Monthly Archives: January 2009

Now You See Me

hi-viz-jacket

The Road Safety Authority is to circulate 30,000 high-visibility jackets among rural pubs for them to lend to customers walking home.

I think this is an excellent idea, and fully intend to wear mine the entire time that I am in the pub, since I have often, when my glass is empty, suspected that I am invisible to the bar staff.

Whereas many years ago I used to own a number of rugby-shirts, even though my own career had ended at the age of 13 when I arrived back to training to discover that every 13-year old in the country had put on five inches and two stone over the summer, and I hadn’t. Two games later, fed up with feeling as if I’d been hit by a tow-truck every time I was tackled, I decided soccer would be safer (or parachute jumping, for that matter).

rugby-shirtAnyway, the picture on the right is the closest I can find on Google to one particular shirt I used to wear a lot, though mine also had a lot of orange in it.

One summer evening I arrived into my local to find a pint on the counter ready for me. “I saw you coming across the road,” explained the barman. I turned and looked at the frosted-glass door and window. “Well, yeah, I could only see a shape,” he admitted, “but no-one else in here wears a shirt that colour”.

See? It works.

The Big Guns Speak

It’s official. The country’s not doing very well.

29 days into the Year of the Deadasadodo, 93 days after the State had an all-night crisis meeting with the major banks, 21 days after the closure of Dell, 8 days after the forced nationalisation of Anglo Irish, and 88 days after even your humble scribe wrote his first post with the tag “we’re bocht”, the Central Bank has issued a bleak forecast for the coming year.

For most of us, our reaction to this will have been “No shit, Sherlock”. We don’t need these guys to tell us that things are going to be bad, certainly not after it has been said by absolutely everyone else in the country.

davros

Davros ...

But apparently the Central Bank saying it carries more gravitas, even at this late stage, since the Irish Times carried the story as its main front page article, ahead of stories like Brian Cowen’s visit to Davros (if I heard that correctly – I think he’s trying to hire the Daleks to collect the loans due to us from Seanie Fitzpatrick). And RTE had it as the main item on its evening news, ahead even of its hilarious footage of the New Zealand prisoners’ attempted escape (which I’ll let Laughykate show you, since they’re her compatriots).

With a touching lack of cop-on the Central Bank sent two Big Guns along to the launch of its forecast where one would have done, and each of them seemed determined to outdo the other in waffle and in seeing if they could get the assembled media to say “well, duh”. Their Governor John Hurley told us that “the ability of the state to meet the public sector pay bill was beyond the scope of resources”, and “the Irish economy is in an exceptionally difficult position”. Has this man been living down a hole? Does he really think this is news?

.. and Brian. Who is the fairer of them all?

.. and Brian. Who is the fairer of them both?

Tom O’Connell, Assistant Director General, mooted the idea of a property tax, saying “Ireland is an outlier internationally in not applying annual charges to residential property holdings”. (I am 51 years old and have never seen the word “outlier” before – is it French, rhyming with oublier?).

He went on to state that people living in apartment complexes paid management fees of around €1,000, and said that an annual tax of €1,000 on the 1.7 million dwellings in the state would yield €1.7 billion per year. He then suggested that it’s also possible to charge for water services and many other services offered for free. He then said:  “We have an awful lot of public services here that are provided free, whether it’s third-level education, free travel for the over-65s, all these things arguably could be looked at. Should people over 65 pay one-quarter of the fare, half the fare?”

There is some merit in what Mr  O’Connell says – it is mathematically accurate, since 1.7 million times 1,000 is indeed 1.7 billion.

But that’s its only merit. He’s obviously never heard of the water and refuse charges already existing on residential property. It’s news to me that third level education is free. And even when Ireland was the poorest of the poor we had free travel for over-65s. If scrapping that’s the level of thinking that people in top government positions are sinking to, then we’re even worse run than I thought.

And as for his brainless property tax suggestion … is he saying that every dwelling, from Áras an Úachtaráin to the tiniest bedsit, should pay the same charge? Has he ever heard of waiver clauses for the poor in any fixed price levy? At present 38 per cent of the public don’t earn enough to pay Income Tax (thank you Dermot Ahern), so how many of these would be exempted? And how many of the unemployed (and remember the very forecast that this titwit was there to launch said we’d have 98,000 more of these by the end of this year) would be exempted? How much money would this tax really bring in? If he doesn’t know, then why doesn’t this senior executive of the body that’s responsible for our “monetary policy functions, financial stability, financial sector regulation and consumer protection” (doin’ a grand job there, boys) just stop talking crap?

As stated, Mr O’Connell is the Assistant Director General. How interesting, I thought, it might be to follow through the full range of job titles in this relatively small public organisation – if there’s an Assistant there is presumably also a Director General, and yet we’ve also met a Governor.

But their website (thank you once again, Google) tells me that there are in fact THREE Assistant Director Generals. Oh, and above them A Deputy Director General. Then the Director General. Then the Governor.

“The public sector pay bill is beyond the scope of resources”. Their words, not mine.

Are You Sure?

Cheltenham Borough Council is suing its former Managing Director for nearly £1 million, claiming that she hid a history of depressive illness and the fact that she was on anti-depressants when she applied for and secured her job.

christine-laird3Part of their argument is that Christine Laird, in a pre-employment questionnaire, answered ‘no’ to a question about whether she considered herself disabled.

Two-and-a-half years after securing the post Ms Laird went off sick, and eventually left.

When I was in New York I bought a T-Shirt that says “I lied to get the job. They lied about the job. We’re even”. I wear it at work sometimes to annoy the boss. The idea that you can be sued – not just fired, but sued – for something you say in a job application will scare the crap out of everyone who’s ever put the best possible gloss on, say, the amount of experience that they have.

The most interesting thing, though, is that the Council is essentially arguing that people with a history of depression are “disabled”. They may come to regret this argument.

If they win this case, and if the recession means that there is no work in Ireland, then the Tinfamily and I are off to Cheltenham. I’m going to drive to the Borough Council Offices, park the Tincar in a disabled parking spot, slap my packet of Cipramil on the reception desk, and demand disability allowances. (I’m also going to demand a council house, which I will let to Irish punters during Gold Cup week, using the rent that they pay me to fly to Tenerife to see if sunshine affords me any relief).

The UK Government website list a whole load of payments and Tax Credits that I might qualify for. And not just me. Six million people in the UK have a history of depression.

Cheltenham BC can recognise that depression sufferers are ill. In fact, I welcome it. But during this illness we’re expected to raise our kids, drive our cars, pay our taxes, do our jobs. And we do.

Are they sure they want to call us all disabled?

Misfitz

Would you buy a crap bank from this man?

Would you buy a crap bank from this man? We did.

Google Sean Fitzpatrick (no, not the All Blacks hooker, LK), the guy who had to resign from Anglo Irish Bank after it was revealed that he had hidden his loans of between €84 million and €122 million from the bank’s shareholders for the last seven years. What he did with the loans is not clear.

The third item is an article called “5 minutes with Sean Fitzpatrick”, from the Indo  in October 2006, and in answer to the question “What drives you nuts?” our hero says:

“The Hollywood set, people who aren’t real, bureaucracy, falseness.”

Gobshite.

Anyway, Seanie’s machinations so damaged the reputation of Anglo Irish that it became the Humpty Dumpty of the financial world, and no matter what promises the government made about backing it the price just kept dropping till eventually it had to be nationalised. So now the responsibility for trying to collect dodgy  loans from hard pressed property developers has fallen on all of us.

But there are a couple of upsides to this. The first is that we – you, me – own a bank. Go into one of their branches tomorrow and help yourself to biros and coffee. Tell the staff to buck up. Tell one of them to get a haircut. Promote someone at random.

Bring a tin of paint and a brush with you and paint the front door a different colour. Write a strongly worded letter to the Times saying how disgraceful it is that we own a bank with the word Anglo in the title, was it for this that we fought at Boolavogue, the bloody RDS is bad enough, not to mention the British Isles, etc, etc.

Write to the Board, tell them you’ve given yourself a car loan, and ask them to hide it on their Balance Sheet.

To anyone who might suggest that I’m being facetious, and that this would be no way to run a bank, may I simply direct you to the previous management, who made just as big a balls of it but got paid buckets of money as well.

The other good thing about all this is that Sean “I did nothing illegal” Fitz no longer owes €84 million to a bank that he was using as his personal plaything. He now owes it to us. So I suggest, firstly, that all the secrecy surrounding what he did with the loans should end immediately. We are Seanie’s bankers now, and if Brian Lenihan won’t tell us what happened to the money then he should go too. At a minimum he should report at least once a month how much of the loans have been repaid.

Alternatively, Saturday’s Lotto draw each week should include a section where one person is drawn out to be Seanie’s loan manager for the following week. If you’re the lucky winner you get to ring SF, ask how much of the loans will he paying back this week, and if the answer’s not satisfactory then you can suggest to him that he might like to sell something – a house, perhaps. Or a car. Or a kidney.

Seanie's pension plan

Seanie's pension plan

Of course we may never get any of it, because he may lose everything. When he originally said he’d done nothing illegal I said here that I don’t think he’s right. Selling shares on the open stock market while concealing the fact that 35 per cent of your capital value is loaned to one person – your Chairman – is fraud. Dealing in shares yourself when you know something about the loan position of your bank that is hidden deliberately may well be deemed to be insider trading – which may carry a jail sentence.

The beleagured government are trying to persuade all of us to accept the service cuts and tax increases necessary to correct the mess created by self-centred tossers like Seanie. They will find this hard to do while Seanie gets off scot-free and the spineless Financial Regulator who let him away with so much is not fired, but gets to retire early with alump sum of €390,000 and an annual pension of €130,000. They may well feel that finding some way to make these people accountable will help gain the support of the rest of us for the pain to come. Any decent legal mind – and the Dáil is full of them – could think up something to charge these people with.

And they may not have to. I read today that one investor, who is a member of the Bar, is initiating proceedings against Fitzer and three other senior bank officials. If he were to win they might well be deemed personally liable for his losses – and then of course the floodgates might often.

In the article I quoted earlier this model citizen was asked what he’d do “if he had a spare million” (if? Dear God. He said:

“I’d do something for the homeless; provide day-time facilities.”

I hope he did that. He may well need those facilities some day.

I’m Seeing A Pattern Here

overworkedWhen the boom was on, we all had far too much work.

Therefore we were all expected to work very long hours and not get paid overtime for it.

Now the recession is here, some of our customers will close, many others will be afraid to spend money, and the way to survive is to prove to them that we can provide an excellent service at competitive rates.

Therefore we will all be expected to work very long hours and not get paid overtime for it.

Have You Snow Home to Go To?

iglooWhen I arrived into my local last night the only three customers were talking about Eskimos (like you do). One of them said “have you ever heard this, Tinman? There’s a tradition that if a visitor turns up during the night at his igloo an Eskimo has to offer to let him sleep with his wife.”

Then he continued “Like, for body warmth. I mean she’ll be wearing her coat & gloves and all. So like, he’d just be sleeping with her, not, er..” and here the sentence tapered off.

One of the more endearing things about the guys who drink in our bar is that, while not one of us could put a sentence of more than three words together without “fuck” appearing in it somewhere, there is seldom any mention of actual sex, and people get very embarrassed if it does come up. Generally we act as if sex doesn’t exist, and in a sadly large number of our cases this is actually true.

Anyway, I said that I’d never heard of this (and I’ve since Googled it and unfortunately can’t get any confirmation) and so the matter was let drop. But not in my mind, as I find it very hard to let things like this go.

eskimo-girlSuppose the Eskimo’s wife looked like this girl here, for example, and the same visitor turned up about five nights a week? At what point would our Eskimo start to get suspicious?

Or suppose the nocturnal visitor (and where the hell would they be going late at night in a frozen wasteland in the first place?) turned out to be a girl? There are two possibilities here, either of which I reckon would appeal to the Eskimo, simply because he’s a bloke and that’s the way we think.

Ignoring the more Sapphic possibility in the interests of my heartrate, let’s just take the one where the girl visitor is sent to sleep with the homeowner. My guess is that he will not “be wearing his coat & gloves and all”. She’s more likely to arrive in into the bedroom to find him wearing nothing but a pair of boxers with little hearts on them.

Oh, and he’ll have lit candles to enhance the atmosphere, so the igloo will melt.

Aw, Shucks

girl-prayingTingirl is making her confirmation this year. This morning I asked her had she picked her confirmation name yet and she said she is going to take my mother’ s name. She already has my Mother-in-Law’s name as her second name (yes, her second name is Madwoman) and she said doing this will give her both her grannies’ names.

My mum died nine years before Tingirl was born, yet she decided on this all by herself.

I think I’m going to burst.