Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's been a great day

Sigh, it's been a truly marvellous day. I'm absolutely and utterly very happily and entirely delighted altogether.

Yes dudes, today was "Oh shit! I've no Christmas shopping done panic panic panic" day. Or rather, heh heh, today started out as oh shit I've got no yadda yadda can't be bothered me hole typing it again day, but now...it's "I'm smug as bejesus cos' all my shopping is done." Er, day.

Yes, like the emaciated protagonists of all those fairytales who were poor but happy despite only being able to afford to lick restaurant menus for sustenance, I too am very content despite the onset of absolute exhaustion. I'm feeling fierce smug altogether. I'm so smug you'd all want to hit me if you were here beside me.

But no, I don't want today to be all about me. It's the season of giving so I want to dispense this compendium of wisdom crafted on the streets of Dublin this very day:

  • If you're wanting to buy the most recent series of 24 on DVD, do not do so in Tower Records. It'll set you back €99, and it's only €59 everywhere else. In other words, hourly dosages of Jack Bauer and CTU's finest cost you €4.13 in Tower, but just €2.46 elsewhere. This is probably still a complete rip-off but I had a very knowing smile on me handing over the cash. Smug, you might say. And yes, I heard the latest series is a bit crap but Miaow Cow loves it.

  • If you're buying a Canon ixus 75 digital camera do not do so in Harvey Norman. It's far cheaper in DID. This is probably still a complete rip-off yadda yadda can't be bothered me hole typing it again (again) but I had a very knowing smile yadda yadda you get the picture. And that pun wasn't intended but it's so bad I'm leaving it in.

  • Wagamama is a superior class of eating establishment so it is. I went in with a dinner-sized hole in me belly and came out with a massive smile on me face. If you like Chinese stuff - noodles and cha han and yaki soba and chicken ramen - then go nowhere else. (They're all dishes of food by the way, and not the Star Wars characters. Or Bob Geldof's children). They don't even make you use chopsticks once they hear you're from Cavan. In fact once they hear you're from Cavan they just remove all cutlery entirely and shove you face first into the bowl like a drowning torture scene from a gangster flick. Now that's service. And there's a young one working in there who's very cute as well. Damn cutesy cute women were everywhere today, hunting about the shops in packs, in various states of acute cuteness, smelling all nice and stuff. Couldn't get away from them. The cute hoors. Oh well. (I had teriyaki salmon by the way, I'd recommend, wholly unrelated to cute women but I said I'd throw it in there).

  • Don't wear overly warm clothing, dress down to stave off the sweats. I'm used to all this as I am a seasoned train traveller with a high tolerance for pseudo-tropical temperatures, so I was suitably attired in flyaway clothing and avoided the social disgrace of having everyone's eyebrows wither and fall away when I took off my strides in the changing rooms. Then again, Dubs are awful whingers as soon as the temperature goes below six degrees - not as hardy as us culchies who are reared in remote woodlands and dressed in leaves and moss until aged eight - so this advice does not apply for people with no blood.

  • Urban Outfitters is a shop in Temple Bar specifically designed to remind men that they are not supposed to like shopping. There's about twenty floors in that place and you're absolutely fagged out when you get to the men's section on top, after clomping up endless flights of stairs going through all sorts of womanly paraphernalia that's nearer the ground because it's for women and they're the real spenders. In fact, after countless traipses around shops I started expecting men's stuff to be on the top floors in stores, but the one time I thought I was playing smart by going straight to the top, I discovered that I was in the one shop where they do it backwards and all the blokey stuff was downstairs. So I gets upstairs, feeling smug actually, looked around and to my horror realised I was in the girly section and so had to scuttle hurriedly through lots of crowded aisles stuffed with (cute) women holding up bras to the light (is there a watermark or something? Can you get counterfeit knickers now?) I always regard myself as a true traditionalist in this sense; I shall continue to be embarrassed to my dying day any time I wander unknowingly into the bras and knickers section and no amount of new age manishness or metrosexual type flip-floppery will change it, so there.

  • The thing you think you'll find quickest and easiest ends up turning into some interminable quest for the holy grail. I only wanted a pair of trousers that weren't jeans to wear to my works Christmas party (going upmarket this year. I'll probably shave too) and all I could find were suit trousers. Everywhere. Or jeans pretending to be trousers and trousers pretending to be jeans. I went from store to store and Billy to Jack like something in a pinball machine but eventually found my heart's desire with time running out. As my Dad always says, you'll always find it the last place you look.

  • Having acquired a reasonable level of fitness in the gym - in between frequent hypochondrial breakdowns and sheer stupification over Mad Lad - I was proudly full of stamina for all the cross-city trekking and toing and froing. In fact, I was still skipping about the place like a young goat come five o'clock, and to prove the point, headbutted a young lady in the rump as she unwittingly bent over a fruit stall on Moore St., and upended her comically into a tray of apples. Bah humbug indeed.

  • With all the trekking, toing, froing and acting the goat out in the open air, one contracted a nasty case of chapped lips. Thankfully, a nearby Pharmacist, or Poitigéir as it said Gaelically over the door, obliged with a tin of vaseline and I slathered it on liberally. I spent the entire day with a greasy slick shmeared across me gob, looking like two snails were having a race around my upper lip, but at least I wasn't creaking painfully every time I yawned.
I'm just so happy now with all that crap out of the way, I could eat myself.
Saturday, December 15, 2007

The accidental Santa

And then there was the time the local priest got me drunk and convinced me I was Santa Claus.

I'm not messing you know.

I think I was about 19 at the time and coming close to Christmas, I came back down to Cavan from college for the weekend. I passed the community hall on my way down town to the pub on the Friday night and noticed the local priest struggling to take boxes of toys from the boot of his car. Having idled my way through the previous summer's student jobs scheme, working for the same priest - i.e. talking about football with sporadic bursts of painting breaking out before we'd come to our senses and sit down again - I stopped for a chat.

I made the mistake of mentioning I was going to the pub and asked what he was doing carting boxes of super soakers around in the dead of night. He explained that the local youth club was finalising arrangements for the annual visit of Santa Claus to the village, and there was a small gang of young folk in the hall inside wrapping presents in a frenzy. I shot the breeze a while more but himself made me promise to drop in on my way back from the pub to help wrap a few presents.

"No bodder, fadder," said I, "if it was anyone else I'd tell them to fuck off but I wouldn't use such language in front of a man of the cloth."

"Go and shite," he says back laughing.

Anyway, six or seven pints of lager later, a somewhat wobbly McDanger was making his way back home and spotting the lights still on in the hall, wandered on in. Or 'dandered in' as was the local term for drunken rambling back then, which confused me somewhat as dander always suggested willies to me but then again, I was at that age. Sure I was an innocent, I hadn't even discoveredSmithwicks.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the local Padre was a right crafty so and so and was still at that stage searching for someone to fill the crucial role of Santa Claus the following Sunday. And knowing I was the worse for a few jars, he proceeded to 'persuade' me that I was just the man for the job.

And so it came to pass that twenty minutes later I was convinced that dressing in a big red suit, shiny wellies and sticking a pillow down my vest was, all things considered, really quite a marvellous idea and in no way damaging to the street cred of an urbane young student trying to impress local ladies with high jinks stories from college. Naturally I woke up the next day and was immediately seized by terror; at both what I had done and how many people I would be letting down if I welched on the deal a day before the big event. I believe the word "bollocks" was muttered more than once.

The day itself passed off largely without incident. I was lead into the village on the back of a small pony after some more persuasion from Fr. McFecker, to rapturous applause from the assembled kids - which stopped abruptly and melted into giggles as the animal paused to take a lazy, indifferent crap on the road. His business done, he moved me on and with a few Santa-like flourishes, some booming ho-ho-hos and a flurry of head ruffles on nearby children, I theatrically turned on the local Christmas lights after a countdown, and they duly fizzed and flickered into life to polite applause.

Then it was off to the hall where the real business began, that of talking with fake enthusiasm to a seemingly endless stream of snotty-nosed kids all breathlessly rattling off demands for playstations and scalextric and dolls and what have you. While the parents stood behind, wide-eyed and shaking their heads as a warning to me not to promise anything neither they or I could deliver.

Strangely, there were about ten really odd kids who simply refused to say anything. I mean anything. Wouldn't even tell me their name. Little bastards, I thought, in no mood for acknowledging shyness or whatever, this is hard enough without having to employ telepathy into the bargain.

And of course about six or seven recognised me as soon as they sidled up on to my knee, most of them my nieces and nephews who were curious as to why the uncle who normally roared at them to keep it down to hell because he couldn't hear the telly, and stop kicking the feckin' dog as well, was suddenly all breezy charm, ho ho hos, head ruffles and winks, and even gave them a present to boot. They looked at me funny for weeks afterwards.

Most memorable of all however was the sweet-looking one who farted audibly and resonantly on my knee (no relation, honest) and then started crying horribly to fill the awkward, embarrassed silence that followed, before running bawling from the hall with his mother chasing hard behind. Thanks be to Jasus, because I hadn't a clue what to do with a crying child back then. Still don't actually.

Eventually the line came to an end, after about an hour and a half of my earnest enquiries as to who was naughty or nice and trying to pretend I knew what a Tellytubby was. There's a picture of me somewhere in the dressing room panned out on a couch with my jacket off, smoking a cigarette and looking absolutely knackered. But in a weird way, despite the slagging I got from my mates and family, I was kinda happy I did it. I knew it'd make a good story I guess.

I didn't come home from college the following year though.

Now, how many of you think I made this up? Because I didn't.
Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm alive

I feel so guilty when I look down the list of recent visitors to the blog and realise that it's at least seven or eight Irish cocaine-related deaths since I last posted. Michael Caine has been getting the Ireland job for at least a week or more at this stage and that can't be healthy.

Anyway, I just want to assure you all that I am still alive and haven't fallen prey to the curse of Charlie that stalks our brave and ancient land. I sneeze that much I could never keep the stuff in me for long enough anyway.

I know alot of you were most likely very worried. I have a picture in my head of you all having moments of sheer, terrifying anxiety and, in unison, all stopping dead in your tracks at precisely the same moment during mundane daily tasks, to stare at the sky and think about me, like the people on RTE do when the angelus bell tolls around the country.

In any case, I want to state categorically here and now for the record that I am most definitely still of this world for another while yet. Coincidentally, I saw that movie 'Into the Wild' where yer man fucks off to Alaska because his parents wanted to buy him a car, and the 24,000 dollars in his bank was getting to him, so ironically enough I've been in a bit of a metaphorical wilderness myself. But by golly there's a blog or two left in me still. And I never use the expression by golly so nobody should doubt me here.
In short, by way of explanation, work has been decidedly shitey and the boss has basically been an absolute asshole of late but thankfully the end is in sight. Fancy making me work and stuff, the cheek of it.

Hang on; shitey, asshole, end, cheek? There's something Freudian going on there.

I'll be back next week and you'll all be sorry, just you wait.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Micky White for Ireland job!

Moo-Dog can exclusively reveal that accomplished actor Michael Caine has become the latest to "throw his hat in the ring" for the position of Republic of Ireland football manager. The Merrion Square office of the FAI is now entirely concealed under a mountain of trilbies, bowler hats, peak caps, berets and the funny little Islamic one belonging to Philippe Troussier.

Caine's hat is right on top of the pile at this stage however after sauces close to the actor signalled his interest in the job to influential soccer media whore and secret kingmaker Paul Heron, who they swore to secrecy. However he emailed me the whole lot when he was drunk. It seems Caine is "seeking a new challenge" and is anxious to make a move into international football management while he still has time. The actor's advisors have pointed out in a series of well-placed leaks that the 74-year-old has extensive experience in hat-throwing in general, having worn them with distinction in alot of his movies, and throwing them about with a thespian flourish in more than one.

The bespectacled double Oscar winner is also thought to have grown disillusioned with Hollywood where he has to deal daily with overpaid drama queens of dubious ability and favours jumping aboard the FAI where he would only have to deal with overpaid drama queens of dubious ability about eight times a year.

Caine's real name is Maurice Micky-White which sounds Irish enough, and crucially, he can point to a most impressive body of achievement in football management far beyond that of the 3,432 other candidates jockeying for the post. In 1981 smash-hit movie Escape to Victory, playing ex-West Ham star John Colby, he had his finest hour on the sidelines when he marshalled a disparate and eclectic bunch of World War II footballers with massive success.

With a sprinkling of stellar talent mixed with journeymen footballers, Caine's talent as a manager shone out when his rag-tag bunch of WWII prisoner-of-war soldiers was unified under his anointed hand into a crack football unit that subsequently came from 4-1 down to draw against a bunch of surly, cheating Nazis at the Stade Colombes in Paris. Showing an intricate knowledge of sports nutrition way ahead of its time, Caine also succeeded in fattening up a bunch of emaciated lice-ridden East European refugees who arrived at his camp one day and somehow moulded them into world class footballers by feeding them nothing but tinned peaches every day for about two months. Remarkably, multi-tasking Caine also simultaneously masterminded the digging of an escape tunnel under the dressing rooms but was inspired not to bother with it on the day after a stirring half time speech from Sylvester Stallone, who would go on to save a penalty in the dying moments. He did so mostly by pulling a grotesque gurning lock-jawed type face and groaning in slow motion. It worked though and after Stallone's heroics, overcome fans flooded the pitch and swept the players off the field to freedom by making them invisible under magic overcoats and flat caps, while a German army merrily murdering millions across Europe just looked on as they surged past, perhaps too gutted at dropping two points to be able to shoot.

The fairytale achievement has now caught the eye of the FAI whose record for seeking talent outside the box is well established. There is some disquiet in Merrion Square that in Escape to Victory, Irish goalkeeper Kevin O'Callaghan had his arm deliberately broken to allow Stallone take his place as goalie, but association bigwigs are hopeful that the soccer family in Ireland can overlook this if Caine is appointed.

"Michael is a serious contender," said an FAI sauce. "Some might snigger but if Howard Kendall feels he can have the job because he has a newspaper column and goes to games at weekends, I think Caine's credentials must also be considered as well.

"His track record is immaculate. Coming back from conceding four goals to draw against the Germans, with a dodgy ref and Sylvester Stallone in goal, is no mean feat. And having seen the film, getting Pele to perform that bicycle kick 20 times in rapid succession, despite his banjaxed ribs, defies belief. I've rewound it many times and still can't figure it out, so if Caine can work that magic on Damien Duff, we'll be away on a hack. We're not ruling anybody in or out at this stage."

As an unrelated aside, Caine has experience of working with muppets, having starred in The Muppet Christmas Carol back in 1993.
Monday, December 03, 2007


I drove to Limerick and back there on Sunday and it was when I stopped for a pee in Borris-in-Ossory that I got to thinking about underpants.

I was hoisting up my undergarments and I epiphanised about how, in many ways, the phases of my life have neatly coincided with the evolution of my choice of undies as I aged.

I first remember wanting to wear underpants like my Dad when I was a kid. Like most sons, my earliest recollections in life involve wanting to emulate my father in every way. Yes, right down to his underpants; I wanted to be a chip off the old jock. Eat your greens I was told, and you'll grow up big and strong like your Daddy. I must admit that as I looked from the plate of cabbage to my Dad's outsize Y-fronts drying on the clothes horse in front of the fire, I had my doubts. Those gargantuan yokes looked a gusset like too far, considering you could probably have used them to stretcher injured children in a war-zone. Or as catapults for boulders.

Anyway, Y-fronts were all the rage back then. You could choose any sort you liked as long as they were the ones your mother decided you had to wear. There were a few lame attempts at handing-me-down some awful Paisley ones but I drew the line there. I had smelled some of my older brothers' farts at close quarters and the thoughts of wearing what was once the only barrier between their arses and a mild nuclear meltdown, filled me with utter dread.

All stayed quiet on the Y-front until I decided I had to get some street cred. Around the time I decided I now needed a 'proper' haircut I also decided I needed 'proper' underpants and Ma McDanger's veto in both areas was removed after terse negotiations. This was the period in history when boxer shorts were just starting to appear in shops here but the odd thing was they were considered a novelty or the type of thing you only bought as a joke. Then they became the norm and I must admit, I ran with the herd and my personal favourites were a musical pair for Italia '90 that played the Olé, Olé tune. However, this marked a brief (ha ha) re-intervention in matters underwear by mother, who nearly took the head off me when we went to Mass and a pious genuflection prompted a blast of Jackie's Army throughout the church. The musical jocks were worn on a strict rota basis from then on.

I also had a very nice silk pair that I was almost afraid to wear they were so nice.

In any case, the boxer short era continued for the next two decades, right up to the present day in fact. However, there have been many types of boxer shorts, subtle nuances within the genre. The first few years were the 'any' years. As in, any sort will do, they're boxer shorts, they're well cool.

Then came the anti-Dunnes years. This era dawned in college when one had grand designs of bed-hopping around campus like a Duracell Kangaroo on viagra, and a great fear was being seen semi-naked and bashful in something that all the other lads were wearing because they were 3 for a fiver off Henry Street. So basically, as long as they didn't come from Dunnes or other cheap chain stores, they were good to go. An added advantage was that they didn't get confused in the laundry with my Dunnes-shopping brothers', which was still easy enough for my mother to do despite the fact they glowed green and rambled about the house on their own, occasionally jumping out from behind the couch to frighten visitors.

By the way, I still hardly ever pulled despite my endearing conscientiousness but it was nice to feel uniquely safe in my undercladding on a night out - in the same way that years ago, clean ones offered peace of mind to fretting Mammies in case their sons or daughters were involved in an accident that required hospitalisation.

Then, after starting to earn money, it was time for the 'expensive jocks' phase. Yes, sigh, what can I say, it was disposable income looking for a welcoming home and it found one in places like Brown Thomas - brown, eh? ha ha - and Jack and Jones, at a tenner a skite. Nice thick comfortable waistbands, fashionable label, able to hold their own, and the rest, in female company. And then I met Miaow Cow about ten years ago and still spent a small fortune on jocks for some time afterwards despite the fact I only had this captive audience of one (well, two, along with mad lad in the gym. Staring fecker.) and if she was willing to overlook my various other foibles and shortcomings (stop giggling down the back) then I'm sure the cut of my undies was low on her list of priorities.

So of late I'm going through the 'economy jocks' phase. I still usually buy 'nice ones' but only in TK Maxx and if I can't find any in my size in their mess of a display, I give in and buy some in Dunnes. So I'm still a bit stupid but not as expensively so. Like, who cares what I wear down there anyway, herself is long past giving a damn as long as they're not (a) too tight, (b) sequined/leather/frilly or (c) hers.

And that sounds fair enough to me.

By the way, can I just say Borris-in-Ossory is a great town for pissing in as I do so very regularly. Unlikely to feature as a cachet in tourism brochures any time soon, but true nonetheless.