Welcome to the official launch of my new blog, Clearing The Premises.

I chose this particular date a while ago, for three reasons…first, because it is the 9-year anniversary of my first ever blog post, second because it falls on a Sunday, which will be the best day for me to write on it, and finally because it gave me the time to psyche myself up to get back into blogging about life, the universe and everything.

As it turns out, there’s another milestone to celebrate this weekend, as on Friday my first substantial cheque for blogging arrived in the post.  Yes, that’s right, I’m actually being paid to do it now!  A six-month sponsorship deal for my site HarpinOnRugby won’t be something to retire on, but it certainly is something I would never have envisaged when I embarked on this journey in the blogosphere, and hopefully it is a sign of better things to come.

I have to say the sports blog has done wonders for my writing, since the one thing I needed was discipline, and when your subject matter is a particular team, their schedule forces you to produce content on a regular basis, at least it does if you expect to be noticed and make money!

But does this mean I want to write about rugby and nothing else for the rest of by cyber-existence?  Hell, no.

I’ve often tried to work out just what it was that fuelled my lifelong passion for sports of many differing codes.  When it comes to rugby I had no choice but to get a grounding in it because the school I went to brainwashes you 24/7; then Leinster Rugby came along to provide the first real dose of regular, week-in,week-out top-flight action in any code in the 36 years I have lived on this island.  So that association was easy to make.

Still though, I’m fond of other sports, soccer especially, with Tottenham Hotspur taking most of my attention even though they hail from London (shortly after I moved to Ireland aged 8 they won a match 9-0 and a player called Colin Lee, which is my mother’s maiden name, was in the headlines for scoring four goals so thus they were my choice).   And although I have been known to find fault with the GAA I have excellent credentials as a fair-weather fan, today being no exception as the Dubs face Mayo for the coveted Sam Maguire All-Ireland Cup.

So while I’m not so mad about sports that I’d bet on the proverbial two flies running up a wall, it does play a large part of my life and it has taken me a long time to realise that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  In some ways, it’s kind of like a “soap opera for guys” (though yes, I know, girls love it too just as much!!!) in that it’s not so much about who wins what but more about the individuals involved in the race to bring about those victories.

But there’s another reason I watch sports, and that is to serve as a distraction from the harsh realities of life.  From the seemingly never-ending news of shootings, wars, disasters and austerity.  I don’t want to pretend it isn’t there, I know it always is.  But once in a while it’s nice to be able to consume some media in such a way that you can be entertained without having to be reminded of all that stuff for an hour or so, and for me anyway, sport provides that.  Once I can tune out all the advertising that is…

Being distracted by the sports is all very well, but once in a while I need to be able to face those realities head on and try to make sense of them.  And writing is the best way I can do just that.  So here we have this blog, and hopefully for the foreseeable future I will be able to churn out some thoughts on subjects that don’t involve new scrum laws and why Brian O’Driscoll wasn’t picked for the 3rd Lions test.

Why have I chosen the name “Clearing The Premises”?  Funny I should pretend that you asked.

Many people vote the way they do because of their parents.  Some tow the line and vote the same way, others rebel and do the opposite.  Either way it’s good to at least have a grounding, though I suppose in many ways I should be grateful to my grandparents who raised me in that apart from wishing me to be a devout Catholic, they never really tried to influence me in any way to lean a particular way politically.  In fact, when I finally cared enough to ask them what way they voted in American elections, I was actually surprised to learn that it was Democrat not Republican (I suppose fact that my grandfather was a schoolteacher by profession should have been a clue but I never really gave it any real thought before I turned 30).

This means that I had no real foundation on which to work out how I saw the world, and it took me over 40 years for a pattern to properly emerge…in other words, I really don’t think I could have embarked on a blog like this before now.

One thing is for sure…as much as we’re led to believe that politics is similar to sports in that before you show interest you much choose a particular “team”, I am constantly finding evidence to the contrary.  Take the upcoming referendum here in Ireland on abolishing the Seanad.  The political party on this island that has consistently reflected my opinions has been the Labour party, yet they are for a “Yes” vote, while I am vehemently in the “No” camp, which in the most telling of ironies, has the “nation-wrecking” Fianna Fáil as its only main advocate.

Besides…I don’t like talking about “politics”.  That word represents the argument over who gets to do the job.  I’d much rather talk about the job itself.   The topic should be titled “government”, with “politics” as a mere subset.

So the way I see things, we’re in the wrong neighbourhood even before we start talking about how we’re governed.  And the endless droning on of the talking heads in the media seems to serve little purpose other than to keep our thinking firmly entrenched in that neighbourhood.

With this blog, I want to be able to share with you my thoughts on how I think the world is, not how I feel I should be seeing it.  In other words, I want to challenge, or for the sake of my little pun clear, the premises laid out before me.

Every Sunday morning when I am able, I will embark on a ramble similar to this one.  As much as I enjoy the rugby stuff, it will do me good to regularly pound these keys for a while on something else.  Whether you join me on this journey or not is of course up to you.  But I have TONS to get off my chest, so it will be here regardless. JLP

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