Archive for March 22nd, 2007

A Little Bit Country

The whole read-a-book-a-week-and-lighten-your-load idea has taken a dive, since I haven’t read anything this week. I started David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green last week, and got well into it, particularly since as a child I spent a short spell in the Worcestershire countryside (where the book is set thus far) , round about the same time that the book is set. This gives the book a certain personal and sentimental appeal that a book about, say, a band of Mexican revolutionaries might not have.

Nothing further to say about the book at this point. But it has prompted me to think about the English countryside and how it compares with the Irish countryside. From what I’ve seen, I’d opt for the former every time. It feels far more…established, perhaps for obvious historical reasons. The trunks of trees are thicker, the leaves are..leafier. The fields are bigger! And they have lots of blasted heaths and windswept moors and things for acting out period dramas.

Leaving aside the mountainy areas, which are wild and spectacular, but wet and windy, all you have in the Irish countryside are streams full of agricultural waste and sheughs full of prams and Argos catalogues.

I like almost everywhere I’ve been in the English countryside: the Cotswolds, and Worcestershire and Malvern, the Fens, Kent, and Cumbria. Yorkshire I’m not all that familiar with, but it certainly looks nice on Emmerdale. Occasionally I read someone in England say stuff like ‘I’d love to retire to a little house somewhere in Ireland’ and I think: is this person off his head? Do they mean the Ireland in John Ford films, or do they really want to live in a tiny-windowed bungalow two miles from the nearest shop with a pair of white eagles wearing trousers perched on the gateposts?

I wouldn’t live in what’s left of the Irish countryside if you paid me. I wouldn’t live in any countryside, but that’s beside the point.

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Paramilitaries, Patrick, Police

Some Northern Ireland stuff:

The British government has declared its intention to fund a loyalist paramilitary group to the tune of 1 million of your English pounds, sir. Two notable things about this action: a) this time, it has declared its intention of making funds available; b) this time, they’re being paid to stop activity, which seems as clear a case as ever there was of throwing good money after bad.

On St. Patrick’s Day I was in Newry. I always associate Newry with car sickness. This is because the fields on the main Armagh-Newry road are always stinking of pig or chicken manure, so you have to go up hill and down dale with the windows of the car shut tight.  Anyway, there was a PSNI presence. One of the coppers had a sub-machine gun (at least I think it was a sub-machine gun, I’m not big on guns) and a pistol, just in case some terrorist dressed as St Patrick whipped an armalite from under his emerald green cloak.

Well, give the PSNI a Farley’s Rusk, I say. This refined display of power, of course, is all part of their mission statement, or brand statement, or whatever the hell you call it:

Making Northern Ireland Safer

FOR EVERYONE

Through Professional, Progressive Policing

The capitals are in the original. (I’m not in the habit of shouting.) I like the alliteration at the end. It reminds me of P-p-p-pick up a Penguin.

Patriarchal Pedantry

Mr Márquez, the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, as well as The Autumn of the Patriarch, a veiled portrait of the commandanté, is one of the few figures outside the Cuban leadership to have been granted access to Mr Castro.

It is news to me that The Autumn of the Patriarch is ‘a veiled portrait of the commandanté’, especially since the book was written in 1975 when Castro was a sprightly fortysomething. I suspect that since Castro is now on the way out, lots of people use the term ‘the Autumn of the Patriarch’ to describe this time, in allusion to García Márquez’s book, and the reporter has taken this to mean that the book is actually about Castro.

Leaving to one side the matter of the extra ‘m’, what’s the deal with the fada on the last ‘e’ in comandante?

This reminds me of when I used to work in a fruit and veg shop, and the boss made out a label reading ‘mangé tout’. When I tried correcting him, he swore black and blue that his rendition was correct, that I knew nothing, and that the pronunciation ‘mange tout’ had only become popular through Only Fools and Horses.

Perchance to get some shut-eye

I am tired. Not in some airy-fairy world-weary philosophical sense, but in the sense that comes from not getting enough sleep.

I woke up at 4 this morning after dreaming that I could speak Chinese (remarkably, it was very similar to Hiberno-English),  and feel like I should put my head down on my desk and just nod off for a couple of hours. Just as when a car is making strange noises you don’t just tramp the shit out of it regardless, you shouldn’t do similar things to your body. Not that I think of my body as a machine. Far from it. Machines serve some pre-ordained purpose, like juicing oranges, unblocking drains, or emitting a high-pitched sound to ward off vermin and protesters.

Being born to fulfil a particular purpose is a favourite subject of our popular musicians.

You have:

  • Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen
  • Born to be Wild, by Steppenwolf
  • Born to Be With You, by Dion
  • Born to Be A Loser, by Ramblin’ Joe Durbin
  • Born to Be A Raver, by Rockin’ Johnny Austin
  • Born to Be A Traveller, by Andy White
  • Born to Be A Trucker, by Sheb Wooley
  • Born to Be Bad, by Neil Sedaka
  • Born to Be Black, by Tapper Zukie
  • Born to Be Blue, by Mel Torme
  • Born to Be Large, by Rodney Jackson
  • Born to Be Loved, by Kings X [I beg to differ-HG]
  • Born to Be My Baby, by Bon Jovi
  • Born to Boogie, by T-Rex
  • Born to Die, by Millions of Dead Cops
  • Born to Fail, by Synthetic Mind Decay
  • Born to Live and Die, by Pluzwun [What next – born to be born? – HG]

And the list goes on. Not off the top of my head mind, but off the list compiled by the ASCAP.

No Truth In The News

And no news in the truth. FAIR has a timeline showing the wondrous illuminations of American media reporting of the build-up to the Iraq war and its immediate aftermath. In so far as it shows many prominent media figures bending over backwards to obey the wishes of their government and legitimise the destruction of a country, this is pretty funny stuff, especially for those of us who neither spoke Russian nor were old enough to read Soviet-era Pravda, apart from the bit about all those people getting killed.


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