People watching in Monaco

Nothing speaks money like an absolute beaut of a young one walking hand in hand with a pot bellied aul fella in chinos. His wisps of blonde hair tossed about in the Monaco breeze, her neat coiffure stayed perfectly in place under a veil of lacquer. He had the usual air of money and power you’d expect in the Principality, yet you got the feeling he’d be one of Pfizer’s best customers. Although any man a decade or so closer to his partner’s age wouldn’t need the help of blue pills. She was a cross between Angelina Jolie and Anna Geary. ‘A minter of a thing’, is how my brother might describe her.

I watched them for a while as I sat in the Port regretting not having reapplied factor 50 earlier in the day. I resembled the lobster Mr. Chino was inevitably going to order with his Sancerre later on. His beautiful companion didn’t look my way as they strolled past – a compassionate gesture on her part, as it would have been so easy to point and laugh at the scalded redhead.

I was surprised to see her let three divine looking heartthrobs shuffle past without so much as a sideways glance. Though hang on, no sooner had I questioned her vision than she did check them out in the most elegant manner imaginable. Take notes, this was pretty admirable and Mr. Chino remained oblivious. She slowed to adjust the strap of her sandal, that didn’t look to be compromised from where I was sitting, but you’ve got to hand it to her for innovation. The heel touch, the head turn, the fictitious adjustment worked in perfect fluidity to ensure that, ever so subtlely, she had their attention. They were a vision akin to three Rob Kearneys strolling like very handsome ducks in a row. Suffice to say that none of them looked in my direction either. Tant pis! (Or not tant pis…) A new constellation of freckles had just burst into life on my cheeks and it wasn’t pleasant viewing.

I scanned the Port for anything else that’d take my mind of the burn while I waited on my return bus to Nice. And there he was! Big gorgeous Giorgios himself – the Greek god of the left wing. The last time I’d met him, I’d turned mute with the nerves and only managed a muffled ‘hello’ as he stood for a photo with me after a Dundee Utd game back in 2013. There was no way I was about to make a stuttering gobshite of myself twice in a row, so up off my arse I got and toddled over to him.

“Sammy, hiya, met you in Parkhead a few years ago, how’s it going?”

“Hello, all good thanks.” He smiled. He was still fecking gorgeous. Mother of God!

His girlfriend was smiling at me and when I apologised for disturbing them, she reassured me with a huge smile “it’s fine. Are you having a nice holiday?” She was equally as lovely as him. A match made in heaven.

How bloody lovely of them both! We chatted about how he’s getting on post Celtic before I bade them farewell and wished them a great holiday. They meandered off into the distance and thankfully, I didn’t lament the encounter as I had the first speechless time met him in Glasgow. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the three Rob Kearneys standing on the walkway to a yacht that had ‘Party Boat’ stickers splashed all over it.

“Come join us,” they called to me.

I will in my eye boys, I thought, I’ve just been chatting to big Sammy! “No thanks,” I replied politely and drifted off on cloud nine to get on the bus that had just come into view snailing down the hill.

And the first people I bumped into on the bus – an aul fella in chinos arm in arms with a pair of skinny girls in hot pants and Louboutins. C’est la vie.

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90 Day Challenge

There are two occasions during which I think with crystal clarity –  when I’m out for a walk or when I’m in the bath. On account of living back with my mother at the moment so as to fund my habit (writing that is), I no longer have the opportunity to soak in a bath. She got a swanky shower installed a couple of years ago and did away with the dear old bath.

However, on Sunday morning, I found myself lounging in a tub. I’d been sent a late minute special offer to stay in a hotel nearby and sure who is going to turn their nose up at a night in a nice hotel for €26.95. Yep, that’s all for a giant bed to yourself and endless hours of bath time! And believe me, the first thing I packed was a two litres of bubble bath. Correct, TWO litres – I really love my baths.

So on Sunday morning, there I was with coffee on the side of he bath, book in hand and skin nicely wrinkling when I had a brainwave – ‘have a super healthy next few months’. Ok, that’s the polite way of saying ‘give up drink, cut out junk food and get fit again’. (While there’s nothing as pampering as a huge hotel bath full of bubbles, there’s nothing quite as honest as a huge hotel mirror acknowledging your every unwanted curve). And so by the time I dripped out of the bath, I had resolved that the 90 Day Challenge was starting immediately.

With a new sense of verve, I planned the week ahead, popped into the shop on the way home to pick up fresh fruits and some posh water. Having a few chilled bottles of San Pellegrino in the fridge or posher still, Fever Tree tonic, to pour over fresh lime in a fancy wine glass is my cheat way of ‘having a drink’ for the next few months.

Sunday evening, my mother came home with some beer and wine for us to have watching the Dancing with the Stars final. ( I live the life of Reilly don’t I?!) I happily declined the Coors Light and instead had a nice salad with a glass of my posh water. It was so refreshing, I even ventured for the second glass. (Moderation is not a strength of mine.) Last night after a day of writing and admin, I settled into bed with a good book, some scented candles lighting and another sexy glass of aqua frizzante con lime. Beautiful.

It’s day 4 and perhaps some of this could be in my mind, but I’m feeling full of beans. Since Sunday I’ve done a massive Spring clean with truck loads gone to the charity shop and have a plan to tackle a heap more over the next week. I’ve finished reading three books and have finished writing two poems. And more importantly, I’ve asked the beta readers that I’d love to read the first draft of my novel if they can oblige, and they’ve agreed. Another interesting ‘side-effect’ is that I’ve made plans for six separate catch ups with friends (which is probably more than the sum total of socialising with friends that I’ve done in the past year).

So, is this challenge going well so far? If the next 86 days can bring results as good as the first 4, then I’m buying a bath for my bedroom. pexels-photo-105934.jpeg

Send the Kinihans to Kim Jung Un

The Gaza Strip – they’d sort it out. The legacy of destruction handed down through generations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be no challenge. Where American diplomats have failed and legions of skilled negotiators have tried unsuccessfully, the Dublin mafia would strut into town and sort it all out. Mark my words, there’d be a mass Israeli-Palestinian orgy before they left town.

These boys can pull off miracles. With our 800 years of scarring at the behest of our greatest ex, we are, understandably, a little reluctant to cuddle up to our neighbours. Granted, they are an important trading partner and indeed they are intrinsically connected to us at the level of European unity until such time that they serve us with the Brexit divorce papers. But still. However you like to call it – the United Kingdom, Great Britain – it’s not all that great in the psyche of the Gael. The last royal of any real consequence to us was King Cormac MacArt. After that, Elvis. Not even the royal county of Meath is too popular beyond its own borders, (ok fine, that’s largely due to the on-field brutality of Hayes, Lyons, Coyle et al, but it has to be said that we are not a nation of royalists).

And yet in spite of the age old antipathy between the Gaels and the Brits, our disregard for British rule and distrust of British armed forces, our collective memory of the horrors witnessed in the Troubles, there is one shower who have managed to broker collaboration. I’m not talking Stormont here. In fact it’s unrelated to Anglo-Irish politics.

Eyes widened recently at the news that Gardaí had uncovered a ploy to assassinate another member of the Hutch family. The essence of the news is not what surprised us, rather it was the fact that the hit squad consisted of a former member of the British Army. Yes, an ex British soldier, toddling around Dublin arm in arm with native Paddys, playing rambo in the name of Dan the Deity. King Kinihan.

Bleeding. Jaysus. Bonkers. As they might say in the flats Dublin’s inner city that have been flooded with the blood of Hutch-Kinihan feud targets over the past year and a half. Does the recruitment of a British soldier to the rank of marksman in Kinihan’s cartel show that Dan the Man’s a dapper diplomat? No. So what’s the story?

Narconomics. The power of powder. Coke Capitalism.

Call it what you will but it’s the cornerstone of how they have come to emerge as a leading global organisation, it accounts for why they have roots and branches on all continents and have people on the payroll in all manner of roles, be they legitimate and illegitimate posts. It’s at the heart of how and why they are owners and investors in hordes of bone fide businesses and entities globally.

Massive margin, massive volumes, massive revenues. An endless supply chain and no recruitment issues. Cash is Kingihan.

So, can money buy everything including world peace? I’m not sure, but it can buy you the most powerful job in the world. And if a group of Dublin drug dealers, who weren’t born with the wealth of a Trump, can build a global organisation with profits that compete with those of Google, can hire British soldiers who’ll happily work trigger by trigger alongside Irish counterparts, then yes, they have an X-factor.

Let’s send them on a mission to North Korea. Where Trump could build his wall, they could build world peace.

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Expedia Seduction

I have a problem, a weakness of some sort. It may be pathological, it could even be genetic, although I have no grounds for suspecting the latter. I stray – constantly. One minute I’m working on something, a piece of prose, a letter, whatever, and the next minute I find myself staring wide eyed at the screen, fingers pressing heavily to slide through the photos attached to one place or another. I know it’s time wasting, bordering on fanciful even, but once I start, I can’t stop.

This morning it was Seattle followed by Abu Dhabi, then Hong Kong. Torremolinos may even have appeared once, (but some things are best left unsaid). When push came to shove, it wound up in Toronto and now my sights are set on a trip to the shores of Lake Ontario. Lust has taken over and preferred hotels have been checked. I’ve imagined myself relaxing in the divine looking leabas of The Ivy at Verity. I’ve planned a Tuesday to Friday type gig, during which I’ll tip down to Niagara Falls on the Wednesday, as you do! I’ve looked at flight options, I’ve looked into Canadian visas and I’ve even familiarised myself with the map of Toronto neighbourhoods. All this happened within minutes or so of thinking ‘Toronto’. That’s whirlwind stuff lads! It’s along one night stand proportions, although a one night stand at least has the decorum to involve some form of  opening scene and some degree of lights, camera, action. My brushes with Expedia are spontaneous and all consuming. They are the whole play on extra fast forward, to be acted out in minutes, if not seconds.

Can I control it? Unlikely. I’ve tried but my mind wanders back to the tried and tested well of dreams and travel delights. Can I take an Expedia break? Sure isn’t that the name of the game? It’s excitment bordering on the gorgeously fantastical. It’s a catalogue of possibilities, some for when you win the lotto, others for when you’re picking a honeymoon, most for brief getaways that a few months of hard saving may allow you. It’s having the balls to look into backpacking trips of India and go on your own. It’s being so at ease with yourself that you’ll gladly take a couple of nights to revisit Paris and delight in it’s beauty while enjoying some ‘you’ time. It’s knowing there are probably only a few places that you won’t search, because you’ve been and despised, or you’ve no notion in the world of ever visiting. That list looks like: New York, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Thailand and any ski resort. Out of 195 countries, I don’t think I can be deemed indiscriminate. It’s far from an exhaustive list and you’ll give me skiing as a bête noir of a holiday idea. I love hiking mountains but you shove your skis up your slope.

So today, I still have the remnants of yesterday’s Toronto climax in my mind, and have a window for travel selected, but I’ve since decided that I need to get back to Achill island soon. It’s the most amazing place on the planet and I am rarely as at peace there as anywhere else. If the truth be known, I’d have to say that Expedia is never flirted with while I’m there. It’s the only island that I never want to escape from, either in mind or body. So, AIRBNB has been called up many times this morning and I’ve picked my Achill cottage. A little Mayo magic is the greatest in the world and Achill’s lure is certainly, among the most spellbinding the county has to offer. As the saying goes, ‘Mealfaidh draíocht na háite aráis thú.’ And it does, again and again. The only thing more powerful than the promise of Expedia is a date with Achill.

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Mother’s Day

It’s landed upon us without a warning this year. Stealthily arriving earlier than usual and hushed amid all the din of last week’s snow. To be honest, I’d completely forgotten about it until a kind hairdresser reminded me yesterday.

“Did you forget it’s Mother’s Day this weekend too?” she said.

“I did”, I said.

But Christmas was only bloody yesterday, and sure just last week I had to have flowers delivered for her to get her out of a humour (that I’d set her in… mea colpa). Don’t get me wrong, my mother is amazing. She gave me life, she supports me through thick and thin, she’s a great friend and she’d give me the bit going into her mouth, but the shite that Mother’s Day is starting to become is just not sitting well with me. Every day should be Mother’s Day. Every day you should take the chances you’re given to tell her you love her, to show her you care. I do, just as I do with those I love most. And I believe that every day is a new opportunity to celebrate life and love, but this increasing violation of  Hallmark induced festivals is melting my head. Halloween and Mother’s Day being the two I’m beginning to detest most. Nothing speaks commerciality like gardens decorated with plastic skeletons or a card pickled with glitter.

But glitter is not my language of love. Nor are Halloween face paints or art-deco cakes or dozens of force grown red roses. Love is patience. Love is being tolerant when she’s wrecking your head waffling first thing in the morning. Love is letting her say the same rubbish about Deirdre O’Kane looking like she wants to leave Dancing with the Stars numerous times every Sunday evening. Love is hearing her say “goodnight my two babies” to you and your brother every night and knowing that your reply means the world to her. Love is respecting her. Love is buying her a bottle of wine to have watching the rugby today. Love is knowing that she’ll be doing her own dancing around the sitting room after the game if Ireland win.

I picked her up some wine for Mother’s Day and the brother has grabbed her a voucher. As it turns out, we’ve both forgotten a card, but do you know what – it’s in the gap where the card should be that we can assert our idea of love. There may be no pink glitter, but there will be truth. She wrecks your head and rocks your world and brightens up the planet. A pink flowery card, just couldn’t say that.

 

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Dublin 4 Otherworld

Surely there can’t be many people who can walk down Raglan Road or its neighbouring streets and not wonder to themselves what the world is like inside those grand homes. I’m guilty every single time. This morning was no exception, as I made my way through a frosty Dublin 4, eyes fixed on every beautiful doorway or window I passed, like some depraved property pervert. I can’t help it, they are otherworldly. Massive bulks of buildings born in the mid-1800’s that house those who curate what must be a world of history within the walls.

These salubrious statements of wealth are relics of an era when Anglo-Irish aristocracy was de rigeur in Dublin. The adjoining roads of Raglan, Elgin, Clyde and Pembroke are testament to this – all having being named after British Lords and Earls. However, it’s not the aspect of colonial gentry that gets me going when I pass these houses, I’m much more a contemporary cailín who prefers to imagine Mr or Mrs number 26 or number 32 or whichever, sitting in their high-ceilinged sitting room, or having coffee in their kitchen that overlooks their high-walled back garden. I imagine the layout of inside, think about their décor, but more times than not, I put myself in their shoes and wonder what it’s like for them to view the world from within. I wonder what it’s like to experience Raglan as as insider. They get the leafy carpets on their road in autumn, they throw soirées for visiting dignitaries and suchlike, they have a passing army of street visitors with every Six Nations and Autumn Series, they have celebrity neighbours. They occupy an enclosed community, open to only to those with the immense largesse it takes to buy their address.

I imagine they are no strangers to five digit energy bills nor to owning a staff of domestic aides. I doubt any residents tend to their own gardens, although they may, but I’ve never seen it. I lived on Elgin Road for a time – in a shoebox, I might add. It was a house set out in bedsits and mine was on the ground floor to the rear of the building. About as dark as a sealed coffin, it got no light, but on the upside, I had my own back door. It was known to let light in on occasion. Granted, the door led onto the most unkempt garden imaginable, with a thick weave of briars imprisoning what should have been a lawn, and its own species of weeds that showed signs of gigantism.

My bed was in a press that opened to let the wooden lat bearing a skinny (cushion) mattress fall limply. It conveniently stopped short of reaching the full way to the oven door, though, sometimes at night my eyelashes touched off the cooker, which thankfully I rarely used, so singeing was never an issue. My family visited and thought it was hell. I didn’t. Even when the snow of 2010 fell and the ancient storage heater in the room was powerless to add a hint of warmth, the consequent loss of my goldfish, frozen along with the water in its bowl, didn’t change my mind on the place. I loved that just outside was a beautiful old church with wonderful trees in its grounds, their fat roots ripping up through the earth, making hollows here and there. I loved that I could walk over to Sandymount and up the coast within a few minutes. The City Centre and the Aviva were also very walkable. There were pubs, there was food, there was parking. But best of all, was that I was living in the wonderland.

A few seconds down the road was another house and yet another house that never failed to make me wonder, what it would be like? The the highs and lows and what have you, the love and lust and laughter, wealth and wine and walk-in wardrobes , the people, their stories. Every walk set my mind on fire with new narrative as I endlessly imagined what went on in ‘the big houses’.

And so a few years on, I am still perving on the demigods of Dublin 4 domiciles. It’s not that I want to own one, I don’t. A cottage in Achill is my dream abode. I can’t see myself living in a massive Taj Mahal of a house, but I can’t stop wondering about the lives of those who do live in them. They’ve more square footage than most of my family’s houses combined, they’ve more history attached to their properties than entire US cities, they have songs written about their streets and yet they are the same as you and me. It’s just that they occupy another world. A world that intrigues me.

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Matador, imreóir, ballon d’or

Sex, drugs and sport – renowned givers of highs and lows. When consumed simultaneously the triumvirate leads to monumental results, but that’s a story for another day. We’re living in an age in which sport is hugely popular. The reasons for this are many, not least that mass mediation and commercialisation has increased the popularity and global appeal of many forms. Athletes have become household names and major sports events carry gravitas on a worldwide level. Everyone knows that a Tiger’s natural habitat is more Sawgrass than Sumatra. Magic Johnson did not go to Hogwarts.  Vuvuzelas and the zika virus only reached peak notoriety grace à the playing fields of the World Cup and Olympics.

Indeed, much has been written about the motivations of fans and participants of sport, just as we have a huge body of work that details the rewards sporting endeavours garner for fans and players alike. I have no intention of attempting to add to that volume of work. I’d much rather consider a specific sport the has been on my mind of late, partly because I’m getting old(er), consequently because I’m finding that I enjoy the game more and more and therefore, I want to succeed at it! What is the sport you ask? The sport, ladies and gentlemen, is flirting. Good old time aged flirting. Unhindered by such nuisance barriers to entry such as fitness, money, or nationality, this sport is literally a free for all. No jersey, nor gum shield, nor shin guards are required, although sometimes I wish I’d had some form of padding to shield me.

It’s like this, whistle blows, girl meets boy (or whatever you’re having yourself) and there’s something about him, undefinable yet definite, that can’t put your finger on but you know at the pit of your stomach that there’s a draw to him, an attraction at a level that you don’t quite understand. And you may slightly palpitate. And you certainly might think to yourself that you’re gone past the getting butterflies stage of life, but there they are fluttering inside, reminding you you’re human. You’ll nearly always go home and find yourself thinking about Monsieur Butterfly, trying to fathom what it is about him that has distracted you, replaying the moments you first laid eyes on him, or better still, your first conversation. And then you’ll probably try to push it out of your mind, only to be reminded of him ad infinitum over the next few days by the usual ‘signs’.

You know the ones, like where angels send feathers only in this case the angels may have been dabbling in acid and instead you get less subtle ‘signs’ like you turn on the telly and there he is, or a book he wrote falls off a library shelf on your head or you pour a bowl of cereal and cheerios fall outside the bowl in the perfect shape of his initials. Ever happened you you? Of course it has. Some of you will even have looked at the sky only to recognise his name scribbled across it in skywriting. The most subtle one of all, of course, is when soon after your initial meeting, you just unsuspectingly walk smack bang into him. (I mean smack bang – not just a cursory walk-by/wave-by. I’m talking a full on, “whoops I’m so sorry about that, your nose is bleeding, have I broken it?” type encounter.)

Thus begins the second phase. Your stamina is tested. It’s incumbent on you to act normal in this situation in spite of the fact that your butterflies have now resurfaced but they’ve relocated to your head and you feel your voice coming out of your ears, your brain has sunk to your toes, you’ve no clue what to say and you’re feeling a film of sweat start to coat your boobs. Be normal, you’ve got this! It will pass off without further blood-loss, and you’ll likely return home with greater clarity on the whole picture. In spite of not having a clue what it is you are attracted to, you will give in and accept that, yes, you absolutely do fancy the arse off this lad. There, you’re now an honest player!

Third phase is where the fun starts. He’ll text, you’ll reply and it’ll all be by the rules. Gentle passing of the ball with careful accuracy and the hope of retaining possession. You’ll both keep it onside, show off your skills a little, but all in the spirit of Fair Play. Game points, set points all leading up to a crucial match point, then after a few tame encounters… there it is. He puts a fraction of a hint of a toenail over the line and you follow suit so that before long, you’re both in touch or maybe even a sin bin and you’re both lapping it up. Full contact, pulse racing, communicating, salivating, fornicating. You can’t believe you’ve crossed that border into the unregulated land of hope and double meaning.

The third phase is not without time outs. It’s hard to sustain a relentless marathon of manic flirting without coming up for air every now and then. So there will be purple patches, during which you are supposed to resume being a normal human being, although it could be the case that you spend these breaks wishing that the next text from him would come soon, but your mother brought you up to be ladylike which, in this situation, means you won’t send the first text. So you’ll wait, and you’ll wait. And you’ll risk dying in a state of wait, until late one night he’ll make your phone beep then your butterflies jitter, your heart race and your fingers run. Following this, time will be called and play will be suspended until whenever… And you wait. And wait. If only waiting were an olympic sport…

And so in my fourth decade, I finally understand the fourth phase, and it’s this. The waiting is as crucial as the playing. The things that are not said are as critical as the texts that are sent. Uncertainty helps protect our interests, our egos and our reputations. It may even help shield us from being overly vulnerable. In the sport of flirting we indicate that we like the look of someone and put ourselves forward as potential play mates. Michael Owen summed it perfectly in one sentence when he turned to Glen Hoddle and whispered “pick me and I’ll score”. (And God knows, but quoting Michael Owen is, in itself, a flirtation with failure!) At its core, flirting is about showing interest and suggesting ability. But in order to play we need to be ourselves and not an obsessive, compulsive, manic freak hanging on every word someone sends or clock watching to see when the next text might come. Manic freaks bite off ears, crash expensive race cars, kick out at fans and maul linesmen (absolutely no reference to Dermot Connolly here). In all sport, time-out gives participants the time and space to breathe and be, to contemplate the highs to which they may have ascended during play, and the chance to savour them again and again in private. Flirting is no different. Hunger, desire and the need for fun build – and together they amount to the perfect conditions for further flights of flirtation.

I’m in the fourth phase, willing and able but patient. I’m not waiting for a ‘sign’ to fall from a shelf or for writing in the sky, I’m just hoping that those little butterflies come a-fluttering again soon.

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