Category Archives: The Banana Republic

The Charge Of The Tight Brigade

Irish State Broadcaster RTÉ is apparently losing TV Licence revenue because some people have no actual TV, and the Government believe that they are watching programmes though their computers instead. Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte is therefore introducing the Public Service Broadcasting Charge, payable by all households, saying “I don’t believe that we have cave men in the country. I don’t believe that there are people who don’t watch television and don’t access content on their iPad or iPhone.”…..

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There was a knock at the front of the cave, followed by the strangled curse of someone who has just unthinkingly rapped on a stone wall with their bare hand. Ugg went to the entrance and was surprised to see Patrabid, one of the Village Elders, standing there sucking his knuckles.

“I’m here about your television,” said Patrabid, eventually.

“What’s that?” asked Ugg.

Patrabid indicated a large box on the cart behind him. “It’s a device that provides entertainment, information and opinion,” he said.

“Don’t need one so,” said Ugg. “I’ve got a wife for all that.”

As if on cue, and not at all because she’d been eavesdropping, Ogga came to the front of the cave to join them. “Are you trying to sell us one?” she said.

“Of course not,” said Patrabid, “because you already have one.”

“No, we don’t,” said Ugg.

“Of course you do,” said Patrabid. “I don’t believe that we have cave men in the country-” here he stopped and looked at the cave in which Ugg and Ogga so obviously lived, “-well ok, we do,” he admitted, “but I don’t believe that there are people who don’t watch television.”

“Well, we don’t,” said Ugg.

“But you should,” said Patrabid. “It’s great, look, I’ll show you.” He lifted the box off the cart and carried it into the cave. The three of them watched it for a while.

“It’s not doing anything,” said Ogga eventually.

“Well, no, it doesn’t yet,” admitted Patrabid. “Yeddi’s son in the village is working on something he calls electricity that he says will power it, but until he gets it right the box does nothing. When it does, though, it’ll be great – weather forecasting -”

“Snow tomorrow, snow the next day, bright spells with snow spreading from the west later the day after would be my guess,” said Ogga. “This isn’t called the Ice Age for nothing.”

“There’ll be nature programmes, like ‘When Mammoths Attack’ -”

“I already know when they attack,” said Ugg. “Every bloody time they see a human, that’s when. I’m a hunter, trust me on this.”

“Well,” said Patrabid desperately, “there’ll be fascinating little programmes about fur-skin making, or arrow-head crafting, or why the square wheel industry is dying out.”

“But we know why,” said Ugg. “It’s because the round wheel is all the rage now. Dunno why, at least you never had to chase a runaway square wheel down a steep hill.”

“Listen” said Ogga, “come back when it works, and we might buy one.”

“I told you, I not here to sell you one,” said Patrabid. “I’m here to collect the charge for you having one.”

“But we don’t have one,” said Ugg.

“Not my problem,” said Patrabid. “You have to pay for having one anyway.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” said Ogga. “It’d be like having to pay off bank losses that you weren‘t responsible for.” The other two stared at her. “Don’t ask me what that means,” she said. “The phrase just popped into my head.”

“Why does anyone have to pay anyway?” asked Ugg. “Why not make it pay for itself by charging for advertising?”

“Advertising?” said Ogga.

“Yes,” said Ugg. “A man could appear and tell you to keep your skin soft by washing more than once a month. He could say it’s because you’re worth it.”

“Excellent idea,” said Patrabid. “We’ll do that too.”

“Then why would we still have to pay the charge?” asked Ugg.

“It’s to fund Public Service Broadcasting,” said Patrabid.

“What’s that?” asked Ogga.

Just then a loud shouting started up outside. “Here is the news,” yelled a voice. “Mammoths attacked some hunters. Snow is forecast for later -”

That’s Public Service Broadcasting,” said Patrabid.

“That’s just The Old Yeller,” said Ogga.

“He’s providing a public service,” said Patrabid, “and we have to massively overpay him in case he decides to leave and join another network.”

“Is that something to do with spiders?” asked Ugg.

Patrabid was about to witheringly reply when Ogga said “we don’t listen to him.”

“You can’t  possibly not,” said Patrabid. “You can hear him from half a mile away.”

Ogga picked up a bucket of slops, walked to the front of the cave and hurled it out. The shouting abruptly stopped, there was a brief shocked silence, a lot of hawking and coughing and then something that sounded very like a man blocking one nostril and blowing hard, in an attempt to clear the other one of poo.

“As I was saying,” said Ogga calmly, “we don’t listen to him.”

“Well, you’ll still owe -”

Ogga looked into her bucket. “There are still some slops left in this,” she said matter-of-factly.

Patrabid decided to chicken out, or at least to whatever-the-prehistoric-equivalent-of-a-chicken-was out. “Er, there are of course certain caveholds that will be exempt,” he said.

“I thought there might,” said Ogga, swinging her bucket gently.

Patrabid left. Ogga was about to go back to the kitchen area when she noticed that Ugg was looking at a small flat slab of stone. There was writing on it which said “Village Elder For Communications And Snide Remarks Patrabid has today introduced a charge which you will have to pay even if you aren’t using the service that you’re being charged for.”

“What’s that?” said Ogga.

“It’s the news,” said Ugg. “Soothsaya in the village will chip it out for you each evening for two flints.”

“But what are you reading it on?” asked Ogga.

Ugg held up the slab proudly. “This is my Tablet,” he said.

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Bags Full Of Crumbs

Mr Banks had had dreams of walking with giants.

And of carving his niche in the edifice of time. He had felt the thrill of totting up a balanced book, a thousand ciphers in a row. When gazing at a graph that showed the profits up, his little cup of joy had overflowed.

He had ground, ground, ground at that grindstone, a sentence that sounds better in the present tense.

But years of daft lending, stupid investments and the previously unknown fact that the word “banker” derives from an old Irish word meaning “thick as porridge” had all caught up with him. The mortgages he had granted had been on houses of cards, the developers he had funded had been under-developed, the seed capital he had provided had been planted on stony soil, or possibly eaten by the bird-woman’s birds. He had backed a company that sold cranberry-flavoured whiskey, which was unfit for drinking, even by Americans.

He had traded in futures, whatever they are, and they were going to cost him his.

Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank had no money left. Tomorrow morning there would be a run on the bank.

Which was why he now sat in the great marble hallway outside the office in which he would shortly meet his fate.

The door opened, and he was called inside, to be meet the Irish Minister for Finance.

“Ah, Banks,” said the Minister. “We’re going to have to take this very seriously.”

Here we go, thought Mr Banks. “What are you going to do?”

“We’re going to take over your bad loans, guarantee your bank, and repay all of your creditors.”

“Who’s we?”

“The Irish people, of course. A couple with a massive mortgage. A family on the dole. A man with one leg named Smith. People like that.”

“Won’t they object?”

“If they do, they can go fly a kite.”

“And what’s going to happen to me?”

“Well, obviously you’ll have to go. But we won’t sack you, we’ll let you retire, on a massive pension.”

Mr Banks was stunned. Jane and Michael could stay at their private school. Mrs Banks could stay on her endless committees. They wouldn’t have to get rid of their French au-pair, Marie Popin.

“Aren’t you going to punch a hole in my hat?”

“Er, what?”

“Punch a hole in my bowler hat. It’s the greatest punishment that a banker can face.”

The Minister stared at him, and just for a second Mr Banks could see deep, deep anger in his eyes.

“Is that so?” said the Minister. “Well, that explains an awful lot.”

In The Pink

Last summer former Builder turned Property Developer Mick Wallace stood as an Independent in our General Election. He freely admitted that he owed huge sums of money to the banks and that he had little hope of ever being able to repay them, and the people of Wexford, admiring his honesty, elected him to represent them.

Once in the Dáil he joined with 15 like-minded Independents to form a Technical Group (by having seven or more members they have full speaking rights), and he goes there in his trademark pink shirt and denim jeans to vote with them against absolutely everything, and to behave like a schoolboy pulling pig-tails.

This week it was discovered that while still in the business of building and selling apartments he deliberately understated the amount of tax he owed on his VAT Returns by €1.4 million, to “try to save his company”, and that he has agreed with Revenue that he owes them €2 million, but says that, since the company through which he did all of this is insolvent, the money will never be paid…. 

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The poor peasants were getting poorer.

They were sorely taxed by the reign of King Enda the Ginger, who was taxing them sorely.

“A Household Charge,” he would decree one day. “Water Rates,” he would order the next. Every day a new tax, and every day aimed at the peasants, never at people who might be better able to bear the burden – the rich, for instance.

Then one day, as Enda the Ginger sat at his desk plotting a Poverty Tax (a tax on having no money) a shadow loomed over him.

He looked up. There stood a giant of a man, his long locks flowing, his family tartan gleaming pinkly.

“I am Wallace,” he said, “the Knaveheart.”

The Ginger looked at the motley assembly behind Wallace – Ming the Dope, Ross the Undecided, Others the Unmemorable.

“And who are these?” he asked

“These are my Technical Group,” said Knaveheart.

“I see,” said Enda. “And you number how many?”

“Four-hundred-and Thirty-two,” said Knaveheart, because counting was not his strongest talent.

“Sixteen,” admitted Ming.

“And what is it you want?” asked the Ginger.

“We want you to stop taxing the peasants,” said Knaveheart.

“But I need money to run the country,” said the Ginger. “We used to get lots from Builders, but that has stopped.”

Knaveheart went momentarily as pink as his shirt. “Well, you’ll not take anymore from the peasants,” he said.

“Stop simply telling me what not to do,” said the Ginger. “Suggest an alternative.”

“Don’t have to,” said Knaveheart. “I’m not the Government.”

For many months Knaveheart and his warriors heckled, harried and hassled, making merry at the Government’s expense, and come to think of it at the expense of the peasants too. But Knaveheart was troubled, because he held a deep secret. Whilst still in the Guild of Builders he had acted like a modern-day Robin Hood, robbing from Revenue and giving it to himself.

Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to say Robin Hood, I meant Al Capone.

And one day Enda the Ginger’s henchman, Tax the Feckers, found out about this and came calling. Knaveheart bravely tried to flee. He ran rings around the tax-laws, he hid behind a company, yet there was no escape.

Finally, in the very week that he was to travel to far-off Poland to watch the peasants play football, paying for this trip with, well, money, he found himself trapped. He looked around and found that the Technical Group had scattered wisely in all directions. He stood alone before Enda the Ginger .

“You owe us two million euro,” said King Enda. “Hand it over.”

In reply Knaveheart turned his back, bent over, and flipped up his pink shirt to reveal the ultimate in insults – the Builder’s Butt-cleavage.

“How dare you!” roared Enda. “You cannot moon the King!”

“I wasn’t mooning you,” said Knaveheart. “I was mooning the peasants.”

Weekly Drawing Challenge – Through

In yesterday’s post I used this phrase:

“Let me present Batman – the Dark Knight, Thor – the Thunder God, and Robin – the Guy Who Looks Good On Christmas Cards.”

In the first draft (yes, I do edit this stuff, even if it doesn’t look like it) between Thor and Robin I had “Bertie – the Disgraced Liar”. I took it out in the end because most of you that read this aren’t from Ireland and so wouldn’t understand it, and because it was a pretty feeble attempt at political satire in any case.

On Thursday a Tribunal of Inquiry into corruption in our planning system found that our ex Prime Minister Bertie Ahern had lied to it about large sums of money which he received, firstly when he was Minister for Finance and then when he held the most powerful position in our land.

Most of us knew this, of course. The evidence that he gave to the Tribunal was funnier and more imaginative than anything I ever written. He explained two lodgements of £22,500 and £16,500 as loans (or “dig-outs”, as he called them) from his friends because they felt he was hard up after his marriage break-up, although he had over£70,000 in cash at the time. He said that he was at a dinner in Manchester after being at a football match, was asked to say a few words and the listeners were so impressed that they had a whip-around and presented him with £8,000 sterling (had this been a fee for speaking he would, of course, have had to pay tax on it). He denied that he ever received any other sterling, ever, and when it was pointed out to him that lodgements of £15,500 to accounts belonging to himself and his daughters were definitely sterling he suddenly remembered that he had won it betting on races in UK.

$45,000 was lodged into one of his accounts. He simply denied that he had ever received dollars from anyone.

This odious little toad, by the way, was our leader when the property bubble which has led to the destruction of our economy began. He was on first-name terms with the chairman of the bank that collapsed most spectacularly, and for which we (population 4 million) have to pay out a promissory note debt worth €3.06 billion (€3,060,000,000) before next Friday.

Several people I know have lost their jobs. Our company had to impose pay cuts on all of us and let 25 people go.

Some of my children will probably have to emigrate. I may one day have grand-children that I see only once a year or so.

Ahern chickened out of facing the voters in the last General Election, where his party was massacred. That party began moves this week to expel him (something never before done to a former leader) at a meeting to be held next Friday. He chickened out of that too, by resigning from the party last night.

He is through.

My attempt at drawing him captures little of his smirk, of lips that were so quick to tighten into a thin line of repressed rage whenever he was asked a difficult question. About the only thing that I’ve captured is his almost cylindrical head, so like the buckets of cash with which he ran his life.

So no jokes today, just a venting of my contempt for one of the most self-serving, money-grabbing, deceitful creatures to ever infect politics in our country.

A recent challenge, which I never got around to doing, was “Distorted”, so I’m using today’s post to cover that too.

But it’s not my drawing I’m talking about.

Running Late

What would you say to an extra 20 minutes in bed in the morning?

If you were me, or any of my morning busmates, you’d say “ah,for feck’s sake”.

For sometime now drivers have been telling us that there were changes coming to our bus route, and from tomorrow these changes come into effect. Our bus has been amalgamated with the next one, and will now run 20 minutes later.

What that means is that there is no single bus that will get people from the town of Greystones, just 19 miles from Dublin, into the city centre before eight o’clock in the morning.

There is just one earlier bus, at 5.30, and even that one doesn’t go all the way into Dublin, you’d have to get a second one.

Now, I don’t have to start at eight, but since I wake so early during the week (I think because of fear that I will oversleep) I do, and it is taken for granted that I will be first in and will open up and turn off the alarm in the office. May other people arrive at around the same time, so we’ll just have to make sure that enough of them are keyholders.

But Bernie, one of the people who is at my bus-stop every morning, starts work in the Mater Hospital at eight. She will no longer be able to use the bus at all, she will have to walk to the train station (at least half-an-hour’s walk from where she lives) and get the six-thirty train.

When you work just 19miles away and have to get up before more than two hours before you start work then there is something wrong with what is laughably called public transport in your area.

Their argument is that our bus wasn’t viable, that it was less than 60% full, which apparently is their criteria. But unless they think that the people on it were just getting it at that time for fun then obviously the service was needed, and I thought the idea of public transport was to give the public what it needed rather than what was viable.

I know that most of you reading this don’t even live in Ireland, let alone Greystones, and I’m kind-of sorry for ranting about this to you all. But the public being treated as dirt by so called public servants, people paid by us through our tax, happens everywhere and I’m be surprised if you didn’t all have some similar experience.

So, no jokes today, sorry.

No, wait, there is one. Our bus fare is going up from May 1st.

Polling Day

Today is a landmark day in democracy, a day to rank with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of apartheid and the suffrage for women.

Today Tinson1 got to vote for the first time.

We have a General Election here in Ireland. It’s been a fairly low-key campaign so far, everyone knows how angry the Irish people are at the collapse of our economy and the fact that we’ve had to bail out banjaxed banks. Even opposition politicians seem wary of listening to us rant “on the doorsteps” (I hate that phrase) so we’ve had about as many callers as the Bates Motel. Mysteriously our hallway is full leaflets reminding us of how wonderful each candidate is, which I think they must be slipping through our letter-box in the middle of the night.

We did have one caller, and I must pay tribute here to a female candidate for a wonderful piece of electioneering. She called to our house when only 14-year old Tingirl was home and chatted away to her about her policies, about how we need more women in politics, and that “woman to woman” she needed all the support she could get. Tingirl was thrilled to be thought of as a grown-up, keeps pushing the woman’s literature at us, and in four years’ time she’ll probably be part of the woman’s election team.

There are a large number of young people standing for election, which I think is great. The best-known, now at any rate, is 23-year old Dylan Haskins, whose profile received a huge boost when it was reported that on one of his posters, beneath where it says “It Starts Here”, someone had spray-painted the word “puberty”.

Anyway, Tinson1 was very passionate about it all, knew where each of the parties stand on a range of issues and was very definite about who he was voting for.The secrecy of the ballot is, of course, sancrosanct, but since I told you all last autumn about how he was baton-charged at the student march, I’m sure we can all guess he didn’t vote for the current Government.

And what about me? Well, there was a time when I used to write quite a lot about politics here, before I realised that it was more fun to try and make up daft stories than to write about a government who was doing the same. Any of you who read my stuff back then has a fair idea of what I think of the current lot and those of you who didn’t have only to read the sentence before this one.

There are many, many reasons why I voted to get rid of this Government, but here is one more. When I was a young student I knew that my parents knew nothing and that their whole generation were making an absolute feck of absolutely everything. My dad used to challenge me on this belief and in time I came to realise that it was not entirely true. Tinson1 has, of course, the same opinion of my generation,  but this time he has a massive weight of evidence on his side.

This Government has made it impossible for me to beat my son in an argument. I can never forgive them for that.

Keeping it Real

So today the election is upon us. Commentators say our crap governance is the fault of our tired old electoral system and not, strangely, the fault of our crap politicians. Let’s try a new system, then.

This election should follow the X-Factor format, complete with the existing panel of four judges. This may appear as if we‘re handing our democracy to them, but bear with me.

While the current system offers us only party hacks and the offspring of retiring politicians, there’ll be no shortage of fame seekers willing to stand under my plan. And absolutely every one of these will get the chance to perform in front of Simon and the gang. The early weeks would feature some of the worst of them. People will say daft things like “bigger people breathe in more air, so there should be a tax on lung capacity”. Others will say dafter things like “sure, let’s stick with the current lot, the others might be worse”. Some will forget their lines and ask to start again. Some would forget their own arse if it wasn’t attached to their legs.

Every now and again some middle-aged woman will captivate the audience with an astonishing, fiery oration. Cheryl will cry, the audience will go wild and the woman will embark upon a career which will eventually see her embark upon cruise ships, performing the “I have a dream” speech in the nightly cabaret.

The ones who make the knock-out stages will perform upon a specified theme each week, the health service first, then the economy, etc. We all get to vote (that’s the ‘X’ Factor) and on Sunday nights the candidates will stand nervously side by side. Some will tremble, some will cry, some will link arms (it’ll be a bit like the end of the night in my local, in other words). Eventually Dermot will speak.

“The first person through to the next round is……………………….. (there are not enough dots in my laptop to illustrate how long this pause is) ………………… (meanwhile girly screams of “Pete!” or “Mikey!” will issue from the crowd)……

………………”Mikey!” The screams will be deafening. Mikey will punch the air, all the others will link arms closer, like a  wall in front of Cristiano Ronaldo. Eventually Dermot will deign to speak again. “The next person..”

And so on, until there are just two left. These will each perform again, giving thirty seconds of powerful rhetoric, then wait upon the judges. Simon will call one of them poor. The crowd will boo. Louis will praise whichever one Simon slags off. The crowd will cheer. Dannii will look like Kylie. Cheryl will say they “ah booth winnas”. The men watching on TV will fall even deeper in love with her. Then all four will vote. It will be a tie, and they will go back to the audience vote (see, we haven’t lost our democracy at all). The loser will go home to apply for whatever reality show is on next. The winner will go forward to the next week, and so on, until we have a winner.

Let’s face it, it’s not that radical a change. The standard of debate in our Dáil has always boiled down to a bunch of dull nobodies sitting in a big house talking shite at each other. If they can copy Big Brother, surely I can use the X-Factor. And in my programme the winner is decided by phone vote.

In other words, the more you spend, the more power you have.

You might say that I am mocking Irish democracy. I say I am continuing it.