I would have told him that the darkness doesn’t last forever…

The Journal.ie,  February 18

An article in the news last week reminded me of an old friend. I told his story once before – it feels like a lifetime ago. I’d like to tell it again here.

Brian and I were 13 the first time we met. I wasn’t impressed. He looked a bit of a shaper as he marched around the schoolyard, clicking the studded heels of his George Webbs, with his hands in the pockets of an oversized Eskimo anorak.

We fought – I can’t remember why. It was one of those ‘hold-me-back’ affairs, with a flurry of missed groin-kicks and the loser ending up in a headlock. Brian, as it turned out, was no hard-man: he was rubbish at fighting. It was something we had in common.

The scrap was a sort of pathetic, pubescent, bonding ritual. We became best friends, constantly messing about to disguise our terror at being weedy First Years, surrounded by giant, moody Older Lads. We slagged everything off – as all insecure 13-year-olds do to deflect attention from themselves. Clothes, hairstyles, even bikes were fair game.

Brian had a 20-gear Asahi racer, while I had a crock of crap masquerading as a Chopper. He never let me forget it was crap – especially as it didn’t have a crossbar.

“It’s a girl’s bike.”

“It’s not. It’s just… streamlined. It’s a streamlined Chopper.”

“But it folds in half.”

“It’s a Chopper.”

“It’s a girl’s bike and you’re a girl.” The bike was eventually ‘stolen’.

Our afternoons were spent listening to records or cycling around ‘scoping out the talent’. At night we’d slip through back gardens, avoiding fathers filling coal scuttles, to steal apples which we never ate. We whispered instructions to each other on a shared set of Walkie Talkies. Their range was about 20 feet. There was no need for them: we could have spoken normally and still have heard each other.

Brian and I learned how to smoke together. We could only afford cheap tipped cigars. They were disgusting and tasted like burning doc leaves (I once smoked a doc leaf). I accidentally stubbed one out on my arm while swinging from a tree, making monkey noises to annoy the lawn bowlers at Moran Park. The scar lasted for a year. I told my mother that it was a result of two wasps stinging me on the same spot, one after the other. She didn’t buy it.

Brian and I rode around Dun Laoghaire with our cigars clamped between our teeth, thinking we looked like Clint Eastwood. We didn’t see ourselves as two short-arses playing at being adults from the safety of childhood.

We went to our first disco together, herky-jerk dancing like mad to Bad Manners to impress the girls. The more we ran on the spot, the more they liked it – so local stud, Macker, told us. What he didn’t tell us was that he had spread the word among the girls that we were “special needs boys” from a care home.

“We’re ‘in’ there,” I said, as one waved sympathetically at us. We ran faster on the spot to impress her even more.

Brian went on my first date with me. Not ‘as’ my date, obviously – he came along to act as witness in the event that I ‘scored’. When you’re 14, ‘scoring’ is everything.

He cycled behind me to the venue, Sandycove train station.

“What’s that smell?” he shouted at the back of my head. “It’s like oil and cat piss.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” I cycled faster, knowing full-well what the smell was. It was the contents of a bottle of my dad’s Eclipsol hair tonic. We skidded into the lane overlooking the tracks.

“What’s up with your hair?” Brian was examining my forehead. A mixture of sweat and hair restorer was trickling down my nose.

“I haven’t washed it for a week,” I said. “…and I used Ted’s hair stuff. It helps to keep the bounce down.” Bouncy hair was for girls. My mother always said my freshly-washed hair reminded her of her own.

“You’ve got my hair.”

“No I don’t.”

“Yes you do.” My father ran the palm of his hand over his bald head. “Don’t worry, you’ll be like me some day. Then you won’t have to worry about having bouncy hair and looking like … Barry Manilow.” Bullseye.

Brian leaned his bike against the wall. “Go on, then.” I could hear him chuckling as I nervously approached my ‘girlfriend’.

“What’s that smell?” asked one of her friends. “It’s like pee.”

“Why’s your hair greased up like that? Are you trying to look like Elvis?” I had hoped I looked like Elvis.

“Did Elvis ever work as a toilet cleaner in a Pet Shop?”

“Or an old folk’s home?” Brian fell over his bike laughing.

I didn’t score. The love affair ended soon afterwards.

The day Brian moved down the country was the bleakest of my young life. I couldn’t tell him I was going to miss him. You didn’t say that to your mates. We played ‘Baggy Trousers’ on my Lloytron tape recorder over and over again as he unsuccessfully attempted to blow up his tree house with bangers. “I’m not leaving it for the next family,” he said, despite my protests. Looking back, he was scorching the earth of his childhood.

Before he left, he handed me his half of our Walkie Talkie set. I traded it for some now-forgotten item. I couldn’t share it with anyone else.

Years passed and Brian and I lost touch. We picked up our friendship again when he eventually moved back. Then we both got night jobs and lost touch again. We orbited the same crowds, but never managed to meet up.

In November 1992, Brian walked into his local pub and settled a few small debts. He was in good form. He was 25.

Later that night, Brian turned the exhaust pipe in on his car. He killed himself. No one had seen it coming.

I try not to think of his final moments. How alone he must have felt. How his family felt when they heard the news. How whoever found him felt. The 14-year-old who shared my growing pains was gone. The reason why is not important now. I have other questions. What would his children have been like? Would he have enjoyed my wedding? Would we still be friends, tilting at the bar in Finnegan’s?

Brian’s death went unreported. Newspapers don’t generally carry details of suicide stories because of the ‘Werther effect’ – where reporting can lead to ‘copycat’ cases. Suicide is contagious.

The article in last week’s paper that prompted me to revisit Brian’s life concerned euthanasia exponent, Dr Philip Nitschke. On Thursday, he held an assisted suicide ‘workshop’ in Dublin, where he demonstrated a device he calls the ‘Deliverance Machine’. It bears the slogan ‘I’d rather die like a dog’. He has ‘Exit Bags’ and refers to death as the ‘preferable option’. I thought of Brian. I thought of the Werther effect and all the depressed young people who will be influenced by Nitschke’s catchy suicide slogans.

I thought of the 10 Irish people a week who kill themselves.

I thought of myself in my early 20s. Two years before Brian’s death, I suffered a prolonged period of depression. I was luckier than him: I survived and learned from it. I think of what I could have said to him had I known what he was going through.

I could have told him we all crash emotionally, but it’s possible to walk away from the wreckage. I would have told him that he didn’t really want to leave, he just wanted the pain to stop. I would have told him that the darkness passes.

I would have told him that he will always be my friend.

I would have told him that he was never really alone.



The Samaritans can be contacted on 1850 60 90 60


What have the Indians ever done for us? (Quite a lot actually)

Erindipity, 16 March 2011

Who the hell would want to be a columnist? Last week on http://www.thejournal.ie, I said I couldn’t stand cricket. I also suggested that we Irish are more like the Brits than we care to admit (same dress, food, shops, language, taste in comedy etc). It’s taken me a week to scrape off the tar and feathers and extricate the Union Jack flagpole.

I won’t be making that comparison again in a hurry.

So, to commemorate the cricketers’ exploits in India, I’ve returned to my days as an Erindipitologist/miscellanist (I’ve written a few books about odd Irish facts). Here, for your delectation is a list with a twist. It shows how much more we and our cricketers have in common with the tournament’s host nation than many of us realise.

(It may also show something that St Brigid had in common with Adolf Hitler.)

Let’s get cracking…

Most Indian of Gaelic place-names

Around 40,000 years ago, the first Paddies left India and moved westwards, fanning out across Russia and Iran and on into central Europe. The latter Indo-Europeans became what we now call Proto-Celts. They were a restless bunch and were always wandering off about the place. Some, tiring of central European weather, decided to do a spot of sunbathing and headed to Spain. Several millennia of severe sunburning later, the gingers among them decided that enough was enough and headed northwest to Ireland. That’s where Paddy The Celtic Indian (you) came into the frame.

Paddy The Indian brought with him/her a new name for the island on which we live. Indo-Europeans from Iran to the Ould Sod, used to call themselves ‘Aryan’ which means “noble” in Sanskrit. Aryan/Éireann/Erin/Éire/Ireland/Iran and, possibly, Iraq are all versions of the same name.

The Irish for noble is “aire”. See the similarity? Aryan was also a word bandied about by the Nazis. But let’s not talk about that just yet…

Most Gaelic of Indian street-names

Diarmuid Ferriter’s ‘Dev’ contains a photograph of Eamon De Valera wearing an American Indian head dress. He had just been made chief of a tribe of Indians at the Chippewa Reservation in Wisconsin. Perhaps this was how he got his famous nickname. (Remember the line in ‘Michael Collins’ when Mick cries out “Dev, you’ll always be my chief!”?)

Dev liked to play all ends of the park and, not content with being an ‘Injun’, he also wanted to be loved in India. During the 1920s he became a great friend of the movement for Indian freedom. It’s said that Pandit Nehru was so impressed by his 1937 Bunreacht na hEireann that he used it as the template for his country’s own constitution.

In 1943 the Long Fellow donated 20m rupees to aid famine relief in Calcutta and in February 2006 the Indian government inaugurated ‘Eamon de Valera Street’ in New Delhi to show their gratitude. His popularity may be the reason so many Indians are called ‘Dev’, including the one in Coronation Street. Or maybe not.

There are no streets named after De Valera in Ireland. Which is a bummer. Speaking of bummers …

Most Indian of Gaelic words

Peig bloody Sayers wasn’t Indian – she was actually of English planter stock (I have proof). A lot of what she said was in Indian, though.Many Irish and Hindi words share the same Indo European roots. Here are a few to celebrate Seachtain na Gaeilge (Irish/Hindi):

Ainm/nam (name); bard/bhat (bard); barr/bara (top, great); bodhar/bahar (deaf); cad/kya? (what?); cá háit/kidhar (where?); cruaidh/kara (hard); dána/dhani (bold, enterprising); deachar/dushkar (difficult); domhan/duniaya (world); fás/fasal (to grow/crop); mainistir/ mandir (temple); marbh/mar jana, marna (dead); meon/man (mind); paróiste/parosi (parish/neighbour); poll/pola (hole/hollow); uain/un (lamb/wool).

And some numbers: Aon/ek (one); dó/do (two); trí/tin (three); ceathar/char (four); sé/chhe (six); seacht/sat (seven); ocht/ath (eight); naoi/nau (nine); deich/das (ten).

Most Gaelic of Hindu Anuses

Hinduism’s Supreme Lord is the god, Krishna. He’s responsible for creation and also the title of that old Irish come-all-ye, ‘Mother Machree/Mo chroi’. The Irish word for heart – “croí” – comes from his name. The Irish for soul is “anam” which comes from the Hindi word “atman”. The ‘heart and soul’ of the Irish are, in fact, Indian. The spiritual link doesn’t end there. The Indian tribe, the Druhyu, gave their name to the “draoithe” or “druids”. Another clan, the Anus gave their name to the Celtic goddess Anu/Danu or Dana of Tuatha Dé Danann fame.

This means that when ‘Dana’ Rosemary Scallan won the Eurovision in 1970, TV viewers were treated to the sight of ‘All Kinds of Everything’ coming out of a singing Anus. Nice.

Best Irish Indian Theme Park

Dresden-born Victor Langheld is an ex-Tibetan monk, patron of the arts and a good egg (I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him). He also owns Europe’s only Hindu theme park – Victoria’s Way in Co Wicklow. After entering through a granite vagina with teeth (sounds like my kind of date) visitors can wander around his 20 sculptures, which include a giant forefinger and a nine-foot-tall ‘Mr Cool, The Nirvana Man’. The main attractions, however, are the giant statues of Hindu elephant god Ganesh. They depict him reading, dancing and, begob, lashing out a tune on the ould uileann pipes with a shamrock in his hat. All the Ganesh sculptures – designed by Langheld – were made in Tamil Nadu, India and each took five craftsmen a year to make.

So now we have a connection between India, Ireland and Germany. Here’s another that may surprise you …

Most Aryan of Saintly Irish Symbols

The swastika was not originally a Nazi symbol – it’s also the Indian sign for good fortune and is associated with Ganesh (Hitler’s was a reversed swastika). It’s shared in many cultures, including our own. There are two carved on an early Christian gravestone in Anglish, Co Kerry.

The priests of the previously-mentioned Indian tribe, the Anus, were called the ‘Bhrgu’. Legend says they were the chaps who introduced fire to India. As these Anuses (stop it) travelled west they became the Celtic/Irish Tuatha Dé Danann who worshipped Brigid (note Bhrgu/Brigid). She was – drumroll please – the goddess of fire. St Brigid of Kildare (451 – 525AD) was named after this goddess and their legends became interwoven over time.

St Brigid’s crosses – like the ones you wove from rushes in primary school – are traditionally made on her feast day (1 February) which is also the druidic festival of Imbolc. The old crosses were traditionally burned in the hearth to protect the home from fire.

Look closely at a St Brigid’s cross the next time you see one. It’s actually shaped like a swastika with its four angled arms. With the Indian, Celtic and Bhrgu/Brigid fire connections many believe it is a swastika.

Hitler’s swastika may be a distant relation of Ireland’s St Brigid’s Cross. St Brigid’s ‘cross’? I’d say she’d be bloody furious if she knew what the Nazis did with her symbol.

Maybe even angrier than those cricket fans were with me last week…

A St Brigid's Cross

I wonder how often the horse must stumble before you realise the race is over

http://www.thejournal.ie  11/02/11


I THREW MY father in a skip last week. Bit by bit we dismembered him, stuffed him into bin bags and hauled him outside.

The amount of times I wanted to do that to him when he was alive …

The old man died 12 years ago. It’s taken that long to mentally prepare for the task of going through his belongings. That may seem odd, but throwing your parent’s life into a skip is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.

Ted was a journalist for 50 years and the day my mother and I sifted through his past was the same day the paper I write for, the Sunday Tribune, went into receivership. The timing seemed strangely appropriate.

His scent still clung to his room: the musty odour of old age and illness. We picked our way through the debris of his wrecked health: tubes, medicines, his nebuliser. Mundane items, like a box of unused lancets, pricked my memory. I recalled the night, when I was 10, that we discovered Ted had diabetes. He went hypoglycaemic after dinner and began to hallucinate.

He excused himself from the table, where he was entertaining an RTE colleague, and went upstairs. Half an hour later, he returned to inform us that he had had a vision of Our Lady. He announced this with all the gravitas of an Archbishop saying High Mass at Knock. He was quite convincing. His encounter with Mary might even have seemed plausible had it not been for one thing: he was wearing nothing but his underpants. Before anyone could stop him, Ted raced out of the house in his jocks to spread the good news.

Our neighbour, Mr Butler, was a deeply religious man. He was holding a set of beads when he answered the door.

“What in the name of…”

“Halleluiah!!!” Ted pushed past him and plonked himself down between Mrs Butler and her brother.

If there was one thing dad was good at, it was timing. (He edited the TV news with a stopwatch.) On this occasion, he surpassed himself. Mrs Butler’s brother was home from the States for his very first visit in 20 years. That coincidence, in itself, was noteworthy. What was more noteworthy, however, was the fact that he happened to be a priest. He was on his second decade of the rosary when the Underpants Messiah came calling.

“Halleluiah,” dad said, beatifically.

The doctor arrived just as Ted was about to embark on a naked Marion mission around the neighbourhood. He always claimed not to remember the incident. I frequently – and enthusiastically – reminded him.

“Hey dad, remember the night you went to Mass in your Y-fronts?”

“Eff off.”

“How’s that hymn go again? Oh… ‘The BALLS of the An-ge-lus, are chiming fo-or thee…’”

Everything I touched, from Clinistix to a prehistoric Tayto packet, had a memory attached to it. There were his precious golf clubs. I remembered that I used to hide fried eggs in his golf bag (it’s a long story).

There were odd socks, but no jocks. I recalled how my mum used to (pointlessly) iron his underpants.

“Are you ironing his jocks again?” I would shout through the kitchen door.


“Well, at least let him take them off this time, will you?”

I found part of our ancient, temperamental Qualcast motor-mower behind his desk. Whenever it broke down, he would accuse me of “sabotaging” it to get out of mowing the lawn. My paltry pocket money would be withheld and a public screaming match would ensue.

“I’ll never end up like you,” I vowed.

When you sift through a parent’s past, with the power to discard evidence of their existence, you realise how much time you’ve wasted. My father and I wasted most of our time together fighting. We couldn’t help it.

I uncovered a pile of Irish Presses he had kept. They contained articles I had written. My mother found a school portrait of me, aged 12. I always wondered where it had disappeared to.

There were letters and clothes to be sorted: a sheepskin coat that once carried me on its shoulders and a saggy cardigan. There were shoes, widened by fallen arches, and sober neck ties jumbled up with old cheque books and mementos of his parents. I found his father’s tortoise-shell hairbrushes behind a trunk. Despite being balder than a cue ball with alopecia, he always refused to give them to me. Now he’s gone, I understand why he wouldn’t part with them.

There were two old Amstrad PCs we both used – me to write my column for the Evening Press, him to write ‘special reports’ for the Irish Times. It must have tortured him to have to write ad features to supplement his pension. As a young reporter, he had interviewed Laurel and Hardy and had breakfast with Hemingway in Gibraltar. He wrote his first book when he was 19.

He was head-hunted into RTE in 1962 and left 30 years later with broken health and a bitterness that ate away at him. Somewhere along the line he had had a row with an unforgiving personnel manager. He was passed over for promotion for 15 years.

“Don’t go into journalism,” he warned me. His vocation had betrayed him.

Twenty five years on, I wonder if he was right. The Tribune is in receivership. It’s a newspaper that’s widely respected, but has always struggled to survive. In journalism,  high standards are no guarantee of success. My old man was a great journalist, but didn’t get the success he deserved.

I’m in my 40s. That’s relatively young and yet, like thousands of other unemployed middle-agers, I’m looking back on a career that may be finished for me. I’ve been made redundant three times. I’m wondering how often the horse must stumble beneath you before you finally realise your race is over.

Everyone hopes the Trib will find a buyer, but the odds aren’t great. The sad reality is that its ‘death’ will quickly become old news. That’s the newspaper business.

That’s life, I thought as I walked home from my mother’s last week, with Ted still writing copy in my head. I called around to finish helping her clear his room the next day. There was no sign of dad when I got there.

The skip was gone.


Time to stop being angry. Think about what you want to vote ‘for’, not ‘against’

Sunday Tribune, 30 January

Bertie Ahern stood at the school gates. “Oh, dem was the days inannyways, boys,” he sighed to the Radio One reporter. It was his last full day in Dail Eireann.

“Thirty four years,” he said, brimful of wist. “Me only regret is dat I’m leaving an’ everyting isn’t as great as it was on my watch. Dat dare’s no Bertie Bowl and dat de banks are all poxed up. No-one told me nuttin about de banks …”

I’ll stop here. I can’t do this any more. It’s become the norm in recent years to transcribe everything Bertie says in phonetic Dub-speak. It harks back to a time when he was a likeable embarrassment: a twonk in an anorak who had our best interests at heart. That was a long, long time ago. Bertie-speak isn’t funny any more.

Last week, he stood outside Leinster House and patronisingly ‘thanked’ an angry councillor for lambasting him over the economy. He may have thought he was being funny. If he did, it was the worst-judged political ‘joke’ ever captured on national radio.

When he dismissed Councillor Joan Collins as someone who just wanted to get on TV, there was an audible ‘snap’ across the land.  She may only have been looking for publicity, but she still spoke for all of us. This was one insult too many. This was Bertie’s defining moment, when he revealed himself to be a bitter man who thinks we’re a shower of ungrateful proles.

The electorate – and the media – was incandescent. One paper dismissed him as ‘delusional’. After Thursday, I’ve come to another conclusion about Bertie: he’s trying to wind us up. He is a crap-stirring gouger who is goading us for our ingratitude. He has as much class as a rat with a gold tooth.

It isn’t fair that Bertie is swanning off with a €150,000 pension pot. You know what? Life isn’t fair, full stop. Sometimes the bad guy gets away. That’s what I’ve been telling myself lately as I contemplate the forthcoming elections. It’s strangely consoling. The best way to deal with pond-life like Bertie is to stop being angry. An angry person has no peripheral vision, no finesse, no judgement.

I’ve realised that being angry all the time has left me devoid of beliefs. I don’t know what I’m ‘for’ any more. I only know what I’m ‘against’. It’s a dangerous way to feel when you’re about to vote in the most important election of your life.

I ask myself: do I vote for Fine Gael? I see Enda running away from a three-way debate and yet he’s talking to David Cameron about the North, as if he’s already in office. Do I want to be treated like a Sure Thing even before campaigning begins? Do I want a party in power that’s further right than my liberal-lefty leanings? Do I want Leo ‘Tebbit’ Varadkar as a minister?

Do I vote for Fine Gael because I remember the days of Gareth The Good? Do I give Enda a nostalgia vote?

Or do I vote for Labour? I gave my first ever Number One to Barry Desmond. Do I vote for a party that will squeeze the bone-dry middle classes? Do I want higher taxes?

Or do I protest and vote for Sinn Fein with its impressive young gun, Pearse Doherty? Do I vote for a party that hasn’t a clue about the economy and will put a rocket up soft targets like myself? No, I don’t think so. Besides, Gerry Adams has sold out. Isn’t he The Baroness of Cheam these days?

When I look at my pay packet and hear Bertie eulogising about himself, I fight my anger. When I calm down, I begin to see what I’m ‘for’ – and it’s not a nebulous New Era or Eire Nua. I’m ‘for’ having money back in my pocket. I’m ‘against’ being broke. I am going to vote on that basis alone, not because I want to ‘send a message’ to anyone.

I remind myself that when I go to vote, I must be cold and calculating. I must vote for what I want – not what I DON’T want. Don’t be swayed by demagogues in Doc Martin’s making fine speeches. Don’t let Bertie wind you up so much you cast a protest vote instead of a strategic one.

Vote as your head directs you, not as your heart does. Don’t run canvassers from your door. Drag them inside and present them with a wish list of things you WANT and demand they sign it. Pay at least as much attention to candidates’ form as you would if you were backing a horse. We need politicians who are going to duck, dive and be devious with Europe on our behalf – not well-meaning ‘protest’ TDs.

This is what I keep telling myself whenever Bertie gets my anger rising. Don’t let your emotions sway your judgement. Don’t let him screw you a second time. Just get even.


‘Manity’ and how my purple and green hair just made me want dye

Sunday Tribune, 23 January

“Tell them what an idiot you are.” That was the curt instruction from the woman who edits this column. No political rants this week. Just explain to those who don’t already know it that I’m an idiot. Here goes:

Men are idiots. Fact. Scientists proved this last week when they discovered that Man ’Flu actually exists. We exaggerate the symptoms of the common cold to idiotic proportions. We think we’re the stronger sex, but we’re not.

We’re also idiots who can’t accept that ageing is inevitable. The Harley Medical Group has reported a 17% rise in calls from men seeking Botox treatment since Louis Walsh admitted getting work done. Presumably hair weave enquiries also rose after Gordon Ramsay had his hairline restored. Men are idiots. Vain idiots.

The worst thing a man can do, next to wearing a wig or getting Botox, is to dye his hair. He is a preening knob if he does. He’s cheating. Besides, grey is manly, grey is wise. Grey is the colour of silver-back gorillas.

Grey is also bloody boring. I’ve an admission to make: I’m a preening knob. I dyed my hair last weekend. No, please don’t turn the page, let me explain.

I’ve been letting my grey hair grow for the past year. I love taunting my baldy mates by draping it over their shiny heads. Over the past few months, however, it’s been turning a horrible shade of green. This is something the Baldies love reminding me about. (“Look, it’s the Not-So-Incredible Hulk!”)

Sick of hearing me moan about it, my sister bought me a bottle of ‘Super Silver Sensations!’. She promised it would sort the greenness out. I lathered half the bottle in, ignoring the instructions to rinse after five minutes. I’ll give it 40, I thought. To get it REALLY silvery.  An hour later, my hair was purple. ‘Silver Sensations!’ turns out to be blue-rinse shampoo. My head looked like Barney The Dinosaur’s crotch.

“No, you don’t look like Barney,” my wife reassured me. “You look like old Mrs Slocum. You idiot.”

Shortly afterwards, someone told me ketchup can rectify yellowness. It took 15 minutes to apply because, being a man, I had to mess around, teasing my hair into various shapes. I let it dry into a two-horned, devil ‘do’. Idiot.

The whang was appalling but I soon forgot about my saucy bonce as I caught up on household chores. Two hours later I went into the study to play with the cat. She shied away from me. “That’s odd,” I thought, reaching out to pet her. She licked my face and hissed again. I looked up to see the postman staring in the window. I waved. He slowly backed out the gate.

My ketchup ‘horns’ were melting down the side of my face. It looked like I was engaging in some perverted Satanic ritual with the cat. “Come back, I can explain,” I called, which only made him run away faster.

Ketchup doesn’t work, by the way. It turns your hair ginger. My pub-mates started calling me ‘Rusty’. So I bought some Grecian 2000, but that turned my pillow brown, which was hard to explain to our disgusted (former) cleaning lady.

I bought a bottle of Just for Men hair dye, but I couldn’t use it. I’m not that vain. I threw it in the bin. It came out again last Saturday in advance of an appearance on RTE’s Daily Show. “Don’t put that in your hair. You’ll make a mess of it,” my wife warned, forgetting that men are idiots. We’ll always press the button marked ‘Do Not Press This Button’. We’ll always stick a knife in the toaster when it’s plugged in.

I emptied the bottle onto my head. ‘Two minutes is all it takes!’ the label said. I left it in for 10.

My wife says the screams were up to ‘The Exorcist’ level. My hair was black with red roots. I was a cross between Elvis and Bono. “It’s all YOUR fault,” I shrieked, as she locked herself in the bedroom with the cat.

I lathered Fairy liquid into it. I steeped it in lemon juice. It turned grapefruit pink. I shrieked some more.

It took a colourist friend, Matt Malone of Senso Studios, two days to rectify things. It still looks dyed though and I’m paranoid about it. The worst thing is when you catch someone staring at it and quickly looking away.

There’s a lesson in this for all you fellow idiots who may be thinking of dyeing: don’t do it. I really miss my grey hair.

The last straw came when I went for my first post-dye pint. A wag shouted: “You can’t come in here … it’s Just For Men”.

I’m staying in until I go grey again. If anybody asks my wife where I am she’s instructed to say I’m at home, under the weather.

Knowing me, they’ll probably think it’s Man ’Flu.


Time to dump Gormley’s brand of Green politics into the recycle bin

Sunday Tribune, 16 January

A much-loved Dublin voice fell silent last week. The Dun Laoghaire foghorn sounded its final blast on Tuesday. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but if you live along the south Dublin coastline, you’ll feel like you’ve lost an old friend.

The foghorn kept us company on sleepless nights, bellowing defiantly at the sea. It reassured you that someone was keeping watch, sounding a warning during times of danger. It connected you to countless other sleepless people along the coast. There was genuine sadness when it was silenced.

Up the bay, in Ringsend, another watchman will go to bed tonight without the foghorn’s lullaby. Unlike the foghorn, John Gormley slept through his watch.

Our generation looked to his Green Party to be our watchmen when we put them in the Dail. They were to ensure that an outrage like Wood Quay would never happen again. They were to ensure that the ideals we held as teenagers (cleaner environment/cleaner government), would become reality.

Gormley repaid our faith by selling out again and again. On Tuesday, he sold out for the last time.

When news broke that Brian Cowen had golfed with Sean Fitzpatrick, Gormley staged one of his well-rehearsed passion plays. Using the exasperated expression he keeps for really special occasions, he said he had found out all he could, but he was “not Sherlock Holmes”. (He’s not even ‘Menolly Homes’ although he’s showing more cracks.)

Cowen may not have done anything technically wrong – despite what chancer, David Drumm, says. However, here was a last chance opportunity for Gormley’s Greens to say “enough is enough”. We, the public, said it months ago.

Gormley is a power-at-all-costs merchant who traded his Green credentials for the illusion of power when he teamed up with the Soldiers of Destiny. They must die laughing every time one of his hare-brained plans falls on its face.

Remember how he announced that there would be a direct Dublin mayoral election last summer? Has it happened yet? Remember how he called for a general election in mid-January? Has it happened yet?

Under Gormley, the Greens became a party with no integrity left, propping up a party that had no integrity to begin with. They have compromised on every major principle they stood for. Before entering government, they supported the Shell to Sea movement, the halting of US military planes landing at Shannon and the re-routing of the M3. After entering government … well, you know the rest.

Gormley’s not even a good tactician. This was highlighted last year when he forced his stag-hunting legislation through as the drink drive limit was being lowered. Both were seen by FF TDs as attacks on rural life. His stubbornness could have brought down the government he’s desperately clinging on to now.

Gormley’s legacy will be one of failure and disgrace. He will always be remembered as the man who forced the M3 through Tara/Skryne. The road is being tolled by a foreign company for the next 40 years. It’s proven an abject ‘turn-off’ for motorists, with the result that the taxpayer is paying the shortfall in its revenue. Last October, this paper revealed that the road will cost the State €50m in penalties. Gormley had the power to stop the road being built, but didn’t. The Green Fool.

The M3 is not the only example of Gormley’s hypocrisy. While he tut-tutted over Fianna Fail’s expenses culture, he was hiding a dirty secret himself. In 2008, he took a ferry to Holyhead to appear environmentally friendly – and had a Mercedes drive all the way from London to collect him. When the conference he was attending ended, he flew home. The Green Hypocrite.

Of all the betrayals committed by Gormley since 2007, his worst has been to make ‘green’ a dirty word. He has made environmental idealism synonymous with double-dealing. He has damaged the cause a generation fought for. It may be years before it recovers.

He wants to be seen as Mr Clean, keeping The Enemy (FF) at close quarters. He doesn’t realise that he IS the enemy. He’s so delusional he says he believes all his Green colleagues will be returned in an election, along with a couple of senators to boot. (A Green senator to boot? Can I boot Dan Boyle?)

To add insult to insult, Gormley claimed he was staying in power because he was committed to seeing the Finance Bill implemented. We all know he’s really staying to squeeze as many Green-related projects through as he can. Projects that will most likely be unpicked by the next Government.

Gormley had one last chance to redeem green politics when Cowen’s on-the-green politics were revealed last week. He didn’t take it. Again, he refused to blow the final whistle.

He was supposed to act like that foghorn we once shared. Instead, he stayed silent as Fianna Fail drove this country onto the rocks.

I don’t know how he sleeps at night.