Archive for July, 2006


I have to go to a stag do tomorrow. This involves standing around with 20 other men drinking for most of the day and most of the night. Of the 20 other men, I know only one: the groom-to-be. To me these days, the idea of drinking lager all day and talking about football and kebabs etc is as attractive as the idea of being interrogated by the Saudi secret police.

It isn’t just the conversation: my powers of resistance to alcohol have withered over the past 6 or 7 years. Whereas before I could reach double figures with relative ease, these days a glass of wine is enough to set off my lazy eye.

So, I have a rather limited choice: get my round in with everyone else, or stay out of the round and buy my own drinks in order to maintain some degree of self-control. The former will result in me getting a) snattered; b) self-repetitive; c) a delicious kebab; and finally d) a thumping hangover; and the latter in a) teeth-grinding frustration as I feign laughter at the same joke I have heard 6 times in the previous hour; b) long periods of staring into my glass; c)long periods of flipping beer-mats; e) a disgusting kebab.


Pig Face

I’m cannot fathom why anyone, let alone a Muslim, would want to get Botox injections after finding out that it contains substances derived from pigs, but the Malaysian National Fatwa Council has decided to ban it anyway.

The Sleeponomic Consequences of the Teas

Like most people from my neck of the woods, I drink tea by the bucketful. For years I have been able to go off to bed with a mug of tea and fall asleep the moment I’ve finished the chapter of whatever Agatha Christie masterpiece I happen to be reading at that moment. And I sleep like a 5ft 11 baby.

I am not, however, immune to the effects of caffeine. A cup of coffee (or, in bygone days, a sup of Buckfast) before going to sleep will not stop me falling asleep, but I’ll wake up –often with a jolt- 2 or 3 hours earlier than I ought to.

Over the last year or so, I hadn’t been sleeping too well, waking up at 4, half 4 in the morning and finding it hard to get back to sleep until about 20 minutes before I have to get up. I decided some time back, in light of this, to refrain from drinking caffeinated tea in the evenings, opting for the decaffeinated version instead. Since then, there has been some improvement.

I would not buy decaffeinated tea for myself, as I think it’s of the same order of goods as Kaliber and menthol cigarettes. My wife buys it though, because she’s a lot more susceptible to the effects of caffeine than I. As it’s in the house, and as I like the ritual of tea-drinking, I drink it anyway, even if it is not conducive to the mildly contemplative state of being that the stimulants in real tea bring.

Last night, it was not my turn to make the tea. When the call came from the kitchen inquiring as to what kind of tea I wanted, I said normal. I thought – why should I be beholden to fear of waking up in the middle of the night- am I not, after all, a man?

I woke up at 4 in the morning, in thrall to the usual phantasms, and after cursing my cavalier attitude to the effects of tea, began the usual ritual to get back to sleep – selecting 10 outfield players by their regular position and 1 goalkeeper from every Premiership team, going through the teams in alphabetical order. Then I started counting all the window panes in our house, and then my parents’ house. (Strangely enough, I can never remember the exact number in either).

None of this guff worked, as I knew it was all in vain anyway due to the caffeine I felt coursing through my veins. I fell asleep the obligatory 20 minutes or so before the time I had to get up. Dull-eyed, I vowed to my wife this morning that, much to my regret, I would not touch normal tea again in the evenings.

She then revealed that the tea she had given me was decaf.


The internet is down in my place of work, and I have been left stranded with my disconnected ideas, a mental amputee.

They were showing Clockwise the other day on the TV, where John Cleese is late for his speech, With Hilarious Consequences. The first time I watched this was in the Salad Days of VHS Rental, and the few minutes I watched the other day were suffused with a strange nostalgia on my part for days when the fact of being late for something held a hint of mystery, and you had plenty of time for conjuring up an excuse.

Mobile technology has done away with all that. Even though I don’t use a mobile phone, I’m still accountable for my lateness from the moment I know I might be late. Whereas before the failure to show on time for an appointment simply meant ‘running late’, a late arrival without prior notice these days is tantamount to being a war criminal.

It’s back up.


One thing (there are others*) that gets on my wick about David Quinn’s article in today’s Irish Independent, is inappropriate use of the word ‘crescendo’. When you see a crescendo symbol in music notation, which looks like a less than sign (
He says:

‘Fuelled by statements such as the above, worldwide condemnation of Israel reached a crescendo.’

When people, of whom a disproportionate number seem to be GAA commentators, say that ‘the volume is rising to a crescendo’, I feel a twinge of unease. ‘Crescendo’ is the Italian for growing. What GAA commentators are saying, then, is that the volume is rising to a growing, which is nonsense.

Whilst Quinn’s misuse is not quite as blatant (it is possible, after all, for a musical piece to reach a crescendo, in the sense that it reaches the point where the crescendo begins), it is clear that he misunderstands the term, because if he really understood it, he would have said:

‘Statements such as the above fuelled a crescendo of worldwide condemnation of Israel.’

Some might say I’m being pedantic here, and if in common usage ‘crescendo’ means ‘clamour’, then tough tits, since when did failed musicians dictate the popular lexicon? But I feel the urge to protest nonetheless, because I am very much in favour of the use of musical terms to describe extra-musical phenomena. Crescendo would be a most elegant word indeed if people actually knew how to use it properly. But a failure to use it properly simply indicates that the user has cloth ears, and is only able to divide music into loud bits and not so loud bits. But ‘crescendo’ does not even mean a very loud bit. You can have a crescendo where the volume simply increases from very soft (pp) to soft (p).

If we think of the totality of a language as an orchestra, and each speaker/writer as a musician, perhaps the failure to use a word in a recognised context could be considered a bum note. And bum notes linger for the rest of the performance, and even long after the performance has finished.

*Other ‘bum notes’:

1. The anxious attempt to sow doubt about the extent of IDF destruction of Lebanese civilians in spite of declarations from, say, the Lebanese Prime Minister, that the death toll has reached hundreds, with hundreds of thousands displaced.

2. Denouncing Palestinian militants for using civilians as human shields whilst ignoring certain inconvenient facts, e.g. Israeli troops use civilians as human shields; living in the same residential block as someone doesn’t constitute using them as a human shield;

3. This sentence here: ‘How strange it is that they can never seem to produce their own Gandhi or Mandela, who would seek to achieve their aims through peaceful and non-violent means.’

As if:

a) Palestinians were congenitally incapable of achieving ‘their aims’ through peaceful and non-violent means (ergo the only thing they understand is violence);
b) Mandela and the ANC sought to achieve their aims through peaceful and non-violent means;
c) No Palestinian could possibly want to live in peace;
d) A necessary, nay, expected outcome of dispossession and brutal military occupation is the production of Men We Can Do Business With;

I do agree with this bit, though:

The Palestinians and their allies also have a responsibility to call off the dogs of war.
Until we pressure them to do that, until we call them to account – until we give up our infantile view of Middle Eastern politics – the carnage will continue.

Well, I agree with it apart from the Pauline ex-pulpitum paternalism where he calls his readers infantile.

That, and the fact that he expects the Palestinians to come up with a Gandhi or a Mandela, but talks about ‘us’ pressuring ‘the Palestinians and their allies’. Is he an ally of the Palestinians? If he is not, so be it, but if he is not, it’s a bit rich of him to engage in disingenuous musing about Mandela and Gandhi, implying on the one hand that the Palestinian aims are just, but on the other that it is not worthy of his support. Or is he arguing that the Palestinian aims are unjust precisely because they have not produced a Gandhi or a Mandela?

But still, in my agreement with what he is saying about calling off the dogs of war, I issue my own call on Israel (I’m sure they’re reading) to cease its bombardment of Lebanese civilians, to cease its bombardment of Palestinian civilians and to end its preparations to invade and re-occupy Lebanon, to exchange prisoners with Hizbullah, to release all administrative detainees. Like most of the governments of the civilised world say, there ought to be an immediate ceasefire, after which point it is difficult to see why Hizbullah would continue firing rockets into Israel as it is doing at the minute, killing Israeli Jew and Arab civilians. Palestinian aggression against Israeli civilians must also stop, including, of course, the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel (have they stopped yet?).

Underpinning the present conflict between Israel and Hizbullah -a prelude to Israel’s reoccupation of Lebanon- is the logic of the bodybag, as employed by Billy Wright and the Mid-Ulster UVF/LVF in the years preceding the IRA ceasefire.

People think of Billy Wright as a crazed criminal, and he certainly was, but he was capable of logic, however immoral the consequences. The logic was: we can’t defeat our enemy by military engagement, so we’ll make sure the people who would support them suffer as much as possible, and our enemy will soon stop when they see the bodybags stacking up.

The approach is logical, but it is also madness.

Nunca te acostarás..

This article says that George Orwell spoke neither Spanish nor Catalan.

Doesn’t Think, Stinks Nonetheless

IT was an image that captured the nation’s hearts and brought home the full force of the tragedy unfolding in the Lebanon.

For the Irish Independent, the nation can only appreciate the full force of the ‘tragedy’ if prompted by a photo of a winsome little Irish girl crying. But it’s all ok now, because she’s back home and smiling. A nation of Irish Independent readers can now breathe a sigh of relief.

I on Twitter

July 2006