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Bock's People

Bock’s Back

Ah fuck it. Everyone needs a break now and again but this is ridiculous.

It’s time to come back and spread ridicule. Time to vent spleen. Time to poke hornet nests again.

Those long months in the wilderness were worth it for the soul-cleansing they wrought but they took their toll. Let me tell you, a diet of locusts and wild honey isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Your jaw would be sore from crunching the fucking grasshoppers and you’d be all night picking the jaggedy little legs out of your teeth. As for the honey, your hands would be like a football from all the stings, you’d be in mortal fear of fighting yet another bear and besides, wild honey isn’t like the nice clear stuff you buy in the shops. Wild honey has all sorts of dirty shite mixed into it.

Not great.

Let me also point out that the wilderness isn’t great for washing facilities. There isn’t much l’Oreal out there among the sand dunes and the wild scrub nor much of anything else either.

No indeed. ‘Tis a gaunt and unshaven Bock that trudges back into your life. A hollow-cheeked creature with wild, sunken eyes and a thousand-cubit stare, clutching at your collar with a claw-like grasp.

By thy long grey beard and glittering eye, you might well demand, now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

Wherefore, indeed.

Well, that will become apparent as time uncurls itself from a painful lotus position but for the present, let me say simply this.

‘Tis a new Bock that waves this gnarled old walking staff at thee. A new Bock and a changed one. A Bock with many faces and many voices.

A Bock whose name is Legion.

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Bock's People

Moths

I’m not the sort of person who wears a suit. Much like the readers of this site, I’m the sort who tends towards a torn old denim jacket and a pair of battered jeans, although the boots have to be good.

But when the occasion arises, I do like to turn out well and I’m fussy about my walking-out threads. I am, now. Call me old-fashioned if you like, but when the occasion arises, it’s good to look sharp and that was why, when I reached into the wardrobe to select my best suit a couple of years back, I knew — I just knew — that I had no need of anxiety. I just knew I was going to cut it in this well-tailored expensive outfit, with a nice shirt and a killer tie.

I knew this right up until the moment I laid the suit across the counter of the dry cleaners and our eyes met, this dry cleaner and I, as we both observed the tiny bullet holes in the crotch of my expensive trousers.

Moths, said the dry cleaner with a melancholy shrug.

Moths, I replied. Bastards.

I thought moths were a thing of the past. I thought moths were something our grandparents worried about but now here I am, looking at the consequences of my own complacency, measurable in hard money. Countable in a reserve currency.

As it happens, I have one of those electric tennis racquets. One of those insect-zapping swipers that keep us fit, lunging at gnats, and how appropriate it is on this day when Andy Murray managed to win at Wimbledon, be-flooding himself with tears and destroying our newly-sensitised post-internet clickbaited society where everything is a cataclysm. He wins Wimbledon. You won’t believe what happens next!!  LOL.

With my electric tennis racquet I zap every moth I see, but still they somehow manage to chomp on a jacket or a scarf.

Is it because they hate me? Probably not. They’re only insects, but maybe some Bond villain has infested my home with moths in order to force me …

No. That’s just stupid. I know nothing a Bond villain would want to find out and I have no money. Certainly not money on a villain scale.

It’s just moths. Gaah!

This morning I was out and about with my beloved daughter, idly noodling around DIY stores and yes, it’s true I adopt a slightly superior air in these places. Having cultivated a lifelong relationship with the men who work the counters in real hardware shops, I get the proper discount because they somehow think I’m a tradesman. It must be the dishevelled appearance and the faint air of not giving a shit.

Venus fly trap

B&Q, I think it was.

My daughter turned to me and said, This would suit you.

Ah! I said. A Venus fly-trap. Just what I always wanted.  And it’s true. I did always want one, especially for those little fruit-flies that gather in the kitchen at the slightest sign that you might have left a grape on the counter just a day too long.

Drosophila Melanogaster.

How do they do that? How do they know? How do thousands of fruit flies gather in your kitchen on the instant? Do they somehow have a phone app that tells them you forgot to put away that half-eaten pear last night but you’ll do it first thing in the morning?

Take that! Whack. Zap. Thump.

I don’t hate moths, unlike the vile bluebottles, but I’ll cheerfully extirpate them in my home. If moths would live in peace with me, I’d live in peace with them, but anything prepared to eat my suit is asking to die, especially since I only have one suit at a time. Not being a suit person you know?

Somehow, I suspect the moths won’t go for the Venus fly trap, but that’s all right.

Feel the wrath of my electric tennis racquet!

Fly zapper

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Our lives

House painting

I hate painting. I hate it with a passion normally reserved for Brussels sprouts and Enya albums. I hate it more than listening to Brian Lally commentating on a GAA match. I hate it more than I hate the Late Late Show. More than I hate bad hip-hop. More than I hate having an itchy scalp on a hot sweaty day.

More than boils. More than piles. More than fake smiles.

That’s how much I hate painting the house and yet I still do it.

Why? Because I’m stupid. That’s why. Because every time I decide to paint the house, I’ve forgotten what an absolute shit I made of it the last time.

House painting

I am the world’s worst painter and I know it well. I’m terrible. Police should come and arrest me if I’m seen with a roller in my hand. Militia should taser me. Snipers should terminate me with extreme prejudice.

As a painter, I’m a disgrace. I bring shame to the world of incompetent painters. Bad painters point at me and say, Well, I can’t be worse than him.

I’m shit.

I can’t work the paint into the little woodwork details. I can’t cut in the colours between the ceiling and the wall. I can’t decorate anything without leaving a slather of paint across the walls, the floors, the furniture and any hapless animal that wanders past.

I can’t paint anything without painting everything else around it as well.

I’m the world’s worst painter, and yet here I am, failing once again to learn from experience.

Will I ever learn?

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Our lives Stupidity

Paying €60 for a short plank in Dunnes Stores

As the economy goes up, our collective IQ seems to go down in a bizarre see-saw way that might well explain the utter madness of the property bubble. And what better metaphor for the return to collective stupidity than the small piece of timber Dunnes Stores are selling for €60?

Dunnes Stores Paul Costello plank

A small plank. About 20mm thick and maybe 450mm long by 150mm wide. Or as we used to say, three-quarters of an inch thick and 18 inches long by six inches wide.

A very small and light board, but a board with a difference. This little board, you see, has been designed by a designer. A proper designer. Paul I-worked-in-Paris Costelloe, to be precise.

And Paul Costelloe designed this little board to be simple, yet refined as Dunnes say in their blurb.

You can almost smell the simplicity and refinement as you congratulate yourself on the purchase of this minimalist, uncompromising artifact. Imagine how impressed your friends will be when you serve them cheeses, charcuterie and antipasti on this elegant little, eh, plank.

This thing? Oh, it was only €60, you know. It would hardly pay for an hour of Sneachtfra’s Montessori.

The great design maestro himself, Paul Costelloe, got a free plug on Ray D’Arcy’s show this afternoon.

What’s all this about a plank for €60? asked Ray. (Or words to that effect).

Well, it’s oak, said Paul. Do you realise I worked in Paris?

Oak! Paul intoned the word like he was telling Ray the board was carved from the living roots of Yggdrasil.

Oak? That would be the stuff of which I have a half dozen planks in the workshop. Proper planks and not the effete 3/4-inch fly-swatters Dunnes are selling.

Could you make them at home? asked Ray.

Oh well, you could try, said Paul Costelloe. Because, as everyone knows, sanding a small piece of wood is perhaps the hardest thing anyone has ever tried. And if I heard correctly, he also seemed to mention that the wood was treated with something, which is not really what you want in a board you’re going to use for serving cheeses, charcuterie and antipasti. Oak does just fine with no preservatives, which is why generations of shipwrights have used it to build ocean-going vessels but of course Paul Costelloe would have known that from his years working in Paris.

Obviously I must have misheard him.

I was probably distracted by the intense purity of the 90-degree corners and the clean smooth lines he designed.

 

 

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Our lives

Dog Attacks

My dog is no saint. I know this. That’s why I call it the Hound of Satan.

My dog has a tendency to bark and growl at other dogs, which is why I don’t let my dog out to wander the streets. I keep my dog under control. But at the same time, my dog is fearless and has saved our home from burglary at least twice. On one occasion I found three rough-looking lads standing on the garden wall with my little satanic protector snarling up at them.

Will he bite us, Boss?

He’ll tear the arse off you. What are you doing in my house?

One of my neighbours has a similar dog. I don’t know who that neighbour is, but their dog is not kept in. Their dog is allowed to wander and for some odd reason, he lurks for hours at my front wall waiting to ambush my dog. This is a foolish plan, because anyone ambushing my dog can expect severe consequences and yet my neighbour’s dog has tried this twice.

Both times, my dog has staggered home covered in blood, most of which came from somewhere else, but that’s not the point. I don’t like seeing my dog chewed up by some bastard mutt that should be locked up in case he attacks a child.

It’s no consolation to me that my dog probably inflicted worse damage on the aggressor. I don’t like hearing the vet telling me that the attacking dog somehow bit my dog’s leg right to the bone and managed to inflict a fracture on it. I don’t like having to pay the vet a large amount of money because somebody else can’t be bothered keeping their aggressive animal behind walls.

It’s a pity other people wouldn’t take the same precautions.

I’m issuing a clear warning now. If I see that neighbour’s dog hanging around my house again, I won’t hesitate. I’ll say Shoo! Clear off!

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Bock's People

Ten years of Bock the Robber

Who knew this bullshit would last ten years?

Not me, that’s for sure.

Ten years of insane guff.

Ten years  of lunatics, ten years of arguing against quasi-Nazis and religious extremists.

Ten years of great music gigs, great food, great sport and good people buying into the insanity, but I’m not sure if there’s any point in making it eleven years.

This might be a good time to take a pause.

This might be a good time to re-evaluate, but let me thank all who contributed over the years. Your contributions made the site whatever it was.

We’ll talk again in a while and decide where we should go.

Ten years?  Jesus, don’t the years slip by?

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Bock's People

One bear-sized chicken or 100 chicken-sized bears?

We were well-established in our pub of choice watching Ireland salvage a tiny shred of dignity by beating Italy when one of our men leaned in.

Would it be better to fight a bear-sized chicken or a hundred chicken-sized bears? Tom wanted to know.

What?

It’s a thing, said Tom, by which I assumed (correctly) that he was referring to an internet meme.

A hundred chicken-sized bears, said our other friend, Jack. What kind of chicken? What kind of bear?

Jesus, said Tom, an ordinary chicken like you have running around a farmhouse. A fucking chicken.

What kind of bear? A brown bear? A grizzly? A panda? If it was a panda I’d fight it any day. And a hundred chicken-sized pandas would be so cute!

A bear! snarled Tom, trying to look menacing. Just a bear. A big bear with claws and teeth.

A polar bear? They’d murder you for fun.

A fucking bear!

I thought a giant chicken would probably be a worse proposition than dozens of tiny bears scratching and nibbling at my ankles — even polar varieties.

A French friend once told me about his peasant-farmer grandfather in Brittany who had a direct and brutal way of dealing with misbehaved dogs if they  followed the chickens in the yard. All he did was shove the dog into a sack along with a chicken and tie it up for five or ten minutes. If the dog came out blind, he shot it. If it emerged with at least one eye, it never chased a chicken again.

Chickens can be nasty.

But on the other hand, I ventured, bears are more or less human while chickens are basically insects. Wouldn’t the chicken-sized bears get together and gang up on you?

Bears are solitary, said Jack. You’re probably thinking of wolves. Chicken-sized wolves would be a big problem.

It would be much worse if you had to fight a hundred chicken-sized aliens, said Tom. If you injured one of the little bastards, his molecular-acid blood would eat through the decks until eventually it ruptured the hull and then we’d all die due to catastrophic decompression.

True enough, everyone agreed.

It was then that a thought crossed my mind. Tom, would this giant chicken have the same proportions as an ordinary chicken?

Of course, said Tom. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a chicken.

Good, I said. In that case we might be on the wrong track.

I could see I had their interest because they both stopped watching the Italian match which Ireland led by 500 points.

You see, I went on, if you scale an animal up, let’s say to twice its size, its bulk increases eight-fold, but the cross-section of its legs only increases by a factor of four. That’s because volume depends on the cube of the dimension while area is based on the square. It’s why elephants have fat legs and spiders have skinny ones.

Now, I’d say that a bear might be eight times the height of a chicken, and therefore a bear-sized chicken would be about 500 times its original weight. But its legs are only about sixty times their original cross section and that means they’re carrying eight times as much stress.

It was clear that Tom and Jack could see where this was going.

You mean ..?

Precisely, I said. The giant chicken’s legs would snap under the weight.

But it could still peck you, said Jack.

It could indeed, I replied, just like the Black Knight in the Holy Grail could still bite your legs off.

We all fell silent after that apart from the occasional desultory woo-hoo as Ireland ran in yet another meaningless try against Italy, until a man sitting near us interjected.

If there was a three-sided war between chicken-sized bears, chicken-sized aliens and actual chickens, who’d win?

I looked at Tom. Tom looked at Jack. Jack looked at me and I looked back at Tom.

We all stared at the stranger.

Are you mad? Who doesn’t like delicious chicken?

So it would bring peace between aliens and chicken-sized bears? he asked. If you kept a constant supply of chicken?

It was hard to argue with his logic.

And that makes me think, he went on, if we dropped millions of chickens on the Middle East every day, would that stop ISIS and Assad killing people?

It’s unlikely, I said.

It is, he agreed, but it’s probably better than dropping bombs on them and it would be a lot cheaper than missiles.

If arms manufacturers bred chickens, I said, Syria would be knee-deep in them.

Didn’t arms dealers breed aliens? asked Jack.

No, said Tom. That’s in the future. Keep up.

That was when Ireland ran in their 75th try against Italy.

It was time for another pint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our lives

Goodbye Auntie

My poor old Auntie departed from us in recent weeks, leaving all who knew her bereft and distraught.

We loved our Auntie and with good reason, since she was a kind and a decent woman who cared for everyone else before once giving a thought for herself, and such people are the ones who made us who we are. Such are the ones who gave us our decency, if we are lucky enough to have it.

People such as my old Auntie made me who I am today and I owe such people an enormous debt of gratitude for their kindness, their erudition and their generosity of spirit. I owe these people everything that made me who I am.

This kind Auntie sat with me when I was not yet three years of age and taught me to read and to write. This good and decent person was not an old Auntie in those days, but a bright and elegant young woman who took the time to share the gift of reading with a little child and I have lived my entire life in debt to that generous lady for making the effort.

Thanks to my kind young aunt, I entered primary school well able to read a newspaper, and for that achievement I can claim no credit. My wonderful Auntie was living testament to the power of thoughtful education.

Times pass, people decline and in the end I found myself sitting with my Auntie not just occasionally but almost every day. I found myself writing down the first-hand stories of the old days and I found myself engaging directly with a lady who came from a time I used to think of as the dark ages except that those days were the same as our days, just as our days right now will eventually be like those of our grandchildren, since in the end we’re all the same.

Auntie gave me many stories and in time to come, I’ll write about the Wire Man and about Wild Bill and about the beautiful French cat who loved to roll in the wrappers from the scented soap, but I won’t do it today. Instead, I’ll just tell you that I spent the last year or so getting to know my old Auntie, keeping her entertained and listening to her wisdom. I should have done it a lot more but I didn’t.

We spent much of that twelve months looking at old photos, driving around the wild countryside or sharing insane stories of the old days, but every now and then we shared a more intimate moment. I discovered that my Auntie had a love of the kind of food that I like to cook, and so I found myself bringing exotic offerings of whatever I thought she might enjoy, including curries fierce enough to burn through the door of a bank vault. All my old Auntie ever said was Perfect.

She came from a generation of Limerick ladies who were strangers to drinking and to coarse language. My old Auntie never raised her voice. She never set foot inside a pub and she never swore, because that was not the way of those ladies. The only time my Auntie’s lips encountered alcohol was once a year when a bottle of sherry was ordered in for visitors and then she might have indulged in a quiet sip, but no more than that.

In later years, my Auntie loved a curly bun from the Market on a Saturday morning, so I brought two. One for Auntie and one for me.

Perfect.

Sadly, I won’t be bringing any more curly buns, but in the days when we shared those quiet hours, I must confess that I occasionally transgressed. Now and then I brought a hip flask with a little shot of sherry for both of us.

Regrettably, my aunt’s language deteriorated a shade as a result of my visits, but maybe that isn’t a bad thing. Maybe, for all I know, that was a sign of increased mental activity.

Not too long ago, after the discovery of gravitational waves, she buttonholed me with a question: What did they find out in space?

Well, I explained, it seems they found out there are ripples in time.

Did they? said my elderly aunt. I could have told them that.

We buried my elderly, charming, endlessly erudite Auntie last week and of course I had to give a eulogy, so I decided to keep it simple.

It was this.

I got the better of the deal.

My Auntie taught me to read and write when I was very young.

Many years later, I taught her to drink and curse.

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Our lives

Heedy Mortal moves on

Given the choice between a good man and a saint, I’ll take the good man any day of the week, and I’m sorry to tell you we lost a very good man this week. He used to comment here as Heedy Mortal, an anagram of his name that fooled me so well, it took a full year before I realised he was somebody I knew in the real world.

He was no saint, our Heedy Mortal, but he was all the better for that. He was a man of decency, of dark irreverence and of immense dignity disguised by a filthy  sense of humour and a self-deprecating wit found only among those who know exactly who they are, and who feel comfortable in their own skin.

I can’t remember ever being in the company of Heedy Mortal without laughing myself sick. I can’t ever remember telling him a problem without receiving kind and thoughtful advice.  I never heard him tell a story where he was the winner — the mark of a true champion.

He had many faults, I’m quite sure, because he was no saint. But who wants saints when you can have a good man like Heedy Mortal? A very good man indeed.

As his flight across the stratosphere began to descend towards earth, I visited him now and then in Milford Hospice and I have to tell you honestly that I never left the place without my face being soaked in tears, but in case you get the wrong impression, they weren’t tears of sorrow.

It was just that, as always, our beloved Heedy Mortal had me bent double laughing even while he counted down his days. That was the measure of the man I’m proud to call a friend.

He’s gone from us now, but he isn’t gone from our hearts, and he won’t be gone as long as any of us live to remember him.

A fine man. A good man. And best of all, no saint.

Goodbye, Heedy Mortal

 

 

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Bock's People

Happy Christmas

It might surprise some people to see an atheist like me wishing them happy Christmas, but why wouldn’t I?

Isn’t it Christmas.after all?

Happy Christmas to the  readers, the lurkers, the commenters, the almost-commenters and the used-to-be commenters. To the aggressive clowns who have threatened me over the years and to the decent, kind people who understood what I was trying, and often failing to achieve, I say Happy Christmas.

Happy Christmas to the one or two trolls who must know they  will never be published, yet  who still insist on sending comments. These little ones I love most of all because of their loyalty. Imagine hating a website with all your soul and still reading it every day. To these, the most obscure of my followers, I say, thanks. I am honoured by your constant attention, but please release yourself from this anger. It isn’t good for you. Move on and stop being a sad bastard.

Happy Christmas to you, the random reader, and to you the regular one.

I don’t know if there will be another.

It’s coming up on ten years now since I started this nonsense and ten years seems like a nice round number to start something new, so don’t be surprised if there’s no Bock valediction in 2016.

Instead, I might devote the site to challenging and exposing crooks, chancers, frauds and con-men. Time will tell.

Ten years seems like a good round number, wouldn’t you think?

What direction do you reckon the site should take  after a decade of this stuff?

I’m genuinely interested to have your views, but it is Christmas after all, so I’ll take a few days off and maybe come back to you with more nonsense coming up to the new year.

Thanks again for reading and following.