WHAT’S NORMAL NOW? (CANNABLISS).


My folks were decent respectable people with a clear opinion of right and wrong. From the age of seventeen, I was permitted to smoke at home but alcohol consumption such as a glass of wine with food had to wait another year. In my fee-paying school also we were allowed to smoke at break times for the last two years there. I'm not suggesting it was encouraged but it was accepted as normal for a portion of boys to smoke while many choose not to.

Alcohol was the same thing where some guys liked it and others didn't. The Gardai didn't mind you having a smoke and would even turn a blind eye to a quiet drink even if you were a year under the legal age. Of course if you were drunk and acting the maggot they'd make an example of you. That often included a couple of thumps for good measure, to soften you up as it were. This was all considered normal and everyone accepted it.

The line was drawn at illicit drugs though. Anything that was mood-altering and mind-altering was considered dangerous and frowned on by society at large. As expected, this made illicit drugs highly sought after among the young but feared as well. Half the thrill of a joint back then was smoking it and getting away with it. It was underworld, risky and delicious all in one. It implied you had an edgy side to your nature and had no fear. It made you a big guy in the eyes of your peers, or at least that was the perception. Those same peers though would have secretly delighted at your discomfort if the long arm of the law collared you with a joint.

Fast forward thirty of so years and the smoker is shunned, penalized and marginalized. Penalties for alcohol use are on the way and even the harmless Coke can is frowned on. And the medicinal cannabis bill will be passed by the Dáil tomorrow. Soon it may well be illegal to smoke tobacco but perfectly legal to have a joint. At this rate murder may well be legalized in thirty years time while life-saving might be penalized. Will our pubs have to convert to drug dens in the future to remain legal? WTF?

The news this morning is that, "The Government will not oppose the medicinal cannabis bill due before the Dáil tomorrow, ensuring it will be passed." But this is for medicinal use John, I hear you say. Well yes, in principle. But even youthful Simon Harris has concerns because, "The (Heath) Minister has however, expressed some concerns about several elements contained in the bill. In particular it includes removing references to cannabis from the Misuse of Drugs Act which has the effect of making it legal for anyone to possess cannabis, including for recreational purposes." In legal terms, either nobody can have it or everyone can have it. It could take years to draft legislation which covered all the bases but the vote is tomorrow. So you can expect that cannabis will be normalised for all citizens and visitors to this country by the weekend. 'Good, in'it?

Of course, it wouldn't be Government without jobs for the boys and in this regard we will see the establishment of a Cannabis Regulation Authority to, “Regulate the labeling, advertising and marketing of cannabis and cannabis-based products for medicinal use." They're going to advertise the stuff in case you didn't know it was out there! "The bill also proposes a Cannabis Research Institute that would, among a number of functions, research the risks and benefits of cannabis for medicinal and recreational use." So we'll get another bung to friends of Enda to rubber stamp the legal drugs racket. But it gets even better. We're then told that, "The institute would also cultivate cannabis and manufacture cannabis-based medicinal products." They're going to grow the fucking stuff themselves!!!

Oh, Check me into the home for the bewildered. According to the Gardai, "Cannabis accounts for the majority of all drugs seized in Ireland. Of the 8,417 reported drug seizures in 2006, 4,243 (50.4%) were of cannabis." The Journal has reported that, "Irish smoke as much marijuana as the Dutch."  Then RTE has recently informed us that, "A new Eurobarometer study on young people and drugs shows that Ireland has the highest number of young people who have used cannabis in the past year (28%), compared to an EU average of 17%." 


Now I'll state clearly here that I do not use any illicit drugs so I admit freely that I know nothing about them other than what I've been told or heard elsewhere. So I did a little digging around to educate myself. Among the variety of ways cannabis is consumed, forms of smoking or oral consumption are most common. So you can smoke it or chew it I suppose. Then I stumbled on this nugget. "It is generally considered that smoking, which includes combustion toxins, produces a somewhat more relaxing,("stoned") effect, while eating delays the onset of effect but the duration of effect is typically longer." A word with a local expert of sorts led me to understand that the vast majority of users smoke cannabis from choice. Fair enough!

But to do so, they need to mix it with something and that something is apparently tobacco. Cannabis comes in a tiny block so the user lays out a cigarette paper, lays down the tobacco trail  and then scraps the cannabis block with a knife to release power particles all over the tobacco. The paper and contents are then rolled and sealed into a "joint" and a match applied. Upon inhalation, the smoke is held much longer in the lungs before exhaling. The effect is to get the high into the bloodstream in rush, the bang for your buck factor I suppose. By comparison if you want to take it orally then, "The cannabis must be sufficiently heated or dehydrated to cause decarboxylation of its most abundant cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, into psychoactive THC." That sounds like a right pain in the arse compared to just rolling a joint.  Miraculously, tobacco combusted in this fashion does NOT release millions of carcinogens because otherwise they'd never legalize it, would they? 

On a personal level I'm all for the right to choose and that includes drugs. I have the right not to choose cannabis and I exercise that right daily. If others want to take it then that's up to them and good luck to them. I have a very good friend who loves his cannabis as his very best treat in a week and he's a fabulous bloke. All I want to do is have my few cigarettes in a day as I have always done with the prospect of pints at the weekend to look forward to. But I must say that I am beginning to wonder about this brave new world and where we are headed. The past has been torn up, the present seems to be about change so what will the future bring?

Five years down the road then, will we have a new social landscape altogether? I'm thinking along the lines of the Saturday lunchtime trip to the pub for the United/Liverpool match on SKY. Packed to the rafters as usual, taunts flying about as will be the pints, can I expect to see several lighted joints around me with plumes of promised ecstasy floating in blue waves past my nostrils. Will this be the new normal? Maybe the beer will be gone altogether, priced out of everyone's range and replaced with the Government cannabis instead. Ashtrays will be re-named something else but still there to collect the same old ash and the dopey beer grins will be replaced by dopey dope grins. Maybe you''' be allowed to bring your own beer with you to enjoy with your joints, who knows? (A corkage fee maybe?)

But here's the thing. Say I want to have an ordinary cigarette, will I still have to step outside? Indeed, in the atmosphere of that time, would that be normal?

THE CRIME OF WASTE

I have a core hatred of vandalism. In fairness, I hate it whether it is done to me or another. When some piece of slime smashes a window, regardless of who it belongs to, it enrages me.

But why so if I do not lose from it? Because it takes constructive effort to make and fit that window and a second of mindless stupidity to smash it. It is pointless destruction which serves no purpose. It does't improve anybody's lot, whereas the fitted window serves a useful purpose for somebody, even if it isn't me. Man was made to build and improve the environment and when we do it collectively, it benefits all of us. Destructing stuff is the domain of the mindless and is, in essence, a crime of waste. It wastes all the co-operation, design and work to make whatever it  happens to be in the first place.

I live in a pretty uncivil area at times. I have awoken sometimes in the morning to wing mirrors gone off the car. Why? What possible advantage could the perpetrator have gained from doing that to my car? The expensive mirror lies smashed on the ground and electric cables hang twisted from the door. Where's the attraction? I simply don't get it. Some prick who doesn't know me has decided to inconvenience and cost me and for what? When I really dig down to explore the motivation I can find none. So if I were in charge, that one act of pure ignorance would suspend the guy's rights for a year. He would cease to have a right to the job he is in or whatever social supports he depends on. His right of property ownership would disappear in that instant. His right to freedom would also be curtailed as he worked, with no pay, to learn how difficult it is to make and fit a new wing mirror on a car. In short, he'd learn to shit himself before he ever did anything so pointless again.

We are a consumer society and we have been conditioned to generate far too much waste. Bearing in mind the vandals, it appears that the generation of waste extends to our production of offspring too in some cases. But aside from raising ignorant stupid worthless children, (there now, I've said it), we also generate tons of sometimes useful waste every year in our homes and dump it all for collection. The thinking seems to be that we can replace it with loads more waste next week. I unpack the groceries on Thursdays and it drives up my blood pressure to see the unnecessary packaging that goes into everything. Boxes and shaped plastics abound and I have to pay to have them taken away eventually. I want to pay for the food not the fucking stuff it came in. It's just more crime of needless waste.

And cars are another. Back in the nineties the motor manufacturers got their act together. They began to make cars that lasted. Fucking great, let's make them last! But no! The motor industry wants you to buy their latest overproduced model and the Government makes tax money out of that purchase. So while maintaining your old car in PMO is good sense and is a good conservation measure, the Government, at the behest of the motor industry, can make it uneconomical for you to do so. That too is criminal waste. When you think of all the 1950's motors the Cubans kept going all these years and what crap those cars really were when they were built back then, it makes you think. If you are happy with your old banger and it is roadworthy, then you should be encouraged to preserve it, not scrap it for more packaging. 

Even with clothes, I am always conserving. On those rare occasions I actually buy an item of clothing, I have two criteria. I go for comfort and hard-wearing every time. I had a maxi overcoat one time, an ex-merchant navy item, and it lasted me over 14 years until some bitch threw it out. It was comfortable, warm, water-proof and it doubled as an extra blanket on cold nights and it cost me a tenner. To go with that fetching navy coat I blew another fiver on a pair of tan-coloured slip-on workbooks with non-slip soles and steel caps. Eleven years I wore those until finally the sole of one of them cracked. They were like slippers for me, they were that comfortable. I walked hundreds of miles in those boots and that coat and the rest of my uniform back then was a wrangler denim shirt and jeans. The coat and boots saw four generations of denims come and go mind you. There was no waste though because I got value from my purchase. Of course, I had what was called the "Good Suit," hanging in the wardrobe beside a pair of expensive leather slip-ons in case someone died or got married. I got ten years out of that those because I rarely wore them.

Perhaps it was because my parents were products of the forties and fifties, but the war cry around our dinner table was, "Eat everything you've been given on your plate." They may have known hunger themselves in their young lives but if they did, they never spoke about it. Anyway, as a result when I am ordering food in a hotel or restaurant, I specify exactly what I want to see on my plate, (with a view to consuming all of it). It makes me appear finicky but even with that, I so often get loads of other stuff I didn't ask for, all piled up mountain high. I never understand why they don't listen so I end up with half a plate of perfectly good but wasted food now gone cold. It is not as if I'm asking for a discount to have less of it. The price on the menu is acceptable otherwise I wouldn't be there. And when I look around me, it is the same at many other tables too and it is all so wasteful and unnecessary.  

But even with my instinctive aversion to waste, I often seemed to end up with stuff I really didn't need. I pondered this, (waste of money), and came up with a new idea. The adman would have us buy what we want and by listening to him, I ended up with things I didn't need. So I made a pledge to myself to only buy the things I needed. It is staggering the change that has made in the last ten years. My stuff now, such as it is, is all pretty much important to me. I cannot think of anything right this minute that I'd happily toss in the bin. What I have I use and I get the worth of it as a result. 

And time-wasting! …………… ah, if you haven't enjoyed this article then I'm sorry for wasting your time.

 

 

WHINGERS & MOANERS

In my day when you made a balls of it you paid for it. It was common sense really and a strong motivation not to make a balls of anything. 

There was a commonly understood equation between authority and responsibility. If you had the authority to decide things, in your own life for example, then you were also responsible for the fallout of those decisions. Good decisions brought reward and bad decisions brought problems. A hangover was the problem you faced for deciding to drink too much the previous night and a dose of the trots for not minding your food. Simple really and we all knew it.

But in today's unhealthy climate of celebrity victim status, society is to blame for anything bad that happens the individual. The individual is innocent and blameless when they've fucked up all by themselves. It's weird! Take obesity for example. It's a straightforward proposition whereby if you eat a lot you have to exercise a lot. Do the former without the latter and you get fat. If you don't burn off the extra food as energy it has nowhere else to go. Keep adding to it everyday and soon you need a new wardrobe. It's the checks and balances of Mother Nature. It's lots of things actually including all your own fault if you don't stop it. So don't tell me you are a victim of 'Big Food.' You're a victim of your own gluttony and it doesn't have to be that way if you practice a modicum of self-denial.

With a few exceptions the booze is the same thing. Life is about balance and always trying to get it right. Special occasions will arise and you may overdo things but then you get back on track, a term denoting going off the rails in the first place. Going mad from time to time is good for the soul as long as you get back to your own equilibrium each time afterwards. Sadly though, that appears to be the wisdom of another time. Today it is all about getting on television to tell the nation about your spineless weaknesses, your lack of backbone and your nonexistent ego. When you do, hundreds more phone/text in to say they identify with you. And your excesses are to blame as well as the Government for not taking away the temptation. How the fuck did we end up with that?

But I truly despair at this today. A hurler from Galway is urging TD's to do something about gambling, I kid you not. Apparently this monkey brain can't pass a betting shop without pledging his parents home on the 3.30 at the Curragh. "I was feeling, isolated. I didn't know who to tell," he sobs to us all. Ah God help us. "I became a compulsive liar,” he went on. That makes you a prick in my estimation, but there's more. “I was as bad as any alcoholic,” he said. “I had a disease that was so hidden. I hid it for eight years.” Then came the modern mantra. He said that he is standing up and telling his story so that others in his position may feel that they can get the help the need, too. “The Government urgently needs to take serious action and bring in laws to regulate the gambling industry,” the sad windbag tells all the rest of us. The actual standing up and confessing naturally happened in front of the cameras on Claire Byrne Live on RTÉ. I despair. If that's a celebrity get him out of here!

I wonder sometimes if these bozos are on a short-term Government contract to demean themselves this way. Are they paid to get the all the other brain dead agitating for yet another tax on something. I saw a horribly obese girl one night tearfully tell the camera that Coke should be made too expensive to buy. That's music to any TD's ears. Betting is a mugs game and everyone knows that the bookie always wins. Overeating without exercise is just laziness and over-indulgence. Overdoing the sauce will always end in tears. It's called commonsense. But what annoys me is that these sad saps want to punish all of us for their own lack of responsibility. 

There is a principle that has crept into the modern discourse which goes, "The polluter pays." The idea is that if you committed the undesirable action then you pay for it. So if you've bet more than you can afford, YOU get fined. That'd keep you away from the bookie for a bit. If you've turned into a big fat balloon because you've bought too much food then a hefty fine will prevent you doing it again for a while. Why penalize the rest of us for your stupidity? If you do really want harsh measures to help you, (you dozy sap), then I'm sure a streamlined set of harsh measures can be designed especially for you and only you.

Oh! And please come back on the television to tell us about the horrors of it. Make it a comedy show and we'll have a good laugh at your expense.

 

BUBBLING UP AGAIN

Water, water everywhere and nobody's paying a thing!

Yes folks, the cooling off period is coming to an end and the big bad Government are coming for yet more of your money next year. The softening up process has begun in earnest. To refresh your memory, when it blew up in their faces and they got hammered in the polls, they licked their wounds but did not quit. Instead, they long-fingered water charges in the hope of catching us in good humour later in the year. Well, it's later in the year now.

The old political stroke of an "Independent Review Commission," was put in place. This is where Ministers look after old friends by appointing them to a temporary but lucrative job for a few months carrying generous expenses but requiring little effort. This body then has to merely to look serious, or even grave, when in the public eye in order for the rest of us to form the impression that they are looking fairly at the complexity of the problem. Naturally this Commission is well-briefed in advance because they have the answer they are going to give on day one, so it is only a matter of cobbling together a justification for it. 

Their first chairman said so the day after his appointment when he told us he was going to bring in water charges. He got the boot of course for not playing the game. Another more discreet yes-man has been found and the charade is back up and running. A red herring was put into the public domain last week with the suggestion that there may merely be a modest charge. It always begins with a modest charge, doesn't it and before you know where you are, a few years has passes and your water charges are higher than your electricity charges. You see, the hard part is to get us to pay anything but once that precedent has been set and we are paying for our water, jacking it up for a thousand made-up reasons is easy. 

I've already had a couple of pops at this HERE and HERE
As per those articles, we Irish are drowning in fresh fucking water. It is about the only natural resource we have in abundance. What we have not got in abundance though is efficient water collection system. We need more water tanks, five or six more of the capacity of the Poulaphouca Reservoir and we'll have the stuff flowing free on tap. With very little treatment it is drinkable. 

But the real issue with Irish Water is its possible sale to a foreign multi-national. To make it attractive all our Government needs to do is set up a framework company, force the population to get used to paying a "modest" monthly amount and hey presto! They have a valuable State asset for sale. More insightful voices spotted this scam early on and insiders have hinted darkly that Ireland has been "instructed" to do this very thing by the EU. They want us to sell our birthright to greedy interests so that they can fleece us. If they succeed, then it will be too late to fight back when the new owners make water more expensive than wine. That is the real issue here.

The aspiring new leader of Fine Gael and our next possible leader has never wavered on water charges. Leo Varadkar is determined to get more money from us and he doesn't care who knows. This morning he said that he believes, "The minority government, supported by Fianna Fáil, will survive the expected debate when the contentious issue of water charges comes up for discussion again." 
In other words, they'll close ranks and bully it through no matter what the people want. This is the very high-handed attitude that saw them decimated in the last election and it is clear that have learned nothing from it. You can read between the lines of the above statement and see that the Commission decision was taken before the Commission was set up. They will come back with their so-called Independent Review showing that we must pay up or else. Varadkar assumes as much because he's gone past that nonsense to the day of the Dail debate and vote on the matter.

In the same article he reiterated his position on water charges, saying such bills were justifiable for 'reasons of conservation' and were the fairest way to pay. Saudi Arabia needs to conserve water Leo, not storm ridden Atlantic Ireland. Last winter the country nearly broke its moorings and floated off such were the downpours. It was a deluge. Once when it hadn't rained for nearly nine days our back garden was still a sodden mess. It was relentless. All of those millions of gallons of rainwater have since soaked down into the national water table and diviners can find it almost everywhere with their funny sticks. Hell if we did it right we could run an underwater pipe to France and give them freshwater from their taps too. So don't bullshit us Leo with that scarce resource cods wobble. And note that Leo says our water bills are the, "Fairest way to pay." In his twisted mind the debate on whether we should pay is over. Its over because he wants it to be over. He doesn't want to even discuss that anymore and instead wants us to fight over HOW we pay. I'm not fooled by that.

For foreign readers, we Irish let the Insurance scandal go way back in Haughey's time and we're still paying for that with the most expensive car insurance in Europe. We let the bank rip off go because it was so enormous we couldn't get our heads around it. We couldn't believe that our own Government would do something like that to us either. Then we let USC charges go and we even let austerity go in the main. Water charges were a step too far. Non-Irish readers have said to me in the past that water charges are normal. They may be where you are but not here they're not. The French pay no road tax but we're not demanding that here. Indeed we can't because our car tax is what's paying for the Water Company right now. 

So, you have been warned lads. It's back to the barricades after Christmas. Already Fianna Fail are backtracking on the water promises that got them into Government. And while you're getting the stones and petrol bombs ready, there's another stealth tax coming called the broadcast tax. This not only covers the TV and radio but it is due on any internet device also. They want to charge you for using your smartphone, laptop and iPad. Is there no end to it? Just think of the myriad of taxes you already have to pay to get on-line in the first place.

It is all bubbling up dangerously for 2017.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

In my working life I have experience of managing people, or managing to manage people if you will. The only way you can bring individuals and teams with you is by example. Telling someone to do something that you won't or can't do yourself, is a recipe for resentment which will bite your bum at the first available opportunity. So doing and showing that you can do the things you are asking others to do brings willing co-operation, or at least that is what I have found. Willing co-operation then brings efforts well beyond what was ever asked or expected. It is a recipe for success.

The other aspect of leading by example is fairness. Okay, I got paid a bit more for the extra responsibility of being where the buck stopped but if I was allowed to stay overnight in a given hotel, then my teams had to able to stay there too. Put another way, if my team were confined to a certain price category of accommodation then I had to be also. That is giving example and it always works both ways. At staff meetings it was customary to discuss successes during the previous period, (this was a sales operation). I kept that custom but added the proviso that fuck-ups had to be equally discussed openly without judgement from either me or the team. I always kicked off the fuck-ups with an example of one of my own and then it went around the table one-by-one. I can't remember any of them claiming to be perfect. Again it was example and the purpose of it was that we all learned from ours and other's mistakes as well as the things we did right. We all got extra dough for getting it right but vice versa of course.

So here's the rub. If we applied this leading by example stuff to Government whereby we all said, "If that's what they do themselves, then that's what we'll do," what would it look like if we did that. Let's have a little fun shall we. Take any or every company in the country and apply the current top method of leading by example. Well firstly, we'd all be able to claim a minimum of €37.00 every day we showed up for work. It's more the further away you live. Then there is unvouched fuel expenses for your car at civil service rates, which are brilliant. Middle-managers would be able to claim an amount of €50,000 a year for their personal secretary and the beauty of that is that it could be the little woman in your life, your brother or your Mom at home if you wanted. That's up to you who you nominate. Naturally you'd be entitled to a full bar in the workplace and it would have to operate a slate system for employees that they never pay on time, if at all. Nobody could object to when or what you drank there and you would be entitled to go to work full to the gills, even for important meetings. 

But it gets better than that. Pay disputes would cease to exist because  we already have a glorious example of how to sort those out. The employees would just get a generous fund from the company and then it would be up to them to appoint an, "Independent Committee," drawn from friends and family, to adjudicate on what pay increases we should get. These recommendations then become entitlements and the grateful committee is paid off. And working hours are easily decided because the Dail sat for 123 days last year so you'd have 242 days off next year. But don't worry about any of those 123 days because there's a work around in place for that too and used widely. Four of you just get together and rotate who actually goes to the workplace. The nominated guy on any day simply claims the other three are also present and hey presto! You're all there. And the beauty of this is while you're at home in bed, you can claim the showing-up allowance and the generous mileage rate for getting there. Don't say we don't look after you. And holidays? You'll be shit sick of holidays. But get this! You and the other people in the office can take a vote to extend the Christmas holidays by a week if you all agree, and you can do that again at Easter and summer. Brilliant, isn't it? 

Accommodation is expensive but we've thought of that too. There's a hugely generous overnight rate and you don't need proof you stayed anywhere to get it. If your home base is getting a bit cramped, stick on an extension and send the company the bill. And while the company provides you with plush office space at the workplace, you are entitled to your own office closer to home. So go and buy a big one freehold, even if you never open the door of it. It's yours to sell as an investment property when you leave.

Added to this, all your business travel can be of the  first class five-star variety, no questions asked. And your reason for travel needn't be legitimate or even yield any advantage for your company. It could be a whim or the lure of a big sporting event somewhere that interests you. How's that for decent working conditions. But that's not all because what will you do when you get old? Well, that's sorted too. You see, you're entitled to a pension from your last job, the one you're in and the next one you get too. And if all those pensions don't keep you in style, all previous jobs you had, have to be kept open for you to return to should you not like the company you're in. But if you don't avail of that, you still get the pension from those jobs too. The cheques will just be falling in the letterbox for you when you're old and your only problem will be bending down to pick them up. Isn't that great? And you get to retire sixteen years before everybody else. We can't say fairer than that.

And then there is the golden handshakes because we can't have you waiting for all those pesky cheques. A fellow needs hard cash and lots of it. Sums as high as half a million are available here for people who have really done a most awful job and the longer they've done so, the more they get. 

You'll have a clothes allowance to claim, free smartphones, pads and laptops ecry year, research funds to give away to friends and if you have no idea how to actually do your job, don't fret your little head. You'll have six figure sums to pay out to experts to do it for you and though there is a nominal cap on these funds, you can, apparently, ignore that kind of shite and just spend away because there really is no limit to the funds at your disposal. And none of the above is wrong because it is the golden example of our betters in Government. It is the blueprint for every workplace and they've shown us how. Oh, and the starting basic salary for novices is €80Kp.a.

Is that good Government example or what?

BRITS OUT!

Word from the Department of Foreign Affairs has it that there has been a huge spike in the number of British citizens seeking Irish passports in the last little while. That though requires some perspective, A hundred times fuck all is still fuck all, as they say, so you need to know that pre-BREXIT, there was a mere trickle of such applications. So the fact that several hundred are now writing in, is indeed a spike, but only in relative terms. 

Back in the day, our then Prime Minister Haughey famously used his elevated position to, ahem, make a few bob on the side, as it were. Well-heeled Arabs, among others, just paid thousands of Punts and the much sought after green passport came back by return post, courtesy of El Supremo. When discovered though, that little avenue of pleasure was closed down and the whole scandal fizzled out with no-one going to jail, (naturally). Perhaps other much larger outrages knocked it off the front page.

Things drifted along serenely then on the passport front until the troublesome Brits said they didn't want to remain in the EU. Johnny Foreigner got his nose out of joint at that snub and dark threats about getting the British back for their audacity were heard in the corridors of European power. Dublin got a bit of a rocket too because of it and our home grown elite had to be damned careful what they said about the UK vote. A hard border with the North reared its ugly head though who reared that spectacle is far from clear.

Anyway, ex-pat Brits make up the largest population of non-Irish living here, many married to an Irish partner. Until now, few of them have been inclined to change the habit of a lifetime and give up their British passport and why should they? But with the prospect of the family summer holidays at some continental sun-spot coming up, the thought has occurred that a British man or woman traveling with their otherwise Irish family, will have to take to the Non-EU queue at the airports. Promises from over yonder suggest that the Non-EU queues will take hours to progress. Mindful of this, many Brits living here are exploring avoiding the Non-EU queues and the Paddy-Pass is certainly one option, hence the alleged spike.

But the Haughey heritage is alive and well and sensing a chance to make a few bob more, the aspiring Brits are being presented with an expensive minefield. Joe Duffy was highlighting this very issue just now and it makes you embarrassed to be Irish. First a well-spoken lady with a rich British accent came on to explain that she married an Irish bloke years before and they settled over here. Three kids later and nearly forty years living in the Emerald Isle, BREXIT came along. So she got the application from the passport office and duly whacked it off. A phone call from them that afternoon enquired why she hadn't included the "Single Status declaration Form," with her application. She apologized and explained that she'd, "Never heard of the guy." The passport crowd explained that it was an official form detailing an individual's pre-married existence, declaring as well their nationality at the time. 'Fair enough," she says, "Whack one out to me." But no! They ceased issuing the form in 2005. "DUH!"

So Catch-22 then? Of course not because this is where the extra few bob come in. "Ya see, You'd have to Irish to expect this kind of thing." The average straightforward Brit expects logical rules, a do-able method and a small fee and 'Bob's your uncle.' We Paddies know there's always a catch and the catches are never based on logic of any kind. They are based squarely on money, your money in this case if you're looking for one of our passports. So you fill out this other form, attach €950 un-refundable you-yo's and whack that off to them for their consideration. If you're a rich Arab, make that a hundred grand and you're home and dry. The poor Brit though must wait until the faceless ones decide if they are a desirable addition to the precious green bloodline. If not, you're down nine hundred and fifty squids and you're looking at possibly queueing up with the Africans and Syrians to get into Europe. It's a fucking disgrace.

It's my hope that the idiot passport office stop this nonsense with our UK neighbors and give them what they need at the standard rate. If they can't do it on time, our airports should have a third queue beside the EU and Non-EU ones for Brits coming and going. It would reflect a reality between the two islands and send a strong message to Brussels that the British/Irish relationship is different. Joe Duffy would do well to take it up tomorrow and tell the clowns responsible to grow up.

IT’S CURTAINS FOR THE DRINK!

Let me start by declaring that I hate shopping, of any kind. I rarely need anything myself but when I do, I take a deep breath, put on a brave face and go to a shop.

One of my little joys in life is good coffee and there's a place in the city centre which  does a blend that should carry a health warning. It's glorious and I'd love to buy half a ton of it and never need to go back there. But I'm limited to 800g per trip because it loses its freshness. This place is a double-whammy because not only is it a shop but it's where all the heavy traffic is, human and mechanical. So every two and a half months I visit the place on a Sunday morning early and am often there waiting for them to open up. No people, no traffic but plenty of coffee and I'm back home in a jiffy!

There's always an exception to any rule so in my case, I do like to shop for either beer or wine. But then my circumstances changed about the same time the price of this stuff went up and up. Having less money and expensive tastes by then, I had a problem. So I went off the drink for a few months. It wasn't so difficult when I got over the habitual but I'd be a liar if I said I didn't miss it at all.I do like the taste of beer and wine however I do not care for spirits. It's much the same with meats and vegetables where I enjoy the former and not the latter. 

But Germany came to the rescue on the beer and wine front because Lidl and Aldi sprung up everywhere. Wine that cost €15.00 in the offie was available in these outlets for €5.00. But I remember my first visit to one of these places. I refer to them all collectively as, "Addled," because that is how I felt walking in their door. There was so much stuff all over the gaff that I couldn't actually make anything out. Five minutes in and I began to think that they didn't sell any beer or wine and their ads were bullshit. Then I hit a rich vein on both sides of an aisle, floor to ceiling with bottles and tins. I think I engaged then in what is called browsing. 

As a creature of pure habit, I always return to the same place to get the same thing I want but found there first. I wouldn't chance visiting a different Addled in case the hooch wasn't in the usual place. So things have drifted along quite pleasantly for a few years with a compromise of product quality in return for affordable prices. But happiness is not what your Government wants to see from you. They are looking for fear, despair and personal uncertainty. They call that stability because it is the only way they can control the unruly mob in their opinion. Some busybody proposed minimum pricing and sensing more money for their retirement fund, they all said, "Here, here!" 

So the demon drink is back under attack and as is the way of these things, Public Health were rolled out to say there's no single fix for it. They propose a 'series of measures' or a set of interferences as I call them. You may not believe this but they are pushing for a large curtain to cover the booze so that we thinking adults can't actually see it. Oh sure! We'll probably just forget about buying any, won't we? We'll come home empty-handed saying, "They stopped selling the stuff, couldn't find it anywhere." Acording to our betters, out of sight is out of mind. Like hell it is!

Well actually, no. You see for guys like me, these big unsightly curtains will be a great help. At a glance from the door of any of these outlets, a big ungainly curtain will point me directly to the good stuff. Then it is only a matter of heading straight through the assorted unseen clutter to my pot of gold. I'm thinking of my local Addled now and there's about fifty feet of wine on one side and same of beer on the other. It would have to be a hell of a curtain to cover that lot. One can only presume they'll need a series of curtains, one for the French wines, another for Spanish and so on. Or perhaps each curtain would represent a price range, that would be handy for me. 

But then, how do these curtains achieve their desired objective. Shoppers will naturally pull them back but do any of you believe they'll close them again when they are finished? Me neither! So they'll be opened once in the morning by a customer and closed again last thing by a staff member, is that it? Or will there be a fine for leaving the curtain open and if so, who'll police that? During shopping hours then, the produce will be on display as usual but with big curtains pointing the way to the drinks section for blokes like me. Public Health calls that doing something positive. Personally I believe that the bill for the purchase and erection of these curtains should be sent to Public Health for payment by them. It's their idea after all and they've spent a fortune lobbying the feeble-minded to legislate for it. If they want it that badly then they should pay for it to. That'd soften their cough.

Sadly though, the small shopkeepers will lose out big time.  Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, the junior health minister, (And all round dopey maggot), is considering an exemption from the curtain law for smaller shop owners. By definition, the small shop will never have the range of choice for starters and then they have to overcharge for what they do have to make any profit at all because they don't have volume either. Them's the breaks but now the brain-dead Marcella wants to put them at a further disadvantage by denying them the product-finding curtains. 

The expensive off-licenses are unaffected by any of this, oddly enough. My local Dunnes Stores is a gigantic operation and it is so mind-boggling that I know they have everything and yet I see nothing. But they have another smaller unit in that shopping centre and it is their Dunnes Stores off-license. Where do they stand on the great curtain debate? If I were them, I'd stick a bloody great curtain across the whole outside of that unit so everyone would know where to find the drink when they're doing the groceries. It would stand out from all the others and sure isn't that what its all about?

And there's an unintended consequence they haven't thought of. Curtains could become synonymous with alcohol in the public mind fairly quickly. Imagine sitting at home, particularly on these winter evenings. By four or five o'clock you get up to pull the curtains and then you think, I'll have a little snifter of wine now. If you do that then it won't be your fault. You see, Public Health will have planted that idea in your head by use of constant repetition. "You pull the curtains darling and I'll get us the drinks." 

 

 

 

TRUMPED UP AMBITION.

 

Ian O'Doherty writes very well for the Irish Independent. His latest piece on the Presidential election stateside is worth a look too.
 

That blasted election seemed to run forever. From the outset, my only amazement was that a country like America had only those two candidates to choose from. It is a sad reflection on what they, at least, think is the greatest country on earth. Even Ronald Reagan is a colossus by comparison to Clinton and Trump. The punchline in that George Best joke comes to mind. "Where did it all go wrong?" 

Certainly the opinion formers in the establishment media were firmly in favour of Hilary but then they were also firmly in favour of the UK remaining in the EU. So that's two black eyes for that lot then. When Trump refused to say he would accept the result if it didn't go his way, Hilary all but said, "What else would you expect from such a low-life?" But it is her followers who are now bitching loudly about Trump's election and they're in complete denial over the (unexpected) outcome. 

A wag down my local reckons that the Yanks could just about stomach a black man in the White House but a woman was a step too far for them. Certainly some commentators reacting here have suggested that this is one in the eye for world feminism and I can see how they might think that too. But perhaps it's about time the more extreme fringes of feminism got a good kick up the hole? For me, the choice between them had nothing to do with the sex of either candidate.

The other suggestion floating around is that the white males had enough of being criticized for being, well, whites males actually. We do seem at times to be the only minority left that you are allowed to publicly insult and belittle. The white man has become some kind of parody of evil in many minds. We're misogynist rapists who can't be trusted around children apparently. Our fatherhood is so demeaned that in a divorce, the woman always gets custody regardless. Maybe the white men struck back? But the numbers show that the white women did too so that can't be it.

When I look closer to home though I can see a clear disconnect between the rulers and the ruled. Years of our betters lying to us and cheating us have come home to roost. We had a whole bunch of new faces in the Dail after the last election and none of them from main stream parties. Farage in the UK surprised the establishment but I wasn't that surprised. This has been coming for a long time, as has something like Trump. It is finally the backlash of the demeaned and belittled in our societies and the emergence of a defiance towards the usual authorities. It is a crisis for both democracy and capitalism. David McWilliams covers this here this morning and, as usual, he's worth a read.

Having said all that, who knows what the Trump will actually do now that he's in the White House. His first move has been to accept a dollar a year for the privilege. But will he press the nuclear button and end it for all of us? Will he pull back all the American multi-nationals on to home turf and send Ireland back to the dark ages? Will he be good for the average American and get some true pride back in that glitzy flag of theirs? Or will he make a horse's ass of the whole thing? What are his true intentions and ambitions? I believe they will emerge slowly and with little evident cohesion. 

Finally yesterday, one of our home grown correspondents said something sensible about Trump's America. On RTE 1 radio the lad simply pointed out that we here in Ireland couldn't give a shit what happens in America as long as our own interests are unaffected. Isn't the honesty of that so refreshing? And he's right of course, (if people spoke truthfully). Our Minister for Finance is already over there talking to potential Trump decision-makers about American interests in Ireland and just how welcome they are. Many years ago Dell Computers had a huge manufacturing plant in Limerick. Then to everyone's surprise and shock, Michael Dell decided to re-locate the whole thing back to Texas. 

In the eerie twilight zone before the place shut down, our political classes jumped into action. Three of their number went on an all-expenses paid junket to the States to meet senior executives of Dell in the hope of convincing them to change their minds. Now, to set the mood of any such meeting, our negotiating team was made up of career politicians, or professional liars and bullshiters in other words. There was a sprinkling of self-important yes men from the civil service with them to make up the numbers and together they would have rehearsed some long-winded waffle for the busy Dell boys to listen too. If Michael Dell had any doubts before that meeting, that shower of idiots would have convinced him of the wisdom of getting out of Ireland. An insider at the time reported that they got about four minutes of Michael's time but the press here at home painted them as Ireland's warriors taking on the giants of America.

And now Michael Noonan is over there to do the same thing with Trump's boys, God help our wit. Oh, I wish him luck of course, but he's going to need more than that. Yanks don't waste time or talk waffle and they hate having to listen to it. They will make the big deal in seconds though if it is well thought out and they perceive advantages for themselves. The trick for our Michael Noonan would be to have a win-win solution for what is a clear problem for Trump. Go to them with a profitable solution for both parties and they'll see sense in it. Feed them shit about our historical and cultural links and their eyes will glaze over. If Noonan has any brain he'll have Tim Cook of Apple on his team and there are valid reasons why Tim might want to be there. Tim will talk their language and even think like them. He has skin in the game too because he has already told Trump that Apple has €130Bn lying offshore waiting for a sensible rate of corporate tax to be introduced in America. Trump heard that and probably wondered about Google, Microsoft, Pfizer and all the rest of them in Ireland. I have an uneasy sense that Donald has ambitions for these pieces of Americana far from home.

But would Hilary be any different?

WHAT’S IN A SONG?

A national anthem is a solemn patriotic song officially adopted by a country as an expression of national identity. The anthem of the Republic of Ireland is called the "Soldier's Song," and it is played and sung whenever we have a national event. So far so good.

International sporting events are occasions where anthems are heard and during the Olympics the Irish anthem got a few airings. Last night our soccer team played and beat Austria, in Austria, and before the game, the soldier's song was sung by the Irish present. But we have two soccer teams on the island of Ireland because our country is partitioned. The Northern six counties, (out of 32), wish to live under British rule and we in the South or the other 26 counties, agreed to this in order to help bring peace back to those six counties. Again, so far so good.

The game of rugby though has always been a bit different. We have four provincial teams and the national team is drawn from these. The province of Ulster though is British and yet they don the green jersey and turn out for the island of Ireland on rugby international days. Many Ulster players are protestant and loyalists. That loyalty is to the Queen of England and again I stress, we in the South voted to respect that point of view with its aspirations.

But when I was young, the era when Irish rugby internationals in Ravenhill, Belfast, had come to an end. All the home games I watched were played in Landsowne Road in Dublin. As such then, those Ulster protestant players had to stand shoulder to shoulder with their southern counterparts and stand to attention to the anthem of the Irish Republic. None of them sang along and some even glared straight ahead of them. Mind you, in those days you would have found it difficult to find an Irishman sing, "God save the Queen."

The compromise in 1995 was penned by Phil Coulter and is named, "Ireland's Call." You can listen to it here. It is a modern up to date anthem designed to reflect the two distinct traditions on the island. A line in it reads, "From the mighty Glens of Antrim, From the rugged hills of Galway! From the walls of Limerick, and Dublin Bay, From the four proud provinces of Ireland." North, South, East and West all get a mention. The big game this year was against the All Blacks in Chicago and Ireland's Call was sung gustily by all fifteen warriors in green. It was as if the song united the players from all around the country and the effect was apparent in the crowd as well.

But the carpers are never far away and since that match, the letter's pages of our broadsheets have featured moaners complaining that our true Republican anthem is not performed instead. One even went so far as to suggest that the Unionist boys had better grow up. Some have even hinted that we Irish are too embarrassed to play the right anthem. In response, I can only say that from the perspective of a true rugby person, we respect our brothers North of the border and are quite happy with Ireland's Call.

Recently a famous number eight from the Munster team died unexpectedly. He had gone from player to manger for the club and Anthony Foley was, and is, a true legend of the game. Shortly after his funeral, Munster had to re-group and visit Belfast to play Ulster. The respect shown by both the club and its supporters was heartfelt. They unveiled a plaque to Foley at the grounds and stood in silence before the game in his honour. It was a show of true dignity and respect and a sign of the brotherhood that exists in rugby. It transcended religion, politics or borders and was seen as such by rugby supporters in all of the other three provinces. For me, Ireland's Call is a sign of the end of sectarian thinking. 

Certainly a million people in the Northern Six Counties desire to be known as British as far as we down here are concerned. But they will talk to you as well about their Irish identity. Their players do not turn out for England, preferring instead a united Irish team. We have a united cricket team as well and our hockey team is also drawn from the 32 counties. Both use Ireland's Call. The soccer teams differ because we have two instead of one national team. The North sing, "God save the Queen," whereas the South sings a Soldier's Song. Perhaps one day that will change but for now, rugby leads the way in terms of conciliation and fence-mending.

Dare I say, "God save Ireland's Call!"

 

WHAT’S YOUR HOME WORTH?

Are high house prices really such a good thing? It goes against the received wisdom to even ask that question but humour me anyway. Remember, if you are selling then high prices are great but not so if you are buying.

We are all drilled to understand that the home is the largest investment most of us will ever make. Indeed the system is skewed to ensure you could never work and save the amount needed to buy your first home with cash, no matter how hard you tried. So every first time buyer must borrow and that introduces the frightening spectre of the banks. 

These days there are so many young people continuing to live with their parents because rented accommodation is just so expensive. Compare the Irish and European models for a moment. On the continent, it is popular to rent for life whereas in Ireland, we all aspire to own our house. In theory, the bricks and mortar were a wealth fund building up in the background whereas rent was money down the drain. But the financial crash and negative equity put paid to all of that and while rent is still money down the drain, home ownership can now be an unexpected large debt due to negative equity. 

But the core of the issue is that each and every one of us needs a roof over our heads. We need a place to live as one of life's basics. The family home is not an investment because it is a necessity. If you sell it and realise your asset you will still need somewhere to live. When house prices are high then rent prices are too. The result is that your cash mountain begins to quickly drain away and all of the old familiarities of the family home are gone. 

I have never once considered my own house as an investment. I will not be taking it with me when I die but from now until then, I have a roof over my head and am secure at least in that knowledge. If I go first then my better half will have a roof over her head until she joins me on the other side. Then, and only then, will this little house we brought up two kids in, become an asset. It will be shared between my son and daughter in any way they decide and that is my final will and testament. They are both well educated but in the modern world, that may not be enough and when the time comes, they may both need a roof over their heads too. 

Investments are made using money with the expressed purpose of making even more money. I have never believed you can do that with the family home. It would never have occurred to me during the years of mortgage repayments to borrow against our so-called asset or gamble with it in any shape or form. Potential homelessness for my little family was never a consideration. However, I can clearly see how ownership of a second house would be seen as a financial asset. Be it a holiday home or an urban four up three down, it can be a source of additional income and when the markets turn down, it can disposed of to realise a one off financial gain. The family home should remain untouched though and that sentiment should be enshrined in the Constitution.

So, are high house prices really such a good thing? In this, I would distinguish between a house and a home. Renters are transient by nature and tenants move on. Families tend to stay in the same place for years for many good reasons so in my opinion, homes should be affordable and houses for rent should be governed by market rates. An investment property should be just that with all the possible perils and rewards that go with any investment. I once bought Apple shares at $11.00ea but sold them long before they went over $1,000. A tidy sum changed hands in my favor but other investments I have made did not have such a happy ending. But the Apple share purchase did not come out of my mortgage repayments. That is the difference.

Losing an investment property, either back to the bank or by selling on at a loss, is a pretty negative thing. But you can go home and stew on it with a roof still over your head and food on the table. Losing the family home on the other hand, is a defining moment in life, one you might not recover from. And whatever about the adults involved, the real innocents who will suffer the most from the loss of the family home are the vulnerable young. Their own space as well as their security is suddenly gone and Mommy & Daddy are standing with them on the street outside obviously lost for words. Everything the child has learned about life up to that point is instantly destroyed and a vacuum created. 

So if I could rule the land and make laws, I would decree the family home as a sacred institution, a place that cannot be taken away so that a faceless institution can re-coup their investment or even make a profit. Banks are morally corrupt as we know and should never be respected by any of us. They are legalized criminals and the more senior of their ranks should be behind bars for life. When seeking a loan they will tell you they are in the 'risk' business as a justification for wanting collateral far beyond the value of the loan. But where's the risk if they can't lose as well as win? They are not in the risk business, the poor fuckers they loan to are the real ones taking the risks. Maybe that's okay when you are gambling with investment funds but it is not okay when the family home is at risk. I would create a process for registering a house as a family home and thereafter, it would be impossible to re-possess, Full Stop!