Hail to the Chief

With the rugby blog occupying practically all of my online time I could easily make excuses for not keeping this one going, but that’s not good enough in my book.  As much as I love rugby, I feel I need this site to prove that I do, from time to time, think about slightly more, shall we say, serious matters!

I have renamed my personal blog “Clearing The Premises” for a reason, and pretty soon I will fully explain what that is.  My plan is to reserve Sunday morning’s online time exclusively for posting here, starting in earnest once this hectic rugby season is over.

In the meantime, I will post the transcript of this speech made recently by the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins to the European Parliament – in many ways it is relevant to what I want to do here.

A Uachtaráin, a Chomhaltaí de Pharlaimint na hEorpa, ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil libh as ucht an deis a thabhairt dom labhairt leis an tionól seo ina dtugtar le chéile ionadaithe na saoránach, arna dtoghadh go díreach agus go daonlathach, ó na seacht mballstát fichead, ocht gcinn fichead go luath, den Aontas Eorpach.

[Mr. President, Members of the European Parliament, may I thank you for giving me the opportunity of addressing this assembly which brings together the democratically, directly elected, representatives of the citizens of the 27 member states, soon to be 28, of the European Union.]

I address you mar Uachtarán na hEireann, as President of Ireland, an island that has always been connected to matters European; a country that has always looked outward; a people with a very strong connection with the cultures and learning of Europe in all its diversity from ancient times; and a nation that has valued that European vocation through every century into the present when Ireland holds, for the seventh time, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers in our fortieth year of membership of the Union.

Be it in our ancient Celtic connections, in our continuous connection with European scholarship, or in our modern consistent support for European unity we have been European in our consciousness and commitment. Europe has always had an existence in the Irish mind.

In our own Gaelic language the mythic stories of Europe have always been present and some of our modern plays recall the use that was made of the classical sources of Greek and Roman myths in the Gaelic hedge schools that preceded the widespread use of the English language. The Irish language that preceded English had been deeply influenced by ancient European myths, particularly the great myths of sea and exile such as that of Homer’s Odyssey. In the areas of literature, the peoples of Europe have had an old and enduring sense of respect for what is a cultural diversity frequently drawn from a shared body of myth.

It was, however, in the tasks of the mind and the spirit that the Irish sought to make their greatest contribution. Thus it was that in July 1950 the then Irish Prime Minister, John A. Costello, together with the Irish Foreign Minister, Nobel Peace Laureate, and founding member of Amnesty International, Sean McBride travelled to Luxeuil-Les-Bains to officially celebrate the 1400th anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest Irish and European saints and scholars, Columbanus. It was Columbanus who with St. Gall and others established centres of learning, manuscript illumination, monasteries and communities across Europe from the North of Ireland to Bobbio, where Columbanus actually died.

It is of the spirit of citizenship as it might be at a European level, as might motivate Europeans who want to give the two words – European and Union – a sense of fulfilment, and of human flourishing that I wish to speak of in this year that has been dedicated as “European Year of the Citizen”.

But one more word about that meeting in Luxeuil-Les-Bains in July 1950. No more than some meetings of the contemporary period, its real agenda was not as publicly indicated. It was declared to be ecclesiastical in purpose; after all, the Papal Nuncio to France, Monsignor Roncalli, later to be Pope John XXIII, was present, as was the Bishop of Bobbio. But we now know, from the work of the distinguished scholar of the Sorbonne Marguerite Marie Dubois, modernist, linguist, philosopher and lexicographer, that the meeting was really organized so as to facilitate a meeting of Robert Schuman, Foreign Minister of France, with like minded others from a number of European countries anxious to test his great idea for the coming together of the countries of Europe.

Schuman, reached back to recall the early monastic perigrinatio and declared Columbanus to be “the patron saint of all those who now seek to build a united Europe”.

The Schuman meeting, and the others which followed it, assisted by such as Jean Monnet, was responding to near and terrible events. But we should never forget, and I emphasize it today, that in their response they recognized, and drew on, the rich scholarship, philosophy, moral instincts and generous impulses of European thought as they sought, not only to replace war with peace, but more importantly, to offer a vision of Europe’s people working together in an inclusive way.

Yet the inspiration and the achievements of the founders of the European Union cannot be taken for granted. Today, citizens in Europe are threatened with an unconscious drift to disharmony, a loss of social cohesion, a recurrence of racism and a deficit of democratic accountability. These threatening clouds hang over a Europe that in more hopeful times, chose to base its anthem, rather than on anything contemporary, on Friedrich Schiller’s poem ‘Ode to Joy’ and its musical setting by Ludwig Van Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony.

Centuries of effort have been invested by European citizens in securing the vote. It is to parliament citizens look for accountability, for strategic alternatives. If national parliaments, if the European Parliament, were to lose the capacity to deliver accountability where else might it be found? Is there an alternative that can meet the requirements of a deliberative democracy?

I am conscious, in this year of the European Citizen, that as Parliamentarians you are the elected component of the European Union, elected by citizens from diverse electorates on the same day. I want to wish you well in all your deliberations together and particularly in your dialogue with your electorate – the citizens of Europe. They, the citizens, place their trust in parliament when they vote and they rightly have expectations of parliaments responding to their needs. I very much welcome the influence and decision-making powers that the European Parliament has won in relation to the multi-annual budgeting process and wish you well in discharging that responsibility on behalf of the citizens of Europe.

How would the founders of the European Union respond to our present circumstances you might ask?

We know how hard the institutions, including this one, have worked to overcome the most serious economic crisis the Union has faced; how they have struggled to match the speed of their reaction to the ferocity of its onslaught.

We cannot, however, ignore the fact that European citizens are suffering the consequences of actions and opinions of bodies such as rating agencies, which, unlike Parliaments, are unaccountable. Many of our citizens regard the response to the crisis as disparate, sometimes delayed, not equal to the urgency of the task and showing insufficient solidarity.

They feel that the economic narrative of recent years has been driven by dry technical concerns; for example, by calculations geared primarily by a consideration of the impact on speculative markets, rather than by sufficient compassion and empathy with the predicament of European citizens who are members of a union.

In facing up to the challenges Europe currently faces, particularly in relation to unemployment, we cannot afford to place our singular trust in a version of a logistical, economic theory whose assumptions are questionable and indifferent to social consequences in terms of their outcome. Instead of a discourse that might define Europe as simply an economic space of contestation between the strong and the weak, our citizens yearn for the language of solidarity, of cohesion, for a generous inclusive rhetoric that is appropriate to an evolving political union.

This is a serious challenge, not least because of the risk that an economic crisis will lead to a crisis of legitimacy for the Union. The Union in its founding treaties is fundamentally founded on values – respect for personal dignity; freedom; democracy; equality; the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The Union draws its legitimacy from the support of its citizens. That connection with the citizens – their belief that the European Union is of them and for them – is fundamental. Without it, we are adrift. Citizens need an appeal to their heart as well as their reason. They need reassurance now that the Union will keep faith with its founding treaties.

It is many years since Jacques Delors declared “Europe needs a soul”, but it remains just as true. We should never forget that we are the inheritors of a profoundly important set of European values – Greek democracy, Roman law, the Judeo-Christian tradition, the reformation, the enlightenment, the great democratic revolution that began in France. Europe is therefore more than an economic space of contestation in which our citizens are invited or required to deliver up their lives in the service of an abstract model of economy and society whose core assumptions they may not question or put to democratic test in elections.

As we face into the future, we need to draw strength from the founding values of the Union. These include cohesion and solidarity – among Member States, among the citizens of our Union, and between the European Union and the rest of the world.
We need to apply ourselves to building a better future together – as Jacques Delors also said of this present crisis “Europe does not just need fire-fighters, it needs architects too”.

A first and urgent task must be to get Europe back to sustainable and fulfilling employment and a return to real growth. There is nothing more corrosive to society and more crushing to an individual than endemic unemployment, particularly among the young. Today there are 26 million people across the Union without work, and 115 million in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion. We cannot allow this to continue.

Irish Presidencies have always drawn from the spirit of the founding treaties and the current Irish Presidency has put job creation right at the top of the agenda. The European Council has agreed that addressing unemployment is the most important social challenge we face. At last month’s Social Summit, you, Mr President, rightly warned of the repercussions of the spread of unemployment and poverty across the Union.

I commend the agreement reached in the European Council in February on the Youth Employment Initiative, and the subsequent proposals from the Commission to make it operational by the start of next year. I also very much welcome the agreement reached in the Council on the Youth Guarantee that will ensure all young people under the age of 25 receive a good quality offer of employment, education, apprenticeship or training within four months of being unemployed.

But we need to do more. We need to ensure that women participate in the workplace as equals; that older workers are not left on the sidelines; and that the long-term unemployed are fully equipped to find their way back into today’s work place. We must, above all, ensure that a loss of employment does not lead to exclusion from participation, particularly in the cultural space of one’s community.

We need also to consider how to encourage people to create jobs. We need to value and support our Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, the lifeblood of so many of our communities. We need to sustain those that want to create opportunity for themselves and for others. We need to encourage creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship.

A generous vision of Europe is, of course, not one that looks solely inwards.
The European model has inspired many others on their journey to peace and democratic institutions. While its light may not have dazzled as brightly in recent years, Europe can yet be a beacon of hope and encouragement for many less fortunate people in the world. It can give a lead, for example, with a unified voice on climate change, recognizing that those least contributing to our global problem are paying the highest price, even as we meet today.

How the European Union engages with the rest of the world is a major test of its authority and credibility. Will the Union allow its current economic difficulties to undermine its commitment on the great global challenges of our day – hunger, poverty, human rights, climate justice? I hope not. Will we reaffirm the generous idealism at the heart of the European vision by rededicating ourselves to tackling these problems in solidarity with other partners? I hope we do. The measures that replace the Millennium Development Goals – how they respect diversity, recognize different paths to development and have human rights at their centre – will be a major test for Europe and the global community.

I believe that a European Union that has the courage to face all of its past, including its periods of empire, with honesty, and its future with a commitment to values that are inclusive of all humanity, with a discourse that respects diversity, has a profound contribution to make – not only to its own citizens in Europe but to the global community. It can give a lead in creating a form of ethical globalization that recognizes intergenerational responsibilities.

Such an integrated discourse as might allow for this to happen is, I believe, missing just now. The prevailing narrative seems to be trapped intellectually in a structure of thought which it appears unable to challenge, from which it seems unable, or at times even unwilling, to escape.

In the absence of considering other possible models or approaches, we are in danger of drifting into, and sustaining, a kind of moral and intellectual impotence. Yet we have available to us a rich legacy of intellectual, radical work upon which we could draw.

There is, in our shared intellectual heritage for example, in the energetic pursuit of new thought that characterised the European Enlightenment, itself formed from the thought of other ancient Enlightenments, some powerful examples of dissident and radical thought. Let us never forget the singular example given by those dissident thinkers, Diderot, Kant and Herder. They in their times saw the flaw in the Enlightenment thinking that supported empire, with its insatiable drive, and courageously challenged it through their books, pamphlets and public expressions.

The logistical strand of economics which today, as a hegemonic model of economic theory, holds sway is, of course, useful for limited and defined tasks. It is insufficient however for our problems and our future. We need a new substantive, political economy and an emancipatory discourse to deliver it, and I suggest that this is possible.

There is an urgent need for new models of connection between economy, society and policy. These are essential for genuine, pluralist choices in policy, not to speak of democratic accountability and relevance, if we are to address the current challenges.
As European Parliamentarians, I encourage you to let these new models into the European discourse, give them space in the committee structure of the Parliament and the institutional structure of the Union.

But to achieve that discourse the role of public intellectuals is also an urgent one.

They are called upon, I suggest, to state publicly and unequivocally that the problems of Europe are not simply technical, and certainly not solely amenable to solution by technocratic measures at the expense of democratic accountability. The suggestion that citizens and their representatives are not fiscally or economically literate enough to carry the decision making necessary for policies that impinge on their lives – be it unemployment, housing, health, education or the environment – has the most serious implications in legitimacy terms.

A disembodied version of the economic space if used as a substitute for peoples, societies, or states loses its connection with history, contemporary challenges and would lack the moral connection with the ethics and solidarity we now need. It would evade rather than face our present challenges.

A European Union – if it is to be respected as the great project it is and can be – must draw on the intellectual heritage and the intellectual imaginings, and the existing talents and capacity of the peoples of Europe. It is a fully authentic Union if it is characterised by solidarity.

Mar focal scoir [In conclusion]:

If it is not of this authentic character just now, it must be made so by changes in consciousness and commitment, and through reasserting the idealism, intellectual strength and moral courage that drove the founding fathers of the Union. European Member States are peoples, with history, with current needs, with possibilities to be shared.

If we were, as an alternative, to regard our people as dependent variables to the opinions of rating agencies, agencies unaccountable to any demos, and indeed found to be fallible on occasion, then instead of being citizens we would be reduced to the status of mere consumers; pawns in a speculative chess board of fiscal moves in a game derived from assumptions that are weak, untestable or more frequently undeclared.

To ask that our decisions be normative rather than narrowly, fiscally technocratic is, I suggest, more than an integration of our intellectual capacities. It is to defend and deepen democracy. I readily acknowledge the utility in so many areas of logistical economics. However, I believe that if its methods are elevated to being a substitute for the integrated multi-disciplinary scholarship that is needed to address the varying contexts and contingencies of current challenges, such a sole reliance on a technocratic approach would be markedly insufficient.

If we are to deliver the European Union of peace and prosperity that the founders envisaged, and that I believe the citizens of Europe yearn for beyond the understandable fear of present circumstances, a strategy that draws on the world views of all of the social sciences, and ethics and philosophy is required.

President, Members of Parliament,

From the flux of diverse histories, from our current problems, from our fears and our aspirations I hope will emerge a response that constitutes a tapestry of many colours, of different strengths in its threads; and, in its design, evocative of what memory has made endure, and the human spirit has invested with hope. Whether it is made out of wondrous reason or woven with a prayer will not matter. What matters is that it be work of us all, working together, in co-operation, cosmopolitan and open to the world, caring for it, in an inter-generationally responsible way, and embracing all our people as equal citizens.

We the citizens of the European Union want to make a real Union together, something indeed worthy of the “Ode to Joy”.

Starting over


Who said Doctor Who had the monopoly on endless re-incarnations???

My personal blogs over the years have had various titles…

“JLP’s Diary”
“A Bit O’ Pampering And The Odd Shag”
“All Smoke And Mirrors”
“jlpagano.net”
“Harpin’ On Stuff”

…but it doesn’t really matter what the name is if I’m not making entries, does it?

Most of my time is spent on the rugby site this weather.  And I am in the process of taking that to “the next level”, whatever that is.

But I still want an outlet where I can talk about life “n” stuff, so I have decided to revert the bulk of the content of this blog to draft and start again.

That’s not the only reason I have re-named the site “Clearing The Premises”, however, but hopefully I will be able to explain that (and the new logo) more fully over the coming weeks.


© JL Pagano 2013

Savita & my right to express my anger

I tried waiting a few days to blog about this issue, but I am still angry and so I write this post, even though there are many who, for various reasons, may think I don’t have a right to speak out.

image

It angers me to think of the pain poor Savita Halappanavar must have gone through.

It angers me to think of the array of emotions experienced by her husband Praveen over the past few weeks.

It angers me that if she hadn’t have died we probably wouldn’t know about her plight and the 20-year clock on X-case legislation would remain ticking.

It angers me that this story was able to be kept quiet for so long.  Can you even imagine what would have transpired if this was put in the public domain during those four horrific days Savita was in agony?

It angers me that the media fail to make the distinction between “the abortion debate” and “the abortion argument”.  The real debate is on the so-called “pro-choice side”, which consists mostly of rational, broad-minded people who see the topic as a complex one that requires mature discussion and who would have widely varying ethical views on the circumstances in which an abortion should be allowed to take place.  The argument, which is what the media focuses on and labels as a debate, is between all the people I mention above on one “side” and on the other, the small minority of people who, through nothing less than misguided arrogance, call themselves “pro-life”, and who find themselves incredibly (and in many cases mysteriously) well-funded, and whose strategy involves name-calling and covering their ears refusing to listen to anything until they get their way.

It angers me that some people think this is purely a women’s issue, when around 50% of the babies in question are male, 100% of the babies’ fathers are male, and although I can’t put a percentage on this, I would say a majority of those fathers love their partners deeply and live through their pregnancy emotionally as much as is humanly possible (not to mention the fathers, brothers and other close male family members of the women concerned).

It angers me to hear people like journalist/Catholic Church apologist David Quinn  repeatedly hurl  the phrase “pro-abortion-legislation” at an elected representative on national radio knowing full well the people he is really speaking to won’t hear the word “legislation”.

It angers me that there is a body of doctors who support the “pro-life” agenda but when you present yourself to a hospital for a pregnancy you have no idea where the consultants you are dealing with stand on the issue.  Perhaps there are ways of finding out but I very much doubt the majority of people know this.

It angers me that having had three children born here in Ireland, I have heard anecdotal evidence that some Irish hospitals are “pro-mother” and some are “pro-baby”  – perhaps it isn’t true, but I have heard it enough times from enough different sources for there to at least be a discussion about it and clearly there isn’t one at national level.

It angers me that the “pro-life” hymn-sheet since Savita’s death has been to tell everyone, including (implicitly as they are too scared to actually say it) Praveen Halappanavar, to shut up and wait for the results of inquiries, most of which would seem to involve people with vested interests in either the hospital or the HSE.

It angers me that the likelihood of legislation being passed quickly is probably determined by the agenda of the Fine Gael party, who it seems would experience a back-bencher revolt and thus would want to get through its own laundry list in the Dáil first before even bringing such legislation to the house.

It angers me that Fianna Fáil, whose leader had his feet under the cabinet table for 14 of the 20 years Irish government did nothing about the X case (4 as Minister for Health), is saying anything on this issue.

It angers me that rather than stand with Labour and form a united front, Sinn Féin prefer instead to use political tactics to draw them out of the coalition, implying  they have been serious about X legislation for years when I for one certainly haven’t ever heard them make it a front line issue. 

It angers me that so many people are saying that they are ashamed to be Irish, understandable though such feelings may be.   I may have been born in the USA, but I have lived here for 35 years, proudly consider myself Irish and would rather express my desire to get this situation resolved than express my shame.

May Savita and her baby RIP.

Dunnes Jersey – an alternative tale

dunnerbtdt


Apparently today has been dubbed “Richard Dunne Day” by Irish soccer fans to honour the display by the national team’s star centre-half against the Russians that will long be remembered, not only for his heroics on the pitch, but for the hand-drawn number 5 that appeared on his replacement jersey for the final portion of the match.

Given the match in question was a Euro qualifier, and given how the boys in green played in the finals (Given included), I’m not so sure it’s a day I’ll be looking to honour in years to come…

Still, it puts me in mind of a brief story of my own from when I was working in Boston in 1994, and although it is also soccer-related, most Irish people would appreciate it.

I was in the US at the time simply because the soccer World Cup was.  In fact, I had been there for a year before that, spending time on the west coast first.

For funds I was working in a sports store right downtown on Summer St a stone’s throw from Boston Common.  One of the managers in the store was an Irish American called Pat Meehan.  OK, maybe that wasn’t his name, but trust me, it was as Irish as that, and it was also one of those surnames whose pronunciation has been butchered by generations of existing in America – in this case, MEE-HAN instead of “Meen”.

Anyway…the Americans may have a better appreciation of soccer now, but they certainly didn’t then.  In general they seemed to be a bit bemused by the whole World Cup thing, seeing it as a kind of freaky sideshow to their own national sports.

But because Pat had a great great grandfather from Listowel or something, he felt he needed to have some sort of kinship with me.  Which was nice. Not.  Ah, no, he was a nice enough guy, but as fond as I am of my adopted native land, I was getting away from it for a while and didn’t feel the need to talk about it every five minutes.

One Monday morning Pat came in to work and couldn’t wait to tell me about his weekend.

“Hey, you know how you keep telling us we should be selling the World Cup soccer jerseys?” he asked.

“Yeah?”

“Well maybe you’re right because I bought one from a guy going around this Irish bar I was drinking in on Saturday night.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah! And I got a real deal on it, too. Only thirty bucks!  Thing would cost at least fifty in a store like this one!”

“Wow, that’s a really good deal.  Hope I meet this guy.  You’re sure it’s the official jersey, yeah?

“Absolutely positive.  He told me the way you can tell is right there on the label, where it said : Made by St. Bernard.”

What made it even funnier was the way he pronounced it, putting the emphasis on the “-nard”!

My first reaction was to “not have the heart to tell him”, but then I imagined someone else pointing it out to him as he was actually wearing it, so I found the heart.  He wasn’t impressed.

So that’s my Richard Dunne Day story.  Needed it to blow the cobwebs off this personal blog…makes a change from all the rugby I’ve been doing lately!

Soul Haven

I haven’t penned a poem in yonks, but I enjoyed my Counselling & Psychotherapy Foundation course (which ended today) so much that I couldn’t help but feel inspired to write this which in many ways works as a sequel to my last effort “Needed”. Thanks also to classmate Róisín for letting me use one of her excellent paintings to go with it. 

RS ART

Spilling your guts”
I’ve always found
Is just as pretty
As it sounds

To share your troubles
Fears and sins
Takes more than courage
From within

You need a haven
For your soul
Where it feels safe
Beyond control

It may take time
To show its face
But once it has
That ideal space

It breaks free from
It’s home-made cage
And proudly stands
At center stage

To quosh all doubts
And read a poem
Which tells the crowd
It feels at home

So thank you all
For this great time
Which has inspired
This humble rhyme

Should life bring joy
Or deep regret
One thing’s for sure
I won’t forget

This place where
Demons go to die
The Carroll Room
At PCI

© JL Pagano 2012

click here for a full index of my poetry and song lyrics

twivial pursuit

Things were getting pretty ugly over this ash cloud last night, I can tell you.

What? You think I mean amongst people whose flights had been cancelled? Nah….this is far more serious than THAT, folks! I’m talking a serious cl-ASH amongst hard-core twitterers here!!!

There I was, last Thursday morning, quietly stirring my coffee, listening to the 7 o’clock news (Claire & Ivan on the Newstalk Breakfast Show to be precise). I was hearing for the first time about all the hassle that Icelandic volcano was causing Irish travellers. As befits my current twitter obsession, my first thought was “I wonder what the hashtag will be for this one.”

Then I thought “hang on…ash, hashtag…. #ashtag!” So as I am wont to do, I stopped what I was doing, ran to the pc and posted the above tweet.

Pretty obvious pun I know, in fact it was SO obvious I was sure someone must have thought of it already.

Then the tweets started rolling in.

scarie Lol @jl_pagano #ashtag – brilliant 🙂
curlydena hope the ash clears by tomorrow. I want to see my parents, dammit! #ashtag (kudos to @JL_Pagano for the #tag too)
paddaniels What tag genius thought of the cockney ‘ashtag #ashtag ? according to Google it was @JL_Pagano congrats!http://ow.ly/1yL0C
abracarioca @JL_Pagano are you the one who created #ashtag? I’d like to know if the new Google search tool is working fine. Thanks!
broddo #ashtag now trending worldwide! Was it truly @JL_Pagano who started it? Hat’s off!
junepurr @JL_Pagano were you the first #ashtag user? 🙂

So seemingly this was a ‘big’ deal in twitter terms. The term was “trending” worldwide (though at the risk of starting another row, why don’t they call it “twending”?).

Hurrah for me and my online ego. Let’s say I wasn’t going to go shouting it from the rooftops though, in fact at that stage I wouldn’t even have been thinking about it enough this morning for a blog post.

THEN I get home last night an learn that another tweeter was claiming he had thought of it first. A web journalist had tweeted a request for the tag’s creator, and @AngryBritain jumped in saying he coined it at “7:31am UK time” on the Thursday morning.

Well that’s when the competitive gene in my DNA kicked in. A quick check showed my original tweet was at 7:02am, and actually other tweeters had responded to the journalist saying that according to a site called hashtags.org, it was me.

Now I had a choice. Do I leave it, or do I speak up? I spoke up.

A few minutes later said journalist tweets and tells me he credited us both, and sent me his article where in fact he gives it to AngryBritain, adding “though JL Pagano may also lay claim”.

Well I wasn’t having THAT! Sadly I couldn’t let go knowing 7:02 beats 7:31. Yeah, I know, I should’ve taken the high ground, but as far as I was concerned someone was trying to take credit for something I’d done, and there was something of a principle involved.

So I put forward my case to both @AngryBritain and his sidekick @dweezil1968 (seemingly it was now a joint effort between them) and I get a reply offering to “share” it.
Again, I could’ve left it, but I was sitting there with my iPhone in my hand on a Sunday evening winding down with nothing else to do so I sent another tweet saying that if someone could show me a tweet that was timestamped before mine I’d be MORE THAN HAPPY to stand down.

Then the duo took the stance I was afraid they would… “Oh ALL RIGHT THEN. TAKE IT. IF IT MEANS THAT MUCH TO YOU” (paraphrase).

*sigh*

But I’ll still take it, not because I’m petty, not because I thought it was a life-threatening issue, but because the evidence clearly pointed to me and when THAT happens, I believe you should most certainly speak up.

Hopefully the title of this post shows my tongue-in-cheek approach to the whole matter! I KNOW I DO have a life, even if the 678-word length of the post suggests otherwise!!!! 😉

seeing right through people

As a couple my wife and I don’t ask for much. We really, really don’t.
One of the first things we found we had in common when we met was a love for rugby, particularly the Six Nations. And so it became a ritual for us that we’d take our place in Sinnotts bar in downtown Dublin and watch every minute of every game on the days Ireland was playing.
Of course, in long term relationships, things change. Like last year, we were expecting our baby son, but when it transpired that the Grand Slam was possibly going to be decided on my 40th birthday, my wife was determined to go to a bar and sip orange juice so we chose Dicey Reilly’s over Sinnotts because it was a more of an open space and would be less crowded.
This year, the dilemma is rather different. We are both very short on relatives living near us, and the only person who can realistically babysit is her brother, so we try not to impose on him too much. He did, however, offer to take the little fellow last Saturday afternoon so we made our plans to go into town and watch the big match in Paris.
Once again, we decided against going to Sinnotts, on account of us wanting to be close to the Luas line so we could get home after fulltime so we could offer her brother something left from his Saturday night to go out himself. As a result, we settled on the Knightsbridge Pub on the quays right near O’Connell St bridge.
We knew they had multiple big screens, did reasonable carvery food, and were definitely showing the rugby and not the competing FA Cup football. So we got there in plenty of time for kickoff in the Wales v Scotland game, and had some lunch with a few opening pints for starters.
We also got there early enough to single out a prime location for viewing the big screen, and I really thought I had found it, tucked at a table by a railing so not only had we a clear view of the screen, we weren’t near any other tables around us.
And so the game kicked off, and we were ready for the ensuing action.
Enter Northern Ireland’s answer to the Gallagher family out of Shameless.
They swanned into the bar, all ten or so of them, a good ten minutes after kickoff, and proceeded to gather chairs from about the place and plonk themselves down right in front of the screen.
When seated, they were no problem to anyone. But seemingly they didn’t seem to mind taking turns standing up and totally blocking everyone’s view for one reason or another. Again, of course nobody minded them getting up to go to the bar or toilet, but I mean standing up in front of screen and remaining standing for no earthly reason at all.
Now we had a few pints on us at that stage, and as I’m sure you know by now the match wasn’t exactly going Ireland’s way, and these people were clearly getting on everyone’s wick, not just ours.
But then they started with the wigs.
One of the bunch was clearly the “guy who liked the rugby”. Big guy, baldy head, beer gut, sporting one of those Ireland rugby jerseys you get in Carrolls gift shops for a tenner. And he seemed to think it was hilarious to stand up and prance around with a mop of fake blonde hair on his noggin.
Well, taken in context, he looked funny alright, but not funny hilarious. With his big frame taking up a large chunk of the screen, he looked funny downright effin stupid.
Of course, something needed to be said.
“Jesus, would you ever sit the fuck down, you big dumb eejit!”
Is what my wife said at the top of her lungs.

And so his missus had to jump to his aid….”Alright, relax, no need to shout”, instantly making it look like we were the ones at fault. Still, she got him to sit down.
That was fine. Till he decided to turn around and face me.
“Berdy bordy berdy bordy berdy bordy”. Sorry, I don’t mean to mock the Northern Ireland accent, I just really couldn’t make out a single word he said, but from his body language it was clear he was annoyed with us.
Then, he got up to go to the loo, and walked right by us on the way, doing a walk that was meant to look macho but thanks to his belly looked like it had more to do with a nacho (or twenty).
So after my doing an impression of his swagger/stagger to my wife while he was gone, he chose to have a word with us on the way back.
And guess what, he was right in our faces, and I STILL could barely make out what he was saying. At least he had taken the stupid wig off. One word I could discern was “prollum”, as in to rhyme with “Gollum”, so I had to assume he was saying that if we had a problem with him to say it to his face.
He then began pointing his finger at my wife so I came back with this.
“Listen, mate. We asked you to sit down because you were blocking the screen. That’s all that happened here. Best thing you can do right now is walk away.”
A good dose of reason will always flush out stupidity, I always find.
“Fuck off, fuck you, fuck off, fuck you!” And off he went back down to his seat.
“My God, you don’t have a brain cell in your head, do ya?” I said in the midst of his rant. Well, I figured if I couldn’t understand him, there was a good chance it was mutual. Still wasn’t the wisest move on my part, I know, but I was coming from a place whereby I wasn’t going to let these out and out morons bully us out of watching a rugby match.
Of course at this stage I was hopping mad, and then Sandra began at me…”Please let it go, PLEASE let it go…they’re not worth it” and all of this…
I’m like…”Hang on a sec. Am I the problem here? I was just watching a rugby match! Did I get in everyone’s way?”
But I guess I could see where she was coming from. She felt responsible for starting the whole thing by shouting in the first place, and didn’t want me to be hurt as a result.
It was getting close to fulltime at this stage, and we were close to finishing our drink. Our plan had been to go right after full time, but neither of us wanted to look like we were running away from these people. She went to the loo while I waited for the lounge girl and we were to have one for the road before heading.
I went to my phone to check my messages after she left and before I knew what was up, there was baldy back in my face again. This time he extended his hand.
I went ahead with shaking his hand, but he put his other one behind my head and pulled it close to his so he could talk directly in my ear.
Even that close I could barely make out what he said, but there was a “sorry “ in there, together with a “let it go”. But most of all I was thinking “Get you motherfucking hands off of me right now””.
Luckily, as I’d looked at my phone, I saw a pic of the wee fella. That’s all the reality dose anyone would need. If I started a scrap with this moron, chances are we’d both be in a garda cell within minutes. Not to mention the fact that Sandra could have been hurt. You just don’t know who you’re dealing with.
So instead of getting him away from me, I began to say “Look, it’s a big match, emotions are running high, we both lost the head…” but I should have known that sentence had words with way, way too many syllables for this guy.
“JUST LET IT GO!” he said again after pulling away from my ear.
I smiled. “It’s gone.”
He went back to his missus, clearly to tell her he’d done anything BUT apologise to me to keep up whatever Alpha male image of him she has in her delusional brain, while my wife returned from the loo to hear about what happened and began to ponder what she would have done if she had seen him with his hands on me.
We went home, her brother brought the wee fellow back, and we enjoyed our Saturday evening in with him.
But let’s be perfectly clear about one thing. This guy was big, but he was no bigger than I am. I could’ve taken him. 😉