than one person

“He could’na pull the skin off a rice pudding” or “He’s as weak as a cuppa tea” or “he couldn’t fight his way out’a  a paper bag”
You probably don’t need me to explain these ones.

“That wee girl can’t haff act”
A right little madam that deserves a good slap.

“Thats balleex”
That’s not true my good man.

“FaakAaf”
Excuse me my good man, kindly vacate the premises

“Magic”
Not tricks, but another word meaning great or good

“Moufycunt”
Rather outspoken person.

“Aye, go get some money off the money tree at the bottom of the garden and you can have it..”
What-ever you asked for, you definitely aren’t getting it.

These below are just some of the expressions throw around at home, you can probably figure out what most of them mean;

There are two sides to every story, and twelve versions of a song.
He who comes with a story to you will bring two away from you.
It is not a secret if it is known to three people.
A friend’s eye is a good mirror.
Two shorten the road.
When the drink is inside, the sense is outside.
Time is a great storyteller.
The hen has ruffled feathers until she rears her brood.
Patience is a poultice for all wounds. (aka time heals all)
There is no need like the lack of a friend.
A light heart lives long.

bookmark_borderStranger in a Strange Land: Part Six

Somewhat ironic, isn’t it, how difficult it is to get into America nowdays.

In February I went to Barcelona for my 50th birthday, I wanted to see Sagrada Familia but here’s the thing, there was one guard at passport control and as the entire plane disembarked and queued up to go through he barely glanced up from his newspaper and just waved us on, I can’t tell you just how relieved I was as I had 50 kilios of nuclear grade plutonium,  Haitian goat hide drums and a small Albanian family concealed under my jumper…

This is in marked contrast when travelling to the States. I’ve travelled all over the country, north, south, east and west and arriving at passport control is never easy.  I visit travel websites showing how welcoming America is and indeed it is but from the time I enter the passport control to the time I get through, there’s an underlying tension and this has only become more acute since 911. I know Americans are probably relieved to be ‘home’ but for us ‘aliens’ it’s a time of tension, it always throws me, this juxtaposition, the America I know is warm, friendly and very welcoming, this is how I am psyched up when I arrive but I’m always nervous waiting in the queue to have my passport stamped and these days my photograph and fingerprints taken, like everyone else in the ‘aliens’ queue I try my best not to look like a terrorist and arouse suspicion, especially as now they have installed geiger counters, kind’a ironic considering I come from the land of bombing and terrorism,  I spent the first 25 years of my life being checked/searched/scanned/groped/probed before entering Belfast city centre and any large shop (sometimes we’d go around twice if the security woman was nice looking!) and so I’m used to stringent security but even I feel the tension going on holiday, sorry I mean vacation, in America.

The best place to land is Raleigh airport in North Caroline, it’s not much more than a wooden  shack in the middle of nowhere (or at least gives that impression) and the worse is Miami airport which is surprising because of the zillion that cross the pond to go to Disneyworld. Miami is well known amongst travellers as having the tightest/meanest/strictest security, they don’t have watch towers and razor wire but it’s feels like it’s only a matter of time, I’ve had a couple of run-ins with them, at one point had an officer place his hand on his gun holster and order me not to move, trust me, when that happens you do exactly what he says, men in uniforms with guns tend to focus the mind in much the same way having diarrhoea does – which by co-incidence was exactly what I started doing in my pants as he reached for his gun, “Stand in the circle SIR!” was one order I wasn’t going to mess with. I think if the immigration staff at Miami had their way they would shift Disneyworld across the pond so we, the great unwashed, wouldn’t have to trouble them, oh hang on a minute, they did exactly that,  Eurodisney..

JFK was surprising OK and relaxed, surprising because of the Twin Towers, thought it would be worse there, maybe it was because there are so many Irish there and he thought I was coming home to join the diaspora but by far the most gobsmacking was Las Vegas, from the moment I got off the plane my eyes were affronted with huge screens blasting out scenes from ‘We Will Rock You’ and whatever else was showing in Vegas, plus there was row after row of one armed bandits – no, not row after row of muggers with only one arm, (although that is an interesting image now I mention it) but this is what we call slot machines here in the UK,  this was even before I got to the baggage carousels never mind immigration, seriously, a little piece of Disneyland in the middle of the desert.

I’m always deeply jealous of the US Passport holders queue, that one seems to go reasonably quickly but even there it seems to take a lot longer than necessary, I did pitch up at LAX once with 300 other potential terrorists and we had the good luck to arrive at lunch time because there was only  two immigration staff on, the mood in the hall was not good, especially as one officer was held up with an Asian couple and wouldn’t let them in, Argy Bargy’s song ‘There’s Going To Be A Riot’ kept running through my head..

But it’s not only airport border staff that give me grief, a few years ago when I was driving around Arizona I went to Yuma and nearly crossed over the border into Mexico but the border guards there told me they wouldn’t let me back in without a lot of hassle, even if I did have a hire car full of manky laundry sitting in the car park behind them. I drove off and bounced along the border roads for a few hours and it was noticeable that I was the only car that was stopped and checked by the random border patrols. After being stopped the fourth time I asked one of the patrol guys why was I being targeted, I certainly didn’t look Mexican or look like I could be hiding a family in my compact car but he let me into a little secret, it seems that the reason I was being stopped all the time was because I had my window down to let fresh air in, all Americans drive with the window up and the air conditioning on, only Mexicans drive with the windows down, the border patrol call it ‘Mexican Air Conditioning’ and assume anyone with the window down is really Mexican…  or Irish

bookmark_borderStranger in a Strange Land: Part Four

NOT the London Leprechaun (although ‘Twatt’ does have a familiar ring to it)

One of the many things I find interesting about flying to the States is that when over Maine (ME) I always notice Bangor and Belfast come up on the moving maps, after being raised (ie trailed up backwards) in Bangor, Northern Ireland (NI) and spent lots of time in Belfast, it always makes me smile to see those names popping up.

There aren’t many similarities between both Bangors, Bangor ME has a population of 30,000,  an international airport and has the balls to call itself a city, Bangor NI has a population of more than twice it’s younger sibling and much more modestly calls itself a town and has one train station and a taxi rank. In one Bangor the main pastime is to sit in your car on Queens Parade and see who can gather the most dust and cobwebs, and the other, to quote it’s website ‘a friendly city that’s filled with excitement, opportunity and activity, and a gateway to the natural beauty of this great state’, you can probably work out which one is which.

I did find one similarity between the two Bangors, G.W. Bush managed to sneak aboard a transport plane and glad hand troops about to head off from Bangor ME  to Iraq in 2004 but during World War II, Eisenhower addressed Allied troops in Bangor NI, who were departing to take part in the D-Day landing.  In 2005, his granddaughter Mary-Jean Eisenhower came to the town to oversee the renaming of the marina’s North Pier to the Eisenhower Pier, my memories of North pier are of a decrepit wooden pier rotten to the core and closed off to the public but as wee nippers we climbed over the fence and barbed wire (and watch tower) to fish at the end of the pier, if Mary-Jean Eisenhower stood on that pier then she must have inherited her grandfather’s balls of steel

Bangor NI has been around a while, bronze age swords were found there in 1949 (took them long enough!) and a Viking burial ground in Ballyholme beach, a place all residents are familiar with as it’s the only beach that the sewers don’t directly spill out onto. Bangor was first mentioned about 558AD and Abbey Church there dates back to that time (which co-incidentally is about the same age as my car).

Bangor ME was incorporated in 1834 but how it got its name is a matter of debate, you see it transpires that Reverend Seth Noble, the first installed minister, went to Boston to petition the General Court of Massachusetts for an act of incorporation. Before his departure, citizens agreed that the town’s new name would be ‘Sunbury.’ Legend has it that Noble was humming a favourite hymn as he participated in the official proceedings and mistakenly answered ‘Bangor’-the name of the hymn-when asked the town’s name and thus Bangor was reborn.  Could have been worse I suppose, he could have been humming “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”

What’s equally interesting is that 35miles south of Bangor ME is Belfast ME, population about 7,000 but even they have their own airport albeit not an international one (yet), Belfast NI does of course have Belfast City Airport but come on, the population was 267,000 last time anyone stayed still long enough to be counted, exactly 260,000 more than it’s younger rival.

The way Belfast ME got it’s name was also as well thought out as Bangor ME, the founding fathers wanted to name the city Londonderry after their home in New Hampshire, not after the city of Londonderry in Ireland because of course that would be too sensible and after all, one can’t have too many Londonderry’s. It certainly wouldn’t confuse anyone having another Londonderry 200 miles down the road, “No no, you silly sausage, it’s the other Londonderry you want, down the road…” UPS would go crazy trying to figure that one out. However, wisdom prevailed and the founding fathers of Belfast did what all deep thinking men did and tossed a coin and Belfast won. This was of course, a new, previously unheard of definition of the term ‘wisdom’.

So I wonder about a few things, why on earth would you want to name your city after Bangor and Belfast, surely if you were going to name a town you’d create some new name or you’d pick a name that no-one would miss, there are literally thousands of tiny little hamlets in Ireland and the UK, some of them with only two or three houses and wouldn’t it be much wiser to put their names to greater use than copy Bangor seventeen times (yes, there are seventeen Bangors in the world, one close by in Wales and nine in the States, yeah, nine! and even a ship ‘The City Of Bangor’) but a cursory nosey with Mr Google brings up many alternatives such as Shitterton, Pratts Bottom, Badgers Mount, Crotch Crescent, Titty Ho, Ugley, Bottom Flash, Twatt, Brown Willy near Bodmin Moor, Berriwillock, Grimbister, Noak Hoak, Scrabster and Skoonspruit, names I’m sure no-one would miss, and between thou and I, I’m deeply jealous of Australia which has Burrumbuttock, Jiggalong and Tittybong,  and then finally there’s America, near Ely in Cambridgeshire, UK.. oh bugger, seems that one’s already taken..

bookmark_borderLet’s talk about sex baby (part deux)

A 12th century Sheela na Gig.

So, have been thinking today about sex – I know some of you lot may be thinking oh no, not again!  but I was actually thinking what’s Ireland’s contribution to sex? The French obviously gave us the French Kiss and the Spanish..ummm Spanish Fly, India, the Karma Sutra (and curry, though I am not advocating combining them!), America gave us the boob job aka Silicon Valley, at least I think that’s what they are referring to, the Scots? well,  closet transvestism,  the English gave the world nannies, ridding crops and rather worryingly –  Viagra – yes, I had to look that one up on Wikipedia but it seems to be true (unless I change the entry..) but what have the Irish given the world of sex – apart from this absolutely hilarious donkey story and Colin Farrell’s Sex Tape

I’m starting to get concerned about this, there’s a huge erection in the centre of Dublin called The Spire of Dublin or Monument of Light but it’s a giant needle and known as The Prick to locals and I’m starting to think we’re over compensating for something or another..

And then we have the statue of Anna Livia  otherwise known as ‘The Floozie in the Jacuzzi’ or ‘The Whore in the Sewer’,  the Irish have a habit of treating fine art with some humour, hence;

The ‘tart with the cart’, or ‘the dish with the fish’ – the statue of Molly Malone, the fictional character of the eponymous song, shown wheeling her wheelbarrow of fish.
The ‘quare in the square’ – the statue of Oscar Wilde in Merrion Park Square (quare is a local pronunciation of queer).
The ‘prick with a stick’ – James Joyce carrying a walking cane.
The ‘hags with the bags’ – the statue of two women with shopping bags near the Halfpenny Bridge.

However, after some research, OK OK, a lot of research, here’s Ireland’s contribution to gnéas – and as you will see, the Irish were way ahead of their time;

Sexual Equality

Ancient Irish laws, called the Brehon Laws, provided women full equality with men. That’s right, they could inherit property or bequeath their own; they could marry or divorce the man of their choosing; even the right of a woman to experience satisfaction in marriage was enshrined in its legal framework. In Europe, where burning uppity women at the stake became a national pastime, the Irish attitude to sexual equality between the sexes was nothing short of revolutionary.

There was no sex in Ireland before TV

Oliver J. Flanagan, the longtime Fine Gael politician, once famously said “there was no sex in Ireland before television.” Flanagan was appalled by the frankness of public debates on Irish television about matters he thought should never be discussed: sex, sexuality, women’s rights. But Flanagan lived to see his conservative standards collapsing all around him. This was in 1966, by the way. It’s safe to assume he would have been appalled by 2010.

There will be no sex in heaven

The only time sex is not sinful, according to the Catholic church, is when the intention or the possibility of conceiving are present. So no sex in Heaven, then. If we don’t have earthly bodies there will be no need to procreate. Don’t even be thinking about just enjoying yourselves sexually in the afterlife, because that’s sinful too. It was having sex on earth on earth that sent men and women to the other place. But if you’re dammed if you do and damned if you don’t, the Irish discovered, then you might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.

However, the surprising thing that Ireland did give the word of sex is porn. Yep, afraid it’s true, the image above is a Sheela na Gigs, The carved stones can range from 1/2 to 1 metre in height. The figure is of a naked woman with her legs spread wide, often holding her vulva open with her hands. The rest of the figure may be quite thin-looking, sometimes with the ribs clearly showing. The quality of the carving is often primitive, and centuries of weathering have obscured the detail on many of the surviving examples.

Most Sheela na Gigs are found in Ireland, set into the walls of churches (or occasionally castles). Their age is usually taken as that of the buildings in which they are found, dating from the 12th to the 16th Century, but it is possible that some of the carvings were older, and moved to these sites.

Obviously there was no Youtube, internet porn, even magazines in 12th century Ireland so they had so make do with statues like this. I wonder if Hugh Hefner appreciates the efforts we Irish made to kick start his Playboy business?

bookmark_borderBarry’s amusement park

EVERYTHING Barry's wasn't.

When we were kids we went on holiday for a week to a place called Portrush up on the Antrim coast. It’s hard to describe Portrush (and it’s even less illustrious sister town of Portstewart) to folk that haven’t been there but I think if you look up the definition of the word ‘decrepit’ in the dictionary then there will only be two words there; ‘Portrush’ and ‘Portstewart’.

I’ve never been to Cooney Island but I suspect that during the 1940’s a bit of it broke off during a terrific storm and floated off in the sea, eventually to be washed up shipwreaked on the beaches of Portrush and it’s been there ever since, unchanging since the 40’s, the Land That Time Forgot. I imagine the few good folk of Portrush and the sheep were overjoyed to see this piece of Cooney Island float in with it’s magical lights and Helter Skelter. Why the sheep? Errm the rather rude joke we had about Portrush involved sheep-shagging so they would have been please for the distraction!

The two main features of Portrush, apart from the driving rain, was the long beach with huge waves and Barry’s Amusement Park, I say ‘Amusement Park’ but I suspect Barry’s was the first company ever to be sued under the Trades Description Act 1977 for describing themselves as an amusement park. I’m not sure what school Barry went to or what childhood issues he had but there was little chance of anyone finding any amusement in his park and yet still we flocked in like lambs to the slaughter, drawn in by the bright shining lights like the gullible foolish sheep we were. Actually I think the main reason Barrys made any money wasn’t because of the attraction of the Dodge’em and the Whirly Gig but because it was indoors and offered some respite from the relentless wind and the rain.

Barry’s did offer some thrilling rides but not for reasons they hoped for, you see, the completely true story (as in alligator’s in sewer’s tale) was that one of the cars in the Dig Dipper (aka the pathetic roller coaster that normally wouldn’t scare anyone above Telly-Tubbie age) had actually come off the rails and seriously injured the occupants, so the big thrill for users was to actually be brave enough to go on one of the damn rides, the Big Dipper, the Whirly Gig, the Teacup Spinner, the Spinning Wall of Death, all of them amazingly dull and boring – right up to the moment when you wonder if the ride has been properly maintained ..but by then it’s too late as you hurtle screaming towards your death!

There was the usual Penny Arcade there as well, roll a penny down a slot into base of a veritable mountain of penny’s in the hope that the machines rotating pusher would finally push them all out into your grubby little mitts but of course I don’t know of anyone who every succeeded in winning their penny back. As kids we had very few pennies to insert in slots, so we got our thrills through an early form of voyeurism by standing beside more affluent kids and watching them lose their own pennies in the slot machines (though I do wonder just how many Peeping Toms Barry’s was incubating for later life, how many men have been arrested for peeking in on ladies and they can trace their habit back to Barry’s Amusement Park..).

Anyway, we didn’t have much money but what few coins we did have was spent on coke and crisps. This meant that for most of us kids our day went along the lines of run, scream, splash, slide, crisps, coke, run, scream, slide, fall, crisps, coke, run, scream, slide, coke, crisps – throw up –pause- run, scream, splash, slide and repeat (ahem) ad nauseum. Ahhh childhood, those were the days!

So that was Barry’s, a childhood full of coke, pushers, users, big dippers, sheep shaggers, peeping toms and puking up, it’s probably not affected me one bit, your honour.

bookmark_borderThou Doth Protest Too Much.

Nice to see the Nursing Code of Conduct & Practice being smashed to a pulp.

OK so occasionally folk ask me why I left Ireland and moved to England, there is much to admire about the English but the reflex answer is about the weather, you know, there are only two seasons in Ireland, the rainy season and the monsoon season – although everyone in Norn Iron knows we have an additional season – the Marching Season 🙂

I’ve blogged before the reflex answer about the weather, it’s either raining or it’s about to rain and it’s very noticeable when one comes to live in London that the weather here is so nice, you get on the plane at Aldergrove and you’re swathed in seven layers of dead sheep and you arrive at Heathrow and you’re melting. It’s always warmer in London than in Belfast, it’s like God drew a line somewhere about Birmingham and clouds are not allowed to pass down beyond it. As kids we used to look enviously at newspapers headlines proclaiming ‘What a scorcher!” and this wasn’t a reference to our arses suffering the effects of last nights curry but a reference to a heat wave most of England was experiencing but didn’t deign it’s way to come visit Belfast.

It’s noticeable that we Irish are more tolerant of the cold than south Londoners, I have distinct memories of going swimming in Strangford Lough in April but here they seem to keep wrapped up warmly until June. Mind you, it’s February and I’m actually penning this from Barcelona this week but I’m walking around in just a jumper (why do Americans call them sweaters, that sounds a bit horrible, here’s your sweater… gross…or is that just the way my mind works?) and it’’s noticeable that practically every Barcelonian here is wrapped up in heavy coat and scarf and some even have gloves on, but it’s soooo warm here! OK OK I know it’s February but if I had brought my swimming trunks I’d go swimming in the Med – if I thought (a) my clothes wouldn’t get swiped and (b) I wouldn’t get arrested then I would go skinny dipping..

Bugger, this blog entry was meant to be about England, why I live in England and what’s to admire about this/that country but i seem to have wandered off the point slightly. OK, I’m going to go out and explore and will finish this off later..

MUCH later! FOCUS!

So, why England, why move here to London, the ‘old enemy’, what’s to admire about the English?  The English tend to get a bad press throughout the whole world of being stiff, formal and “I say old chap” but when you look at it closely the English tend to be quite the opposite, you see, the English like to protest a lot and as an (ex) Protestant from Norn Iron I tend to find some common cause with protesters. The Egyptians are protesting right this very minute about President Mubarak and I feel I ought to be there joining in with my protestant (ahem) I mean protesting brothers (and sisters!)

Americans like to protest too, from the Boston Tea party, the anti-Vietnam riots, the civil rights movement and even now it’s the turn of the (ahem) Tea party to protest, so I feel a kinship with Americans too.

But back to England, the English actually do like to protest and not protest quietly and meekly but protest violently, and usually it’s against the government, the English love a good riot even as long ago as 1380 when they had The Peasants Revolt which was about a new Poll tax and then once again on March 30th 1990 over (surprise surprise) the Poll Tax again!

In 1810 workers in Nottingham rioted over the introduction of new weaving machines that would put them out of jobs and this spread to Lancashire and Yorkshire, at one point there were more soldiers guarding textile machinery in England than actually fighting Napoleon in Spain.

And then the Swing riots, the Days of May riots and my favourite riots, the Liverpool Riots which ended up with the government of the day parking thee warships in the Mersey to restore order after failed contract negotiations with policemen, I mean to say, if you have to call in three effing warships to quell a riot then two thoughts occur to me (a) it must have been one hell of a riot! and (b) your Human Resources Department probably need retraining!

And then there are the anti war Iraq protests, the St. Paul’s riots, the Miners riots, the Brixton riots which incidentally made it into folklore, prior to the Brixton riots we would say ‘Red sky at night, Shepard’s delight’ meaning it was going to be a nice day weather wise tomorrow but after the Brixton riots the expression was changed to ‘Red sky at night, Brixtons alight!’

Bugger, I’ve come back to the weather, haven’t I? I give up!

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanours, Part 9, he should have seen that coming..

Is there anyone there...?

When I was in my early twenties and still living in Norn Iron we had a small theatre in town, The Little theatre, which the amateur dramatics society played at but occasionally they would host various act’s like stage hypnotists and even the odd psychic.

We would all pitch up to see the hypnotist occasionally and being typical Norn Iron we’d muck about with him, there was one guy in particular who we would all fight to get up on stage with and pretend to be hypnotised and then do exactly the opposite to what he said. We were somewhat evil buggers but the entire audience was somewhat mischievous too, the Little theatre wasn’t a big venue (obviously not with a name like that) and it felt more like a family gathering than a full blown theatre.

However, one evening we had a psychic there, some bloke who was going to communicate with the dead but he started off badly by being nearly an hour late (some psychic!) and the entire audience was …well.. was ‘in one of those moods’ by the time the curtain was actually raised..

He introduced himself and tried to set the right atmosphere with spooky music but basically we were all after blood after waiting so friggin long, and he tried communicating with a few long lost audience relatives but wasn’t really having much joy, it was all very vague and unconvincing, we were all growing restless and ironically he was dying up there on stage, we wanted “the family jewels are hidden under the floorboards in the kitchen” but all we got were vague references to the Boar War so you could almost feel the audience circling in for the kill…

He said that the atmosphere wasn’t very conducive tonight to contacting ‘the other side’ but he would give it another shot and some wag shouted out “Darren, what about my mother??” and Darren replied “When did she die?” and the wag shouted back “Oh, she’s not dead!” and the audience burst into laughter… “What about my sister?” shouted another voice and Darren asked “is she dead?” NO! came the reply to more laughter.. and then I shouted out “What about my dad?” and Darren, clearly pissed off by now asked if he was dead and I replied “Yes” so Darren adopts the pose and in hushed tones starts to contact the dead at which point I shout out “Oh no, WAIT! he’s not dead, he’s sitting beside me!!” and the WHOLE audience bursts into long long laughter and Darren gives me the dirtiest look possible and walks off the stage…

He should have seen that coming..

I’m probably going to hell, aren’t I ? (and I won’t be passing any message back from there!)

bookmark_borderSaintly Behaviour?

Perpetuating a stereotype? Moi??

Oh it’s Paddy’s day on the 17th of March, St Patrick being the patron saint of Ireland. When I was growing up, Paddy’s day was just a small parade and nothing was really made of it but in the last 20 years it seems to have exploded into a huge party, I’m not completely convinced it’s because the Irish have suddenly become more patriotic, my over ridding impression is that we have had visitors coming over from America to celebrate Paddy’s day and they have went “what, that’s it? a small parade?” where-as of course in the States it’s an effing huge celebration where everyone is Irish, so I think everyone has got a bit put out that it’s massive in the States and everyone makes much more of a song and dance about it these days (literally!).

The ironic thing is that it usually falls smack bang in the middle of Lent so we have 20 days of abstinence then a whole weekend of getting completely banjaxed followed by another 18 days in which we have time to nurse one massive hangover..  only the Irish would arrange their major celebration in the middle of Lent.

Now that I’m living in London I should really mention the patron saint of England, St. George, a roman officer who lived in Turkey and got beheaded for refusing to renounce his Christian beliefs. He’s ‘celebrated’ on the 23rd of April, well, when I say celebrated I think about one in ten English actually know when the day is. It’s weird how St. George is the patron saint of England, I think it was Edward the third who decided that and there’s absolutely no evidence that he ever set foot on this land.

It’s somewhat confusing that he’s also the patron saint of Portugal, Greece, Georgia (which probably had first dibs on him), Lithuania, Ethiopia, Palestine and Catalonia, I’m sure there is a link to Malta and Cyprus too,  so when it comes to the FIFA world cup he must really be torn as to whom to support – unlike me who always supports ANY team playing against the French!

In many pictures you see him slaying a dragon and that’s somewhat ironic as the dragon represents a thinly veiled reference to  Muslims and yet St. George is regarded very highly in the Muslim world as well, in the church where his remains are alleged to erm remain, there are just as many Muslims visitors as Christian visitors – go figure.

There are a lot of allusions regarding Saints that Joe Public doesn’t really pick up on, not just the dragon but St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland, post Ice Age there were definitely bugger all snakes in Ireland and again it’s an allusion to non christen beliefs, Ireland was basically the land of tree hugging druids at the time of St. Patrick, (think of a country full of Prince Charles) and he helped convert Ireland to Christianity. He was remarkably successful, 93% of the Irish put down Catholic as their religion, the other seven percent put down Jedi, which just goes to show we haven’t lost our sense of humour when it comes to religion. May the farce be with you.

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors (part four)

There's something fishy going on here...

OK, not sure really if I should confess to this but bugger it, no-one knows where I live, not even me sometimes.

When I was 24 and still living in Northern Ireland I used to go along to my mates Trevor’s house and give him a lift to his footie match on Saturday mornings and support his team.

However, one Saturday morning as I was waiting for him to get his football boots on in the kitchen I spotted that his goldfish, Robert, was lying upside down in his bowl. I said to Trevor and he sighed but went and got a net and fished Robert out. I asked him what he was going to do with Robert and he said he was just going to flush him down the toilet and I told him the decent thing to do would be to bury poor Robert at the bottom of the garden….poor poor Robert..

So Trevor sighs again and moans about being late for the match but  goes get a little trowel, digs a little hole in the garden, buries Robert and off we go to the footie match quite late. (I did ask him if he was going to say a few words but he gave me that ‘go fuck yourself’ look..)

You are probably thinking Robert is a funny name for a goldfish but think about it – if you are called Robert then everyone calls you Bob..  geddit?? Bob..Bob..Bob…

We get there and the teams are still kicking the balls around in pre-match warm-up, the referee delayed the start of the match waiting for Trevor, he didn’t want to play 11 vs 10 aside.  Trevor joins in but I wait by the side line and the referee comes on, he is a bit annoyed about Trevor being late and I have a word with the ref…..  well…when I say a word….I might have embroidered the truth slightly..

So, the ref…  oh dear..  I don’t know if I can tell you this.. so the ref calls both teams together for kick-off but before he does that he brings both teams into a tight circle and explains to everyone that the reason Trevor was late was because he received tragic news this morning of a family bereavement, that one of his distant family members – Robert – had suddenly passed away.  It seems that not only was Robert a great sportsman and apparently he was an excellent swimmer too!

So the two teams stood together for a minutes silence for poor Robert whilst Trevor choked back fits of laughter and looked over at me absolutely wetting myself on the side-lines.

I’m going to hell, aren’t I?

bookmark_borderMy Big Issue

Start early and finish late.

In the UK here we have a charity called The Big Issue that provides help to the homeless by printing a magazine and selling it to the homeless for a pound and then the homeless sell it to Joe Public for two pound.  Each seller has their own ‘pitch’ in the town centre and they have official ID as legit vendors and everyone knows about them in the UK. The charity was launched in 1991 and is seen as one of the more ‘cool and hip’ charities to support so lots of celebs got involved and gave interviews for the magazine.

I was reminded about The Big Issue the other week when I was wandering around Cardiff and noticed the usual load of wino’s in the town centre. You see them in all town centres, there’s usually a group of them, about four or five, drinking cheap booze, scruffy, noisy, cursing at passer-bys and occasionally they have a small dog with them.

What was surprising was that as I was walking past nearly all of them had either Irish accents or Glaswegian accents and it got me thinking, every single time I’ve noticed the local town drunks, be it in London or in one of the many towns I’ve gone on road trips to, they always seem to be Irish or Glaswegian.. and I started to wonder why that is.

Could it be something similar to The Big Issue, are there spots allocated to all citizens of Ireland and when we get to sixty do we have to give up our day jobs, don scruffy clothes as the drunks put on our nice clean ones and then spend two years drinking cheap wine and beer whilst shouting obscenities at passer-by’s and sleeping under bridges. And then after two years a woman comes along with your Irish replacement and you are relieved from duties and allowed to go home?

I will find out in ten years time.

bookmark_borderHistory One Oh One

These are the only two pictures I have of my early relatives. This is my mother Doris and my Grandmother, I never knew my grandmother but apparently she was a bit of a dark horse (too), just like my mother and it would appear The Dating Leprechaun too. I’m keeping my fingers crossed my beasties get my sense of adventure too, it’s important.

She was born in in the same cottage as previous generation upon generation, she worked in the fields,  fed the chickens, broke the chickens necks, looked after pigs, made soda bread, potato farls and corn dollies. She rode a pony and cart  into town and picked up fish from Kilkeel harbour and supplies from McCab’s and danced the night away in the local town hall.

Doris and her mum

Apparently, this is my grandmother and grandfather… and some local farmhand who helped in the fields. They didn’t have electricity them days, my mother Doris didn’t actually have electricity until 1985, they pumped water out of a well just outside the cottage, they grew lots of vegetables to supplement their merge diet, they ate lots of porridge (so Doris tells me) and they went to church every Sunday.  During harvest time everyone in the community pulled together and brought in the harvest and during hard times everyone did much the same, pulled together.

Grandmother and Grandfather

They didn’t have any modern conveniences, not even early tractors, everything was done by hand including thatching the cottage roof, they brought seaweed up for the beach which was only a stones throw away and spread it across the fields to improve the soil – a theme in the movie The Field.

What I am interested to know is this, in a recent survey it was the Masai people of Kenya who were rated as the happiest and most content people in the world, they have very few possessions just like my grandparents and I wonder, if the same survey was done on my grandparents generation, I wonder were they would come, I imagine somewhere close to the top, at least that’s the impression I get from my mother..

bookmark_borderFirst dates.

No, NOT my first love.

I once dated this girl who worked for the Bangor Spectator, the local rag  erm ..newspaper. Nice enough girl, a redhead – no hair, just a red head,  but between thou and I, the only section of the Spectator I read was the astrology section. I was 19 and a bit naïve.. I followed these horoscopes religiously until she spilled the beans and told me that they all took it in turns to write the daily horoscope, it was like punishment for them if they had annoyed the editor, most of them had a list of 20 or 30 bland horoscopes and they would just pick 12 at random and shove them in the paper.

The other thang she said was that the photo at the top of the page of Gypsy Meg was actually just the staff photographers mum with the scarf over her head, he gave her a few bob just to use that photo.. Up to that point I read about 20 horoscopes each day and did a cross bench quantitative analysis of them all even before I will get out of bed…unless it is Friday the 13th and then I don’t even bother trying to get out’a bed..  Like I said, UP to that point..

bookmark_borderA Shared Moment.

A doc came to see me the other day, he needed help with his research website and he asked me where I was from, I told him Belfast. I looked at him and immediately knew he was ex-army, when you live in a trouble spot you know instinctively who is army and police and who is not, it’s a survival instinct.

He said to me “I lost a few mates over there in 85, all at the same time”

And he looked at me and I looked at him and we both know what he’s talking about,  I’ve heard this before and there’s very little you can say apart from “I’m sorry, it was a terrible terrible time..” and we shared the moment..

And he says to me, in a very sombre way  “aye, they were in an army truck…”

and I think I know what he’s about to say next when he changes it completely with..

“and a tree fell on them..” 😉

An I immediately remember the old joke we all told as kids… and grin.. and he says to me smiling “apparently the IRA planted it”

and I’m laughing more than I should, more out of relief, thinking Thank Christ it’s that old joke…but he had me going there for a minute..

bookmark_borderFaces with a history

Some interesting faces..don’t know what it is about me and old mens faces but their lives are etched out there for all to see..

This face says I'm a normal decent hard working bloke, he just looks like what a Belfast man should look like.
This face says there are ghosts in my past haunting me, look at the eyes..
This face says I've had a rough life..I like a pint and I've never travelled out of N.Ireland.
Scary face...this face says I won't tolerate any other religion but me own..and I'm prepared to fight for it.

bookmark_borderVan The Man (part deux)

Royal Albert Hall

Went to see Van Morrison here in the Albert Hall last year, oops I mean in 2009, really nice setting, he did his Astral Weeks album and a lot of his more ‘commercial’ songs. The thing I don’t understand is that even though I ran errands for him as a nipper, I still had problems understanding his lyrics, for example, I think I got nearly every single word wrong in Brown Eyed Girl or Brown I’ded Gurl as we pronounce it at home, I always thought the ‘Hey where did we go?’ was ‘Hey Rodreigo!’ and my friend thought it was ‘Hey there, Amigo.’ and we’re Irish so God knows what you lot thought the lyrics were.

Crap, seems you have to watch these vids on youtube 🙁

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6-dp6RkEY8

Mind you, it wasn’t just Van Morrison I got completely wrong, I sang a completely different song to Queens Bohemian Rhapsody, I thought Freddy Mercury was singing “Spare him his life from his one sausage tea”, I’m not even going to write the original lyrics to that line as it seems I’m the only one with cloth ears here.

And ABC’s (Yes, I ‘am’ that old!) “When Smokey sings, I hear violence.” It was only years later that I found it it was “When Smokey sings, I hear violins”, in my head I saw Smokey The Bear singing and Martin Fry beating the crap out of him…. thought that was a strange thing to include in a nice happy song…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3N6PYNRF8mg

bookmark_borderA Sheltered Life?

A Chaperone
Hey, no holding hands so soon, I’m watching you two!

(That’s not me BTW, he’s much better looking 🙂

I’ve discovered that, whilst living in London, there is a general perception that we are about ten years behind what goes on in the States in lots of ways; science, media, culture and attitudes to dating and these attitudes are something that we will eventually catch up with here but it’s a moving target. However, in Norn Iron aka Northern Beirut, there was also a general perception that we too are about ten years behind (or more) what goes on in England and consequently about a generation behind attitudes in the States. I never quite realised this when I started dating in London and it’s had a knock on effect on my dating life.

We tend to be a bit ‘slow’ at home, not like we don’t have the same urges to reproduce like nearly every other bloke on the planet but we are just a bit slower on the uptake. There are some valid reasons for this, birth control was harder to come by and slower to come into general use, especially if you happened to be very religious as the Catholic church strongly disapproves of all forms of birth control except the rhythm method. Incidentally, during the 70’s and 80’s  there was a brisk trade of young guys from the South of Ireland crossing the border into Norn Iron to purchase condoms as even attempting to buy condoms in the Republic was fraught with challenges. Most were kept under the counter (despite actually being legal) and in the local community you were always well known so the chemist would squeal on you to the local priest. Generally if you brazenly asked for a packet of condoms than you had to endure the disapproving stares of all the shop assistants and all the customers. Then of course you couldn’t actually date a girl because everyone in the village knew you had bought condoms and your girlfriends mother, obviously knowing your intentions, would stop you from seeing her. So one had to buy condoms from a distant town and keep stum.

When I was living at home, this joke was told, not without some irony;

A young man goes into Boots and asks for a packet of Johnny’s. The pharmacist asks how many does he want and he says “well, this girl is hot and I’m probably going to do her after dinner tonight all night long so you’d better give me a pack of twelve..” The pharmacist sells him a pack of twelve and off the young man goes to dinner at his girlfriends house.

During dinner, the young man is sitting with his girlfriend, her brother, her mum and dad, and her Dad asks him to say grace before they start eating. A minute later the young man is still praying; “Thank you Lord for your kindness.” Ten minutes go by and the young man is still praying, keeping his head down. The others look at each other surprised and his girlfriend is even more surprised than the others. She gets close to him and says in his ear, “I didn’t know you were so religious.”

The young man replies, “I didn’t know your dad was a pharmacist!”

And if your mother ever found you with a condom in your pocket you got the crap beat out of you, though it’s interesting just how much attitudes have changed 180 degrees since then, now your mother practically pushes condoms into kids pockets, “don’t forget your condoms” she shouts as you leave with your new girlfriend!, so at home the fear of getting someone pregnant was a real show stopper.

What’s more, the old attitude “nice girls don’t” persisted for much longer in Norn Iron and this “1st base, 2nd base, 3rd base” tally was a mystery to most young men, we didn’t actually have chaperone’s but I reckon it was only a matter of time.

When I came to London I brought a lot of these attitudes with me and as I never really dated anyone in this city before getting married I was never exposed to the more relaxed attitudes here. Then about four years ago I re-entered the dating market and it was a bit of a culture shock, even more surprising was when I started using online dating sites like match.com and okcupid.com. There didn’t appear to be any rules and I winged it for most of the way but still my natural reflex was to fall back on Norn Iron attitudes. For example, whilst online it seemed perfectly legit to chat up any number of woman and meet up for a coffee date but this didn’t feel right for me, my instinct was to concentrate on one woman at a time because it felt like I was ‘virtual two-three-four-timing’ but I was somewhat taken aback to hear one coffee date tell me as a matter-of-fact that she was dating three other men at the same time. My attitude was you date exclusively and that’s how it was at home, it was not the done thing to string three or four dates along at the same time but it seems one can meet for a coffee and a meal and flicks more than a few times without calling it a date, something my Norn Iron nut had trouble getting around.

So now it seems perfectly acceptable to take an interest in a whole string of woman and flirt with them but until you both agree to date exclusively then you are both free to have a different date every single night of the week (if you are that popular).  I do have a bit of a problem with that, not really a moral problem, more a logistic one, I have an incredibly porous brain and I have enough difficulty remembering what I told one woman, so trying to juggle 4+ woman would just be a nightmare, I wouldn’t know what I had told, to whom and would look even more dim.

So, in an effort to educate myself, I’ve been watching a ‘reality’ programme from the States called ‘The Bachelor’, and honestly, I spend most of my time with my mouth wide open. I’m aghast that one man can kiss, snog and apparently shag quite a few woman and even get to met their families but still not be dating exclusively, my mind boggles at how one can do this and yet all the girls are fully aware that this is going on. The non-exclusive shagging I have great issues with but to meet one family and then another is something I can’t get my head around and THEN, as Brad did, to dump both girls is just beyond the pale, to lead someone on that far and not be serious is really bad form, he should have broke off much earlier but in all fairness kudos to him for actually having the balls to not marry someone just because the camera’s were there, just atrocious timing mate.

Of course it’s ‘reality’ tv and edited to make it even more sensational and I am viewing it through the filters of my Victorian Norn Iron attitudes so I can only assume it’s OK, all the contestants are adult and fully aware of the score but God, I wouldn’t have the balls to do that to any woman. As a friend once said to me, “oh poor baby, you have lead such a sheltered life!”

Indeed I have.. 😉

bookmark_borderOnly the Irish ;)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Irishman named Murphy went to his doctor after a long illness. The doctor, after a lengthy examination, sighed and looked Murphy in the eye and said, “I’ve got some bad news for you…you have the cancer and it can’t be cured. I’d give you two weeks to a month.” Murphy, shocked and saddened by the news, but of solid character, managed to compose himself and walk from the doctor’s office into the waiting room.

There he saw his son who had been waiting. Murphy said, “Son, we Irish celebrate when things are good and celebrate when things don’t go so well. In this case, things aren’t so well. I have cancer and I’ve been given a short time to live. Let’s head for the pub and have a few pints.”

After three or four pints the two were feeling a little less sombre. There were some laughs and more beers. They were eventually approached by some of Murphy’s old friends who asked what the two were celebrating. Murphy told them that the Irish celebrate the good and the bad… He went on to tell them that they were drinking to his impending end. He told his friends “I’ve only got a few weeks to live as I have been diagnosed with
Herpes.” The friends gave Murphy their condolences and they had a couple more beers.

After his friends left, Murphy’s son leaned over and whispered his confusion, “Dad I thought you said that you were dying from cancer? You just told your friends that you were dying from Herpes?”

Murphy said, “I am dying from cancer son, I just don’t want any of them sleeping with your mother.”

bookmark_borderGransha Boys High School

Get used to this feeling of being behind bars..

I didn’t really want to go to my secondary school, I already had a paying job at age eleven but I was forced to go, I wouldn’t say it was a hard school but one had to be sent there by a judge. It was one of the hardest schools in Norn Iron and it really was like an prison, a taste of the future for a lot of the inmates. Like prisons, it was isolated from the rest of the community, we had to walk four miles out of town to get to it, there was a short-cut across Miskelly farm but he didn’t appreciate gangs of smelly youths stomping across his field so in time he put cows in the fields and we came to an uneasy truce as we dodged the cows and the cow pats..
Gransha Boys High School was still being built when I started 1st form, I was seriously pissed off at having to go to an all boys school, for generations before every single boy and girl in town went to Bangor Secondary School, a mixed secondary school and I was looking forward to mixing up with girls of my own age but in P7 we were informed that the council had built a new school in the middle of nowhere and all the boys would be attending that from September…gutted!

Bangor Bus Limited

So, come September we all had to march off to the bus stop and wait for the school bus, Bangor Bus Limited were paid a fee to hoik all us yoiks the four miles to the school but they didn’t lay on anything fancy, we got the double-decker buses with the hard plastic seats and sat on them for 45 minutes and the bus stopped at every hole in the hedge picking up more and more grotty kids.

On the buses a strict hierarchy was established immediately and we obediently moved into our allocated spots, the newbies (me) in the front downstairs, the bullies at the back of the bus and upstairs the 3rd form nerds at the front and the 5th form psycho’s at the back of the upper deck. One never risked sitting in the wrong place, especially as most of us came from

Typical Whitehill Estate house

Whitehill Estate, the creme da la creme breeding ground of thugs. The Meat (Police) wouldn’t come into our estate in normal police cars, they would only come in driving armoured Landrovers (Meat Wagons) and in force, never in one wagon.

Meat Wagon - except it should be completely grey in colour.

So our two buses were particularly rough and at time’s very rowdy, the bus drivers HATED doing the Whitehill run and they drew straws to do the run, it wasn’t unusual for the bus driver to stop the bus and shout at us all to stop misbehaving, on occasion he’d actually throw us off the bus and we’d have to continue the journey on foot, usually in the rain and then have to explain to your Form Master why you were late…and get a detention for that, this fuelled my hated of injustice as I never caused trouble, (honest gov’nor!) I was too scared and goodie two shoes but I was bundled in with the rest of the miscreants and was punished at the same time.

The worse incident came when one winters afternoon when we were all coming home and one of the psycho’s set fire to the bus, they all smoked of course and one guy left a burning fag on the plastic seat as he left and the seat caught fire and quickly consumed the entire bus, we all got off OK and watched the bus burn down and the police and fire brigade come… names were taken but nobody would squeal on anyone out of fear, we all lived in the same estate (isn’t that right Terry Bennett!)

In the Bangor Spectator it made front page news, Whitehill Estate vandals burn down bus and an excellent picture… In a way we took some perverse pleasure from this, the guys from Kilkooley Estate, our bitter rivals never made it to the front pages of the Spectator..

But of course there was a price to pay and all buses to Whitehill were suspended for the rest of the year so we had to walk enmass to school and this was Norn Iron so more often than not it rained.. I remember one day taking the shortcut across the field as I was late and not realising just how muddy it was, the farmer had ploughed it and as I hurried across I realised it was getting muddier and muddier and I was getting bogged down, by the time I arrived at school I was covered in mud almost to my shins, I had to spend 20 minutes scraping it all off and was even later..

We had detention like most schools these days but back in ‘73 we also had really bad beating handout out by the teachers, getting caned was a regular occurrence and OMG did that hurt, I was caned for one minor misdemeanour in 1st form and as I left the Headmasters office I licked the welts to make them seem worse, we all did that and then went back to show off to our friends but sadly the Headmaster saw me doing this and caned me again on the exact same palm.. he said if I wanted bigger welts then he was happy to oblige… ouch..

The French teacher was the worse and entirely why I don’t like the French these days 🙂 He was vicious, he had a leather strap which he would beat your arse with and if you really pushed him then he put you over his knee in front of the whole class and beat your backside with a leather slipper… it wasn’t that painful but it was the humiliation at hurt the most, not like anyone laughed because we were all ‘brothers in arms’ against him. If he did that today I’m pretty sure he’d end up in jail.

So school in Norn Iron was not a lot of fun, we lived in a climate of fear from the moment we got on the bus until we got home, and it was only as I got bigger that I hardened and got picked on less, and when I was in 5th form I and a few others made a point of kicking the crap out of the lower form bullies and restoring some sense of law and order to the school. In a way I was fortunate to have a lot of older brothers and they would help me settle scores and I did the same for my younger brothers but in a school of over 1,000 boys one can’t be everywhere all the time..

We had one boy in the class that was picked on by the class bullies constantly and by year five it had just become a routine, we didn’t dare interfere as the guys doing the bullying were huge but one day the lead bully picked on Geordie once to often, it was in the Sports Hall and we all witnessed it, Terry started his usual pushing around and suddenly Geordie exploded into a rage, five years worth of pent up anger come to the surface and he totally beat the crap out of Terry, it was actually something magical to see, Terry was much bigger and stronger than him but he was on the floor getting the shit kicked out of him. We were shocked but grinning from ear to ear, those that live by the sword.. Eventually the PE teacher came in and broke it up but from that day on no-one touched Geordie Roe…or even looked at him..

Of course it wasn’t all beatings and kicking, we did have good times there as well, especially as we got older and bigger and other less hard targets appeared. Waterbomb fights were frequent, we’d bring in balloons, fill them with water and drop them from the 3rd floor window onto your greatest enemy below and then run like hell, and we played this game during lunchtime called Murder Ball. The object was to get the ball from your end into the opposing teams goal but that was the only rule, there was no limit on team size and one day practically the entire school played and it was by any fair means or foul so pushing, punching, tripping and general beating the crap out of your opponent prevailed, I loved playing this game and frequently came home with a black eye but it was all good fun (mostly), there was only occasionally the odd broken limb..

When I started at Gransha Boys Secondary School the builders still hadn’t finished building it, in fact half of the school was still out of bounds because of the building works but one afternoon I was able to sneak into the new sports hall so see what was going on, I found the changing room complete with fresh cement and thought wouldn’t it be ‘a jolly good cape’ to write my name on the fresh cement between the lockers with my little finger, so I did and went home and forgot about it.

On Monday the Headmaster was raging and pulled me out of class and dragged me to the Sports Hall.. He was right pissed with me and pointed to my name… I was so stupid in writing MY name… I should have wrote Terry Beatty or someone and got them into trouble but it was too late and I was canned on both hands, it stung like hell BUT my name will always be remembered in that school, not because of some famous deed but simply because for years after it stayed there on the floor and from what I could tell was there when I left Norn Iron aged 25.

I had a wee nosey on Mr Google about the school and was surprised to see this, the school was built in the early 70’s and didn’t even last 40 years before it was tore to the ground, too many bad memories me’thinks. I wonder if there are any ghosts haunting the site now..

bookmark_borderHow To Confuse Children.

Have been reading a book, How to Live Dangerously: Why We Should All Stop Worrying & Start Living, easily the best book I’ve read this year, it really gives one perspective about modern day life and how we are our own worse enemies. For example, when I was growing up, we ranged far and wide, I spent a few of my years living in a village surrounded by 10 miles of forest and we would go off first thing in the morning and return when it was dark, that was normal and nothing was thought about it but living here in London one rarely sees kids out on the streets playing.

There are a few reasons for this, the obvious XBox/PSP3 factor but less obvious is that parents tend to think their little darlings are going to be kidnapped and never seen again. However, the author looked at the cold hard statistics and you’d have to lock them out of the house every day for 186,000 years before they were abducted (and even then you’d get them back within 24 hours). Of course to the parents who do tragically lose a child those odds are 1:1 but the odds are heavily in your favour that they won’t be abducted ever.

However, the thought occurs to me, we spend a lot of time telling our kids about safety and not accepting sweets from strangers but ironically we encourage them to do exactly that during Halloween. As children, it was an evening we all looked forward to, we’d all go out and knock on strangers door and chime;

Halloween is coming
The goose is getting fat
Please put a penny in the old mans hat
If you have’na got a penny, a hapennie will do
If you have’na a hapennie, then God bless you

Yes, I know a lot of you would chime that at Christmas time but in Norn Iron for some reason we sung it at Halloween, go figure.. we obviously had to do a lot more work than todays ‘Trick or Treaters..’

Generally we’d get a few coins or some sweeties. Exactly what our parents warned us about all our lives. And at Christmas time we’d get some present or selection box from some strange long lost relative whom you had never met and would have to write him or her a thank you letter, again, accepting sweeties from strangers. And as for that strange man in the shopping mall with the red tunic and big beard, we actually pay him to let our kids sit on his knee and give them presents. No wonder kids get confused ;p

bookmark_borderThe Irish Desiderata

Go Noisily amid the complacency and waste, and Remember what peace can be had without Television. Never Surrender and always attempt to undermine authority, which will put you on good terms with most people. Speak your truth as loudly and as clearly as possible, especially to the dull and ignorant.

Avoid meekness and subservience like the plague, for they are murderers of mankinds soul. If you compare yourself with others, you are wasting time and living in a world of illusion. Wake UP! Enjoy your achievements, but enjoy your plans more.

Keep interested in your livelihood, it is the only one you will ever have, and is an ongoing thing. Do not allow others to define your livelihood, or your currencies. Exercise generosity in your business affairs, for what ever you have, will not be yours again, someday. There is neither trickery nor virtue in this world, there is only light and darkness, Thinking, and ignorance. One mans boon is another mans crime. Be aware of the true solitude you inherit with your existence, and treasure it. The only thing you can take with you from this world is what you have learned.

Love is a conditioned response born of reproductive imperative, and a subconscious survival instinct. Do not put pretty labels on it, you are just fooling yourself. True care for yourself, and your fellow human beings, goes far beyond love, and is not hard to see. Grow old gracefully, but do not fall into the pit of wishing immortality. No amount of drugs or physicians care can keep your body on this Earth forever. To want that is base selfishness and simple animal fear. Do not indulge it, you are truly better than that.

You are the embodiment of Light, the most refined form of matter that can be. You are meant to be here, and you will be here again. You are a traveller in space, and eternal in your identity. Do not restrict yourself, or you will be sorry, over and over again.

Be cheerful when possible, boldly courageous when necessary, and thoughtful always. Learning is what you are here for, and the world is just the classroom for the soul. Strive To Be Free.

Bill Gallagher

Would argue about love and purpose of life being just learning, I think the purpose of life is to love but hey, no matter..

This probably explains just as much about me as the two previous journal entries 🙂

bookmark_borderThe Van Man

When I was in my early teens we moved from seaside Bangor to grotty Belfast. None of us wee’ums were very happy moving, we had our friends and gangs and it meant new schools, friends etc. After a while I started to explore my new turf and of course make new friends. Everyone in the area seemed pretty normal but one old geezer stood out a bit from everyone else. The kids I hung out with called him ‘The Van Man’ and I wondered why. He lived in the next street and his house always looked a mess, rubbish everywhere, unkempt and unmaintained. He himself was a reflection of his surroundings, or perhaps his surrounding were a reflection of him, he was small, squat, dumpy and lumpy, long lank thinning hair and always looked scruffy.

However, a couple of things made him stick out from everyone else in the street, first of all he would disappear for long periods and none of my new friends knew where he went, secondly he drove this ancient old banger but occasionally some very expensive cars would pitch up at his door and he’d go off with the drivers. Like all kids we’d make up stories about him, he was a getaway driver for a gang of bank robbers and he had a van somewhere that he kept for their raids and that’s why he was called The Van Man and his sudden disappearance for long periods was due to time spent in prison.. we kids had good imagination..

But by far the most important reason for The Van Man coming into our teenage world was because he had a habit of sending us off to do errands for him, he’d knock his window as we were playing football out in the street and ask you to go to the chippy and get him a pastie and chips, everyone jumped at the chance to do this as he always let you keep the change from five bob and that was a lot of money in them days. Occasionally he’d ask you to nip off to the off license and grab him a bottle of whiskey and then you’d get even more change, the lady in the offie knew him and quite happily sold us kids bottles of whiskey cos she knew it was going to ‘The Van Man’. And of course because he was so generous with his money it only confirmed the rumours that he was involved in robbing banks..

I saw him in a pub one day, I was busting for a piss and we kids sneaked into the local bar when we could, and I saw him sitting there in a dark corner surrounded by a load of other cronies, all laughing away, smoking fags in a huge cloud of smoke and drinking their pints, it looked like a scene that happens every day all over the world, dark grimy pubs full of old men with their work clothes on and supping a few bevies before heading home to the missus.. He looked unremarkable and totally at home. And happy..

A few years later we had moved (yet) again and I kind’a forgot about The Van Man but one day I came into the kitchen and me ma was listening to some bloke being interviewed, I sat down to have some lunch and half listened, and then I thought “I know that voice.. he sounds familiar..” so I said to me ma who’s that bloke on the radio being interviewed and she said “Don’t be a silly clod, that’s Van Morrison, you used to run errands for him when we lived up north..he’s very famous…” and I said “What, you mean The Van Man???” and she laughed and said “no, NOT The Van Man, he’s called Van The Man!” and laughed..

Doh!! Well, he may of been famous but to us kids he was Mr Money Bags, Mr Bank Robber and of course ‘The Van Man..’

Addendum:

Many years later I went to see him play in Belfast City Hall, I had no idea what he was like but when he came onto stage (late) he looked even more of a mess, he had lost all his long locks and he was as grumpy as hell, he didn’t interact with the audience and it was obvious that he didn’t want to be there.. I suspect there may have been a footie match on somewhere that he was missing but he sang with no enthusiasm.. It was really obvious that his heart wasn’t in it, I was standing right at the very front and pulled a face at him… He gave me the dirtiest look ever and nearly spat at me… oh dear.. he was happier in that grotty old pub on the Ormo Road.

I went to see him do his Astral Weeks tour last year in the Royal Albert Hall here in London.. he is still not one happy fluffy bunny.

bookmark_borderConfession Time; Readers Wives..

Apparently it's only read for the astute political commentary and the articles on cars.

Confession time number three or four… so many confessions, so little time..

Being Irish of course I have four older brothers, two older sisters and two younger brothers, nine of us in total. Around 1978 my eldest brother asked me to look after his house as he and his girlfriend were going away on holiday for two weeks and he didn’t want to house left alone. I jumped at the chance as it meant I had peace and quiet from home plus a TV remote control all to myself…heaven for a 17 yr old..

Obviously I had good nosey to see where he hid all his dirty mags and in one cupboard not only did I find all his dirty mags but also lots of topless photos of his then girlfriend…. She and I didn’t really get on… she detested me if truth be told and was mean to me all the time, so I had a cracking idea…. wouldn’t it be funny if I grabbed a few of these topless shots and sent them off to Fiesta, the tatty Brit version of Playboy that he read….. they had a Readers Wives section in it each month and it was too good an idea to resist, revenge would be mine..

So I wrote a nice letter to the editor of Fiesta magazine about how proud I was of ‘my wife’ and how we would love to see photos of her included in the Readers Wives section of his esteemed magazine… and sent some snaps off along with the letter…

I know, I know, but I was late teens and almost certainly not as sensible as I am today 😉

I told Ken, my best friend and he laughed and laughed… So we used to titter into ourselves every time we saw my brother and his despised girlfriend… and eventually we forgot about it..

Until about six months later when I came home and my eldest brother was at our home having a big argument with my other two older brothers… It seemed that out of the blue he had received a letter from the editor of Fiesta magazine thanking him for his contribution to his magazine and also a cheque for 30 quid…. oh dear… I TRIED not to look to guilty as he was arguing with his brothers as to who did it… I made a swift exit…

He never suspected me as I was ‘so young and innocent’ (ha!) but the final outcome was that his girlfriend found out from one of my other brothers and dumped him.. Soooooooo it worked out quite well for me actually…..

bookmark_borderThe way it was (and probably still is)

Some of the more awake of you will have noticed that I have used the names Londonderry and Derry in the previous post, they both refer to the same city but it’s how we Norn Irish practise our racism. In other countries racism is a piece of piss, you can tell relatively easily who is Jew and Arab, black or white but in Norn Iron we all look the same, so gradually over the years we have become experts at dumping fellow Norn Ironers into strict Protestant or Catholic groups, it doesn’t matter whether they’re Buddhist, Atheists or Martians, they still get lumped into Proddy or Catholic.

We do this automatically and it’s built in, a reflex. As a test, I have sat with a bunch of friends and watched the news and we have all called out ‘left footer’ or ‘right footer’ in unison as different reporters and interviewees come on screen to talk, left footers means Catholics and right footers obviously means Protestants, so if you are at a party chatting up some woman it wasn’t unusual to hear someone say “oh she kicks with the left foot..” meaning she’s Catholic… not like it really mattered to any of us, we were much more interested in whether there was any possibility of us actually getting the leg over.

We can tell if anyone is Catholic or Protestant with other subtle clues, their name of course, Sean, Patrick, Caitlín are obviously Irish and therefore ‘most likely’ Catholic where-as Tracy, Jonathan, Edward are predominately English names and ‘most likely’ Protestant. There are other clues, even without having a name, as a generalisation, Catholics have this slight lilt that Protestants don’t have..

All my generation were, and I dare say still are, well versed at picking up these clues and automatically adjust our speech so as not to offend anyone but it has caused the BBC some headaches when it has to refer to places like Londonderry/Derry. The BBC is charter bound to respect both sides of the political divide and therefore when there is a news story from Londonderry it will be referred to as Derry in as many times as Londonderry so as to maintain bi-partisan, and when the Norn Iron weather comes up after the news sometimes the name is Derry and sometimes Londonderry.. Poor poor BBC, what the BBC hasn’t figured out is that whilst there may be a very small minority that do get offended no matter whether they refer to Londonderry as Derry and another very small group that are equally offended when the BBC calls Derry Londonderry, what in reality is happening is that frankly most people don’t give a shit, we are too busy going out earning money, chasing woman and getting drunk.

I grew up in a reasonably mixed area of Norn Iron and had a good mix of friends, my parents didn’t approve of all my friends but I realised that we all did this differentiation between Catholics and Protestants right from an early age, all my friends could correctly identify the two religious groups almost as a reflex and I came to realise that this was a protective reflex, when I started going out to pubs and clubs with my mates in my late teens we would wander further and further from our home turf and if you found yourself in an area that seemed a bit rough it was always good to be able to tell if it was a Catholic area or a Protestant area and you would adjust your behaviour so you didn’t stick out and become a target. Mind you, it wasn’t really that hard to tell if it was a Protestant enclave or a Catholic enclave, there were murals painted on some of the walls and the pavement kerb-stones would be painted either green, white and orange (Republican area) or red, white and blue (Proddy area).

As an Irishman living in London, most folk here make assumptions about me as well, I sound Irish ergo I must be Catholic. On the rare occasions when I come into contact with priests they also make the assumption that I am Catholic and talk to me in conspirational tones like I know what the fuck they are talking about. I went to a wedding last year at a Catholic church and my friends looked to me to take the lead but I had no clue as to what to do, all this Praise Be With You’s and up/down like a fiddlers elbow, and crossing yourself, as I said to my friends, just think -spectacles, testicles, wallet and iPod and you’ll be alright..

bookmark_borderThe Bogside, The Waterside and Four Large Pricks.

Growing up in Norn Iron during the 60/70’s wasn’t all bombs and bullets, we liked to tell jokes and have fun as well. In the city of Londonderry there are two infamous areas, one called The Waterside and the other The Bogside. These areas are indeed near water, there is a large river leading out into Lough Foyle and the west side of the city was originally a bog, so I suppose in the 1500’s when the names came into common usage then it seemed logical to call one area ‘Waterside’ and the other side ‘Bogside’. However, in modern times the meaning of these names have changed, everyone in Norn Iron will know that ‘bog’ is slang for toilet, so ‘he’s in the bog’ means he’s in the shitter with a newspaper and woe be’tide anyone who disturbs him or you’ll get whooped with said rolled up newspaper’ and well, you can probably work out what the waterside is..

I was reminded about these names the other week when I watched the opening ceremony of the winter Olympics, (congrats BTW to Canada on both the woman’s and men’s ice hockey!). I was in a very crowded pub and when the four totem poles slowly revealed themselves out of the ground and then slowly became erect before the whole world, we all fell about on the floor laughing, it did look, to all intensive proposes, like four large circumcised pricks slowly rising up for the world to admire and I’d wondered had someone switched the channel over to some Pagan Ritual on the Playboy Channel.

So one would think that, as much as it was politically correct in celebrating the native Canadian culture, someone, at least someone, would have stepped up and said “Whoops, hang on guys, is it just me, or does that just look like four pricks coming out’a the ground…? And in the same way, one would think that at some stage, even last century, that the good folk of Derry would have said ‘hang on a minute, is it just me or do we live in an area collectively described as a toilet..?’

Being very PC is laudable etc but not at the expense of everyone else having a good laugh at you and you’d think that surely some of the good folk of Londonderry would have suggested a name change amongst all the sniggers.

There was a infamous joke in Norn Iron in the 80’s which we all knew and sniggered about in much the same way as everyone sniggered about Monica Lewinsky jokes. I should preface this for non-Norn Iron readers, the Rev. Ian Paisley is very right wing Protestant firebrand and Bernadette Devlin was his opposite, a very left wing Republican firebrand, polar opposites, during the 80’s there was no love lost between them.. The joke goes “Ian Paisley is in bed with Bernadette Devlin and she turns her back on him. He grumbles and taps her on the shoulder and says ‘Hey Bernadette, turn around, I want the Waterside, NOT the Bogside..”

Anyone from Norn Iron will laugh at that, no matter what side of the secretarial divide they are on because it works on so many different levels, not only would the thought of Ian and Bernadette being in the same bed shagging gross us out but the Bogside was indeed the Republican side and the Waterside was the predominately Unionist side so that fits their politically beliefs and even worse is that Ian was a Protestant minister so the missionary position would have been his ermm position of choice..

There… I’m sure that’s offended just about everyone 🙂

bookmark_borderThe Butt of Humour

The first foreign county I ever visited was the south of Ireland or *Bandit Country* as my dad would refer to it. When I told him I was heading off south for a few days on a road trip you should have seen his face, had I gone over to the ‘Dark Side’, why would I want to go down there, it’s FULL of Irish…er yes dad, that’s why it’s called Ireland…and I hate to mention it but we live in Norn ‘Ireland’… do the maths Dad…

None of my friends really took much notice of the whole sectarian side of things, we were much more interested in the opposite sex and having fun…and our cars of course, all young men like to garner respect and kudos from their peer group and I was no different, we men go through the seven (or seventeen) stages of manhood; I used to think that my hair was important – cool haircut man, respect… (which obviously sounds a bit weird coming with an Irish accent but we men are men the world over..) Then I realised just how immature that attitude was, being cool wasn’t about having a great haircut, no, silly me, it was obviously about having an Amiga 500 computer, then all my friends would want to hang out with me cos I was cool, and that sufficed for a while until I realised that having an Amiga 500 with all the trimmings and go-faster stripes wasn’t how to earn respect from my peer group, nah, silly me, it was obviously about having a car, silly me, so I got cool car with go-faster stripes and that was it, I was made.. I bathed in respect from my friends, and then I realised, with some alarm, that having a cool car wasn’t important, it was a girlfriend, if I had a cracking girlfriend then I was cool and ‘arrived’ so off I went and got a nice bit of arm candy and I was cool… but then I realised just how juvenile that attitude was, the best way to get respect and kudos from my peer group was of course by having a great job.. or was it lots of money.. or nice holidays…or expensive jewellery..or big house…or promotion..damn…the goalposts keep changing but ‘one day’ I’ll have arrived.. just gotta keep keep keep on trying..

So anyway, a pile of us jumped into our cars and headed off to the south, our main aim being to get to Cork as it was pretty far away and more importantly one of my friends had a sister there who was apparently ‘hot’ and she wouldn’t be bothered at all if a dozen strangers from up north pitched up unannounced one Saturday afternoon..

Now, we have this funny thing in Norn Ireland, we tell jokes that go along the lines of “This Englishman, Scotsman and Irishman walk into a pub” and the butt of the joke is the silly Irishman, I believe in most countries they have some foreigner who is the butt of jokes, Polish for Americans, I suspect but am not sure it’s Newfoundlanders for Canadians.. So in Norn Ireland we make jokes about the silly Southern Irish but in the south of Ireland they make jokes about the people from Cork (yes, really!). What I’m wondering is, who do the people in Cork make fun of, is there one particular area of Cork and everyone in Cork makes fun about people from there, “Aye, those folk from Ballymacthomas are real idiots…” and do the folk from Ballymacthomas have one street that is the butt of their jokes, “Aye, those folk in Knocknaheeny Street, bloody idiots”, and the folk from Knocknaheeny Street, do they have one particular house they make fun of, “Aye, that family in number 32, idiots” …and the family in number 32, do they think “Aye, me Dad, bloody idiot..do the math”

Anyway, I must digress, so we all pitched up in Cork one Saturday afternoon and what was surprising about Cork was it was full of tourists. This may not surprise you, dear reader, but in Norn Iron because of The Troubles we have lots of terrorist but absolutely zero tourists, terrorist and tourist are two mutually exclusive species, find a tourist in Belfast during the 80’s: impossible, terrorists, two a penny, and now the situation is reversed, the place is stuffed full of tourist and where are the terrorist, nowhere to be seen, if President Obama wants to rid Iraq of terrorists then the obvious solution is to not to send in more army but to parachute shit loads of tourists into Baghdad.. problem solved.

So in Belfast during the 80’s there were very few hotels and no sight-seeing tours, you didn’t walk around Belfast during the early 80’s and get stopped by American tourists asking you which way was it to Corn Market, however what you did get was searched/scanned every time you went into Marks & Spencer or Boots The Chemist, you automatically raised your arms to be frisked every time you went out for a tin of beans and no cars were allowed into the City centre, so it was a lovely contrast to walk around the main streets of Cork and not be searched but also to see loads of American tourists looking for their roots.. which reminds me of this;

An American tourist travelling in County Cork came across a little antique shop in which he was lucky enough to pick up, for a mere 200 Euros, the skull of Brian Boru.

Included in the price was a certificate of the skull’s authenticity, signed by Brian Boru himself……..

Fifteen years later the tourist returned to Ireland and asked the man from Clare, who owned the antique shop, if he had any more bargains.

‘I’ve got the very thing for you, ‘said the shopkeeper, ‘It’s the genuine skull of Brian Boru.’

‘You cheat, ‘exploded the American, ‘You sold me that fifteen years ago, ‘and producing the skull added loudly, ‘Look, they’re not even the same size.’

‘You have got it wrong,’ opined the seller, ‘This is the skull of Brian Boru when he was a lad.’

You see, the secrets out, in Cork it’s not really the people from Ballymacthomas who are the butt of jokes, the butt of Cork jokes come from further afield.. :p

bookmark_borderEvery sperm is sacred (apparently)

One of my favourite movies is Monty Pythons The Meaning of Life, it starts off with the huge Catholic family, there are 63 children in cupboards, drawers and another child pops out whilst the mother is washing the dishes and they are all about to be sold off because the father has lost his job in the mill. At one stage, the children ask the father why doesn’t he just use a condom or chop his member off and he bursts out into song;

Because;

Every sperm is sacred,
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.

It’s hugely irreverent, appeals to my juvenile sense of humour and the song will stay with me forever; And across the road is the Protestant family with no children, the stark austere interior and the man of the house comparing their peace and quite because they are allowed to use contraception.

I first saw this film at home in Belfast just before I came over here to London, we loved it, both Catholics and Protestants thought it was hilarious ..and yet here’s the thing, there’s many a truth said in jest. Of course I can only speak from personal experience but last March on Paddys day I went to a local comedy club. It was a nice evening and a very boisterous crowd, the place was packed to the rafters but well into the evening one of the comedians on the stage asked is there anyone Irish here tonight? It was Paddys night so I expected nearly everyone to scream yeah, I gave out a big cheer and raised my hand… Oops, no-one else joined in… it seems I was the only Paddy there that evening…CRAP! and of course everyone’s looking at me and all my friends are pointing at me (the feckers!) going ‘over here, over here!’

The guy says, “So you’re from Ireland, where abouts?” and I said “Belfast” and he says “well now, I bet I can tell if you are Catholic or Protestant just by asking one question”, and I says “Aye OK then, fire away..”

So he says to me “How many brothers and sister do you have?” and everyone’s laughing because we’ve all seen The Meaning of Life.. and I stand up and list them all, it takes some time as I have six brothers and two sisters.. counting mum and dad there are eleven of us..

And the guys says “I’m going to take a wild guess here, you’re Catholic..” and everyone’s having a good laugh…to which I stand up and reply “Actually, no, you’re wrong, any Irish person would recognise that none of those names are Irish, we were actually raised Protestant” and pause for effect “….the reason why there was so many of us was because me ma was trying to keep with with the Catholic family next door, they had 23…” to much laughter around the pub..

(OK OK I *know* the largest family is around twenty, www.duggarfamily.com but it was just a bit of fun 🙂

Having an accent like mine and living in London, a lot of folk make certain assumptions about me, when I was working as a nurse on the wards the priest would pop in occasionally to see a patient and he’d hear my accent and assume I was Catholic and chat away, I was never sure if I was meant to genuflect or kiss his ring or whether there was some secret masonic signal I was meant to do to let him know I was one of his flock but as far as I knew doing the whole crossing yourself was just a way of keeping track of your hat, testicles, wallet and spectacles.. I went to a Catholic friends wedding last year and there was a lot of us heathens there but everyone was expecting me to tell them what to do, I had no idea myself and consequently we were up and down on those seats like a fiddlers elbow, we got some strange looks from the priest thou..

Talking about priests, did anyone spot this story last month in the paper;

“Irish priest kidnapped in Philippines released by MILF”

You may want to google that story but the more smutty minded of you will know another meaning for MILF and I now have images in my mind of commando style ladies bursting into a building Rambo style to rescue said Priest. (Note to self: If I ever get to name a terrorist organisation, I really must NOT call it something like the Army of Republican Soldiers Enlisted (or ARSE for short..) )

Anyway, the wedding reception was brilliant and great fun, I’m not a huge drinker but I know the Irish have a reputation for liking their drink and this lot was no exception, we have this joke at home which goes like this; What’s the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish funeral? There’s one less drunk at an Irish funeral… many a truth said in jest.. ;p

bookmark_borderHow To Speak Fluent Norn Iron; Part Four

Continuing in my efforts to teach the world how to ‘spake’ proper Norn Iron..

Cloth ears, (or mutton chops), someone who is a bit deaf, usually used as an insult whenever you have misheard something, the usual phrase being “Friggin Cloth Ears!” as you glare at them.

He’s on the brew, surprisingly not a reference to cups of very strong Irish tea but he is unemployed and claiming government unemployment benefit, he’s on the brew, ‘the dole’ as it is called on the mainland.

Millie, that particular breed of girl that dresses up to look adult but is in fact only 14 or 15, they usually wear far too little clothing in the evening and too much make-up and hang around in the park with slightly older looking boys who are still not allowed to drink and therefore spend Saturday night drinking shandy (beer flavoured lemonade), screeching a lot and keeping the Canadian geese awake. The term is usually prefaced with Bloody..

Food in Norn Ireland deserves it’s own page, Norn Ireland has a serious heart attack problem, double the UK average, when I was last there it took three days before I was offered some food that wasn’t fried, I was going crazy for something *anything* fresh and green..

An Ulster Fry is bread, egg, bacon, mushies, black pudding, sausages all fried in the frying pan, and covered with brown sauce, a heart attack on a plate.
Barn Brack, really hard to describe, a heavy fruit loaf delicious sliced and toasted or fried or just with butter on it.
Veda is a malty brown loaf that has to be ate with fresh butter and cheese… as they say in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang “truly scrumptious..”
Soda bread and Wheaten bread, bread made from soda flour and wheaten flour and *needs frying* before anyone would think of eating it.
Potato bread, bread made from potatoes, yes, really(!), potatoes and flour, *needs to be fried*, you are probably detecting a pattern here, to try toasting this (like some English folk foolish try to do) is sacrilegious, it *has* to be fried or it tastes absolutely minging.
Tayto Cheese and Onion, out of all the potato crisps (chips) consumed in Norn Iron, Tayto Cheese and Onion is easily the most popular – by a huge margin, no one can explain it but the flavour is mana from heaven, all Norn Irish instantly recognise the little yellow bags of crisps and know that Tayto crisps are made from Irish spuds in Tayto Castle..
Fish supper, fish and chips from the chippie, usually wrapped in newspaper and taken home or fed to the seagulls by the sea wall

FingyBob, that bloke over there who’s name I canny remember, “Aye, yes, him, FingyBob..”

I’ll square you up later, I’ll pay you back later.

You lucking a dig in the bake? Are you cruising for a bruising? Are you looking for a fight, Bake = face.

Passion, not something you get up to with your girlfriend but your ma tells you to go outside and you look out the window and it’s raining (as always) so you say to her “sure Ma but it’s passion down..”

Ya Dirty Hallion ya, can be used in a variety of responses, usually in reference to someone who is not very clean (ie minging) but also can be used in the sense of playing very rough at football and kicking the opponent when the referee isn’t watching, can also be used in reference to someone telling a very dirty joke as a form of kudos, usually followed with sniggers.

Cream Crackered rhyming slang for very tired, knackered, “Geez, I’m cream crackered..”

bookmark_borderHow To Speak Fluent Norn Iron; Part Three

One of the easiest ways to find out if some really is from Ireland is to ask him to say ‘film’. I’ve never come across an Irishman that can pronounce that word correctly. I *know* it is only four letters and it should be straight forward but every Irishman mangles that word, most times it’s ‘fil-lum’ or ‘fil-lim’ and as hard as we try we just can’t do ‘film’ in one short word. In twenty plus years living in London it’s the one word that I have to admit defeat over. I’ve tried and tried but it’s like our mouths are just not genetically designed to say ‘film’, really I have to contort my gob in unnatural ways to even attempt it and it’s still isn’t right, friends have spent entire evenings with me trying to get me to say ‘fim’ and ‘fil’ and ‘lm’, no probs but put all those letters into ‘film’ and it all falls apart and they all look at me like I’m doing it on purpose.

This isn’t really much of a problem if you are an Irishman living in the States as in the States you don’t say ‘lets hit the flicks to catch a film”, you tend to use the word ‘movie’ over there and with the rise of digital photography, going to Boots The Chemist to get some film has become a thing of the past. However, we rarely use the word ‘movie’ in Ireland, it’s much more normal to say ‘film’ so I’d say to friends here in London “Lets go to Fulum (Fulham) to see a filum” and they’d all fall about the floor laughing (buggers).

I read some research that said communities use accents, phrases and different expressions/dialect to connect with their clan – especially when the community is hit suddenly by an influx of outsiders, asking for something in a shop using the local expression is a way of saying to the shopkeeper that it’s all right mate, I’m one of you, not one of those grockles (tourists). There’s not that many Norn Irish in Tooting, lots of Asian’s so the opportunities are rare for me to speak the old lingo but when I find someone else from Northern Beirut then we ‘rabbit on two’ta’la dozen’, we speak very fast at home, machine gun speed and I’ve slowed down a fair wee bit since coming to London but I had to go home in May for a while, and when I arrived back in London it was back to square one, had to slow slow slowww down my speech again as no-one here could understand me..

We also pronounce some words the same when they should sound differently, not like ‘there’ and ‘their’ but the following gives us Norn Irish Git trouble;

tower and tar
fair and fur
her and hair
poor and pour and pore

I’d say “that’s not fair” (or so I thought) and everyone would look puzzled, “what’s not fur?” or go to the Off License and ask for “a bottle of Black Tower” and they’d say “Black Tar?”

and apparently the word ‘garage’ is pronounced gar (as in car)- raj (as in Indian Raj).

But mangling the English language is not an exclusive talent, when I arrived in London the one thing I did notice and irked me somewhat was how Londoners say ‘three’, they say one, two, ‘tree’, and that threw me, I thought it was the Irish that were meant to say ‘tree’ instead of ‘three’ but that’s only the southern Irish, up north we pronounce ‘three’ proper and I’d spend ages pulling folk up about how they ‘spake’ the Queens English, the irony of this Norn Irish Git telling English how to speak their own language was not lost on me (or ‘dem). :p

bookmark_borderHow To Speak Fluent Norn Iron; Part Two

Continuing our lessons in how to pass yourself off as a native Northern Irish Git

A blind man rushing past on a horse would’na notice – whatever it is, it’s too small to notice, ie that HUGE spot/zit on your nose that looks like Mount Venusha about to erupt – or you have been wallpapering and it’s not perfect… aye sure, a blind man rushing past on a horse wouldn’t notice

He needs some ginger stuck up his arse – he’s going too slow…he’s a slow worker/walker…I think this comes from olden days at the horse racing when owners would stick ginger up the rear end of their horses in an apparent attempt to make them go faster..

He could’na pull the skin off a rice pudding – he’s very weak, a nine stone weakling, mind you, my ma’s rice pudding was so solid that you’d break yer teeth trying to chew through it..

Shorter ones;

Poke – Ice-Cream, we’d head down to the icecream van for a poke…or sometimes a 99 which was a poke with two chocolate flakes in it, and if the lady behind the counter said “would you like crushed nuts as well?” then we’d reply “ya want yer tits blown off?” we were very course..(and still are..)

Scundered – fed up with, really annoyed, “I’m scundered with yer man”

Tele. Not the television but the Belfast Telegraph, a Belfast newspaper, guys would stand outside the train stations shouting “Tele..Tele..” and you’d go buy a paper..

Wee – Small. Strange as wee is also to go to the loo and have a pee, used by *every* single Northern Irish person. “I’ll be back in a wee minute” Recently swiped by Nintendo with their very popular Wii

Fegs (or fags) cigarettes, “I’m nipping out for a wee feg..” although apparently fag means something completely different in the States, so one mustn’t say “I’m looking for me fags” or risk getting arrested.. or lucky..and in the same vein ‘rubber’ means ‘eraser’, a child asking you for a rubber is quite acceptable..but if he asks you for a Frenchie then you might just wanna slap him around the lugholes and send him off on his way..

Money Tree – a mystical tree that grew at the bottom of everybody’s garden and produced money as fruit, if you asked yer ma for something expensive she’d say sarcastically “Sure son, just nip down to the money tree at the bottom of the garden and grab me some money and I’ll go buy you it..” I never ever found the Money Tree but I looked and looked..

Guddies – trainers, sneakers, light shoes that you did P.E. in at school (P.E. Physical Education at school, highly ritualised humiliation by Gym teacher to anyone who doesn’t play football)

Boutcha, hows it hanging? A form of greeting between male friends “what about you, how are you doing, mate”

Crater bake – you are as ugly as sin. Pizza Face in some countries. Your bake was your face ie What’s up with your bake? why the long face. Crater Bake, very bad acne too..

Knackered – somewhat tired, “Jeez, I’m knackered”, comes from ‘the knackers yard’ where old horses were taken to be put down..

He’s wearing a syrup – he’s wearing a wig, this was a mixture of cockney rhyming slang that seemed to cross the water, Syrup of Figs was a medicine yer ma gave you as a kid to stop you getting constipated and Syrup of Fig rhymes with wig ergo he’s wearing a syrup..

He gives me the willies, so he does – despite the term willie, it is not a reference to fudge packing but someone makes you feel uneasy, someone creepy.. like Vincent Price in one of those old Hammer B&W films

Yer arse ‘nd parsley – you are talking rubbish, no idea where this came from but it’s a term that was directed towards me more than once (a day), closely related to “he doesn’t know his arse from his elbow..” you know nothing..and “yer hed’s a marlie”. Your head is a big empty marble..

bookmark_borderNorthern Beirut?

When you mention to people over here in London that you grew up in Northern Ireland during ‘The Troubles” the usual response is one of sympathy, but really it didn’t appear to affect us in any great way. Of course, every few years Woolies would get fire-bombed and you’d see rioting and bombs going off and armed police/army everywhere and you got searched every time you entered a store and most town centres were closed to traffic and there where parts of Belfast and Ireland I wouldn’t dare go but *apart from that* it didn’t affect us too much, principally because we had more pressing matters to worry about, like getting your mathematics homework in on time to our own school terrorist, Mr McCullough and then later on girls and whether any of them thought the total nerd look was at all sexy (they didn’t) and just how far you could get with the town bicycle.. (first base)

When I turned 25 and announced to my Ma that I was leaving to go live in London, she was shocked, she said “but what about all the drug pushers, the pimps, the muggers, the con-men, the pickpockets, the hobos, the terrible traffic and well.. everything really?” I looked at her, laughed and said “but Ma, I live in Belfast it’s not called Northern Beirut for nothing, there’s bombs, riots and army and shootings here…and you’re worried about me going to London?? yeah, right..

I suppose everything is about perspective, when I came to London, a few bombs went off here during the mid 80’s – nothing to do with me, you understand, it was just a spooky co-incidence your honour – and everyone was running around like headless chickens, everyone except the Northern Irish diaspora as it was just another day for us..and then later on one of my friends rang up from New York to ask if I was OK. I laughed – it was 1985 and she lived in NYC..

In London I was surprised at the lack of knowledge about Irish affairs and I patiently explained the situation over and over again to various friends over the years but if you hadn’t lived through it day in and day out then there was various nuances that you didn’t understand. I also spent a lot of time apologising for everyone being so myopic in Ireland, whenever I saw any of the Unionists on TV banging the table I squirmed out of embarrassment, it really did seem like some dinosaur – especially as I was living in multi cultural London where it’s just one big melting pot.

bookmark_borderDivided by a common language

I had to go back to Ireland in May of this year for a few days to attend a family matter. I could understand my new stepfathers accent easily enough but one of his friends came to visit and even thou they both conversed easily I couldn’t understand a single word he said. He asked me a question and I had to get him to repeat it three times but it was lost on me, I had no idea what he was asking. I wonder was that what it was like for Londoners when I came across the water, I do remember being told to speak slower, and on a few occasions I got inappropriate responses to questions, I either got blank stares or else the other person looked at his watch and said ‘quarter past three…’ it happened frequently..

It rained *somewhat* whilst I was there, there are only two types of weather in Northern Ireland; either ‘it’s raining’ or ‘it’s about to rain..’ However I did manage to get out a bit and have a nosey around, I found Dunluce Castle, what’s so famous about Dunluce Castle is that it’s falling into the sea, I seem to recall some story about the kitchen falling over the cliff edge, I hope it was after dinner.. oh and beside it was the worlds most comfortable tea shop with roaring fire, a big sofa and lots of pussycats 🙂 not too close to the edge though!

I stayed with my stepfather in his house in Ballymoney, was an ermm ‘interesting’ experience, it was a hastly arranged trip and I didn’t have time to pack reading material, so after supper I asked him if he had anything to read, he said “Aye yes, he had the Bible, The Illustrated Bible, The Good News Bible and the Large Print Bible” …doh!.. I had brought a New Scientist magazine with me from the newsagent in Heathrow airport, by the end of the day I had read it from cover to cover – four times..

They take their religion very seriously in Northern Ireland, he gave me a tour of the local town and pointed out the six Protestant churches, I asked where was the Catholic church and he almost crashed the car, he wondered why on earth I would want to know that… (because it will wind you up, because it will wind youuuu up…) He asked me what church I attended, for fun I told him I was a Buddhist…and he seriously said to me ‘is that a Protestant Buddhist church or a Catholic Buddhist church.. *sigh*

Living there during the 80’s was very depressing but here’s the thing, the Northern Ireland conflict went on for 30 years and has a history that stretches back endless years and everyone is/was divided along religious lines – and when I was living there I couldn’t ever see an end to the violence, yet here we are today and both sides have renounced violence and are both working together in the NI Assembly.

There has been massive reforms but bitter enemies are working together now, it’s not been an easy path, there’s been huge heartache on both side but there is peace now and folk are able to walk down the street without fear of attack. I’m telling you this because there are other conflicts similar to ‘The Troubles’ going on this very minute throughout the world, the Arab/Israel conflict being similar ..and yet, maybe, just maybe…

bookmark_borderThe Sunday Observance Committee (and my manhood)

When I was growing up in Northern Ireland during the 70’s and 80’s we had this self styled group of religious zealots called The Sunday Observance Committee. It was organised by some of the more right wing elements of the Protestant churches and this group took it upon themselves to make sure everyone observed Sunday as a day of rest, going to church and bible study. I believe in Iran today there is the same sort of religious police but our Sunday Observance Committee didn’t have any legal powers, though if given the choice I suspect they would take to chopping off transgressors hands with great gusto – especially if it was the hand you masturbated with.

What they did instead was write to their local counsellors and MPs (in their thousands) and make sure that Sunday trading was never allowed. They were determined that we would all sit at home and be just as miserable as them. They’d write long damning letters in the local newspapers and woe-betide you if you even mentioned relaxing the trading laws because there would be a protest march outside your house and next election you would be out on yer arse. They were well organised and held great sway over the local councils and local MP’s, so on Sunday all the main shops on the High Street were closed and only local newsagents were open so you could buy the Sunday papers and a pint of milk…

This had some unexpected consequences, it meant that you couldn’t go to your local WH Smiths to buy a Bible but you could go to your local newsagent and buy a Playboy  (apparently!) And all the bars and clubs were closed but you could go into a hotel and buy a drink there as usual.

Since everything was closed on Sunday we had now’t to do all day but sit on the sea wall people watching and flirting with members of the opposite sex..  Bangor, a town where I misspent a disproportional large amount of my youth has a long promenade, Queens Parade (yes, we used to snigger about that name too) and this was the only place for us teenagers to hang out. The promenade sea wall was very long and occasionally the sea would crash up against it with some force and huge waves would come roaring over the top but that was the only excitement..

..at least until one Sunday afternoon when I was desperately trying to be cool and impress the girls sitting on the sea wall chatting and giggling away.

I like to stand out and not follow the crowd so I wore my new tracksuit bottoms, I looked especially cool as everyone else was in the bog standard Levi’s, and I’m chatting away with my friends when unbeknownst to me, Carl, my friend came up behind me and thought it would be a ‘jolly good jape’ to pull my bottoms down. So he did and managed to pull my bottoms down all the way to my knees in one swift movement. Unfortunately for me, he also managed to accidentally pull my boxers down as well, not intentionally but it happened. I swore very loudly and pulled my boxers and bottoms up almost as swiftly as they went down but it was too late, my friends all laughed and then, much to my dismay, there was this Mexican wave of laughter *all* the way down Queens Parade..

I was mortified, my fishing tackle had only been swinging in the sea air for milliseconds but that was long enough, the girls beside us were having hysterics laughing and the wave of laughter just spread out further and further down the promenade.. I wanted a big hole to open up and let me jump in. My street cred totally gone, I had to walk the entire length of Queens Parade whilst everyone pointed at me and laughed. It was many many years before I could go back to Queens Parade.

That was one Sunday Observance I would have been more than happy for everyone to miss!

bookmark_borderBigamist Feline..

When I was about 20 my sister brought home two very cute kittens from the animal shelter, we named them Cleo and Patra and they seemed content enough. However after a few years Cleo, our black cat, used to disappear for weeks at a time, the first time she disappeared I thought she had got lost or was trapped in someone’s garden shed and I plagued my neighbours to check their sheds and garages but I couldn’t find her.. and then she would just turn up again like there was nothing to it… I spent many a night scouring the streets for her but never ever found her but a week later she was at the kitchen window looking like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth… or I’d go up the stairs and she’d be sleeping on my bed.. like bloody Garfield…

Then one day walking around the next street I saw a lost cat note attached to a lamp post and when I looked at it I burst out laughing, it was Cleo… I went around to the house in the note and asked them about it, it seemed this couple had adopted this ‘stray’ cat and she stayed with them and then regularly buggered off but this time she had been away for quite a while…. they called her Snowy (Cleo was jet black!) and she slept on their bed at night time…

I explained that Cleo was mine and I had brought her from Whitespots Animal Shelter along with Patra and we all laughed but Cleo kept on sharing her life with sis and I and that nice couple in the next street.

When I left for Ireland for London I ‘gave’ Cleo to them… might as well of as she lived there 50% of the time…they used to send me photos of her at Christmas time and little postcards with “Having a wonderful time..” and signed with a little paw mark..

But here’s the thing, even though I was gone and living in London, Cleo ‘still’ disappeared for weeks at a time… I’m pretty sure she had adopted yet another couple…. is my cat a slut? 😉

bookmark_borderThe Waltons (Part deux)

Growing up in the ‘typical’ Irish family of eleven can have it’s challenges, the biggest one of course being space. We used to play hide and seek a lot but every easy hiding space was already taken by an older sibling, one of my earliest memories was of my brothers face ..from behind the oven door window…it was a bit tight in there with the roast chicken.. “you’re getting warmer” took on a slightly different meaning those days.. (I smelt like roast chicken for quite a lot of my childhood… I was followed by a herd of cats everywhere I went, I was tasty those days but not in the way I wanted to be…)

One day when I was about ten my Ma sent us out into the woods to play hide and seek, we were told to count to 1,000 and then come find her. We couldn’t find her but when we went home she’d moved house. No really, she did, she moved to Conlig, Co. Down, then came back in the afternoon to pick us all up.. which reminds me of this;

A large family, with (only!) seven children, moved to a new city. They were having a difficult time finding an apartment to live in. Many apartments were large enough, but the landlords objected to the large family.

After several days of searching, the father asked the mother to take the four younger children to visit the cemetery, while he took the older three to find an apartment.

After they had looked most of the morning they found a place that was just right. Then the landlord asked the usual question: “How many children do you have?” The father answered with a deep sigh, “Seven…but four are with their dear mother in the cemetery.” He got the apartment.

(I think my Ma was doing much the same thing, pitched up in Conlig with no kids, got the house and then came back for us lot…)

bookmark_borderThe Waltons..

Growing up in a big family can have it’s advantages and it’s disadvantages. If you include my parents there are eleven in my generation – don’t ask, it’s a long dirty tale – but during the 60’s that was kind’a normal for Norn Iron. I have four older brothers and it really did feel like I was living in a some lost tribe, I’m sure David Attenborough from the BBC’s Natural History unit would have had a field day with us lot …and here… if one peeks quietly through the undergrowth of clutter and clotheslines one can peek the Lost Tribe of Conlig at feeding time, see how they fight for a share and eat quickly, grunting and burping, leaving nothing on the plate or the larger members will finish it off..

On Monday evenings at 9pm, the Walton’s finished with g’nite granpa, g’nite granma and I knew exactly how Johnboy felt, by the time everyone said g’nite it was time to get up again. At one stage there was five of us boys in one bedroom with two sets of bunk-beds and a small bed, human rights organisations would be appalled at our overcrowding, we used to fight over space and processions and I have clear memories of wanting a big safe for my birthday so I could put my few things away safely.

Having four bigger brothers and coming from a poor family meant that clothes were always handed down. I used to be deeply envious of the eldest brother as he always got first go with the new clothes, by the time the clothes got handed down to me they tended to be quite baggy, worn, acquired strange stains and smelt ‘funny’. I never realised that vests and underwear came in the colour white, I just assumed all underwear was faded grey and shapeless.. My most earnest wish those days was for a set of underwear that no-one else had worn but I considered myself fortunate to a certain degree – I had two younger brothers as well so God knows just how holey underwear was by the time it got to the very youngest.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, generally no-one picked on you at school because everyone knew you had four older brothers who would extract painful revenge on them – unless of course they also had four older brothers – not unknown if truth be told. At the weekends in our street it really did look like those kids from Monty Pythons ‘The Meaning Of Life’ movie, there was tribes of us out playing in the Valentines playing fields, we could practically cover the entire soccer team without calling anyone else in. It was also easy to blame someone else for some misdemeanour’s one had committed – well, one was spoilt for choice of whom to pass the blame onto.. not like ‘I’ would do something like that…

I had two sisters as well, one of them my twin, they complained bitterly about being brought up in a house full of smelly Goths but generally the ratio of bodies to beds in their bedroom was better than ours. They also didn’t have to put up with the stifling smell of the great unwashed that I had to and generally their underwear remained in good condition when passed down. We also rode shotgun for them and made sure their boyfriends treated them well, actually we put the fear of God into most of their boyfriends…

As I got older, keeping track of who’s who became problematic, I was an uncle when I was eight (I think) and had three nieces by the time I was ten, by twenty-five when I left Norn Iron my eldest brother was a grandfather, it seems we Irish are a fertile lot, must be all the spuds.. ;p

bookmark_borderCrimes and Misdemeanour’s

My life of crime actually started when I was very young, I was obsessed with dogs (apparently!) as a toddler and whenever I saw a dog I’d run over and hug it. This wasn’t too bad but sadly my first words wasn’t Mamma or Dadda but actually DOG, much to the great disappointment of my parents. This was, I suppose quite cute but for quite a long time the only words I would say was Dog, Dog, Dog! Normally this would have been ok – except for the fact that (a) it always sounded like I was saying Doug rather than Dog and (b) the Postman was called Doug.. It seems I sparked off some gossip in my neighbourhood about whom my real father actually was…

Later on in life when I was about five and folk asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I always liked to say “International Playboy”, one of my much older brothers found it in a book and patiently taught me to say it. For some unknown reason this always startled folk and I liked the reaction I got from folk, sadly I’m still working on the actual International Playboy bit…

Then in my teens I went through my evil period… (or my creative period as I like to call it). We lived in a village for a few years and there wasn’t much to do in the evenings apart from kick around in the streets, we were too young to drive and no grown-ups were going to drive us to the bright city lights of Belfast so we had to find our own amusement.. So we made up this games called Thunder and Lightning, this entailed sneaking up quietly and ringing peoples doorbells and running away as quietly as possible and hiding behind a fence watching the person come out and look for the invisible man.. we derived great merriment watching folk come out, look around puzzled and then press their own doorbell.

Sadly, and like a drug, we started to get bored with merely ringing the doorbell so we had to up the ante… I had this box of matches so I thought why not ruffle up some old paper, set fire to it and then ring the doorbell. And this worked a treat, folk would come out, be startled to see some paper burning on their doorstep and they’d immediately stamp it out, doing this little dance.. the Doorstep Dance as we would call it..

We thought the Doorstep Dance was hilarious BUT there was one guy in the village that we all feared, he was always complaining to our parents (and anyone really) about us noisy kids and giving up grief…he had a ferocious dog that he used to set on us and it always burst our footballs… sooooooooo one day when I was feeling particularly mischievous I rolled up some small paper bags but as an addition I scooped up some of Arthur’s poop from his garden and placed it inside the bag. I am ashamed to say that then I placed it on the doorstep, set it on light, rang the doorbell and ran away… My Grumpy did indeed come out, saw the burning paper and immediately started stamping all over it…

I hang my head in shame..
(and am somewhat worried as my two boys are almost that same age now too… I’m wary of answering my doorbell these days..)

bookmark_borderSome clouds have a full colour lining.

During the 70’s and 80’s we had a spot of bother in Belfast, we call it ‘The Troubles’ and for a lot of folk it wasn’t much fun, terrorism, bombs, shootings, assassinations, knee-capping etc..

However, as a kid growing up during these times it didn’t really impact on us too much, at least not in a bad way. Every few years the IRA would fire-bomb the Co-op, Woolies and Wellworths , like clockwork and EVERYONE would know, it was always a Saturday afternoon in the summer and they would ring through a warning to the local police, the police would go through the well observed routine of clearing the High Street and a hour later the fire-bombs would go off and burn the stores down. The stores would get gutted and rebuilt and two years later the cycle repeated itself. It was rumoured that a local building contractor was actually paying big money to various folk to make this happen but was never proven.

So, we caught onto this routine very quickly and the next time the High Street was cleared we would nip around the back streets and wait, we’d see The Meat (we called the police The Meat because they drove around in armoured Land Rovers or what we called Meat Wagons), we’d see The Meat clear the area and then fall back themselves waiting for the Army Bomb Disposal to come along, and like a swarm of locusts, dozens of us kids would run into Woolies via the back goods entrances and help ourselves to assorted goodies.

For some reason Duracell batteries were all the rage, everyone made a bee-line for them and anything small and electrical like torches and small transistor radios… (and dirty mags too!). We’d grab what we could, filling our pockets and scooping anything and everything up in our jumpers before running out the back and heading off home via the backstreets.. We used to grab boxes and boxes of Duracell’s and in the school playground would trade them for sweets or cards, the market rate being one trading card for one AA battery or a box for a football, I was particular canny and would eek out my supply of batteries over a few months and trade them for a lot more rather than immediately trade them when the market was flooded, an early lesson in market economics..

This was life, a nice treat every couple of years but then one year when I was about 13 me Ma seen me with all my Duracell batteries and demaned to know where I got them from, she thought I had shoplifted them and was about the scalp me arse when I told her the truth, I told her that we all went into the back of Woolies and grabbed whatever we could..

So, being the kind loving generous mother that she wasn’t…she thought about it and then said..really? so next time you’re there can you grab me one of those new microwave ovens?!!

And of course I said yeah, no problem… and two years later, same routine… but this time I ran into the store and grabs the biggest microwave oven I could find and off I go with it… Sadly it was much heavier than I imagined it would be and it was still in it’s box (well, I’m not going to be getting me Ma a shop spoiled one!) but I struggled up the street with it…and other kids were running past with small portable black and white TV’s too.. Unfortunately I actually lived quite a distance from the High Street and by the time I got the microwave home it felt like me arms could scrap the pavement whilst standing up..

However, me Ma and Da were hooked and the next time I was told to get a colour TV, they had just come out and were horrendously expensive but we managed to get one of these, I had to enlist the help of my younger brother ( did I mention there was 9 of us?) but we got this monster home and it was like Christmas in our house during the middle of summer.. Me Ma invited all the neighbours around and when I came home from school one Monday afternoon there was about a dozen of them in the front room watching horse racing on the new Channel 4 TV station..everyone was amazed at the colours of the grass and my Ma was Queen Bee for many a moon..

It was a right few years before me Ma actually had to buy any major electrical item, she was gutted when the IRA called a cease fire, I’m sure if I could have lifted one then she would have asked me for a chest freezer but what I wonder is this, after the fire-bombs went off and the flames had been put out, did the Firemen wander around the store looking at the empty shelves wondering WTF had happened to all the goods, they must have thought Jesus, the heat was so intense that everything has vapourised..

So although the Troubles caused a lot of heart ache during the 70’s and 80’s, for my family at least there was a silver lining…or a full colour one 🙂

bookmark_borderStranger in a Strange Land: Part Three

I went to Greensboro one day… yes, you may need to Google that one..

This happened quite a few years ago, it was one of those days, I pitched up at Gatwick airport and asked when was the next plane leaving for the States, the clerk said the next available flight was to Raleigh International Airport, North Carolina so I said “excellent, never been there before, I’ll have a return ticket please” and three hours later I was flying over Glasgow, Iceland, Greenland and then Newfoundland etc

Anyway, I duly pitched up at Raleigh International Airport… and went outside to the taxi stand,
“Take me to the nearest big town please..”
“ermmm that’ll be Raleigh…you SURE you want to go there?”
“ermm yes…why not?”
“No-one visits Raleigh, it’s like Hotel California, you can check out any time you like but you can never leave…”
“OKKkkkkkkk well, lets go see anyway”

Six hours later and I was hitching my way out of town up i40.The Dispatcher was right, worlds most uninteresting town.. worse than Great Yarmouth in February and that’s saying something. My main aim was to try to get to Greensboro because there was a lot of Civil Right history there, the Long March started there and I thought it might be interesting. Sadly I was mistaken.

Dear reader, as a word of future warning, the best time *not* to visit Greensboro is when they have “Furniture Week”, what happens is that all the furniture manufacturers pitch up at Greensboro for a week and show off their designs and everyone in the States comes along and buys wardrobes and tables and expensive magazine racks on wheels.. and every hotel and motel, guest house, B&B and cardboard box is fully booked, the proverbial no room in the Inn…not good.. but eventually I found a room in a seedy hotel…I know it’s seedy as it takes only cash and there are bars on the reception kiosk.. but a room is a room and I try to freshen up.. Whilst I was washing away I could hear this Irish music playing away faintly and I thought what the hell is that, I thought I’m the only Irishman for about 500 miles in either direction so I got dressed and tried to locate where the music was coming from. I walked around the block to the back of the hotel and listened and followed the music, eventually I found this pub called M’Couls and it was buzzing..

http://www.mcoulspub.com

So I went in and I couldn’t hear too much because of all the chat downstairs so I said to the barman where was the Irish music coming from, he said upstairs, a group plays there one Sunday every month, I said God, I thought I was the only Irishman for miles around and he said, oh yes, you are, in fact you’re the first Irishman I’ve meet since working here….oh dear..

So I went upstairs and it was packed there too but out on the veranda there were about a dozen men and woman all sitting down with goose harps, drums and bagpipes playing this great music and a large appreciative audience watching them. I thought this is great so I went to the bartender and asked for some Guinness, (terrible terrible muck but I felt I had too drink it considering the circumstances). The barman gave me a huge big smile and asked if I was Irish and I said yes, of course and he asked to shake my hand..I thought that’s very friendly of him..

I sat down and started to listen to this group playing and then it dawned on me that I hadn’t a clue what they were playing, I sat there for nearly a hour and I had no clue what any of the tunes were. The weird thing was it was definitely Irish music but they would be playing away continuously and then one of them would slowly stop, put his drum down, go for a quick pint and then come back and start playing again, and they all did this, there was this continuous movement of group members to the bar and loo but the music just kept on going, and then the music would slow down and someone would start a different beat and then they would all follow that beat and join in..

Eventually I wiggled my way to the front when one of the girls playing the goose harp took a break and went off to the bar, when she came back I stopped her just before she started again and I asked her what the group was called and what was that tune they were playing..

She looked at me with huge big eyes and said, “oh my God, are you Irish?” I said “well yes, so what?” (I’m starting to get worried now..) … and she waves her arms to the rest of the group and goes “Guys Guys, he’s Irish!!” I’m checking out just where the exits are now… They all stop and go “Wow, you’re Irish…” and I say “…errrrr..yes, what of it, what’s the big deal?” and they all start asking me questions about the music…and I’m sitting there and they’re all shaking my hand and I’m thinking what bloody parallel universe have I stumbled upon, surely there must be Irish folk around here if you are all playing Irish music but no, apparently they don’t get many tourists in Greensboro, they do have a tourist office but it’s usually to point them to some famous drive in the mountains and also where some civil rights march started in the sixties but that’s it, no-one comes to Greensboro outside of Furniture Week and there are no out’a towners let alone foreigners..

So it transpires that there was this guy who ran a music shop in Greensboroand he loved Irish music, so he taught himself some of the tunes and then others came into the shop and learnt the tunes and instruments, eventually there was about a dozen of them and they started meeting up at weekends and making up and playing their own tunes. Before they knew it the neighbours were complaining about the racket so they approached McCouls and asked if they could use his upstairs space to which he readily agreed, and then it became a regular fixture that they would all meet up there at 4pm for 4 hours first Sunday of the month and this was great for them as they had an appreciative audience and the bar got all the extra trade.

But the thing was that they didn’t know any traditional Irish tunes so they simply did jamming sessions all afternoon and of course none of the locals know any tunes either so they didn’t know any better and this is where I came in and they wanted to know how they sounded and did they sound Irish and a hundred a one other questions soooo I spent ages chatting away with them and slowly getting plastered with more Guinness…god awful stuff but they kept buying me pints of it…and the food was even worse…

Anyway, they were a really nice bunch, so lovely and keen but to cut a long story short and after a few pints and loads of questions I got up and announced that “as the unofficial Irish Ambassador to Greensboro, North Carolina, it gives me great pleasure to bestow honorary Irish citizenship on each and every member of the band” to which there was a HUGE cheer and lots of back patting..

Not bad for a Northern Irish Git, this is what is always happening to me on my travels and why I like to travel off the beaten track..

bookmark_borderStranger in a Strange Land: Part One

I went to Minneapolis once.. rather stupidly I went in February, Feck it was cold, was not a good idea, on a scale of ‘not good ideas’ with one being putting your tongue on the terminal of a nine volt battery and ten being putting your tongue on a frozen lamp-post, this was perhaps an eight or maybe even a nine ..but it was a free trip organised by St. Jude Medical to look at their Stentless Aortic Valves, I’d go anywhere if it was free…Iran, Iraq..even Afghanistan if it’s free…don’t forget, I come from Northern Ireland, guns and bombs and terrorism doesn’t scare me, grew up with it all, they don’t call Belfast ‘Northern Beirut’ for nothing you know..

So I went to my training session on the two days and by the way ate huge amounts of doughnuts of all flavours and colours, where do they all come from? pink ones, apple ones, cinnamon ones, jam ones, chocolate ones sprinkled with hundreds and thousands and then dusted with caster sugar to finally beat my Islets of Langerhans into submission.. there seemed to be an endless supply…

I worked on Thursday and Friday and had Saturday free before I had to get a plane back to civilisation in the evening, so I thought I would wander out of the plush (free!) (and warm!) hotel and have a nosey around.. It was *a bit chilly*, I hadn’t really prepared for the cold, stupidly I thought it would be just like our winters in Ireland, three snowflakes and that’s yer lot but I was seriously mistaken, it was really brass monkey weather, for the first few minutes I felt exhilarated…like I had just entered a cold shower, I was awake and alive but then I realised just how cold it really was, my breathing actually became painful and my cheeks seemed to have gone numb..I scanned the horizon for polar bears…and icebergs.. and headed for the mall that was signposted as 100 yards away…and I walked and walked …blocks and blocks of skyscrapers but no mall…and I was starting to get concerned, no mall and no one walking in the streets, no shops for respite, no bars, no coffee shops, nothing..Scott of the Antartic’s famous last words sounded in my head “I’m going out now, I may be some time…”

But cars were driving past ?somewhere..so I followed a car up a ramp into a towerblock..and followed a couple into a lift going down to the building basement..and in there was the mall… I grabbed a coffee…they don’t seem to do tea in Minneapolis …apart bizarrely for iced tea?? That does not compute as far as Irishmen are concerned..why would you drink iced tea…in winter..with no milk..or sugar.. so I had a coffee and thawed out..

Once I felt the blood coursing through my frozen cheeks again I chatted away to a shop assistant, it seems the winters in Minneapolis get so cold that rather than have everyone outside in the streets the city thought it was be a much better idea to have all the shops and bars under the skyscrapers…ergo you can leave your air conditioned house and drive in your air conditioned car almost directly into the air conditioned malls… the chances of you actually inhaling some fresh air during the winter months was somewhat less than the chances of a dog finding a tree in the middle of the Sahara..at night…during a sandstorm..

I chatted away with the young assistant and asked her what was there to do as a tourist in Minneapolis? She said, well, really we don’t get many tourists here, in fact I was the first foreigner she had ever met (she WAS young!) so I asked if there was somewhere I could buy a postcard…she didn’t know…nor did her Manager… but he shook my hand and she took our photo?????? why????? So I directed the same query to the Manager.. and he reflected thoughtfully for a minute and then said proudly…well, we have the Mall Of America…the worlds biggest mall… and he beamed.. I was confused.. I was already in a VAST shopping mall, was this not it? and why would I want to go to another mall… and I said well, what about history, anyone famous born here, assassinated here, (BTW, how famous does one have to be to be assassinated rather then murdered?…just a thought) any famous (non-mall) buildings, heritage trails, parks, history…ANYTHING…tourist information office?…nope.. the Mall Of America was it.. I asked him how long he had lived in Minneapolis…all his life he said… I asked him had he actually left the State at any time in his life…nope.. hmmmmm

So I spent a few hours wandering around the mall, it actually turned out to be a fascinating exercise, in this country I go to Sainsburys or Tesco and see the same food again and again… and trust me, consistency is good in many things…especially in terms of bowel movements. I know where everything is and I can do a weekly shop in three seconds flat…well, three seconds flat if it wasn’t for those stupid automatic self-service checkouts saying “unexpected item in the shopping area, please remove to continue..” for Christ sake, it’s bloody shopping so how could it be unexpected? what does it think it is, the Bolivian Navy on manoeuvres in the South Pacific?? stupid machines… But wander around an American store…WallMark…Target..BestBuys and you recognise absolutely nothing, all the food is different, all the hardware is different, even the medicines are different…Paracetamol and Aspirin..nope..what the hell is Tylenol and where is the Lemonsip…all completely new and strange..

I spent ages looking at all the strange factory processed foodstuffs that claimed to be natural and healthy but had never been near a farm in their entire existence, things that would send any child in this country into a hyperactive frenzy with one lick… and they pack everything into papers sacks for you …whilst you stand there with your arms at the same length thinking “I could do this and then your queues would be half the size…you dimwit..” and the spotty sixteen year old smiles at you and wishes you a nice day …but he has that look of desperation in his face that says please help me, I’ve been trapped in BestBuys since birth and the crystal in my hand is starting to blink.. (OH for heavens sake, Logan’s Run you idiot, when were you born? yesterday? or 29yrs and 364days ago? google it!)

So I headed off and left the hallowed halls ?malls of America, the sun has come up and I actually find a park, mostly deserted, not even the obligatory joggers running around with their iPods and smarmy smug git looks and I sit down in the park by this frozen lake, across from me is some modern art of a giant spoon with a cherry on the end, what is the city trying to say..take my cherry? I’m giving it to you on a bleeding big spoon…a friend of mine in Canada sent me an equally large wooden spoon a while back, I asked was this the bobby prize in some competition I had unknowingly entered but she said no, it was simply because she knew how much I like to stir it up so now I had a huge big effing spoon to stir it up even more..She also sent me two blue stress balls to squeeze but I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my balls were already blue and stressed..

The ice on the pond is frozen and two teenagers are sliding across it good naturedly..and trying to crack it.. I’m reminded of that old joke;

One night a drunk Eskimo decides to go ice fishing. He goes off into the night, sets down his fishing rod and starts to hack a hole in the ice with his axe…

Suddenly, out of nowhere a voice booms out “You won’t find any fish there!”. He looks around but can see no-one and thinks he must be imagining it so starts smashing the ice again..

The voice booms out even louder ” I said you won’t find any fish there!!” and he looks around mystified but can see no-one…He thinks I’m definitely drunker than I thought I was but resumes chipping away at the ice..

but again he hears the voice “Look, I said, you WON’T find any fish THERE!!!”

..and he puts his ice pick down, looks up to the heavens and says “is that you God, trying to show me the error of my ways?”

And the voice booms back

……..”NO! It’s the ice rink manager, you fecking idiot!!”

My butt is starting to stick to the bench, next time, I go in summer and take my chances with heatstroke, mosquito’s and malaria..

bookmark_borderThe Men Who Stare At Goats

Went to see The Men Who Stare at Goats last night with my Irish friend K and for the first time ever she actually walked out half way through, the movie annoyed her intensely, anything that makes reference to the US being in Iraq makes her hackles rise and she quickly mounts her high horse, so she got really annoyed with the movie and stropped out cursing and swearing..this is the woman who thought HellBoy 2 was brilliant…*shudders*

K is from Ballymena, N. Ireland and the woman from there are a special breed, they don’t just have balls, they have the complete fishing tackle, woman from ‘mena don’t take any prisoners, K can be quite challenging, she has no filter between her thoughts and her mouth and will take anyone on, it’s normal practice for woman in ‘mena to actually start the bar fights, if a crowd of six hoodies were in her way she wouldn’t hesitate laying into them and giving them a mouthful – and then kick the shit out of them… even her muscles have muscles.. you only cross ‘mena woman once…she’s called me the c word a few times but I look upon it as a term of endearment..

I, on the other hand quite liked the movie last night, it had no substance, no big lesson, not a movie one would hold in their head for days afterwards but it was quirky and cute and it held my attention for two hours..

The last movie I REALLY liked was The Brother Bloom, like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels updated for this decade and Rachel Weisz’s character was absolutely brilliant, I don’t want to marry Rachel Weisz, I want to marry Penelope, her character in that movie, she was brilliant, cheeky, funny, incredibly daring, outrageous, sexy, and innocent at the same time – and knew how to juggle chainsaws…whilst riding an unicycle… excellent..

Anyone here know how to juggle chainsaws?