Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Being a good person.

Being a good person is not easy.  Being uncaring and forgetful might seem more convenient, but when one is a good person, consideration of the wants and needs of others is a mandatory life sentence and it proves to be harder than it seems.  The hardest part of being good, is that one's virtuousness is rarely appreciated.  It is either taken for granted and good people find themselves constantly getting called upon to do favours for others, or the virtuous person is perceived as being an interfering busy body who should really just tend to their own affairs.  But that's the best thing about good people, they are always good people, regardless of how others treat or view them.  Recently it was my neighbour's birthday, and even though I had no money to buy her a present, I thought it would be good to do something nice for her.  After all, that is what good people do for their nice neighbours.

She likes to get her hair done, but her current employment situation sadly means that she can't get it done as often as she'd like.  Fortunately for her I happen to own a comb and scissors.  I have no experience in cutting hair, but as I've had so many bad haircuts over the years, I had a fair idea of what not to do.  So using the best clip art the internet has to offer, I put together a special gift coupon for her and slipped it under her door.  Not only was it thoughtful and custom made, it was also waaay cheaper than buying a card.  And as I don't own a colour printer, being in black and white would give it instant classy tastefulness.  Good work!

A few days passed and she still hadn't taken me up on my offer.  After re-examining my handiwork, I realised that there was no way she could tell it was from me; any creepy weirdo could have slipped it under her door.  So to set her mind at ease I texted her saying: "Hey, how are you getting on, when are you coming round to get your hair done?"  Quite a while later she replied: "Thanks very much for your kind offer, but I'd rather not trouble you.  Hope you're keeping well."  I instantly got back to her with: "It's no trouble at all, this is what neighbours do for each other, right? ;P."  There was no reply to this, so I'm guessing that she underestimates my kindness, as well as my willingness to make tea and sweep up the cuttings afterwards.  It looks like the mountain will have to call round and cut Mohammad's hair.

It would be crass to turn up on someone's doorstep brandishing a scissors trying to foist a haircut upon them.  Being the good neighbour that I am, she gave me a spare key, should she ever find herself locked out.  This would really give my thoughtful present the edge it needs, the element of surprise!  Things didn't go as smoothly as I had planned.  Sure I got in to her flat, and then into her bedroom without waking her, but it wasn't long before it came apparent why hairdressers don't work on clients while they are lying down in the dark.  Holding my phone in my mouth as a hands-free illumination device, I did the best I could with the hair that was easy to get at, but when I tried to gently pry out the hair that was being slept on, she awoke suddenly and started flailing and screaming.  I wanted to calm her down, to explain exactly what was going on and why she was overreacting, that if she would just let me finish everything would be alright, but that would mean dropping my phone and I've cracked more screens that way.

So her haircut remains unfinished like the symphony it is and she asked me to return her spare key.  My landlord just texted saying he's on his way over as he wants talk to me.  I have no idea what this could be about, it's probably because he recognises what a good person I am that he feels he can talk to me about anything.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Enemy waters.

At some point in the last year I crossed the line from swimming for exercise to training.  It is impossible to pinpoint the exact moment when this happened, but it was set in motion when the Sandycove swimmers handed my ass to me this time last year.  It was a rude awakening that showed me that I was not the swimmer I thought I was, and that I really needed to up my game.  Before such a thing could happen, I'd have to find a scapegoat.  Fortunately for me, my afternoon swims in the Mardyke were always marred by slower swimmers getting into the lane with me and interrupting my session.  While a swimmer of my calibre is perfectly entitled to tell them to get the eff out of the fast lane and over to the medium lane where they belong, my good breeding and impeccable lane etiquette forbids me from doing such.  So even though it was all their fault, I would still have to change things up if I wanted to get ahead.  From what I'd heard, the only people who used the pool in the early morning sessions were the UCC swim team.  As it was summer holidays for the students, it would mean that I'd have the fast lane to myself if I came in for the early morning session.

Which I did, save for the half dozen or so triathletes who were bombing up and down the lane so hard that the water was boiling.  In an interesting twist of fate, I was suddenly the slow one in the fast lane.  This was offset by my excellent lane etiquette, but my session was every bit as stoppy starty as when I was trying to work around the slowies in the afternoon swims.  After a few sessions of trying to do my own thing and failing miserably, I realised there was no other option but to fall in behind them and try to keep up.  I had a few fears around this:  Would I be able to keep up?  Would I ever be accepted into their group as an equal?  Would chasing a stranger's toes for lengths on end lead to me developing a foot fetish?  Fearing rejection, I sneakily fell in at the back of the group and did my best to keep up.  Halfway through the set I was exhausted and crapped out.

The next session saw me crapping out after two thirds of the set which was a definite sign of progress, and I noticed that my shorts were creating a lot of drag, especially at the turns.  While this was a valid excuse as to why I was getting pantsed in the pool, shopping for Speedos was next on the agenda.  A remarkable invention, not only does it create a minimal amount of drag in the water, but it also has the unique ability to maintain one's decency while simultaneously removing one's dignity.  There are two key requirements to making them look good: having a male model physique and being hung, two boxes which remain unchecked in my case.  Cashing in my remaining dignity paid off as the next morning I managed to finish the set.  The set also managed to finish me, so when everyone else was doing a few hundred metres cool down, I was so wrecked that had I barely enough energy to pour myself out of the pool and lollop off to the changing area.  Progress!

So I decided I'd keep turning up until someone asked me not to, and as practice and persistence pay off, I kept getting better.  Not only that, but as two of the better swimmers in the group emigrated to Canada, and another could not train during the school year, the standard had dropped considerably.  What a stroke of luck, I was becoming a better swimmer in a worsening training pod!  Even though it was an informal session, it was still all about training - less talky-talky, more swimmy-swimmy, and one woman had taken it upon herself to keep things running like clockwork.  Not only could she dictate the set to a large group of swimmers without caring if she came across as bossy or controlling, she was also pretty damn fast.  Usually good swimmers can be spotted, as often the faster ones are taller than your average bear, with impressive shoulder-chest-waist ratios in the men and unusually square shoulders in the women.  She was on the shorter side of average height, with nothing impressive or unusual about her shoulders, just a lean, sinewy physique coupled with a lot of drive and speed.  Her tumbleturns showed that she was a runner who had gotten into triathlons rather than a swimmer, but she was still kicking seven shades of chlorine out of me.  Her drive, stamina, and overall steeliness made me question as to whether she was actually human and not some sort of triathlon terminator.

Persistence pays off, and using the Boss (as she is affectionately known) as a marker, I noticed that I was catching up bit by bit, and by December I was on a par with her.  Success!  As I was sick over Christmas, I missed out on a week of training and eating, and as a result lost some weight and tone over the holiday period.  This meant that on my first day back in January I felt the unwelcome wobble of bingo wing as I overarmed my way up and down the pool.  Christmas seemed to take its toll on the Boss too, as she had a few extra curves that weren't there previously.  I put this down to over indulging herself on turkey over the festive season - with its high protein to fat ratio, what serious athlete wouldn't?  Admittedly, it suited her and humanised her considerably.  Even though I was weaker and flabbier than I had been in December, I was still holding up well against her, so I took a bit of comfort from that.

After a couple of weeks training I started to firm up again, but in spite of keeping the same training schedule as me and doing the same sets, the Boss kept her turkey curves and was starting to fall behind me.  More and more often I was leading the sets, which was impressive progress considering I had started training with them six months ago.  Perhaps it's time to get a killer whale tattooed onto my back so that everyone will know that I'm the apex predator of this lane?  As the mornings got brighter the Boss was getting noticeably bumpier.  Christmas dinner was a distant memory and it was becoming apparent that there was a little boss on the way.  As it turns out, I only started catching up with her when she got pregnant, and any perceived progress on my part was her body slowing down to support the new life inside her.  So in my eyes, she was no longer a triathlon terminator, but human after all. 

This didn't last.  She has a job that requires a certain amount of travel, and these were the only times she'd miss training.  Getting flown around was out of the question for a woman in her condition, so over the course of her pregnancy she didn't miss a single session.  This meant that someone who couldn't walk up more than one flight of stairs without assistance was nailing three kilometres in the pool, three mornings a week.  One of her more recent checkups revealed higher levels of red blood cells, which meant that her plans of breeding a champion marathon runner were coming together nicely.  On Monday of last week she gave birth, having been training in the pool on the previous Friday.  From what I hear, mother and daughter are doing well, and nobody has any idea when she'll be back in the fast lane.  Until then I have my own things to take care of, first on the agenda is to find a decent therapist who will help me shake off this newly acquired foot fetish of mine.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bloggy O'Soul


Last Wednesday I decided that I wanted to go to the Body and Soul Festival that was on that weekend.  As I had no money and no ticket, deciding that I wanted to go was the best I could do.  I had enough money in the credit union to cover the cost of diesel to drive up and back.  After that I'd be stuck up in the midlands with no ticket, no money, and just enough diesel to drive back home again.  Also my rent was due, and I didn't even have enough money to cover that.  So maybe it would be a good idea to try to shneak into the festival and dodge my landlord for the weekend.  As a millennial, this means I have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement and an underdeveloped work ethic, so it would appear that someone owes me a free ride to Body and Soul.  I scrolled down through my phone book, skipping over all the invaluable music industry contacts I have built up over the years, and instead texted my eldest brother who works in an off-license in the barren wastelands of North Tipperary.  At some point on Thursday, weekend tickets sold out, so any chance of getting a spare off someone at discount or face value was going to be impossible.  Then at quarter past four on Friday evening my big brother phoned me to say that he had gotten two tickets from the Bulmer's rep, all I had to do was drive up and collect them at the gate.  Finally, all my hard work had paid off!


I would be staying in a friend's place just outside Mullingar, so camping or trying to sleep on a deflating mattress in the back of my van was out of the question.  He was currently in South Africa, but his landlady would be able to let me in.  So after some hurried shopping (four litres of bottled water, three rolls of camera film, and two packets of fig rolls) and an even more hurried packing, I pointed Greta in the direction of Dublin and sped off up the motorway.  She still overheated when been driven hard over long distances, and while jacking up the heating still kept the engine cool, the current heat wave meant that it felt like I was driving an oven.  So shortly after the toll booth on the M8, I pulled over to the hard shoulder and took off my trousers.  Extra special prayers to the almighty were put out that I wouldn't need to stop and ask for directions at any point, or that I wouldn't get pulled over by the Gardaí for any reason ("Could you show us your license and PLEASE keep your hands where we can see them").  The good news is that neither of these things happened, but the bad news is that driving sans pants is so bloody comfortable that I may never go back.  This could earn me a very interesting reputation when I start work placement in a school in September.

So I pulled up at the cottage outside Mullingar, whipped on my jeans, and stumbled out of the van fumbling with my belt and flies as the landlady came out to greet me.  She kept stables and explained that she was only just back herself, having been at the vet to pick up enough semen to cover a mare.  I know very little about horses, so to me it sounded like the mother and father of all money shots and not another term for AI.  So after a grand mug of tae and quick trip to the jacks, I was back in the van and heading to the festival.  There is a bizarre law of the lever logic with these excursions, as that I get closer to the destination (or fulcrum), the more effort is required on my part.  Initially this was apparent as I got to the last few miles leading up to Ballinlough Castle, whereby the magical combination of festival traffic, silage tractors, and cyclists on a narrow winding Westmeath road had brought things to a standstill.  The next bit was going to be even more tedious and problematic.  I had to pick up two tickets that were not in my name, nor were they in my brother's name (who at least shares my surname), but in an envelope marked Rob Bennett.  I have no idea who he is, I'm sure he's quite nice and all, but if problems should arise, I was to ring Edmund Flavin who would be able to sort all of this out.

As I quite accurately predicted, this did not go smoothly.  "I'm here to pick up two tickets, they are in the Bulmer's pile in an envelope marked Rob Bennett."  (Shuffles through a stack of envelopes for a minute or two) "Ah yeah, here it is, could I see some photo ID?  (Takes my passport)  You're not Rob Bennett?  I can't give these to you to you so."  "Well you see they were put aside for my brother, and I'm here to pick them up.  I was told to call Edmund Flavin if there was any problem."  "Who's Edmund Flavin?"  "I have no clue, but I have his number here, so let's see what he has to say."  So I got him on the phone, and after explaining to him that I was me and not my brother, I handed my mobile over to the man in the box office and watched him talk and talk and talk, while I stood there holding my breath with my fingers and toes crossed.  He handed the phone back to me just before my eyeballs burst out of their sockets.  "That's grand, just give me fifty euro and the tickets are yours."  I thought I was getting comps, so even though they were waaaay cheaper than what the plebs were paying for them, it was still beyond my budget.  He explained that there was some sort of charity tie in, that the money would be donated, and that the minimum donation per ticket was twenty five euro.  This would not be a good time to explain that I had no money and that my plan for the weekend was to use one ticket to get in, and then sell the other one so that I'd have walking around money.  As it was now sold out I could even have sold it at a sufficiently inflated price so that I could cover the rent that was due in Cork.  I explained that I only had twenty euro on me (the reality was that I only had twenty euro, but at a push I could have siphoned thirty euros worth of diesel out of my van).  He took the twenty euro and handed me the tickets.  "Will I come back to you with the remaining thirty?"  "You're grand, enjoy the weekend!"  So without further delay, I sold on the spare at the very fair price of one twenty, got my wristband, and I was in.

After having such a lovely jaunt at Electric Picnic on my own, this would be no different.  Anyone who has ever been to a music festival with a group of friends knows how torturous it is to get about, as a mini committee meeting is needed every step of the way.  "I want to go to the main stage", "I need a piss", "I want a burger", "I want a beer", "I need to get something from the campsite", "Hey look chairplanes, let's go on the chairplanes" and so on, and so on, ad nauseam.  Fortunately, as the world's most personable misanthrope I have a habit of bumping into someone I know every fifty yards or so, so loneliness would not be an issue.  My trusty companion for the festival would be my Minolta slr, and I was so intent on taking photos that I even brought along a bounce flash to show that I meant business.  So much so, that I'd barely gotten a few hearty strides inside the perimeter when an attractive girl ran towards me asking if I'd take her picture.  "Sure," I said and she waved her boyfriend over and struck a pose with him.  (Click/Flash.)  (Excitedly)"So what's it going to be in?"  "The shoebox in my flat where I keep my photos, why do you ask?"  As the realisation dawned on her that I was not an actual photographer who will catapult her to some level of fame, and just some guy fluting about with a camera, I wasn't sure whether to feel sorry for her or be slightly tickled that she was the victim of her own vanity.  The good news for her is that I have since acquired a scanner, so now she has some level of fame amongst the ten or so people that read this blog.

Again, there would be no gameplan, there was no one that I really wanted to see over the weekend, which meant lots of faffing about while drinking tea, which is not too far removed from what I normally do.  After a good hearty faff, I went in to Midnight Circus to check out Shane Linehan's set.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that we're friends, but we are well acquainted.  A few years back I designed a few posters for him, and once when I lost my car keys he had a guy who could jimmy the door, break the steering lock, and hot wire the ignition ready to come round within minutes (fortunately I managed to find the keys).  When I bumped into him outside South Infirmary in 2011, he said he had been messing around on Ableton for a few months and finally had made a track he was willing to self release on vinyl.  Not to be outdone in terms of ambitions, I revealed that someday I hoped to get my act together sufficiently and buy a van.  For all our crazy talk back then, Shane is now a record label boss and one of the more respected producers and DJs on the scene today, while I have my own van.  His set wasn't too deep with just the right amount of dirt, and it was a sheer joy to see someone I know rocking a big system at a festival.  My knowledge of house is fairly limited, but I did recognise a few of the tracks as I'd been listening to his mixes in the gym these last few months.  Unfortunately the day had been long and my body was tired, so I had to clock out early and leave his set behind.

All that was left to do was wander back to the car park, hop in my van, and drive back to Mullingar to kip down for the night.  I remembered walking through the campsite on the way in, so it would simply be a matter of following the line of tents and I'd find myself back at the main entrance.  I figured there can't be too many tents at a music festival, so there would be no chance of getting lost.  After half an hour of this, I thought it wise to go back the way I came and find a steward or someone who could point me in the right direction.  It was easily an hour later before I was back in my van.  Friday is done.


I got up late enough and had a decent feed of porridge and scrambled eggs for breakfast.  To get myself suitably intoxicated for the day ahead, I jogged out to Lough Ennell, then stood there for about 10-15 minutes with my hands on my hips panting loudly as I gazed upon the lake.  I gave it extra welly on the way back, hoping to build up sufficient runner's high for the rest of the day.  After a shower and a shave, I headed in to town to pick up a few bits and take a few snaps of the Joe Dolan statue.

It was only when I finished snapping (several pictures were taken from all angles, what you see above is the best of the best) that I noticed the ice-cream shop across the street, and how his right hand is just begging for a cone.  Unfortunately by the time I got served, the sun had gone in, and taking a picture of a statue holding an ice-cream cone while it's overcast makes no sense whatsoever.  So I was left with no other option than to eat it myself while tooling around town with my camera, before hopping into Greta and heading over to the festival.

One of the painful lessons from the Picnic was that festival tea is muck.  To get over this I brought in forty bags of Barry's Gold Blend with me so that no matter how deranged, depraved, or dehydrated I might get, I wouldn't have to resort to sub par tea.  Most of the vendors thought it strange ("You brought your own teabags to a music festival?!?!?"), but humoured me and only charged a token price for the hot water, milk, and cup.  To make sure I wasn't completely mad, I went to the one group of people who would definitely understand.  When I asked the girls at the Rebel Burger Company if they had Barry's Tea the response was "What d'ya expect, we're from Cork like!"  When I showed them my precautionary stash, it was met with nods of approval.  "First rule of travel: If you're going somewhere foreign, always bring Barry's Tea."  One of them then launched into a story about how a cousin of hers accidentally drank Bewley's at Electric Picnic and had to be rushed to hospital to get his stomach pumped.  At this point another one broke down into tears as a close relative of hers had a similar experience but wasn't so fortunate.

Back in 2011, I played at the festival.  It was a major coup at the time, but the real victory is getting called back to play again the following year, which didn't happen.  So I have gone down the slippery slope of being a DJ with festival experience, to being like that uncle who was in a band once.  Since it was looking unlikely that I would ever be asked to play at a major festival ever again, it was necessary that I take matters into my own hands.  So not only did I have a hefty stash of Barry's Gold Blend in my pocket, I also had a Sesame Street record player and a bunch of 45s in my backpack.  So when the time was right, I sat down in a quiet(-ish) spot in the Walled Garden and started playing.  My set lasted about an hour, there were considerable gaps between each of the songs, but I did manage to gather a small crowd, all of whom swore their lives had changed for the better as a result.  So when anyone asks if I DJed at any festivals this summer, I will nonchalantly reply how I did an intimate set of seven inches in the Walled Garden at Body and Soul.  It was really nice, so chilled, shame you missed it.

After I brought my records and player back to the van, I spent some time trying on different hoody and sports coat combinations until I finally found one that made it look like I didn't put too much effort into my look.  I then bumped into Ollie, an old buddy from college that I hadn't seen or spoke to in a good ten years.  Once upon a time we used to get tonicked up, turn off the lights, and play The Prodigy's "Electronic Punks" video from beginning to end several times over the course of a night, busting out the most bucked out shapes imaginable (it was our way of acknowledging that Leeroy Thornhill was the king of Prodigy dancing).  Many key anthropologists now believe that those VHS get downs we had in Corrib Village were the original precursor to the Youtube parties of today.  Even though it was the same video every time, which had to be rewound (and rewound, and rewound), the absence of ads or laggy connection meant that it was also vastly superior.  It was really nice to catch up with him, and when we went for pizza at the Big Blue Bus, a conglomerate of my favourite Cork DJs (only two of whom are actually from Cork) were lashing out the tunes.  It was one of those weirdly sentimental moments with the sun low in the sky, eating festival standard pizza and having the craic with a friend from the ever more distant past, with present day friends providing the sound track and shenanigans, while all sorts of everyone on all sorts of everything flowed around us.  Every now and then when one of my favourite tracks dropped I just got up and gave it socks with reckless abandon, and then seamlessly sat back down to pizza and chats and whatnot with Ollie.

Photo courtesy of Jackie Cawley
Later on in the night, I was wandering past Radioshack and was drawn in by Al Wilson's "The Snake" and was obliged by the immutable laws of the universe to pull out my best Northern Soul moves.  At the best of times, proper Northern Soul dancing requires a tight combination of well practised moves, athleticism, and amphetamines.  At that moment in time I had none of the above, was fairly knackered, and was wearing hiking boots.  Still, the immutable laws of the universe are there for a reason, and while it was not going to be pretty or well executed, it had to happen.  My energetic, spirited, and well-meaning moves lasted for about three songs, after which I was utterly crapped out but felt strangely liberated.  My mother always assured me that I was a great dancer, so I'm certain I was hardly the honkiest mofo on the dance flo'.  So if anyone out there has video footage of me and my moves that night, please feel free to keep it to yourself.  I then did a few more hours of meandering around the festival before deciding to call it a night.


I got up early on Sunday with the plan of touching in with some friends down by the Chakra teepees.  While everyone was having a good time overall, complaints about poor nights sleep, not having access to a proper jacks ("I haven't had a proper shit in three days", quote of the festival and best chat up line I've heard to date), and all the usual stuff that's part and parcel of a weekend like this.  Then everyone looked at me and said: "It must be alright for you, having the van to sleep in and all?"  I said it was, but what was even alrighter was having a flat to stay in for the weekend.  Porridge and scrambled eggs for breakfast, as well as having a proper shower and shave before I got in that morning really took the edge of things.  When their glowers started burning my skin, I hastily and tastefully started backpedaling.  "I say that I had a shower, but to be honest the water pressure wasn't THAT great".  Their glowering persisted so I shut up.

The light was good so I wandered off, shooting as many snaps as I could.  Local heroes "Sunday Times!" were playing at the Jook Joint at three, so I had a nice bit of time to go around supping tae and befuddling vendors until then.  The lads started off their set with some nice simmering jazz, and I found myself curling up on the grass and having a semi conscious doze as it washed over me.  As it worked its way up to midtempo house and boogie I came to, and sat up to find that I had gotten a wee bit sunburnt while I slept.  Hurrah, a proper festival credential!  As much as I was enjoying their set, I had it in my head that I wouldn't be staying much longer, and so went off for one last walk with my camera.  It had been a good festival experience and I didn't want to tear the arse out of it by staying too late, but still didn't want to leave too early for fear of missing something.

Once again, it was Radioshack that lured me in.  I could hear some wonderful Brazilian piano track winding its way out so I had to stop by for a listen.  A woman, probably about ten years older than me, was behind the decks, and she just kept racking up more and more beautiful music.  There was a good half hour of piano based Latin American grooves, before she worked her way into afrobeat, and then into soul, funk, and dub reggae.  There was nothing fancy about her mixing: no sharp cuts or complicated blends, but every segue was a perfect mini masterpiece, and all of her selections were seriously spot on.  I sat there transfixed for ages, occasionally breaking down into tears of joy at the sheer beauty of it all.  Al Wilson's "The Snake" popped its head up again, but I spared the world my moves this time.  When she finished up I thanked her for the set, told her that she made my weekend, and started heading towards the main entrance.  Now there was nothing left for me to do but get back to my van, drive to Cork, and hide from my landlord like it's an Olympic sport!

Huge thanks to my brother Ian O'Brien, Bulmers, Greta Greenbus, Claire Moloney, Gavin, Tanya, Kevin, and all the other pure sound folk that I spent time with that weekend.  It was wonderful!

(The rest of my photos can be seen here)

Monday, April 14, 2014

The educational adventures of ...

After spending a few months moping about having no job, no money, and no prospects for the future, I got an unexpected e-mail that threatened to change all that.  In their infinite wisdom, UCC decided to offer me a place on the Professional Masters of Education programme.  What this means is that I'll be doing Secondary School Teacher Training.  I never thought of any of my old teachers as being Professional Masters of Education, but then again, they qualified under the old system which was the H-Dip (the new PME is like the Dip on steroids, or maybe just the Dip with jumped up notions about itself).  So if everything goes well, in two years time I could be an actual grown-up with an actual qualification looking for an actual job, which is easily the most outlandish statement I have made to date.

I always thought I would make a good teacher.  This was because I was focusing on the three Cs of  corduroy, crosswords, and cups of tea while ignoring the teaching part.  One conversation with a former teacher revealed that eighty per cent of classroom time was dedicated to discipline, and she seemed to imply that the other twenty per cent was devoted to education without any mention of the three Cs.  What can I do if the students don't respect me?  One thing that I have learned from my life experience (and the father in Everybody Hates Chris), is that people will either respect you or they won't, that it has to be earned, and that if someone chooses not to respect you, then there is little you can do to change that.  A sobering thought for anyone about to face a room full of adolescents who will make it their mission to bring you to the point of mental breakdown.

Fortunately, while there is the priceless firsthand education that one gets from life itself, there is also the more dispensable and often pointless education that one gets as part of an Arts degree.  If there is one thing I have learned from Psychological Studies (the poor man's psychology), it is that fear is more easily instilled in groups of people than respect is cultivated.  The Christian Brothers favoured the classical conditioning approach of finding the mouthiest student on day one of first year, and beat him to within an inch of his life.  They would then sit back and enjoy the silence from there on in, and would only beat the students for their own amusement.  As corporal punishment is now considered physical abuse and has been outlawed, other methodologies will have to be employed to reach the desired outcome.

So the plan is to generate a decent backstory.  No one in their right mind would respect or fear an out of work DJ with no marketable skills who has resorted to teaching.  As I'm now in my thirties, it is reasonably plausible that I was doing something else for my twenties, when in fact I was doing nothing.  As I'm tall, freckled, and a bit of a culchie, it wouldn't be beyond belief that I was once a Garda.  Right now you're thinking "Ha!  Young people don't respect the Gardaí, especially not the failed kind who become teachers!"  Picture this: What about a solid police officer, who one day discovers that his partner (and best friend) is corrupt and had been taking bribes from a local drugs kingpin, causing an argument and fight to break out resulting in his partner's death?  The ensuing grief, guilt, and general disgust had left me so disillusioned that I handed in my badge in an effort to distance myself from my troubled past.  That would posit me perfectly as being essentially a good guy, but also capable of killing a man with my bare hands.  That could work.  Why not take the story up a level and have me as the corrupt one who was taking bribes, and then killing my partner when he threatened to rat me out.  Everyone knew it was me, but insufficient evidence meant that they couldn't make a case, just hand in your badge and nothing more will be said.  Essentially corrupt, amoral, and capable of killing a man with the assistance of some mob goons.  That could work even better.

Anyway, I won't have to worry about that for the time being.  Right now there are more pressing issues, like finishing today's crossword and then hitting up the charity shops to see what corduroy wonders they have to offer me.  There might even be a teacher-tastic geansaí or two waiting for me out there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Want anecdotes, will travel.

I get a lot of complaints about this blog, mainly about my use of certain language that others deem offensive and unnecessary.  The most common complaint about the blog is that there is not enough of it, the posts are too few and far between.  The problem here is that there needs to be something to blog about, some sort of story or anecdote, and mine is quite an unremarkable life.  I did the whole 'blogging about having nothing to blog about' routine twice, so that means that I can't use that old chestnut again (for at least another six months).  As much fun as it would be to go meta and start blogging about blogging (and then go Inception and be 'blogging about blogging about blogging about ...' ), it would be far too self-indulgent and be the literary equivalent of wanking myself off to the smell of my own farts.  A few months back I accepted an invitation for lunch in a convent, hoping that it would spark off a wacky adventure, or at least an amusing anecdote that would be eminently blogworthy.  Unfortunately all the nuns were incredibly nice elderly ladies, and I ended up having an animated conversation about the music of Ennio Morricone with one of them.  As a mark of respect to them as people and as a token of my gratitude for feeding me, I vowed not to make any mention of that Monday lunchtime on this blog.

Last week a friend asked if I'd be willing to drive my van over to England to pick up a record collection that was for sale, but had to be collected before the end of the week.  This would mean driving from Cork to Wexford, a few hours on a ferry, then driving from Wales to Hastings (the south east of England, almost France) and then all the way back again in the space of twenty four hours.  He'd cover all costs, give me a few euro (as well as a few records) for my troubles, and on top of that he said it would probably make for an interesting adventure to blog about.  I said: "YEAH, LET'S DO THIS!!!" (it was every bit as enthusiastic as that), but when we sat down to do the sums it turned out that the trip was not financially viable and would have to be scrapped.  Just as I was resigning myself to a future devoid of amateur courier antics and anecdotes, I got a phone call from a production company who were shooting a horror film in Cork and needed some props brought down from their workshop in Dublin.  When I asked what sort of props, the reply was a load of dismembered mannequin parts.  If driving to Dublin to fill my van with a load of fucked up shop window dummies is not the makings of a fine anecdote, I don't know what is!

The deal was that I had to be in Dublin city centre for nine in the morning, so I had to get up at four to get my porridge and scrambled eggs into me and be on the road at five.  As I was going to be sitting in my van for hours on end, there would be no need for a jacket, and if all went well I could be back home by lunchtime and in the gym in the early afternoon.  I sped off into the foggy darkness with the heating up and the radio on, and at around half six all the lights on my dashboard lit up at once.  This is never a good sign, but if they flashed on and off in a discodelic sequence it would probably be a bit more pleasing.  I pulled into the hard shoulder, popped the bonnet, and used the flashlight on my phone to see if anything was amiss.  As I'm not a mechanic, the only diagnostic test I could run was to see whether or not the engine was still there (which it was).  So I hopped back into the driver's seat and turned the key to hear a repeated clicking noise that sounds absolutely nothing like an engine roaring into life.  I tried this a few more times and then the dash lights started flashing on and off in a discodelic sequence, which was almost as good as having a fully working van.

So I called my insurance helpline for breakdown assitance, and when they asked me where I was, the best I could come up with was in the dark and fog, about halfway between Cork and Dublin.  I then called the film production crew and told them that I hope that they and their mannequins burn in hell for all eternity (fortunately for them I don't believe in an afterlife, so I didn't mean a word of that).  So after about two hours of sitting in an increasingly cold van, the tow truck showed up and towed me to Cashel (it turns out I was up beyond Thurles, so had made pretty good time up till the point the van crapped out).  The nice tow truck man said that it was probably a mechanical fault, that it looked pretty serious, and that I might want to consider saying my goodbyes and digging a sizable hole for my two ton friend's final resting place.  He said they'd run a few more tests when we got back to the garage (checking under the bonnet again to make doubly sure that the engine was still there) and that they'd call me when they had an answer.

As stated previously, I have a belief that there is some sort of governing force in the universe that is shunting everything about in a seemingly random manner, but is really indicative of a grand design.  So, why does the universe want me to be in Cashel of all places on a foggy Thursday morning?  Having boarded at a nearby secondary school, there is every possibility that I will bump into one of the attractive girls who was in my class (but way out of my league), who will admit to having always fancied me but was too shy to make an approach.  Who knows, maybe it will be a case of she didn't fancy me then, but it has not escaped her attention that I have grown more handsome with every passing year (note: it has been thirteen years since we sat the leaving) and that she now realises how much she has to have me.  Hopefully she won't ask what I do for a living (out of work funk dj, it's a step below out of work actor on the food chain) or the reason I happen to be in Cashel that day (my clapped out pikey wagon was rescued by the paramedics earlier that morning and they are now trying to resuscitate it - hardly the greatest line for wooing a lady).  The best way to allow this to happen would be to get a newspaper, and sit in a cafe with a pot of tea doing the crossword while I let the universe work its magic.  The universe got interrupted about halfway through my tea and crossword, as the garage phoned me saying to come over as they had some news about my van.

The problem was neither mechanical nor serious, but electrical and ought to be an easy fix.  I can't remember the exact wording, but it was along the lines of the alternator was the main cause of it, and that he had done the equivalent of putting a plaster on the wound so that I could drive back to Cork and get it seen to by a dedicated auto electrical type.  After doing a wee bit of research online, I decided against using the guys who were highly recommended but way over in Mayfield, as after dropping off the van I'd have to walk all the way home again, and then trek over at a later stage to pick it up after it had been repaired.  Instead, I'd make the smart move and just bring it to whoever was closest to me.  I got on the phone and he said it would be first thing Tuesday morning before he could see me, but that was cool as I didn't expect to get it sorted immediately on the Thursday before Paddy's day.

A few minutes after first thing Tuesday morning, I pulled up in the disabled spot outside his premises and sat there for another ten to fifteen minutes waiting for him to turn up.  He said it was probably worn brushes, that it wasn't a big job, and it would be done by that evening.  I handed over the keys (assuming he'd pull the van into his workshop to get started on it), and then went over town to sign on.  It was after six that evening before I remembered I had a van to collect, and when I tried ringing him there was no answer.  I walked up the road to see if he was on the premises, but it was all locked up and my van was still in the disabled spot since that morning (I have a very distinctive parking style, I'd recognise it anywhere).  On closer inspection it turned out that the driver's door was unlocked and the bonnet had not been closed properly.  I had mixed feelings about this: on the one hand everything that was in the van could have been stripped out.  On the other hand, it showed that he had been working on it.  Further inspection showed a "Parking Disc Required" sign on the street, so I could be in for a world of fines for that day.  There is nothing to do now but suck it up.  Besides, the van is probably done, I'll be able to collect it first thing in the morning.

Except it wasn't done.  It was the alternator alright, but instead of it being the brushes (the most common fault and the easiest fix) it was another part (slightly less common, but not all that difficult to fix), but it should be done after lunch, call back around two o'clock.  Which then became around half four,  which in fact meant around six, which was actually about twenty to seven.  In the end (i.e. about two hours ago) I was just happy to have my van back, even if it did take longer and cost a wee bit more than planned.  Now all I have to do is sit back with a nice cup of tea, and worry about how on earth I will pay for the parking fines that come from two days of being in a disabled space without a disc.  I might even have a few figrolls while I do this.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Be dental with me

I try my best to be a good friend, to be comforting to my nearest and dearest when they hit a hard time, but it's not always possible.  Frequently I'll meet someone who has failed their driving test, and I'll do my darndest to comfort them with "You were probably just unlucky, shur the nerves alone is enough to make anyone fail", or "I hear the tester is a right (insert gender appropriate word for genitalia here)", or "They probably have a quota of people to fail each month so they can make money off the retests", or whatever other heartwarming gems I happen to have close at hand.  My forlorn friend will then start to perk up and ask how many times I had to take the test before passing?  Unfortunately my answer is along the lines of "I passed it first time, but that was only because I approached it with seriousness and took plenty of lessons beforehand to make sure I was adequately prepared and guaranteed to sail through it."  This has the magic effect of completely undoing anything uplifting that was said previously.

Similarly anytime I meet someone complaining about wisdom teeth acting the wiseguy, my response is usually (pulls face) "Oooh, tell me about it?"  When they give me a sympathetic look, I then have to elaborate that they will have to tell me about it as my teeth are perfectly straight: I've never needed braces, and my wisdoms pop up like pretty maids all in a row, never needing to be pulled, excavated, or demolished like most other folks.  Having to endure the glower that follows is pretty painful I tells ya.

Everything comes at a cost though, and in exchange for perfect teeth I have been given gums that tend to act the bollocks from time to time.  Two of my last three visits to the dentist have been because of an infected gum flap (or to use the medical term, scumflap) around a wisdom tooth.  When one feels a wisdom tooth coming up, the appropriate thing to do is give the area a thorough brushing to help keep it clean and help erode the (now useless) gum flap.  When I felt a wisdom tooth coming up, I thought "Oooh, that's a bit tender, the sensible thing to do here is to keep the toothbrush out of the hurty zone" which then led to bits of food getting stuck under the gum flap, making it all nicely infected.  So when it got so tender and hurty that I could no longer speak or eat, I then thought it wise to visit a dentist.  When I explained that my mouth hurt like fuck, she then asked me to open wide so that she could stick medieval instruments of torture into the very area that hurt like fuck.  After satisfying her desire to make a grown man cry, she then wrote me a prescription for very strong antibiotics, told me to take better care of my teeth/gums, and visit the dentist more often.  You betcha I will, I've learned my lesson this time for sure!

Until two years later when once again I found myself in the very same position getting the same prescription for the same strong antibiotics.  I pointed out that it was only happening on the left hand side of my mouth, and maybe this was indicative of a sinister scheme my gums had hatched against me?  Without even acknowledging my clever wordplay, the dentist told me that it was only indicative of neglect, and that I really ought to visit more often.

That was two years ago, so it was with a certain pride that I rocked up to reception to make an appointment when there wasn't even anything the matter.  I'm just here for a check up, what the hell, how about just a scale and polish instead!  So will I book you in with the dental hygienist?  Why not, shur I don't even need to see the dentist, aren't I great?  The hygienist was an attractive woman, who did her best to assert an air of stern authoritarianism so that I would take her seriously as a professional.  This plan backfired somewhat, as anyone who has been following my "Fortified MILF" series of erotic novels knows that I have a thing for stern authoritarian women.

So after much wincing and washing of teeth, I was told that for someone who neither smokes nor drinks red wine, I have an impressive amount of staining on my teeth.  Impressive was not the exact word she used, I think it might have been shocking, but deep down I could tell she was impressed.  There was also a ridiculously big buildup of plaque on the inside of my teeth, and my gumline was also receding.  I then asked if this was God's way of punishing me, as although my hairline has remained intact he was now pulling back the gums as an act of divine retribution?  No, it's a sign that you're brushing the outside too hard and the inside not enough.  So how long before my gumline grows back to normal?  Never!  Take better care when you're brushing, start flossing, and on the way out make an appointment to see me again in six months.

Friday, February 14, 2014

So, the weather, huh?

Some people really hate small talk.  It's too insignificant, they'd rather get to the core of things and really talk about the burning issues of what it means to be.  Personally, I love small talk, absolutely adore it, the more the banal the better.  If it comes down to a choice of plumbing the depths of the human condition or having casual chitchat about baked beans vs. spaghetti hoops, I will always opt for the latter.  (Although if you were to ask me to choose between a world without beans or spaghetti hoops, the jury would be out indefinitely.)  There's nothing I enjoy more than turning to the other person at the water cooler in the gym and saying:

"So, you're filling up your bottle?" 

"Ah, yeah."

"Me too.  (pause)  It's taking its time today.  Must be low water pressure."

"Ah, yeah."

"That's me done now, see ya."

"Ah, yeah."

So banal it's beautiful, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  The favoured topic round these parts is the weather, and there's been an awful lot of it lately.  While everyone is talking about the many fallen trees and the general inconveniences caused by the code red storm, the general consensus is that it's a miracle that no-one was hurt, killed, or seriously injured.  I can't help but notice that this is expressed with relief tinged with disappointment.  Not that anyone takes joy in hearing about the suffering of others, it's just that you can't beat a good story.  Something along the lines of an unsuspecting husband coming home to find a tree had fallen on his house, killing his wife and her lover while they were at it.  Or a husband who suspects his wife is being unfaithful, and ignoring all warnings to stay indoors, leaves work early and drives home hurriedly only to have a tree fall on his car killing him instantly, while his wife and Ernie the Milkman are busy churning butter in his marital bed.  Who knows maybe we could marry both scenarios and have the wife, husband, and lover fall victim to falling trees simultaneously.  Right about now I'd like to point out that the fictional couple is childless, so there will be no orphans in this scenario (I might like a juicy story, but dammit I'm not a monster).

So the only harrowing tales I've heard from the recent Code Red storm have involved satellite dishes coming off the side of the house (OH NO), or tweets and facebook statuses along the lines of "Electricity gone, can't make a cheese toasty :'( #FML #EffUCheeseSandwich", "iPhone nearly out of battery and no way of recharging #ThisCouldBeMyLastTweet", "Found my in car charger, can keep tweeting about tweeting almost indefinitely!".  Thank God these tragedies are now behind us so we can start moving on again.

My own stormchasing tale of woe involves driving home from the pool on Wednesday morning when an empty wheelie bin got blown out in front of me.  Although I really would have loved to bust through it A-Team style, instead I braked up, turned on the hazard lights, and returned it to the driveway from whence it came.  This is a worthwhile story for two reasons.  The first is that it illustrates that I am not the type of scumbag that will mess with another person's wheelie bin (even though it would have been a lot of fun).  Secondly, this is the only time in my life that I have used my hazard lights for something other than illegal parking (flicking on the flickers has the magical quality of turning illegal into semi or barely legal, if only everything in life had hazard lights). 

As this morning was only a code orange storm I cycled to the pool in my waterproofs.  The trip to the pool was alright, bu the horizontal sheets of rain that normally reside in Connacht decided to join me for my cycle home.  My rain gear meant that all the water bounced off me and ran down to my shoes, which turned into two puddles before I was halfway home.  My glasses sadly don't come equipped with wipers and defoggers, so visibility was poor and brakes were non-existent as I sped down Douglas street in the school rush bottleneck with violent crosswinds interjecting from the many side streets. 

The worst part of this is that it will make for interesting small talk at the gym water cooler, and interesting small talk is the last thing I want.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Age Old Funky Cough Mixture

New year, new mix!  As always, it is of the utmost importance that I talk to you through the genesis of this mix, as being the complex creative individual that I am, it is very necessary for me to explain to mere mortals how such a thing could come into being.

December was a busy month for me.  For anyone else, the amount of hours clocked up would have resembled an ordinary working week, but it was a busy month for me.  On top of the extra DJ slots I was doing, I maintained my swimming routine (in the pool at 7am to do a 2km set, thrice weekly), and got caught in the rain a few times (and not a pina colada in sight).  So when Christmas rolled around, I felt suitably frazzled with a nascent headcold working its magic on my nose and throat (my ears were grand, so this meant I did not need to see a specialist).  Thankfully it was in the developmental stage for the two days I was at home for the holidays.  This meant that I could break the world record for the amount of dinner stacked on one plate (which was then cleared leaving only gravy streaks) on Christmas Day, and then challenge and defeat the previous days feat with the leftovers on Stephen's day.  My family are understandably proud of my accomplishments.

Stephen's night was a code red storm, and everyone was advised to stay indoors for its duration.  For some reason, I took this as a direct challenge to my masculinity, and decided that me and my van ought to show the storm who's boss.  So after an hour and a half of very cross crosswinds, deep skiddy puddles, and the very real possibility of running out of diesel, I made it to Cork in one piece, gloating to myself about how mother nature is my bitch.  This is in direct contrast to the amount of Hail Marys I said aloud on the drive down, and how I swore to get a Lady Of Guadalupe custom paint job for my van if I got delivered safely to Cork.  This still might happen, as several burrito restaurants have opened in the city centre over the last year, so it's only a matter of time before the Mexican community here opens a custom body, paint, and rim shop.

The next day I awoke to find the storm had stopped, the sun was shining, and my throat felt like two enraged golf balls had taken up residence there.  Swallowing a spoon of honey was an ordeal, but fortunately I had no appetite so eating was not going to be a pressing issue.  The only thing for me to do was take a leisurely stroll in the crisp sunshine, to get some fresh air and whatever vitamin allegedly hides in sunlight into my system.  The great thing about living in the city centre of a small city is that it's impossible to go outside without bumping into somebody you know.  This is an even greater thing in Cork, because everyone here is pure daycent and sound.  So it was only when I bumped into the obligatory pure daycent and sound somebody that I discovered I had lost my voice.  It wasn't even a comical fully mute voice loss, it was a pathetic raspy whisper that hurt like fuck and made the seasonal smalltalk even more poignantly pointless.  If you don't know me personally and are unaware of how I normally sound, I'll take the time to point out that the absence of my deeply sonorous Welsh baritone was a huge loss to humanity itself for those few days.

So on top of my sore throat and absent voice, I also acquired an annoying cough.  This might lead you to say, aren't all coughs annoying?  This one was particularly annoying as it wasn't a deep chesty cough that would result in getting up satisfying gobs of frogspawn for every five minutes of hacking, instead it was just a painful, dry, scraping thing which sounded like a chain-smoking cat unsuccessfully trying to expel a hairball.  As if feeling my pain, Greta's glowplugs had given out, which meant she was finding it harder and harder to get going in the cold winter mornings.

So as an homage to the ill-health of me and my van (we're together nearly a year now, so we pretty much constitute a single entity), the working title of this mix was originally: "Cold Morning, Spluttery Start: A Vinyl 'n' Benylin Creation".  It was since re-jigged to "Dr. Herringbone Dread's Age Old Funky Cough Mixture", for reasons that are now unclear, but are probably something to do with my bunged up head and all the Benylin extra drowsy I was taking to get me through the day.  It's also available on CD, but if you're feeling make and do-ish, the front cover is above and the back cover is below so feel free to print, cut, and glue your own copy!

I finished out the bottle of Benylin and have my voice back again.  In a bid to earn some man points I changed Greta's glowplugs myself.  This was ultra manly as I cut one of my knuckles in the process, and also got the kind of black dirt under my fingernails that can only be removed with a penknife.  (She is now starting no problem and is like a whole new van, just in case you were wondering.)