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. 😉

what’s wrong with the gaa

Before you read this post, please be sure that I am 100% aware that Dublin were totally outclassed by Kerry in every aspect of the game last Monday.

There’s nothing that can take away from that. However, call it sour grapes if you want, but the fact remains that the ridiculous format of the All-Ireland Championship means that for yet another year, the Dubs were eliminated after losing just one match by a team that were allowed to lose one match. I wonder if that status quo would remain if Kerry or Tyrone were similarly affected?

As I was twittering the game on Monday, someone replied and mentioned that the GAA was “confident in its own brand”. Time, methinks, to re-publish a post from 2006, which examined just that very point, and outlines a few areas I felt needed addressing – very few of which have been dealt with in the meantime.


Remember – just because I list what’s wrong doesn’t mean I think there’s nothing right…

I started to feel nervous once I finished typing that title. Should I be looking over my shoulder around now? I’m just about to diss the undissable!

The debate over the use of Croke Park was one of the most fascinating in sporting history, not just on this island. To those who can’t claim ancestry on Celtic soil, it seemed like a ludicrously lop-sided argument.

Basically a couple of big boys who wanted to play ball in the neighbourhood’s immaculate park were being denied by a smart-ass pipsqueak kid who tantalisingly dangled the keys from inside the fence. Yet whenever I heard the protagonists discuss the matter, I always got the sense that the big boys both knew the pipsqueak’s Dad would kick their ass if they pushed him too far.

Just look at me as an even smaller pipsqueak shouting rude words through the fence from behind the big boys and then running away as fast as my little legs will carry me.

Before I go on, I should give two reasons why I may be considered biased when writing this piece.

First, I’m a disgruntled Dubs fan who feels like it’s a joke that the only counties who don’t get to use the “back-door” system are the four who actually become champions of their province.

Second, I’m a disgruntled rugby fan who is convinced that were it not for the existence of Gaelic sports, we’d have both rugby AND soccer team that could realistically compete for honours in their respective World Cups.

If you spend any length of time here or indeed study the island’s history, you know that you can’t just look at the GAA as a sporting organisation. It has links to the nation’s history; in fact it has strong links to its very foundation.

Trust me – I totally get that.

I also know the GAA will never, ever go away. And if truth be told, I wouldn’t really want it to. Think of an annoying relative in your family you have a particular dislike for without actually wishing them dead.

So all that leaves me to do is list what I think can be done to make the games more appealing, and to encourage people to follow it not just because they are supporting their county or their country, but because it actually involves entertaining sports that can realistically compete with the ones that are embraced all around the world.

And so I have compiled six points. I’m sure I can list more. And yes, I know you could easily come back at me with things that are wrong with rugby & soccer. Trust me, for every one of those you could come up with, I could produce three, but that’s for another day’s writing.

1. MINDLESS BEAUROCRACY – The Croke Park saga showed me exactly where the GAA’s problems are rooted. To make a decision, it has to be approved by individual province boards, individual county boards, in fact I think parish priests even get a veto by the looks of it. I’m sorry, but from my practical standpoint that makes a mockery of the organisation. Gaelic football and Hurling are minority sports. Not just on the planet, but on this island. That doesn’t mean they’re BAD sports. They are just minority sports. Their top level executive process should not be that complicated. Let the federal level regularly elect a central council for, say, a four year term, and let them get on with governing the game and making decisions without having to convene hundreds of committees all over the country in the process.

2. WHEN IS A HAND-PASS A HAND-PASS? – One frustrating by-product of my first point is that with every new season on GAA sports (though to be honest I’m not quite sure exactly when one season ends and another begins) there is a whole new set of rule changes for the long-suffering fans to digest. Constant tinkering with the hand-pass rules. Yellow, red and even black cards which the referees seem to dole out on a whim more than as a result of enforcing stringent sets of laws. Plus the fact that I can’t for the life of me understand how one man in his forties can be expected to run around a park and keep track of the antics of thirty men aged ten to twenty years younger. I’m sorry – but when a GAA game is officiated, it looks a lot like it a weekend pick-up game down at the park. That is not about the officials, it’s about the ever-changing rules they are expected to enforce.

3. HOW DO YOU GET TO BE CHAMPIONS? – These points are in no particular order, but two get my goat particularly, and this is one of them. Next season, there is to be yet more tinkering with both the All-Ireland Championship and the National League. Now when I say “National League”, what I really mean is the Glorified Friendly Series the GAA runs every spring. Personally, I would find a way of tying the League to the Championship, but what I’d settle for is the GAA executive (one with teeth as I outlined before) to agree on a format and stick to it for at least four or five seasons in a row before altering it. Just stick to this premise – try and get the best two teams in the country contesting the All-Ireland Final. It doesn’t look like rocket science to me.

4. SHOW ME THE MONEY – Though I appreciate the GAA’s pride in retaining its amateur status, I can’t see the GPA going away any time soon. The central executive should let them in under the umbrella and start sharing the wealth generated by the sports equally among those who actually contribute to it.

5. DROP THE DRAWS – My biggest pet peeve of all. I’ve written about it before on my blog. This drives me up the wall and down the other side. There is pretty frequent scoring in both Gaelic football and Hurling. There is absolutely NO reason why a single-elimination contest cannot be settled on the day. No need to bring everyone back the following week to buy thousands more tickets. It really should be unconstitutional to be able to unnecessarily legislate large amounts of cash for yourself. But I guess on this island that wouldn’t make them the only ones, right?

6. WHY HIDE YOUR BEAUTIFUL HQ? – One argument I heard from GAA-heads throughout the Croke Park debate went something like this – “Why should we share with rugby and soccer when they can’t build their own stadium?” To the GAA I say this. You want to really humiliate them? Let them play their games in Croker, and when the French and the Aussies and the Brazilians and yes, even the English come to play, you make sure you let their fans know about your games when you have them assembled before and after the matches. Tell them you built it. Show it off to the world!!! You can’t do that when Kerry plays Mayo. You can when it’s a Six Nations game or a World Cup qualifier.

That’s it for now. Of course I don’t know that much about it to begin with. I’m sure I will incur a backlash from GAA fans.

Sometimes, however, it helps to hear the truth from outside the fence. All I’m saying to the GAA is, maybe the game should market itself towards soccer and rugby fans – some of us wouldn’t actually mind coming on board and spending our money on your tickets. As you are so keen to point out, there’s a lot wrong with our sports as well.

I hope I didn’t offend anyone too much.

© JL Pagano 2006
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