Friday, June 28, 2013

Clare Daly, Dustbin Queen

First published in the Western People on Tuesday.

How appropriate that Deputy Clare Daly used the word “slobbering” in her remarkable attack on the Obama family in Dáil Éireann last week. After all, who better to testify on slobber than Dublin City’s one-time Dustbin Queen?

The Anti-Bin Tax Campaign of the past ten years is one of those things that continues to underline the chasm between the urban and the rural ways of life. For some reason, the idea got into some Dublin people’s heads that it costs nothing to collect, store and dispose of the domestic refuse of the citizens of the biggest city in the country. That perhaps all that rubbish would just disappear, like frost in a thaw.

Turns out that’s not really what rubbish does, not matter how you wish it would, and the protest escalated from a refusal to pay to standoffs and blockades with bin trucks. You may think having a bin truck full of rotting bananas and sour milk and half-eaten fish fingers in the middle of a housing estate didn’t make for pleasant evenings for ordinary working people when they came home from work. You would be right.

But for all the protestors’ rhetoric about ordinary working people, it was those same ordinary working people who ended up footing the bill for the Anti-Bin Tax. They put up with the stench and disruption all through the protest and then had to pay, not only the charges, but the many fines levied on top of those charges as well.

Happily, it didn’t end up all bad for every ordinary working person. Among the ordinary working people who lead the campaign were Joe Higgins, Joan Collins and Clare Daly. Sound familiar? Of course they do. Those three are now inside in Dáil Éireann, pulling down €92k a year, which they may spend as they please.

All three have been members of the Socialist Party, but Higgins is the only one still a member. Daly resigned last year over friction caused by her friendship with independent TD Mick Wallace – “the red flag of the people covered in slobber,” as the Socialists could have put it at the time, if they had been quick enough – while Collins packed her bags back in 2004.

Collins was elected to the current Dáil as a member of the United Left Alliance, even though the ULA included that same Socialist Party that Collins had quit earlier – what a shock she must have got when she found out it was the same bunch all the time.

Daly and Collins have now gone ahead and founded a yet another left-wing political party called United Left. There may be a certain optimism in using the word “United” in the name, as the Irish parties of the far left have proved to be anything but throughout their history.

So this, then, is who was popping off in Dáil Éireann about the “outpourings of President Obama and his wife,” “the sycophantic fawning over them by the political establishment and sections of the media,” and Ireland’s position as “lapdog of US imperialism.”

As it happens, another American president was in an equally fawning Ireland fifty years ago, and that one also said it felt like coming home.

One of the things John F Kennedy did during his brief Irish visit of 1963 was make a speech at a memorial to John Barry, a native of Wexford and the founder of the American Navy – a US imperialist from the soles of his buckled shoes to the powder on top of his wig, by Deputy Daly’s reckoning. This is part of what Kennedy in Wexford, about the relationship between the US imperialists and their lapdog, Ireland:

My country welcomed so many sons and daughters of so many countries, Irish and Scandinavian, Germans, Italians and all the rest, and gave them a fair chance and a fair opportunity. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is of Irish descent. The Leader of the Senate is of Irish descent. And what is true of the Irish has been true of dozens of other people. In Ireland I think you see something of what is so great about the United States, and I must say that in the United States, through millions of your sons and daughters, 25 millions in fact, you see something of what is great about Ireland.

This is what Clare Daly can’t see. The United States is a country made up of lapdogs. But they are lapdogs from Ireland and Scandinavia and Germany and Italy and all the rest that didn’t want to be lapdogs any more.

The tired huddled masses, the wretched refuse of the teeming shore, as Emma Lazarus so memorably described them, went to the United States when there was no-where else for them to go and found that in those United States they could look a man in the eye and not have to tug a forelock or stand in the muck to let a better walk by.

Is America an imperial power? Yes, it is. But if the Romans were enthusiastic imperialists and the British accidental imperialists, the United States is unique in world history in not wanting empire, but having empire thrust upon them. First, by the Second World War, and second by the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. America rules the world not because it wants to, but because it’s the only country that can. There is no alternative. Someone has to come along, maintain some sort of order and pick up the trash.

Deputy Daly has spent too much time among the dustbins. It’s time she climbed into one, and stayed there.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Public Accounts Committee is a Toothless Tiger

First published in the Western People on Tuesday.

A member of the PAC yesterday
Mr John McGuinness TD, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Oireachtas Éireann, has been having a hot time of it lately in the pages of the Irish Independent. Why is neither here nor there at the moment, but a rumour has been floating around that there have been midnight meetings at crossroads by persons unknown who fear McGuinness and his Committee investigating the Bank Guarantee, and those same persons unknown are leaking to the Independent to stop him at any cost.

Most rumours are to be taken with a pinch of salt. We may need the full packet for this particular one.

There are two reasons for not giving this theory the time of day. The first is that Oireachtas Committees aren’t quite the Irish version of the Spanish Inquisition that they are often portrayed to be. This was brought home by Alan Dukes’s appearance before the Finance Committee during his time as chairman of the ghost ship that used to be known as Anglo-Irish bank.

Under strident questioning from then-Senator Shane Ross, Dukes made it clear that he knew very well that Ross and his committee were all bark and no bite, and underlined that by witheringly remarking  that he was “not here to write a column for the back page of the Sunday Independent.” Dukes had no intention of helping Ross make headlines, and there was nothing Ross could do about it except sit there, fuming. When Dukes puts you in your box, that’s where you stay.

The other reason that McGuinness and the PAC will never investigate the Bank Guarantee is that there no history of such accountability in the history of the state. A parade of the great and the good marching in and out of the committee, giving their version of what happened on the night of the bank guarantee? Not before Hell freezes over.

It would certainly be interesting to find out just how that deal happened. The late Brian Lenihan himself did his best to get his side of the story out before his sad and untimely death, and his family have been burnishing his legacy since. Against that, there are many conspiracy theories about fat cats and golden circles being protected at the expense of the poor eejit who is currently paying a €400k mortgage on an €80k house. That man would like some answers.

But, God help him, he’ll never get them. There is no culture of going on the record in Irish politics. It doesn’t suit our nature. It’s not what we do.

In recent times, we have had the tribunals. What was the function of the tribunals? It wasn’t to discover funny business. Even the least-informed of the dogs in the street could tell there was funny business going on during the boom. The purpose the tribunals served in going on for so very long was twofold.

Firstly, they made truckloads of money for legal profession in providing representation that witnesses didn’t need, those witnesses being immune from prosecution by anything said in the course of a tribunal.

The real legacy of the tribunals is that they were a slow release of highly toxic news that, if released in one go, could have been cataclysmic for the political system and caused a root and branch reform. But over seventeen long years, no one revelation has the power to cause that sort of upset. By the end, first-time voters were going to the polls who could not remember a time when there weren’t tribunals. They were just background noise at that stage, a faint buzzing in the distance that, while certainly annoying, were no reason to go rocking boats.

Not only does Irish political culture not do inquiries, neither does it do going on the record. This is illustrated in a telling story in Frank Dunlop’s memoir of his time as Government Press Secretary, Yes, Taoiseach. Dunlop is disgraced currently, but his memoir is a very interesting and seldom-told account of just what goes on in the corridors of power.

Dunlop was originally hired by Jack Lynch as press secretary. When Lynch resigned in 1979, Dunlop called in to see him as Lynch was clearing out his office. Dunlop found Lynch was filling great big plastic bags full of notes and documents from his time as Taoiseach.

“Will you use those in your memoirs Taoiseach?” asked Dunlop. Lynch laughed at him. Memoirs, indeed. Writing memoirs was the very last thing on Lynch’s mind. All those notes were going into the bin and from there to sweet oblivion.

It would have been nice if Jack Lynch thought differently about his time in office, and all the changes he had seen. He had such an interesting life, he was such an extraordinarily popular figure and he governed at a time of great crisis on the island.

But there is no history of going on the record in Irish politics. Deals are done when they are done and the details are kept firmly within the power triangle of Leinster House, the Shelbourne Hotel and Doheny and Nesbitt’s Public House.

And that is why there is no plot to silence John McGuinness and the Public Accounts Committee. Because even though the public would dearly like to know what happened on the night of the bank guarantee, the public really don’t have a say in it.

There is no tradition of openness in Irish public life. Why would a reliable and definitive account of the bank guarantee ever emerge if we still don’t know what happened in the Arms Trial, forty-three years ago? Behind the twinkle in the eye and the lovely, lilting voice, what exactly did the Taoiseach know about gunrunning to Northern Ireland? That’s accountability in Irish public life.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Kerry Perspective on Mayo v Roscommon

Every week, a retired Kerry footballer gives his considered insight on the past week in Gaelic football for one of the national papers. With the help of a friend currently domiciled in Hong Kong, An Spailpín Fánach has sensationally intercepted this week’s copy and can print it here this morning. Now, read on:

Look, everyone knows about Roscommon’s football tradition. Kerry people certainly do, as it was Kerry who met them so often when they got to the All-Ireland Final. There’s nothing you can tell us about the pride Roscommon men take in the primrose and blue.

I remember Páidí telling me once that, when Kerry went down 1-2 after five minutes to Roscommon in the 1980 All-Ireland Final, he turned to John O’Keeffe and said “Chrisht, they must have a red-haired woman inside in the dressing room.” Páidí believed in what we call the piseog, and the bean rua was among his greatest fears.

Thankfully we didn’t meet any mná rua when we travelled up in the car from Kerry to Castlebar. It wasn’t the best day of the summer but look, Championship is Championship and it’s always good to get out and get to a game. Besides, Mayo are now one of the top, top teams in the country and you can never see enough of the real contenders.

We got to Castlebar at about half-past two, got a handy place to park there on Linenhall Street, and then in to Mick Byrne’s for six or seven pints before the match. Up the hill then and through the cinema, where they had Man of Steel on as the matinee. But the real men of steel were inside in McHale Park, wearing the green and red.

I’ve always had time for Mayo. They play the game the right way. People remember those finals where we were just lucky enough to get over the line, but they forget we’ve lost to Mayo too. We haven’t forgotten it though. When Páidí lead us back to the Munster title in 1996, the very next thing we did was lose by six points to Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final.

I remember John Maughan coming in to the dressing room afterwards, to remind us about him managing Clare in 1992 as well. I meet John doing the media work now and we often laugh about what happened next. Well. I do, anyway.

Mayo were in a different league to Roscommon on Sunday. That’s no shame on Roscommon, any more than it shames Clare anytime Kerry go up to Ennis and bury them. I remember Páidí telling me about coming home on the bus from the Milltown Massacre in 1979 and Pat Spillane turning to him and saying “Banner County? Wisha, another bating like this and they’ll have to change the name to the Bodhrán County. Bodhrán – do you get it? Because of the beating? Do you not – “ Páidí just hit Pat a box and went back to sleep. I’m surprised O’Rourke doesn’t try that on the telly. It’s not like he’s a stranger to it, after all.

But look, Mayo are a different team to the one we beat in 2011, 2006, 2005, 2004 and 1997. Those teams were all the same, but this one is different. And I think I’ve spotted two reasons for that difference.

The first is Donie Buckley. Donie is a Kerryman and one of the greatest coaches in the country. Donie specialises in defensive coaching, which is unusual for a Kerryman as in Kerry we didn’t even know how to tackle until we played Tyrone in 2005, a point Jack O’Connor made on the first page of his book. Donie must have read about it in a book or something. Anyway, he’s got the hang of it now and he’s making a real difference in Mayo.

The second reason are the O’Sheas. Aidan and Séamus are in midfield of course, and there’s another brother, Conor, on the bench, ready to come in. The O’Sheas’ father, Jim, is from Kilorglin.

Kilorglin, County Kerry.

But for all that, Mayo still have some questions hanging over their heads. This is something we discussed in the car on the way home – we had to roar at each other now, as we all had our heads stuck out the windows, trying to sober up before the wives took out the breathalysers again – but we made some progress in our understanding.

The two things Mayo are lacking are goals and a killer instinct. You could say the two travel together – if you want to be big, you need to run up the big score on minnows. You can’t be feeling sorry for them or empathic for them or anything.

Look at the Gooch – isn’t he beautiful? But it’s not just that he’s beautiful, he has the killer instinct. Five more minutes, five more points, he told the boys against Waterford. That’s the attitude you want, and that’s what we’ll see in the Munster Final against Cork.  Do Mayo have that same killer instinct? We’ll have to wait ‘til later in the summer to see.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Seanad Referendum: Why Go Looking for Trouble?

First published in the Western People on Tuesday.

The last thing a sensible person should go looking for in life is trouble. Why would you go looking for something that is more than willing to come looking for you?

When Enda Kenny was elected Taoiseach two years ago, trouble was the one thing in the country that was not in short supply. The country was broke, nobody could go for a bag of chips without checking with first with Berlin if they could have both salt and vinegar, and it wasn’t so much a question of hoping the 80s wouldn’t return as praying to the living God that we wouldn’t be pitched all the way back to the 50s, or worse.

In those stormiest of days, Enda kept a steady hand on the tiller. He held his nerve in Europe and has reaped rewards. The bailout will soon be over. The man should be hailed a hero.

But that’s not what’s happening. For reasons best known to himself, when he should be basking in the warm glow of clear and visible success, the Taoiseach and his government have got themselves mired in two crises from which the rewards if successful are slim, and the punishments if unsuccessful and many and painful.

On abortion, the Government’s handling of the hottest of Irish political potatoes for the past thirty years has been anything but sure, and the outcome of current moves to legislate for the X-Case is anything but certain. The battle is very far from over.

All this was trouble that the Government didn’t need with the economy in such dire straits – and don’t forget, even though the Government has done great work, the country is very, very far from saved yet. As such, with the huge issue of the economy looming over the state like the iceberg over the Titanic, and the abortion nightmare rearing its head again, the very last thing the Government needed to do was to hold a referendum that isn’t wanted by the people, that is unpopular among their own parties, that is badly thought out, difficult to explain and can only lead to heartache and woe down the line. And yet, for reasons best known to themselves, that is exactly what the Government has chosen to do.

The first Seanad was founded under two noble auspices. It was set up as part of the 1922 Free State Constitution with a view to protecting  the Protestant minority in the Free State, a protection that minority badly needed – their treatment in the triumphalist early years of the State should be a cause of burning shame to every Irish citizen.

When Eamon DeValera introduced his own constitution in 1937, he retained the second chamber but built it around the idea of vocationalism. Vocationalism was the idea that there was a Christian (ie, Catholic) social order, where everyone had a place and there was a place for everyone, a doctrine that was worked out in papal encyclicals from Leo XIII and Pius XI.

This is where the idea of the panels in the Seanad come from, that each social order would be reflected in the various panels. The Seanad recognises five vocations in Irish life, and categorises them as Agriculture, Labour, Administration, Cultural and Educational, and Industrial and Commercial. Farmers, manual workers, civil servants, teachers and shopkeepers to you and me.

And this is where it gets tricky. How relevant vocationalism is in the 21st Century would be more a matter for Father Hoban over the way but Leo XIII reigned at the end of the 19th Century and Pius XI until the start of the Second World War and neither of those may be considered today or yesterday. There are big changes in the world since.

And even if it were relevant, if vocationalism were a magic bullet of social organisation and cohesion, exactly how much of a role does it play in deciding whom is elected to which panel? What qualifications must you hold to get on the Agricultural Panel, or the Industrial and Commercial Panel? How come you’re on one and not the other?

And what of the baroque inside-out method of filling those Seanad seats? We enjoy elections in Ireland – why don’t we hear more about the inside and outside panel seats, who’s been nominated by what body, what difference .874 votes can make on the 13th count? Isn’t all the world’s drama there? Or does the fact that the Seanad currently does as much work as a child’s rocking horse pulling a plough take something of the bloom from the rose?

This is another problem with this referendum. Both sides are as one in saying that the current Seanad is a crock. The Government says wreck it, the Opposition says reform it.

But if the referendum is lost, will the Seanad ever be reformed? Or will it just tick on like it does, filling inside and outside seats in panels of Administrators, Educators, Labourers, Industrialists and Farmers who do not themselves administer, educate, labour, indust [sic] or farm? Is there any way the people can win in this, or do they end up with the worst possible option, yet again?

It’s early days in the campaign yet, but it’s interesting to note that the Government has not gone bald-headed in an attack on the Seanad. To win the election, they should portray the Seanad as a rabid dog that must be shot on sight for the safety of the village. Instead, they’re portraying the second chamber as Old Shep, who has to be taken back the land by his weeping master, holding his shotgun in one hand and his spade in the other. Who wants to pull that trigger?

Of course, politicians can’t go bald-headed and attack the Seanad for doing nothing because it’s they themselves that are inside in it, doing that same nothing. Hasn’t anybody thought this out beforehand? With everything that that needs doing in the country, with everything the Government have on their plate, why would they bother with the Seanad? Why are they looking for trouble?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Addressing Inequality in the Football Championship

The Championship has never been equal. The hurling is the more unequal of the two major codes in Gaelic Games, with three counties holding 75% of the All-Irelands, but that doesn’t seem to get the same why-oh-why coverage about inequality.

Maybe football gets more coverage because it’s played more widely or because, football being a simpler game than hurling, people always think every county has some sort of a mullocker’s chance at football. Mullocking will never save you hurling against Kilkenny, but playing Kerry on your patch on a horrible day – well, men can dream, can’t they?

Maybe that’s why the current inequality seems so traumatic. Even though the Championship is built on counties, and counties have never been equal, in either population or football tradition, there was always that chance of dogs having their days. Now even that is gone. The other reason has to do with the state of the modern Championship, of course. We’re four weeks in now and nothing’s happened. Nobody’s lost. They’re all still there, waiting.

So what to do, with this inequality built into the system? People write in newspapers or post on message boards about new Championship formats, some of them quite byzantine in their complexity, but none of them address the basic inequality, that some counties are bigger than others and always will be.

To find out if inequality is an issue, the GAA has to ask itself what is the Championship really for. Is it to achieve the highest standards in athleticism, or is it partly that, but more so a pageant of county’s pride and heritage, where the flying of the colours is more important than winning or losing?

If it’s the former, what will that entail? Do we do away with county boundaries? Do we amalgamate counties, redraw provinces, introduce a transfer system, go professional? Will Irish children support teams in the future the same way they support English soccer teams now and in your youths, through dumb luck with no local connection, no pride of place? Is there any turning from this road, or is it an inevitable evolution?

Your correspondent hopes not. Your correspondent, dreadful old Tory that he is, misses the nobility and the honour of the old Championship, when it was all about representing home, hearth and heart in one ball of white summer heat.

All that is gone now. Now, not only are the historical haves and have-nots with us, but the gap is now greater than just population and tradition. The gap has increased exponentially by the new professionalism that exists in the game, where scientifically devised methods of training have created a new breed of footballer playing a new type of game.

Workrate is the buzzword in football now. Workrate is what you have to up when there’s some buck in a suit standing at your shoulder in the office with a clipboard ticking off how many times us visit Facebook or the GAA Board or, God save us, An Spailpín Fánach, that well-known blog on contemporary Irish life, when you should be filling your spreadsheets or writing your few yards of code. Football is meant to be about glory, drama, fun – all those things that work is not.

How did it come to this? An arms race, at the start. County A starts spending X pounds a year on the county team, with dieticians and GPS trackers and psychologists and what have you. County B has to catch up, so they sign up for all that and throw in cryogenic chambers and bonding sessions in upscale resorts and motivational speeches from retired rugby players. And then County C have someone fly home from ‘Merica on his private jet with a slideshow and a bag of used bills and a plan to set up the old homestead on the map, yes sir, you see if I don’t. And then County A realises it’s fallen behind again and – well, you get the picture.

That creates one level of division. What really stretches it is that this new level of training has created a football that isn’t really recognisable as football any more. None of the great teams of the past could live with a modern All-Ireland contender. If a modern team played Eugene McGee’s Offaly of the 1980s, the modern team would eat Offaly without salt.

Spit and sinew was the underdog’s only chance against the big gun. Now, it’s the big gun’s chief weapon. Offaly’s skill level would couldn’t for nothing against the modern team’s workrate, and there weren’t many soft boys on that Offaly team. It’d be like fifteen frogs being fed into a combine harvester. Whirr, splat.

The rules have failed to evolve with the greater physicality of the men playing the game at the highest level. And it’s only through the rules that change can come, and some of balance can return between physicality and the more finesse type skills of the game.

Perhaps there should be rule differences between county games and club games? There is already a time difference – why not introduce a few more differences? Limit handpasses, redefine the tackle, be less naïve about tactical fouling. Identify the true skills of the game and reward them. It’s not that hard to do if people put their minds to it.

This isn’t about punishing good teams to level a playing pitch. The greater team must always beat the lesser, but that greatness must be because they are greater at football, and not because they are better at pumping iron or at eating more boiled chicken for breakfast.

FOCAL SCOIR: Second Captains let themselves down badly on their podcast of last Tuesday week by having a crack at Leitrim’s potential place in the last twelve of the country. “Leitrim playing into the middle of July having not played a county from Ireland … [compared to Tyrone], who have just engaged in a war with the best team in the country and now have to win three Qualifiers to get to the same position. I mean, it’s just utterly ridiculous.

Your faithful narrator doesn’t get how beating New York and London makes Leitrim children of a lesser god. How is that a lesser achievement than Kerry also being in the last twelve having beaten Waterford and Tipperary by a combined total of 6-39? Either county can only dance with the girls in the hall.

Leitrim aren’t even in the Connacht Final, but if they do make it it’ll mean the world to them. A provincial final appearance means less than nothing to Kerry. The Second Captains should pick on someone their own size.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Blurred Lines, Blurred Lyrics - Nobody Ever Listens to the Words

It’ll be seven years this summer since Top of the Pops went off the air. Being Number One in the UK singles chart doesn’t have the same cultural impact it once had – we’re a long way from The Boomtown Rats tearing up pictures of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John when Rat Trap got to Number One in the winter of 1978, or The Specials’ Ghost Town being a commentary on Thatcher’s Britain.

The current Number One single in the United Kingdom is Blurred Lines, by the temptingly named Robin Thicke. You might have heard the song on the radio – it’s the “hey heyhey HEY!” one.

It is unlikely that anyone actually hears anything other than “hey heyhey HEY!” when they hear the song though, because if they did the song would surely have not done so well. An appearance by Thicke on the Ellen show in the USA - the video at the top of this page - makes the song beyond reproach as far as women are concerned, but would Blurred Lines be so popular if people heard any of the lyrics other than the “hey heyhey HEY!” part?

You’re always open to accusations of fogeyism when you wonder if it’s really necessary to fling this filth at our pop kids, but my goodness, the thought that people are growing up listening to this and concluding that this is how adult men relate to adult women is appalling. It’s not a question of feminism or ideology – it’s a question of simple manners.

It could be that the people who love Blurred Lines genuinely don’t hear the lyric. All they hear is the “hey heyhey HEY!” and hit the dance floor immediately, viewing all content other than the groove as superfluous.

Such a reaction would not necessarily be uncommon. Max Martin once told the BBC that the first few notes on the piano of Hit Me Baby, One More Time were the entire song – Britney Spears could have been singing a shopping lift after that and it still would have worked. And Martin, of course, should know, having written the thing in the first place.

This is how we consume music now. A series of motifs are expertly stitched together and rolled out the conveyor belt. And it’s not just the writing teams behind Thicke or Rhianna that do it; Sasha Fr ère-Jones expertly deconstructed Coldplay and U2 in in the New Yorker a few years ago. The tunes bounce around but mean nothing. The lyrics are just another sound in the mix, like raspberry ripple running through the vanilla ice-cream.

Is this a good or a bad thing? It could be that the consumers of these things are as oblivious to the lyrics as the 99% of internet users who have no interest in the mechanics of how this modern miracle works, with packets of information flashing back and forth through the ether in milliseconds. We just want to check Facebook, thanks.

It’s hard to know how many people ever listened to lyrics anyway. Bob Dylan is seen as the greatest lyricist of the modern pop/rock age, even though a huge amount of his lyrics make no sense whatsoever. He made his name as a protest singer and people assumed he was still protesting when he went electric. A quick glance shows this a very big assumption to make.

For instance, what makes Jokerman a great song is that it sounds Caribbean and Mark Knopfler plays guitar on it. But the lyrics are rubbish:

You're a man of the mountains, you can walk on the clouds
Manipulator of crowds, you're a dream twister
You're going to Sodom and Gomorrah
But what do you care? Ain't nobody there
Would want marry your sister

If there is a more forced rhyme in modern music than twister/sister, I don’t know what it is.

Of lyrics in pop songs, ABBA are much deeper than they’re given credit for. Not always, of course – the second line of Waterloo is one of the clunkiest ever written – but in his maturity Björn Ulvaeus wrote some remarkably sad songs, with Winner Takes It All being the most harrowing:

But tell me does she kiss
Like I used to kiss you?
Does it feel the same
When she calls your name?

“Does it feel the same / When she calls your name?” L Cohen himself would be proud of that one. Nothing blurred about those lines.