Coming soon

So … the new poetry collection is finally in the loving care of the best proof reader in the West. The title is sans rime ni raison, and it should be published some time this year.

As Myles na gCopaleen would say, pre-order your copy in advance.

Filíocht ar líne

Cuir an dáta i do dhialann anois: Dé Sathairn, 31 Samhain.

Ní trick atá anseo, ach is cinnte go mbeidh treat nó dhó ag fanacht libh ag an nasc seo ag 1.00pm ar an lá.

Seans go mbeidh mé féin i measc na bhfilí a chuir físeán isteach chuig an Chúirt Filíochta …


100 (n.o.)

Gavaskar acknowledges the applause after another century

Goodbye to Social Distancing

Is it safe to go back into the water? Apparently so, according to the Dancing Bear anyway. Boris gave his valedictory daily update a couple of days ago (boy, did he ever regret promising that the British government would give the press a daily update on its covidnovid failures), has since come up with the nonsensical 1m+ measurement for social distancing and has shuffled off into the sunset after basically re-opening anything that was shut during the Kerfuffle.

And why is this? Has the UK suddenly become a safe place in which the virus has been suppressed or contained? Did Boris overnight find and institute a proper, German-like track and test system? Did his ‘world-leading’ scientists (anything British can never merely be described as ‘good’; it has to be the best in the World, or at least much better than whatever Johnny Foreigner can come up with) create a vaccine that will ensure the health and safety of the citizens of his Disunited Kingdom? Calm yourself, Jacinta, of course not. So, how come Boris is announcing the end to lockdown?

I’m sorry to say that the answer is that he just doesn’t care. The narcissism of Mr Johnson (link here, Question Girl, so that you do not need to use a dictionary) cannot be overestimated. The facts will help to bear this out. He fumbled and blustered his way through a pandemic that could have been managed much more successfully – and was in many other countries – and with far fewer deaths. The total number of deaths in the UK will end up much more than twice the 20,000 that was quoted as a good outcome at the start of the outbreak. In the light of such demonstrable incompetence, any leader worth his salt would fall on his own sword, or, at least, resign. While Boris might be worth his not inconsiderable weight in gold due to his extra-curricular activities, there is more salt in a ninety-nine.

He doesn’t care how many citizens of the country he somehow ended up running have died. He also doesn’t care how many more of them will die due to his relaxing of lockdown rules. Because none of them will be him: he has already had covidnovid, and all indications are that, even should he catch it again, it will not be life-threatening for him. So what he wants – and remember, as a narcissist, what he wants is all that matters – is for the restaurants he frequents to be open again so that he can get on with his normal, PC life. The relative danger both to customers and staff in such establishments is irrelevant to him.

He has also declared that schoolchildren will be going back to school full-time in September. Again, the risk to teachers and children of this decision is immaterial to the Dancing Bear: what matters is that, for his clapped-out economy to splutter into some sort of life again just in time for Brexit to finish it off for good, children are in school so that parents can go back to work. Yes, some of the children and teachers might get infected and die, but what does that matter in the grand scheme of things? Sure they were going to die eventually anyway.

Enough about him; let’s talk about me. In cricket – a much-maligned but actually very admirable sport – reaching a century of runs is considered a good knock for any batsman. Either of the opening batsmen in a Test Match (which lasts five days, Jacinta: stick that in your pipe, rugby and soccer players!) would be more than pleased to have the 100 (n.o.) after his name at the end of the opening day, meaning he has scored 100 runs and is not out, ie he will bat again the next day.

And so with me. This is day 100 of my lockdown, and, fictitious events described in this blog notwithstanding, I have not been out of my isolation shed since Day 1.

Me, one hundred days ago

So I am now, in my own way, 100 (n.o.). But that is about to change. I reckon it is about time the World saw a bit more of me, and my laptop a bit less. If it is good enough for Boris …

This is, therefore, the last post of the Kerfuffle era. SquareBracketsHead can go off and find himself another editing job somewhere, the Finance Director has two companies of her own to run and I have released the herd of PhD students back into captivity of the libraries which will soon re-open. My affairs are therefore in order, and I can venture out into this brave, new world with a clear conscience.

The novel is better, obviously

But what about youse, my 25 followers? [That sort of makes you a leader, you know? – Ed.] Well, my advice, for what it’s worth, is for you to go off and follow someone else, preferably someone going in the same direction as you. I am grateful for your interest in my ramblings, particularly to those of you who bothered to leave comments, but now I am, as the saying goes, outta here, I’m history, I’m yesterday’s Irish News.

Go dtaga bhur racht!

Day 99

Be afraid, be very afraid …

The Wife’s (pt) Tale

Right! [Oh shit! – Ed.] Oh shit is right, Sherlock, and you can shut up too; I have confiscated your square brackets, which means you are speechless as you are too shy to speak to people without them.

Right, this is the Wife speaking. Listen carefully, I shall say this only once. Looking after yer man is a full-time job for anyone, never mind for someone who has a part-time job of her own and who does all the washing of clothes, most of the cooking, all of the cleaning, the vast majority of the dishes and far too much of the sex thing.

I ended up in here because I noticed that yer man was far too pleased with himself lately. This perception required no little skill on my part, as the same boy is quare and often far too pleased with himself. But there seemed to be a certain contentment and calm about him this past while which, as his duly anointed wife, I felt it was my duty to put an end to. So I stalked him for a while – he is that self-centred that he barely noticed me following him about the place – and eventually discovered through a brief check on his internet browsing history that he was spending far too much time on this particular site. I knew he had been writing something as he occasionally tried to tell me about parts of it. But my strict policy with anything he writes is never to read it: he gets far too much attention anyway without getting any from me. That keeps him on his toes.

But, as I said, this time, this writing seemed to be providing him with more than acceptable levels of joy and equanimity, and, as any wife will tell you, there is nothing more dangerous that a content husband. It is much more advisable to keep them in a state of semi-worry, constantly alert to the fact that you might just find out that they have been negligent in one of their many duties and that you expect the situation to be remedied immediately. So I have been perusing the product of his fevered imagination, and let me tell you, it is mostly imagination.

While I am here though, there are a few things I would like to set straight. My three children are wonderful and beautiful – and I say ‘my’ rather than ‘our’ to teach him a lesson about casting aspersions on their parenthood. He can put that in his pipe and smoke it.

Secondly, as a proper county person, I know that long runs the fox, and that the only way to have cordial relationships with the neighbours down through the generations is by never saying anything about them in public. So I wish to formally disassociate myself, and my children, from the scandalous fictions he has written here about my good neighbours. He is a blow-in, but even a blow-in should have a bit of cop on.

Thirdly, I have never visited a brothel in my life. I have lived across the street from a few, and, in my younger days, earned a good living in a high-class Parisien one, but visiting the places would be beneath my dignity. When I have finished my shopping and am ready to go back to the hotel, I generally send the driver of the taxi over to those establishments with the message that if he does not hurry up and finish the hamburger, he will find that steak is permanently off the menu when he gets home. It is a sad state of affairs that his expertise in sexual matters is in inverse proportion to his interest, but at least his brothel visits give me a break for a month or two; longer if ‘we’ have given up sex again for Lent.

Anything else? He no more has Spanish-speaking staff than the Man in the Moon, he does not know one end of a paintbrush from the other and he claims that he can never boil potatoes properly because there are no cooking instructions on the packet. The extra income from his part-time (!) importing of Colombian dope does come in handy though, and keeps me in the style which his prize-winning Irish poems don’t.

What should a woman do with a man like that? Well, one time I left him hitching for a lift at a disused railway station, as you see in the picture below.

Vagabond at railway station in Donegal

But he found his way home eventually. In truth, I would not swop him for the World. Better the devil you know, eh girls, and I could not be bothered with all that effort of training another one.

But he could start putting a wash on the odd time. And that pile of stuff in the hall has still not been filed away somewhere. As for the shelves he said he would put up …

Day 98

Social Distancing

The bonefire? Complete wash-out; in a break with all known tradition, we’ll have another go at it tonight.

They won’t see the fire from my house on Tory though, which is the place I first stumbled upon the tradition of bonefires to mark St John’s Eve on 23 June. And stumbled is the operative word here, as me and the lads fought our way out of a drunken soup in the Club on the island, and staggered down the road a bit to a handy square of exposed concrete which the girls had constructed a fire on. There was no doubt, given its size, that the Tory fire could be seen on the mainland (not Great Britain, in case there are any lurking NI Civil Service types reading this), and several fires could be seen across the seven miles of water from where we stood.

At the time, I had no idea what the bonefire was in aid of, and there was certainly no mention of John the Bap amongst the assembled youth. It was, in essence, a pagan event. And no better place for it than that wind-scoured crag of rock braving the Atlantic off the north-west coast of Donegal. It still is mostly a pagan event, as all public fires tend to be; sure the only reason The Catholic Church in all her wisdom placed the feast of John the Bap at this time of the year was to hijack the already extant pagan festivals around that time to celebrate the Summer Solstice.

And here we go [at last! – Ed.]. When do you think Summer starts? The poor Brits cannot even get that right. Follow this link, and then read it. and you will find the surprising statement from the Brit Met Office that Summer will last four months this year. Have you got that? And have you got your calculator handy? So four seasons in a year, one of them is Summer and that is lasting four months, apparently … so, eight divided by three equals two point six seven (2.67). Who is going to tell the other three seasons that they will be short by 0.33 of a month this year because of either a) Summer’s greed or b) the Brit Met Office’s stupidity? You’re a better man than me, Gunga Din, if you take that task on: Spring can have a bite to it, Autumn can be stormy and Winter is notoriously frosty and, apparently, is coming. Does the Met Office know where this time is going? Sandy Denny, didn’t, and this one is for Des.

Even their meteorological calendar does not make sense. If midsummer is around 21 June, how could Summer only start on 1 June? That would make midsummer really onethirdsummer, and that does not have the same ring to it.

The answer, as usual, is provided by the Irish language, and by those old wise heads who named the months. The word for September in Irish literally translates as ‘Middle of Autumn’, the name for October means ‘End of Autumn’. Is that clear enough for you? Summer therefore consists of the months of May, June and July, with midsummer – surprise! surprise! – being right bang in the middle of it where it should be. So next year when some linguistically-challenged West Brit contradicts your assertion that Spring begins on 1 February with St Brigid’s Day, just point them in the direction of the nearest Irish-language class. Twould be pointless to point them in the direction of the nearest logic class: look at the result of the Brexit vote for the reason for that.

Apparently six people not from my family have to turn up at my outdoor bonefire event tonight, according to my understanding of the new opendown rules announced by Marlene. Is this strictly compulsory? Because I do not know six people outside of my own family. Maybe some of the four surviving readers of this blog should turn up at the hacienda tonight to make up the numbers? I wouldn’t want to get in trouble with the Peelers.

Not about mathematics, anyway.

Day 97

pic by Proinsias Mac a’Bhaird

Distancing from fire

Bonefire night tonight. [Sp? – Ed.] And I do know what I am doing with that extra ‘e’ in that word, so ignore BracketsHead. That is how we pronounced the word round our way where I grew up [tautology? -Ed] (I’ll give you that one). Of course, round our way when I grew up (happy now?), bonefire night was the 11th of July, so what am I on about saying 23rd of June is bonefire night?

Well, let me tell you a thing or two about bonefires. For a start, they predate the establishment of The Orange Disorder, and are not exclusively the property of loyalists. St Patrick, indeed, had a few episodes with bonefires and druids and what have you. Secondly, the word in Irish for bonefire is tine chnámh, which translates literally as ‘a fire of bones’, so the pronunciation of the English word down or up or round our way was actually more in keeping with its origins. The whole ‘bon fire’ nonsense always sounds prissy and snobby to my ears. Like saying butcher with an -oo- sound instead of the -u- sound to be found in the word ‘gull’.

Anyway, tomorrow is the Feast of John the Baptist, and to celebrate the eve of the feast, bonefires are traditionally lit. Or were. The tradition does live on in certain parts of the country, most noticeably on the Western seaboard in Gaeltacht areas. The pic above is hot off the press from Arranmore, and will be set alight pretty soon. Speaking of which, I have to go and prepare my own bonefire, which will be burnt in the brand new brazier wot I bought the Part-Time Wife for her birthday – because that is what she asked for. Lighting a bonefire where I live will confuse the Hell out of the locals, which is reason enough for doing it, I think. Also, everyone loves a good fire, don’t they? It brings out the pagan in us. But I absolutely refuse to indulge in dancing naked around my one tonight. Or in sacrificing the odd resident teenager on it, no matter how great the temptation.

I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow. Maybe.

Day 96

Do you want food with that?

Food Distancing

There is a reason I developed Type 2 Diabetes. [Do NOT mention McDonald’s in the next sentence! Legal are going ballistic – Ed.] Veggie roll may have something to do with it, or vegetable roll to give the foodstuff its full, formal title. For those of you reading (and apparently there are only about three of you left, depending on the day) who are not from this benighted isle, veggie roll is beef, probably, but not beef as you know it, Jim; it is meat from those parts of the dead cow that are hardest to reach and which has been separated from its dead bones by a process you do not want to know about. A slice or two of onion, and a few ragged leaves of something vaguely green are then mixed into the piles of meat off-cuts, the mixture is rolled into a cylinder shape and wrapped in plastic and sold to us, either as a whole cylinder or sliced.

Each to his own, but the fact that this mixture of offal and brains and hooves of dead cows is sold to us under the name vegetable roll is surely a court case waiting to happen? The roll part is accurate enough, but using vegetable to describe a substance that is about 97.3% meat is surely stretching the word a bit too far? I envisage a case brought under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, and in which I will argue – convincingly – that vegetable roll was a contributing factor in my acquiring diabetes, and that the complications thereof for my social, emotional and culinary life are such that I should be generously rewarded compensated in respect of them. I will, naturally, represent myself at the legal proceedings; the last thing you want to do when it comes to legal proceedings is to get lawyers involved.

“I put it to me, your Honour,” I shall say as part of my two-hour summing up speech, “that my client, a decent, upstanding but culinary-naive citizen, would never have gone within a beagle’s gowl of the foodstuff under examination (cross or otherwise) had he been aware of its actual ingredients. A trusting soul at the best of times, he presumed he was eating his way to tip-top health through the prodigious mountains of vegetable roll that he consumed each and every morning for twenty years. And the major, nay only, factor in this mistaken belief of his was the actual misnomer of a name the foul disc is advertised and sold under. I mean, your Honour, notwithstanding the fact that if it tastes vaguely like meat, and looks vaguely like meat, it probably is vaguely like meat, my client was duped by its name into believing he was consuming vegetables – and much more than the recommended five a day, I might add – and, as such and heretofore, was completely flabbergasted when his GP presented him with a diagnosis of incurable Type 2 Diabetes. You see him sitting there today, a broken, diminished man, his trust in the purveyors of goods for consumption to accurately name those goods completely shattered. ‘What next?’ he wonders with trepidation. Has his smoked salmon not actually passed through the lungs of a fellow human being before he eats it? Is that not actually a toad he has been biting the head off for years once he has extricated it from its hole? Is Big Stew in any way actually of greater proportions than its colleague, Wee Stew? I leave it to the generosity of the Court to adequately quantify the damage done to this poor wretch. Usual 10% off the top to you, of course, your Honour.”

As for who I should sue, there is not an actual rich, multinational company in charge of the global veggie roll trade – it being a Norn Iron delicacy. So I might just have to take my action against the estate of my dead mother who first introduced the substance to my diet, thus cutting off my nose to spite my face.

Part-Time Wife reliably informs me that her granny used to cook veggie roll without first removing the encircling plastic casing. While this may have added to the nutritional content of the meal, it hardly did anything for the taste.

It is her birthday today, she also informs me. I wonder what she got?

Remind me to do the McDonald’s post some other day. [Another call-back! Do your homework – Ed.] In the meantime, this is a good laugh.

Day 95

Time Distancing … or where Einstein went wrong

I have often said – but not often enough, apparently – that if you want a peek into the mind of God, you should listen carefully to children’s conversations and questions. Male Teenager #2 came up with this cracker of a thought experiment the other day. Actually, he did not pose it as an experiment; he stated it as fact because, being a teenager, he knows everything and has no need of suppositions.

Says he to me on one of his breaks from being plugged into the interwobble through his blue-tooth (no idea what that means) headphones (not earphones, note: Male Teenager #2 does not care for earphones), “Do you know that if you got in a rocket and went enough light years away from Earth and then looked back at it through a telescope, you would see dinosaurs roaming about the planet?” Please refrain, as I did, from picking holes in this scenario, and just think about it for a while, and the science that the wee lad’s brain has picked up from somewhere in order to be able to state the scenario coherently.

A) He gets the fact that when we look up at the stars at night (it is generally better to do this at night), what we are seeing is not the stars as they are right now, but as they were some time in the past, given the fact that it takes a while for the light from the stars to reach our eyes. Quite a while, in some instances. So he knows that some of the stars we are looking at now in our present may not actually exist any more in our present, but we still see them as it takes a certain amount of time for the light they emit to get to us.

B) He extrapolates from this that, instead of being on the Earth looking up at the stars, if we were out there among the stars looking back at the Earth, what we would be seeing is the Earth not as it is in our present out there among the stars, but as it was some time in its past.

C) Instead of using this extrapolation to practise the much-neglected skill of predicting past events (copyright, Myles na Gopaleen), Male Teenager #2 reasons further that, in order to see dinosaurs, all you need to do is to get far enough away from the Earth so that the light you are seeing through your massive telescope is from the Earth so far in the past that it is the one that had the dinosaurs running about on it.

That’s a bit of mind-flip for a Sunday, isn’t it?

Any excuse for a mind-flip, Brad

I am considering uploading the statement to the wee lad’s Google Classroom with the following note: Dear Wee Lad’s Science Teacher, While wee lad did not actually do much of the work you uploaded for him to do while he was hiding at home from covidnovid, have a look at what he actually did come up with through his own research on the interwobble. I feel it displays a certain grasp of Einstein’s mistaken pronouncements on the relativity of Time as well as a nascent understanding of the dynamics of physics relevant to space travel. As such, I would expect nothing less than an A grade in his Summer report, notwithstanding the fact that he has completed little or none of the work set for him. Signed: The Wee Lad’s Daddy.

Summer, you see? Apparently it is Summer in this hemisphere, but Winter if you are reading this in the Southern Hemisphere. As for whether it is the start of Summer (as the Brits mistakenly think) or the middle of Summer (as the Irish language correctly tells us it is), is a debate for another day. [Those call-backs? And there’s another one; have you done your homework? – Ed.] (Not yet, and school is nearly out for Summer.) [Could we have that video please? – Ed.] (Oh, all right; I’m in a good mood cos it’s Sunday.)

So, although it is 21 June, 2020, in both hemispheres, it is Winter in one of them and Summer in the other, and neither really if you happen to be in one of the regions on Earth that does not really have seasons. See, Einstein? It is not just Time that is relative, it is the weather too. And, as it happens, one word has aspects of both in the aul tongue, namely aimsir, as in aimsir chaite, aimsir ghnáthláithreach etc and the aimsir that you see out your window when you look properly out your window.

Back to God, it being Sunday and all and there still being no hurling to distract us. I have told you before that Time is an illusion [have you?- Ed.](maybe not here, but surely they are doing research and reading my other writings?), and it certainly is if you are God. (You are not God, by the way, in case of any confusion.) As the wee lad’s scenario pointed out, all you need to do for all possible presents of Earth to be available to you, is to adjust your distance from Earth; a mere bagatelle of a trick for God, who is currently so far away from Earth that he has apparently left us up to our own devices.

As for the holes in the wee lad’s scenario, if you have not worked them out yet, leave a comment, or email me. But do not tell him!

p.s. I am aware that the wee lad could have just cut and pasted the whole scenario from the interwobble into his conversation without having gone through the thought processes above, but I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt; he is only 12 after all.

Day 94

A day out in Germany pre-Kerfuffle

Work sets you free … of leisure

You’ve heard of the Nazis I take it? Of course you have; sure you hang out on the interwobble, and so know about Godwin’s law for below the line discussions that dictates that the first one to mention the Nazis loses the argument. We should be thankful to the Nazis for this, as arguments are tricky things, and deciding who has won one is an even trickier pancake of a conundrum. The odd time, Part-Time Wife informs me that I am in an argument, and, quite often, this piece of information comes as a complete surprise to me. I’ll be pontificating away there, or in the middle of some amusing yet erudite monologue, presuming for all the World that what I am involved in is a discussion, or, at a pinch, a frank exchange of views, only to be informed that I am, in fact, engaged in an argument.

Of course, once this revelation moves its unsightly cranium from a lower position, the nature of the interlocution changes. For me, anyway, as Part-Time Wife presumably already knew she was in an argument. Once you find that you are in an argument, there are only two recommended courses of action: you should walk away from it – preferably at a fast pace – or you should win it. There is a third possible action – invading Poland – but that is not always either feasible or practical, depending on what clothes you are wearing and the military hardware at your disposal. Life being a series of minor competitions or tests, and your performance in them playing no small part in whether you see yourself as a winner or a loser, there is virtually nothing to be said for the coward’s way out of deliberately losing an argument in the hope of some nookie later on. A wank will do you, and winning the argument will do more for your self-esteem than an orgasm with a witness.

The Son and Heir has recently discovered the joys to be had in the cut and thrust of intellectual debate; more precisely, in ‘serving’ his opponent in such debates. Or arguments, as his mother calls them, as, to give him his Jew, Son and Heir generally picks her as his victim. He has learned well from David Attenborough films, and so identifies the weakest, smallest or youngest member of the tribe before launching his attack, the tribe in this instance being that group on which he and his siblings live as parasites, namely parents. I have even observed, from a safe distance, his parroting of some of my phrases while in the thick of the fray, gems such as, “This isn’t an argument, it’s a discussion,”, “That happened five minutes ago; stop dragging up the Past,” or even, “There’s no need to get angry about it just because you’ve realised you’re wrong.” He is a quick learner, and also smart enough – so far – not to take me on in his new hobby.

As an Arts graduate, I was, of course, trained to within an inch of my life in the skill of being able to state either side of any topic with equal conviction, and so arguing with the likes of me is like trying to pick up quicksilver. Without a moment’s notice, I will suddenly switch sides in an argument, prove the opponent’s point in a much more succinct and memorable way than she could ever hope to and – and here is the rub – go on to outline why the issue is irrelevant due to the absurdity of Man’s existence in a meaningless Universe. And all this before I have had my Weetabix, usually.

Useful phrase that, the one about the Universe and Man, and I learned it off by heart from the blurb on one of those novels I had to study when zooming through the upper echelons of the education system. I taught Female Teenager (not heir to anything, by the way, although she is the oldest) a similar phrase once as something to say out loud in art galleries to impress the other poseurs. The phrase, and you can have it for free, is, “I think this is indicative of the dual nature of mankind.” Try it out yourself; it works for almost any picture you might be looking at, particularly abstract ones.

Speaking of the education system, I see the race is on: Boris sent his guy out to bat after Marlene’s guy had shown his hand, and the English guy took full advantage by gazumping Peter Weir’s 54 page document on what the Hell is going to happen with schools come September. The Brits have promised all pupils back full-time with no more of this messing about on Google classroom and virtual learning. I have a dog in this fight, as I have already laid a fiver bet with my line manager that that is what will happen here as well, although that was mostly in an attempt to excuse myself from all the frantic planning that is going on at work in case it doesn’t happen. We shall find out after the Summer, but I would lay another fiver that by that stage parents will have derived the maximum benefit from the uninterrupted presence of their teenagers for five months, and are quite likely to deliver them to the school gates on 1 September and drive off in the direction of the nearest airport with a cheery, “See ya! They’re all yours now until Hallowe’en!”

And also on the education system, and things we should be grateful to the Nazis for. That extremely handy, though arbitrary, method of determining the outcome of an argument is not the only positive feature the Nazis left as a legacy for future societies. Had Hitler and his mates not done their thing, what on Earth would pupils study during their History lessons? Without all that rise to power, Nuremberg rallies and Final Solution stuff, there would be a gaping hole in the middle of the syllabus, and there just isn’t enough other history around to fill it.

You wish to contradict me? Join the queue, but be advised that I will win any ensuing competitive discussion.

Day 93

Missed, sucker!

Social Mistancing

If I hear the phrase ‘mental health’ one more time, I think I’ll go crazy. [Go? – Ed.] Throughout my life, so far, there have been various reasons for me to undergo the always risky business of visiting the barber for a haircut. Risky because the outcome was never guaranteed, even if the barber remained the same. My hair has a life, and legend, of its own, and generally if it leaves me alone, I leave it alone. I am intrigued, though, as to what it gets up to in the middle of the night. No matter which side I lie on to go to sleep, when I wake up, my hair looks as if it has gone fifteen rounds with Muhammad Ali in his prime. A bit like this, to continue the boxing references, but not so blue.

Don King’s face stays expressionless while his hair displays alarm

But every two months or so, the hair will get into such a state that I will have to risk the whole barbershop experience to impose some sort of order on the chaos. And it is usually a barber these days – I have left my visits to unisex salons behind me. Mostly because the woman who understood my head the best is in semi-retirement and it is increasingly difficult to win an appointment with her in the complicated lottery system she has set up.

Other, rarer reasons for going for a haircut include letting those Turkish guys set my nose and ear hair on fire, and discombobulating the odd FBI or CIA tail. Nothing screws up someone who is following you worse than your suddenly walking into a hairdressing emporium. I mean, what is your tail going to do? Follow you in and get a haircut he doesn’t need as he already has the regulation short back and sides on? And, in the process, let you get a good look at his face and eavesdrop on his conversation.

“Going anywhere nice for holidays this year, Sir?”

“Wherever buddy in the other chair is going, if I’m on duty that month.”

What I have never done is to visit the barber for the reason given on the News last night as the first reason members of the opposite sex will welcome the news that hairdressing salons are to come out of lockdown soon. Now, what women, particularly women I am financially responsible for, get up to when they go to get the hair ‘done’ is a mystery deeper than the seventh secret of Fatima, and I am quite happy for it to stay that way. (You thought there were only three, didn’t you?) The reporter on the news stated that women will be visiting the hairdresser for “mental health reasons”, a statement which caused me to splurt out the mouthful of tea and to so frighten the cat. If women have been going to the hairdresser for mental health reasons all along that would certainly go some way to explaining the extortionate bill that follows them out the door. But are hairdressers actually qualified to deal with mental health issues? And, if not, what do psychiatrists have to say about these amateurs muscling in on their territory?

Maybe there is something different about female hair that makes it grow not only outwards from the root the way male hair does, but also inwards from the root. If so, the roots delving deep into the brain matter could, I suppose, affect the operation of that organ, and, in those unlikely circumstances, I could see how a visit to the hairdresser to curtail their growth might have a beneficial effect on the mental capabilities and stability of the rootee. But that is really pushing at the bounds of probabilties, and I am more inclined to believe that the news reporter made an error and mixed up two different stories.

As for the ubiquity of the term ‘mental health’ everywhere else I look, I think there are two aspects to it that annoy me more than just its pervasiveness. It is without doubt a first World problem, and, as such, not worthy of my serious attention. The other niggle is that the preceding adjective is redundant. Mental health is the same thing as health, as if you think you are sick, then you are sick. Have these people not read St Thomas Acquinas? Or anyone else? There is no separation between mind and body, so ‘physical’ and ‘mental’ health are just actually health. If you break your leg, you do not feel guilty or embarrassed about going to get it fixed. Similarly, if you break your brain, there should be no social taboos involved in going to the headshrink to get it fixed. But do not ask the psychiatrist for a haircut while you are in with him.

mens sana in corpore sano

Satires of Juvenal (ad c. 60–c. 130)

With a subtle blue highlight, please.