Day 91

More blancmange, anyone?

Things, as Uncle Bob points out in this song, have changed.

When you and I were young, Horatio, twas not as it is now, and twill never be again. {What’s with the Horatio bit, PointyHead?} (You again! Did you just call me PointyHead?) {Yeah, you were a bit full-on in the Comments there the other day.} (I don’t do the Comments – that’s one of the PhD students, on a rota basis.)

Horatio, for the benefit of Miss Onimous and other ignorami, is the correct answer to the following examination question:

Finish off this well-known quotation from Shakespeare: “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him …”

11+, second paper, 1978

Now, 83.4% of respondents surveyed will stick in the word ‘well’ to finish off that quotation, and march off into the sunset very pleased with themselves and with the obvious quality of the education they ingested from an outdated system. They will never know that their answer is wrong as they will be too smug and self-satisfied to actually check the results.

Speaking of ingesting dubious matter from an outdated system, when I was young, school dinners were a thing to be endured rather than enjoyed. There was a certain intellectual challenge to them, certainly, in the shape of victims trying to work out exactly what they were being asked to eat: the shape, smell and colour of the blob of ‘meat’ on the plate usually gave very little clue as to the animal from whence it had come. Then there was the system of table servers at our school which meant that – although said servers were tasked with dishing out the gruel in equal proportions to the other eight pupils at their table – there was always an element of surprise pertaining to the amount of the almost inedible stuff that would end up on your plate. None of this individual queuing and choosing your own dish of the day at my old school, you see. As in any prison, when the food hatches opened, the warders (usually a couple of Christian Brothers) would direct the two servers from a row of tables to come forward, collect two steel containers of ‘food’ from the hatch and bring them back down to their tables for distribution. It was only when they arrived back at the table and took the lids from the containers that the inmates found out what the day’s punishment was to be. Depending on the content thereof, sometimes it was quite the bonus to be ‘starved’ by the servers.

I was an infrequent attendee at school dinners, and therefore a much sought-after table guest and not likely to be starved. Because, should there be too many absentees at any table on any given day, one of the CBs would break up the table, leaving all the seatees – servers included – to scramble around the canteen trying to find an empty seat at a different table, preferably one at which they would actually be offered some food by the resident, malignant servers. Wandering servers were maliciously, and deliciously, treated very badly under this system, and serves them right [Oh, well done there! – Ed.] for their behaviour when in dictatorial control of their own tables. So, on the odd occasion when I would dander into the canteen for a school dinner, there was usually a plethora of offers from servers at tables with an empty seat at them, and an abundance of promises that I would not be starved should I choose their particular table. So I could pick and choose, and was not normally subjected to the parsimonious distribution of food meted out to resident seatees.

Even so, the fare on offer was poor stuff. Particularly the desserts. Blancmange is a near cognate of blandness in my book, but it was the slop called rice pudding that took me to the fair. Actually it took me out the door early for my post-meal smoke, and I would graciously donate my share of the cold, wallpaper paste to the table – which usually meant both servers got 47.3% of it each. I blame my Ma: the food served at home was of such high quality that I could not really stomach more than the very occasional visit to the canteen. Even her sandwiches in the packed lunches she prepared were of much higher nutritional, aesthetic and educational value that the hot(ish) meal provided at an extortionate price by the institution.

But all of that is out the window now, apparently. From what I can glean from a quick glance at the News, school dinners are now of such high quality, and so sought after, that pupils are demanding them – get this – even when they are not at school. Can you fathom that? Even though they have been at home for three months or so now, modern pupils refuse to be denied the delights of modern school dinners and have demanded that the service continue during the Kerfuffle.

Yesterday their campaign went one step further, and incidentally added to the absurd illogicality of this brave, new world. The pupils, in what can only be described as an imaginative revolutionary gesture, have demanded school dinners when they are off school during the Summer. You have to admire their balls. [That’s enough about the Christian Brothers thanks – Ed.] What will they ask for next? Homework during the Christmas holidays? Maths lessons at the weekends? Detention on Sundays? There is no telling where this campaign will end up, given that it has started from such an improbable place.

Boris danced about a bit like the circus bear he is before giving in to this demand for school dinners when there is no school on. He had no choice, really, because of the colour of the skin of the spokesman the hungry pupils elected on their behalf. Marcus Rashford is black, you see, and in the current climate, black people can do no wrong and are all latter-day saints. Which is actually a racist attitude, as those of you paying attention will recognise.

The fact that Mr Rashford could afford to pay for the Summer school dinners out of his own ridiculous salary as a soccer player seems to have escaped the notice of the government, which has instead decided to meet the cost with my money. And yours, if you pay taxes.

But I really must try one of these new school dinners that are in such demand. I just hope it is not rice pudding for dessert.


Day 90

James Joyce as a cat

Social Distancing into eternity …

Fried liver for breakfast today, obviously, with a dab of relish. I think I’ll go for Branston Pickle as that is my favourite relish this week. My usual favourite, HP brown sauce, does not go that well with liver. I am aware, Query Boy, that that is not what Jimmy Joyce meant in the relevant quotation from the book celebrating this date in 1904 when Jimbo had a date with his Galway girl, but I prefer to interpret it that way. [You had better give them the quotation; they expect to be spoon-fed by now – Ed.] (spoon fed liver?)

“Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”

James Joyce, Ulysses

See what I mean? Jamsie does not specify the type of relish preferred by Bloom, choosing instead to leave it up to the interpretation of the reader. “But the whole ‘with relish’ thing is not a noun phrase,” interrupts Query Boy, “it is acting as an adverb qualifying the verb ‘ate’. Can’t you see that?”

And there, oh my foes and oh my friends, you have the whole delight and conundrum of Ulysses in a nutshell. And maybe in a gizzard nutshell at that. Like that other Bible, it is open to interpretation, a source of endless argumentation and almost nobody reads it. But they should, because it is a good laugh. The resident genius in the hacienda, the Female Teenager, has read a good portion of the tome. My fault, I admit: I had deposited a copy in the downstairs toilet [in the actual toilet? – Ed.] for my own purposes as accompaniment when working out some knotty, fundamental issues, but had failed to stick a label on the front of it precluding other end users of the facilities from also reading it. There is a barring order on the front of the toilet itself (not the actual toilet, BracketsHead), but that would not have prevented Female Teenager’s access to the book, as you see.

Executive exclusive washroom in the East Wing

Female Teenager was not even a teenager at the time of the incident; she would have been about nine or ten (and that use of the conditional perfect is deliberate, and, I suspect, peculiar to Hiberno-English) when she emerged from the toilet (faut-il?) one day and announced, “I think that Mister Bloom man is a bit of a creep.” I put it to you, your Honour, that a more succinct summary-analysis of Joyce’s novel has yet to be produced, and I have always maintained myself that there should be some sort of an erection on the south Dublin seafront to commemorate Bloom’s wank there, and to serve as a warning to female bathers that there may well be other creeps in the vicinity still. As for what age she was when she went into the toilet, I have no idea.

If youse are in search of any Bloomsday activities, you could do worse than having a gander at this page in The Irish Times. Of course, on-line Blooming will not be the same as strolling around the Big Schmoke, dropping in for a pint in Davy Byrne’s and laughing at the wannabes all-dressed up in their early 20th century finery, but it’s the best I can do.

Should the Jamser himself be reading this, I feel duty bound to supply him with the answers to two of his most famous questions. Yes, James, there is one who understands you, and yes, you were walking into eternity along Sandymount Strand. What’s that? Speak up, you say, it’s quite noisy here in Dante’s Purgatorio. YES, I said YES!

Day 89

Social Distancing

Ireland has a Royal College of Surgeons. (I stayed overnight there a couple of times, though I am not a surgeon.) It also has a Royal Irish Academy. What it does not have is a monarchy, and it hasn’t had one for quite some time. So what is that adjective doing there in the title of these august institutions, in pride of place as it is too right up front? [Question Girl wants to know did you forget a capital letter there – Ed.] (Are you in direct contact with Question Girl now?) [My private life has got nothing to do with you – Ed.] (How’s María?)

The ‘royal’ in those titles has nothing to do with the fact that, if you are not Irish, 48.7% of the Irish people you meet will, at some stage but generally after alcohol has been consumed, claim that their family is descended from the High Kings of Ireland. If you are Irish, you may be in that 48.7%, but you will not make the claim to the remaining 51.3% because you know that they know that you know the claim is bullshit, quite apart from the fact that there is good evidence that there never was such a position as High King of Ireland – I mean, if we are going to start including mythological figures as history, then Balor was my second cousin, twice removed.

The monarchy in question is that crowd over the water, and the fact that Ireland has no king of its own is, naturally, the Brits’ fault, but also the fault of the Catholic Church, as the Pope who abolished the mythical kingship of Ireland happened to be an Englishman. While there are any number of golf courses that stick the adjective ‘royal’ before their name for marketing purposes, how come the scalpel wielders and quill pushers of the Republic of Ireland have not recognised the ditching of the link to the British Monarchy in 1937 by removing the adjective from the title of their institutions? You might need to ask them that one as I am too busy today (new job and all) to write to them myself, but I would hazard a guess that it comes down to the phrase, “Ach, sure could you be bothered?” This itself ties in with the apocryphal story concerning the Spaniard explaining to the Irishman the Spanish philosophy of mañana, how you can avoid doing most onerous things by putting them off until tomorrow or the day after that. The Spaniard, satisfied that he has explained the utility and re-usability of the concept – when mañana comes and the onerous task raises its ugly head again you can, of course, re-put it off until the new mañana freshly-minted with the dawn – asks the Irishman what the equivalent word or phrase would be in the Irish language. “Ach now,” says Jimmy, taking a pull on his (clay) pipe before continuing, “in the old tongue, we wouldn’t have a word that conveys that sense of urgency.” That put Pedro in his place, I can tell you.

I don’t want them to change their names, by the way. I only brought them up because the other concept I was considering writing about today decided that it was not really in that much of a hurry to be traduced into words, and that it would just go back into the queue of meditations on the top of my head. I might write about it tomorrow. But, equally, I might not. It would save me a lot of time if the rest of youse would hurry up and learn telepathy, you know?

But now I do have to go. There is a bit of reading to be done in preparation for Day One on the new job to impress the new line manager, who happens to be the same person as the penultimate line manager: just like that money was just resting in Father Ted’s account, I was really only resting in the chair I have been occupying for the past two and a half months.

But do I actually have to impress her all over again? Carlsberg.

Day 88

Cork GAA fans with a variety of red and white (ish) flags

Distancing from Cork

For a start, it is further than from here to Clare. It is also a long way to Tipperary, but a longer way to Cork. But the distance between my thinking and the thinking of the Cork GAA County Board Chair who has recently announced the banning of Confederate flags at Cork GAA matches is probably unfathomable, immeasurable and into the realm of imaginary numbers. [That’s enough links; let them educate themselves – Ed.]

The most temperate description of the County Board Chair’s banning decision is that it is bandwagon jumping and virtue signalling of the worst kind. The most accurate description is that it is plain stupid. Had she supplied along with her banning statement a list of even ten actual black people who were offended at the inoffensive practice, I might have been more disposed to listen to her with a more sympathetic ear. As it is, I fully expect Cork fans, particularly those among them who do not know the real reason Cork is nicknamed the Rebel County, to find ingenious and humorous ways of circumventing the ban, and look forward to games of ‘chase the flag’ on the terraces, which may prove more interesting than the fare offered up on the pitch below, should football be the sport in question.

But there is a different way to point out the ridiculousness of the decision. I have mentioned before the philosophical technique of reductio ad absurdum, or as it is called among the great unwashed ‘drive the fool further’, and this would undoubtedly be the most effective reaction to the banning of the Confederate Flag. A quick glance at the pic above will reveal that there are a variety of flags in use by Cork fans, including the flags of Switzerland, the Red Cross and the Untied (sic) States of America. Now Mexicans in general are too in thrall to the land over the Pond to actually propose the banning of its flag on grounds of the unrelenting racism, colonialism and terrorism carried out by the government of that country. But there is another flag that has a touch of red and white in it. This one here:

The Butcher’s Apron itself in all its gory unglory

My suggestion to Cork fans is that they start to bring the Union Jack with them to matches, and then to make countless submissions to the Cork County Board that they should be banned from so doing on the grounds that the country the flag represents has a worse history of racism, promotion of slavery and inhumanity to man than the Confederate Flag could ever have. Indeed, the country is still actively involved in colonialism in a portion of this island. These actions should promote an international incident of such embarrassment to Leo ‘white civil service’ Varadkar – and to the Cork County Board – that I would fully expect a directive to the fans telling them that they can go back to using the Confederate Flag so long as they ditch the Butcher’s Apron as soon as possible.

Cork people think they are special, and do not normally take kindly to advice from outsiders, but I would urge them on this occasion to listen to what I am saying and to act accordingly. Cork people not only think they are special, they are special, but, and this is something that they seem not to realise, so are the rest of us. Each county – geographical divisions imposed on us by our Saxon rulers – has its own traits and characteristics: Donegal people’s hearts are like their mountains, apparently; Kerry people are as cute as hoors; Cavan people are just special education needs. If you want a complete rundown, have a watch of Niall Tobin in full flow.

Meanwhile, back at the front line of the culture wars, I noticed this story on BBC Norn Iron news site. Joking aside – I mean this mob turning up to protest against another protesting mob that did not turn up – that story is actually quite sinister. Any time I read of right-thinking Norn Iron men gathering to ‘defend’ something, I know that the next stage is usually attacking innocent Taigs. So I have battoned down the hatches on the hacienda for the foreseeable.

As for what type of mythical creature an innocent Taig might be, I will let you educate yourself on that matter. [Good man, you can hear me – Ed.] (To tell you the truth, Ed., I am you.) […! – Ed.]

Day 87

Distancing from its own past

God love the Brits! I suppose somebody has to, and it might as well be her, she being Love, apparently, in one of her guises. The resident, free-range, rogue teenagers would tell you – if they had regained the power of speech that day – that I am wont to employ the word ‘English!’ as a swear word. When I am not using more traditional swear words, that is, a habit out of which Róisín wishes I would grow (out of). She has the same misconception as my Ma and Part-Time Wife (two separate people there, but you are not getting an Oxford comma in here) regarding swear words, namely that they are a sign of a lack of vocabulary. While this can be true of bottom-feeding, unemployed-class scum, tis surely amiss when applied to the urbane sophisticate such as myself. And to other writers too. (It actually says ‘writer’ on the children’s birth certificate under father’s profession as I was unemployed at the time.) Sometimes, fuck is the most appropriate and most effective word for the situation, and sometimes knowing this is a sign of a sophisticated vocabulary. Less often, nigger is the correct word too, but you generally have to be a bit black to use it nowadays, unless you are talking about an Agatha Christie book or using an idiom such as ‘the nigger in the woodpile’.

But the Brits. What are we going to do with them come the Revolution? Like the US of Aers, they will, of course, be close to the front of the queue for the wall, but, also like the US of Aers (if you have not worked out yet why I do not use the word American to refer to inhabitants of the USA, you should go and learn Spanish), the Brits are a very mixed bunch. You have your bog standard, thick as pig’s shit Brit, but you also have the likes of the writer of this article who obviously understands a bit more than your average bear about the general opinion of Britain in what the inveterate colonialists invariably refer to as ‘the rest of the World’.

Is there any chance that now the protesting classes have learnt a drop of history (specialist subject: slavery), they will go on to complete the whole course and, consequently, hang their heads in shame for the rest of their lives? I doubt it, and, as yer man points out, part of the problem lies with the education system and, specifically but not exclusively, the history syllabus taught therein. That is quite apart from the constant churning out of bullshit propaganda about the Past by the BBC Drama Department. Stick an Irishman in charge of the history syllabus to be taught in English schools; that should solve that problem, providing you choose the right Irishman. An Irish woman would be no good; women have this skill of being able to see things from the other side’s point of view, and that is not what is required in this instance. It also, generally, stops them starting wars, which is, on the whole, a good thing. If they could stop men – or even the CIA – from starting wars, we might be on to something.

Speaking of Agatha Christie, and the re-titling of her nigger book, would youse care to take a guess as to what the next target of the virtue-signallers will be after they run our of statues to knock down? This Fawlty Towers episode was briefly censored (‘cancelled’ I think the current term is for getting rid of things that might trigger the sensitive wee souls) before, in a tremendous display of hypocrisy matched only by current pro-trans doublethink, being re-instated due to an outcry by the same great, British public that called for it to be banned in the first place. If de Gaulle actually did once remark that it was impossible to rule a country that had 246 varieties of cheese – and apparently he did – what hope has Boris the Dancing Bear got of finding consensus among a population that disagrees with itself when the wind changes direction?

Which brings me nicely to my favourite retort to Part-Time Wife when she informs me that she has come to a different opinion about some domestic matter of interior decoration that we spent my fortune on. She got a new washing machine the other day, for no discernible reason that I can work out as she still appears to have two hands and the hacienda is replete with running water of both sexes. Anyway, it gave/afforded (choose one or the other, consistent with your taste for low or high blown prose) me the opportunity to drop my bon mot once again, so I do not really mind that I cannot afford the extra expense this month.

“Dearest heart,” I opened, to put her off her guard, “see the next time you change your mind, could you get one that works?”

Shorts with wellies today, ripped T-Shirt and duncher. But I will have a shower, as Part-Time Wife has just thrown a bowl of Cornflakes over me for some reason. Downwards and sidewards; pull down a statue for me if you find yourself in an unthinking mob (there is no other type).

Day 86

Distant Socialising

For a few minutes this morning, I have been trying to work out the most appropriate age for someone to read the novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being at. (Those of you who can’t read, look away now; today will be mostly about literature.) [If they can’t read, they can’t read the warning to look away now – Ed.] (They know what I mean.) There is no point going near that book when you are in your twenties, and stay well away from the film at all times – apart from the nude hat scene. I am even inclined to think that thirty-year-olds will not bring enough life experience with them to the act of reading to derive full benefit from Kundera’s book. Save it up until you are forty then, and then make sure you read it more than once as a lot of it will go over your head the first time.

A writer, of course, has no control over the age of his readers, but publishers do, in a way, with they way they categorise books. What is now called Young Adult fiction used to be Children’s Books when I was a young adult, and, to all in temporary, outdoors accommodation and to a category of sea-faring mammals, still are now that I am an old adult. If you are from Norn Iron and did not read the Kevin and Sadie books by Joan Lingard as a child, go and read them now, no matter how young or old an adult you are. It won’t take you long; they are short books. In fact, I still have two of them to read myself as it was only when at university that Denise informed me that there were five books in the series. So I’ll meet you back here after the break.

Finished? Now, wasn’t that enjoyable? Female Teenager, when she read the books, got a great kick out of Kevin’s Da complaining about his sister always being stuck indoors with her nose in a book instead of being out in the street playing with the other children. Presumably partly because he was the opposite of her own Da with his ‘Read, read, read’ mantra. Her Da is still the same, and if he could infect Teenage Boy 1 & 2 with the same disease, he would die a happier man. [Just how happy do you expect to be when you die? -Ed.] The mantra has been amended somewhat though: it now runs, ‘Read, read and read again.’ Because the real test of the worth of a book is how it stands up to re-reading, in that, if a book is worth reading, it is worth reading twice, at least. Otherwise, why the need for bookcases? Logically speaking, apart from those dicks who buy books by the yard for interior decorating, if books were designed for a single reading, we would just throw them in the recycling bin when we finish the last page, having absorbed all their lessons and derived all the pleasure available in them. And there are, indeed, some books that deserve that fate. Dan Brown’s oeuvre springs to mind.

{It’s not very funny today, is it?} (Who are you? And where did you get those fancy brackets from?) {I’m Anonymous, and I wrote a post for you when you were diabled. Use SHIFT and the square bracket sign to get these fancy, twirly ones. Now, where’s the jokes?} (What do you call a deer with no eyes?) {I don’t know.} (No idea.) {Oh, very good, no-eyed deer, I get it.} (What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs?) {Give up.} (Still no idea.) {Oh, ho-ho! That’s good.} (There is a third installment but it is not suitable for young adults so I’ll tell you it on email. Is that enough jokes now?) {There was this fairy called Nuff.} (Fairy Nuff?)

So it is nearly time for me to dive into The Unbearable Lightness of Being again, because I enjoy the book so much, but also because being in my fifties might even mean there are more lessons and more pleasure available within its covers for me now. Other books on my re-read list include the two Alice books, which never fail to delight me. The idea that these are children’s books is laughable in itself, but not the biggest laugh available from the works. I also have un-read, Irish-language versions of those two books, but I am saving them up for some time in the increasingly uncertain future. By the looks of things, there might not be any books in the future, as this is the usual order of things: pull down statues, burn books, kill people. By the way, in fiction, you would not get away with the same group of people who so condemned ISIS for pulling down works of art being the very group out on the streets of western democracies now pulling down and destroying works of art, but I may have said that before.

Back to publishers and how they categorise books for marketing and selling purposes. Literary Fiction is the category serious writers aim for, because Adult Fiction means a whole other thing. {What?} (You again? Well, as you like your jokes, Adult Fiction is mostly for one-handed reading.) But surely the publishers can do better than this and start categorising books for adult into age-specific categories? For example, 21-32 year-olds, 37-45 year-olds, that sort of thing. Or have wee warning notices on the front like some CDs have: “This work contains adult ideas that could offend you when you are too young to understand them.”

God love young people and their earnestness and idealism. The only redeeming aspect of it is that they will grow out of it. Now leave JK Rowling alone.

And wash your minds with a book.

Day 85

The modern Lone Ranger rides again (Mask by Hazel)

More than Social Distance

Yes, I was AWOL yesterday. I took another non-essential essential trip to the nearest metropolis in the afternoon, mainly to meet up with the Girlfriend for a coffee, and by the time I got back to the hacienda, I was so knackered that, after re-scheduling the afternoon siesta I had missed and eating a drop of food I had not missed at all, I was too tired to write anything and went to bed early.

Belfast is gradually opening up again. But gradually is the operative word. People who are in a hurry are going to experience a lot of frustration as everything takes longer than it used to, even fast food. The other day, I had to be directed round a roundabout in a shopping centre by a hi-vis jacket man (even though I had right of way) as otherwise I would have become entangled in the impressive queue of vehicles waiting for up to an hour to get their fix of McDonald’s, which had just re-opened on a drive-through basis, like chapels haven’t. And that reminds me of Spike’s mate who was refused service late one night at the drive through McDonald’s near his home on the spurious grounds that he was not in a car. C’mon off it, McDonald’s! There surely is no law stating you must be in a car to be sold inedible meat substitute in a drive through? Fair play to him for trying though, and fair play to Ronald McDonald for creating yet another unhappy customer.

I once forced McDonald’s to change one of their corporate policies – but I will tell you about that another day. [But will you? There are a number of call-backs you have not fulfilled in your back posts – do some tidying up at the weekend – Ed.] The whole ‘not being in a rush thing’ is to my liking: I like the new slow. Even on our stroll from her place of business to the coffee shop that was open (for takeaway only), me and the Girlfriend sauntered slower than usual, probably because of the lack of other pavement traffic and the absence of people rushing around as fast as possible either in case they miss something or to get out of Belfast as quickly as possible as it is still a shit-hole. Belfast Marketing Department has now created more ‘quarters’ in Belfast than the mathematically stipulated four – the Cathedral Quarter, the Titanic Quarter (that went down well), the University Quarter, etc, etc – but, as I am wont to say, it does not matter how many quarters they create, the place is still a hole. (The joke here, Question Girl, is wordplay on hole/whole, OK?) When we got to the coffee shop, it was the ‘only one in the shop at a time’ scenario, so I let Girlfriend queue up while I sat at one of the benches outside – she was paying, so there was no point in both of us queuing up. I think I had two full cigarettes smoked, and extinguished in my personal ashtray that I take everywhere with me, by the time she showed up with my flat white. I also had a brief chat with the bloke a couple of benches up about the subject of my personal ashtray, with which he was very impressed (with). Now this would not normally have happened PC – when not wearing a mask and dark glasses (see pic), I am the fortunate possessor of a face which, in resting mode, gives others the impression that I am in the worst mood they have ever seen in their lives and, therefore, puts them off approaching me for social chit-chat. Which suits me fine: social chit-chat with strangers was never near the top of my list of hobbies.

So then Girlfriend arrived with the coffees and we had our talk. We had not met in person since the start of the Kerfuffle, so there was a lot to chat about. The child is probably shaving by now, but she had not brought him with her, thank God: babies are such a distraction, don’t you find? Wee ego-maniac attention-seekers the lot of them. Stewie is the relevant poster boy here.

By the time our wide-ranging discourse was over, nearly an hour had passed. And a very pleasant hour it was too, even at the hiked-up Kerfuffle rate. So, if coffee breaks in PC World (not that one) now last an hour, I am all for the new normal. Maybe we will even then graduate to a two-hour lunch break like they have in civilised countries (you know who you are). Unfortunately, I was prevented from walking girlfriend all the way back to the brothel (no such a thing as one customer at a time in there, let me tell you!) due to my underlying medical condition: diabetes sometimes, especially after coffee, makes me have to pee really quickly, and there is no holding it in. So we performed our sweet sorrow (‘parting’, Question Girl) and I legged it round the corner to the one automatic toilet contraption in Belfast. And what did I find? A notice on it saying that it was temporarily closed due to covidnovid. Now, bear with me here, this is an automated, self-cleaning contraption of a toilet that permits only one peeing customer at a time [I see what you did there – Ed.] and requires no human worker to ensure its function. So why the Hell was it closed? If this World becomes any more illogical, I may start to grow fond of it.

Flann O’Brien hung a whole novel (a short one, admittedly) on the topic of public facilities, and fair play to him. How did I solve my predicament? I did what any ex-Lord Mayor of Belfast would do and displayed my respect for the city by pissing all over it. And I will quote extensively from Flann O’Brien in the consequent court case, if there is one.

I got the job, by the way. Thanks for asking.

Day 83

Distance Interviewing

Sorry about that; I was busy this morning. I have actually just finished an interview for a job. Really! And, yes, they are still using interviews as a way to decide who to appoint to a position. I mean, for God’s sake guys, bang the rocks together! How many times have youse found out that yon candidate who knows all the tricks about how to perform well at interviews turned out to be the employee from Hell? How many more years will it take youse to then realise that competitive interviews are one of the least efficient methods of choosing the right candidate? [42 – Ed.] Just give the job to the girl with the biggest tits and have done with it.

There is theory behind my rant. [Just this one, or in general? – Ed.] Or listen to Mr Peterson on the subject, if you have a minute. And you do. We all have minutes, millions and millions of them.

I dressed as a Black woman in a wheelchair for the interview, just in case the employer had some quotas to reach, wore glasses too and sort of hinted that I fancied women. Which I do, so that wasn’t a lie, at least. Most of the rest of what came out of my lipsticked lips during the interview though had only a passing acquaintance with the truth. And this is true for all applicants in all job interviews, and is the main reason why they should be thrown in the bin. Make the applicants run 100 metres or something, and appoint the applicant who finishes in the middle of the pack – that method would have as much chance of selecting the applicant who will actually suit the position you are advertising.

This is not sour grapes, by the way, as I do not yet know the outcome of the interview. If they do make me an offer, then, Let the Games Begin. I very rarely accept a first offer, of anything. Or I might eventually accept it, but not straight away. For example, just before the job interview, somebody else was on the phone offering me £1,000 for an artistic activity. I put him off until later on, even though he wants to pay me up front for reasons of his own – probably taking some drug money to the dry cleaners, or something. Anyway, the point is, if I remember to phone him back tonight – and there is a washing machine man coming tonight too, so there is no guarantee I will not need another siesta after so much excitement in one day, and God alone knows how long a siesta it will be – maybe the £1,000 will have grown to £1,023 due to inflation, or impatience; or maybe the duties will have decreased, or the side benefits increased. You never know, and you will never know if you accept the first offer.

Honestly, I phoned up my internet provider one time looking to bargain with them. What I wanted was less broadband, as I was not using all the width they were giving me and thought they could pass it on to someone who needed it. The wee boy at the other end of the phone did not know what to do with me. Just like the upsellers in McDonald’s are less than plussed when I inform them that ordering a meal is not, in fact, cheaper as a) I want large fries, and b) I do not want a drink. My favourite answer to their computer-programmed question, “Is that a meal?” deserves an outing here. “A meal? It’s not even fucking food.”

But the internet provider boy came back strongly and bargained me up to a deal that gave me more broadband (that I didn’t want) at a cheaper price than my old deal. So, feigning reluctance when really I had achieved the price reduction I was seeking, I accepted his offer and we both went away happy: he earned commission for signing me up to a new deal, and I got spare broadband to throw out with the potato peelings to feed the PhD students. Win-win.

Just once in a job interview I would like to tell the truth though.

“What do you feel you can bring to this position?”

“Well, I can promise to occupy a seat for youse on a very regular basis, Monday to Friday, nine to five. Even though I am disabled, you will see from my record that I take well-below the allotted number of sick days, so I will generally turn up at the times you expect to see me.”

“How have your experience and qualifications to date prepared you to take on this challenging role?”

“They haven’t really, but I just fancied a change. You’ve got to take a risk now and then, don’t you feel, or life gets too boring?”

“How would you deal with a tricky employee who refuses to undertake a task assigned by his line manger?”

“Well, I would likely be that tricky employee, so maybe I would just wind my neck in and get on with it, though I am more likely to get the Union Rep involved, going on past history.”

“Do you have any questions for us?”

“Do youse think my false tits look too big in this dress?”

Day 82

Black and White Issues

News comes to me from the outside World that the issue of colour has raised its traditionally not very photogenic head again. If you want a sensible discussion of the matter go here, and my mate Alan will sort you out. Otherwise, stay where you are for the usual unusual.

The source of the news from beyond the very well-appointed walls of the hacienda was the usual suspect, ie Part-Time Wife. I have no idea where she picks up these titbits of information about current affairs as, generally, any time she makes a bid for freedom from her domestic slavery, I go with her. This is not because I am a megalomaniac, control-freak kinda guy – though I am – but because of her admirable, consistent refusal to drive the car I bought her with my money, and which mostly sits at the side of the house, its bright red hue providing counterpoint to the rainbow of drying garments on the washing line in front of it. To give her her Jew [OK, you have dropped enough trigger words now to let us knwo you are taking about race, and stuff – Ed.], she will occasionally take the jalopy out for a spin to the corner shop all by herself. Or, rather, she used to before it was abolished summarily in a local scandal. The shop, that is; the corner is still there, and is still named ater the family of Sir Anthony McCoy, MBE, WAD.

Anyway, in one of her brief brakes (sorry about the typo – still thinking about that damn stationary car) [why don’t you correct the typo? – Ed.] (and put you out of a job?) from staring at her phone (probably trying to work out how it works, or how to send photos as attachments – again!) or breaking her laptop, yer woman, magnanimously, deigned to inform me of some sort of story from over The Pond concerning policemen displaying brutality. “Dog Bites Man” came to mind from my internal sub-editor as a succinct headline summary of the newsworthiness of this piece of news. By the way, if you do not (yourself) possess an internal sub-editor, I recommend heartily that you employ one straight away: mine is a source of excellent banter, a thing of beauty and, as such, a joy forever. But no, apparently; this is a big deal and had led, whether by accident or design, to a lot of people cocking a snoop at the lockdown laws and hanging out together in groups of more than six. This is a very serious matter, and requires some comment from me. If we let these eejits away with their mass demonstrations about a failed arrest in a foreign country that has nothing to do with them really, it will only start giving our employers the idea that it is maybe time to call us back to barracks and make us work in the office again. As I have explained previously in this very blog (look it up, Darzán, and provide a link by mid-morning break or I will curtail your grazing rights for the day), this is something up with which I will not put up with. There is about as much chance of my resuming work on a Mon-Fri, 9-5, encased in an office pattern as there is of Antrim winning the 2020 All-Ireland Football title. Or maybe less, who knows?

But it’s the rest of youse I am concerbed about. Well, not really concerned as I do not even know who most of youse are, but you know what I mean. If hordes of what I suppose I must describe as people are gonna turn up in droves at The Shitty Hall at the drop of a hat, or a knee, then it is only a small step from that to our employers getting the idea they can re-introduce workplace slavery and force us to appear habeas corpus under their beady eyes again. And that would not do at all as we are getting on quite nicely as we are, thank you very much. There are other ways to prove one is not a racist, ways that do not include breaking lockdown provisions that are to our advantage. Yer man who own this site, for example, wrote and published a triad on the very subject. Do you wanna hear it? Actually, it covers sexism and colonialism too, which is some trick for a three-line triad. Here we go:

Trí pheaca an tsinsir agam:

bheith den chine gheal;

bheith den domhan thiar;

bheith i m’fhear.

ad delectationem stultorum (Coiscéim, 2012)

Fairy Nuff? Nuff said?

As regards the whole colour issue, it is for me, of course, a linguistic question. Do you see yer man up there in the pic, the lead singer of Counting Crows, Mr Jones or whatever you call him?

Well, because of pics like that and the whole dreadlocks thing, I have always though of Adam as being black, despite Female Teenager pointing out to me any time I mention it that he is not, in fact, black. He is a person of colour, but so are we all, and I have never met a person in my life who was white. When Female Teenage was Female Toddler, she said to me one time on one of our outings to Botanic Gardens that she wanted to go back over to talk to “that brown woman” again. The woman in question was Asian, probably Chinese, but there was no way I was going to contradict a three-year-old and inform her that accepted wisdom deemed that such people were to be seen as yellow. Particularly not as the woman was obviously not yellow: Homer Simpson is yellow.

I do, however, contradict her when it comes to Adam and point out to her that, when I am speaking English but thinking in Irish, I am 99.8% correct when I describe Adam as black. Fear dubh in Irish means ‘a black-haired man’, just as fear rua means ‘a red-haired man’. An Fear Dubh with capitals, means the devil, but that is a different kettle of fish altogether. The term in Irish for the English term black man is fear gorm. As one of the shades of meaning of gorm is ‘blue'[Oh, very good – Ed.], I will let you figure that one out yourself.

Just remember, in Irish, the acronym FBG does not stand for any of these things. It means Fiúntas Beathaí Gorma, blue lives matter, and they do. But no more than brown, yellow, red or pink ones.

Day 81

The Tackle in Gaelic Football

It is Sunday, so please indulge my inclination to talk about sport. For a more erudite and funny take on Sundays, I refer the jury to yer man’s book [good idea; helps pay the rent – Ed.]. His take on the subject starts with the line, “Agus ar an seachtú lá, chruthaigh Dia an Domhnach mar, go bunúsach, ní raibh smaointe maithe ar bith fágtha aici,” which is a fairly strong opening gambit, you’d have to admit.

“But why sport as a subject on a Sunday?” wonders Smart Boy from the back of the class, where I have placed him to try to get him out of my way. “Why not religion?” And the answer to that is because I am a Catholic, and if you cannot see what I did there, you are wearing your covidnovid mask too far up your face. Please note my (correct) use of the term for the sect I belong to, by birth and by inclination: I am not now, and never have been, a Roman Catholic, and as for what people mean when they deploy the explosive term Irish Catholic, God alone knows. And she is not telling anyone else. ‘Roman Catholic’ was devised as a term of abuse by Anglicans, and even though it is the term that appears on community monitoring forms in Norn Iron where job applicants are asked to reveal their religious background, I now tick the other box beside it designated ‘Other’, and then explain in the box below that Roman Catholic is a term of abuse and that the official title of the Church with its head bombardier in the Vatican is The Catholic Church. I’m sure they love me, the wee minions who have to read those stupid forms.

Catholic is the answer because, after one gets out of the juvenile ranks of the GAA and into senior competition (a bit like the Fianna and the IRA in that regard: the same rules to both, but there is an increased risk of serious injury in the senior code), the matches are generally on a Sunday. And traditional throw-in time (never kick-off time, be warned!) is 3.30pm. I do not think that these stipulations were conceived to differentiate all things GAA from soccer in England with its traditional kick-off time of 3.00pm on a Saturday, but I would not be too surprised, given the sectarian, racist bigots who instituted them, if that were in fact the origin of them. In a more equanimous mood, I am inclined to think that Sunday was chosen because a lot of the players would not actually be off work on Saturdays – they would be running around doing homers to supplement their meagre Mon-Fri incomes. Also note the qualifier ‘in England’ above, because in poor Catholic countries in other parts of the World, Sunday was the traditional day for soccer too – even in Buenos Aires, which must have caused fixture congestion with the hurling club in that fine city.

So the whole playing GAA on a Sunday thing is not designed (solely) to annoy Northern Protestants with their ‘never on the Sabbath’ mantra. It is, in fact, an attempt to teach them to actually read the Bible they are so fond of misquoting: God never specifically ruled out senior reserve football or hurling games on the seventh day, and had very little to say about junior championship replays either. In fact, all He did say in his best-selling book on the subject was this:

Ar an seachtú lá chríochnaigh Dia an obair a rinne sé. Scoir sé ar an seachtú lá den obair go léir a rinne sé. Bheannaigh agus naomhaigh Dia an seachtú lá mar scoir sé an lá sin den obair go léir a rinne sé sa chruthú. Sin iad céatúsa neimhe agus talún nuair a cruthaíodh iad.

In the original Irish there, to avoid any confusion. But youse can look it up youseselves: it is Genesis 2:2-4, and that is my religious duty as an intinerant monk of the Second Gaelic Illumination done for the day.

Pupils who are not linguistically challenged will note that even God Herself did not abstain totally from work on the Sabbath She was in the process of creating – She did a wee bit of top and tailing in the morning before breakfast to finish off the work of the previous six days. That chríochnaigh there in the first line gives the game away. And, in the rest of the quotation, the significant word is obair, ie ‘work’. Now, whatever about professional sports where participants are paid to participate, no one gets paid for playing GAA, so it cannot in any way be classified as work, and is not, therefore, in any way excluded from the activities available to anyone on a Sunday, even to Protestants. Please inform your nearest one of this Biblical fact. If your nearest one is outside your own county, or more than 20km away (whichever is the greatest distance), leave your address in Comments down there and I will send you one through the post.

The GAA, God bless it, has come up with some sort of road map for how to get its competitions back on the … road. The social distancing thing of 2m, or 1m, has not yet been sorted out, and standing even 1m away from a hurler you are trying to tackle would actually be more dangerous that going into a covidnovid ward with no protective equipment on, so it remains a bit of a problem for Croke Park. I am surprised they have not yet phoned me up to garner my advice on the issue. I would tell them that, as far as football goes, this is not actually a problem but an opportunity. As things stand, no one, particularly referees, knows what the rules are about how to tackle the other guy in Gaelic football. So here we are with yet another benefit of the Kerfuffle: we can now define once and for all what a tackle is in Gaelic football. My copyrighted suggestion is as follows: if the tackler is able to touch elbows with the tacklee in a clear and unequivocal single movement, the tacklee has to give the tackler the ball, and start chasing him.

Hurlers can continue to do their own thing and have no need for rules, about tackling or anything else. They are artists, are engaged in a World Heritage recognised activity and, like all artists, only learn the rules so that they can break them.

For another take on the connection between sport and religion, have a read of Eccles – he is good crack. And ‘crack’ is how you spell that word if you are writing in English, by the way: ‘craic’ is an Irish word, and should be reserved for written material in that language. Happily enough, both words are pronounced the same, but please use air quotes if you are dropping craic into your English conversations. Same goes for agus ceol. Or you will get a yellow card.