Politics popular culture Religion

If ’twas a dog. ‘twould bite you

I was chatting to a friend yesterday, as one does, and he mentioned that somebody was dead. I knew he was wrong, but even though I was the one correcting him, I could hear my late mother’s voice: “Who did you send to kill him?”

My mother, and many others of her generation, had a lively and ready store of all-purpose phrases. Who did you send to kill him? “If you die with that face, nobody will wash you”. Or, if you wanted to try something a bit risky: “Sure, won’t we be dead and rotten long enough?” My favourite as a child was “You should be shot with shit, so you’d be dead and dirty”.

When some ill-considered demand for money would come home from school, perhaps for a new book or a costume in the school play, my mother used to say “It’s soft the wool grows on them”. I still don’t understand the literal meaning of it, but I know what it meant. It was a recognition that those requesting this money had no experience of poverty, despite their vows. We went to religious-run schools for the most part. I’m pausing here as I write this, because I’m trying to find some way to imagine the people who ran these places, some point of commonality, but you know, I’m failing. It’s a gap in my education: who exactly were these twenty-two-year-old brothers and sisters? These overbearing virginal youths who so intimidated our adult hard-working parents twice their age? Where did these angry, sometimes violent young men come from? What happened to them to make them so enraged?

They certainly didn’t come from the rectangular redbrick blocks of inner Limerick. They had a different accent, a different demeanour and their culture didn’t feel like mine. I didn’t like the way they patronised my decent, honest well-read parents. I didn’t like it when I was nine, and I don’t like it now, looking back on it. The difference is that time has moved on and I wouldn’t accept such nonsense from a jumped-up labouring boy (or from anybody else, for that matter).

That was then and this is now.

Music popular culture

T. Rex visits Southpark

This is going to be a quick one.

Only the sad old hippies amongst us will remember the early Tyrannosaurus Rex albums, and so I must address this question to the sad old hippies.

Don’t you think Marc Bolan sounds exactly like Cartman?

Favourites popular culture

The worst poet ever

Today, I think I’ll share with you one of the works of William Topaz McGonagall, a man widely acknowledged to be the worst poet who ever lived. This fine example of his work commemorates the Tay Bridge disaster, one of the worst railway accidents ever to occur in Britain, and so we find a certain symmetry.

If, like me, you’re completely entranced by this incompetent fool, you can read more about him here:

The poem is titled, appropriately enough:-

The Tay Bridge Disaster

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

‘Twas about seven o’clock at night,
And the wind it blew with all its might,
And the rain came pouring down,
And the dark clouds seem’d to frown,
And the Demon of the air seem’d to say-
“I’ll blow down the Bridge of Tay.”

When the train left Edinburgh
The passengers’ hearts were light and felt no sorrow,
But Boreas blew a terrific gale,
Which made their hearts for to quail,
And many of the passengers with fear did say-
“I hope God will send us safe across the Bridge of Tay.”

But when the train came near to Wormit Bay,
Boreas he did loud and angry bray,
And shook the central girders of the Bridge of Tay
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

So the train sped on with all its might,
And Bonnie Dundee soon hove in sight,
And the passengers’ hearts felt light,
Thinking they would enjoy themselves on the New Year,
With their friends at home they lov’d most dear,
And wish them all a happy New Year.

So the train mov’d slowly along the Bridge of Tay,
Until it was about midway,
Then the central girders with a crash gave way,
And down went the train and passengers into the Tay!
The Storm Fiend did loudly bray,
Because ninety lives had been taken away,
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

As soon as the catastrophe came to be known
The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown,
And the cry rang out all o’er the town,
Good Heavens! the Tay Bridge is blown down,
And a passenger train from Edinburgh,
Which fill’d all the peoples hearts with sorrow,
And made them for to turn pale,
Because none of the passengers were sav’d to tell the tale
How the disaster happen’d on the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

It must have been an awful sight,
To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

Customs popular culture Religion

The Big Day here at last

Well, this is it. By now, I expect, the Fat Knacker Marching Bands will have wobbled their way through some appalling parody of Californian cheerleading and the Ancient Staggering Americans are back in their cryogenic cocoons for another year of undeadness. They’ll be handing out the prizes for the floats, selected by the assembled dignitaries on the stand. “An’ now it gives me great pleasure ta announce da prize for da Least Boring Display, an it goes ta Hegarty’s Windas, for da Hungarian Hoor!! Less have a Big Clap for da Hungarian Hoor, tank ya laze an jen men.”

Dignitaries. Now there’s a concept for you. Dignitaries. It really is such a parochial small-town kind of word, isn’t it? A word coined for towns such as Limerick, and countries such as Ireland. Bring out the local dignitaries for the occasion. Well what the fuck is a dignitary? Will I tell you? OK, I was going to anyway. A dignitary is some fucking shopkeeper who managed to slither onto some half-assed incompetent sheep-dipping committee and now thinks he matters. Even though he couldn’t put two words together in the right order and he can hardly scratch his name on the footpath with a broken bottle. That’s a dignitary. All you have to do is look at the mummified bums who call themselves the City Council, or even more laughably, the City Fathers. Oh come on. A shower of half-educated gobshites and illiterates. In Limerick dignitary circles, your importance is measured by the redness of your nose and the bagginess of your suit. Oh, and a wife who caught her accent off a sun-bed.

Anyway, it’s now time for the real celebration of our national identity. This is where we show the world the new self-confident Ireland, by all of us getting completely shitfaced drunk, vomiting in the street and starting fights at the taxi-ranks. Oh. Right. So actually, there’s going to be nothing different then. In Ireland, every day is St Patrick’s Day.

To my mind, at least, the annual St Patrick’s Day celebration illustrates as no other event can, how completely we have abandoned every vestige of genuine culture in this country. I was listening to that fool Tubridy on RTE this morning (or Radio Dublin as we call it down here), and he was at a table laid out with exclusively Irish food. Great. What a positive idea, I’m thinking. So, what exactly did this Gaelic gastronomic gamut comprise? Did he have freshly-caught baked fish, mussels in garlic, fillet steak in cream sauce with braised garden carrots and baked Irish potatoes in rich creamery butter? Irish Brie and cheddar? Free-range eggs, handmade preserves, chutneys, jams, brown bread? Did he present an array of crisp tender organic vegetables, lifted from the ground this very morning and cooked to perfection, al dente, retaining all their wonderful nature-given nutrition? Did he fuck! He had a table full of Marietta biscuits, Kimberleys, Taytos, Three-Counties cheese, instant mash and every other kind of ersatz processed shite that Irish kids were fed from the sixties on instead of real food. It’s only a small example, I know, but I think it’s a revealing one. This is how our culture has evolved: we think such crap is part of our heritage the same way some people think the Wolfe Tones play traditional Irish music.

For the most part we don’t speak Irish any more, except within certain small geographical areas. Our kids are coming out of school, after eleven or twelve years of being taught the language, hardly able to speak a word of it. Jesus Christ, in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, you name it, they can teach their kids to speak fluent English in five years. And here, despite being taught Irish from the time they enter school, not only can our kids not speak it, in many cases they come out of school with a downright dislike of it. Now what the fuck is going on there? Is it just that our children are so exceptionally stupid they’re unable to learn? Or is it that the teaching of Irish was hijacked long ago by the language-fascists, whose methods turned the children completely against the language. Isn’t it ironic that the very people who claim to support the language might well be the ones who manage to eliminate it?

What exactly did St Patrick achieve anyway, that we’re all so proud of? Well, I suppose he brought with him the love of rugby football that kept many an Irishman going in hard times. (Although, admittedly, the league hadn’t a very big following in those days, and Richmonds had no club house. Not much change there, then.) But apart from rugby, what did he achieve? Christianity? Oh right. Christianity. Wasn’t that the religion that would later give the world the mass slaughters of the crusades. The Inquisition. The pogroms of Eastern Europe. And on a more local level, the gobshites of the Catholic hierarchy and the thick farmer’s sons they appointed as their foot-soldiers in the parishes. John Charles McQuaid. SPUC. Glin, Daingean, Letterfrack, Artane. Thank you St Patrick. The Magdalene laundries. Thank you St Patrick. Sean Fortune, Brendan Smyth, Ivan Payne and all the other pederasts. Thank you St Patrick. Catholic control of hospitals that would rather see a pregnant woman die in agony than administer pain-killers. The same Drogheda hospital, as it happens, where a god-like consultant saw fit to carry out hysterectomies on hundreds of women without their permission. Why? Because in their insanity, the fucking nuns who owned the place considered this more in keeping with Catholic teaching than a simple tubal ligation would be. St Patrick, thank you so very fucking much.


More St Patrick’s Day Shite

Here we go again.

After a long hibernation, we’ve built up sufficient reserves of smugness to begin patronising the planet once more. On Friday, we’ll witness the annual Festival of the Freaks in every town and village in the country. Here in Limerick, we’ll thrill as the local Fat Knacker Marching Bands take to the streets. Hundreds of frozen-blue little girls with goosebumps and double chins wobbling down O’Connell Street. After the Fat Knacker Marching Bands, we’ll have five-year-olds on quad bikes with a coordinated display of pedestrian-knocking, followed by the Throwing-a-Black-Bag-From-a-Moving-Vehicle competition.

If you don’t like any of that, you can have the (dwindling) bunch of ancient Americans staggering down the middle of our main street and waving at the locals for no obvious fucking reason. I always liked that one.  Always.

Dad, who are those old people and why are they waving at us?

Shut up, son, they’re our American ancestors.

Or you could have the endless line of trucks with advertisements and nothing else stuck on the side of them.  Buy Hegarty’s Windows, and win a night with a Hungarian Hooker!!

I love the car with the couple of balloons tied to the wipers. Look, Dad. A car!  With a strange orange-skinned person sitting on the roof, waving to us. Could it possibly be Gavin Henson? No, it’s even better than that. Please, Miss Limerick, wave at me!

Don’t knock it: it’s the only culture we have left these days, and you can believe that all the other Patrick’s Day shit is a whole load of guff.

Some years ago, I reached an agreement with my son, then 10 years old. Standing in the freezing cold and pissing rain, he looked up at me, and we exchanged that glance that only father-son pairs understand. The look that says This Is Crap. And we’ve never been back.

Nobody ever says “shitting rain”. Isn’t that strange?


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