Thursday, January 27, 2005

El Primo Bandito and the Double Decker Bus

Those you misfortunate enough to use Dublin Bus on a regular basis will know that rare is the bus that does not have to venture through Bandit Country. Dublin's less salubrious estates are striated through the city like fat in streaky bacon, and the only thing a man can do is take his chances, while observing certain rudimentary safety procedures.

Tonight An Spailpín mounted his bus in the city centre, at about half-seven or so. A quick glance showed the bus population to be low, a result for that time of the evening, and a reasonable sign that a seat was possible.

Until, that is, I saw a rough looking dude hunched over, in a virtually foetal position, on one of the back seats of the bus, just behind the heater but cutting off the seats behind him. Crisis.

Rule Number One when riding the Bandit Bus is Never Go Upstairs. You're all alone upstairs and if you're luck is out you may be surrounded by such citizens as can make the top deck of the bus feel like a reversion to childhood, and getting one's head flushed in toilets by boys who are rough.

So upstairs was out. Going past this Primo Bandito was not an option either - recently in the wars, El Primo Bandito had a leg in plaster, and it, coupled with his crutches, was splayed out into the aisle forming a hazard to man and beast. There was an innocent looking little girl inside the man, and I felt the flood of pity one feels for someone in those circumstances, as well as the shameful flush of relief that it was her and not me. Not noble, but terribly practical. I assumed the position in the well of the middle door, and awaited developments.

As the bus crawled up Westmoreland Street and across O'Connell Bridge, it became clear that the girl was less lucky that I had thought. Instead of being an innocent to whom fate had directed that unconscious oaf, she was actually some sort of minder to the thing, and it seems that the bus was in danger of going past their stop.

She took him by the shoulder, and started shaking and pleading. "Come on Frankie - we're almost on O'Connell St, we are. It's time to get off. For fuck's sake Frankie, come on! Frankie!"

Did any gallant help her out? No, they did not. What could they have done, other than dump Frankie into the street and leave him there, unconscious on the pavement? But the Irish attempt to effect the British stiff upper lip lacks a certain froideur - it quickly became obvious to me that everyone on the bus was wondering how exactly this human drama would play out. Would Frankie and his minder make it home, or were they condemned to ride a Dublin Bus perpetually around the city until such stimulants as Frankie had indulged in wore off, or would the driver stop the bus, put on the hazards, grab Frankie by the jackeh, and cast him from chariot?

The driver, who must have been aware of the situation, was doing nothing. He was paid to drive the bus, and that's all he was doing. We were going past Eason's now, and the minder's pleas were getting desperate.

"Frankie! We're past Store St now! Oh Frankie, what am I going to do with you? Now I know what it is to look after a man! Now I know!"

At this stage, I had removed myself from the doorwell, and had squeezed in beside a clean looking young lady, well dressed with cute pink woollen gloves and a nice coat, who was sitting in one of those seats behind the driver. Having read a lot of Victorian novelists in my youth, I buried my head in my book (John Buchan - can you believe it?) and made with the stiff upper lip. M'lady was less discreet - she perched on edge of the seat, head twisted around to take in the show.

And then, something odd happened. A number of Malteesers, the popular sweets beloved by all, started to flow down the aisle of the bus. And Frankie, like the Kraken, awoke.

The chain of causality I didn't know then and I can't figure out now - Frankie's Handmaiden may have taken a sack of Malteesers and clubbed him over the head until she got some sense into him, or she may have taken Frankie's personal stash - to coin a phrase - of Malteesers and dashed them to the floor, finally breaking the glamour that lay on him.

For whatever reason, the Malteesers had done the trick, and now Frankie was proceeding at an unsteady pace down the aisle, with much the same gait as Frankenstein's monster when he first got up off the table. Replacing Baron Victor Frankenstein's "he's alive! he's alive" was Frankie's minder's remarks that "I had to ih, Frankie, I had to."

Strong tack, Malteesers.

Frankie continued his way slowly up the bus. I got a proper look at him now. As well as the leg in plaster he had arm bandaged up as well, and he sported those green knuckle tattoos that are not the sign of a member of the Knights of Columbanus. And, once he got as far as m'lady of the pink woollen gloves, Frankie listed dangerously to starboard, and got set to fall into her lap.

M'lady was horrified; as far as she was concerned, Lucifer's fall from Heaven to splash down in the Infernal Sea was in the tupenny place compared to Frankie's imminent arrival in her lap. And just when An Spailpín was thinking nastily to himself "curiosity killed the cat honey - this is a lesson you won't forget," Frankie somehow righted himself, and made his way off the bus. I would have bet cash money on him choosing falling over on his grizzled head as Frankie's chosen modus exitus, but Frankie dismounted in the accepted manner, the bus pulled away and our adventure was over.

All the way home, John Buchan thriller ignored, I watched the Malteesers roll up and down the aisle of the bus, looking in them for something symbolic of the incident of El Primo Bandito and the Double Decker Bus. But do you know reader, two hours on, shaved, tea-ed and biscuited, I don't think they meant a damn thing?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Paddy Casey: Have I Missed Something Here?

One of few boons brought by a regular purchasing pattern of Hot Press magazine in the late 1980s and early 1990s was that a Westerner, a country bumpkin, got to be familiar with the Dublin apsirant social scene of that time, just as surely as if that same son of the soil was in fact hanging around the Baggot Inn, Whelan's, Bad Bob's and all those other joints. One could effect a Bono-esque drawl and talk all night about the incandescent genius of Simon Carmody, Gavin Friday, Man Sneezer - there was an artist part of that gang as well, wasn't there? Gucci, or Bobo, I think. They might have called him Number Seven after Denver Pyle's mule in Grizzly Adams, for all I know - and about how the pop world was waiting to be conquered by Tom Dunne and Something Happens.

One didn't, of course - affectation is frowned upon in the country, and it's hard to effect a Bono-esque drawl after one's teeth have been punched down one's throat by a local who didn't care for a post-modernist structuralist deconstruction of Willie Joe Padden.

And rightly so. If a few of those bucks got the swift shoe in the hole and told to get off to the Bank and get a right job they would have been better off. In fact, I often wonder what happened Simon Carmody - for all the bollocks written about The Golden Horde in Hot Press, Lost in Time, the duet with Maria McKee, is one of the greatest ever Irish pop songs.

But An Spailpín digresses once more. What put Hot Press into my head was that is suddenly occured to me that something called a Paddy Casey is all over the radio and media all of a sudden, I have no idea of what it is a Paddy Casey does or is meant for.

The Frames are much easier to understand. The Frames are the beloved locals who will never cross the M50 or the Irish sea, just as Toasted Heretic were as Galway as Tí Neachtain's and knowing how to pronounce "Powell's." But Paddy Casey - man, I just don't get Paddy Casey.

Googling didn't do me much good, either. He seems a strictly local phenomenon, but the reason for the outbreak I can't seem to trace. I don't think we'll see Dustin Hoffman and Cuba Gooding, Jr., booting around the city looking for a cute little monkey that they need to save Rene Russo's life, as in that awful movie of a few year's back, the monkey providing the key to why so many people seem to be bitten by this Paddy Casey bug. Who is the bum? Where is he from, and when, in the name of God, is he going back? And when he goes back, will he please take his perfectly awful song with him? It's driving me nuts!

I said I'd write a song
I said I'd write a song
I knew it wouldn't take too long
For me to write a song

If I can repeat a line
If I can repeat a line
I'll be done in half the time
If I can repeat a line

You'll get a nice pork chop for Sunday dinner
When you're a record spinner
Even when it's as cook as this

Nobody listens to the words
Nobody listens to the words
They think it's all for the birds
Listening to the words

I'm just glad I'm off the dole
I'm just glad I'm off the dole
And me mot has got parole
But I'm just glad I'm off the dole

You'll get a nice pork chop for Sunday dinner
When you're a record spinner
But it's hardly what a song should be, now is it? I mean, for God's sake.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

HRH Prince Harry

Just when you begin to despair of anything happening to lift the gloom of January's twin threats of debt and wet, along comes HRH Prince Harry, third in line to the throne of the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to bring some little joy to the masses. A friend of An Spailpín's once opined rather cruelly that the problem with HRH Prince Harry was that fate had seen to it that he got his father's looks and his mother's brains. His Royal Highness' latest gaffe, dressing up as a member of Irwin Rommel's Afrika Korps for a "Colonials and Natives" themed fancy dress party, makes the remark seem merely prescient indeed. What a clown that boy is.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Historia Vera. Probabiliter.

Patriculus Anglus, Patriculus Scotus et Patriculus ille Hibernius olim ad Africam ierunt, et ibi barbari eos ceperunt.
dux barbarorum eos interrogavit quos erant et ubi eorum patrias erant. Patriculus Anglus ei dixit "Patriculus Anglus nomen meus est, et Britannicus sum."
"ponete eum in olla, et eum devorabunt," dixit dux barbarorum. Patriculum Scotum tum interrogum erat quis erat et ubi eius patria erat.
"Patriculus Scotus nomen meus est, et Britannicus sum," dixit Patriculus Scotus.
"ponete eum in olla, et eum devorabunt," dixit dux barbarorum. Patriculum Hibernium interrogum erat quis erat et ubi eius patria erat. Patriculus Hibernius non timuit. "Patriculus Hibernius sum, et Rathneum, Counti Wicklo, Hibernia, mea patria est," dixit.
"Rathneum, Counti Wicklo, Hibernia?" dux barbarorum eum interrogavit. "dic meum, Patriculi, acquiravitne soror mea domicilium ibi etiam nunc?"

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

So. Farewell Then, Fergal Kelly

An Spailpín heard via text message late last night that Fergal Kelly's time as a member of the Mayo panel has come to an end. And do you know, I feel for the man, even though he's not exactly the greatest midfielder the county has ever seen, and seldom has a man looked so out of his depth in an All-Ireland final before Maughan mercifully pulled him ashore after twenty-five minutes or so.

Players who don't have good games aren't singled out in the media for a butchering, and this is a good thing. It's fair enough in soccer, when the abuse comes with a paycheck, but for amateur players it would be out of the question. But Fergal Kelly's is an interesting case, and it may highlight something very strange that's going on in the Mayo setup, something that the county may pay for in the season ahead.

Ray Silke wrote in the Examiner the day after the All-Ireland Massacre that the journey from being a goalkeeper with a junior club to playing midfield in the All-Ireland Final is a long one, and Silke was right. The question should be asked, and has never been asked, how it came to pass that Kelly was asked to fulfill the role that he did, a role for which he was clearly unsuited. If Kelly had shown any competence as a midfielder he would have been playing in midfield for his club; it is more or less axiomatic that any club names its teams by putting their best men at 8 and 9 first and then worrying about the rest. The fact that Kelly does not play in midfield for his club would suggest that the Mayo Brains Trust of John Maughan, George Golden and Liam McHale saw something in Kelly that had never been seen by all the teachers and club mentors with whom Kelly had contact all during his career, or that the Mayo Brains Trust have serious issues when it comes to addressing who is capable at the highest level and who is not.

No-one but a fool or a rogue would suggest that Fergal Kelly did anything other than to burst his gut trying to win an All-Ireland for home and fatherland. If An Spailpín was to pull the green and red jersey over his distended belly, if his little legs were asked to cover every blade of grass in Croker for the honour of the Yew Trees, he would try his heart out too - until the St John's ambulance ferried him away after five or six minutes. The Mayo mentors have no business asking An Spailpín to do something for which he is congenitally incapable, and neither have they any business asking Fergal Kelly to come out from between the junior goalposts to play on the greatest stage of all, where you meet the likes of John McDermott, Anthony Tohill, Jack O'Shea, Mick O'Connell and the rest, men whom you do not meet in the Mayo Junior Leagues.

Insofar as I can deduce, the reason that Kelly got the nod to start in the All-Ireland was because the Mayo Brains Trust of Maughan, Golden and McHale would sooner start Old Henry Devil in there ahead of David Brady. This begs two questions: firstly, what's so terrible about Brady anyway, and secondly, why couldn't the Brians Trust do a better job of recognising a midfielder rather than asking a junior goalkeeper to do the job?

Brady. David Brady is, by all accounts, a difficult man to love. I've never met the man, I don't know, but I have heard all manner of people taking pops at him (free shots of course - I'm not sure how many would say such things to his face) for what he has done and for what he has failed to do. So let's examine the case via a reductio ad absurdum - let's assume it was David Brady that shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 to start the great war, and it's Brady's fault that, as the song says, a whole generation were butchered and damned at Ypres, Flanders and Paschendalle. This makes Brady a very terrible man indeed but the only thing that damns him as a prospective footballer is that at over one hundred years of age he's might not have seventy minutes in him.

Nothing else matters. Kieran McDonald has his detractors too, all of whom have returned to the long grass and all of whom will emerge in full voice once McDanger has one bad game. Same with Brady - for all the complaints about his ego and attitude, the fact is that Brady turns it on on the pitch. Brady is an all-action midfielder whose return was second only to McDonald's in significance in having the team get to the All-Ireland final in first place. No less significantly, Brady taketh the slap and he giveth the slap, something that was badly lacking in September when Kerry were pushing Mayo around like minors or schoolgirls.

Brady's detractors point to his one bad game against Fermanagh. One bad game that negated his appearance from the bench against Galway in what was and remains a famous victory by a county that don't do comeback victories; Brady's dominance against Séamus O'Neill of Roscommon, where no small amount of slaps were exchanged; or Brady's virtuoso display against Tyrone, the All-Ireland Champions. Nor is his coming off the bench when the replay against Fermanagh was still very much in the balance given to him on the credit side of the ledger. One bad game, a bad reputation - leave him on the bench and be damned to him.

Mayo paid a big price for that. It's not like they were never going to use him; Brady did after all appear, once the misfortunate Kelly had been ripped to shreds by Kerry and Mayo with him; I wonder was it worth it?

The second question is: why Kelly? Supposing that Brady had indeed started a World War, broken up the Beatles and introduced the smoking ban that banned crack from Irish bars for evermore? Why did the Mayo Brains Trust of Maughan, Golden and McHale choose a junior club goalkeeper to play in midfield rather than one of the recognised county midfielders they had in the panel? James Gill? Heaney? Nallen, even, who was only having the season of his life?

Is John Maughan gunshy after his Dermot Flanagan substitution of 1997? If he is, then I'm afraid there's no hope for him. As manager, he must have the courage of his convictions; once doubt enters, it'll only get bigger and bigger until he's utterly incapable of making any decisions at all. And that is worrisome indeed.

The All-Ireland Final of 2004 was a bitterly disappointing end to what had been such a miraculous summer, so disappointing that it inevitably soured memories of what had gone before. But, as he fades slowly into the crowd, spare a thought for Fergal Kelly, who did his best for his county when he was called. And no more can any man do.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Billy Keane in the Indo

And what better way to welcome 2005 than to read Billy Keane waxing lyrical in yesterday's Indo? He really has the feel for the Irish attittude to sports you know. Marvellous, and marvellous on what's becoming a quite consistent basis.