Friday, November 26, 2010

Toyboy Story 3: A Woody Won't He Buzz Slight Year?

They say I’m a bit old in the tooth for Santa gifts it’s true
But at this time of recession, living in hope is all we can do,
I continue to get a buzz from the toys driven on Top Gear
Even though our family fortunes have had a slight year.

There must be someone with FUNds in the IMF or even the ECB
Who will put aside contagion fears and simply think of me,
For obviously a simple Sports car is still a toy boy pleasure
Which should be nurtured and enjoyed at a guy’s full leisure

Any minor difficulties encountered in affording petrol for the car
Could be offset by heightened vanity and being a peer group star
For even mature men at heart are really just older and taller boys,
Whose continuous fantasy is to own some gadget or drive big toys?

You see a married man may seem to settle down with a fond soul mate
But when it he hears an engine roar, his heart jumps and he just can’t wait
To sit at the wheel, put the accelerator to the floor and give it full throttle
For fear people think he lacks such an appreciation or having the bottle.

So don’t fret when your man suddenly gets broody this festive season
And seems withdrawn, morose and introverted without any apparent reason
You see the problem lies deeper than image and our current economic woe
For a man’s whole identity lies in racing cars and bikes with others in tow

So by all means buy the children small gifts, toys and presents so sweet
But don’t forgot the old man and his addiction to the sleek on the street
Even a small dinky toy car or truck will often suffice to keep his mood fun
For modern man just needs the illusion of power when all is said and done

Therefore, be mindful of Christmas spirit promised but never fulfilled
As men for the most part are more sensitive than they are often billed
So tweet them with dignity, pride and a sweet love in its proper place
Especially when their toy boy illusions drive them to set a fast pace


This verse is intended only to amuse and offer some fine Christmas Cheer
But to those with no appreciation of men, its sentiments may appear queer.
It’s no harm to study the verse but don’t dwell on it more than you ought
Just remember that men are really much deeper than first you may have thought.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Fairytale so Tragic, no Prince to Break the Spell

The appalling news in Ireland yesterday of the double slaughter of four small children and two young women by male companions, one of whom later killed himself, leaves one in a state of complete shock and bewilderment. It is true that Ireland as a nation has seen some dark economic days recently but nothing has prepared us for such a heartrendingly awful occurrence. In a supposedly Christian country where family values are still regarded as paramount, it simply beggars belief that such a terrible act of extreme violence against ones own young family could be perpetrated by anyone. Furthermore, the fact that this occurred in two separate locations and affected two families within the one day reinforces the extreme sense of shock accompanying the news of this terrible tragedy. One is left reeling and trying desperately to understand what possible depressive mood or imagined reason to despair could possibly provoke such unspeakable acts of savagery. Truly our whole identity as a family focused society in Ireland is rocked to the core by these terrible events.

And yet I have experienced such feelings of personal shock before, perhaps not so much in respect of innocent children within a family unit, but more broadly, for example, at the slaughter of innocent people in the wider conflict in Northern Ireland some years ago and of course at the time of the attacks of 9/11 in New York. I especially remember watching on television the unfolding appalling spectacle of the 9/11 attacks and the sheer scale of the human and physical destruction occasioned by these atrocities. However, like many people I struggled to find works or indeed emotions adequate to reconcile ones sense of despair at the events with a profound feeling of compassion for the extended families linked directly to such tragedies. Strangely, I found a wonderful expression of these feelings, not in documentary programmes or indeed in wordy book tomes but in the music of Bruce Springsteen and in particular in his music on the CD ‘The Rising’.

The lyrics and music on this Springsteen album underline in eloquent and very moving terms the sheer scale of anguish, hurt and sense of abject loss experienced by those involved as extended families in the 9/11 tragedy. Songs such as ‘Counting on a Miracle’, ‘Empty Sky’ and ‘The Missing’ give emotional expression to broken hearts and lost dreams. So as I was dwelling on the appalling human tragedy in the loss of such innocent children in particular in Ireland yesterday, I was reading and listening to Bruce Springsteen .I feel that the words from one of his songs, which form the title of this blog, affords a vivid expression of the lost innocence typical of a child’s fairytale books when a magic prince can no longer arrive to break the spell and release us from this agony. Finally, although I like others hope that the extended Irish families will somehow achieve peace and perhaps even forgiveness and understanding over time, the overriding sense of despair at the moment is summed up in the words of the song: ‘You’re Missing’ part quoted below:

“Shirts in the closet,
Shoes in the hall
Mama’s in the kitchen,
Baby and all
Everything is everything
Everything is everything
But you’re missing”

But God give them comfort and some solace from the seemingly bottomless human well of sadness and despair.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Enjoying Old Dogs,Children and Watermelon Wine

There is a famous Hollywood axiom which, I’ve read, is proffered to aspiring actors, the gist of which advises them never to go on stage with either animals or children as they will be upstaged and their appeal will be greatly diminished if they do. Although I would hardly describe myself as a major ‘player’ either on stage or screen, I do subscribe to the Shakespeare’s famous lines in the play ‘As You Like It’:

‘All the World’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players
They have their exits and their entrance
And one man in his time plays many parts’

Thus, when I was recently offered an opportunity to play such a part, and in the process gain considerable local ‘fame’ by agreeing to perform a walk on role in a commercial photo shoot, I jumped at the opportunity. The occasion in question was the production of a promotional web for the new ‘Enjoy’ café/food shop adjoining the renowned White Gables Restaurant in Moycullen Village. Although I am an eager supporter and indeed consumer of the wonderful array of ‘sweet sensations, gourmet delights and stunning wines’ available in the new shop, I was at first rather reluctant to take on the role of an ‘average’ customer for the photo shoot. This diffidence was increased when I was told that I would be seated with a dog to provide a more caring and sensitive image, as I pointed out that I have no such animal. I thought it best here not to suggest that I substitute one of my Rhode Island hens for the dog as I believe that this might be considered foul play on my part. However, I was greatly relieved to be told that a dog would be provided for me and all I had to do was sit outside the café and have some coffee and cake. Thus my reticence was assuaged and I realised with pleasure that in this respect at least, I could have my cake and eat it as it were.

I arrive at the café at around 4pm and was duly assigned a seat outside where I was served delicious coffee and pastries. However, I began to notice that there was some problem with the manner in which the photographer was ‘directing’ his work. Simply put, despite the dog being allocated a ‘lead’ role, he was late for the shoot presumably on the basis that he was not going to be treated as any mere gun dog. When he arrived with his owner, he refused to sit down beside me but took great interest in the pastries being served on my plate. I began to try and coax him by rubbing his neck and pushing gently on his back to try and get him to sit down. I don’t remember the dogs name but I think it might well have been ‘Brando’ as he obviously saw himself as a sort of Marlon Brando like actor portraying a similar ‘sensitive but stubborn’ personality portrayed in the film ‘On the Waterfront’ but here played as ‘At the Shopfront’.

As the photographer was becoming ever more agitated, it was suggested that the dog lead be attached to the table to allow me to hold a newspaper in a casual manner while accepting a cup of coffee from the waitress. However, every time some passing motorist hooted a car horn, the dog jumped up and tried to head off down the road after the car with the table in tow. Thus, the ‘director’ had to hold up traffic to assuage the dogs concerns and Brando eventually sat down with a suspicious demeanour beside me. By that time however, the two lovely girls behind me had finished their lollipops and soft drinks and these had to be carefully replenished in case the dog would take a liking to them as well. Finally, the director had just set up his required set piece when a friend drew up in his car, rolled down the window and shouted over to me:
“I’m NOT a celebrity, get me out of here’, ha!
The dog barked, the chair fell back and the newspaper blew away in the wind.

I’m glad to say that the owners Kevin and Anne Dunne were extremely gracious about the whole affair and later declared themselves happy with the resultant photos. But you do not have to take them at their word as you can see all the photos themselves and indeed find full information on the restaurant and café/shop by looking up the ‘Enjoy’ part of the White Gables Restaurant web site.

For my part, I must admit to having found the whole affair to be a chastening experience for any airs and graces that I might have had, for I was truly upstaged by two small children and a big brown dog as the accompanying photo on this blog will testify. Thus, whenever I am now inclined to aspire to any notion of vanity I simply listen to the lyrics of Tom Hall as sung by John Prine and Mac Wiseman on the CD; ‘Standard Songs for Average Children’ (to be heard on and in particular to the words quoted below from the song: Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine’

“Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes,
God bless little children while they’re still too young to hate,
When he moved away I found a pen and copied down the line,
‘Bout Old Dogs and Children and Watermelon Wine’

Note: This blog entry is intended only as a humorous testament to our ability to have a pleasant experience even in the current recessionary time and to thank the Dunne family for providing such wonderful local culinary experiences in Moycullen, County Galway. Here’s hoping you all ENJOY it as much as me!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In Honour of a Gifted Artist 'Toon'ed to Irish Times

There was a competition on Irish Television recently to nominate Ireland greatest person and it was won deservedly in my opinion by John Hume, the now retired Northern Irish politician. The award was an appropriate recognition that John Hume literally risked life and limb in his efforts to bring peace and reconciliation to this country and was rewarded by being granted the Nobel Peace prize. However, if there was an equivalent award for the artist who best represented Ireland’s social and political life over the last three decades in a humorous and insightful way, I personally feel that this honour should go to Martyn Turner, whose cartoons feature in the Irish Times on a regular basis.

There are always two items which I look forward to in that newspaper each morning and which in their modest way define my day whether in good times or bad. One is the Sudoku puzzles which act as a morning stimulus to the waking brain and the other is any cartoon from Martyn Turner which never fails to both inform and amuse. In fact at a time when the use of 140 character messages on Twitter has become a hugely popular medium for the transmission of cryptic social discourse, it is worth reflecting that Martyn’s cartoons have long predated this phenomenon and indeed surpassed it in their effectiveness in communicating an amusing insight in a few words linked to an exceptionally drawn sketch. It is worth collecting his books as they reflect a visual history our time by often underlying the vanity, egotism and double standards which permeated much our national psyche during the last three decades and are represented so well in his work.

I remember visiting the Shelbourne Hotel Bar in Dublin with one of my daughters and commenting how envious I was both at the quality and skill personified in the cartoon images of politicians hung in framed prints on the walls. It must have stuck a chord with her because on the occasion of my twin brother’s (not identical) sixtieth birthday, this same daughter presented D and me with just such a cartoon of us executed by Martyn Turner. She told us that it took considerable commitment and perseverance to get Martyn to undertake the commission as he had never met us and had to work from photos. However, D and I were absolutely thrilled with the result and although there has been some debate as to which of us is better captured in the cartoon, we were both amazed and honoured by the work. In fact, if Marina herself reads this blog, may I say that it I will be eternally grateful to her for her kindness and consideration in getting us this wonderful gift. You have indeed made an old man and father very happy and proud of you as ever.

Note: I have included photos of some of Martyn Turners books and recent cartoons with this blog as an encouragement to others who as yet may not know of him, to look out for his work. For those who have asked where my profile image originated, a glance of the 'twin' cartoon will illuminate all. Finally, as my brother and I are due to meet once again for the all Blacks v Ireland rugby match in November (still talking after all these years) I have included a rugby sketch and of course a copy of our own personal treasured cartoon!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Is Fame the Real Name of the Tweeting Game?

If I want to achieve increased recognition and Twitter Fame
Perhaps I should change my Bio and even my name
You see being an old Irish named fogie is all very well
But to some Cyber tweeties it’s just like visiting Hell.

Maybe it’s time that I stepped up anew to the plate
Like an X Factor hopeful with a Simon Cowell date
I know I can’t sing a song or dance at all it is true
But like Jedward said, this really shouldn't deter you.

Perhaps I should now call myself Laddie Da Da
As I love Italian food and can sing as well as Lady Ga Ga
But I would certainly have to draw the line at a glitzy frock
As that would hardly increase my ‘HE’ manly stock!

No perhaps it’s best to call myself a more modest GodCannabbe
Just like a good follower on twitter named GoddessWannabe
But even at the thought of this new image my mind buckles
So perhaps the best option is to adopt a name like Lady Chuckles.

But it’s true that my followers might laugh at me not my name
So a new PR image may be needed to keep ahead of the game,
I am now torn between copying CoastalKate or even MusicMicetro
And am toying with CoastalColm or perhaps HipHopMicgogo.

But I’m also out of line with my tweets and my location Foursquare
And as for posting photos on Facebook I simply refuse to go there.
You see tweeting about cups of strong coffee or bubble and squeak
Has as much interest for me as going to the bog or taking a leak.

So what on earth will I do to increase my personal appeal?
When trivia and banality are often the only real deal
But Lo!, DrCesa may have solved my dilemma with a simple mantra
By suggesting to try tweeting happiness as much as I cantra

So at last I am now renewed and ready for a new Twitter Day,
As no new name change will be needed to tweet in a positive way
So here’s wishing all my followers the best Fortune and Fun
For Fame is no substitute for a real life when all is said and done.

So what’s the moral message of this tweeting preamble?
About a crisis of conscience and not taking a gamble
Well if you want to be successful in social media on line
Just try to project your positive self and you’ll do just fine.

Note: This is a purely fictional verse written for amusement only.

Mobile Photo Magic:Autumn Leaves and River Heaves!

It's amazing how the weather in the West of Ireland changes so quickly at this time of year from torrential downpours one day to lovely Autumnal sunshine the next. What is consistent however, is the steady fall of the leaves which seems to blanket the ground in a vibrant pattern of golden yellow and red colours. Thus, last weekend I took some photos along the Owenriff riverside, waterfall walk in Oughterard, Co. Galway to try and capture the rushing flood of water in the river and the beautiful array of colours in the leaves carpeting the walkway itself.

Note: photos taken with a HTC Legend Android Phone