Day 60

Social Distancing

Sixty days! We’ve been playing hide and seek from each other for sixty days! Somebody should have won by now.

So, where are we now then? (Yes, ‘now’ and ‘then’ are allowed to be forenenst each other in a sentence like that without breaking the space-time continuum, which does not exist, by the way. You may as well make up a colour-taste continuum if you are going to go around linking separate abstract nouns like that with a hyphen.)

So, where are we now then? (That is not a time-loop; just a reminder for the slow of understanding among(s)t us. Gives me an excuse to link to this, though.) I am in the hacienda which is situated in County Antrim which is on an island called Ireland which is one constituent island of the geographical unit known as The British Isles. Now (and then) [stop it! You’ll confuse them. -Ed.] maybe only one, two at a stretch, of the physical locations mentioned in the previous sentence is not subject to heated dispute. Here are a few politically-disputed terms for good, bad or middling measure. County Antrim (and the hacienda with it) is also a constituent element of the political area known as Northern Ireland, which itself is a component part of the political area known as The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or just The United Kingdom to its friends, if it had any.

Several readers of this blog have just exploded, by the way. One or two others are planning explosions, but not of themselves. Allow me to talk you through this disputed territory. (Hands up who did not see what I did there?) For a kick-off, there are those who object to the perfectly innocent geographical term The British Isles. Make yourself a coffee and read that linked article first, and then I’ll get back to you …

… OK? Are you now enlightened, or further confused? The clinching argument for me is that there is a sea between the main islands of The British Isles (because that geographical term includes minor islands as well such as Tory, Rathlin and the Isle of Man), and the, undisputed, name of that sea is The Irish Sea. Now given that our British neighbours do not raise a hue and cry over this and demand that it be called the Anglo-Irish Channel or some other atrocity, we should just bite the bullet, play cricket and accept the handy term as it is. Recoursing to the term in Irish for the area is of no use in this instance, as the term in Irish – Éire agus an Bhreatain Mhór – is incorrect, geographically, excluding as it does Tory, which has its own king, usually, and whose people talk of ‘going to Ireland’ when they leave the island; the Isle of Man, among(s)t other islands, is likewise not incorporated in the Irish term. (That bracketed ‘s’ by the way is a biting satire on some politicians and civil servants from this bedevilled place who are labouring under the misapprehension that there is some difference in meaning between ‘among’ and ‘amongst’, or that one of them is posher.)

The problem, of course, is with the ‘British’. [You know that that sentence works also without the perverted commas around the demonym, don’t you? – Ed.] (Of course I do. What do you want me to do, charge you twice for the one sentence if there is a meaning between the lines? We’d be here all day.) The inhabitants of the islands in question were never all Britons – Tory included, which used to be populated by Submarines – so the demonym might actually be an ethnonym. But, fruck it! We keep the Irish Sea and the Brits keep The British Isles, agreed?

Moving swiftly on [if only! – Ed.] to the other disputed terms, there are, currently, two jurisdictions on the island called Ireland, although this has not always been the case (NB DUP). One of them, rather confusingly, is called Ireland, in English, but in this blog is referred to as Mexico because … Its name is not now, and never has been, the Republic of Ireland; that is its description, not its name (nerds can read why here).The other one is called many things – shithole, Norn Iron, Ulster – but its actual name is Northern Ireland, in English, and this causes problems for some people who reject Partition and who tie themselves in linguistic knots trying to avoid using it. Thus we have euphemisms such as ‘the six counties’ [the sick counties? – Ed.], ‘the North’, ‘this part of the country’, ‘up here’ etc. For God’s sake, lads, catch a grip and call a spade a spade, will yis? Your mouth will not fall off if it utters the words ‘Northern Ireland’, and, as it is not going to be around for much longer, you will not have to do it for long. And rejecting Partition now that you voted for it in the Good Friday Agreement is akin to rejecting your dinner after you have eaten it. My dead Ma’s [as opposed to your live Ma? – Ed.] term for the place – the Annex – had its merits, but I prefer just to stick to the facts, Ma’am.

Where I do have a problem is with the term in Irish for Northern Ireland. Just because it is incorrect, linguistically, politically and stylistically. Tuaisceart Éireann is the term in question, and it no more means Northern Ireland than the man in the moon. The first word means ‘North’ and the second word is attempting to be the genitive case of the word for Ireland in Irish, which is Éire. Attempting, but failing. Like Galway, Éire requires the definite article when in the genitive case – na hÉireann – so Éireann by itself, if it was allowed to exist by itself (will I charge you double there?), could only be trying to mean ‘of an Ireland’. So the whole term, in my mind if in no others, equates to ‘North of an Ireland’. And your guess is as good as man as to where that might be. Norway, maybe?

County divisions were imposed on the island of Ireland by the Brits, so there are those who reject them for that reason. But, for sectarian reasons to do with the GAA, the authorities in Northern Ireland have officially done away with designating areas within their bailiwick by county names and now use the name of the local area council. Good luck with that one, lads, although a GAA team representing the Mid-Ulster Council would have a good shot at an Ulster title, I think, and maybe an All-Ireland too if covidnovid ever goes away. On another point [really? you are running out of space, and time – Ed.], some people use the term ‘All-Ireland’ when they are referring to the re-unification of the island into one jurisdiction, and God love them, too: it is a sporting competition, lads; now go and learn how to speak your native language (English) properly. So even the term ‘County Antrim’ is not free from disputation.

Those who know where I actually live would likewise dispute the term hacienda to denote my modest abode. (isolation blues) Which just leaves us with ‘Ireland’ the island as the only undisputed term from my seemingly simple locatory sentence way up there. But, of course, that is not what the island was originally called at all. At all.

I note, however, that the Mexicans have started to refer to their bit of the island by a different moniker recently. This is due to the Kerfuffle, and is an awkward attempt to ensure that the death figures for Ireland do not get mixed up with the death figures for Northern Ireland, although, technically speaking and for legal purposes, the Irish people included in both totals are still indisputably dead. The term they are using is ‘the State’, which is a bit too Big Brother for my liking, and if they don’t stop using it soon I may be forced to pay another visit to government buildings. But at least it is not a semi-state like the Annex is. (Can you see me now, Ma? Happy with that plug, Eddie? And he is British, though he lived in Northern Ireland for a while. But real British, not like the pretend British residents of the place.)

So, where are we now?


Day 59

Sports Saturday


Are you aware that England won the World Cup in Soccerball in 1966? If you were ignorant of this fact, all you need to do is to carefully read any English newspaper any day of the week. Because they have mentioned it every, single day since. And that is part of the reason why no one in the rest of the World would be happy if they ever won it again.

Actually, though, and even though I have heard from survivors that it was particularly painful at the time, themuns next door winning the Soccer World Cup has done the rest of us an immense favour for which we should be eternally (or even longer) grateful. The article from which the picture above is stolen explains why a bit, and is well worth the read, but I can provide an executive summary here for those sportingly-challenged readers who would rather run a nine-minute mile than read anything about sport: winning the thing once so frucked up everyone connected with English soccer that they will never, ever win it again. And that truth, as a thing of beauty, is obviously a joy forever.

But what a picture! Not just the tight shorts, ladies, although, stylistically I prefer those myself to the tents soccerball players now wear that cover them from the waist to somewhere below the knee. I’m not gay or anything; it’s just that I grew up with that style and hanker after it. But, as I am wont to say in my wittier moods, “Do you know what’s not as good as it used to be?” (Pause while my interlocutor ponders my question, and then – and timing, in comedy as in doing sex, is everything – I launch the punchline.) “Nostalgia.” To my mind, and that is the only mind I have to hand at the moment, that is as good a two-liner as this belter from Kevin McAleer, who, also, is a thing of beauty and, as such, a joy forever. (Please excuse the leprechaun at the start and the end of that clip; I couldn’t figure out how to erase it.) His guru show contained the following advice, which just gets funnier the more you think about it: “Don’t judge other people: they’re not worth it.”

But back to the pic. (Oh, it’s his day off; I opened this bracket to reply to his sarcastic comment which never came.) Apart from the delight of one Englishman lying down and another one on his knees before an Argentinian, apart altogether from the bursting physicality and balance of Maradingdong himself, what tickles me about the picture is the expression on some of the faces. Enjoy, for a moment, the anguish on poor, wee Stuart Pearce’s face as he finishes off a tackle on a player who is no longer in the place he thought he was going to be when he started the tackle. Marvel at Terry Butcher’s stoicism as he flings a despairing leg out knowing full well that it is a least half a beagle’s gowl away from the actual ball he is attempting to win back from Maradona. But study for a while longer the expression on the other English footballer, the number 18, the only one of the three still on his feet. To me, it conveys complete bewilderment at what is going on, expresses his utter lack of knowledge that soccer could actually be played this way, with maybe a hint of realisation that he should not actually be on the same pitch as gifted players like Diego.

The other aspect of the photo I like is the other Argentinian player in shot. He looks like he is out for an afternoon stroll down the paseo. And he may as well have been, because Diego did not require any assistance whatsoever from his ten teammates to score that goal. Like all the other spectators in the stadium, that Argentinian player is just enjoying what he has seen in the previous 14.3 seconds, and is looking forward to the punchline when his captain scores the goal that scuppers England’s chances for another four years. I suspect there is a hint of a smile on his face. (Please also note that only the two Argentinian players are actually looking at the ball. Bit of a hint there about the problems affecting English soccer, but I do not want to help them too much, so keep that nugget to yourselves. And encased in brackets.)

I’ll have to give up that penchant of mine of calling Association Football soccer. I used to do it because when I said “football” I meant Gaelic Football, and so I used “soccer” to distinguish the two. It was also a subtle attack on the British Empire and a linguistic expression of my repressed Republicanism.

“What did you do during the War, Daddy?”

“Well, apart from applying Down Southy speed limits at a time when it was neither profitable not popular (nor legal), whenever anyone in my earshot used the word ‘football’, I would interject and ask whether they actually meant ‘soccer’, dear.”

“My hero!”

But now that Gaelic Football has morphed into Gaelic Backwards Handball, I may as well let the Brits have their little victory, as the players of the foreign game at least do actually use their feet to play it the odd time. As for American Football … I will leave them to their own linguistic madness. Sure they call the intrinsically Irish sport of rounders baseball, for some unknown reason, and they don’t know their fanny from their pants.

Andytown shower (not full), dressing gown until après déjeuner, I feel, and then full evening wear (plus welly boots) for my evening stroll around the grounds and down to the lough, waving magnanimously to the rough menials (tenants) I pass on my ballade. What about youse? Still on lockdown? Or semi-released? Be careful out there. as another Phil used to warn.

Now wash your mind.

Day 58

Social Distancing: it hasn’t gone away you know

Several of the inmates of this blog have started talking to themselves down below there in Comments. This is all well and good, I applaud them for it (or would if i could access emojis here) and, if all goes to plan [there’s a plan? – Ed.], they will turn up up here some time as guest bloggers. By talking to themselves, by the way, I mean talking to each other, and not that each individual has gone mad(der) and started the whole conversation of one malarkey. And, anyway, I would never use ‘they’ in a singular manner as it would blow what remains of my logic circuits.

Speaking of which [of what? – Ed.], this guy here, when we were at school together, used to produce with his brother Brendan a comic based on the week’s activities in the school. This was not a teacher-led thing, but the teachers soon got wind of it and became, like the pupils, avid readers because it was so good and because they wanted to see how they were depicted in it. Anyhoo, in this comic, they saw me as a sort of robot who always got 100% in language vocabulary tests, and who kinda controlled the school unbeknownst to the teaching staff. See below.

robot phil

The point is, I do have logic circuits, and some linguistic faux-pas are more liable than others to make them blow. ‘They singular’ is just one of them (I see what I did there, whether you do or not). Y’all will have heard the following phrase on the news when they are reporting on whichever current legal case has tickled their fancy. [Tickled their fancy what? Now I’m at it – Ed.] “The victim cannot be named for legal reasons.” Right, when I hear that, my inner editor (not the one in brackets) wakes up and asks my outer editor, “Can the victim be named for illegal reasons, for comedy reasons or for all other reasons apart from legal ones?” There is a quick fix for that infelicitous phrase – answers on a postcard, usual prizes, terms & conditions apply – but I would really prefer the more elegant solution which my inner ear presents. on a silver tray, to my outer ear. Thus, “Legal reasons prevent the naming of the victim” is both grammatically and legally correct, and stylistically up to my demanding standards, and the sooner all news agencies adopt it, the less danger Part-Time Wife will be in from a breakfast tirade, which, generally speaking, are the most severe and dangerous of all my tirades.

Did you note, while you were outpacing it, that what is increasingly laughingly called the real world caught up with the blog yesterday? Here is BBC NI stealing my story about the non-workers who want paid for not working. Again, this is logic-circuit-breaking territory, and Part-Time Wife had a tough day yesterday: female teenager had drained the wine lake on her when she reached for her mid-morning pick-me-up at wine o’clokc, which for her is around 10.17am. To summarise: being a substitute teacher is not a job, you do not apply for the position, no qualifications are actually necessary and no one says when they are young(er), “When I grow up(per), I really want to be a substitute teacher.”  (Shane Todd has a good piece about substitute teachers here.)

Being a substitute teacher is actually a failure to get a job as a real teacher, and a failure of the policies that produce too many qualified teachers in this provincial backwater. As it is not a job, those who do substitute teaching are not actual workers who should be eligible for various government subventions due to the Kerfuffle. Let’s do the whole reductio ad absurdum trick on it. (That is a good link, by the way; follow it and never again accuse me of never teaching youse nothing.) Because there has been no school available, male teenager number 1 has been deprived of the opportunity of taking the piss out of the religious Ignite Group at school that meets at lunchtime by regaling them with the newly-minted atheist arguments he bought off the internet. This absence of an opportunity to release some of his innate teenager aggression through intellectual discourse is having an adverse effect on his emotional, spiritual and mental growth and on his overall well-being. Connected to this, his physical development is being arrested by being deprived of the opportunity of beating up his classmates at lunchtime in their ‘just for fun’ wrestling matches. Now, which section of the Department of Education should I send the bill to for this lack of opportunities due to covidnovid? And should I ask for the full £12 million, like the group of DoleHeads who self-identify as substitute teachers are doing? For fruck’s sake, beam me up, Scottie!

That is not what I meant to write about today, but, as previously explained in this space, I do not plan what ends up on these pages: I merely sit down at a keyboard, open my internal D drive and start typing. I am as surprised as you at the final contents of the post. I was going to ask youse to quantify (approximately) ‘several’. When I was young(er), I used to think of it as just a substitute for 7, and I still sort of do, in that I reckon its value as more than a couple (which itself has a value >2) but as less than 7.

As for how many are in a ‘lock’, that is advanced mathematics and I will leave that for another day. Or for Snowy, should he wish to grace us with his presence.

Day 57

When is a duck not a duck?

There are certain matters in the affairs of Man that are so illogical they defy comment. (Things are different on my home planet, Pluto, and it is still a planet, ScienceHeads! Have youse ever even been there?) Take this one, for example – take it for a walk, for all I care, or for all the sense that would make. Notwithstanding (I have been waiting for an opportunity to use that) the fact that each year my local department of education spends acres of time gurning about the inadequacy of its budget allocation from central funds, I read two stories recently that fairly took me to the cleaners, by way of the fair. (The stories were in The Irish News, admittedly, so caveat emptor, although I did have it half-read in the shop before I bought it because of Kerfuffle Queuing) Apparently, substitute teachers, who are basically on zero-hours contracts and are only called in to do crowd supervision in schools when there are no real teachers available, have been complaining about loss of income due to covidnovid. Bang the rocks together, lads! The schools are closed: that is why you have not been getting any phone calls to come in to substitute for a real teacher, and that is why you have not been getting paid. To be clear, you have not been getting paid because you have not been doing any work: that’s the way the system operates. Also getting in on the illogical act are those teachers who would normally spoil their own holidays by marking examinations during them, and being paid for so doing. They too are complaining about the potential loss of income from not doing a task that will not exist this Summer because pupils will not be sitting examinations. This from a group of people who have just received a hefty pay rise and substantial back pay to boot. So far, so illogical, I’m sure you will agree. What took me to the fair in County Clare, however, (on public transport, I should point out, and with only me and the driver on the bus – fair play to him, he let me take a turn at driving so that he could have a wee nap) was the reported response from the department of education to this kite-flying by these two groups. Apparently, the department of education is considering ways of financially compensating both groups. I honestly have nothing to say about that. Mainly because I am at a loss as to where to start.

Other matters in the affairs of Man (with Woman, presumably) are so deliciously illogical that they practically lie down on their backs with their paws in the air and actively demand comment. The Supreme Court of the UK has just overturned the convictions of Gerry Adams for the only two things he did wrong during The Troubles, ie attempting to escape from Long Kesh. This decision is so brilliant it should have its own entry in the Book of Improbability, and probably will have by the time someone reads this in the non-existent future (which, for him, will be the actually-existing present, of course). So, and I’ll take youse through this slowly (OK, Query Girl?), now not only was Gerry Adams not in the IRA, he was, according to the judges, not even in prison, particularly not in the prison from which he was attempting to escape and for which crime he was tried and convicted. The reasoning behind this arrant nonsense is that the wrong guy signed the form in the first place to send him to the prison he wasn’t in. Got that? Now, surely be to Jaysus and all that’s holy, even if you are in prison by mistake or by an administrative error (and apparently roughly 97.3% of inmates claim to be innocent, according to all soccer players’ favourite film The Shawshank Redemption), attempting to escape from prison is still an offence. Have those judges studied the law at all? But, apparently, if you are in prison unlawfully, a conviction for attempting to escape it is equally unlawful, and, so, you are not lawfully in prison even though you are very actually in prison, and can therefore not attempt to escape from it. I wonder, under those circumstances, where Mr Adams would have been had the attempted escapes from where he wasn’t been successful? Would he have been confined to a virtual sector of what is laughingly called the Real World until the improbability drive had sorted out where he actually, and legally, was?

As for the other great non-event in Gerry’s life, ie spending yards of time not being in the IRA, a similar logical illogicality should be applied by journalists who persist in asking him the question about IRA membership. It clearly states in the rules for IRA Finishing School that members should not tell anyone about their membership, not even their Ma (who knows anyway – Mas know everything). If you do not believe me, have a read yourself. See that stuff in ALL CAPS? So, following those rules, were you to ask a current IRA member if he was a member of the IRA, he would, of course, answer in the negative, and go off to play pool or bingo or something with his girlfriends. (I note, while motoring past it in the outside lane, that The Green Book does not specify exactly how many girlfriends an IRA member should have, but it is apparent from a close reading of the text that the recommended number is more than one. While I cannot give my full endorsement to everything in that publication, I heartily recommend the advice regarding girlfriends.)

So there you have it, journalists. Although you know he was, and have seen the photographs and everything, Gerry Adams was never in prison – even though the government of the UK flew him from prison to participate in talks with them. And, when he answers your boring question about his membership of the IRA in the negative, he is merely following the rules laid out clearly in the membership book. Take his negative answer, therefore, as proof positive of his membership, and move on, for God’s sake. There is no other logical way to take it.

As Matt Lucas explains so lucidly here, sometimes a duck both is and isn’t a duck, probably.

Day 56

Lick&Spittle Spat

“Look it here a minute, this isn’t even my gig, Mr Ed!” (I said).

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” says he. (See what I did there?) [No – Ed.]

Anyhow, ’tis Lick&Spittle who is i mbun the guest column (or colyum as muintir Mheicsiceo would pronounce it) today because, after the return of Dear Leader, one would have thought that a semblance of normality might prevail, but the chance of that happening could be considered exaggerated, bloated or simply fat.

Since Content Provider (definite article omitted to give Mr Ed some work to do!) returned, instead of being welcomed with open aromas back to the hacienda, rather ’tis the case that, before he unpacked his case, Legal were all over his case like Lough Neagh flies round a dead eel, to bring a case against him for negligence in the line of duty, in case he might think his absence went unnoticed, or that he had got, gat or gotten away as free as one of Nicola Sturgeon’s chaps. (All this talk of fish suppers is making me hungry, so it is.)

So, with Mr Ed busy editing the legal documents, after rescuing same from the Ph3 students who had been about to roll them into a gargantuan spliff of the best weed Moneyglass can buy (which doesn’t really set the closed-for-Corona-time bar very high) the lot fell to Matthias to guestblog the day, but no-one could find said disciple, or even remember having met him (although Mr Ed said he heard a boy in his former place of pre-Kerfuffle and virtually foreseeable future work, in Carryon Key, intimate that a German fellow by the name of Matthias had been locked into the firm’s warehouse (there house!) in Mollusc, before the lockdown. [No idea what he is on about either, or on – Ed.]

With aforementioned Teuton unaccounted for then, sub-editors Lick&Spittle were dragged kicking and screaming off the bench. Because of sociopathic distancing, however, only 50% of the Day-Dream Team that is Lick&Spittle was actually match-fit when it hit the ground running, which was in itself a sight to behold, as the good people of Duneane had never before witnessed a ground running, never mind one being hit. [I’ve seen a fruit fly, though – Ed.] With the match-fit partner being out of WiFi and HiFi range in his tree house perched upon the yew tree at the head of the beach [Newry – Ed.], however, the misfit of the partnership was handed the baton.

Now, a baton is a perfectly useful prop for a conductor to scare an orchestra with, or for a relay runner to drop so that his insider laybet on Betfair comes off, but it’s as handy as mammaries on yer proverbial boar for till write a blog with. So, armed with nothing but a virtual ogham slab, I was tasked with being the temporary and one-morning-only chronicler of Ballyraymond until such times as Mr Ed gets his sheets together.

Speaking of Mr Ed, when he does his tonic for the troops and addresses the nation that is Moneynick, it has come to the attention of the assembled body and bodies that he sometimes sucks soothingly on a cigarette. Now, he has referred elsewhere in these pages to his attempts at giving up said monastic habit, and has even succeeded admirably during the hours of sleep. As a recovering smokaholic, I know that giving up smoking is incredibly easy, however, having done so hundreds of times myself. In fact, I ashamedly consider myself a failed rather than a recovering smoker since, despite having served my time on the Silk Cut Road since my teenage years and having been Regaled with tales of fegs putting hairs on yer chest and having inhaled a few Benson burners between the Hedges, my attempts at becoming an addict went up in veritable and actual smoke. But I digress! Since the days of Cockup 19 and lockdown it has fallen upon Mr Ed to rally his Teams by Zooming his visage to us along the etherwobbles. It strikes me then, when watching him light up, that while a fellow could smoke in the precovidian era and his unfortunate neighbour might passively hang off his tobacco coat tails (or indeed perhaps it would be a happy fault if said neighbour were an addict his or herself or themself, and simply couldn’t afford said habit and could not envisage ever kicking it, not being of a violent disposition) that virtual passive smoking is a pastime that could be recommended to the masses (and indeed, at least during the present virtual prayer-time to the Masses) since, surely, it soothes the soul to gaze upon a lad or lass in smoke-aroused ecstasy when he or she is harming no one but himself or herself or themselves and their cat or gerbil. Nay, I go further, m’Lud, if someone were of a sadistic or psychopathic disposition, he or she or they might revel in the knowledge that the dude or dudette or dudtems they watched on their ’puter screen, draining the nicotine stick, was possibly sending him, her or themselves to an early grave or urn of ashes (the latter of said possibilities surely awakening some ironic feelings in even the most moronic of us?) [There seems to be some confusion in what I will charitably call the present writer’s mind between the two wholly separate personages of Content Provider and Ed. Just can’t get the staff in these PC days – Ed.]

Speaking of morons. [Watch it! There’s a door handy there, son! – Ed.] Did ye see thon fella in Downer Street who has allegedly recovered from the groana virus himself trying to tell the rest of us how not to get it? Stay at home, says he, but go to work and work from home if you don’t have a job to go to, and cycle to work unless you have a car in which case leave it at home and take the bus, unless there is another passenger already on it, or a driver, or a conductor (in which case you’re probably on the wrong bus, or wrong century) and wear a mask but don’t take it off with your gloves on, and don’t wear any gloves, and don’t go near anybody except for strangers whom you can approach, and then withdraw to a remove of two metres from, but stay away from your relatives, the old ones can be particularly dangerous and nasty.

By the way, has anyone seen my Ma? It’s her birthday. Happy birthday, Ma. [That was yesterday – Ed.] And walk everywhere, which isn’t very considerate to the rest of us who haven’t a leg to stand on.

[Note: due to the amount of editing required to get this guest blog to publishable standard, I will be taking tomorrow off – Ed.]

Day 55

Boy meets Man

I had lunch with Bongo once. Once was enough. Apparently he was 60 the other day, but for a man of his undoubted ego, I find that hard to believe: he is probably beavering away annoyingly in some third world country as we speak, setting up a global task force to address the ridiculously low life expectancy there and institute a scheme whereby rock stars with excess years can transfer their surplus to the natives. Expect an announcement imminently that Bongo is now, through the generosity of his bleeding heart, a sprightly, re-adjusted 45.

In a moment of self-effacing madness, Mr Hewson, KBE OL [That’s not how you spell ‘Hewson’ – Ed.] released a list of 60 songs that saved his life. Well, at least we now know who to blame. But those 60 artists will be adequately punished: Ali’s husband plans to write a fan letter to each of them explaining in Bongo-speak why the song means so much to him. If I was one of those poor people, I would quickly scribble a sign and stick it at the end of my driveway: “Due to social distancing, and the desire to avoid pretentiousness, I am no longer accepting any letters through the post. Now wash your ears.”

Too late, apparently. In another attempt not to garner any publicity at all for himself, Bongo has also released the private messages of gratitude addressed to the 60 guilty musicians. I suppose we should be grateful he did not upload them for free, but without asking permission, onto our phones. The prose in the ‘letters’ quoted in that article is execrable – I will let you discover that for yourself, but do send in a literary analysis in Comments if you feel like it.

One of the problems with Mr Hewson, KBE OL, is those letters after his name. And it is not just me who is exercised about that issue. I particularly like the letter linked there that argues Bongo should be barred from speaking on behalf of the World’s poor having accepted a knighthood from the representative of an empire that had a major role in creating them. The letter-writer does not go far enough, though: just ban him from speaking, full stop.

Now I like a U2 ditty as much as the next man. (The next man is still Máirtín Ó Cadhain, for those interested in such things.) But it is when Bongo goes off stage and opens his mouth that the problems start. Of course it’s not just him; many other song and dance men, and actors too, suffer during their off-time under the delusion that they have something worthwhile to say about world affairs. They don’t. Not ever. And that means you too, Stong. And what is your real name while I’m at it? Stick to the entertaining, lads, and leave the serious business to those of us who know one end of a non-defining relative from another, and who can, therefore, be relied upon to present our thoughts in a coherent, intelligible manner. Can be relied upon, in fact, to actually have thoughts.

Another of Bongo’ problems may be that his band (which is actually not his band, but the drummer’s band) never actually bettered their first album, Boy. (Some embarrassing footage and facts in that documentary; no need to thank me.) Bit of a burden that, but it did not stop them, of course.

Details of the lunch, you say? Well, I had a delightful salade Niçoise washed down by a cheeky Kir Royal. No idea what Bongo and Ali had: they were at a table with around 9.7 others about 15.3 metres away from me in the packed bar in Dalkey.

Oh Ye of Little Faith


Minister for Education Joe McHugh, TD, thanking the Content Provider profusely last week for pulling him out of the hole he had dug for himself around the Leaving Certificate examinations.

Day 54

Social Distancing

That was a good laugh. I always enjoy a wee trip down to Mexico. It’s good for the soul, like playing with children. And, given that my business south of the border down Mexico way involved a series of meetings with Mr Joe Mc U-turn, in very many ways it was exactly like playing with children.

[You’re back! – Ed.] (Your nose – me)

Of course I had to use the usual get-out-of-jail-free card at the Garda checkpoints. I mean, I wouldn’t mind telling them the purpose of my journey if it was any of their business, but as policemen in general have very little interest in educational matters, and little or no aptitude therein, it would have been a waste of my time explaining to them the purpose of my essential journey. So I just started speaking Irish at them. As with Christian Brothers at school who were linguistically-challenged, Gardaí get embarrassed if it becomes obvious that they have not the faintest clue what you are saying in the first language of the state they are – supposedly – guarding, so they just try to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible to hide their ignorance and wave you on your way. This trick got me out of a few dodgy situations when I was at school, and basically gave me a free road down to government buildings from the hacienda. Must remember to stick in the mileage expenses form, and root out that receipt for the lunch in the K-Club. And the other one in that really exclusive restaurant which does not even have a name it is so exclusive.

[But, you’re back! – Ed.] (Look, what is wrong with you? You keep on stating the obvious. Is this a new peccadillo of yours? – me.) [But, can you explain where you’ve been? – Ed.] (What do you think I’m doing when I’m not being interrupted by you? Can we take this out of the brackets into the real world? – me.) [You know my problem with that; I need the brackets as a sort of shield between me and hoi polloi; I can’t stand the idea of dealing with the great unwashed face-to-face, and no editor should have to, anyway – that’s what sub-editors are for – Ed.] (Well, I’m taking the brackets off here: you just keep quiet and listen – you might learn something – me.] [… – Ed.]

So, yeah, yer man BracketsHead probably thinks I read this blog when I’m not typing it off the top of my head. But, as loyal readers will know, I do not even read it when I’m typing it off the top of my head. So I have no idea what was going on here during my time dealing with the examinations crisis in Mexico. But as for this idea that I was ‘away’ … I was still virtually present down there below the line in comments, so BracketsHead did not really look that hard if he was under the impression I was not available for selection, or something.

I first wrote to the Minster of Education for Mexico on 16 March, 2020, questioning his statements that the Leaving Certificate examinations would go ahead this academic year. (Proof of this correspondence is available on request, through the usual channels.) By the way, it is well past time for some jurisdiction somewhere to adopt my strategy of aligning the academic year with the calendar year. Think about the advantages for a minute. Finished? That was never a minute. Try again …

… that was better, So, you’ve got it now? With the academic year aligned to the calendar year, you do not have poor wee students stuck in their rooms studying for end-of-year examinations during what is laughingly called Summer here. Instead, they can make full use of the two or three dry days we are usually guaranteed during the monsoon Summer months, beak off school up to the Hatchet Field or somewhere, drink cider, light a gorse fire and generally act like irresponsible youth the way they are meant to. Under my system, end-of-year exams take place during the dark, boring, dreary days of December – the days of December BEFORE the real Christmas season begins, which is the weekend before the 25th, and not mid-October, by the way – and are out of the way by the time the annual religio-consumer fest comes around. Ipso facto, everybody happy, especially those teachers who do their marking of the examination papers before they marinate themselves in alcohol for a fortnight in an attempt to forget about the details of their sad lives.

At the emergency COBRA meeting involving just me, Joe McHugh, TD, the Permanent Secretary of the Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna and a captive audience of around 231 invited uncivil servants there to gasp in wonder and awe at the fineness and clarity of the workings of my mind, there was quite a funny exchange. At one stage, Big Joe said, “Maybe we should just ask you to take over the running of the whole department?” He then paused for what he thought would be an appreciative laugh from his Permanent Secretary. But, instead, there was only a pause from that corner of the triangular table I had specifically requested for the meeting in the sumptuously well-appointed room in government building reserved for my consultative meetings with the Mexicans. Eventually, the Permanent Secretary delicately cleared her throat and said, “Actually, Minister, that’s not the worst idea you’ve had in the past two months.”

Wee Joe nearly choked on his croissant. Me and the Permanent Secretary exchanged a glance, I made a writing gesture with my non-Spanish hand indicating to her that she should tell the Gayshock to amend the Emergency Legislation accordingly, then gathered my papers and left the room to a standing ovation from the assembled uncivil servants.

I spent the rest of the week in my rooms in The Alex, answering occasional phone calls for clarification from the Permanent Secretary and finally signing off the arrangements to cancel the Leaving Certificate late on Thursday night before sending wee Joe out like a lamb to the slaughter last Friday. Tchí Dia é, ach, ar a laghad, ní eisean atá i gceannas ar chúrsaí oideachais níos mó.


Day 53

The Priest’s Tall Story

[Because of the day that’s in it, and because of the continued absence through negligence of the Content Provider – Legal says that will be the basis of the case against him, so I have to mention it publicly – today we have decided to hook you up to the on-line streaming service of the Most Holy and Interminable Rosary from the Parish of the Lost Souls, Co Laois – Ed.]

… mourning and weeping in this valley of tears …

Father Zed: Oh, I have just noticed, on the wee people icon that you can press on the hovering menu thingy, that a veritable army of around 20 followers from some cult website has just joined us. Well, ye are all very welcome, as everyone is to God’s House, which, for the time being, appears to be the internet.

Just a small bit of housekeeping and then ye can join in with the rest of the parishioners in the interminable recitation of the Rosary dedicated to the petition of releasing us from this lockdown so that we can go back into the World and spread joy about the Good News wherever we go. Except to Protestants.

So … keep your microphones on mute except when ye are saying the laity’s half of the Our Fathers and the Hail Marys, and joining in with me in the Glory Be’s. If you have particular people you want to pray for, use the meeting conversation tab on the wee hovery menu doofer and write their names in there – I’ll keep one eye on that and try to give them a shout out at the start of the next decade of the most Holy Rosary. OK? You can also put anything else you want to share in that conversation tab too.

Right, off we go again.

The 79th horrible mystery, Jesus leaves his Homework on the Bus.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by thy name … Oh, I see a wee question from someone called Question Girl up there in the conversation tab. Let me have a look for a minute …

… yes, Question Girl, I am quite sure that there are at least 79 horrible mysteries in the FULL Rosary. You may just be used to the standard Rosary with its glorious and sorrowful mysteries, and what have you, but this is the full metal jacket version of the Rosary, and has many more mysteries than you might be used to. OK? So …

… thy kingdom come, they will be done, on Earth as … Oh, my, these new people are certainly quick off the mark with using the conversation tab. Another one here, from Query Boy. I think I might press this other button on the hovery menu thingy and screen share it with everyone – it’s probably quicker that way. Fingers crossed, I’ve never tried this button before. Here goes!

Query Boy: You’re just #making it up, aren’t you?

Father Zed: Certainly not, Query Boy. If you search in the Vatican Archives, you will find the complete list of the horrible, confusing, outrageous and slapstick mysteries which are an adjunct to the usual Rosary and only to be used in times of international pandemics [tautology: pandemics by their nature are international – Ed.] What was that? It was like I was possessed, with a different voice than mine, in brackets, coming out of my mouth! Very strange. But, thank you for your question, Question Boy, if I may call you that.

Query Boy: You may not as my name is Query Boy. Not that, not making up extra decades to the rosary, I meant #making up the whole thing, God, Heaven, Hell, original sin, Adam and Eve and all that. It’s all just made up, isn’t it?

Father Zed: Well now, I hardly think that a virtual chapel during a service is the time or the place for such a wide-ranging discussion, do you? There is a Parish Zoom Game of Twenty-Fives on a Friday night at which matters of that nature are sometimes discussed in the wee small hours. I can send you a link to that get-together, if you like?

Query Boy: Youse play Twenty-Fives? For money?

Father Zed: There is money exchanged, yes; we are not children.

Query Boy: I’m in. Do youse take Bitcoin?

Father Zed: Bitcoin?

Michael (parishioner#4): Watch him, Father! He might be a scammer. Or worse, a card shark.

Father Zed: I think the correct term is card sharp, Michael. But thanks for your contribution. Remember, though, we are taught to welcome the stranger and treat him as one of our own. Especially in these worrying times. And if he has the stake money on him.

Michael (parishioner#4): I’m just saying he’s not sitting on either side of me on Friday night. I don’t want some blow-in landing the Fingers on my Jack of Spades to stale the trick off me.

Angela (parishioner#13): Me neither. He can sit down the other end of the table.

Father Zed: Angela! Welcome back! I thought you were dead?

Angela (parishioner#13): Turned out to be only wind, Father.

Father Zed: Well, that’s a blessing, at least. Look, we can sort out the seating arrangements on Friday night. Whose house is it in this week, anyway?

Michael (parishioner#4): Liam’s. And he has a drop of the pure stuff got.

Query Boy: Do youse actually meet up in #Real for this card game?

Michael (parishioner#4): Have you tried drinking poitín through the internet? Wrecks the electronics.

Query Boy: Right! I’m definitely in. Where does Liam live.

Father Zed: All details are in code in the Parish Bulletin. Disguised as the funeral arrangements. Now. Can we get on with this Rosary?

… it is in Heaven. Give us … Oh, what does that mean?

(22 people have left the meeting)