A random statistic from the BBC declares that 267,961 people tied the knot in the year 2000. Now, call me old fashioned, but surely there would be an even number of people getting married. Unless one person got married twice to different people. Or he got married to a goat. Any other thoughts?
Mind you, I'm damned if I can tell you what it is. The main oddities, other than getting the time of my return flight completely confused, and rediscovering my ability to understand spoken French are:
I'm sure there was something else odd about today... other than the sheer quantity of eye candy.
Nestling in the midst of a sea of crappy modernism, the city centre of Paris is an oasis of chaos. Blessed with being the focal point of broad leafy avenues, l'etoile, home of the arc de triomphe, is a haven; a poem, if you will, on the topic of existence. Or the world's largest orbital traffic jam.
I'm in Paris for five hours. Two hours in a meeting, two
in traffic, and one hour sitting in a departure lounge. I should really have thought about staying overnight.
So we've seen, and rather predictably fallen in love with the world's most expensive but beautiful shelving system. We're not buying it yet - we may still go to B & Q, but nonetheless, the world's most expensive but beautiful shelving system is singing to us. I've not looked at it in huge detail, in case I develop a lasting and irresistible passion for it. My love for it is currently more like a puppyish affection. I will follow it around for a while, yapping and attempting to hump its upright supports.
Don't read this if you're a gamekeeper or my mother. Something crazy has happened. I fancy Hugh Grant.
Well, obviously not really. I'm not fascinated by his after dinner conversation. I'm not pining away waiting for him to call me. Nor am I going to stalk him. I'm pretty damn sure that he wouldn't be interested, and even if he was, I'd probably run a mile. It would never work, really. But if there was a chance of a quickie in a car on Hollywood Boulevard... maybe.
I know it's not real. I know it's not even him that I fancy. It's the way that he's photographed in pictures like the one on the right, or in the rest of the publicity material for "About A Boy". I know that deep down he's still the same hapless floppy-fringed person that I never really saw why anyone fancied. But that's all changed. It's something superficial. I know it must be something superficial. But nonetheless...
It might be worth lying down now.
There's a line near the end of the second season of Spaced, about how friends are families for the 21st century. Where does this leave your actual relatives, I wonder? And what about relations who are also friends?
Such things are, perhaps, imponderable.
So, let's just say that this series remains classy, and well worth watching for the myriad of cross-media references. And reproducing the entire ending of The Empire Strikes Back. Definitely for people with too much sofa time.
I've only seen Richard Burgi in two things: 24, and a TV Movie called "I Married A Monster". He's not been any sort of outstanding actor in either of them, but he does attract my attention whenever he's on the screen. He has a sort of brooding air that he does very well, something that makes you not want to trust him - combined with the sort of jutting jawline that wouldn't look out of place in a gentleman's top-shelf magazine for gentlemen who like gentlemen. I'm now up to date with 24 as shown in the UK, and he's just been hit by rocks.
The BBC writes about the great cycling gamble, about the risk to cyclists on the roads. I symapthise, honestly, as an ex-cyclist. But - at least in Dublin - cyclists do themselves no favours.
Traffic in Dublin is a nightmare, so you get cyclists on the pavement all the time. I don't like that, but it's relatively safe compared to being on the road. But when they are on the road, the sort of behaviour that I see is
Now that's just stupid. All of that. Other road users abide by these signs pretty much. Yeah, you get the odd car going the wrong way down a one-way street, and you get a few cars slipping through the red light just after it's changed, but traffic signals act as a vague guide to the sort of direction you can expect traffic to come from. If a cyclist flouts these, then he's just asking for trouble. Sadly.
There's a link doing the rounds to things other people accomplished when they were your age, usually along the lines of how it makes people feel inadequate. So I went, and I had a look, and at 33, I don't feel inadequate. Let's run through the achievements.
So, this supposed site of inadequacy lists a grand total of seven (7) people who have done more with their life at age 33 than I have done. Of them, I've heard of four of them. I reckon that I appreciate the achievements of maybe two of them. Which isn't a good hit rate really.
Especially when you consider that there are billions of people on this planet. Or more than double that if you include dead people...
This is the last one of these, at least for now. I've found it fascinating to trawl through my memories and recast them in a dramatic light, and I may do it again sometime. The irony of the whole thing is of course the nature of cliques. Having spent so long at school envying cliques, when I got to University, I simply found my own type of clique and slotted myself in. We were a diverse group, but we had a lot in common, and I am still in contact with most of them. We weren't the coolest group around, but for a while I thought we were. We even gave ourselves a name - albeit unimaginative and ironic - and developed a newsletter - one that is available online and is probably the forerunner of what you're reading now.
The deep irony is that I didn't achieve much by falling into this clique, other than good lasting friendship, and I didn't need to be clique-y for that. I got what I wanted and it turned out that I didn't really need it anyway.
But. I had a really good time. And I have no regrets.
I had this whole thing about my peer group going on in my head, so I redefined my peer group. I met new people. We moved house, and the nighbours had kids about my age. They were, I suspect, my type of people. Quirky, for sure, and with chips on their shoulders, but then, so was I, wasn't I? These people were willing to accept me into their lives, and didn't have any of the baggage associated with umpteen years of being at school with me. I had a different group of peers around me in my private life from my school life. And I guess that's when I started segregating stuff.
I had friends from the street who I didn't want to know about who I was at school, and I had friends at school who wouldn't really have "got" what the rest of my life was like. But there was mixing. People I knew from school would turn out to be friends with people I knew from home. The people from next door knew people I used to play with when I was seven. My world turned in incestuous loops, I guess.
I fell into a group of friends. These were people like me.
I'm sitting drinking a rather nice cup of decaffienated coffee, made for me by a skilled Barrista. I am informed that a Barrista is an Espresso Machine Operator. It's a glamorous word for an unglamorous job.
It also reminds me of the word Barrister, which I'm sure predates it. I suspect that Barrista has been in the English language for about 5 years, since it was coined at Starbucks University. A barrister is a Legal Machine Operator.
When you're in your thirties, your school days feel very distant. It's only the memorable things that you remember, like the day that the roof blew off one of the buildings, or the embarrasing time that you gave a humorous presentation where nobody laughed.
I had fun at school. I'm not going to deny that. But I was never popular. I wanted to be. I wanted to be famous as a wit, I think, given that I was never going to be famous as a sportsman, or as 'one of the lads'. I found my niche through being musical, or knowing something about computers, or helping out in the library. But I was bullied for most of my time at school, and a large part of that was to do with sexuality.
Even before I knew that I was gay, or might even be curious, I knew that homosexuality was a joke tag used by schoolboys to humiliate other schoolboys. Being gay was a "bad thing", and so I was determined not to be gay. When quizzed about my sexual history by my peers (aged 14), I lied. Badly. I invented a one night stand with a friend of a relative from another town. Something untraceable. But blatantly false.
When changing after gym and hearing someone shout "Look at the size of that cock," my head turned automatically. I can still feel the embarrasment caused by the laughter of my peers. They'd caught me. I was gay. But back then, I didn't allow myself to be gay. It had to be a natural curiosity, nothing more. I retreated even further from the rest of my generation.
But, I had friends. I'm not going to deny that. A lot of the time was great. I formed some close friendships. And I even had a crush. And when that crush decided that he wanted to move on and reclaim his own life (for whatever reasons - I couldn't actually find out), I was gutted. I wrote bad adolescent angst poetry about it - my first case of changing genders of individuals to hide the truth.
Because back then, I cared about what my peers thought.
25 years ago, or thereabouts, Judith Hann, queen of tomorrow's world, promised us a world rich with hover cars, with homes run by central control panels, or even with minds of their own - a better place. Shiny, faster, new.
Obviously, she lied to us, but that's okay. She's allowed to be wrong. Everyone can make mistakes, particularly when their job is to be a pundit for the push-button future.
What do we have instead though?
When I was seven, Star Wars seemed far fetched and exciting. It's almost here. It's Tomorrow's World
Of all the drops of rain hanging on to the telephone wire, fate drew them together. Those two fragile drops, next to each other. Made for each other. Slowly, they drew closer. They touched. In a moment of pure raindrop bliss, they quivered and merged. Unity.
And then - heavy - they fell into chaos.
Most people reading this won't see the new Eircom advert. But when you see it, bear in mind that the people making the advert left coffee cups all over our window ledge, and as a result had to get yelled at.
The curious thing is that the first we heard that there was an advert being made in the flat next door was from a film crew yesterday. Our neighbour didn't think to let us know.
Obviously, it's now our neighbour's fault. I have resolved to call home every half an hour, so you may be able to hear my phone ringing in the background when the advert is aired.
I spent a large part of the weekend whistling around Dublin atop an open-topped bus. The wind whistled in my hair, the sky was a gorgeous blue, and I was absolutely frozen. It was great. The highlight must have been waiting in a traffic jam while the demonstration about Palestine went past. "See," said the woman giving the tour. "we are so cosmopolitan we even have demonstrations about Palestinians."
Gosh. How cosmopolitan is that?
I hunkered lower down in my seat and tried to pretend that I couldn't speak English.
It was late on a Tuesday evening that I was first made aware of the deplorable lack of "Bed and Breakfast" style accomodation in my local area. I was seated in one of the great ancient leather armchairs that I had brought back from my time in the colonies, with a large brandy in one hand and my magnifier in the other, poring over a copy of the golden pages when this revalation came to me.
"Dash it," I said. "Dash it all, to frick and back. Frick, I say, and again, frick!"
This, not unnaturally, roused my esteemed colleague from his research into Italian-style sausage casseroles. "What ails?" he asked.
"What ails?" quoth I. "What ails?" and then I explained my dilemma. It seems that we have chosen, dear reader, to live in a blind spot in the world, between the more up-market end of the short term room market where perhaps Earls and Dukes might stay if they liked overpriced hotels that are handy for the city centre, and the more remote areas, where there might be more of a need for public transport, and where the cognoscenti might choose not to stay if such was their wont. "How do we resolve this thorny dilemma?" I asked. "I would build a spare room, if such a thing were humanly feasible."
As usual, it was my esteemed colleague who came up with the almost perfect answer.
"I don't know," he said. "It's your problem."
You probably don't want to look at the web site that documents the Stanford Prison Experiment. I know I didn't. As a work of fiction, Das Experiment was harrowing enough. True, it made for a more thrilling entertainment spectacle, but the original experiment was supposed to prove something. Some of the tactics used by the scientists to accelerate the feelings of alienation and impotence among their subjects are incredibly horrific.
One of the scariest things is that the scientist who was principally responsible for ending the experiment had walked into the experiment late and therefore was more likely to be startled than those who had been planning it for months and observing it for five days. Even so, she had difficulty resisting the group pressure to be enthusiastic about what was going on in the name of science.
So Saturday morning, we moseyed on down to Bray, partly on a train, and partly on the advice of a curious taxi driver who told us that we didn't know where we were going but took us there anyway.
- 'The Dart Station in Amiens Street please'
- 'Ah, y'see, no such place. You mean Connolly Station. Where are you off to?'
- 'Dun Laoighre'
- 'Ah, you mean the Dart Station. That's different. You'll see when we get there. Anyway, you want to go to Howth or Bray. Golf, you see.'
- 'That's nice. Are you deaf?'
- 'So where are you guys from?'
- 'Glasgow, Scotland.'
- 'That's nice. I had a brother who worked in Scotland. Cutting crops with a scythe.'
- 'Not many jobs left in the docks at Rosyth'
- 'No, I don't suppose there would be. Anyway, here you are. Except it's shut. Hang on, while I take you somewhere else.'
We were spared the indignity of the full Bangkok taxi experience ('you don't want to go to Patpong - come to my Brother's bar instead. On an island in the middle of fricking nowhere'), and wound up in Bray, where we had a beer and lunch in a pub looking out over the Irish Sea, and things were rather fine. Sure, there were feral children around, but that's only to be expected on a fine Saturday afternoon, so we relaxed and watched as - the instant their lunch was finished - they became hyperactive little monsters, running freely around while their parents desparately tried to have a seat, finish their pints and their fags. At length the children ran off. Later, the parents left as well. Probably in a different direction.
Take 20 men, or thereabouts. Assign them roles - make half of them prisoners, and half of them guards, and give the guards the task of keeping control among the prisoners. And watch things escalate.
Das Experiment, the movie we watched on Sunday, took this as its basic premise. It added a few features - a sympathetic protagonist, a suicidal and almost incidental heroine. Incredibly gripping movie. And all the scarier because there's a true story behind it all.