Nothing More Than Seethings

I’m older now and I don’t ever lose my temper any more. I just hope this always remains true. It’s not gone away, you see, my temper. I can still feel it inside sometimes. A sort of a seething.

I have always had a phenomenally bad temper. It was one that rarely showed its face. One that wouldn’t ever be a hazard to family or friends but also one that was large and unwieldy when it finally did show up.

I won’t bore you with the stories. I’m older now and I don’t ever lose my temper any more…

… until the moment I might.

I’m writing about this today because I could clearly feel the seething last night. I was there again, standing on the edge of my bad temper, looking in. I can batten it down now, I’ve learned that. I just worry that one day I might not succeed and, let’s face it, I’m too old for this crap.

Last night it was the old ‘queue jumping’ thing that brought on those old feelings. I was down at the local petrol station/convenience shop, queuing behind four others with my emergency milk. The other till, the one closest to the door, was unmanned until, suddenly, it wasn’t. From nowhere, a youth was there, cash register on, open for business. 

A weedy baseball-capped shit-head then walked straight in the door, glanced at our uptight stupid little queue, went straight for the new empty till, and started into an inconsequential scratch card transaction.

I muttered under my breath, not too quietly, “Look at this shit, now,”  and the lady in front of me in the queue glanced back at me nervously. She sensed the beginnings of a seethe and perhaps knew where such things sometimes lead with some people.

I stormed over and stood behind the lottery card interloper and spoke back to the woman who had been in the queue in front of me, the now-nervous one. “I’ll let you in here if it comes free.” It was part ‘trying to fix things’, part passive aggressive point making to Scratchcard Man, who couldn’t have cared less.

He just stood and examined his scratch cards and mumbled and twitched and…

And the other queue started moving now and the guy who has been behind me showed no interest in letting me back in. I stared at the neck hairs of Scratchcard Man and my breathing started to come shallow and harsh. It isn't any single thing that sets off a rage, it is very much the 'straw that breaks the camel's back' syndrome. At another time, none of this would have mattered but, at this moment, this guy had serious straw potential. There was an old familiar precipice looming up ahead and I was jogging right towards it. 

Anyway, nothing happened.

The scratch card man finished eventually and left without a backward glance. I paid for my emergency milk and went home. Like I said, I’m older now and I don’t allow myself to hang-glide gleefully over the edge of my rage. But I know very well how it might have played out. No part of that scenario is any fun.

What if Scratch Card man had not simply gone away? What if he had reacted to my seething at the back of his neck? It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility, I was telegraphing pretty hard. What if he had turned to me and said something like, “Do you have a problem with me, pal?”

Well then I would do what I would generally do. Fearing actual conflict, I would have turned into the sort of ‘Brillantined Stick Insect’ that John Cleese used to portray so well (though I don’t use the stuff). I would deny any problem on my part and would bid him to continue with his highly-important scratch card transactions. I would back down to the point of grovelling, anything to avoid a row.

But, still, in the back of my mind, a precipice would have inched imperceptibly closer.

Supposing he then did not choose to return to his business. Supposing he fancied a piece of me, this little smart-ass annoyed punter clutching his milk. Supposing he pushed me or grabbed my lapel and breathed his hot scratch card breath all over my face.

Then, alas, I would be gone. 

The thing that never happens anymore would have happened and be would have been all-over long before I ever knew anything about it. Shop property, bystanders, windows, personal injury, repercussions, all would be of no regard as the rage took over, completely and utterly and, then, what would be, would be.

This event might last only a moment and when it was gone there would be an overwhelming sense of regret and embarrassment and self-loathing. It was never glamorous or cool like the unleashing of a rage might be in a movie. It always seemed tawdry and childish and totally without merit.

So thank heavens that I don’t do it any more

One final thing. I said earlier that no part of it was ever any fun. ‘Not quite true. In the losing of my temper, there seemed to be one moment, perhaps not even real, perhaps imagined, where all the chains were suddenly off, where it didn’t matter what happened from here on in. For the next few seconds, all control was gone, all bets were off.

A momentary wonderful feeling.

And I must never get it again.


Proud to be Irish and Remembering Other Times

It’s been a rather complicated week in one regard. The matter in question being that of bring proud to be Irish. The short version is that I am proud to be Irish almost all of the time. I’m exceptionally proud to be Irish today as I type this. The complicated bit is that this week started off with my being vividly reminded of a day when I was not proud to be Irish at all.

It’s okay now though. It’s all working out. The reason it’s all working out so nice is a big one and you know all about it because it is all over the news.

Ireland voted.

Voted ‘Yes’.

“Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”


It’s a massive thing, for many reasons. We, as a nation, finally got to show our true colours. In a popular vote on a human, moral issue, without coercion, we cheerfully and loudly said ‘Yes’. Ireland can be seen as a modern and open place where equality and freedom and love are the valued commodities. Who could fail to be proud of that? Not me, that’s for sure.

That would be enough to say about pride in one’s country on any normal day of the week. But there was more to this week. Different stuff altogether. There was the memories that came flooding back, to me at least, of the events of 27th August 1979. A day when I found myself very far from proud to be Irish.

I was sixteen years old and working out my Summer holidays in the ‘Bonne Chère’ restaurant in Sligo. Locals sometimes called it the ‘Bonnsheree’. I was a combination of barman and ‘Waitress Number 10’ because that was what was written on my order pad. It was a grand time and I was proud to work there. But my pride in most things was about to run out that day.

A bomb went off, out on the water, eighteen miles from where I was working. The noise reached the town and the news followed soon afterward. Lord Louis Mountbatten, Lady Doreen Brabourne, Paul Maxwell and Nicolas Knatchbull were killed by the explosive device which the IRA had planted on Lord Mountbatten’s boat at Mullaghmore.

When I was young, I was in a shoe shop once in Sligo with Mum and she pointed out a tallish man in an adjacent seat. “That’s Louis Mountbatten,” she said. For me, there was always a sense of the retired man being welcome and enjoyed in the locale. Here was a man who could have spent his elder years anywhere but chose to come here and spend it in our place. It was like you baked a cake and a stranger came and enjoyed a slice. There was no sense of cow-towing  or either of outrage. There was just a well-known man and his family coming to spend time here. We liked it.

The strands of web which tie me to Mullaghmore are perhaps not terribly strong but they are many and they are very sticky. Here are just some of them.

As children, Dad would drive us there on many Sunday afternoons and we would spot jellyfish bobbing in the deep water off the pier, chase rabbit-shadows among the sand dunes, and admire all the boats and summer people around the harbour.

When ‘Jaws’ (my favourite film) came out, I imagined all the action taking place out on the blue water off the shore. I would imagine Quint chugging out of the harbour under a white cloud sky. It was, in many ways, a dream place for me.

A good friend of my Dad was out on the water and only a few hundred yards away when the bomb was remotely detonated from the shore. He pulled people from the sea and saved a young life.

That sixteen year old barman in the ‘Bonne Chère’ that lunchtime was horrified beyond belief. The tallish man in the shoe shop, his family, they had not been murdered in my name. They had not been brutalised for any prize that I had ever wanted. He had come to live and rest and retire among us and we had killed him.

I was ashamed to be Irish that day and I remembered it again this week.

Many other people died on that awful day and on many other days too, on both sides of a bitter conflict. I am not writing this to belittle the awfulness and horror of each and every death. It’s just that this particular horror was embedded in my own place and thus is embedded in my own head. 

Prince Charles came to Mullaghmore this week and that’s why all these memories came rushing back to vividness. He stirred memories in me of an idyll that was spoiled by mayhem and visions of fragments of boat wood and rainbow petrol stains on the blue water. But his coming may have also made it better. Maybe the next time I stop at Mullaghmore, as I still often do, and look down from my favourite bench seat onto the harbour (which is so much smaller than when I was young), maybe then something dull will have lifted from the lovely view.

And then this weekend came and the pride came rushing back. Ireland, we have done ourselves proud, this time. We have looked out for our people.

Well done.

I would like to finish up with a note to the people who voted ‘No’. There are many of you. You are my neighbours, friends, townspeople, and just because we see things differently that doesn’t mean either of us are demons or even bad people. We are, almost universally, intrinsically good and we want only the best for ourselves and our families.

I think that we humans, regardless of creed, have evolved to have a strong moral compass embedded deep in each and every one of us. Sometimes it is hard to consult the compass on account of external noise and interference and of high pressure from outside influences. But if we can silence the voices and look deep in there, we generally know what is right. We must keep listening to our own hearts and hear what it says to us.

Finally, if your religious beliefs tell you that what happened this week is wrong, audit them carefully. Most religions, at their purest, offer a basic moral code that is hard to dispute. It is the trappings that men have adorned these simple codes with, it is those things that cloud the simple truths and basic moral goodness of what we may choose to believe in. 

I would classify myself as a sort of a cheerful agnostic. I can’t bring myself to believe with any conviction that there is any existence beyond this one but I think it would be nice if there was.

Still and all, if you should fear for me, as a ‘Yes’ voter. If you fear that God will be waiting for me when I die and will demand of me an account of my actions in this regard then please don’t be too afraid. If it is the same God that I have grown up with, the one who sent his only son to tell us to 'love our fellow men as we love ourselves,, to 'do onto others as we would have them do onto us'... 

If it’s him…

I think he might give me a hearing. 

Social Media - A Citizen of No Country

Where do I go from here with Social Media? It’s hard to know. 

I think it’s probably the same sort of a Love/Hate relationship for most people, depending on mood, world events, the weather. Certainly that’s the way it is for me and always has been. Sometimes, there’s the acknowledged joy in being in connection with people you could never otherwise meet. Sometimes there’s an almost-hatred of the passing, ultimately inconsequential, nature of the beast.

What all that means is that, whatever I write here today, I’ll probably feel different about it next week. That’s Social Media for you, or for me at least.

Still and all, the point of this blog is to reflect some aspect of the thoughts or memories which have occupied me in the previous week and, this week, it’s been Social Media. So here goes.

Social Media… this week, I could just leave, get up and go.

But we do that intermittently, we Social Media heads, don’t we? We threaten that we will leave. We threaten only ourselves with this because everybody else would get over it pretty darned sharpish if we did. We threaten to go and never come back and sometimes we even go and then quickly come back. We’re nothing if not predictable.

I think our Social Media identities age at about ten times the rate of normal ageing. After seven years of it, we are like old folk, bemoaning how everything has changed for the worse and how the whippersnappers have no respect for the world.

But maybe I’m being too self-analytical and stand-offish. The Social Media experience has changed. It has really changed, for me anyway.

Facebook is my least favourite of the two Social Media places which I regularly inhabit. This is a shame because a lot of my favourite people are most active on Facebook these days. I stay because of them. Really, more than anything else, Facebook makes me feel isolated. It makes no secret of the fact that it uses some kind of Algorithm to better improve our online experience. It effectively chooses who and what I should see and who should see me. 

My personal perception of this is that everybody is put in a cell, rather like those hexagonal ones in a beehive, and then the Facebook machine allows them only to interact freely with a few other adjoining cells that it judges will be best suited to them. What this means is that the people I have known longest on Social Media do not see what I say-and-show and I do not see what they say-and-show. Not unless I deliberately go looking for it. And, face it, nobody really ‘goes looking’ too hard for people’s updates on Social Media. That’s called ‘Stalking’. We see what we are shown and, largely, we settle for that. 

It is possible that my experience of this ‘algorithm isolation’ is greater than other people’s. I often link to my blog and I get the impression that Facebook doesn’t wish to encourage links in that particular direction.

So the Facebook effect, for me at least, is largely one of speaking and listening into a void. Not seeing and not being seen. Facebook, effectively, doesn’t ‘like’ me. That’s the logical response to what it does but, let’s call a spade a spade here, there is also a more troubling illogical response. Some dark subconscious voice occasionally nags at you, saying, “Don’t be stupid. Everybody can still see you. They can see every damn thing you do. They just don’t care any more.” That’s not real, of course, it’s not true but, if that thought can touch me, a reasonably tough and leathery old fella, then just imagine how it plays out with the lonely and vulnerable people who come and gaze into the Facebook window for some kind of solace.

So, yes, Facebook, this week I could leave you.

And what of Twitter? My beloved Twitter which has brought me so much connection and light over the years. Well, it feels like I have aged here too, again at approximately ten times the normal rate and, this week at least, that world also feels as if it is leaving me behind.

With all respect to those wonderful people who are still there these days, so many of the individuals who made it work so well for me have gone or have tapered off their presence so dramatically that they might as well be gone. In earlier years Twitter was, to quote Paul Simon, “A time of innocence, a time of confidences.” Make no mistake, everybody’s Twitter is different, formed unerringly from the people one chooses to see there. Mine, back in the day, gave the appearance of a loose cohort of individuals who were happy to bask a little in everyday minutia and common ground and old-old songs. 

These days, with notable and wonderful exceptions, my Twitter feels rather like a large wave tank that ripples constantly in reaction to whatever daily agitation is thrown upon its surface. When something larger is crashed into it, it throws great gobbets of stuff up into the air, for a short time, then quickly reverts to its default reactionary ripple until the next bit thing comes crashing down. It seems less about sharing tiny life moments than echoing and often magnifying topical events both large and small.

Slowly, slowly, it has become a thing that I never signed up for.

So this is what I have become on Social Media. A member of no particular cohort. A nomad between two poor oases. A citizen of no country. 

Yes, this week at least, I feel that I could leave Twitter and Facebook and all this Social Media thing behind.

But I won’t, will I?

The truth is, I need something. Life has become very insular. Good friends of old are now spread wide to the four winds. Outside of work and wonderful invaluable family, there is nowhere to go and nobody to talk to. Here at least, on Social Media, there is a window onto the world, even if the glass has become somewhat mildewed on the inside and frosted over on the outside.

The answer, for me, is what it always has been. I need to write more. Social Media always works best for me when I don’t lean too heavily on it. The past four months of my life, looking back, have been a time of barely controlled chaos. This is something you will not find reflected anywhere in my Social Media interactions because that’s largely how I roll. In that melee, the writing has continued to an extent but it has also suffered something too. It is time to go back to the depths of the writing. The place where solace truly lies, for me at least.

I suppose I shall continue to do what I do, here on my ageing Social Media, but I’ll do more of that other thing too. The thing that actually makes me most happy. I shall arise and go, back to my own ‘Un-social Media’. To the small worlds that reside here inside my own head. I’ll try to set them down coherently so that, someday, I might be able share more of them with you.

I’ll still see you on the Twitter and on the Facebook, if you are there.

I’ve just got to get back to sorting some other things too. 

Daniel and the Long Game

The early years of living in London are a time of my life that I haven’t mined very hard for stories and blog posts. I suppose those times were lived in such proximity with other people that it’s hard to recount some of the events without unwittingly dragging those others into it too.

This week, regardless of that concern, I thought I’d remember one story of the times when my two friends and I shared flats and houses, first on Chiswick High Street, then in Ealing. I’ve changed the names of my friends to protect the unwary. They were good times and the laughs and stories were plentiful and memorable. This is just one tiny one.

Daniel, Freddie (no that’s not their real names) and me shared several homes for several years. Daniel loved a practical joke. Let me rethink that last thought. It was never as simple as just loving a practical joke. It was more complex than that. It was a love for setting something up, staging it, and then seeing it paid off. In retrospect, Daniel's particular joy lay in the long game, the gag that took months or even years to finally pay off. 

Those ones were his delight.

One of his very best involved Freddie’s Beloved Bungee Jump Video.

Freddie had taken a trip to somewhere, I can’t honestly remember where. I want to say Australia but I can’t see how he could have afforded that. Anyway, he went somewhere and he did a bungee jump and the proprietors of the bungee jump place made a video of Freddie’s jump and they sold it to him as a memento of his day. 

Freddie brought this video back from his travels and, most of the time, it sat quietly at the side of the TV. It was only on those rare occasions when Freddie got pissed that the video loomed large in his clouded consciousness. At those moments, usually late on a Saturday night, nothing would satisfy him but that we all sat down and, yet again, enjoyed the spectacle of Freddie launching himself off that possibly-Australian precipice.

Over time, these insistent bungee watching occurrences grew further and further apart until they finally seemed to peter out and die altogether.

That was fine with Daniel.


Because he began playing the Long Game. That’s why.

One evening, some years after we finally gave up being forced to watch Freddie’s video, he and I were going to a house party. Daniel wasn’t going for reasons I can’t recall. He doubtless had something better to do. For reasons that are quite beyond me, Freddie sought out and packed his bungee video in his bag. Perhaps he anticipated getting pissed. 

As we left, Daniel drew me aside and said to me, “call me if anything good happens.” I didn’t pay much heed to that at the time but I did later on.

The party went swimmingly. Actually, strike that. I have no idea how the party went. It was a house party, like many others, and I can’t find anything to distinguish the evening. Not until Freddie got his video out. 

Freddie was indeed pissed, so that was one reason he produced the memento, but he was off his home turf and it was unusual that he would wish to show off his diving skills on foreign soil, so to speak. I think his beer-clouded mind reckoned he might have a better chance of pulling if some unwitting girl became enamored of his pre-recorded exploits. Whatever the reason, he halted the music, commandeered the telly and demanded attention from everyone in the room.

The video came on. There was Freddie, in the sunshine of someplace-or-other, being prepped on what-and-what-not-to-do by a jaded attendant while another similarly challenged helper bound up his ankles with thick rubber cord. 

Pre-Recorded Freddie shuffled over and took his place on the brink while Real-Time-Freddie exhorted everyone to stop trying to have fun and watch. On the video, Freddie leaned forward and prepared to fall and, in fairness, the people in the room were now poised in anticipation. Even a few nice looking girls had been hooked so perhaps there was some hope for Freddie after all.

Freddie launched…

And you probably know what happened next because I’m telling you the story but you have to bear in mind that we didn’t know what was going to happen and, man, it was beautiful. Just beautiful.

As Freddie launched, the video did that farting noise that anyone familiar with home video recording will remember. That downward-progressing disintegration of image that turns into screen filled static and white noise for a moment and then turns into another image altogether. In this case an old episode of Coronation Street.

Somebody had recorded over Freddie’s Bungee Video. 

It was Gone.

Freddie, pissed as he was, literally couldn’t believe it. He looked hard at me. “It wasn’t me.” I protested. The room was in stitches by this time. Freddie looked like a gobshite and all prospects of pulling were long gone. Surprisingly enough, Freddie, took it all in good stead after he got over the initial shock. He was a lovely guy like that.

When things quietened down, I remembered Daniel’s words from earlier. I found a phone extension in an empty bedroom and I called him up.

“Did he play the video?” He asked, straight away.


“How did it go? Details.”

I told him everything. 

Daniel had played the long game. Over a year before, he had gone to a professional company and had Freddie’s video copied. Then he had painstakingly reproduced every detail of the label from the bungee company. Then he had hidden Freddie’s beloved tape safely in his room, recorded Coronation Street over the copy at the perfect moment and planted the time bomb at the side of the telly.

It was a lovely gag for sure. But the real loveliness lay in the patience of it all. The willingness to wait for it to play out whenever it might and to simply accept the fact that it might never do so. And, one final touch, not even feeling the need to be there when it finally delivered its payload. It was better to be elsewhere, just knowing it was happening. 

I remember Daniel and our time together with great fondness and with a little trepidation too. Although it’s getting on to thirty years since we went our separate ways, I sometimes wonder if there isn’t some other long game poised and waiting to play itself out, this time at my expense.

Somewhere... out there.

Street Angel, Road Devil

Somebody called me ‘gentle’ this week. It was on Twitter, actually, and it surprised me. 

I’d never think of myself as gentle. Although, thinking about it now, I suppose on Twitter I am, mostly… gentle. I certainly don’t come looking for fights or conflict and I like to take an overview on stuff whenever I can.

In life too, I guess I’m pretty gentle. Maybe that’s too strong but I don’t go around screaming at people or mugging them or stealing their handbags and such. Yes, ‘gentle’ is definitely too strong – it really is – but non-aggressive is about right, maybe even a bit kind. Sometimes. That might fit. 

So, okay, maybe I’m gentle…ish.

Except in my car.

Twitter doesn’t get to see me in my car. Hardly anybody does. And whenever anybody else is there to see me, I tend to temper my behaviour. Which is just as well because if I didn’t, somebody would probably try to lock me up.

The simple truth is, I’m not so gentle in my car.

Oh no.

In fact I’m a bit of a git in my car. Something of a bastard, a fuckwit, a gobshite. 

It’s not that I drive aggressively, I don’t. I feel a huge responsibility when I drive. I try to do it as well as I can and with a weather eye to other people’s safety as well as my own.

The problem isn’t with me, it’s with everybody else. I am hyper-critical of everybody else’s driving. You are either too fast or two slow, too big or too small, too old or too young. If you are in my vicinity in your car, when I am in mine, then chances are I will find fault with you. And I won’t just do it in my head either, oh no, I will tell you about it, out loud.

Of course nobody can hear me. Nobody except me. If you saw me in full flow, there in my little car, you might assume I was having a passionate discourse with someone on a hands-free mobile phone call. Not so. I am berating you, sir. Yes you.

Nobody is exempt from my vociferous critical attentions. From learner teenagers to octogenarian bottle-spectacled granddads, you are all cannon fodder for my righteous ire. You are all completely and utterly in the wrong.

It’s quite a recent development, this cynical commentary on the world from within my car. I always did a bit of it but I would position the escalation at about the time I had to give up jogging on account of my knee. 

Sometimes, when someone is in the car with me, I forget that they are there and I do a bit of my ‘diatribe’ thing. They look at me as if I’m mad and who is to say they are not right? Maybe I am mad, sitting there behind my windscreen, railing against you because you cannot walk a bit more quickly across the bloody road.

It’s not terrible nice and it’s most certainly not gentle. But I don’t think I’m mad. Not yet anyway. It’s rude and childish and pretty much unforgivable but it’s contained too and, if I didn’t write about it like this, you wouldn’t ever know it was happening.

I tend to think it’s my overflow valve. 

Alone in my car, I get to spit a little vitriol in the eye of the world. I let off a little steam and the car ventilation system deals with it and disperses it to the air harmlessly. I also kind of amuse myself a little, letting my bad side out in this way. Who the hell needs to be gentle all the time? The trick is to pick a place to be non gentle where you can do no harm.

And, yes, perhaps my car is not the best place to do that. Perhaps I should have a punch bag out in the shed or something. Perhaps the car is still too public a place to vent a little steam.

I’ll think about that now and see if I should try to change my nasty little car habit. The point for today is that I’m maybe not quite as gentle as you think I am. 

In one place, at least.