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The News (in Briefs)

As I sat here in my room in a state of partial undress reading various news websites (it’s a slow weekend in Tipperary ok?), it occurred to me that I hadn’t updated this in a few weeks. The main reason for this is that I was studying for/doing my repeat exam. Now I’m as Godless as the next heathen but divine intervention actually occurred hours before the exam resulting in what I presumptuously assume will be a pass. Hooray!

I was asked to stay an additional two weeks down here, meaning that I have one week left. They asked as they’re getting audited all of next week and either (a) they needed me to help catch up on outstanding work or (b) plan to throw me to the inspector-wolves as the cause of all their woes. Could my fledgling career as a professional paperwork monkey be cut tragically cut short  in the coming days?

On the social side I took all of my holidays the week of my exam, meaning that I had the guts of a week back home to catch up with everyone and everything. It was a case of ‘glad to see the place again/ it’s a pity nothing’s changed’. Some good times were had, especially with my English cousins who were over,  but when I go back next week I’ll be looking to mix it up a bit and try some new things. Sort out the old noggin et des choses comme ca. In that vein I helped organise two holidays before college starts back up; one to London with most of my friends and the other to Edinburgh with my baby 19 year old brother. If I could spare the money I’d book more, but I’ll need a few yo-yos to hopefully keep me from having to work in final year.

Finally, to keep my end of the bargain, GRAHAM is being mentioned. A 14+ minute song consisting of nothing but “drum solos and screaming” dedicated to me will be hitting the shelves shortly. How Rock & Roll.

One of the many joys of living in the country is the plethora of wildlife around every corner- the fox I saw on the way to work the other morning, the malnourished knackers’ horses that forage in the fields, the pigeons that shit incessantly on my windowsill… the list goes on. But all of these are overshadowed by my enemy, Musca Domestica, also known as the common housefly. For dramatic effect I will refer to them in the singular.

She is everywhere. Everywhere I turn in the house there is a fucking fly. It’s not because the house is dirty (despite the best efforts of some) but because the windows are always left open. The problem stems not from the obvious fact that she is dirty, but because I have an incredibly short fuse when it comes to things invading my personal space uninvited. The final straw came when she entered the kitchen. It’s a tiny room at the best of times but to cut a long story short it’s too small for me, my sanity, a housefly and her mates. You can probably see where this is going; and I know what some of you are thinking- *whiney voice* “the fly is one of God’s creatures too and what right do you have to kill her?”. Happily I don’t care about the opinions of people who say such things, so I don’t really feel obliged to justify my actions. If it was a spider I’d chuck it out the window but flies serve no purpose so I’m happy to give them a one-way ticket to Hades. The fly has compound eyes that look in every direction, amazing reflexes, the ability to fly and a knack for camoflage. In short I consider it a fair fight.

Any man worth his salt can, when necessity dictates, delve into the depths of his subconscious and recall to mind the hunter-gatherer instincts of his forefathers. Considering I’d already put the ‘gatherer’ part to work (taking food out of the press) the hunter part was called into action. There were three of the little bastards doing loops of the kitchen- the main instigator and two smaller ones, possibly beloved children. Whateva. Reaching for my trusty tea towel I began to stalk my quarry. I should probably mention that this was at 6.20am. I quickly identified the runt of the litter, and with an over-the-shoulder motion I ended his naive dreams of landing in my jam by turning his brains into that very substance.  One down.

The next fellow was clearly a better breed. He moved erratically, outwardly like a drunken sailor, but evidently he had something going on upstairs as he stayed around where all the cups are kept, tempting me into making a rash move that would end in a shitstorm of broken crockery and spilt tea. I needed to be precise, but with my tired early-morning eyes I knew I had to flush him out. Flicking the curtains, I was careful to keep my eyes locked on him as he made his escape towards the (closed) window. Not so smart now bitch. A quick roll and flick followed by an American History X-esque kerb stomp made an impressive mess on the floor, leaving just… her. The queen bee of flies.

She circled high, doubtless observing the bloodbath below and learning from it. Probably studied Darwin. I made a few futile jump shots but knew I had to consider my options. I went back to buttering toast. She flew above, goading me with her very existence. Finally, desperation at my nonchalance got to her and she made moves towards the sitting room where she knew I would shortly go. Clever girl. I followed in with my toast smothered in delicious Granny jam, watching, always watching. I put the toast on the table and turned to put on the TV… She fell for it. As she dived, I spun, whipping the towel around my head like a ninja before sending her fly-ing (see what I did there?) towards the mirror. I never saw her reach it. Such was the force of the towel that I think I may have actually blown her out of existence. Until tomorrow my sweet.

Vindication 2010

This is as close as I hope I ever come to a “Fuck You” post. This one goes out to all the doubters. To all those who laughed. To all those who said that it was all a waste of time. For you see…. I am getting paid to proof-read. Since Friday I have been going through draft procedures in work- evidently drawn up by illiterate chimpanzees on typewriters- correcting their spelling, grammar, punctuation and (God help me) basic numbering skills. It’s all in case some auditor reads it and immediately shuts down the place on the presumption that a group of 8 year-olds has run amok and overrun a pharmaceutical plant. It’s the second-most satisfying job I’ve ever had, right behind barring errant youths from a cinema… *condescending rant over*.

In other news, my weekend consisted of getting soaked (bad), Shrek (good), the Munster SHC Final (excellent) and an 11-hour catchup session/pub crawl with the lads (horrific/excellent). A combination of The Porterhouse, The Foggy Dew, The Mezz and Capitol Bar followed up by a frantic circuit of D’Olier Street/Westmoreland Street to locate an AWOL ginger, who magically ended up on the Nitelink while almost making me miss it meant that Sunday was definitely a day of rest. I caught up on some reading (“For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Men Without Women” – both Hemingway ). I’ll have to put one or two books on hold, or else segregate the times I read them because there are four on the go at the moment, the two I’ve mentioned plus Ulysses (Joyce) and “Meditations” (Marcus Aurelius). At the moment they’ve combined themselves in my head into one book about an American volunteer in the Spanish Civil War who leads a life without women while walking the streets of Dublin, all the while thinking about life and how to rule his Roman Empire justly. Maybe I’ll start reading some Sci-Fi and really fuck it up.

In the evenings, after cooking up another epicurean masterpiece -SpagBol tonight- I get some study done for my repeat. I got my other results and against the odds I passed Quantum Mechanics, which is (as most religious zealots I’m sure would agree) the work of the Devil. I like to think that my attempts to lighten up the subject during the exam helped me limp over the finish line. I rounded off my paper by sharing a quote by Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winning physicist -and arguably the greatest contributer to quantum mechanics since its discoverers- which reads as follows:

“I think it’s safe to say that nobody understands Quantum Mechanics”.

As much as to see what I can do with the blog as anything else, here’s a video of Feynman in action. I highly recommend the related videos, as he was what I would call an accessible genius.

I’ve just come back from one of the most upsetting instances of my life. Let me set the scene. I’m walking home from work, cool as a cucumber, when I pass a barber shop. “Why not?” I think to myself, “I am beginning to look like Bon Jovi”. I went into the shop. My first indication that something wasn’t quite right was the total lack of anything even resembling another customer. In my naivety I put it down to a combination of slow business and country folks famous neglect of personal grooming. There was also a distinct lack of a barber in this alleged barber shop. I began to turn around when out of the back room leapt a Turkish-looking man, possibly a Turk. We stood silently  regarding each other for a minute. Without words an agreement was reached and he pointed to the chair. Like a fool I sat, not noticing the Scissors of Damocles suspended from the ceiling over my unsuspecting mop.

He finally spoke, asking what I wanted done. I asked for about a third off, nothing too complicated I’m sure you’ll agree. The next ten minutes were one traumatic blur but I’ll try to recollect what happened. It could be therapeutic. He picked up the scissors and a comb. He banged the the scissors on the comb violently, presumably to psych himself up, then let loose. Not a word of a lie, he did not stop clicking that scissors from the minute he started until the ordeal was over, regardless of whether he was near my precious keratin or not. His arms were like Roadrunners legs, a constant blur that swooped and dived at my head in a seemingly random fashion. I was too stunned to say a word; and even if I hadn’t been I would have been afraid to move a muscle in case I got decapitated. If he’d been wearing a turban and I’d been holding a newspaper the scene could have been used in a film with me as a Taliban prisoner pleading to my Western Dog leaders to leave the country. He stopped briefly to ask if he was taking off too much. I said yes so he finished up and I experienced the sensation of a hairdryer on my head for the first time in about 8 years. It actually wasn’t too bad a job despite the fear he instilled in me. I would have even (albeit briefly) considered going back, until the bastard hit me for €15. Owned.

Last weekend I met a homeless man at the bus stop on the way home. He looked to be in his fifties, wore shabby but not ruined clothes and had what looked like all of his personal possessions strewn around the bus stop. I’ve no idea how he carried all of that stuff around with him. We got talking when he asked me to keep an eye out for his bus (he was short-sighted). He was ranting in a DOC-esque manner about a foreign attendant at the train station who had treated him badly. It was just the usual kind of  lazy racism typical of the older generation but he was really fixated on it. He called himself a traveler, but he wasn’t in the ethnic minority sense. He was separated from his family and just spends his time wandering around the country on Bus Eireann buses and staying in hostels. He seemed to have been in more fights that Muhammad Ali and had a heart-warming hatred of the scumbags that inhabit city centers.

What struck me most was that he didn’t look like an alcoholic or junkie, didn’t seem in any way aggressive and didn’t ask me for money after telling me his sob story- he was just down and out. Normally I’d be the first to jump to conclusions about homeless people but this man was unlike anyone I’d ever seen before… or maybe let myself see. I had- and still do have- a lot on my mind but talking to him made me feel guilty for thinking that my problems were in any way significant when compared to his. I don’t mean that to sound condescending, I never presume that my life is better than anyone else’s. I’m not going into the details of why my weekend was shit but the least of my worries was spending a fortune on buses/taxis, getting soaked and missing the World Cup final because I was on a bus. Between my own stuff and helping other people with theirs I’ve got a severe case of Atlas Syndrome.

On the plus side I’m off to London in September. My eternal hatred of this country inspired me to organise a trip abroad and amazingly, wondrously, less than 48 hours after first thinking of it, almost everyone who I invited has flights booked! I’ll start looking for accommodation over the next week. I’m really looking forward to being in a massive city again, especially after living in this shanty town where such travesties as occasionally-flickering digital television are a weekly occurrence. I mean what the fuck is a “UPC box”? Why isn’t George Hook knocking on my door to sell me a Sky package that can pick up variations in cosmic radiation on the far side of the Andromeda galaxy? Probably off banging Drico’s new wife while I rot here with less than 600 channels to keep me entertained.

My friends decided to ruin my first week of staying here alone by kindly showing up on my doorstep last Saturday to keep me company. There I was, watching the foozeball, when a car-load of yuppies from the big smoke appeared looking to party. Throwing on my trusty pants, I grabbed my wallet and we were out for the night. We decided to get some dinner first. Paul mildly suggested/constantly nagged that we get Indian food, so I brought them to the only place I’d seen. Turned out to be amazing food, but let’s just say that they weren’t lying when they put “Planet Spice” on the sign out the front. It was like chili from a Chernobyl greengrocers. Little did I know at the time that I would spend my entire Sunday suffering from crippling stomach spasms on top of a horrific hangover. Cheers Paul.

After the soakage we hit the main bar in the town (the one that reminded me of Messrs). It was more packed than Diceys on €2 night. We spent most of the night in the smoking area out the back. I bumped into one of the women from my office who’d been at the Cathy Davey gig with her friends beforehand. They all made a fuss over how “young and cute” the lads were, complete with head-patting and cheek-pinching. There was also talk of more unsavory shenanigans that thankfully didn’t go down…

Come closing we were pretty wrecked. Obviously we did the sensible thing, i.e. go back to my house (via Four Star Pizza) and crack open the bottle of Superquinn own brand whiskey that lay within. Some babies never learn. The lads finally went back to the B&B where I spent my first two weeks. I went round in the morning and got a free breakfast from the owners (it’s tough being so lovable) and then we went out for a wander. We ended up chilling on the riverbank. When I say chilling in John’s case I of course mean lying immobile on the grass, inches from death. The rest of us did stupid things like climbing trees and  running jumps from the river bank to land in a bloody mess 6 foot out… ok the last one was just me. They headed off at about 2, leaving me riddled with pain from the Indian, hangover and superficial lacerations but really glad they’d come.

Work drags on. It’s less stimulating than I could ever have imagined, but I can see the value in it and at least I’m being paid. The women are all lovely but I swear to God if I have to sit silent through another conversation on wedding dresses, clothes, children and dead-foot skin eating fish (don’t ask) I’m going to self-harm. And I don’t know about you but in my opinion it’s WRONG to be made feel like a leper in a maternity ward just for mentioning the World Cup. Thankfully I hooked up with some other students last night so we went to watch the Germany match together. Because they got knocked out I’m now out of the pool, at least I still have the fastest goal…

I live in a house, a very average-sized house… in the country. There’s the makings of a song in that. I moved into one of the places I visited last week, it’s an ex-Garda barracks house opposite the station and right in the center of town. Perfect. I’m sharing with a Slovakian, an unemployed local and a girl who I’ve yet to meet. The two lads seem sound enough, so at least I’ve got someone to abuse FIFA referees with now. What could go wrong…

… The water has gone. The owner of the B&B warned me that this shit happened down the country when it stopped raining. I laughed, thinking that it was another instance of fooling city folk into paying for religious icons designed to bring on rain. A St. Aquinas medal there for you son, that’ll get the uisce flowing again. Turns out he was serious; and now I’m faced with the prospect of not showering before work if the Council gombeen men don’t fix it before sun up. At least I was able to cook a real meal today. Sure, the hob may have been layered in Gulf of Mexico levels of oil which almost caught fire when I turned it on, but I battled through and emerged victorious on the other side of a sexy pasta dinner. I also invested in other luxuries such as milk and cereal which had been lacking this morning, leaving me to last until lunch on a stomach of the Mother’s (admittedly amazing) tea brack and black tea. Ah well, it’s about time I indulged in some Recession Chic.