Monthly Archives: November 2019

Our Birthday Girl

Our girl is 23 today.

Tingirl, lovely baby, cute little girl, teenager-like teenager, is now a wonderful young woman. She is adored by her older brothers, fiercely loyal and close to her friends, passionate in her beliefs.

She works now, in a difficult but very important job, but her plans are to move abroad, to work in radio or TV, fulfilling her lifelong ambition.

We love her and are proud of her. She is her Dad’s princess, and always will be.

Happy birthday, my beautiful girl.

Came, Saw, Yawned

Two unrelated facts: in a recent thread on entitled “Why is Dublin so bad?” our capital city was described by many contributors who had visited as dirty, dreary, expensive and with nothing to do. And the demographic of people arriving in Iceland between 874 and 930 AD was almost entirely Norse men and Irish women …


Leif sat at the bar in the Banshee’s Wail, one of fourteen pubs claiming to be Dublin’s oldest, staring gloomily into his drink. Eventually he spoke.

“We’re going home,” he said.

Behind the bar, Maeve’s eyes widened in surprise.

The Vikings had arrived in Dublin a few years earlier intent upon theft and pillage, but had been quickly disarmed by innate native curiosity, fending off not spears and bows but questions about whaling, volcanoes, and whether they had any Irish relatives. Over time they had come to an arrangement where they would refrain from enslaving the Irish and the Irish would stop referring to them as Beardy Bolloxses. They had settled in the city, drinking in the local pubs and joining in conversations about whether football would catch on as a sport, about how the youth of today hadn’t a clue, about whether Brexit would ever be over.

Now, apparently, they were leaving.

“Why would you go home?” asked Maeve, surprising herself at how plaintive her voice sounded.

Leif shrugged. “There was a vote,” he said. “We’re bored.”

“Bored?” said Maeve. “How?”

“There’s nothing to do,” said Leif.

“There’s lots to do,” said Maeve stoutly.

“Such as?” asked Leif.

“Well, the Guinness tour,” said Maeve.

“Seriously?” said Leif. “Here’s where we make it, here’s where we store it, here’s where we send it out the door. Thanks for coming, goodbye.”

“There’s the Leprechaun Museum.” (really, there is)

“True,” said Leif, “which would be well worth any admission price if it wasn’t for its lack of, well, leprechauns.”

“There’s the gift shops.” said Maeve, desperately.

“Yes, on every corner,” said Leif, “selling shillelaghs, which are just sticks, and shamrock-shaped hats, and tunics with ‘kiss me, I’m Irish’ written on them.”

Maeve lowered her eyes. Leif tried to find the right words. “Look,” he said, “you have to remember that we have the Northern Lights, and waterfalls, and glaciers. We’ve discovered America -”

“What’s America?”

“Exactly,” said Leif. “We’ve seen so many amazing things, Dublin just doesn’t thrill us. And it’s so dirty that even its drink is black.”

“That’s the body in it,” said Maeve.

“Considering it gets its water from the Liffey, that’s probably true,” said Leif. “And it’s really expensive. I thought we were supposed to be the robbers.”

Maeve, who worked in a bar that charged twice the price to visitors as to locals, blushed slightly, then looked up. “And this vote you spoke of,” she said quietly, “how did you vote?”

Leif looked into her eyes. “I voted to stay,” he said softly, “but the other side won.”

“I see,” said Maeve. “And when are you leaving?”

“Right now,” said Leif. “I just came to say goodbye.”

She held his gaze. Unspoken words hovered between them, then faded, unspoken.

Leif finished his drink, turned and left. Maeve stared for a long time at the door, at her future, at nothing.

The door suddenly burst open. Conor, her boss, came in.

“The Beardy Bolloxses are leaving,” he said happily.

“I know,” said Maeve in a low voice.

“You don’t seem very pleased,” said Conor. “Don’t you get it? The Viking Conquest is over.”

Maeve suddenly grabbed her cloak. “Perhaps not,” she said, “because there are two ways of looking at that phrase.”

She ran from the pub to the riverside. The Vikings were climbing onto their longboat, with Leif at the end of line. She touched his arm, and he turned in surprise. She saw the look in his eyes, and smiled.

“Kiss me,” she said, “I’m Irish.”



Licence To Drive

Aston Martin have released their first-ever SUV ….


They were gaining on him.

A hail of bullets bounced off the back of Bond’s car. One came in through the rear windscreen, causing the air freshener to spin like a hypnotist’s watch as it flicked past it on the way out the front. Bond frantically operated the in-car communication system.

In other words, he held his mobile up to his ear.

“Ah, there you are, Bond,” said Q. “How goes it with it new car?”

“How it goes,” said Bond, “is at 50 miles an hour. How do I get it to go faster?”

“Faster?” said Q. “No-one’s ever driven an SUV faster than that.”

“Well, what about its weapons?” asked Bond. “Rear guns, tyre-tacks, oil-slicks?”

“It doesn’t have any of that stuff,” said Q. “It does have a pressure washer for hosing down muddy dogs.”

“Well, that’s no help,” said Bond. “Ok, there’s a sunglasses sign flashing on the dashboard. Does that mean I can operate some sort of laser beam?”

Danger, uncool alert

“No,” said Q, “it’s telling you you’ve forgotten to put your sunglasses on the top of your head.”

The car behind launched a grenade, which bounced off the tail-fin of Bond’s car and into a garden, where it exploded in a shower of shrapnel, earth and decapitated garden-gnomes.

“Bloody hell,” said Bond, “Time to get out of here. How do I get it to fly?”

“Er, fly?” said Q, and his tone caused Bond’s heart to sink.

“You told me,” said Bond, through gritted teeth, “that it was an off-road vehicle. I thought that meant it could fly.”

“No,” said Q, “what that meant was that you have to park it half on the footpath.”

Well,” said Bond, “that’s just -”

“Destination reached,” said the Sat Nav suddenly. Bond looked around in amazement as the car drew itself to a halt, half on the footpath, outside a school.

Where Blofeld was standing waiting for him.

The car that had been chasing Bond pulled in behind him, and another car parked in front, facing him. Bond hung up his phone as Blofeld pulled open the passenger door. There was a brief delay while the arch-villain tried to pull himself up onto the seat with a gun in one hand and a cat in the other. Eventually he settled himself.

“We meet again, Mister Bond,” he said.

“How did you know I’d be here?” asked Bond.

“It was either the school or the Dundrum Shopping Centre,” said Blofeld. “They’re the only two places in the Sat Nav.” He looked around him. “Nice car,” he said.

“I suppose you expect me to give you the keys?” asked Bond.

“No, Mister Bond,” said Blofeld, “I expect you to die.”

He raised his gun. Bond stabbed frantically at all of the buttons on the dashboard. The sound system started to play Michael Bublé. The seat beneath him began to warm up. The clock changed to New York Weekend Away Time.

And a coffee-cup holder popped out of the dashboard, startling Blofeld’s cat, which leapt back, scratching Blofeld’s face. He raised his hands, momentarily pointing the gun away, so Bond pushed him and he fell out of the passenger door, dropping four feet onto his head.

Bond started the car. The villains in front of him started theirs too, but Bond simply drove over them. The car behind him began to follow, but Bond pressed another button and two jets of water shot way over his own windscreen and onto that of his pursuers, causing the driver to crash into the “Caution: Children Crossing” sign.

Bond sped, relatively speaking, away. His phone rang.

“If you’ve not happy with the car, Bond,” said Q, “we can replace it.”

Bond took his sunglasses from his jacket pocket and put them on the top of his head.

“It’s fine, Q,” he said. “This is the most dangerous thing I’ve ever driven.”



…Get Me Out Of Here!

The new series of I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! started on TV last night.

“Celebrity” is one of those words that has changed meaning in recent years, like “literally”, “sick” and “friends”. Once used to refer to giants of screen, sport or literature, it now means anyone who has been on the X-Factor, appeared briefly in a soap or has found, to their horror, that they are not famous anymore.

So this year nine celebrities and Caitlyn Jenner (even I’ve heard of her) have gathered in the jungle in Australia, where over the next three weeks they will endure ghastly trials, shortage of food and the boisterousness of Ian Wright’s laugh.

They will sleep in the open, with snakes, frogs and spiders crawling over them. They will shower in freezing water. They will eat kangaroo anus to earn a meal, though had I to do that I would never eat again. They will crawl into dark spaces filled with bugs, rats and cockroaches.

They will be well paid for all of this, and a closely watching team of experts will ensure that they are never in any danger.

It’s formulaic mindless rubbish. Every year I swear I will not watch it. Every year I do.

But I mention this guilty pleasure only because of the photo at the top of this post, which is not from the programme. By co-incidence it arrived earlier today from Tinson2, currently working at a vineyard near Melbourne, and is a picture of something that jumped out of a vine this morning and ran up his arm.

He is not being especially well paid for all of this, and has no closely watching teams of experts to ensure that he is never in any danger. He will not even get the chance to see Nadine Coyle in a bikini.

But the title of this post is mine, used purely because it matches the title of the show. Tinson2 would never use the phrase. He is eight months in Australia now, after his two years in Canada, and is enjoying every single second.

In three weeks time somebody on I’m A Celebrity will be voted King or Queen of the Jungle. To us it’s him.


Never Go Backwater

Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae recounted this week how, while filming ‘Far and Away’ in the county in 1991, Tom Cruise visited a bar and “nearly had his arm broken” with a walking stick by a short, elderly customer…


It was Jack Reacher’s first visit to Ireland, and he was finding it quite an experience.

As usual, just four days earlier he had gotten off a bus in a small sleepy town that he had chosen at random, and had been regarded with suspicion by the locals. As usual, he had uncovered nefarious activity (in this case clover being passed off as shamrock and being exported to Irish expats for St Patrick’s Day) and had decided to interfere. As usual the proceedings had ended with beaten-up thugs, a dead ringleader and a factory just outside town burning to the ground.

That was where the similarities with his normal life had ended. In small towns in the States he found diners where he got black coffee and good burgers. Here he found only a pub, where he got black Guinness and ham sandwiches. In the States he had run-ins with the local police. Here there weren’t any, the nearest police station being in a bigger town thirty miles away.

In the States he didn’t do laundry, buying a new shirt and chinos every three days and throwing the old ones in the bin. This was why he was now wearing a woolly Aran jumper and a pair of trousers that, remarkably for a man of Reacher’s size, were too big for him and necessitated the use of string as a belt. And a tweed cap.

Now, with the bus out of town not due for another three hours, he decided to wait in the pub. He crossed the street, with its pall of smoke and strong smell of burnt clover, opened the door and went inside.

The pub was empty, with no customers and nobody behind the bar. He felt his skin prickle, always a warning sign, but in this case he put it down to the woolly jumper, which was irritatingly scratchy against his bare chest. He sat though, as he always did, on a stool that had its back to the wall and faced the door, so that he could see any danger approaching.

He didn’t.

There was a loud crack and he felt a sharp pain in his right forearm. Instinctively Reacher stood, raised his right elbow and flung it out and backwards, intending to catch his assailant full in the face, and got another sharp pain when his funny bone crashed against the wall behind him.

He spun in surprise, though it took half a second for his trousers’ waist-band to follow . There was an old man standing beside him, having come unnoticed out of the toilet door further along the wall. He was wielding a walking-stick and was barely five feet tall, which was why Reacher’s elbow had passed over his head.

“Think you’re a big man, do ya?” snarled the old man.

“Er, well, yes, to be honest,” said Reacher.

The old man looked him up and down. “Tis my stool you’re after taking,” he said.

Reacher looked around the bar. “There are lots of stools,” he said, calmly.

The old man whacked him across the shin, causing Reacher, for the first time in his life, to actually yelp in pain. “Maybe so,” he said, “but that one is mine. Tis the stool I’ve been sitting on, man and boy, since I took me first drop of porter.”

The bar-owner emerged from a door behind the bar, and took in the scene. “What’s going on, Michael Joe?” he asked quietly.

“He took my seat, Jim Pat,” said the old man, and Reacher, who had no middle name, felt curiously envious for a second.

Jim Pat looked in sorrow at Reacher. “That’s Michael Joe’s seat,” he said, in hushed tones.

“Exactly,” snapped Michael Joe. “Would you steal my grave as quick?”

Reacher, who had no way of knowing that this phrase is thrown into every Irish dispute over possession, was nonplussed. “Er, steal it?” he said. “You mean dig it up and take it with me?”

The stick swung again, this time at testicular height. Reacher caught the end in his right fist. A simple flick of his wrist would now splat Michael Joe against the wall like plaster off a trowel, and it was clear from the shocked silence that the other two realised this.

The feral, streetfighter part of Reacher wanted to do it. His aching forearm, elbow, shin and now right palm wanted him to as well. But his Military Police discipline, his sense of fair play and his basic decency all fought against the idea of hurting a man twice his age, half his height and with more fingers than teeth.

Reacher let go of the stick. “I’ll sit over here,” he said, moving to a stool at other end of the bar. “Jim Pat, get my friend here a drink.”

Owner and customer visibly relaxed. Michael Joe asked for a double brandy, which Reacher guessed was not his normal drink, but he paid for it without comment. The old man climbed up onto his stool, an act that looked like King Kong trying to scale the Empire State Building. Reacher found himself fighting the urge to pick him up and plop him down on it.

Michael Joe eventually settled himself with a great deal of wriggling, took a huge gulp from his drink, then could not resist one last outburst of hubris.

“Tis lucky you are,” he said, “that I’m a reasonable man.”

Reacher smiled at him. “Tis lucky you are,” he replied, “that I’m not Conor McGregor.”







Globe Trotters

The first little piggy went to the market.

Why he did this is unclear. Country markets chiefly sell farm-produced fruit and vegetables, of which he would surely have had a ready supply. Pigs have little need of potted pickles, home-made jam, craft jewellery or scented candles, unless he was hoping that a few of the latter might improve the smell of the sty.

The second little piggy stayed at home, wallowing in the mud, presumably content with her lot. As happy as a pig in shit, in fact.

The third little piggy had roast beef. Favourite child.

“This little piggy got none”. There are no five sadder words in all of literature. The fourth little piggy is the animal kingdom’s Cinderella, watching on enviously while her siblings have all of the fun.

Or all of the terror. We are ignorant – pig ignorant – of what the fifth little piggy encountered, and while we can take some comfort from the fact that he did make it home, we can only imagine the dread that caused him to yell “wee, wee, wee” all the way there. What did he see? The wolf from the story about their three cousins? Zombies? A sausage factory?

Families. All so alike, yet all so different, with such different paths.


Back To Birthday Posts

He changed our lives.

For six years we’d been married, meeting friends whenever we wanted to, playing two sports each, doing pretty much as we liked, or at least as much as you can do that when you’re absolutely broke.

Then he came along, and changed our lives. And for the better, so much better in a way that you can never imagine in advance.

Tinson1 is twenty-eight today. The world’s cheeriest baby has grown into a fine young man, clever, opinionated, hard-working and fun.

Happy birthday son. We love you and are proud of you today, as always.