My bloody Valentines and other massacres

Forecourt foreplay: Mrs K says a resounding 'no' to my Val's gesture. Pic: Moya Nolan

Forecourt foreplay: Mrs K says a resounding ‘no’ to my Val’s gesture. Pic: Moya Nolan

Irish Examiner February 11, 2012

By Dave Kenny

Do you hear that noise? It’s the sound of St Valentine’s Day. It’s the patter of thousands of feet stampeding across garage forecourts to buy anorexic flowers. It’s the swell of minor chords on the radio. The squelch of self-conscious snogging and the gentle flop of cards on doormats.

It’s the furious twanging of Cupid’s bow. And the furious twanging of knicker elastic too (if those chocs and roses pay off). It’s a day of teddy bears and pink roses. It’s a day of … unutterable barf.

I detest Valentine’s Day and all its phoniness. My wife’s not a fan either. Not that I would ever gamble on her changing her mind about it. Each year I make her a card and allow her out of the kitchen for a glass of wine, before she does the washing up. (Only joking, missus.)

It’s a marketing construction, like Mother’s, Father’s, Grandparents’ and Crème Egg Day. It’s what’s known as a ‘scripted holiday’, based on what couples are ‘supposed’ to do if they truly love each other.

It’s all about ostentatious displays of affection: flower-laden women comparing the size of their bouquet to the women at the next table… men doing ‘romantic’ things they think will earn them points with their partners. I once knew a wally who proposed to his girlfriend over the intercom on a flight from Rome on Val’s Day. This was despite the fact that they had become engaged three months earlier…

Thanks to Hallmark, young lovers’ expectations are higher than a giraffe’s sphincter on February 14. Every spotty, hormonal teenager dreams that this will be the year when a genuine card arrives. Not one from their mum or granny. That this will be the year that they find their Soulmate. It never is.

I had a schoolfriend who was so embarrassed about never getting a card that he once sent one to himself. It was obvious it was from him because he had really distinctive handwriting. We used to joke that he’d go on an imaginary date, only he was afraid that he’d stand himself up.

If you’re dateless and feeling sorry for yourself this Valentine’s, cheer up. You’re actually luckier than you think. A 2004 study (Morse and Neuberg) discovered that couples were 2.55 times more likely to break up around Valentine’s Day compared with any other month.

Another study (Jessen and Jessen, 1999), showed that cases of suicides increase after February 14 because it triggers serious relationship disappointments. See? Staying in alone in front of Fair City doesn’t sound so bleak now, does it?

Here are a few tips to help you make it through the night if you’re single and looking for a relationship.

1: Drink yourself semi-comatose.

2: Rent War of the Roses, Kramer Versus Kramer, Sleeping with the Enemy and Fatal Attraction from Xtravision.

3: Men: spend the day with your parents and picture yourself in 20 years time.

4: Women: reflect on the fact that most murders are committed by the husband.

I still get a cold sweat when I remember some of my own pre-marital Valentine’s Day Massacres. One of the worst was spent doing a solo gig in McDonald’s. I was dateless and agreed to sing romantic songs to lovelorn punters as they munched on Big Mac’s and tonsil-wrestled. My wages were a tenner and as many Chicken McNuggets as I could eat. (It was the 80s. I needed the money.)

My worst experience was on Val’s Day 1996, when I was trying to impress my future wife with dinner in our village’s swankiest restaurant. I was working part-time after the closure of the Irish Press and living with my parents. Before leaving the house, I’d had a row with my mother, probably about leaving the toilet seat up. Big mistake.

After a nice romantic meal, under a heart-shaped balloon, I called for the bill to discover that I had forgotten my cheque book. I rang home and left a message on the answering machine. Five long minutes ticked by. Then another 20. People came and went. I noticed Pat Kenny arriving with his wife and being presented with a bottle of wine. Nice to be famous, I thought.

Eventually, my mother stormed into the restaurant.

“Here’s your bloody cheque book,” she said at the top of her voice, flinging it on the table. The room went silent.

“That stupid woman on the door,” she fumed, “wouldn’t take it from me. She made me come in here dressed like … this.” It was at this point that I realised that my mother was wearing her pyjamas and slippers. Furry ones. I had got her out of bed. People started to snigger.

She stormed off (silently, as she was wearing slippers) and I melted into my chair. My date had a murderous look in her eye. One that clearly indicated where she was going to shove the heart-shaped balloon.

The following day, a friend asked if we had enjoyed the bottle of  Chateauneuf du Pape he had secretly ordered for us. I told him we hadn’t received it.

“I left it in your name: Kenny,” he said. The penny dropped (this was pre-Euro).

Pat Kenny, if you’re reading this… you owe me a bottle of wine.


I crowd-sourced some Valentine’s Day Massacres from Twitter and beyond. Thanks to all who replied:

‘I was pregnant when my boyfriend decided to pop the question on Valentine’s Day. I was feeling really sick but agreed to go for dinner.

‘After the starter, he pushed a ring box across the table. I told him to take it away. He looked shocked but didn’t move. I told him again, but still he didn’t move – and I threw up across the table all over the box. The couple at the next table had ordered blue cheese and the smell was too much for me.’ Jane from Waterford.

‘My boyfriend decided to put a romantic ad in the Irish Press on February 14, inviting me out on a date. The problem was that the date was a ‘couple of flagons of cider down the pier in Dun Laoghaire’. He even used my full name.

‘I still don’t know why I married him.’ Gillian, Dublin.

‘In 1985, I was living in New York and a new boyfriend asked me out to a Mexican restaurant. The weather was awful: snow everywhere. We both drank too many Margheritas and I wound up with sauce all over my face. Never eat tacos on a first date.’ Sinead B, Killiney.

‘It was 1990 and I was still in school and broke. It had been raining all day and I went out to buy a card and a teddy bear for my new girlfriend.  I stepped off the bus near her house and got covered in muck by a lorry. On the way up her driveway, I slipped into the flowerbed and got stuck in a rosebush. Worse still, her dog used that flowerbed as a toilet.

‘Her mum answered the door. I was covered in scratches, muck and crap, carrying a teddy bear that looked like it had been mauled by an alsation. She wasn’t impressed and drove me to the doctor’s to get a tetanus injection. I never saw her daughter again.” Robbie, north Cork.

‘I was married for three years and my wife didn’t get me a card. Instead, she gave me a selection of cream cakes. I’m lactose intolerant and get quite ill when I eat dairy products. The thing is: she knew it. We’re not together any more…’ Daragh R, Tipperary.

‘It was Valentine’s Day 1988 and I was on a first date in an Indian restaurant. After coffee, my girlfriend began rubbing her nose. I asked her if she needed  a hanky. She said, “No, but you do”. I had had the world’s biggest ‘gangly’ hanging out of my nose all through dinner.’ Gareth, Monaghan.

‘My ex sent me our divorce papers by registered post. They arrived on… Valentine’s Day. I thought it was hilarious. I had definitely moved on.’ Ann C, Wexford.

“When I was 10, my parents broke the news on Val’s Day that they were getting divorced. As excuses go, it’s one of the best for getting out of doing stuff on February 14.” C-D.

‘Last year, I went on a blind date. Over dinner, my new friend told me that he’s a black belt in karate. I said I’m not a very sporty type of girl, but I’d like to learn a martial art.

‘He got up from the table and started showing me some moves. Before I knew what was happening, he had me in what he called a ‘Cobra Chokehold’. 

“This year, I’m staying home. Alone.”


Things we learned in 2012…

A whole lotta Rosie: Ms Davison got her boobs out for the Germans, but her Playboy shoot was overshadowed by Kate Middleton’s baps being snapped by a pap

By Dave Kenny

Irish Examiner, December 29, 2012

Another year, another notch tightened on the belt. So what did we learn in 2012? Dave Kenny reviews a year which saw two Quinns behind bars, less of us drinking in bars and one Irishwoman raising the bar for Irish athleticism…

We learned that …

A €100k wedding cake is (literally) a moveable feast.

In September, as the good people of Cavan rallied for Sean Quinn and his family, it was reported that the clan had spent €100,000 on a wedding cake.

The spectacular caca milis was flown in from New York for the 2007 nuptials of Sean’s daughter, Ciara. Although Sean was worth €4.6bn at the time, the €250-a-slice cake was charged to a subsidiary of the Quinn Group.

Have the people of Cavan ever heard the phrase ‘let them eat cake’?

No-one could tell ’em like Frank Carson, who passed away in March.

 “A man goes into a chemist and says: ‘Have you got any Viagra?’ ‘Do you have a prescription?’ asks the assistant. ‘No,’ he replies, ‘But I’ve got a photograph of the wife’.”

That the printed word is DOOMED.

2012 saw Encyclopaedia Brittanica publish its last printed edition. More than 7m sets have been sold since 1768. Thousands of unemployed door-to-door salesmen are now out on the streets. Actually, that’s where you normally find them, isn’t it?

We learned that the printed word is alive and thriving in Aengus O Snodaigh’s office.

In February, The Sinn Fein TD became a laughing (paper) stock when he admitted using €50,000 worth of Dail printer cartridges over a two-year period.

‘Inkgate’ earned the prolific leafleteer the sobriquet of  ‘The Wolfe Toner’. One commentator summed it up musically. All together now: “Come out ye blackened hands, come out and type me like a man…”

That northern radio presenters are an innocent bunch.

In November, BBC Radio Ulster’s, Karen Patterson, had to apologise for reading out a prank text about Jimmy Savile.

It said: “I wish everyone would stop criticising Jimmy Savile. He was a nice man. When I was eight he fixed it for me to milk a cow blind-folded.”

That Charlie Haughey was the Weaker Link when he tried to grope a TV presenter.

In October, Anne Robinson told The Guardian that CJ had tried it on with her in 1969.

“I like to imagine he went to his grave with my bruises on his hands after he tried to grope me,” she said. So Charlie came out of the Arms Trial unscathed in 1969, but didn’t fare so well in the Hands Trial…

We learned nothing new about Katie Taylor.

We always knew she was going to make us proud at the Olympics. We did learn, however, that people who abhorred women’s boxing could change their views overnight when there was a gold medal involved.

See you down at the National Stadium?

That we’re rubbish at soccer, but good at making money from it.

After an embarassing Euro 2012, we learned that FAI boss, John Delaney, was taking a 10pc pay cut. He now earns a mere €360,000. That’s €160,000 more than the Taoiseach.

What’s really impressive about John’s salary is that it’s bigger than the combined wages of the Spanish and Italian soccer chiefs. What a world-beater he is.

We make the Germans laugh.

We had a risible Euro 2012, but Ireland’s fans still stole the show with their trademark good humour. A group  from Limerick made headlines worldwide after they unveiled a Tricolour emblazoned with the words ‘Angela Merkel Thinks we’re at Work’.

When the boys got home the German ambassador had them around to the embassy. And they returned unharmed. Who says the Jerries have no sense of humour?

We make the English laugh.

In May, Brendan O’Carroll’s Mrs Brown’ Boys stumped the critics and won Best Sitcom at the Baftas. Were the Brits laughing at us or with us?

We have oil fields and are rich beyond our wildest dreams.

The waters off Cork and Dublin are awash with the black stuff. Hurrah! Hump off, Troika, we’re saved!

Actually, we’re not. Ray Burke, a man you wouldn’t trust with his own wallet, signed away our oil rights years ago. Get back in the dole queue, Paddy.

We learned to understand Dublinese.

Thanks to Love/Hate, you can’t walk into a posh pub in Montenotti or Dalkey these days without hearing some yuppy attempting to talk like Nidge or Frano.

 “Gis a bleedin’ pint of Pinot Grigio or I’ll bleedin’ burst youse, youse geebags, youse.”

‘Geebag’, by the way, is Dublinese for ‘windbag’ (from the Irish ‘gaoth/wind + bag’). Honestly.

That pop stars, like property bubbles, can go pop too

In June, Westlife’s Shane Filan was declared bankrupt in England after his property development company (which is based here) went into receivership. Shane filed in England. This meant that his business wings have been clipped for just one year, as opposed to three-plus.

We also learned that he’s a headline writer’s dream. Shane’s ‘Filan’ for bankruptcy. Too easy.

We learned just how much we loved Maeve Binchy.

Fans from around the world attended the author’s funeral in Dublin in August. The only flowers were a spray of special roses placed on her coffin called ‘Rosa Gordon Snell’. Maeve had had the variety named after her husband as a gift.

If that’s not true love…

We learned just how much we loved Barney McKenna.

Barney passed away in April, leaving a banjo-shaped void in Irish folk music. His death marked the end of The Dubliners after 50 years on the road.

He’s now skulling pints with Ronnie and Luke in God’s saloon bar. And probably giving out about the 10c price hike.

That beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

China’s People’s Daily newspaper ran a mammoth photo spread of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un after a US website declared him The Sexiest Man Alive for 2012.

 “With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-born heart-throb is every woman’s dream come true,” the paper quoted the website as saying. There were a few red faces when it was later pointed out that the source quoted was the satirical, The Onion website.

That timing is everything when you’re flashing your boobs.

Unfortunately for Rosanna Davison, her ‘tasteful’ shoot for German Playboy was overshadowed by the brouhaha over Kate Middleton’s baps being snapped by a pap.

Worse still for Rosie, Prince Harry then got in on the act and appeared butt naked in a Vegas hotel room. Poor Rosanna, her ‘flash’ turned out to be just a flash in the pan.

That Mick Wallace has a neck like a jockey’s undercarriage.

Wallace TD (Tax Dodger) became everybody’s favourite Pink Pariah when he admitted committing VAT fraud during 2008 and 2009.

Then there was the revelation that, while he was in trouble with the taxman, he ‘sold’ his €500k Italian vineyard to his brother. He still gets to visit it, of course. Mick’s not fond of VAT, apparently, unless it’s a vat of Italian wine.

Mick surpassed himself  in October, however, when he told RTÉ that he once “threatened to hire a hitman to recover an IR£20,000 debt from a building firm”. It’s time he bit the bullet himself.

That, in December, we wouldn’t be able to remember who Mary Davis was.

Clue: she ran against Gay Mitchell (remember him?) and others in a big election during the summer.

That Twink just won’t zip up her gob about her lovelife.

November saw the launch of the ‘entertainer’s’ autobiography, detailing (yawn) the break-up of her marriage. The Sun ran extracts and its readers were treated to the nightmare vision of Twink wrestling in the snow with a ski instructor named ‘Willie’. In terms of sexiness, it’s up there with listening to your mother talk about the night you were conceived.

 “In a weird way, I am writing this book for the women of Ireland,” says Twink. Which begs the question: ‘why?’

That Monday nights won’t be the same without Bill Cullen.

TV3’s ‘The Apprentice’ has been scrapped , his car dealership is up the Swanee, and poor Bill is down to the last of his penny apples.

Bounce back Bill, the country needs you.

We learned that Irishwomen like porn almost as much as teenage boys.

Fifty Shades of Grey, combined with the anonymity of the Kindle, meant that Irish mammies could finally do the shopping, drop the kids off, get the bus to work, and read about bondage all at the same time.

Is there any greater proof that women are better multi-taskers than men?

We learned that rats really do desert sinking ships (1).

In January, skipper Francesco Schettino abandoned the Costa Concordia after it ran aground. Thirty two lives were lost.

Captain Chicken now plans to reveal “the shocking truth” of what really happened that night in a book he’s writing. Initial reports didn’t make it clear what he would do with the profits from his book. You can’t buy a pair of goolies, can you?

We learned that rats really do desert sinking ships (2). Did we mention Peter Darragh Quinn fled across the border to evade a garda warrant?

We also learned that… Dr James Reilly has the bedside manner of a grizzly bear with piles (ask Roisin Shortall). He also has a huge mansion in Moneygall which he and his wife hire out for weddings… while receiving tax breaks for its maintenance.

We learned that the wife of Our Glorious Deputy Leader, Eamon Gilmore, is to get a new job worth at least €92,000 in Ruairi Quinn’s department when her current post with the VEC is abolished next year. No, Eamon had absolutely nothing to do with it.

That property tax enforcer, Phil Hogan, couldn’t stand the heat of the Budget… but he could stand the heat of Qatar. While we were crying into our empty wine glasses, Phil was photographed socialising in a hotel bar. The trip was expected to cost €30,000. That’s enough to reverse the €325 cut to the respite carer’s grant for 92 families.

We learned that Seanie Fitz is still free to play golf. That the US bankruptcy trial of his Anglo colleague, David Drumm, has been postponed by five months to the end of June 2013. That, basically, the wheels of justice move slower for rogue bankers than they do for you and I.

That the days of wine and roses are truly over. Sod the roses, why did Noonan have to  tack an extra euro on our beloved plonk?

If 2012 taught us anything, it was this: that nothing ever changes on this damp little rock in the Atlantic. When it comes to politics, money and natural justice, the Irish still have a lot to learn.



Reasons to be cheerful (kind of)

Examiner Magazine, Saturday October 27

The clocks go back tonight, marking the official onset of winter. Think of it: weeks of trudging home from work in the dark, with the rain lashing down, and The Worst Budget Ever hovering over your head.

It can’t get much gloomier, can it?

Impossible as it may seem, there are loads of things to be cheerful about as we face into the bleak mid-winter and beyond. It was a struggle, but we’ve compiled a list of them.

The old favourites

With the aid of social media gurus, 2FM’s Rick O’Shea and Storyful’s Gareth O’Connor, we asked 60,000 Twitterers to suggest reasons to be cheerful this winter.

The top replies were: ‘drinking hot port by a log fire, fresh mornings, and being snowed into the pub’. There were also ‘autumn leaves, meaty casseroles, electric blankets, snuggling up, cosy cardigans and Ugg boots’ (seriously).

Facebook threw up a personal favourite: ‘waking up after December 5 and not having to listen to pre-Budget submissions on Mourning Ireland’.

The weather

Whatever you say about Ireland’s climate, you have to admit it’s consistent. Consistently awful. Remember the summer? Of course you don’t. We didn’t have one.

The worst thing about summer is the anticipation that it might turn out nice. This is followed by a feeling of overwhelming despair as you watch the barbecue float off down the garden during a cloudburst.

At least with winter, you know what you’re getting: rain and wind, with the faint possibility of snow. Expect a rubbish winter and every fine day is a bonus.

The good news is that you’ll finally get to wear those Yak Tracks you bought last year. Remember how everyone stocked up on salt and shoe grips and it failed to snow? Snow’s on the way for mid December and February, apparently.

Look on the brighter side

On December 21, New Agers will celebrate the Winter Equinox, known to the rest of us as The Shortest Day of the Year. This means that in less than two months’ time … the days start getting longer again.

Winter TV is better than Summer TV

With the exception of last summer – due to the Olympics and the soccer – mid-year telly is valium for the eyes. This is because schedulers believe we have better things to do in summer than watch TV.

As a result, we’re forced to watch repeats of repeats of repeats on TV3. ‘Ireland’s Dream Debs REVISITED’ has actually been aired twice in the past few months. RTE’s not much better, pumping out US schlock like The Mentalist the same way it used to barf up Mannix repeats.

Now winter’s here and we finally have some good TV on our screens. There’s the new series of Homeland and Grey’s Anatomy to enjoy. And Downton Abbey, among other gems.

We also have The Toy Show to look forward to. Last year, it was watched by 1,528,000 people – the highest viewership of any programme for the past 17 years.

The summer’s biggest TV draw was the Eurovision. I rest my case….

Winter clothes are nicer than summer clothes

You might not agree with that if you’re a skinny young thing who likes to wear revealing clothes. For the majority of us, however, winter attire covers up a multitude of bumps, lumps and saggy bits. Think sloppy jumpers, cosy coats and boots…


Everyone loves Hallowe’en. It’s a great excuse to dress up and get drunk at houseparties. Best of all, you can pretend “it’s all about the children” as they roam the neighbourhood demanding sweets with menaces, or setting fire to sheds.

Here’s a Handy Hallowe’en tip: steal half of your kids’ chocolate ‘trick-or-treats’. Stick them in the old Quality Street tin you keep your biscuits in and give them to someone as a Christmas present. Or back to the kids as a ‘special’ selection box.

How’s that for cheery?


The good news is that this year Christmas Eve falls on a Monday. This means that most of us will get a decent break: finishing work on Friday the 21st and not returning until Thursday the 27th. That’s if you have a job, of course.

Let’s not be glib. Christmas will be bleak, especially for families on the breadline. However, there is one positive side to it. According to the CSO, 87,100 people emigrated from Ireland between April 2011 and April 2012. Mums and dads all over the country will be looking forward to seeing their emigrant children return from abroad.

Then, after all the usual seasonal rows, they’ll be glad to see the back of them as they head off Down Under again. It’s a win-win situation.

Good news if you’re planning to emigrate:

It’s summer in Australia.

The lunatics are taking over the asylum

Ireland is taking over the EU presidency in 2013. What are the Germans up to? They don’t trust us with our own economy, but they trust us to be in charge of the EU??

Is this some cunning German plan to finally destroy Europe? Are they hoping that the Paddies will achieve what two world wars couldn’t? Possibly.

Beating Simon Cowell

Last November, @BrendaDrumm suggested doing a Twitter-sourced charity Christmas single. Her tweet went viral and, weeks later, over 100 strangers met up in Dublin to record Winter Song. It reached No 1 in the iTunes charts, keeping Cowell and Co off the top spot.

It’s happening again this year, which is brilliant news for all of us who HATE X Factor. It’s open to everyone and is an opportunity to spread a little Crimbo cheer. #twitterxmassingle

Flooding in the west

Winter’s just begun and already the floods have started. Here’s a suggestion: if there’s any repeat of 2009’s Galway floods, we should consider selling the county to the US.

Disney could reopen it as the world’s biggest water theme park and call it ‘Pirates of The Corrib’. Just joking. Sorry.

The Gathering

Ta siad ag teacht! Ta siad ag teacht! We may be penniless now, but next year 100s of thousands of tourists will descend on the Emerald Oisle, ready to be fleeced.

Here’s an idea: let’s seal the borders and mug them. Or if you think that’s too harsh, let’s charge them a €1,000 levy to get out again.

We’re not Greece

No matter how bad things get, we’ll never be as out-of-favour as the rioting Greeks. We Paddies don’t do rioting. We don’t have the weather for it. The closest we’ve come to a riot in recent years was the medical card protest where our grannies waved flasks of tea and umbrellas at Leinster House. For this reason alone, Europe loves us.

2013 may be the year that Greece leaves/is booted out of the Eurozone. This may not break up the Eurozone, but it will break up the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain). We’ll then be known as the PIS. Lovely, isn’t it. We’ll be PIS-poor in every sense.

Phil Hogan

Angry at being told you have to pay tax on your stamp-dutied, negative-equity home? Here’s some news to cheer you up. Phil Hogan has found himself in the septic tank over a property deal.

Last week, a British tabloid revealed that Big Phil lost €100k on the sale of a D4 house he bought in 2004 with a loan from Michael Fingleton.

Now you know what it feels like, Phil.

Cardboard bikes for Christmas

We’re not making this up. An Israeli inventor has created the first bike made of cardboard. Izhar Gafni developed a process that makes it waterproof and sturdy enough to withstand the worst of the Irish winter. Best of all, it will retail for about €20 – great news for the unemployed and self-employed.

But why stop with bikes? We could use the same technology to create fold-up cardboard houses. Thinking of emigrating? Why not take your house with you? The slogan could be ‘The Cardboard Home: don’t leave home without it’.

Failing that, we could just waterproof the cardboard boxes that many will be living in come the New post-budget Year.

Cheer up, we’re all doomed

No matter how bad the December 5 budget is, it won’t be the end of the world. That takes place two weeks later. According to an ancient Mayan prophecy, the Apocalypse is going to happen on December 21.

So cheer up, come Christmas, none of us will be around any more to moan about how miserable life is.