Saturday, October 28, 2006

All the Animals Come Out at Night

Beidh lá ann a dtiocfaidh fíorfheartainn, a nglanfaidh na sraideanna ó salachasThat Dublin youth have become more feral in recent years is no secret, as the last post here may have indicated, even to the slow and wilfully stubborn, who refuse to believe the evidence of their eyes. But just how common this feral, beastly, behaviour is can be forgotten as Darwin kicks in, as we adapt, keep our heads down, and say nothing. These are the last three hours on Saturday night of the October Bank Holiday weekend, 2006, just from my own personal experience. This is what I saw on my ordinary routine, without going out looking for the foul and rotten. God only knows what I would have come across if I made an effort.

Six o'clock. A gang of youths, at least twenty in number, with their faces smeared with dirt and swinging sticks, marches up one of the residential streets on the Northside of the city, a street undergoing gentrification where a 700 square foot two up, two down semi-detached house retails at half-a-million Euro for starters. They were like something out of the Dark Ages. One of them, with half a broomstick in his fist as his weapon of choice, asked An Spailpín where were his tyres, and remarked that he - the youth - would be back later to collect them. The child isn't old enough to shave yet. An Spailpín saw a girl in the group, who should have been in some sort of supervisory, big sister, role, was also in combat camouflage, but she looked very unhappy. Under the dirt, she would have been pretty. It was a strange side to choose.

Seven o'clock. Two young men are attempting to gain entry into the shop of a Statoil garage near where the mortal remains of former Taoiseach Charles Haughey lay in state. The bouncer bars them by physically standing in the door; they gain entry when a civilian exits through the other door. The bouncer chases them around the shop, while they knock stands and displays. But all he can do is escort them off the premises when he finally catches them; he has no other power of sanction. Nobody is on his side. Therefore, it is no surprise to An Spailpín Fánach that the youths camp out in front of the shop door, enjoying their night's fun, wrecking his head and attempting to regain entry. There was no time to ask the bouncer if he got paid enough money to put up with this.

Eight o'clock. A youth, again too young to shave, steps out of the darkness to throw something at An Spailpín Fánach's car. The area in which the youth is standing has houses that sell at €600,000 and up.

Nine o'clock. An Spailpín is in another garage. Two girls are inside, drunk, causing trouble. An Spailpín returns to his car. As An Spailpín gets in, a man emerges from the car parked next to An Spailpín on the garage forecourt, goes into the corner and starts pissing there. There is a bar less than fifteen yards away whose toilets are fully functional. Sir Galahad prefers al fresco. His famous discretion temporarily abandoning him, An Spailpín looks into the car next to him, to see what sort of company the bladder reliever is keeping. There's a girl in the driver's seat, a nice girl, a girl who doesn't need to see her "fellit" - in the current argot - pissing in public. Or does she? Could she not do better? Why does she put up with this ape, this cretin, this louse? Mystified, An Spailpín pulls away, returns home, turns on his computer, and sadly files his report.

Our society is wretched, rotten, and surely doomed. This will all end in tears - all we have left to decide is who will be doing the weeping. And your correspondent is not optimistic on that score.

Technorati Tags: ,

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Only Losers Take the Bus

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate
An Spailpín is still trying to come to terms with a clip from Liveline he heard this morning, just before the eight o’clock news on Radio 1. It seems that a 19 year old man was thrown off the upper deck of the 77 bus in Tallaght at the weekend, and is currently pretty badly shook up in hospital.

Thrown off the upper deck of a bus. Isn’t that astonishing? And if it is, why hasn’t it been front page news? In his efforts to faithfully chronicle contemporary Irish life, An Spailpín likes to keep an eye on these things, and this story is definitely well under the news radar.

What about the comments of John McGrane of the National Bus and Rail Union, reported in this morning’s Independent, that they will have no option other than not to go to Tallaght anymore if the gardaí aren’t going to protect their drivers? An Spailpín isn’t the greatest Irish public service union man in the world, but it’s very hard not to see Mr McGrane’s point.

Not least when we discover that a man being thrown off the upper deck of the 77 bus is only one of twenty-five reported incidents on buses serving west Tallaght in the past month alone. These include:

  • A passenger’s coat being set on fire
  • A bus driver being spat at in the face
  • A child being assaulted
  • A bus being set on fire
  • Fighting in the upper deck
  • Drug-taking in the upper deck

On reading that list of depravity, we quickly realise that it’s not just the bus drivers that need protection here. All his life, An Spailpín has heard about how Tallaght is one of the fastest growing and biggest towns in Ireland, and how its needs need to be looked after. So what An Spailpín now wants to know is: what is the government doing to protect the ordinary, decent people of Tallaght, who are in the overwhelming majority, as we are always reminded whenever these reports of so-called “anti-social behaviour” occur? What steps are being taken to stop Joe or Jane Citizen from having their clothing set on fire, their bus set on fire, their means of getting to and from work being set on fire, their children being spat at or assaulted?

The gougers rule the city of Dublin. We saw it during the riots, we see it every day in the city, and we sit back and accept it. There is zero political will to deal with the issue and in the meantime ordinary decent people have to get up and go to work without knowing what sort of foul horror will confront them once they get on their bus. And what do they get in return? Lectures about inequality in society on the op-ed pages of the Irish Times.

What they don’t get are results. What they have to suffer every day doesn’t even make the news. An Spailpín has searched today’s Irish Times in vain for the story about the potential disruption in bus services to Tallaght, and he can’t find it. Here’s the link to the Article Index in today's Irish Times – happy hunting.

The Irish Times isn’t slow to laud itself as the paper of record, but on an issue that affects a huge tranche of the population it has nothing to report. Zero. Zip. The null set. Madam ought to be ashamed of herself. As for any poor dumb bastard that’s trying to commute to and from Tallaght, may God help you, because nobody else gives a fiddler’s. Only losers take the bus.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Parking the Car


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fómhar na bPeileadóirí is Tarraingt an Óil

Maití Mac Giollarnáth, laoch na mBolg Buí, á bhualadh san Astráil anuraidhTugann do Spailpín Fánach faoi deara go bhfuil an Cumann Luchcleas Gael ag déanamh comhghaideachas dóibh féin ar an méid ticéidí atá díolta acu don chéad cluiche idirnáisiúnta atá á imirt i nGaillimh i gceann coicís. Shílfeá gur tháinig faoiseamh mór orthu nuair a chualadar an déa-scéal – bítear deachair go leor na Gaillimhí a thabhairt isteach i pPáirc an Phiarsaigh chun freastail ar a gcluichí féin, seachas amháín cluiche nach n-imrítear in áit ar bith sa dhomhan.

Tá an CLG ag obair go dian an comórtas idirnáisiúnta seo a choinneal beo – tá béim mór acu air, ach bionn sé deachair go leor don Spailpín a thuiscint cén fáth go bhfuil an méid meas ag muintir na hÉireann ar cluichí nach imrítear anseo in Éirinn nó ansiúd san Astráíl. Bhíosa féin ag cúpla cinn acu ag deireach na nócháidí, ach bhí níos mó súim agam ins an ól tar éis an cluiche ná ar cad a tharla ar an bpáirc. An é sin an fáth go bhfuil an Chéad Cluiche seo á imirt i nGaillimh, príomchchathar óil agus spraoí na hÉireann? Agus mise ag smaoineamh go bhfuil an CLG ag iarraidh tionchar an óil a lagú?

Seo ceist tapaidh agaibh, a lucht léimh: ó na cluichí go leir a d’imrítí ó bhunadh an comórtas idirnáisiúnta i 1984, cé acu a bhuaigh an chuid is mó? Níl fios ag an Spailpín, agus ‘sé mo bhuille faoi tuairim nach bhfuil fios ag an chuid is mó don lucht taca. Nach ait an rud é, freastail ar chluichí nach imrítear ag duine dá laghad in Éirinn nó san Astráil, agus i gan fios cé acu a n-imríonn is fearr, na hÉireannaigh nó na h-Astáiligh?

Ait, a chairde, ait go leor.

Ní dóigh libh – ní dóigh libh go bhfuil an méid measa againne air toisc go bhfuilimid beagnach cinnte roinnt breá chlampair a fhéachaint? An bhreá linn buillí breá a bhuilleadh, sinne, na hÉireannaigh tróideacha? Agus más bhreá, cén fáth go raibheamar ag béicéal mar a mbéicimis an bhlian seo caite nuair a bhfuair foireann na hÉireann na buillí breá ag teacht chucu, in ionad ag dul uathu? Nach ar scáth a chéile a mhairimid? Agus má tá déistín againn ar chlampar an bhlian seo caite, cén fáth, mar a n-iarrann Eugene McGee ins an t-Indo inne, go bhfuil na cluichí a fhógrú leis an mana “it’s time to play – hard”?

Seo tuairim an Spailpín – níl ann sa comórtas seo ach leithscéil “culaidh eadaigh” an CLG dul thíos chuig an Astráil ar spraoi gach dhá bhlian. Agus ní hé an lucht is uaisle a théann – bionn foirne míonúr, Cúigeach, turgnamhach, gach sort, ag freastail síos gach uile bhlian, agus iad go leir ag cur greim an fear báite ar gach gloine Fosters no Castlemaine XXXX ab fhéidir leo, greim nach scaoilfear go mbuailfar ar bhun an bairille. Cén fáth go gcuireann an AFL suas leo? Mar tá fonn orthu i gconaí imreoirí nua a fhail dá gcluichí féin agus cén naíolann peile ab fhearr dóibh ná ár n-oilean glás féin?

Chuir Micí Ó hAirt, bainisteoir Tír Eoghain, an ceist is spéisiúl an bhlian seo caite agus an Comórtas Idirnáisiúnta á phlé ar Setanta. An n-imrítear an comórtas seo, d’iarr Micí, más é Widnes nó Wigan áit dúchais an foireann eile? Níor dóigh Micí go n-imreofaí, agus tá an Spailpín lán-cinnte go raibh an ceart aige.

Ní fhaigheann pobal na hÉireann rud dá laghad ón gComórtas seo ach leithscéal dul amach ar an drabhlas. Agus cé go bhfuil an ionad sin leithscéil againn é sin a dhéanamh, níl ceann eile orainn. Ba cheart duinn iarr ar na h-Astráiligh a n-eitléan a iompaigh timpeall, agus dul abhaile aris. Níl fómhar peileadóirí anseo ag fanacht orthu.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

So. Farewell Then, Mickey Moran.

Micheál Ó Móráin, iarbhainisteoir Mhaigh EoBoth the Irish Times and the Irish Independent are reporting this morning that John Morrison phoned the Mayo County Board Chairman, James Waldron, yesterday to say that he didn’t wish to continue in his post as coach to the Mayo senior football team. There is no quote in either paper from the normally loquacious Morrison, as telling an indicator as any that even a notorious spoofer like Morrison recognises the end of the line when he sees it.

Mickey Moran is almost certainly going to follow. He gave a bitter interview to the Connaught Telegraph (sadly not online) in which he made sanguinary and self-pityingly references to being slaughtered and butchered. Welcome to the Big Time Mickey – how do you like the air up here?

The most telling comment about Mickey Moran, and the short-lived Moran and Morrison era in charge of County Mayo, was told to An Spailpín by a friend of his, who was doing a spot of Maor-ing at the Connacht Final in McHale Park during the summer. An Spailpín likes to arrive early, so we had time for a smoke and a chat about matters pertaining. “You know,” my friend said, “every time I look at Mickey Moran I think: fourth choice.”

And that sums it up. Moran’s appointment came as the result of the Board scraping the bottom of the barrel. From what we can gather, we that sit in the muck outside the gilded palaces where the County Board do their mysterious work, Bradygate was the final straw for Maughan, and once the team were out of the Championship in 2005 Maughan’s goose was cooked. Miserably, however, the Board seemed rather innocently unaware that political assassinations come in two acts; not alone must you ice the incumbent, but you must have his successor ready, willing and able to take over.

The Board succeeded in throwing Maughan from the train, but they did not have a successor lined up. Perhaps they assumed that John O’Mahony would be only too glad to be returned to the Board’s favour, but Johnno is too old a dog, and has been burned to often, to buy any pigs in pokes at this stage of his life. Anyone else that was considered thought about just how soft and comfy that Sunday Game sofa is for a split-second or so, and demurred, politely but firmly.

As such, after some thrashing around the Board finally lit on Mickey and John, who were rather desperate after a notable lack of success with Derry, Donegal and Sligo. All Mickey and John had to show for their years in inter-county management was one National League title with Derry in the mid-nineties. The same achievement as Pat Holmes, who was damn near run out of Mayo on a rail in 2002.

Moran and Morrison had built a reputation as world class Gaelic football coaches, but nobody had ever spelled out exactly what it was that separated M&M from just regular smarties. One year on, we’re still no wiser, other than the fact that John Morrison must have read every one of those horrific self-help books, like What Colour is Your Parachute, that has ever cost the Amazon a rain forest.

Moran and Morrison tried to portray themselves as visionaries by instituting this “Nut” formation in the Mayo inside forward line, where the players would bunch in front of goal and then “explode” in different directions when the ball was let in. This was Hell on Earth for one-legged cornerbacks, and those who had been encased in concrete shoes by the mafia, but for every other full-back line in the country is was like finding out that Miss Angelina Jolie has been appointed new team masseuse. Manna from Heaven. Mayo got roundly spanked against Galway in the League semi-final and the only nuts that have since been seen in the county Mayo are those that Cadbury’s pack into their delicious chocolate bars.

Looking back, Mayo caught a rising tide in their Championship run – Moran and Morrison weren’t so much piloting the ship as doing well not to be tossed overboard. Mayo should have lost to a gallant Leitrim in the sylvan settings of Páirc Sheáin in Carrick after Pat Harte got sent off in the second half, but Leitrim failed to pull the trapdoor lever and Mayo escaped the noose. Galway’s decision to play without a midfield gifted Mayo another Connacht Final and while Laois were brave in the quarter-final, they were ultimately proved to be second division material. Liam Kerins will have his work cut out there.

Mayo poxed it against Dublin, looking back. It was a great day and a great game, but Dublin were as much the authors of their own misfortune as Mayo were Dublin’s executioners. Hype bubbles only last so long and when the sky and navy blue one burst, Mayo were the last team standing.

The weeks preceding an All-Ireland are where Mayo managerial careers are now made and broken. Getting a good run in the summer is no longer enough. In 1989 and 1996 Mayo were just glad to be there; now, with so many big day defeats behind them, Mayo must, must, must finally close it out on the big day. Mickey Moran remarked in the Telegraph interview that this is unfair, that he would be garlanded with laurels in any other county for what he’d achieved. Mayo isn’t any other county Mickey. The job in Mayo is to break the hex; nothing else matters.

And when the big test came, the Ulstermen failed miserably. The coaching revolutionaries chose to treat the All-Ireland Final as if it were just another game, and try to beat the hex by ignoring it, in best bury-your-head-in-the-sand manner. In hindsight, it was exactly the wrong decision, and Mickey and John have now paid for it with their heads. The All-Ireland Final is not like a pitch-opening challenge in March, and Mayo found out just how true that is on the third Sunday of September this year. Mayo played as if their mental theme music was Ravel’s Bolero – Kerry were soundtracked by Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song. And that was the difference. Hammer of the gods, indeed.

Are Mayo better off now than they were one year ago, before Moran and Moran took over? That’s hard to say, but Ger Loughnane, for one, thinks not. Loughnane remarked in the Independent a week after the All-Ireland that the mental blocks he had to break in Clare in the mid-nineties were as pebbles compared to the great big boulders Mayo have to lug around now after their second humiliation in three years on the greatest stage of all. Mickey can whine all he likes about what he did being good enough for other counties – the fact is that the Mayo have often been as far as Mickey brought them in recent years and what they needed was someone to kick them over the finish line. Not only did Moran and Morrison fail in that, they may have done more harm than good in psychological terms. After the last humiliation, Mayo might react as Pavlov’s dog in late September, and it will take no small amount of conditioning to change that.

The most telling quote of just how out of their depth Moran and Morrison were was reported in the Irish Times of September 29th, 2006. It came, inevitably, from Morrison. "I learned a lot during the year and relished the opportunity to get involved with these players,” he told Gavin Cummiskey. In fact, I was honoured to be a part of the All-Ireland final day."

Honoured to be part of All-Ireland final day. Jimmy Nallen, David Brady, David Heaney, Ciarán McDonald and more have already had that honour, it was nothing new to them. That sentiment would mean the world to Cavan, say, that great and fallen football power, but to the people of Mayo, it rings hollow and eloquently displays just how far out of their depth Moran and Morrison were. Mayo, God help us, now and forever.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Nasty Sty - That Other Corruption in Irish Public Life

The Star - more sewer than gutter journalismIs it just An Spailpín Fánach, or are other people becoming distressed and depressed with the shocking lack of standards in Irish media and Irish public life generally?

This hasn’t to do with money – I’m talking about old fashioned things like manners, respect for other people, for due process of law, for keeping a civil tongue in one’s head. Right now we don’t seem to know what is and what isn’t acceptable in public discourse and in our interaction with others.

The headline on this morning’s “Irish” Daily Star is “Stop this Bullshit.” The bullshit in question has to do with the Republic of Ireland soccer team, whose fans are, famously, de best in de wurrld. An Spailpín is generally grumpy in the morning; his humour is not improved by being sworn at in the newsagents, which is what this newspaper is doing this morning. It’s absolutely shocking that the Star would print this on their front page, it’s shocking that newsagents would stock it, to say nothing of display it, and it’s shocking that people are now so low and beastly that they would tolerate it. This is sewer, not gutter, "journalism."

A friend of An Spailpín, recently returned to Dublin, was on an escalator in the St Stephen’s Green shopping centre yesterday, Sunday morning. There was a child of ten or so on the step ahead of him. He had a patch on his jeans, which displayed a clenched fist with the middle finger extended in a familiar pose. In case a passer-by was unfamiliar with sign language, the legend under the patch spelled out its message – “Fuck you,” it said. Nice.

It’s hard to blame a child as children, by definition, know no better. But presumably this youth has at least one parent, or some sort of adult in a supervisory role, who thinks it’s ok for his or her child to wander about with “fuck you” emblazoned on his trousers. And if, as appears increasingly likely, there’s a whole tribe of them out there then God help us all.

It seems that the worst thing you can be accused of in Celtic Tiger Ireland is hypocrisy. We cannot tell young people not to swear because we swear ourselves; to forbid the young people to swear would make us hypocrites. To disallow Ger Colleran to print the world “bullshit” on the front of his newspaper is hypocritical, as “bullshit” was exactly the way the game was being described in the pubs of Ireland on Saturday night. To disallow Mr Colleran the full richness of the language would not only be an act of hypocrisy but an act of censorship, something else we abhor.

Hypocrisy is not a noble character trait. As a virtue, it pales besides being charitable or good natured or delivering soup to the wretched of the Earth. But there are worse traits. Demagoguery comes to mind. Poor parenting. Ignorant behaviour. Just plain bad manners, showing an utter disrespect for your fellow man come to mind. Maybe as nation we ought to make a decision on which we consider the lesser of two strains of bullshit, before we’re overcome by the stench arising from wallowing in foulness.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Eddy Merckx Interview

Marvellous interview with the great Eddy Merckx in this morning's Telegraph.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Monday, October 02, 2006

Guinness, Grooming and Gestalt in Twenty-First Century Dublin

Ceann an CarriaIt seems that one Ben Fenton was visiting Dublin last weekend, and is this morning reporting his impressions of the capital of the Irish nation to the readers of the Daily Telegraph.

It seems that Mr Fenton’s curiosity was piqued by a report that claims the Irish aren’t drinking as much as they did. Happily, the result of Mr Fenton’s investigation is that the Mick puts away just as much porter as he ever did. In fact, you can damn near smell the hops in Fenton's copy, rich as it is in local colour, featuring, as it does, whiskery bucks, half-filled pints of stout, drunks hunched over drinks roaring at each other and a mysterious “mud-spattered Toyota,” which seems to be on loan from an old re-run of Garda Patrol, circa 1982.

That said, An Spailpín Fánach can’t help but think that Mr Fenton missed an important detail in his tour of weekend Dublin, that has to do more with Dubliners themselves than what they’re throwing back.

Last Friday night, for instance, An Spailpín Fánach was taking a few sociables in the Stag’s Head, that well known Dublin hostelry that went for such big money not so long ago. Having taken his initial quart or so, your faithful correspondent descended into the lower parts of the bar, where lower deeds occur. It was time to part company with some of that booze, and shed a tear for Parnell and the Fenian Dead.

There’s not a lot a gentlemen can do once the process of teaming the spuds has begun. The floodgates cannot be closed until the tide has abated, as it were. Although it is considered highly irregular, An Spailpín keeps a discrete but wary eye on his fellow patrons while attending the porcelain – a man is always exposed in these circumstances, and he can’t be too careful. To the left of your constant narrator, there was a young man, a student I would assume, with long hair that looked a little like that of a Rolling Stone about the time the wrinkly rockers recorded Waiting on a Friend in the last seventies. Having successfully replenished the Liffey, the young man looked in the mirror above the porcelain, ran some thoughtful fingers through his hair, and remarked, to his reflection, I suppose, “my hair is just uncontrollable.”

My hair is just uncontrollable. Take up your copy of Dead as Doornails, by Anthony Cronin, his famous memoir of drunken literary Dublin of the 1950s, and see if you can find the bit where Brendan Behan asks Paddy Kavanagh, home from a Olympian session of porter, whiskey, gin and petrol, if his bum looked big in this. Read Lady Gregory’s Gods and Fighting Men, and see if you can find the bit where, after Cú Chulainn smears his chin with blackberries so the men of Connacht will consider him old enough to fight, the Hound of Ulster then books himself an appointment to have his back waxed? I don’t think you’ll bloody find it, you know.

It’s no wonder we’re losing the run of ourselves as a nation if all we’re worried about our hair being uncontrollable. Maybe that gasúr ought to cut the damn stuff, and solve it that way? It behoves a man to be practical in matters of grooming. If a man is on the session, he should concentrate on his booze, and leave worrying about his hair to his needlepoint classes. Besides, if friend student was so concerned about grooming – shouldn’t he have washed his hands before running his fingers through his troublesome thatch?

Technorati Tags: , , ,