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The Working Class

It’s a strange expression, isn’t it? Working class.

What does it mean?

I’ve always had a problem with it, even though I’ve always vaguely understood its thrust.

It’s very British. Here in Ireland, we don’t really have a well-defined class system, as they do in England or India. We all curse and swear. None of us has table manners to speak of, and only the most arriviste poser would dare to lecture you about wine or cheese. Or wine and cheese, for that matter. No. Here we have rich Paddies and poor Paddies. Very rich and very poor.

[Caveat: that’s provided you exclude the ludicrous RTE people who inhabit Planet Duncan.]

We never had an aristocracy in the British sense, or at least we didn’t have a native aristocracy once the local rich guys had been driven out by the Brits.

Over the years, we tried to create a new class of knobs in the form of the Catholic clergy, and there’s no doubt whatever that they certainly managed to grab the levers of power, but in the end of it all, you really couldn’t take them seriously, could you? I mean, how could you take a crowd of farm-boys seriously, even if they had been sent off to some college for a year or two to learn some dodgy theology by rote and a bit of spurious Latin? You couldn’t. They were still Seamus and Pat, even if they were wearing ludicrous bishop-outfits and spouting insane bishop-nonsense. We Irish are very good at spotting our own and laughing at them.

What a ridiculous pompous crowd of fools we lumbered ourselves with in the form of the Catholic clergy, and what a ridiculous crowd of fools we became by deferring to them. But at least we rebelled against the fuckers, and now that they’re on the wane, all we need do is remain vigilant.

Ultimately, the class system didn’t mean much here in Ireland, because we didn’t have Lord This and Lord That – or maybe we did, but they weren’t our Lord This and Lord That, so we kept rebelling against the fuckers, unlike our English cousins who were happy for generations to be sent off to foreign wars and to be killed so that Lords This and That could become even richer than they already were.

No. Here in Ireland, we were a much more homogeneous bunch, including the rapacious robbing bastards we call business people. We speak the same language. We have the same lack of graces. We all say fuck and bastard and we’re not embarrassed in front of each other.

That’s why concepts such as class didn’t matter here so much.

In Britain, to describe someone as working class was to distinguish them from the aristocracy and the merchant classes. In this country, working class used to mean what it says: the class who work, as opposed to those who don’t.

I’m from a working class background, as are most of my friends, and I’m proud of it. When I grew up in this town, to be working class was to have aspirations, to be honest, to be determined that you would make the best possible outcome for your life and for your family. To be working class was to take part in the cultural, sporting and social life of our town and to feel a part of our community.

We also had a clergy who handed down religious orthodoxy. This was the dark side. In my parents’ time, though not in mine, anyone who resisted the Catholic Taliban felt their heavy hand. Dissent was not tolerated by these zealous and intolerant men. It was a dark time in our history, and I’m glad to say it’s over thanks to people more courageous than I was, though I also resisted the fuckers in my own small way.

Isn’t history great, the way it has of repeating itself as farce? Did any one of us think it would all happen again?

[Correct answer: No, Bock. We didn’t.]

Well fuck me sideways, but today we have a brand new working class and a brand new clergy, complete with their own brand new dogma.

Today, to be described as working class, you need never have worked a single day in your life, nor your parents nor your grandparents, nor theirs before them. Today, in order to be called working class, you must be dependent. You must be helpless. You must claim off the State for everything you could possibly want.

And if anyone should point this out, the new clergy will rise up, the new Taliban of the PC world we live in, and denounce you for thought-crime. You can poke fun at Pope Ratzo if you want. You can tell Jesus jokes to a Reverend Mother. But you’d better not question the new PC orthodoxy. Talk about lazy, dishonest thieves fucking up the the people who really deserve welfare? Oh Christ no. Such thoughts are not permitted in Sociology 101 – our new Homeworld.

Watch here for the replies. I guarantee you they’ll be on to call me a fascist.

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I went to a funeral tonight. Well, actually, I went to the removal.

It always surprises me how many people from outside Ireland visit here, so perhaps I should explain. We have a custom where a person who has died lies in state at the undertaker’s premises, and all his friends, and the friends of the family, come to commiserate with the bereaved. Usually, what happens is that you walk into the place, and the departed is laid out in the coffin, and all the relatives are there, the men standing up and the women sitting down, and you file past them shaking hands with them. This is called the removal, because when everybody is finished shaking hands, the deceased is removed to the church for a brief religious ceremony, to be followed by another ceremony tomorrow, followed by a burial. (Unless you’re having a cremation, when you just send the deceased off in a taxi, and everybody goes straight to the pub).

Now, I have always had a problem with this hand-shaking business. I don’t like shaking hands with teenagers I’ve never met in my life. You don’t know where their hands have been, or actually, you do. Sorry for your troubles? Most of my life is given over to screaming at teenagers. Put that thing fukken down!! It’ll go into someone’s eye!!!

I also don’t like commiserating with the idiot brothers-in-law who never liked the deceased but are standing there anyway, and you have to walk up to them and shake their fucking hand and tell them you’re sorry for their troubles. Troubles? What troubles? They hated the fucker. In reality, all you want to do is walk over, knee them in the crotch, head-butt them as they collapse and say That’s for behaving like a prick at the christening, ya cunt. Not that you can do that at a funeral, you understand, but you’d like to.

So no. I don’t really like the hand-shaking thing at removals.

A few years ago I came up with an alternative. When I walk in, I approach the first teenager, and I say Well? Did you see the match? With any luck, the teenager recoils in horror, along with his cousins, and I move on to the seated women. Ah, Jaysus, Nuala, is it yourself? I might remark to the grieving widow. Christ, you’re gone very old-lookin’. That gets me past the women without too much trouble, even if it does provoke a fresh outbreak of crying.

The standing men can be a problem if you don’t handle it right.

I used to say Well, that about wraps it up. Your man is dead. Pint?

But that earned me a flattened nose and a slight limp, so now what I do is this. I negotiated a deal with a local lap-dancing club. I simply hand out a card to each of the lads: Post-funeral special offer. Very sympathetic Latvian hookers.

Call up there after the burial, I tell them. Great place. Take your mind off the whole thing.

It’s great, and I collect a commission as well, so everyone’s a winner.

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popular culture

Hail Mighty Lidl

Do you know something – I love Lidl. I’m a complete Lidl junkie. I even look up their web site a week in advance to see what the latest specials are going to be, which I suppose makes me a pikey.

Sometimes, the posh relatives might call in, and they’d look around the kitchen with a faint lip-curl of contempt. Oh, I see you bought your wine in – em, errrhh, eumhnnn, phhnnrggghhh, eh,

Lidl? I’d say. What’s your point?

Oh, nothing, they’d say, clutching their hand-woven kaftans tight around themselves. It’s just that –

Fuck off.

These people don’t realise they’re dealing with a veteran. I have a Lidl telescopic yard-brush. I have every heavy-duty rock breaker, air compressor, tile cutter and finger-masher they ever sold on special. I have lined up outside their door at seven in the morning for some ridiculous nail-gun I’ll never use just because it’s there.

Look. Just have one look at what’s coming up in Lidl and tell me this isn’t a classy outfit. Here’s the solar-powered garden gnomes they’re offering next week.

solar powered garden gnome

Now. Is that tasteful or what? I’m going to buy maybe about two hundred of them and put them out in the front garden, everywhere. On the walls. On the ground. Hanging from the windows. Above the door. On the gate. The neighbours will love me for brightening up the area, and I’m sure they’ll call around in a deputation to thank me, just like they did last year when I put up all those brightly-painted wagon-wheels, the letter-box with the horse motif and the two concrete eagles.

God, they really loved those eagles.

Politics popular culture Religion

What it means to be Irish

I don’t know.

I have no idea what it means to be Irish. In spite of the fact that – as far as I’m aware- my people have lived here forever, I feel very reluctant to call myself Irish, because I don’t know what the term Irish means. I feel even more uncomfortable when I hear this new expression: the New Irish. Hold on a fucking minute. New Irish? What exactly does that mean? Is that one of those condescending new terms we have to swallow or else be killed by the PC people? Apparently so.

Let me be blunt about this. I really couldn’t give a flying fuck about the colour of your skin, or where you came from, or what religion you have. Really – I couldn’t care less. You’re welcome in my country, and I’ll take you for what you are. But if you came from some other country, I hope you have the same tolerant view about me. I hope you couldn’t care less about my religion or my skin-colour, or my political views .

And if you think somebody’s religion, or skin colour, or political views are a problem, well then, that’s a problem. It’s a problem for you, because you’re in my country. So, what can you do if you if you think my religion, or my lack of religion, or my skin colour, or my political views are a problem? Very simple. You can fuck off back to where you came from.

popular culture


Having said all that about Ryanair, the no-care airline, the low-standards airline, the no-brain airline, in fairness, I would have to say this about them: they’re shit.

However, here’s the question. Who isn’t shit?

That’s right. Scunthorpe United aren’t shit. Scunthorpe United won yet again, beating poor old Rotherham to streak to the top of the table. Scunthorpe are now on 61 points, three points ahead of Oldham and a full five ahead of Nottingham Forest. Can you imagine that? Notts Forest are behind Scunthorpe. I don’t know if I want to cheer for Scunthorpe or cry for Forest.

I have a little emotional feeling for Nottingham after last year’s savage journey to Britain, when the people of England took us in.

What? Don’t you remember? When myself and the Bullet travelled to Britain to watch Munster win the Heineken European Rugby Cup at Cardiff, and we had to travel via Nottingham? That was the time that the Bullet went into the all-you-can-eat Chinese/Indian/Thai/Italian restaurant with me, and returned with a pizza, curry, tortilla, cheese and chips sandwich. God, do I love that little Bullet of mine.

This is an astonishing turn of events. If this continues, you’re going to see Scunthorpe in the Championship (or the Second Division, if you’re as old as me), mixing it with the likes of Wolves, Palace and Sheffield Wednesday.

popular culture

Suing a hospital

Did you see those reports during the week about a couple who sued a hospital because a sterilisation operation didn’t work? It seems the woman had a tubal ligation in the Coombe, and on the face of it, that appeared to be that. The end. No more babies.

It’s very final.

No more puking into people’s faces. No more howling at five in the morning when your head is hanging off with the sleep. No more tantrums or rolling on the floor. The end of falling off tables. Goodbye to lollipops walked into the carpet. No more pissing on the furniture.

And that’s just you.

No nappies, no dragging buggies through revolving doors, no shite everywhere, and maybe, for a change, a little money left in your pocket at the end of the week.

So obviously, when I saw that these people went on to have another two children after the operation, I was outraged and overwhelmed with sympathy for them. Damn right, they should sue the hospital! That’s ridiculous!! You have an operation and they tell you everything is fine, but then you go on to have another two children. Fucking disgraceful!

That’s what I thought.

And then I thought: TWO? Did they say two children?

Right. Let’s just retrace a little here, shall we?

Ah, ehrm, ah, um . . . How do I put this?

Did they not have the tiniest hint after the first child that maybe the operation didn’t work?

Apparently not. OK. Right, Ted.

Politics popular culture

The Croke Park Trilogy – Part Three

The first worrying thing was when some official walked out onto the pitch and welcomed everyone to Lansdown- sorry – Croke Park!

Oh noooo!!!

Then the Artane Band came out, and with my razor-sharp observational skills, I noticed that they aren’t the Artane Boys’ Band any more. Now, they have girls and other people with pony tails. God be with the days when the Artane Boys’ Band used to hobble out and play Faith of Our Fathers – or at least the ones who were still able to hobble after some big, fat, hairy-eared, red-faced, bulging-eyed Christian Brother had been hammering away at them all week.

The combined Army and Garda Number One bands struck up la Marseillaise, Amhrán na bhFiann and Ireland’s Call, and the crowd sang along with all three as best they could. In fact, they created something of a precedent for the venue by managing to complete the entire national anthem without breaking into a howl half-way through the last verse. It was a proud moment for everybody, spoiled only a little for me by the presence of the filthy garlic-chewing foreigners right beside us. I mean, in the next seat. Beside us. Like. One thing, though, that you have to admire the French for, is the bloodthirsty nature of their anthem. I used to think ours was a trifle belligerent until I read the words of la Marseillaise, and you know, for a filthy crowd of garlic-stinking cheese-noshing surrender-monkeys, they sure know how to talk tough.

The game started out poorly enough for us, but by now, I feel sure you’ll know what happened and I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow account of it. Here’s what happened.

First Half: They went ahead. They went ahead again. We nearly caught up.

Second Half: We went ahead. The filthy stinking garlic-chewing New Zealander referee robbed us of a perfectly good try. We went ahead a bit more but not enough. The filthy cheating French scored a jammy try and cheated us doubly by scoring it with only two minutes left on the clock which was not enough time for us to come back, and that’s a thing that only a filthy garlic-stinking crowd of unsporting foreigners would do. (Or Munster when playing Gloucester or Sale, ha ha ha ha that’s different fuck off).

It wouldn’t have happened in Peter Clohessy’s day. That’s all I’ll say. Or in Willie John’s day either. Moss Keane wouldn’t have stood for it. Neither would Woody. Willie Duggan would never have tolerated it. Any of the above sportsmen would have gladly endured a lifetime ban to salvage yesterday’s game by simply giving away a penalty, possibly accompanied by atrocious violence. It would have given the French three points, maybe, but it would have used up the remaining two fucking minutes, wouldn’t it? Ha? Ha? Wouldn’t it?

[Fógra Speisialta: the correct answer is YES]

What did I have to do then? What? That’s right: I had to turn to the filthy snail-gobbling, frog chewing garlic-oozing mob beside me and shake their fucking hands. Bon chance my fucking arse. And if you say Beau match one more time, I’ll phone Clohessy right now to come and walk on your face. A stunned and dejected crowd of eighty-odd thousand made the painful trudge back south, through the miserable wastelands of De Naart-Soide.

Paddy, I said. Why are those people staring out their windows?

Simple, said Paddy. They’re looking at the French supporters sitting on their wall. They’ve never seen anyone eating cheese while drinking wine.

But, I protested, don’t people sit on their wall every night, eating cheeseburgers and drinking Dutch Gold?

That’s different, Paddy replied. It’s a cultural thing, y’know?

Part Six
Part Five
Part Four
Part Two
Part One

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popular culture

The Croke Park Trilogy – Part One

Jesus, said Wrinkly Paddy. This place is full of Northsiders.

True, I replied, but imagine how they feel. Their streets are full of Southsiders, Culchies and filthy garlic-eating surrender-monkeys.

God, he shuddered. Give me out that hip-flask quick.

Not fifteen minutes earlier, we had abandoned the safe and familiar shabbiness of Mulligan’s in Poolbeg Street and now we were trudging through the grim faded grandeur of Georgian Dublin. The once-fashionable Northside, street upon street of magnificent but crumbling mansions, was abandoned by the gentry when the Earl of Kildare built his stately pile in Merrion Square. All the fawning sycophants followed him in the great movement of the rich across the river, or The Flight of the Knob-heads, as it came to be known. These were the wealthy merchants, the minor aristocracy. The fox-hunting classes. (In a charming echo of days gone by, today’s Northsiders also have horses, though they prefer to keep them on their balconies).

Paddy and I were not well men. On Saturday night, the Wrinkly Romeos had a gig in some pub in the vast suburban sprawl of West Dublin, and I, of course had travelled early and parked the Bockmobile outside his house in the hope of a lift to the gig. I wanted to be there so that I could ignore them just like all the other patrons.

I have a bit of a problem with the car, Paddy confided as we set off.


It’s haunted.


It seems to know when it’s on the M50. You’ll see for yourself in a minute.

And sure enough, when we headed down the ramp, a horrible, screeching, howling noise seemed to come from somewhere very far away. An ugly, personal, soul-offending noise, from a filthy and very ugly parallel universe. From a vile and murky sink ruled over by the Lord Yog-Sotthoth, Master of all that is repulsive and inhuman.

Christ, I gasped. It sounds like Brian Kennedy!

Ah no, said Paddy. It isn’t that bad, but I can’t get rid of it.

You can’t?

No, said Paddy. I even had it exorcised by a big international brotherhood of priest-mechanics. I’m trading it in next week before it tries to murder me.

Good plan, I said. Where’s this pub?

Well now, Paddy shifted uncomfortably. You see, about the pub. It’s just that this place is a bit, you know?

A bit what?

A bit rough.

Like how rough. Blues Brothers rough? Are you playing inside a cage?

You’ll see for yourself.

It turned out to be a perfectly normal, soul-less Dublin suburban drinking factory called Bar, with the usual bored, uninterested, surly unionised Dublin bar staff, full of young fellows with weak moustaches and ear-jewellery.

The Wrinklies couldn’t drink, because they were driving, but that didn’t prevent me from swallowing half a dozen of the finest Guinness’s porter, while never ceasing from reciting melodious Gaelic nor from playing chess, nor from the studious ignoring of the thing called Band, that which everyone else likewise ignored.

Once, I foolishly tried to engage a fellow-customer in conversation. What about the match tomorrow, then – have you a ticket?

Ya wha’?

The rugby match, in Croke Park, you know – tomorrow?

Ya fookin wha’?

Ireland versus France. In Croker.

Ah, roigh’. Bleedin Croker, yeah roigh’! Deadly. Come on ye Dubs!!

So are you going?

Ya wha’?

To the rugby match?

Wha’s staaary Bud? Croker’s naw fookin rubby fookin ground. Ya know warra mean, like? Bleedin spasser!

And he walked away, turning back a couple of times to shake his head with contempt.

Apart from that, it was a great night, and, by the standards of Bar, a huge artistic success. Nobody was killed. It was great and I departed the place slightly steamed after my six of the best.

Now, says Paddy, when we got home. What’ll you have?

I’ll have a night in bed, I replied.

Ya will like fuck, he said. I’ve been on the dry all night.

And that’s how I came to wake up at eleven in the morning with six pints of Guinness and half a bottle of whiskey inside me, and Paddy shaking me. Come on. We have a lift to Mulligan’s. I’ve never been quite sure of the correct pronunciation of Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhh!!!! but anyhow, as I said at the start, Paddy and I were not well men as we shuffled towards the turnstiles in Croke Park.

Part Six
Part Five
Part Four

Part Three
Part Two


Theatre, music and fools

I went out this evening with a couple of my friends to a play. You might remember from previous posts that we sometimes go to the theatre, and usually it’s good enough.

Well, tonight we went to see a play in the Impact theatre called Oleanna, by David Mamet. It featured Norma and Darren, and at the end of the play we hated two people: Norma, and the fucker who fell asleep beside us and snored his way though the entire production. Now, going through our calendar, we couldn’t do anything about Norma tonight, for reasons I’ll get back to. Tomorrow night, I’m tied up with family stuff and the other guys are involved in some sort of a crime. Saturday is difficult for me: I’m off to Dublin in advance of the French match, and the Wrinkly Romeos have a gig there which, ideally, I’d like to hear. Sunday is hard, because I’ll be in Croke Park, watching the rugby match and of course Sunday night, there will be piles of drink. That rules out Monday . . . so let’s see then. I suppose we could murder Norma on Tuesday night? Yep. That seems ok then. Norma gets killed on Tuesday for being such a bitch to Darren.

Now, what about the ill-mannered fuck who fell asleep in the middle of the play? Well, this gobshite has turned up to every show I’ve been at, and he’s been just as bad at all of them. Therefore, it won’t come as any surprise to hear that we slaughtered him on the spot. He’s gone. Finished. Hacked to pieces. Serves the fucker right for snoring and for being ugly too.

After the play, we couldn’t murder Norma because we had to go to the White House, to hear the lovely Sara Petite playing. Free. Where would you get it? Next week, Sara opens for Todd Snyder in the States, but tonight, here in little old Limerick, you can just walk in off the street to a bar and hear the very same gal playing for free. God, sometimes I love this place.

Sometimes I also hate this place. For instance, I hate the fact that a contingent of local journalists couldn’t show the artist some respect by staying quiet to listen to the music, but chose instead to blather away loudly through the whole night. Why? Well, being journalists, they were of course drunk. It’s what paper-people do. More names for our murder list. Incredibly, these are the same ones who’d lecture you about staying quiet during a penalty kick at Thomond Park.

Anyway, fuck them. We enjoyed the gig, we stayed quiet, and we were all the better for it.

Just finally, could I just mention my ultimate complete departure from Irish soccer matters? After yesterday’s ridiculous debacle against San Marino, I think it’s time to say goodbye to the fools at the FAI. Goodbye, Stan, you fucking fool. Goodbye, Delaney, you complete gobshite. Goodbye.

Christ, that feels better.

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Limerick Music Politics popular culture Venues

Bodies in bodybags

There’s a fine songwriter here in this town who’s been writing songs for a hundred years, and I’m glad to include him among my friends. Eamonn Hehir is his name, and he’s been producing stuff for years that pissed off the establishment.

But the latest one really seems to have hit a nerve.

Bodies in Bodybags just doesn’t cut it with Limerick 95 FM, it seems. Especially the version released by Siobhan O Brien. Too controversial, apparently, for Radio Smalltown. Why? Well, for one thing, they’re sending these soldiers out through our local airport and Limerick 95 FM wouldn’t want to upset the Americans. But apart from that, you can’t have songs about people getting killed. No. Definitely not. You can’t have these kind of songs. Oh God no. And particularly not if the people are getting killed because Dubya said so. Oh Jesus, no. You couldn’t have that on the radio.

Here’s a clip. Bodies in Bodybags

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