Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rugby Conkers All

(I read this on RTE's Sunday Miscellany some time ago. So I decided I'd stick it up here for the fun of it.)
It’s always nice to finish a career as you started it.
In my case, my rugby career ended some 33 years after it began. And in a scene worthy of the Twilight Zone, it ended exactly as it began - with the referee pointing to the dressing room and telling me to get myself there forthwith.
I dispute both decisions.
Let me start with the first one.
It was in Willow Park School in Dublin, nursery to Blackrock College, itself a nursery for great rugby players like Brian O’Driscoll, Fergus Slattery and Brendan Mullin.
I can boast no lofty achievements like that trio.

But on this occaasion, I had proudly lined out in my blue and white hoops for the first time. Willow Under Nines were taking on their arch rivals from that other Holy Ghost rugby school St Mary’s College.
It was a fresh autumn day, I remember. We were winning. And they scored a consolation try.
We retreated behind the posts for the conversion which was duly missed.
And then fourteen of our team ran to the half way line for the kick off.
I, alone, remained behind the posts.
It was, as I saId, autumn. The leaves were brown. And the ground behind the goal was covered in fallen chestnuts, conkers as we called them. It was too good a moment to miss.
I mean, we’d won the game. There were only minutes left. And I felt it would not have any influence on the result if I were to take the opportunity to stuff my pockets with conkers. I was sure I was doing nothing wrong.
Brother Luke, however, took a divergent view.
He believed, mistakenly I was certain, that collecting conkers during a game was against the laws of rugby. He duly sent me off in disgrace.
In the intervening years I happily played rugby having studied the laws to ensure that no such fate would befall me again.
I was, of course, correct about the laws in relation to collecting conkers and Brother Luke was wrong. Nowhere is it written that collecting conkers during a game is an offence. In fact, it is perfectly legal to collect conkers during a line out, scrum or maul, though I must admit, it is not something I have seen happen since at any level.
If they wanted it to be an offence, it would be. The laws of rugby run to some 30,000 words when you include myriad subclauses, additional regulations and referee instructions.
Law 19, subsection 13 - for example - states that a player not carrying the ball is offside if, after the ball has touched a player or the ground, that player steps in front of the ball, unless tackling (or trying to tackle) an opponent. Any attempt to tackle must start from that player’s side of the ball.
I hope that’s clear.
Having digested at least the important laws, I began a memorable career.
The first try - in the snow - on the front pitch at St Mary’s in Rathmines.
The match winning try against Pres Bray on the pitch near the tennis courts in Willow.
The fumble on the line against St Michael’s, third of the three Dublin Holy Ghost schools at the time, that resulted in their last minute try and our only defeat of the year at U 13s.
The moment Fr Nudie Boyle told me I was dropped from the junior cup team.
The heady heights of the thirds at senior level.
The third Es in the the club.
And the World Golden Oldies tournament in Dublin in 1993 where 5,000 rugby players from around gathered to play.
And that’s where it all ended. On a muddy field in Belfield. In ignominy. I was playing with CYM from Terenure in Dublin. And we were proud and happy, maybe a little smug, after winning our first two games well.
When it came to the third and final match, I was asked if I would like the honour of being captain against the Australian side. Brilliant, I thought, though I did wonder why some team mates were sniggering.
The Aussies emerged, brick outhouses to a man, with two former internationals in their side.
It didn’t auger well.
And it only got worse when the referee arrived and bid us all ‘g’day’ in a broad antipodean accent.
He gave us nothing. Not a scrum, not a penalty, nothing.
It was all too much.
I cracked.
I can’t remember what I called him. I think one of the words was ‘biased.’ The other was something along the lines of cad or bounder. Maybe a bit stronger.
He wasn’t impressed.
And for the second time in my long career, I was asked to leave the pitch.
I walked the long walk to the sideline, my head hung low.
In shame?
Not one bit of it.
It was autumn again.
And I was looking for chestnuts.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

It Should Have Been So Simple

❍BUSH: Thank God, he's now an endangered species.

God, I feel sorry for the Americans.
They're just about to get rid of a president who has done just about as badly as a president can do - he has destroyed the economy, the dollar is all but worthless, he is fighting an expensive war in Iraq that cannot be worn, America is a pariah worldwide, he has helped destroy the environment and failed, even, to rebuild New Orelans - and now they are faced with a choice between two bickering Democrats and a Republican who thinks, and possibly hopes, the Iraq war will last 100 years.
Bad and all as things are in Ireland, and they're bad, we have not reached that nadir.
It should have been oh so simple.
The Republicans choose an elderly, bad tempered war monger and the Democrats break new ground by choosing either a woman or a black candidate. Game over. New broom. New America.
But it's not working out that way, is it?

From the outside, it appears that Billary, for that is who Mrs Clinton really is, is determined that, if she doesn't get a shot at the White House, no Democrat will.
And, it could well be that, Barak Obama has much the same view.
Certainly, the damage they are doing to each other must have the Republicans laughing into their sleeves.
It might have been possible a little while ago for one to have the other as Vice President or 'Veep" as the Americans like to call it for reasons that have never been very clear.
Not now. They are, to each other, smiling assassins.
To those of us in the real world, that is the world outside the United States, it makes for confusing viewing.
One cannot imagine, for example, Dermot Ahern having a pop of Brian Cowen in the same way.
All right. You can imagine it. But it's not like to happen, at least, not in public.
Unlike the Democrats, it seems, to Fianna Fáilers, the party is everything.
It is more important than the economy, the health of the nation, crime, the poor - it is more important than anything, possibly or probably including, God.
While this makes for the creation of a political elite - think Cowen, Lenihan, Hanafin, Ahern, deValera, Haughey, Flynn and so on - it also makes for endless power and endless enjoyment of the trappings of power, not least large expenses, large salaries, jobs for the family etc.
If the American Democrats were as loyal to their party, by now either Billary or Obama would now be stuck into John McCain instead of being stuck into each other.
Healthy? Well maybe, if it wasn't for the fact that it's costing each of them a couple of hundred million dollars to fight the fight.
And which system is best?
In the heel of the hunt, probably the Swiss.
But when you think of all the dodgy money in their bank vaults, well, that's another day's work entirely.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Represent Us But Don't Rule Us (How the Idiots Have Taken Over)

❍Hitler: A fine democrat

Democracy is a wonderful thing, someone once said.
It permits us to choose the fools who rule us.
Oh. It was me who said that.
Democracy. It sounds fine and dandy. It's, well, democratic.
George W Bush thinks every country in the world should have it. Except Iran. And Algeria. And anywhere else that has the temerity to elect people he doesn't like or with whom he disagrees.
Hitler was a democrat. Oh yes he was. He was elected.
Robert Mugabe was elected in a more or less fair manner to begin with at least.
Vladimir Putin was elected as was his successor Dmitry Medvedev.

If you look at any democratic country in the world, and I suppose for the purposes of this piece I'm talking about really democractic, you will find, without a shadow of a doubt, that many of those who have been elected are idiots.
It's not their fault. They have been chosen by their peers who, when it came to making the big decision decided, as it was their democratic right to do, that wanted an idiot to represent them.
It may have been for one of many reasons.
Maybe the idiot's father or mother or uncle or aunt or brother or sister had represented these people for generations and wasn't, in fact, an idiot. And so the descendant or relative got elected by extension, so to speak.
Maybe the idiot's father or mother or uncle or aunt or brother or sister was indeed an idiot but was a useful kind of idiot who got the local road resurfaced every now and then and got the pension for Mrs MacGillycuddy and a job in the civil service for that rather slow boy, Johnny from down the road. He might never have heard of Afghanistan or Burma or Zimbabwe or, for that matter, Berlin. But he got things done.
Either way, we end up with lots of idiots in our parliament and, indeed, every parliament in the world. These are people who need help dressing but can, unaided, tot up massive expenses, never miss a trick when it comes to tax and have junketted to the far corners of the world to see sewerage systems, street lights, schools and prisons, all of which we have in ample supply here at home.
So what's the point?
The point is this.
We elect these people, idiots and non idiots alike, to represent us. Not to rule us.
They should go to parliament and say: the people I represent do not want a tax on ice cream, the people I represent want a new motorway to be built to Gortahork; the people I represent want free jelly. Whatever.
And that's fine.
The problem arises when the idiots and, indeed, some of the non-idiots, are appointed to positions which actually mean they're running the show.
And so you end up with school teachers running energy departments and publicans running education departments and bus drivers running health departments and solicitors running the country.
We should elect our representatives to represent us.
But the job of running the country, should be left to people who know how to run countries.
Countries should be run by experts in education, finance, energy, transport, environment, defence and so on.
Who chooses the experts to run the country....?
Leave it with me.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Small Gestures Maybe, But Gestures of Hope

There are many reasons why we should not boycott the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer.
They will bring huge employment and therefore benefit to tens of thousands of Chinese people.
They will provide an opportunity for athletes from Third World countries to appear on a world stage and, maybe, break free from poverty.
They will provide the whole world with an opportunity to see all that is best about sport.
And so on.
In fact, I would say, that if I sat here for long enough, I could probably come up with a hundred reasons not to boycott the games.

Indeed, if I was simply to make an argument for boycotting the Games on the basis of China's behaviour in Tibet, despite the worldwide protests during the farcical Torch Run, there aren't really that many people who care. A pity. But true, nonetheless.
Some people may be appalled that China is doing its best to arm the despot Mugabe in Zimbabwe despite his brutality, his dishonesty, his corruption and the patently fraudulent nature of the elections there. At least, unlike China, there were elections there.
Others might feel a touch of nausea when they think of how many people are executed in China each year, often after no more than show trials and often with doctors on standby to harvest their body parts.
There are still more people who recoil at the idea of the way China treats its own citizens, those who raise even the quietest voice against the unelected regime, those who are summarily thrown out of their homes to facilitate some development or other, a practice Bertie Ahern appeared to admire, those who practice the Catholic, or indeed, any other faith, those who dare to be different in any way.
There are those angry at the way China shows utter disregard for the environment in its rush to be as greedy as, well, as greedy as us.
All of those thing sicken me.
But I am sickened most by China's support for the Government of Sudan, the government which has facilitated and carried out genocide in Darfur, a government which will, most certainly, not consider the nationality of the UN troops operating in Chad, if they find that operation inconvenient to them. That, of course, includes the Irish troops
There are many sick countries on this earth of ours, many countries rules by despots, dictators, brutal armies and, in some instances, men who are simply mad.
We must, of course, help the people of those countries as best we can.
Legitimising brutal regimes is not the way to go about it.
Shaking hands with the devil is not the right thing to do.
Personally, I will have no interest in the Olympic Games.
I am still, I fear, a child of the Sixties to this extent.
I hope.
I know in my heart that small gestures, even millions of them, are as naught against the power of the powerful.
But I'm for making them anyway.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

The Great Abortion Lie

Science never ceases to amaze me. Mankind progresses at an astounding rate.
All over the world, experts of all sorts work daily trying to find ways of keeping us all alive longer.
Indeed, some of the treatments I now receive for my own condition, didn’t exists a few years ago.
It's what makes me think.
It baffles me that there are still scientists and others in the medical profession who believe their mission in life is to aid the death of others.
In the United States, and no doubt elsewhere, doctors and scientists work relentlessly to think up new ways of executing prisoners. They say they want to execute them ‘humanely’. Which is impossible because you cannot execute humanely any being that can think and knows what is to happen to it.

In England recently they announced that they are going to experiment with what you might call ‘quickie’ abortions in doctors’ surgeries.
So you might have one worker in an office nipping out for a coffee at lunchtime and another nipping out to kill their unborn child.
There is a great myth perpetuated by self-styled feminists around this issue and it surrounds their glib advertising slogan about ‘a woman’s right to choose.’
In this country, they try to stir the emotions by going on about incest and rape but they rarely if ever reveal the fact that, what they want is abortion on demand up to and including 24 weeks, past the time when a baby is viable outside the womb.
And you may notice that when women are pregnant, even a couple of months, people ask them how the baby is. They never enquire about the health of the foetus or the embryo, words those who favour abortion use to to avoid using the word ‘baby.’
You may or may not know, that the 'liberal' New York Times never uses the phrase 'partial birth abortion' in its headlines. Because although it supports the barbarous practice - which is too nauseating to describe here - it knows that the name of the procedure itself is so disgusting that it would turn the stomachs of its readers.
What those who favour abortion mean by a woman’s right to choose is this.
Whilst they berate men who fail to act responsibly and take precautions when engaging in intercourse, they believe no such onus should apply to women.
Instead, women, they believe, can engage in unprotected sex and then nip off to kill the resulting life at their convenience.
And that’s what it is. If a foetus is alive it is life. If it is alive before an abortion and dead after it, it has been killed.
Kidnapping of people for torture by the United States is called 'extraordinary rendition.'
Hitler called the holocaust “The Final Solution.’
It's what people do when they know what they're doing, what they're promoting is unpleasant or just plain wrong.
Feminists describing abortion as “The Right to Choose’ is the same kind of lie.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Goodbye Bertie. Off To Live in Darndale, then?

And so it's farewell Bertie Ahern, Prime Minister of Ireland who liked to pocket dosh from whoever game it to him, whenever and in whatever currency.
Soon we expect to see you begging on O'Connell Bridge for funds to help you through this difficult time in your life.
Well, not really.
We reckon the bold Bertie will be busy for some time counting all the spondulecks he has managed to bum off people over the year as he sails off into the sunset or, rather, is driven there in the government car he retains by the government driver he also retains.
He will also have to count all the money he gets from the pensions he has earned - earner? what am I saying - the pensions he and other TDs and Ministers have awarded themselves so they can continue to live in luxury while, it is claimed 750,000 Irish children live in poverty or are on the borderline, while pensioners live on less than €300 a week, while the homeless sleep rough because there is no money to staff the hostels built for them, while geriatric patients are being used as human shields in our hospitals to occupy beds so those who need them are kept on waiting lists and don't add to costs, while criminals are let out of prison early, while prices are going through the roof and while we watch the economy crumbling because, in the heel of the hunt, he was pretty damned useless at his job.

Some people seem to be devastated that Bertie is gone. Then again, even by the worst estimates, more than 40 per cent of Zimbabweans voted for Robert Mugabe. Not that I'm making a comparison. Really.
One of the most extraordinary things about the recent events in Irish politics, is the revelation that Fianna Fail politicians all appear to love Fianna Fail more than they love Ireland.
Bertie was at it again yesterday. "The Party that I love..."
They're all at it.
Like Mugabe, they think the party is more important than anything else.
They welcomed back Beverley Cooper Flynn who a court decided, urged people to dodge their taxes.
Why would any party do that?
Because it's good for the party in Mayo, that's why.
Ministers are appointed, not because they're able (that's pretty apparent) but because of the geographical location of their constituencies. It's good for the party.
Bertie was, is, a party man.
He carefully constructed is 'ordinary bloke' image while, at the same time, sucking up cash from anyone and everyone who offered it to him.
He nurtured the image as an ordinary Dub and gave the impression to those he met, that he was their friend.
Which was bullshit.
It's unlikely, now that's he's no longer Taoiseach, he will move in with 'ordinary people' in somewhere like, say, Darndale.
It was all just a grand act from the man who invented his past and is now faced with inventing a future for himself.
President of Ireland?
He mentioned the job yesterday.
All I can say, is please God no.

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