I've Looked at Lights from Both Sides Now

If the many posts on this silly little blog were to be categorised and broken down into related sections (which are both pretty much one and the same thing), there might be surprisingly few themes to choose from. Over the years, I have found that I tend to go around and around in small circles with the things I choose to scribble about.

One such ‘category’ that I tend to come back to is the mediocre quality of driving and road manners out there in my world. Search back, if you dare, and you will find me giving out yards about all kinds of perceived crimes and misdemeanours. I can get quite shirty about it too. It’s not my most endearing quality but what can you do? Nobody’s perfect.

So here I am with a new driving gripe. It’s been a while since I turned up here to rant a bit about how y’all behave out there but settle in. I came to complain and chew gum and, as the man said, I’m all outta gum.

So… red lights and green lights, that’s the subject for my TED talk today. To illustrate my concerns (for concerns, read rage) I will restrict my observations to two sets of traffic lights, both of them no more than 300 metres from my house. They’re down there now, I can feel them, ticking quietly from red to green via orange and back again. Listen, can you hear them? Of course you can’t. You’re miles away. Catch yourself on.

Let’s get the serious one out of the way first. We have a pedestrian light down at the main road. You know the routine, the cars whizz by without a break so we’ve been gifted a light by the council so that we can get to town and not starve. The trouble is that a fair percentage of drivers do not bother to stop when the light turns red. Let me try to quantify, as it might save me from spinning off into uncontrollable rage here. Emmm… I’ve been using this light for well over twenty years… based on my observations… I will say 5% - no that’s too much – let’s say 3% of drivers fail to stop when the light turns to red.

Why? Why would the bastards not stop? (Calm, Ken, calm) Well, the reasons can be observed in the demeanour of the drivers as they shoot past my nose. 20% of them are people who have just woken up to the fact there’s a red light, at the exact moment they shoot through it. They look around in shock and seek to beg forgiveness from some higher authority. Another 20% carry a facial expression that says, “I see the light, but that strange looking pedestrian hasn’t even thought about stepping out yet, besides the light has only just changed, it benefits nobody for me to stop now, plus I’m late.’ 20% more are on their phones and don’t even know there’s a light. 20% more are old and don’t seem to know there is a world beyond their windscreen and it’s a miracle that they’re not in a ditch somewhere already. Another 10% are sundry reasons that would take too long to cover here. It’s the last 10% that really boil my micturition. These fuckers see the light, slow down to almost a stop, but then change their mind and drive on through instead. I can only conclude that these ones are serial killers and psychopaths and I suppose I really should be writing their plate numbers down. There are a small subset of well-meaning folk who stop on the green light and wave you warmly out into the oncoming traffic on the other side. I have a soft spot for those ones, even though I shout my distain at them. They are the good people paving the road to hell. You can’t entirely hate them.

It all sounds quirky and fun when I write it out like this but, really it is very far from that. When I stand at the side of the road and wait for the green man to tell me to cross, I am rarely alone. My compadres are generally young children on their way to and from school. They are lovely but not as clued in as I am to the wayward world that we live in. Someday, I fear, some small person will trust the green man too much and step out and one of the 3% will be barrelling down at them. It’s not an irrational fear, at the side of the road there is a fresh bunch of flowers and a candle that somebody keeps lit as best they can. Lives have already been lost here.

Moral of this part of the story? If you’re a driver and the light goes red, please stop. It’s not rocket science. If you’re the pedestrian and the man goes green, make sure before you step out that the car bearing down on you is one of the 97% who might stop.

There. Let’s call that the ‘Red Light‘ section.

Although I’ve set a sombre tone there (not without good reason), I feel it can be instructive for me to now climb behind the wheel and view my world from there. So here I am, no longer the humble pedestrian but, now, the omnipotent driver. It’s a different world from back here, an altogether altered point of view.

You see, we have another traffic light within 300 metres of my house and this one is new. Where, previously, there was an ordinary junction where you waited your turn and pulled out when it was safe, there is now a traffic light. It’s a significant improvement. You could have sometimes been waiting ages to get out on this busy road. Now, when your light turns green, it’s your turn and you can go.



I mean, people don’t go, do they? The light goes green and there’s three cars in front of you and this light only lets about four cars through before it goes green again and the car in the front, right at the lights, is just… fucking… sitting there.

Why won’t you go, car at the lights? The signal is clearly green and yet you sit there like a big gobshite and I’m never-ever going to get through the light now.

Why are you still there? Have you lost your cough lozenge down the back of the seat? Is your Narcolepsy kicking back in? Can’t you find the right gear?

It’s usually none of these things.

It’s usually the same thing. The same thing that has 3% of drivers racing through the pedestrian light up the road. It’s selfishness and lack of care for anything other than themselves (they’re one and the same thing again, Ken, you did that earlier too). The person at the front of the queue knows they will get through the green light, they’re right there. So, they don’t give a thought to the people in the queue behind. It doesn’t matter a jot to them whether anyone else gets through or not, just so long as they do. It is the same reason why the person at the front of the queue won’t even bother indicating which way they are going 58% of the time. They are okay, nothing and nobody else matters.

This driving behaviour is all over the place. An insular lack of care of regard for anything. And the road is a microcosm of the world at large. We are boxing ourselves in more and more as we go. Looking out for number one. 

Absolutely nothing else matters.

Except it does. It really does.

Catch yourselves on.

We All Know It Flies but It Really Does Fly

Yesterday was Saturday and, for reasons best left unexplored, we drove through the same town we had driven through on the Saturday before. Are you with me so far? While driving through the town yesterday, the revelation came to me with something akin to a blinding flash of light.

“Wait,” I said, to Patricia, who was alongside me in the shotgun seat.


“It’s been a week.”

“What’s been a week?”

I could hardly say it. It had been a week since we last drove up this street in this town. A full week. Seven days. But it couldn’t have been. It simply couldn’t. It seemed like yesterday or, at the very most, the day before yesterday. Not a week. Not an entire week.

Sorry to prattle on about this, about something that I reckon we all experience all the time. It’s just that this particular instance of it was so pronounced. It was remarkable. So here I am, as I do, remarking on it.

It wasn’t like a memory-loss thing, or anything like that. I audited my week a little as I drove along, and it was all there. University Challenge, lots of work, first rehearsal, power outage, Sky box going up the Swanee, chips on Friday and here, in the car again, in this town, one Saturday later. No amnesia, no dotage.

Just time.

Time flies.

I was at a thing a few weeks back and, on the back of a nice discussion about time travel movies, the idea of the actual viability of time travel came up. One of my favourite people, a committed scientist, patiently explained why time travel simply was not possible and stoically weathered the ensuing storm of the Back to the Future fanatics shaking their heads and saying, ‘But it might be. It might.’ Afterward he took me aside and whispered an explanation of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to me and, truth be told, I was not much the wiser afterward. I’m more of a smart-arse than an intellect. The complexity of time eludes me.

Except in practical, day-to-day terms. Time moves slowly sometimes. It drags along and we look at the place where we used to wear our watches and wish that things would hurry the hell up. That certainly happens sometimes. But generally, time moves fast. Time flies and it sometimes blinds us how very fast it can go.

I find if I’m moving fast, time goes quickly and if I’m moving slowly time goes slowly, except when I look back on the slow time it also seems to have gone pretty darned quickly.

(Hopefully, by now, you’ll have gone past the sneaking suspicion and reached the firm conclusion that there isn’t going to be any sensible resolution to this little musing. The object of this weekly exercise is to reflect a little on something-or-other that happened in the week preceding. And, although the aforementioned power-cut, Sky box breakage and the Friday chips are all events ripe for further exploration, the fact remains: this past week went bloody fast.)

In maths, you do a little sum, and it leads you to a bigger sum. (I’m about as good on maths as I am on Relativity). If the little sum is that the week commencing 11th Oct 2021 flew, then the bigger sum is also one we are all very familiar with.

Life is short.

It’s a week for stating the obvious, isn’t it? We should make it a national holiday. One where we all sit around remarking on how green the grass is or how wet that water is. I bet that day might drag a bit, at least until it was over and then it would seem like it actually went… oh, you get the point.

But time does fly, and life is short. This week proved it or reminded me of it or… something like that anyway.

In another chat from the past couple of weeks, I defiantly proclaimed myself to be middle-aged. The reply I got was a bit smart but also a bit thought-provoking.

“Well done,” the person replied, “I’ll see you when you’re 116.”

It’s true, innit? At 58, I’m not going to see the same span again. In truth, I’ll be lucky to see another fifteen years.

And time is flying.

And I don’t do very much. I work and make some dinners and watch a little TV and fall asleep on the couch and tumble to bed and get up and work. And the weeks and the months and the years roll around and, like that past week, you sometimes wonder where they went and how they did it so quickly.

This is the end. No, not that end. The end of the piece. Ideally, I would come out of this with some resolve, some drive to do better. If I can’t slow time down (and I can’t) then I should do more with my allocation. As they said in that movie (when the guy quoted Jack London) “I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”

Yes, I should do some of that. I should ‘Ride, boldly ride’ like they said in that other film.

But I probably won’t. I think I live my life more from song quotations than movie quotations so I’ll just ‘keep on keepin’ on’, as I do. No great revisions to the script, no great reinvention, just 'keep on keepin’ on.' That’s all…

…but, man, that week went quickly, didn’t it?

Metal Gear Bond Kicks the World Back Onto its Axis

I can’t ever tell you if a film is good or bad. I just can’t. All I can do is tell you if I liked it or not, it’s for you to draw your own conclusions from there.

So, this won’t be a review of the new Bond movie. It will just be one of my typical Sunday morning short pieces. Except, this time, it’s about how I went to see a particular movie at the first opportunity so that it could be all mine rather than just an amalgam of what everybody else might say about it.

I only do this ‘Early Bird’ thing with the Bond movies and it’s a long-standing tradition. The first night of ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ was my first non-parent-accompanied evening show. Even back in the London/Timothy Dalton days, I would be into Leicester Square on the opening Friday evening. Making up my own mind before everybody else told me what to think. It’s always been a rare opportunity to catch something before everybody else does. The movies have always come out on this side of the world a week before America gets them so, just for once, we could be ahead of the game.

Enough, already. Tell us about your day at the movies, Ken. How did it go?

I sloped off work. Four O'clock on Thursday. I work for myself so it’s not quite a salacious as it might sound but it’s still a thing I never do. I hatched the plan on the Sunday before. I rarely do anything purely for myself. That makes me sound like a saint, which I’m patently fucking not, but I do tend to overlook myself sometimes in the rush of everyday life. Would I, could I, continue the tradition of seeing these silly old flicks the moment they came out? I could. I would.

The cinema was only letting fifty people in. That suited me just fine. I hadn’t been in over two years, and I didn’t need it to be a buzzing occasion. In fairness, it felt a bit like coming home, although I haven’t been the most faithful of attendees, even pre-pandemic. The audience was made up of a few couples with quite a few dad and son combos, which was nice. There were also a few solo males like me. To be expected. I bought a bag of Maltesers and, true to form, had most of them eaten before the iconic gun barrel sequence even rolled. Then we were off.

I can’t tell you if a film is good or bad. I just can’t. 

But I can tell you that I really, really liked this one.

Do with that what you will. I have to be a little careful. Bond films, for me, are a lot like the Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol. They both come on the scene all massive and boisterous but, as time ticks on, they deflate and come to seem more ordinary. This continues until they appear on ITV4 for the twentieth time, and you can’t bear to look at them again. This happened most notably with the most recent Spectre. Only 'From Russia with Love' has retained, and even improved on, its initial sheen. The others have faded like a festive season. But in their ‘Early Morning, Christmas Day’ mode, when everything is bright and shiny and new, man they can be really something. And, sitting there in Mayo Movie World in the dark, with the dregs of my sweetie bag in my lap, this new film was really something.

For me, Daniel Craig’s - and Purvis and Wade’s - crowning achievement has been to redefine the character as a man. Where other JBs might delight in late night gambling, clandestine affairs, and myriad assassination, Craig’s man has evolved in someone who tends to find his joy in people. From being a misogynistic clothes horse, JB has become a fella who talks just like we do (90% of the time) and who doesn’t suffer bloody fools gladly. If not a depth, there is at least a firm reality to him.

You might have got a sense by now that I’m not going to tell you much about the actual film, beyond that I liked it. You can get all that plot stuff elsewhere. Like I said, this is not a review. I will say roughly three things about it, none of which will spoil your film or your day.

Firstly, director Cary Joji Fukunaga and cinematographer Linus Sandgren have delivered a beautiful product. I had often thought how I’d like to see JB in action here in Ireland and the Skyfall finale, with its Scottish setting, came close to that. But the foggy Norwegian Woods section of the new film come closest of all. It is a beautiful thing. There is also what I would call a ‘Metal Gear Solid’ sequence in the film where JB has some bigwigs in his earpiece telling him how things stand while he ruthlessly picks his way through a ‘level’, dispatching villains hither and yon. For me, it is pure video game cinema and, as an antidote to all the caring and feeling that necessarily goes on elsewhere in the flick, it is very welcome.

Reservations? Well of course there are some. Elements sometimes feel shoehorned into the plot to satisfy respectful nods to earlier times. Like the poison garden from Fleming’s novel ‘You Only Live Twice’ or Dalton’s V8 Volante, which has a dust sheet whipped off it like it’s going to do something brilliant and then it doesn’t. Some characters have nothing to do and are just there because they were there before. One particular minor casting choice seems very strange indeed. Bad guy Malik is just okay, and Waltz is largely neutered.

But these are quibbles. For two hours and forty-five minutes, I became immersed in the show. And though it’s a fine movie (in my opinion only) nostalgia and relief certainly played their part in achieving that. After a long pandemic run, I was back in a cinema and Metal Gear Bond was kickstarting my normal life. In the end, what with one thing and another, was there even a hint of a little_

No! Big guys don’t do that. Nuh huh. Never.

I sat through the end titles, as I always try to, even though the lights might be up, and the clean-up folk mobilising. Hans Zimmer delivered his ‘BRAAMS’ moment after we heard a golden oldie favourite all shined up. And then those old familiar final words on the screen ‘James Bond will Return’.

Of course, he will. When I was a kid, this end message would always give me a buzz. This time, not so much. It is a compliment to the film that I actually considered that there could perhaps be no more. That everything that could be done, had been done. We’ll see what happens, I guess.

Finally, as Daniel Craig finishes his tenure, I’ll give him the best kudos I can. As a lifetime fan of the series, everything allowed, he has, in my opinion only, been the best of all James Bonds.

You just can’t say more than that.