Monday 29 March 2010

Two for the Price of None, as Chapter 3, 'Getting Galwayed' wins the day!

Appearing today, as voted for by you, not one but two excerpts from chapter 3 of 'Do I Love Ireland?', the compilation book of my newspaper column, 'Double Vision'.

Yes two for the price of none at all! That's what this colyoom is giving you, my loyal colyoomistas, for taking part in the voting and sharing your thoughts. As ever, the craic will out, and you all want more tales of Galway woe.

For those sticklers among you who need to know, the scores on the doors, please, Anthea!

1st: Chapter 3 - Getting Galwayed.
2nd: Chapter 5 - Balls and No Problem - the Irish Attitude to service.
3rd: Chapter 8 - Brown envelopes, Bertie and old beef.
4th: Chapter 4 - What exactly is an Atheist-Panthiest Jew?
5th: Chapter 11 - Festivals and other frivolities.

Thanks to the Whispering Giant, whose vote/comment inspired me to pick the first clip below. The second one picked itself, for obvious reason.

Hope these 2 make you smile, and some of you squirm in your seats. There's more from the 2nd placed Chapter 5, Balls and No Problem - the Irish Attitude to service, on the colyoom directly below this one

Now on with the show.

July 2001.
Hey, you, leave my memory alone!

‘Everyone deserves a Galway memory!’ claims the latest radio ad.
Explains a lot.
How many of you Galwegians have sat in the bright harsh light of the morning after and complained that you’ve lost your memory?
There are hordes of ye out there, drinking coffee in the kitchens of Shantalla, lying sprawled on the sofas of Knocknacarra, straining your necks down the toilets of Newcastle, desperately trying to remember what the hell you did last night.
You sad memory-theft victims suffer the embarrassment of having to ask
“Was I bad?”, as well as the legendary “Who was she?” and that old classic, “How on earth did I get home in that state?”
This colyoom can now reveal where your memories have gone.
The tourists are robbing them. It said so on the radio: ‘Everyone deserves a Galway memory!’
I'm sure they do, but there’s only so many to go around.
What could possibly be more private and personal than the process of recall, so give us back our experiences, ye shifty holidaying bunch of tea leaves.
We’ve all heard the stories.
“Well, I met this gorgeous French geezer, and then it all goes a bit blurry!”
“I can’t remember a thing after I started chatting to that Yank bird.”
Hmm, methinks another Galway memory nicked by a passing Dub; purloined by a touring pack of Americans; lifted by Franz from Mainz; all taken without permission, back whence they came.
Our only consolation for such vile robbery is the knowledge that at some point down the road, they are going to awake with a Galwegian’s memory kicking around their mind.
Let’s spare a moment for the ultra-swish Parisian accountant, staring out of the window of his minimalist Montmartre loft, wondering what hon hearth means ziss bizarre memory of ‘sheefting a bird in Central Park nahhrtclub?’
Pity the poor 53 year-old Christian fundamentalist from Cookieville, Ohio, who came to Ireland to find her roots and buy Aran sweaters for all 15 of her nieces.
Now back home at a PTA cookout she suddenly ‘remembers’ taking Ecstasy, dancing in Salthill Park through the night and making Lesbian love to a 20 year-old aerobics instructor in Bearna Woods at dawn.
Maybe everyone does deserve a Galway memory. But you can’t go nicking ours.

...and inevitably, just because I know you want it, and yes, sometimes you do get what you want!

July 2009.
Oh yes, you know when you’ve been Galwayed!

I’ve been Galwayed. Galwayed good and proper, that’s what I am right now. I had a double, a double Galway: that’s city and county.
If I’d mixed the county after the city, I might not be feeling so bewildered and crap.
But I didn’t.
So I do.
My head is crushed, my thoughts spinning in negative spirals that I know well to leave alone. This is not about a hangover. Being Galwayed is a combination of sleep deprivation, over-consumption, over-stimulation of sensory experience and a glut of social auld bollox that seems substantial at the time, yet dies into ephemera with the first snore of the semi-comatose night.
Coming or going are concepts you abandon when being truly Galwayed.
As I write this I know that it’s Monday, but it could be Saturday, Flipday or tomorrow.
I’m going to pin the guilt for the whole sad and wonderful day on the sun, which rises so early and sets so late over Galway at this time of year, you wake up three hours before you’ve gone to sleep.
So yesterday, Sunday morning, at 5am, I open my eyes, go for the middle-aged peeper, and realise to my horror that I am quite awake.
I also notice that herself the Snapper is not yet home. A text tells the tale of a well-earned glass or two after a hard night’s work which led to a party, and who could blame her?
I go back to bed but I’m half thinking about herself getting home safely, and half thinking about how that’ll be fine, and half thinking about the blue sky and sunshine and how you can’t have three halves.
So I get up at silly o’clock on a Sunday, and walk the causeway to Mutton Island under blue skies before the shops are open, wondering how to fill my day off. Even when you work for yourself, you have to have days off, where sloth is no crime.
But today is a day for action. Firing up Shaaanny car, I do what I do most naturally, and head west, excited at the prospect of the very early very empty road to Clifden.
Connemara looks jaw-droppingly beautiful as piercing summer sunshine is hidden and released by towering tumultuous storm clouds. The Maamturk Mountains themselves appear to move, as vast black shadows travel at speed across them.
Speeding along but less stunning, your scribbler arrives in Clifden at 10:15, and takes a most excellent breakfast in the Off The Square Restaurant. Great service, fab food, followed by a stroll down to the bridge on the Ballyconneely road, to watch the river cascade a while and build a thirst.
All the serious pubs are shut.
Himself the Goat is not responding to texts, and why would he?
What am I doing in Clifden so bloomin’ early on a Sunday?
Well, now what?
Back in Shaaanny, to drive at a more leisurely pace back to Galway. I pick up a hitcher in Oughterrard. We chat and laugh and then I’m back, aimless and hyper in Rahoon (never a good combination). I call round to Angel, but he’s not about, and Soldier Boy has been out since yesterday fortnight, so I’ll leave him be.
I go home and see the curtains upstairs still drawn. I sit and try to read the Sunday papers but no, not for me, not today. Something is eating me up, so I drive into town not knowing if I really even want to go into town.
Instead of parking in the Claddagh, I drive down Henry Street and for some reason decide to pointlessly pootle in circles around the town centre.
Sitting alone outside Neactain's, watching Sunday strangers throng with cameras, up pops the Artist Formerly Known As Snarly. Off to the Quays, where we talk of religion, fly fishing and zombies in dreams.
Then I wander up to God knows where looking for the Devil knows who, and stumble into Dalooney outside Tigh Coilis, who persuades me to have a pint. Half of me is still in Connemara, half of me still on the road, half of me in bed asleep and the other half suddenly holding a pint that somehow makes sense in a world with too many damnable halves in it.
But I’m driving and have to call it a day, so I walk over the bridge and bump into The Waistcoat, who thrusts a can of Apples into my hand, and feeling bad and reckless and boring and mediocre I sit and chat as we reminisce of 80’s London and great travels and watch the river flow past.
Then, knowing that this is one of only 3 occasions in my long life when I have driven whilst possibly over the limit, I drop the car back to Salthill.
The bedroom curtains are still closed, so I go into the house, have a blissful peeper, and head off, again, into the city, feeling like Martin Sheen going into the jungle in ‘Apocalypse Now’.
Deadly black clouds are hanging huge and low. Me no walky, no be soaky.
Get a bus? But no, there’ll be an age to wait and look at that cloud and ennyhoodyhoo, why are you going in when you haven’t any money you fool and look -yahoo! -there’s a bus!
‘Tis meant to be. ‘Tis written.
Quay Street again, where first I gorge myself on piping hot salty vinegary potatoey heavenly chips from McDonaghs, and then head back towards the motley crew of eccentrics, musicians and gobshites (myself included) hanging outside Tigh Coilis. Dalooney and the Waistcoat show great generosity with the drink, and I know I’m being Galwayed, but I don’t care, because at that moment you care about neither future happiness nor past pain.
The Snapper texts to say she is coming into town to pick up her car, left in town the night before, and would I like a lift home?
Finding myself incapable of texting properly, I realise that thanks to the beauty of Connemara and the kindness of friends, I have managed to make it through this strange day. Hallelujah! Now I must indeed go home.
Later, despite being wrapped entirely in the synthetic warmth of the Chelsea blanket, herself trembles and shivers on the sofa, while I sit mouth agape, dribbling staring unblinking at a procession of godawful Sunday evening white chocolate TV dramas.
We know.
Oh yes. We know we’ve been Galwayed.

... and in second place... Chapter 5 of ‘Do I Love Ireland? “Balls and No Problem - the Irish attitude to service”, so here are 2 bonus clips!

"Balls and No problem - The Irish attitude to service" came in a close second, with Chapter 8, "Brown envelopes, Bertie and old beef" just behind in third.

This chapter is a strange mix of sporting ball-inspired nonsense and musings on wonderful and terrible service.
Thanks for your votes, my loyal colyoomistas. I hope you enjoy these excerpts.

October 2006.
It was fresh when it was squeezed.

The inside of my mouth feels as if I slept with it stuffed by a Sumo wrestler's used nappy, so alongside my breakfast I decide to treat myself to a freshly-squeezed orange juice, which comes in at a natty €2.95.
The waitress brings my tea, but fails to notice that there is no milk jug on my table. I am loathe to make any unnecessary contact with her, as she has glowered and scowled at me already, so I wait until she goes to the kitchen and then nip over to another table to nick one.
She returns with my toast, as advertised, which turns out not to be toast at all, but slightly heated slices of stale sourdough bread, cut into small pieces, doubtless left over from last night's dinner menu.
Ho hum. Isn't it great to be out for brekkie? I refuse to have the simple pleasure of my treat diminished by getting down over scanty detail.
A few minutes later, staring down at my breakfast, I wonder how so many ingredients listed on the menu can take up so little room on the plate. The only item that seems to occupy a large portion of china is the potato cake, from which is spilling a grease slick that you could probably see from space.
I listen eagerly to the radio news to find out if Greenpeace are sending an emergency team to deal with this local ecological crisis.
No matter. Tra la la, be not grumpy. After all, I am not cooking this food, not washing these dishes, and that is something to be grateful for.
Aha, and here comes my freshly-squeezed orange juice.
Sadly, there is no ignoring the fact that looks completely the wrong colour.
It is not the orange of an orange. It is not the orange of concentrated orange juice. It is not even, god save us, the orange of a reconstituted frozen concentrated orange juice.
In fact, it looks like a urine specimen taken from someone who has been on the red lemonade for far too long.
One sip is gingerly taken and yes, it tastes just as ghastly as it looks. There is neither the merest hint of 'orange' nor 'fresh' about it, but what to do? After all, I do not want to give out to my waitress, who inevitably is not responsible for brewing this vile poison.
To be fair to her, I don't need to say a word. Perchance she is made aware of my discomfort by my non-verbal communication, which consists of a splendid one-man matinée performance, stretching the boundaries of acceptable facial expression.
“Is there a problem?” she asks, and a shiver of fear runs down my spine. Goose pimples rise all over my skin, as I dare to meet her steely impatient eyes.
“Is this really freshly-squeezed?” I offer timidly.
“It was freshly-squeezed last night!” comes the reply, which is so brilliant, original, imaginative and mind-boggling, that I merely nod, and replace my drink on the table.
The thought of that rank old juice sitting in a hot kitchen for hours on end repulses me, but I am not about to climb into the ring for a heavyweight bout with my waitress, because if she cannot see the crassness of her words, I am not going to be the lucky winner to educate her.
In fact, I manage to remain un-grumpy throughout, mostly because I keep running what she said through my mind, over and over in a loop, the cumulative effect of which is to make me smile, then chuckle to myself, then to beam happily and face the day with joy in my heart.


Many years before he became the national Irish football team manager, this colyoom had spotted yer man Trap’s natural talent:

June 2007.
Trap’s a one for the words.

Giovanni Trapattoni, who I strongly suspect might be Italian, is the coach of Austrian soccer champions, Red Bull Salzburg.
Showing a poetic talent that, despite his managerial achievements, suggests he might well have followed the wrong career, Snr. Trapattoni let rip at a bunch of German journalists who were criticising his fitness coach, Fausto Rossi.
“Our training is strong. Is modern. Training wins also. I have 21 trophies. There is blah, blah, blah from you. Fools write who know nothing. Blah, blah, blah, blah. I can understand people paying. No problema! Let whistle, is right. Have lost. But run 90 minutes! I am a professional when it comes to psychology. We train, make fitness. You people always make qua, qua, qua! Shit fools!”
Very well said sir! I speak no Italian and only a little German, but reading that just makes me want to learn both

Sunday 28 March 2010

Look out - Depression is the new Swine Flu!

After the last colyoom about how fluffy life is in Galway, what with us not knowing what day it is and everything, I started to feel uneasy.

As the votes continue to fly in for an excerpt of the ‘Getting Galwayed’ chapter of my new book, ‘Do I Love Ireland’, I realised that were I to post a 'funny guffaw ha ha' clip from that chapter, it would simply perpetuate the image of Galway that this colyoom has been indulging in for many years.

Yes, Galway is a great place where you can make friends easily. You can find company to get drunk with any day of the year if that is what you want, and even, as in the colyoom below, end up collectively unsure which day of the week it is, and not caring.

Oh ha ha.

Truth is, I rarely if ever drink any more, and on that very afternoon I wrote about in the previous colyoom, I completed three lengthy talks with very different and most excellent friends of mine, all of whom were under the cosh of depression. By the end of the week I had listened to and tried to support 4 depressed friends in total, and another two who didn’t have depression but were suffering terminal cases of the blues.

It’s facile to think that this recession causes depression simply by making people broke. There are an infinite number of recession-induced pressures that contribute to either a spell of depression or feeling down.

Couples where both people earned suddenly become relationships where one earns and the other is lost in status, role and self-esteem. People become lonely because they cannot afford to go out, especially in rural Ireland, where going out invariably means going to the pub.

Point is, I felt fraudulent by making light of the dark and heavy loads presently being carried by my fellow Galwegians, and myself. We are living in depressed times and it is hard to shake a tail feather of joy and exuberance without attracting a begrudging or bemused stare.

So in solidarity with those friends and all you strangers who are living with depression right now, I’m going to break my own rules. That’s the great thing about making up rules; you can break them and nobody can say ‘pooey!’.

Tomorrow, as promised, an excerpt will appear from the chapter most-voted for in the poll 2 colyooms below (get your votes in today - last chance!). But now, as if in defiance of all your votes, my beloved colyoomistas, I am going to print a clip from a chapter that not one single person voted for -

Chapter 10 - My body, blue bag and black dog’, they being topics that each in turn relate to my lardy belly, my hitching spirit of adventure and my depressions, as they appear to me.

So, rather like depression, in that you didn’t ask for it, almost certainly can live without it, but are getting it anyway, and in support of all of you out there living with the burden of your own black dogs, this colyoom offers something that ain’t funny, ain’t light but is truly real and relevant. Thankfully, Irish attitudes to mental illness have moved on since this colyoom was written.

November 2000.
I’m possessed buy an invisible malevolent twin!

Rather than accepting it as an illness like the ‘flu, Irish people are terrified of talking about depression. I feel no stigma whatsoever in saying I live with depression, (preferable to admitting I suffer from depression), but whenever I mention the illness, my Irish friends seek to console me by saying that they’ve been down in the dumps too.
Despite their best intentions, all they are doing is showing that they don’t understand what I’m talking about. Depression has nothing whatsoever to do with being down in the dumps.
We all have rough periods, when personal and professional trauma hit, and we stumble on our journey through life, taking shelter in sadness and grief.
But depression, or at least my own depression, arrives as an uninvited guest, out of the blue.
It can visit when absolutely everything in my life is rosy. I can be sitting on a cliff top, looking out over all the Arcadian splendour that the west of Ireland has to offer, thinking how lucky I am to have such wonderful friends, such a loving family, and the next instant I’m gripped by an all-encompassing empty melancholy that negates the meaning and purpose of life.
Many years back, I was walking up Lenaboy Avenue in Salthill when a supremely fierce depression hit me as a punch in the guts, actually forcing me to physically double up, as if to retch. There was nothing going on in my life to feel down about, but – Bam! - the darkness was upon me.
Over the years I’ve learned to live with these bouts. Indeed, as with many other creative genius types over the course of history, I’ve even come to understand that the relative loss of sanity is an intrinsic part of the artistic process. Periods of depression appear to me as a mental chicanes, times when everything seems exaggerated, distorted, squeezed into the wrong holes.
I know that on the other side of the depression there exists some kind of catharsis that will reveal to me the hidden process that my mind has been undergoing.
It’s like being possessed by an invisible malevolent twin, a persona that robs you of all your energy and self-confidence.
That’s the worst part of depression for me, the way it sucks my energy levels. Instead of powering up the Prom to Black Rock several times a week, I find a gentle stroll to town absolutely exhausting, and whoah, how I long to have that spring back in my step.
Of course this depression will pass, as have all the others, but my short patience is tested by the inability of my fellow Galwegians to understand that the illness even exists; that it is neither a self-indulgence, nor a reaction to things going wrong.
As I explained to my good friend The Body this week, normally I like my life and I like myself, but right now I have neither the positive thought nor the physical energy with which to trade as a human being in the outside world.
He dug deep into his humour bag, searching for appropriate wit and pathos.
“Sure, why would you feel self confident? What do you have to feel self-confident about?”
Of course, many of you reading this will live with depression too, so hey, you’re not weird ... well, even if you are, you’re in good company!

Thursday 25 March 2010

Every day in Galway is 'Bank Holiday Galway'!

The voting has been fast and furious in the last few days, and on Monday I'll be posting excerpts from the winning chapter (or 2) of my new book, 'Do I Love Ireland'. The chapter list is on the post below, so please keep on voting by comment.

In the meantime let me take you on a mental mission to a vision of Neactain's yesterday afternoon. My excellent friend and star of this colyoom, himself Yoda and myself were sitting outside in the sunshine, locked in fierce philosophical exchange about psychos and sociopaths, (like you do over a nice cup of coffee) when a man standing nearby asked us what day it was.

The woman by his side thought it was Tuesday.

Yoda suggested it was Wednesday.

I thought it might be Tuesday, but then I saw the light. It's Wednesday, definitely. Totally Wednesday, yep.

Yer man thanked us and went on his way, leaving me to wonder: in which other major world city could such a conversation take place between sober adults, without a single eyelid batted? We all kind of knew what day it was, but none of us was sure, yet nobody showed the slightest sliver of concern.

In other places they ask the time of day, nervous of late minutes and lost seconds, but in Galway, every day is Bank Holiday Galway.

3 days to go (but don't ask me which ones!) so vote with vigour, my loyal colyoomistas!

Monday 22 March 2010

Vote now for a sneak peak at 'Do I Love Ireland?'

As regular colyoomistas will already know, I've just finished a compilation of my newspaper column 'Double Vision's best bits, as published in the Galway City Tribune and Connacht Tribune between 1992-2009.

The book is filled with bite-size funny chunks, hearty meaningful morsels and full-on philosophical feasts and now you can grab a sneak preview by voting for one of the chapters listed below. Just add a comment on the blog, saying which chapter you want to see a clip from, and whether you're looking for a laugh or something more mentally challenging to chew on. Once there's enough votes, I'll post a couple of excerpts from the winning chapter, so ye all can have a gander, a giggle or a groan.
Ah go on, you will you will you will...

Here are the runners and riders:

(i) Foreword by Michael Glynn and Brendan Carroll,
Editors, Connacht Tribune Newspaper Group.

(ii) Introduction.

1 Little People, Co. Mayo and other natural wonders.

2 It wasn’t me mate - I wasn’t there! My part in the Famine and other atrocities.

3 Getting Galwayed!

4 What exactly is an Atheist-Pantheist Jew?

5 Balls and ‘No problem!’ - the Irish attitude to service.

6 Pootles and holidays from heaven or hell.

7 Life, Death and Connemara.

8 Brown envelopes, Bertie and old beef.

9 Neutrality and naivety: How the Irish survived Dubya.

10 My body, blue bag and black dog.

11 Festivals and other frivolities.

12 How do I love Ireland? Let me count the ways ...

So there you have them, and now... the choice is yours. Hype shmipe baby, show me your clickers. Let me see inside your psyches, my colyoomistas ...

Either I'm insane, or my phone is possessed, and that's not a pretty choice!

Wondering how long it was until my holiday, I scrolled down through the weeks on my mobile (cell) phone’s calendar.

Oh look - There’s a reminder for something on Tuesday April 6th! What was that about? I couldn’t remember making any appointments around then.
Opening up the reminder, I was confronted by the following:

14.00: Time to clean my guns.

At first I thought it was simply a prank, and immediately called a couple of likely suspects, who might have thought it funny to mess with my mobile phone, but none were guilty. So what the hell is it all about, and where did this message come from?

Surely the calendar/reminder function is not part of an online network? So nobody could dive in from cyberspace and go fishing with my paranoia.

Somebody had to physically write it in there, but who?
Was it me?
Have I finally driven past the last exit on the Sanity Superhighway?
Am I now reminding myself to do things that I will never need to do?
Is there an evil twin lurking in my head who knows that in fact I actually do have guns, and that they will need cleaning around that time?
Is my phone possessed by the spirit of a Libertarian nutter?

If I do have guns, I’d much prefer to know about them.
Especially if they are dirty and in need of a polish.

Colyoomistas, I am disturbed and confused. Yes, I know there’s nothing particularly newsworthy about either of those revelations, but this little conundrum is upsetting my brainbox, so suggestions of the helpful kind are most welcome.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

In the wake of the quake - Dalooney's on the ground (but thankfully not in it) in Chile.

Regular colyoomistas will be familiar with Dalooney, the Cork Cowboy and my most excellent friend.
By means of reaching out to him and his Chilean girlfriend, below Double Vision runs the alarming and gripping email he sent from Chile, after I and many others had tried to contact him. Thankfully, he's alive, but hey buddy, when you're safe back home in Santiago, maybe you could leave a comment on the blog, telling me you're okay and suitably furious about my posting your private email on the internet for the world to see.
Sorry mate, it was just great reportage. Couldn't resist it.
Vot can I say?

email runs:
All grand ... Quite a f%$king sight to see the highway disappear before your very eyes tho...
We were travelling by bus(about 100km from epicentre) when it began to veer wildly between lanes. Thanks be to Jaysus our driver managed to stop about 200m from a bridge that had just collapsed.
No water,electricity etc. in most places. Managed to score a packet of crackers and some fruit this morning. Wahoo!
Hope to be back in Santiago Wednesday.
All in one piece. Be in touch soon
Simoncito x

Boy was I pleased to get that. The west of Ireland scores wind and rain and a bit of snow and more wind and rain and a bit of sun. We have floods and rare droughts, mudslides and frosts, but the ground tends to stay still beneath our feet. During my 4 years living in northern California, this paranoid fool worried each and every single day that the Big One might be about to rip.
Love that Connemara granite.