Archive for October, 2005

A Post Born Out of Weblog

This will be the last post from me for a few weeks. If anyone is wondering why I haven’t been posting too much of late, it’s because I have far more important things to do e.g. I’m getting married this Saturday.

Sorry ladies.

Spies Like Us Go-Getters

After a decade spent hopefully scanning the classifieds for cryptic advertisements about Ionesco plays that would open the doors to life as a spy, I am disheartened to discover that you can now apply on-line, which surely means putting together a CV and answering questions on all sorts of career-oriented bullshit for which I have no time. Gah. And to think I’d been perfecting my knowledge of sherry.

Springtime for Ulster

There’s nothing like a good auld Nazi story to get pulses racing in the Outraged Six Counties. Willie Frazer, one of the protagonists, is in no position to be offended by Nazi slurs, welcoming, as he does, the presence of loyalist paramilitaries at some rally or other. Breathtaking hypocrisy etc etc.

File under ‘damaging to the peace process’; ‘unionist fury’ etc.

Pinters Mean Prizes

Harold Pinter has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Never read a thing by him (aside from an angry poem in the Guardian, maybe), so I couldn’t possibly comment. Here, however, is my top 5 Nobel laureates of whose work I actually have bothered to read:

1. Gabriel García Márquez
2. Albert Camus
3. William Butler Yeats
4. Miguel Angel Asturias
5. André Gide

There are maybe another 4 and a half on the list whose work I am familiar with.

So now you know.

I’m Having The Steak

Europe Bans Turkish Poultry

Is turkey Turkish Poultry then? They should ban those turkey bacon rashers while they’re at it.

Sea Me, Sea Him?

Well that was a turn up for the, ah, books. John Banville’s The Sea has won this year’s Booker Prize. Good for him.

As a stylist, Banville has few real rivals, yet I find his books very hard work. Of those I have read, not much happens in them – people generally sit about in houses and wait for something to happen – so they’re pretty hard to pick up and read for an hour or so every day, especially if you don’t use a bookmark.

It took me nearly a month to get through Eclipse, which I suspect was due to reading chunks of it twice or thrice without even realising. Then I read Shroud, and I wasn’t sure if I’d finished Eclipse yet. The Book of Evidence was magnificent, however.

Perhaps for a full appreciation of Banville’s prose you need to be able to spend all your days sitting around reading books. Few, beyond Booker Prize judges, have that sort of time.

As for the other books on the list, the only one I have read so far is A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry, which I thought was superb. I also bought the Julian Barnes one a while back, but haven’t got round to it. My own Booker 2005 verdict is still on course for September 2006.

Mad Dogs and Irishmen

Loyalism is finally getting some recognition, as evidenced by this goatee strokin’, Gitanes-smoking article from the Guardian. It identifies Loyalism as a symptom of a post-industrial crisis of masculinity:

It has been a profoundly masculinist culture, in ways that decades of violence could only reinforce. Both the partial ending of paramilitary violence (which threatens to deprive “hard men” of their raison d’etre and aggressive youths of their role models) and the precipitous decline in industrial employment must intensify the crisis of masculinity that commentators identify as a more general post-industrial phenomenon.

This seems accurate. Cultural loyalism explores the extremes of popular representations of masculinity. You can celebrate your masculinity by taking it to simian, even animalistic levels (see ‘Mad Dog’), or you can show that you have overcome its constraints by disdaining it utterly. In that sense, there can be few things more masculine than dressing up as a member of Buck’s Fizz circa 1985.

The author also locates loyalism as a peculiarly Irish culture:


Loyalism is a culture ambivalent about Irishness. Yet, whatever else loyalism is, it is distinctively an Irish culture, one that grew only on the island of Ireland, with off-shoots in Scotland and Canada. The essential cultural difference between loyalism and its foes is indeed that while Republicans conceive of themselves as having an inherited, densely woven tradition, loyalists have to make it up as they go along. These are the fragments they shore up against their ruins.

Big Deal

I certainly wasn’t holding my breath for the new Big Star album, and having given it a couple of listens I can now confirm that it’s a dud.

Feeds of Our Fathers

I do like a decent feed now and again.

In Ireland, there are still too many places that tend towards ‘all you can eat’-style stodge. The culture of stuffing oneself -where the only criterion of an enjoyable meal is being unable to move at the end of it – persists, and you often hear people talking of a ‘great big plate’ of this or that. I have often wondered what this view of one’s meals says about one’s view of money.

In Catalonia, a place perhaps more used to wealth than Ireland, food portions aspire towards delicate sufficiency.

Comparisons between styles of service is instructive. Perhaps contrary to expectations, service in Catalonia is unhurried, unrefined, tending towards inefficient, whereas in Irish restaurants, service maintains a high degree of cordiality and attentiveness, with lots of visible activity. Yet I find that the latter type of service induces an anxiety to shut up and eat.

It feels like the main difference can be described as follows: in Catalonia, you are there to enjoy a meal. In Ireland, you are there to get fed.

When the waiter in Barcelona asks you if you would like coffee, there is no hidden message. In Ireland, the offer of coffee still holds an implicit message that it’ll soon be time for you to fuck off. More mouths to feed, you understand.

Easyjet and the Eaterie

So I was having lunch in a Barcelona eating house last Sunday when a rather large family (large meaning numerous) from Belfast got seated in the table next to me.

The first thing they ordered, almost in unison, was butter for the bread rolls. One gentleman had even learned how to say mantequilla, albeit rhyming with Cilla. Then they ordered coffees.

The variety of the menu was quite impressive, even for Barcelona. They all ordered steak and chips, or chicken and chips, with another coffee, a couple of them ordering espressos. They used red wine vinegar for their chips.

Smoking between mouthfuls, one of the women wanted to show off a bargain she had got that morning. She removed the Beckham 23 Real Madrid T-Shirt from the bag and showed it to all at the table. In friendly jest, one of the waiters came up to her and wagged his finger gently, indicating that the establishment did not approve.

The woman looked at him, rather affronted, as if her human rights were being impeded.


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October 2005
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