Luck of the Irish/Friendly northerners

The Luck of the Irish?

The luck of the Irish

Last night I endured 30 minutes of P.S I Love You, which if you didn’t know, is a desperately poor film about a dead Irishman who leaves his grieving wife a series of notes prior to his death so, after his departure, she gets the pleasure of reading about his feelings as his corpse rots.

It sounds nasty and hugely unpleasant, but for some reason women like this. I cannot think of anything worse as a modern-day idea: anchoring your bereaved wife to a life of memories with a hollow claim that this series of communications will help the grieving process. One wonders why not one Hollywood producer didn’t pipe up during the development stages and say: ‘Guys, this is shit.’

I tried to give this film the benefit of the doubt but it wasn’t long before I started feeling nauseous. Apart from Gerard Butler’s totally implausible accent it got me thinking: This is an Irishman. He’s supposed to be lucky, jaunty and cool. A tinker with a gift of the gab.

No, he was just a dead bloke.

But really, how many Irish people in history have been particularly lucky? Let’s examine the facts.

How many times have Ireland won the World Cup?

None.

Wimbledon then?

None.

The 100 metres?

None.

World Wars?

None.

Rowing races?

Not one.

And what of Ireland’s history? Well, it’s best known for terrorism and the potato famine, which are hardly demonstrations of good fortune.

I sit next to an Irish person at work and his life’s a cautionary tale for us all. Most days there’s some story of woe that usually starts with an early morning, pasta-based road spillage or some kind of lame lateness excuse featuring a hoopoo. For me, this so-called Luck of the Irish has absolutely no truck with fact whatsoever.

No, the only lucky person that ever came from Ireland is Bono and he still hasn’t learned to dress properly.

Northerners are friendlier than Southerners

This is a big, fat myth invented by northerners and people suffering from autism.

Here’s a couple of anecdotes.

The other day, while I was sitting in a wine bar deep in England’s south a waitress walked by with a plate of nibbles for a couple at a table nearby. My partner and I stared longingly at the plate of cold meats and cheeses and the couple noticed. Then they asked us if we wanted to try one or two. We agreed, engaged in a bit of idle chit-chat and got on with our evening. On leaving the wine bar the couple said goodbye and implored us to have a nice evening.

This is pleasant, friendly behaviour and over the past five or so years has been a regular occurrence, for me, in many urban areas in the south of England, including London.

About a week ago, I was unfortunate enough to end up in a bar in Newcastle pub. An ugly, bald chap approached me, attempted basic grammar and after I probed him a little further to establish what he was trying to communicate, offered me outside so we could settle the issue with force. I didn’t really fancy that and told him so. Then, unable to focus on the answer, he just fell down and hit his head on the pub’s wooden floor. I pulled him up, asked if he was ok. He mumbled something like: ‘thaaaanx i’lbealright. Sorreemade’ and staggered off.

I think it was Alan Shearer.

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Citizen Kane

Dork calling Orson

I had some free time this weekend and in a bid to fill that free time I chose to watch a copy of Citizen Kane that somebody gave me before Christmas. It’s exactly 119 minutes long and that’s exactly 119 minutes I’ll never get back.

Oh Lord, this is a dull film and it’s not helped by Orson Welles who can’t fail to induce sound, uninterrupted slumber. Remember, Orson is the Sandeman – the ‘mysterious’ caped crusader-cum rapist with a gravelly voice that used to promote chav-grade sherry in the late 70s/early 80s. I’ll confess, I’ve never liked the graveliness of Orson’s voice. Some do, but they are stroke victims.

To be fair, that voice isn’t the most irritating in the world… but it is mighty close. Orson, in full soliloquy sounds like somebody planing a particularly smooth piece of timber, the resultant ennui only broken by the odd increase in volume that will, at best, prompt a jolt during your forty winks.

And don’t expect any level of intrigue during a full, uninterrupted viewing of Kane, just the misery of knowing there are only a few things that are more dull: things like moving your index finger up and down a desk for 119 minutes and counting your nose for 119 minutes. In fact I’d rather file my own head for 119 minutes.

Citizen Kane is nothing more than a long, dreadful, self-indulgent sedative. It’s not without merit, however. If you have been out until the early hours you can easily catch up by watching Citizen Kane in the afternoon – there really is no need for Nytol.

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climate change/global warming

No smoke without ire

Floods, unrelenting rain, hurricanes and all-round unpleasantness when you go out has made life in this country rather miserable. Even more miserable, however, is the debate about whether this extreme weather is indeed part of that moving target called climate change.

Now, BBC Radio Five Live called in an expert to try to establish whether it climate change is really upon us and whether our CO2-vomiting activities are to blame. The expert, although well-prepared judging by a bullet-dodging pre-amble, reached an alarming conclusion.

He didn’t know.

To me it’s clear we are hopelessly groping in the dark over this issue. In the 1980s and 90s scientists, noticing an increasing level of blond girls with orange skin, came up with the theory of ‘global warming’ and told us hairspray was the problem. The finger was pointed fairly and squarely at Kim Wilde and Pat Sharp, but after further investigation it was revealed that Kim and Pat weren’t wholly to blame. It was us too.

As our consciences dictated our behaviour the prospect of unsightly melanomas forced us to ditch our CFC-ridden spray-on deodorants in favour of Pritt Stick. All our T-shirts got crusty and none of us could put our arms flush to our bodies. Out went our ageing refrigerators and in came nice aluminium-effect chilled-water-dispensing ones that took up half the kitchen.

Then we were told that CFCs weren’t the problem but carbon dioxide was, so we went back to spray-on deodorant and started buying terribly ugly cars made by the Japanese. We soldiered on half-filling our kettles, growing coriander in window boxes, turning off lights, fitting low-energy bulbs, farting in bags and walking a bit slower.

Scientists went back to their drawing boards, expanding their reading matter to get to the bottom of the problem. After fully digesting The Very Hungry Caterpillar they realised their mistake and asked to us rethink. They told us not only was the term ‘global warming’ passé  it was, more importantly, wrong.

We didn’t know what to do so we told Brazilians to stop cutting down trees and the Aussies to quit barbecues, y’know, just in case. Then, halfway through the Noughties, the Intercontinental Panel for Climate Change, having read the complete set of The Gruffalo, set about justifying its existence and insisted that we start calling all this stuff that’ll give us a quick tan ‘climate change’. Jonathon Porritt got even more uppity, Spring Watch became more popular and Kate Humble stopped shaving her armpits.

We had something that united us, like the Planet Earth, dude. Yoda-inspired Barack Obama told us it was ‘Change we need’ yet China and India soldiered on with plans to build ruddy great power stations… like the UK and the US did 50 years ago. Then, in an appalling show of hypocrisy, America and Britain told developing countries – India and China – to stop building power stations like theirs and take a more responsible attitude.

It all made sense… to the west, anyway.

Unsurprisingly India and China told the Brits and the Yanks to bugger off – a smart move – and carried on with their plans to big ugly round things that would barf  CO2 in the atmosphere at incredible rates. As a way of justifying this they told us to think about all the decades we spent ruining the planet, and they had a point. It was an awkward moment so we got all guilty, gave them a load of money to gloss over the problem and we carried on with our business of pumping more rubbish into the air.

While all this was going on a timebomb was about to go off. BP had built an oil rig, based on a design by Timmy Mallet, with Meccano, silly string and Play Doh and after a few successful years extracting trillions of pounds worth of gloop for Americans to enjoy at the bargain price of 25p a a litre, the Play Doh pipe blew a gasket and vomited stuff that Cormorants could use as hair gel. Now the Yanks needed someone new to blame and since the ‘B’ in BP stands for British, America told us to take a more responsible attitude. We tugged at our forelock, sacked the man at the top and really started to think seriously about how we should stop putting crap in the sea. We’d sort of forgot about the air… until Brisbane and Brazil became engulfed by muddy waters.

Two years on and the issue raises  its ugly head again. Radio producers are charged to get more idiots with supposed credentials to patronise us when it’s clear they know little more than my hairdresser.

To me, it all sounds like padding for 24-hour news programmes. You might as well call the Cheeky Girls for a quote. The galling thing about all this is no explanations, or even promises of action, really give any crumb of comfort to those who have had their lives ruined by flooding. We can’t even gloss over the problem with offers of cash because the bankers spent it all.

In the years to come, when there are more attempts to explain the unexplainable, there’ll doubtless be more clueless experts on more dull radio shows telling us how to live our lives in a responsible way. When they get on to reading Charlie and Chocolate Factory it’s highly likely they’ll move the goalposts again. Maybe we’ll find out that the reason for these extreme weather conditions is because we’ve actually found out the world is indeed flat and the flooding is the result of a new phenomenon called ‘global tilting’. At this point we’ll all be asked to stand at the extreme end of Japan to counteract the problem.

Never know, might work…

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Fisherman’s friend?

A silver box of original strong menthol lozenges. Super

According the latest stats, sales of the strong menthol lozenges, Fisherman’s Friend, were up 28% in December, which for me is surprising since the market for this product I would suggest is somewhat narrow.

Think about this for a while. You’re on your fishing boat in the high seas and the catch isn’t great. You’ve pulled in a few prawns, some cod and a handful of haddock. You’ll make a bit of money at market in the morn’ but not enough to pay the crew.

The weather’s bitterly cold, the sea is unforgiving and spirits are down. You’ve been doing this job for the best part of 20 years since you took over the fishing boat from your father. You were born into this family business and that’s your lot. You look back on those 20 years: at the start of it all you were young and eager but now your beard is grey, your skin weathered and your back is in a permanent state of spasm.

Your crew is demoralised: the fish stocks are low because the Scandinavians have overfished the North Sea – it’s not like it was in the old days when life was one bulging net after bulging net. The future, ’tis bleak.

Then someone hands you a dusty looking rectangle with the corners chopped off from within a packet that’s no bigger than a pin-cushion.

You are invited to put this husk-like tablet into your mouth and suck. Once your saliva has eroded the dusty surface you will enjoy the taste of aniseed-flavoured granite.

This is your best friend ever.

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‘Real’ extreme sports

Hopscotch - oh the madness

Let’s say you put skydiving, bungee jumping, shark diving and rock climbing down as an ‘extreme’ sport, what’s at the other extreme? If you have something that’s extreme at one end you have to have an extreme at the other.

So, let’s play a while. How about putting your hand out the window of a car and feeling the breeze, or flicking elastic bands. Then there’s paddling in Herne Bay, hopscotch, shove ha’penny, building camps and kicking in kids’ sandcastles when everyone’s gone home.

What about that weird game with a ball and aluminium crosses that nobody understands? Then there’s the unfettered joy of checking under the carpet for rogue 20p bits, smelling your finger after a quick rummage down the underpants and making shark fins out of your hair while in the bath. It’s all an incredible ride at the opposite end of the scale and if you are smart, these are the sorts of extreme sports you should be participating in.

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Funfairs#2

This is The Sizzler: like The Waltzer, but different

I have covered funfairs before so forgive my apparent obsession with this, but I do feel compelled to revisit this subject following an experience over the Christmas/New Year when one of these travelling ‘attractions’ arrived at Shepherd’s Bush Green in London. For two weeks it had  set up residence in this west London enclave replete with bright lights and spinning metal. It was an ugly, Godforsaken, modern-day Babylon that only the most hardened chav would visit.

As I walked past, my journalistic instincts kicked in however. My brain was telling me that I had to try a ride.

It was in the interests of fair play: I have slagged off funfairs in the past but I felt the need to ‘road test’ it and describe the experience. The choice of  ‘fun’ was easy: I selected The Waltzer – the jewel in the funfair crown – and hoped for a gay old time.

Within seconds of climbing aboard the multi-coloured torture chair I fully understood the nature of the ordeal I had, stupidly, agreed to embark on. I felt that if I was lucky the experience would merely result in an oral release of an earlier kebab-based meal but if I was not, I would caramelise my underpants.

In public.

The man I had employed as my ‘minder’ for the ensuing three minutes in my fun-packed car looked unpleasant but I felt it important to give him the benefit of the doubt. It was naive: I should have known he was an active agent working on behalf of The Kebab Liberation Organisation. This man wanted results and would go to any lengths to get them. He went about his work silently and with devotion, and as the ride continued its relentless journey, accompanied by a soundtrack of unintelligible Eighties pop, I realised that this tormentor would not rest until he had, at least, witnessed some chilli sauce seeping from my eyeballs. He spun my car like his life depended on it.

After two minutes the smell of half-digested cabbage was palpable. I opened my mouth in a vain bid to inhale oxygen, but all I got was diesel fumes and chip fat. It prompted a pre-puke retch, which proved to be a forerunner to a ribbon of projectile doner meat intertwined with chilli-dresssed lettuce. I saw my reflection in a hexagonal mirror located at the heart of the ride. Only Shrek has looked greener.

Convinced that a more severe eruption in the downstairs area was imminent I begged the KLO agent to ‘stop the bloody madness!’ but the delirium had masked the fact that the waltzer had, in fact, stopped. I extracted myself from the car by lifting the so-called safety bar and, with a string of minced lamb entrails and mulched-up salad decorating my coat lapel, I staggered incoherently to a chemical toilet, sat down and lost half a stone in an instant.

Then I noticed the absence of toilet paper.

So, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: a funfair is neither fun, nor fair.

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Jools Holland’s Hootenanny

Holland: underpants ablaze every NYE

Every New Year’s Eve Jools Holland presents an evening of entertainment for people who have rightly decided that staying in is preferable to a night where you’ll get charged for the privilege of going into a pub when for the other 363 days in the year you got in for free.

For years you may have been under the impression that this evening of festive cheer is live and that it enjoys the unpredictability of being a ‘live’ show. Well, it’s not. It’s pre-recorded.

This is the adult equivalent of being told Santa doesn’t exist. Throughout the evening, carefully crafted references to festivity and the passing of another year will, understandably, leave you free to conclude that this show is ‘as is’.

In my book, that’s pretty unforgivable, so on December 31st 2011 I’m going to find out where Jools lives and dump on his lawn.

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