Monthly Archives: June 2008

Boy meets Gael(tacht)

Another milestone this week. Tinson2 has gone to the Gaeltacht for 3 weeks.

Tinson2 is thirteen. While any parent will love and defend their children to the ends of the earth, most of us know what they are really like deep down. And my son is the sweetest person on this planet.

He was the grumpiest, angriest baby of the three of them. It used to bother me that he didn’t smile when you appeared in front of his cot the way the eldest had, but simply held his hands up, demanding to picked up so he could get on with his busy day of crying, turning his face away from food and sticking out his lower lip. Like his elder brother he made no effort to walk, but would rocket along the floor (we have wooden floors) on his butt. Indeed, he was even better than his brother at it, as he would use one hand as a paddle and sort of flip himself along, with his bum practically coming off the floor as he galumphed along. He did try to walk one day. He got up, toddled one or two steps, then obviously thought to himself “sod this for a game of pokemon, I can move twice as fast on my arse” and went back to the backside shuffle. It was only when we were teaching his younger sister to walk, getting her to stumble along between two of us kneeling about five feet apart, that he got up and joined in, walking beside her & encouraging her.

Because by then the miracle had already occurred. He had become his sister’s great mate. To say we were terrified of what his reaction to the new baby would be was putting it mildly. He was just 18 months old, surly, often angry, and all the worst horror stories of children trying to hurt younger siblings were in our heads as my wife sat at home with our new arrival while I collected him from my sister-in-law’s. I got home and carried him into the sitting room where the moses basket (God, I couldn’t remember there what the thing was called, how quickly you forget) held centre stage. “This is your new baby sister Susan” we said. He knelt beside the basket and put his hand gently on the blanket. “Soo-soo”, he said, with a big smile on his face. I still have the photos (oh, I wish I knew enough about all this stuff to be able to publish them) of the whole thing – him in his big outdoor one piece coat-thingy, hair all sweaty because of the heat in the room, with a huge grin on his face.

And from that second on they were like twins – absolutely inseparable. I’ve already spoken about how Tinson1 became an only child again, and it’s as good as true.

Tinson2 did have middle child syndrome, though, which I realised even before I knew such a thing was a recognised problem. Older child knew more than he did, so there was no point trying to compete on knowledge, and younger child was more cute, so there was no point trying to be babyish. He developed into a child almost desperate to do eveything right, having seemingly decided that if he couldn’t be the clever child or the adorable child, he could at least be the good child. Every time he did anything wrong, like spill a drink, he would dissolve into floods of tears and say “I’m sorry” over and over again. I sure people who saw us when we were out must have thought that we beat him regularly for mistakes at home.

So this little bundle of fears and worries, who spent all his time with a far younger playmate, headed off to school. As if things weren’t bad enough for him, his April birthday meant that it was borderline as to which year he would start, and by starting him in the earlier of the two possible years he was one of the youngest in the class, continuously going to friends’ sixth birthday parties before he himself had his fifth. Occasionally he would get teased about how babyish he was, and how quick to get upset, and would arrive home in tears.

The great thing, though, is that he did have friends. His time spent with his younger sister had by now given him a kind, caring nature that couldn’t help but shine through. (I still remember how we met a barking dog on the street in Kusadasi, and how he immediately stood in front of his sister.) He was warm, helpful, considerate and, by now, very funny, and quickly established a group of close little friends. He still worried a lot about what people thought of him, and still hated to look babyish, but this grew out of him in time. One evening at the age of about ten he announced that he had to get a photograph of himself for some poster they were putting up at school. He went through a load of old pictures and eventually found one of him at the age of about two, with a baseball hat backwards on his head, and those thick baby socks on his feet. “I’ll have this one,” he said.

He finished national school and has just completed his first year in secondary. Again, he seemed so much younger and smaller than all the others on the first day. None of his friends from the BSP were going to the same school, yet in no time at all he was part of a new little group of closely knit friends. They all went to their first disco last month, so again the house stinks of Lynx (his elder brother has graduated to Lacoste), but it was more a rite of passage thing I think than any serious attempt at getting off with women (I may be the most naive parent on the planet for all I know). He had astounded us all, a family for whom changing a light-bulb counts as DIY, by taking wood-work and metalwork, and our house now contains a key-hook, a letter-rack, a tortoise, a toothbrush holder, a wooden ship, a minature sliothar and a metal shovel that he has made over the course of the year. He bought a second-hand Scalextric set at a school fair and wired it up himself. He dug out an old Nintendo 64 that his brother used to have and worked out how to fix it. I sometimes thinks he was accidently switched at birth.

And now the Gaeltacht. Interestingly, he didn’t want to go to the one his brother has gone to for the last three years, but once his brother said he wasn’t going (he has a girlfriend now) he was quite happy to go there. Again, he seemed too young, sitting all on his own on the coach with his head barely visible at the window, but apparently the older ones were discussing whether the eldest son would be coming. “Are you talking about Tinson 1?” he piped up, “because I’m his brother.”

He seems to have no fears anymore. He is sweet, kind, thoughtful and almost always good-tempered. He has a very dry, and very funny, sense of humour.

He’s just great.

Big Brother Blog (3)

They were brilliant tonight at the task!

Part of the reason I love the programme is that you get to empathise with them, and you root for them when they’re up against it, like they were in this week’s task, when first Rachel got injured, and then choreographer Dennis was sent to jail. I gave them no chance at all, and they were fantastic. We whooped and yelled in our house just as loudly as they did when they passed. We did the same last week when Dale broke the block with the karate chop.

Luke though … well, Luke makes me puke.

He’s the gurning love-child of Frankie Howard and Emily Bishop. He bitches, he gossips, he invents conspiracies, he mistrusts the nice people, and sides with the nastier ones. He’s made friends with the hapless yet endearing Bex, but says the most insulting things to her that he obviously thinks she’ll find funny.

Last week he got no nominations, this week he got a couple. Slowly the others are starting to see through him.

Sylvia’s bound to go tomorrow, which is probably as well for her own sake, since I’m scared what she might do to try and get attention next. I don’t really see why Mo was up against her anyway, he doesn’t really do a whole lot wrong.

Mario, when you see more of him, is not as bad as I first thought, but still is very full of himself. It was good to see Mikey get 3 nominations, and that people aren’t scared to appear bad in the public eye by nominating the blind guy. He’s really not a particulaurly nice bloke.

The battle of the beef-cake is quite funny. Dale is very afraid of Stuart, without seeing that he is 10 times the person that Stuart is. Wake up, Dale, he wears eye make-up for Christ’s sake.

At the moment I’d like Bex to win. She reminds me of Helen from BB2 – at the beginning her screaming & dumbness were really annoying, but as time goes on you realise that she’s a really lovely girl.

What a Bummer

Just slipped & fell on my arse on O’Connell Street.

I was waiting to cross from the middle section to the Clery’s side.It was raining, they’ve got these new metal dimples at the kerbside that are like glass, & one foot just shot forward like a man in a banana skin joke, and I fell straight backwards. I leapt straight back up again, assured a whole load of concerned people that I was fine, and continued across the road, now almost walking under a bus since the lights had now changed. I’m probably on YouTube at this very moment.

A couple of things struck me, though, besides the footpath. One was that for one second I understood all those fuckers who make compensation claims when they aren’t hurt. Just for one brief flash of anger I wanted to sue the bloody civil servant who decided to waste our money putting paving that gets like a polished floor when its wet down on the paths on the main street of a city where it rains continuously. I wanted to sue the Luas for terminating at Abbey Street for two months, or I wouldn’t have been walking in the first place. I wanted to sue Martin King off TV3 for making it rain. I wanted to sue the kind woman who tried to help me up, for making me feel old and stupid. I wanted to sue God, well, just because.

The other thing that struck me was that if this had happened a few years ago I would have landed flat on my back, winding myself to hell,  and smacked the back of my head off the ground. As someone who knows a lot about hitting the ground suddenly at speed, I am well aware of the damage I might have done.

But it these enlighted days we all have a backpack. While this does mean you run the risk of being shot by the London police, it has the advantage that instead of landing on your back you come down upon a laptop, a lunchbox, a pair of glasses, a pair of sunglasses, an iPod, a load of biros, a book and a nice soft rainmac, all wrapped up (well yes, obviously I should have been wearing it).

As a result, I landed square on the bag, did a brief impression of an overturned VW Beetle and then was able to hop back up.

I know the backpack is really just a handbag for men, but for once I was glad I had it.

Burn Baby Burn

The Book People regularly leave books into our office. One of the ones they’ve left in this time is called “101 Great Barbecue Recipes”.

This is amazing, because I can only think of three:

Cremated Burger with a dollop of Ketchup sitting on top, coz it can’t sink into the meat;

Cremated Sausage, with a skin that sticks to your lips and barbecues them as well;

Cremated Chicken Surprise, the surprise being that it is black on the outside, but is red in enough parts inside to contain more bacteria than a tramp’s socks.

I’ve never understood why people put themselves through this, usually within five feet of a perfectly serviceable kitchen.

Being Out There

I got my first comment today.

A guy called Brian commented on a post I made about an article in the Irish Times magazine about graffiti. In it, I had a go at graffitists (if that’s a word), the journalist and the editor. In Brian’s reply he had a go at me.

Fair enough. That’s what it’s all about. It did make me realize, however, how “out there” you are when you get involved in this. I’ve told no-one I’m doing this, coz I’m too shy and unsure of myself yet, and still I got a comment from someone I don’t know, will never meet, and who has just as much right to slag me as I have to slag Maser the “street artist.”

It makes me think. I’ve been doing this as a kind of venting exercise, letting off steam about things that annoy me so that I don’t end up muttering on the Luas like a loony. I’ve treated it like a private diary, and now it’s been brought home to me that it’s not that private at all.

That’s good, it will hopefully make me put a bit more effort into it. I set out to have a bit of fun with all this, but I’ve been increasingly conscious that virtually all of my posts so far have been giving out about something. I sound like Victor Meldrew on double espresso. Certainly I wanted to have a go at things, but I had originally hoped to have more cheerful posts sometimes too.

Oh, well. Still learning. And, as someone once said, anything worth doing, is worth doing badly.


The Soul of Wit

A typical letter to the Irish Times goes something like this:

Madam, – With gloomier times forecast for the economy, do you think perhaps that Bertie Ahern could be prevailed upon to ask his friends to give the country a “dig-out”?-Yours, etc.,

Braying Donkey-Laugh, Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Brevity is not the soul of wit. Humour is the sole of wit.

Big Brother Blog (2)

“I’m a straight-up bloke, me,” said Mario in the diary room, “what you see is what you get.”

No sense of irony, then, from our Mario (nee Shaun). You don’t even use your own name, mate.

“We have our own fan-club, us, back where we come from,” he told the other housemates, referring to himself and his clingy girlfriend Lisa, a woman with a permanently startled expression who applies make-up to her face in the same way Rolf Harris applies paint to a canvas.

She spends all her time massaging or oiling him, while he just lies there making disparaging comments about everyone else.

He is the ultimate “bloke”, in the worst possible meaning of the word. It’s hard to be more unlikeable than the shrieking Alexandra, but this king-sized knob manages it easily.

For God’s sake get him out.

Why Lisbon Lost

It was a real cliffhanger. As the political journos would say, it was “too close to call.” Right up until the time I stood in the polling booth and picked up the pencil, I was only ninety-five percent certain that I was voting Yes. A voice kept saying “come on, you know it’s wrong, vote No.”

In the end I resisted, and voted Yes. But I am not surprised, and not especially dismayed, at the result. It was pretty well inevitable that the worst-run campaign of all time was going to end in humiliation. These are some of the things that went wrong.

The Dick Factor

During the last General Election the story was that Dick Roche and Martin Cullen were kept out of the spotlight, since both were regarded with as figures of fun by the media and by the public, and neither could be trusted not to suddenly say something really stupid.

When Bertie Ahern was returned to power he took the Environment ministry away from Roche to give to the Greens, but let him stay as a junior Minister for Europe. There were a couple of reasons for this – one, he was so loyal to Ahern that Bertie hadn’t the heart to drop him altogether and two, he does actually know an awful lot about Europe and the Lisbon Treaty.

The problem with this was that when the No side started impacting upon the public viewpoint with their neutrality/tax/abortion sound bites, the ideal person to counter these would have been the person who knew more about the treaty than anyone else in the three Yes parties. But because this person was Dick Roche they were afraid to send him out to bat, so had to use instead a collection of badly-briefed, ill-informed other TDs who repeatedly were made to look shifty by the No side with the uncertainty of their answers.


The campaign started badly. The Yes parties voiced the hope that there would would be a more reasoned debate than there was before Nice, and Bertie Ahern promptly dismissed opponents of the Lisbon Treaty as “loo-lahs and loonies.” Coming from a man who at the same time was appearing in front of a tribunal, talking total rubbish about winning money on horses to explain the vast amounts of money that he kept everywhere  except in a bank where it might be safe, this was a bit hard to stomach.

The Panto reply

Unlike in a panto, it was not enough to shout “oh no it isn’t” everytime the no side said would have such an such an outcome. We kept being told they were lies, but no-one told us specifically why.

Remember the money

One of the more unfair arguments used by the Yes side was to continually remind us how well we had done out of the EU. This was an outrageous slur on people who had genuine doubts about this particular treaty, and about whether transferring more power from the (elected) European Parliament to the (unelected) European Commission was a good idea. The ‘remember the money’ argument implied that all No voters were Anti-Europeans who believed that, having sucked Europe dry, we should now leave before we have to give money to other poorer countries.

Churchill once said that saying “my country, right or wrong” is like saying “my mother, drunk or sober.” The money argument is the same. Followed to its logical conclusion it means that the Irish can never again oppose anything brought in by the EU , simply because we got money in the past. If the EU declares war on New Zealand tomorrow to stop it exporting lamb to the UK, then we in Ireland would have to back it, because remember, we’ve done very well out of Europe.

The French Connection

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, once a poll appeared suggesting for the first time that the No side might win, a whole load of people opened their big mouths and inserted their equally big feet. The Irish Times of the Saturday before the vote was scathing in its fury that we might vote no. “Are we out of our minds?” shrieked its Editorial. “It would clearly be very foolish to infuriate gratuitously the politicians of 26 states,” preached Garret FitzGerald (gratuitously? who are you to decide that?) “The voters too need to ask themselves about their inability or unwillingness to inform themselves about such a serious political issue,” sniffed Stephen Collins. Jesus, Stephen, people were begging the Yes side to give them some solid information.

And then, fittingly from a lingustic viewpoint, it was the French who supplied the coup de grace. Dr Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, said a no vote would represent a lack of gratitude to Europe. “It would be very, troubling . . . that we will not be able to count on the Irish who counted a lot on Europe’s money.” He went on to state that Ireland would suffer consequences by voting No.

From the moment that appeared on RTE’s news website on Tuesday, I knew the Yes side had lost. For this buffoon to come out and threaten the Irish people, just two years after his own country had rejected what was essentially the same treaty with no consequences, was something the Irish would never put up with. There was now no chance that any wavering No voter could be brought around to the Yes side.

If you don’t know, don’t vote

Not an argument used by all of the Yes side, but still used enough to rankle. Realising that voters wh weren’t sure were opting for the No side to keep things as they are, some panicky Yes voters instead urged them not to vote at all. This was an attack on democracy. People should never be encouraged not to vote.

No, we don’t trust you

The astonishment of the Yes side at their defeat was based on a complete failure to grasp just how unpopular politicians really are. Eighty percent of the electorate voted for our three parties in the election just one year ago, they reasoned, so eighty percent of the electorate respect and trust us, they reasoned.

Wrong. We voted for you as the best of a bad lot, but we have nothing but contempt for most of you. Haughey, Ahern, Lowry, Burke, Lawlor and numerous Flynns have killed our trust. The drink-drivers, tax-defaulters, smoking-ban defiers have killed our respect. The unmerited (and deferred, not forsaken) payrise, the extended holidays, the St Patricks Day exodus, have all painted a picture of self-serving, money-grabbing incompetents who can’t manage our health service, daren’t challenge Ahern about his obvious Tribunal lying, and aren’t professional enough to do their homework about a treaty that they claim to want to see implemented. You pointed to Sinn Fein on the No side, hopeful that the obvious dislike for them shown in the last election would dissuade us from taking their side, but never realised that our dislike of you is strong enough to make that not a deciding factor. It’s a lesson you’d better start learning soon, or the people you think are unelectable will start to make real inroads.

The boy who cried wolf

We were told that this was it, there would be no second chance, and if we voted No there was a real chance Europe would go ahead with the treaty without us. Unfortunately we were told this in 2001, before the first Nice referendum, and after we rejected it all that happened was that we were made sit on the naughty step for a few months, and then told to go back and do it properly this time. Is it any wonder that none of us, including those of us on the Yes side, believe that there won’t be a second vote at some stage? That after seven years of negotiations, the EU will just abandon all their work just because of one no vote? Does anyone believe that the citizens of the Netherlands and the UK, who all wanted their own referendum, will agree to having Ireland thrown out because we were given one and didn’t produce the desired result?

There will be another vote. And this time, if the Yes parties treat us sensibly instead of contemptously, pick three or four simply explainable good things about the treaty and keep hammering home that message, and learn enough about what’s going on to counter the No accusations, then it should be passed.

One last thing. After every crisis in every vote in every country the EU comes out with a load of guff about making itself more accountable and transparent to the citizens, and then retreats back into its Castle. One day it had better get serious about doing that, or counties will eventually start to leave.