Friday 25 June 2010

I love England, but I’m a little scared of Inger-laaaand!

Your colyoomist’s journey into midsummer mayhem continues, as tomorrow I head for London, where I will bounce around like a fart in a Dyson for a few days, driving, bussing, tubing and doubtless sweating profusely.

After landing in Luton I’ll plunge southward to a fiftieth birthday party in deepest SW18. Having drunk way too much in the company of lifelong friends and laughed as much as a man can bear, I’ll fail to sleep on a floor somewhere and rise early, feeling shite, in 30° of city heat.

Stiffening my upper lip I’ll drag my sorry and voluptuous arse north across the vast city of my birth once more, once more unto the roots, to pick up my Mum and head for the Northern Prairies of NW3, to my brother’s for tea (and to sit in front of the tele, dry-mouthed in anticipation of the Germany-England match). 

Oh yeh. Somewhere along the line I’ll also check into a hotel and pick up a rental car. Mustn’t forget those bits.

Oh man, I can feel the heat. London at 28° feels like 35°, and at 30°, stuck on a tube, it feels like your face is pressed deep into a Turkish wrestler’s armpit.

Yes, I’ll be in London, but I won’t be in England. Ever since the final whistles blew in South Africa on Wednesday night, when we learned we’d be meeting Germany in the Round of 16 in the World Cup, green and pleasant England became Inger-laaaand.

England has its faults, but Inger-laaaand is just plain scary, and I’m saying that as a paid-up member of the population. Even though I don’t live in England, I still dwell in the land of Inger, where red crosses slash white flags and stomachs tremble in the face of the German foe. We Ingers forget that we’ve often and recently beaten the Germans in tournaments before, disguising our fear of a team we feel (but can never openly admit) is naturally better than ours by puffing out our chests, regressing to become lagered-up monosyllabic morons. We say we’ll win, so that when we lose we can feel unutterably crushed and hard-done by; it was the pitch; the ball; fire the coach.

So far it’s been a great World Cup. The football’s been shite, but the politics have been most amusing. Neither of the last World Cup finalists made it out of the group stage: the French failed miserably, mainly because their players went on strike because they hated their terrible manager, who was under the impression that he was brilliant, while the Italians went home because their excellent manager decided he was terrible. The soccer minnows of North Korea, Japan, USA and New Zealand have done really well, while the overpaid divas of Western Europe have fallen foul and failed.

Now, in anticipation of Sunday’s crunch knockout game against Germany and in tribute to Nick Hornby, here’s my ...

Top 5 World Cup Moments I Would Happily Die Without Ever Seeing Or Hearing About Ever Again Ever Ever.

5) 1966 and all that: Kenneth Wolstenholme's “They think it’s all over ... it is now!”, along with any mention of, or the merest clip of how England won the World Cup in 1966. It’s just plain embarrassing at this stage of things.

4) Diego Maradonna’s ‘Hand of God’: Yes he scored with his hand, as would any player in the world who thought he might get away with it. Oh, and after that, in the same game, he scored what I consider to be the best goal of all time. But oh no, to the Ingerlish he’s a dirty cheat.

3) Gazza’s Tears: Why do we adore failure so much? The boy genius got himself booked too many times and realised he’d miss the next game. He blubbed, We all blubbed, because we knew we’d lose without him, which we did. If only Gazza could have behaved a little better ... oh what am I saying? Also banned from ever appearing again is the bit in this scene where Gary Lineker, looking less like a centre forward and more like a gay governess, tells the England hierarchy to have a little chat with the lachrymose Geordie lad later. Spare us please.

2) Thierry Henry’s handball: This makes the list despite the fact that it happened in the qualifying group games, because the Irish are as bad as the English at letting bad stuff go. Anyone who watches football regularly knows this stuff goes on in every game (see #4 Hand of God), and yet the Irish are still griping. To listen to them you’d think Henry had wrenched the World Cup Trophy itself out of a damp Celtic palm. In reality, the dodgy goal meant the game didn’t go to extra time, and potential penalties. Le boo hoo.

1) Penalty shoot outs, the losing thereof by old England teams: I’d die happy if I never saw footage of Chris Waddle, Barry Twaddle, Gareth Southgate, Billy Bathgate, Stuart Pierce and Pierced Stewart missing their vital final penalties through the ages, again and again. Do you try to dig your poo out of the loo after you’ve flushed it? No? Well, let’s move on.

Monday 21 June 2010

Am I a rotten apple or an old fart who just can't take it any more?

Is it really 2 weeks since my last post?  I feel like I've had 2 hours sleep in that time, and am incapable of thinking straight, bendy curvy, up the wall or around the bend. People coming and going, my house a hotel full of dear wonderful friends and loved ones, staying for a week, a day or passing through, up until dawn night after night.... time to flee to Connemara and hopefully when I return I might have something worth saying.

Head like lead, lungs of pain, eyes squinting in the morning sunshine and I am sooooo too old for this malarkey... but the Snapper has finally turned 40, the lengthy celebrations are gradually coming to an end and do I feel my extra decade? Like the ripened apple feels the ground as it falls from a great height.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Never get sucked into the Middle Eastern ulcer!

Now that Gaza and Israel are back on the news, the time has come to reflect on a piece I wrote in January 2009. It appears in my forthcoming book, 'Do I Love Ireland?', in chapter 4, which is entitled: 'What exactly is an Atheist-Pantheist Jew?'.

As far as the rights and wrongs of the present scenario go, of course the blockade has to go, but equally, if Gaza has free and open trade with the entire outside world, it is disingenuous to suggest that there will not be more suicide bombings and rocket attacks launched against Israel.

Not every Israeli is a nutty extremist settler. Many of my friends out there are secular caring humanitarian Israelis. Equally, not every 'activist' on board those ships was entirely peace-loving. Some had suspect agendas that were nothing to do with peace and humanitarian aid.

But really, if I was on board a ship and a bunch of heavily-armed commandos were sliding down ropes towards me, I think I might just reach for the nearest available metal bar/weapon/anything and fight back.

Anyway, my point as made below is that there is no truth to be found on either side of this sad conflict.

Roll clip......

Double Vision - January 2009.
Loss of innocent life is a crime no matter who does the killing.

I dread to think what might have happened or still be happening in Gaza by the time you read this, but oh, this hurts, in a supremely selfish and egocentric way.

Go Home. That’s what the racists always say, and the fact that I am an Atheist counts for nothing. You can philosophise all you like about whether being Jewish is a religious or racial matter, but I can tell you from the inside, that’s what I am: God or no God.
Besides which, cries of “I don’t believe in God!” would not have saved my life in Dachau.

For me it’s a matter or survival, that strongest and most basic of instincts. If countries choose to close their doors to fleeing Jews, as they did in the 1930’s, there’s only one place where I might go. Yet here I am, funky and free, grateful not to be Israeli.

To be Israeli is to live in constant fear of your life, your home and your children’s future; to live surrounded by nations sworn to your own nation’s destruction.
Since its inception in 1948, Israel has been invaded three times, and involved in five separate territorial wars, as well as the ongoing Intifada.

We interrupt this colyoom to bring you a news flash.
There have been heavy casualties in a fresh wave of missile attacks on Monaghan and Dundalk. As part of a sustained campaign that has lasted for several years now, the People’s Army for the Death and Destruction of Ireland (PADDI) have launched thousands of rockets from Armagh and Newry onto the cities of Monaghan and Dundalk. Today there were violent clashes on the streets of Dublin, as protesters demanded that the Irish government defend the nation. The Taioseach has to date refused to sanction any response to these missile attacks, claiming that to target the densely-populated civilian areas from where PADDI launch their rockets would be in contravention of the Geneva Convention, not to mention Irish neutrality.
Thousands of refugees have fled Dundalk and Monaghan, heading south.

And now, back to the colyoom.

Whatever happens, never get sucked into that Middle Eastern ulcer. You know the one, where Israel wouldn’t bomb the Palestinians if Hamas didn’t fire rockets, but they’re only firing rockets because the Israelis are blockading Gaza and making it impossible for Palestinians to go to their jobs in Israel, which is creating terrible poverty in Gaza, which wouldn’t be necessary if the Palestinians who worked in Israel didn’t bring with them suicide bombers who blew up innocent Israelis, but the suicide bombers wouldn’t want to blow themselves up if the Israelis weren’t living on Palestinian land in the first place, but the Israelis say they were there first and the Palestinians say they were there first and yes you did no I didn’t yes you did no I didn’t.

Stay away from that ulcer. That’s precisely the spiral of thinking that sends us into destructive despair and yet another war.

This colyoomist is not a monster who seeks to survive at the expense of others. My personal need for the State of Israel to exist in no way suggests that others should suffer. My freedom from persecution must not come at the expense of another’s.

This is where it really hurts.

My heart breaks when I see that monstrous wall on the West Bank.

I crumble inside when crazed Jewish settlers are interviewed once more on the TV news, as yet again the outside world will imagine the words of these nutters represents the thinking of Jewish people around the world.

My tears flow as I watch innocent blood spilt on the streets of Gaza. I feel shamed to my core that my own people could bring about such wanton destruction of human life. I loathe the way Israel closes the Palestinian universities, the way they impose embargoes and blockades, but then I remember.

I remember talking to my friend in Tel Aviv on the phone the night that a suicide bomber blew himself up in a pizza restaurant in Tel Aviv. I remember hearing the utter terror in her voice as she screamed and cut me off to call and make sure her daughter was still alive.
I remember that unlike Egypt, which after so many terrible wars sought peace and co-operation with Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah have no desire to negotiate for peace, as they are both sworn to the annihilation of Israel.
I remember that after Israel voluntarily withdrew their army barracks and settlements from Gaza in 2005, Hamas have launched over 7,000 rockets into Israel from Gaza.
I do not believe Hamas want their own people to suffer, but for the achievement of their ultimate aim it does them no harm to have a radicalised young population that has suffered terribly at the hands of the oppressor.

The Irish psyche is synaptically turbocharged to support any oppressed people, but in their rush to see justice done, the Irish do the truth a disservice.

It is crass to see Israel as baddies and Hamas as goodies. There are no goodies or baddies. There is only dreadful human tragedy, on all sides.
There is no moral high ground in this conflict, only terrible crimes of scale. All loss of innocent life is a crime against humanity.

I cry for each terrorised Palestinian.
I cry for each terrorised Israeli.

Think only of the people on all sides and humanity might have a chance.
No single human life is lesser or greater than another.

This Atheist prays for a free Israel, a free Palestine and lasting peace.