Jesus Saves

Duh. Week in Dublin was great, but I was up early almost every day. Reloaded with sleep this morning, and followed that up with a nice lie-in. Which ended when I sprang upright, suddenly remembering I had a bus to catch. Got out of bed, dressed, made it to the stop in fifteen minutes flat.

When I remembered I’d forgotten my phone.

Just as well perhaps. Staying in town gave me a chance to help a friend with a computer problem. But oh… It made me wish I’d caught the bus. This was a sick kitty.

Never mind, I got a Christmas present! Secret Santa, from my secret internet community. (Yes, this is pretty representative of how together we are.) It’s… Jesus. A plastic Jesus, Jesus Cartoonabout a foot high, covered in the most tacky silver glitter. With a slot on its back. Yes it’s a Jesus money-box. Even as an atheist I find that disturbingly sacrilegious. It’ll have to be used to save for something very special… Any suggestions?

And the big news: My girlfriend’s sister just had a baby boy! That makes me a…  a…  Guy who’s girlfriend is an aunt. Dammit there should be a word for that.

When The Road Hits Back

Wheels CartoonYou remember just after Christmas I was complaining about the potholes in Corrandulla village? Perhaps I should have given credit to the County Council for getting them all patched just a week or so later.

Bloody glad I didn’t though, because the fucking things are back already. What did they use to fill them, loose gravel and spit? Once again, a drive to the shops is more like an amphibious assault up a defended beach.

It’s damaged our car. One of the headlights has failed. At least, I thought it had. I was just going to remove the bulb today to find a replacement, but wisely I gave it one final test first. (OK, I’d forgotten which one had blown.) Weirdly, it worked this time.

A little investigating, and I notice the right bulb connector is hot. Much too hot – melted and blackened. It must have come loose and been shorting. I pushed it back on tightly and it seems to be working all right since, but it will need to be replaced. And soon, because the NCT¹ is coming up and they probably don’t take kindly to a burning smell coming from the engine compartment.

I can’t prove it was the potholes that shook it loose of course. It might have been, say, trained enemy marmosets.

What worries me more is the other roads they repaired, particularly the one between here and Headford. This is my favourite local drive. It’s excellent exercise for the learner, full of blind bends, blind hills, a hidden entrance or two, turns with lousy camber. Sometimes all these at once. Challenging. OK, dangerous. Certainly, plenty dangerous enough without the extra hazard of holes big enough to bite a wheel off.

They still haven’t finished repairing it. If it’s being done to the same quality as Corrandulla, then logically they are never going to finish.

  1. National Car Test. That was an easy one, wasn’t it?

You Called That 2010?

You may (perhaps) have wondered why I didn’t do the usual year-end review in this column last week. The truth is, I just wanted one week after Christmas without having to be depressed again. But now, like pretty much everyone else, I have a stinking cold. Being in a foul mood anyway then, I might as well get on with it.

2010, the year the country was taken into receivership. The year we agreed to smash up our health and welfare systems in order pay for the mistakes of bankers. If overcrowding is any measure, our hospitals are now in the worst state that they have ever been. The year in which we found out that we are basically slaves to the whims of a financial market, in which our government became our pimps, offering out our services for the best terms they could get. One easy country, only slightly abused, willing to work into the next generation.

And it’s not going to get better soon. Beware a false dawn, as Fianna Fáil tries desperately to spin anything not immediately disastrous into ‘recovery’. Expect them to make complete asses out of the Green party as they continually put off the election in the desperate hope that some good news will arrive. Or, more depressing but more likely, that we will eventually come to see our current state of oppression as normal.

In the end we may have to hold a general strike or other mass protest to force them to stop harming the country. The fact that they have not already resigned out of sheer embarrassment tells us a lot about the kind of shower they are.

So 2011 is not shaping up to be a good year… The President has asked business to project a dynamic image of Ireland abroad but you know, I think if they could they’d be doing it already. How can they when the people responsible for this mess are still in charge? At best we look forward to a desperate endgame followed by a divisive election, our impossible financial situation growing worse all the while. It will be a year of damage but… Well, at least it won’t be dull.

I can’t finish though without a quick word about Ivan Yates and the collapse of his business. It is a sad situation of course when a company goes under, especially one with many employees. But I cannot find it in myself to feel sorry for the man. Recall what business he was in – gambling. It’s not exactly productive industry. Gambling is something we need a whole lot less of in this country. In the madness of the last few years, Ireland changed from a growing economy into a property casino. And yet, in a complete reversal of the norm in these things, it was the house that lost.

It must be said though, at least Ivan Yates doesn’t expect the rest of us to make good his losses. When banks could learn a lesson in socially responsible business and basic morality from a bookie, you know what they’re worth.

It’s A White Christmas, Dammit

An end to global warming? No. Climate is what happens over centuries, this is bad weather. At least people call it that – I happen to like the snow. The chief reason I like the snow is that it is not rain. If something cold must fall from the sky during the winter months, I prefer if it’s the one that brushes off.

And there’s the fact that it’s beautiful too, that helps. I know, a lot of people hate it for solid, practical reasons. It’s dangerous – well yes, but I bet deaths and injuries will be down compared to our usual Christmas carnage. Transport is buggered it is true. A friend of mine is trapped in Paris as we speak, another in San Francisco – I’d really like it if they could make it home for Christmas. Shops are going to be insane of course. If forecasters are to be believed and the snow won’t clear until Christmas Eve, all of Connacht is going to be in town for a last-minute shopping frenzy. I urge you who actually live here to get your shopping done before then, while there are still things left to get. Loved ones are puzzled and rarely pleased by a gift-wrapped supermarket shelf.

It has been inconvenient for me. I’m trying to learn to drive right now, and obviously you can’t really practise anything much in this weather. Apart from skid control. A lot of skid control. And as I was saying the other week, if I’m out of town it’s a mile walk on a Teflon pan to get to the bus. There still seems to be little sign of gritting from the County Council. I don’t say no sign – there is a light scattering of rock bits on the road just outside, at a density of maybe two gravicular particles per square footfall. Looks like they’re trying to make their precious dirt supplies last through the winter, but I’m not entirely sure what good so little actually does. I had to get outdoors early this morning to take delivery of a Christmas present – the house is so well hidden that you have to walk down to the road if you don’t want couriers to get lost. (Note to online retailers: I will buy from the one of you who clearly says “Will deliver by genuine actual post”.) He called for directions at 7.55. I had been asleep less than four hours at that point, so I wasn’t too clear at first about where he was – or indeed, where I was – but it transpired that he was just two miles away. He said he’d call back when he was close. He did. Half an hour later.

But wouldn’t it be good if this became our regular winter weather for a while? Yes I’m serious. It could be lovely – if we actually planned for it. If we could arrange not to need to fly the week before Christmas, if we actually could get our shopping done and supplies in. If the weather enforced on us that break from our hectic and ill-considered lives that we never seem to find time to take. We could have some, you know, Peace. On Earth.

Set Your Child to ‘Record’

Ho Ho. Time again for one of my jolly Christmas tirades. About now it is as seasonal as robins roasted on an open fire to advertise toys to kids. Is Wrong. It’s like marketing flight to penguins. Children cannot actually buy toys, no matter how hard they try. These commercials should not be shown until the kids are in bed, like those for other drugs.

Not all toy adverts are aimed at children though. I saw one for a vast Fisher-Price toddler entertainment unit, obviously aimed at parent rather than off-sprog. Its slogan was “Oh the possibilities!” It didn’t really mean “Think of the possibilities of the great big shiny  thing with loads of knobs to push!” It meant “Think of the possibilities for your little baby if you buy them all this crazy stimulating plastic shit they’ll grow up to be something clever and successful like a surgeon or a lawyer!”

Or even an advertising executive. Give the kids enough brightly-coloured stuff that makes noise, the sales pitch goes, and they’ll grow up to be hyper-intelligent Übermenschen. Bollocks. For once I agree wholeheartedly with Steven Pinker, you can’t stimulate kids into brilliance by throwing money at them. The difference between ‘to play with’ and ‘to understand’ may just be a matter of degree, but what is there in a baby-crawler to understand? Nothing. Kids learn not by twirling pointless plastic things but by interacting with others. These so-called ‘educational’ toys though are often put to quite the opposite end – keeping kids out of adult hair. You can’t help but wonder if they have anything to do with the apparent rise in autism.

So toy commercials should perhaps be kept away from the more impressionable parents too. Thankfully the technology now exists. Hard disc video recorders can serve up your evening’s viewing with all the adverts edited out. (No you can’t buy the TiVo here, but you can set up just the same thing using a computer.) At last, commercial-free viewing will be a possibility. All channels will be like the BBC. Except without all the adverts for the BBC.

Unless the advertising industry ban it. They’re trying. The ads, they say, pay for the programs. Therefore if you’re editing out the commercials, you’re watching the programs without paying for them. Not watching adverts, they’re trying to argue, is theft. Hmm. Gives the phrase ‘Pay attention’ a whole new meaning. By the same logic, channel surfing or turning the sound down during the commercial breaks is also stealing from the broadcasters.

So you won’t be able to protect your kids from the toy adverts. In fact unless you want them to be criminals, you’ll have to force them to watch. Don’t look away dear, you’re stealing from Barney.

See you next week. Don’t touch that dial! (Under penalty.)