This is not intended in any way to be factual, for the record.
In the days before I became the much-maligned presenter of “The Late Late Show”, it might surprise you to learn that I actually did have something of a personality. I was a fun-loving youth, and had yet to adopt my smug, faux-witty, self-professed “old fogey” persona which the people of Ireland have come to hate. Many years ago, I was lucky enough to receive a ticket to the Ball and went, despite my now public views about Trinity being guilty of anglicising Ireland’s middle class. It made for a welcome escape from my time studying Classics at UCD, where my old buddies from Blackrock continued to bully me for being such a massive prick.
My current squeeze was then a comely 1st year Science student, but it didn’t stop me ogling her across a crowded tent of whatever the dance music du jour was, imagining the day when I might one day feel her at the end of my emaciated, quivering member. Eventually, my palms frothy with the agonised sweat of what felt like one hundred years of solitude, I weasled over to this prize piece of nubile flesh. “D-do you like this music?” I yelled over the noise, my oily saliva giving her ear a shower of a thousand wet willies. As she smiled fellatially, I wondered if she suspected that one day I would be paid multiples of Barack Obama’s salary for pandering to Ireland’s D-list. Did she know that one day I would write a bestselling hardback about JFK? I handed her an ecstasy tablet then which she ate from my hand like a grinning horse.
I grabbed her then — just as a beat dropped, as they say — one spindly hand around her back as the other reached magnetically for her Hamilton arse. She swooned as I loomed, ogre-like, and we kissed, for what seemed like longer than an episode of the Late Late, although really it was no longer than one of my pointless interviews with another RTE hack. I bought her a few drinks, trying to get her as drunk as I could, and soon she was falling about the place as I steadied her in my arms. We spent the evening together, she and I, unable to keep our glistening hands off one another, dancing like young people do, shifting with abandon under the Campanile as I shoved my shovel hand up her flowing, menstrual-pink gown and felt my forlorn shaft suddenly mimic the shape of my general beanpole physique. I could feel my virginity reaching for its jacket.
But then I snapped out of it, returning to reality, returning to the hideous dance beats and her face so far in the crowd and mine just another nobody in a sea of tuxedos. I would have to wait until I had become the soulless beast I am today before I would have a chance of wooing this sweetheart. But I will never forget that Trinity Ball, and the time when, just for a moment, in the reverie of that moonlit shag’s cusp, I felt alive.
The Trinity Ball is a great occasion for community and solidarity among the college staff and students and beyond. It is an invaluable part of student life which is cherished across the spectrum of Ireland’s third-level institution. It’s hazy to me now but I can just about remember going to one in the 70s when I enjoyed a dance and a boogie as much as the next man. I set out with four friends in my father’s old tux, smoking a marijuana stick outside the Dart station before we entered the grounds. We were not long in the gate when I turned around to say something to my friend Tom and I realised they were nowhere to be seen, lost in the vast crowds. Of course, this was in the days before mobile phones but I did my best to locate the lads. It was all in vain, however, and no matter how hard I looked or how many people I asked, there was no sign of my friends. I looked everywhere for them but it was as if they had deliberately cut me loose!
In the end, I decided to do my best to enjoy the night anyway and spent the evening wandering around alone. Initially, I made a half-hearted attempt to gain some new friends from the student body but this proved fruitless. Was there something wrong with me, I wondered? I have battled with a deep sense of solipsism for much of my life, and then, as I pushed through the happy and high students, camaraderie in full swing, whooping and wahooing, I wondered would my life always be so. Was I condemned to walk the lonely street, the only street that I had ever known? I promised myself that one day I would make things different. One day I would make people like me. I would have the last laugh then.
As I left the Ball, alone again naturally, I found my friends, giddy on the evening’s gaeity. “Where did you go off to, Gaybo?” they asked, but I sensed that I was being had for a fool. I turned to the young man who I had considered my best friend and, with all the vitriol and strength I could muster, looked him straight in the eye and told him to shag off.
I hate the Trinity Ball and everything that it stands for, but I was happy to hear that a woman I was throwing the shag into in the 70s had gotten me a ticket, not long after the outbreak of the Troubles when I still had some time on my hands for cavorting with women. After a couple of pints, I got a bit rowdy and decided to stir things up a bit, because I am always game for a laugh. I yelled “Fuck the provost! Fuck the provost!” but it was misinterpreted by a group of West Brits and Brits alike who attempted to join me in a chant of “Fuck the Provos! Fuck the Provos!” It was a cause of deep shame for me for some time but I took solace in the fact that I was kicked out for starting this loutish, if anti-republican, ruckus.
With a horn on me the size of Montrose Studios, I attended Trinity Ball in the 70s, hardly a novice to the seedier side of sex in which I would later revel. I had wanted, for some time, to get pounded ‘neath the stars in Ireland’s oldest college, and Trinity Ball seemed to me to be the most viable approach. Knickerless, I pranced from tent to tent, my neckly silverware bouncing off my bust as I frolicked. A minute past six o’clock tomorrow evening seemed so far away and I could be as shagged and hungover as I liked. On the cricket pitch I bonked, and down by the Buttery I published a Ball Guide of my own for two Junior Sophisters who have since become very successful in their chosen careers. My thirst for unceasing gratification was insatiable and I saw little music in those few passionate hours.
It was an especially windy night and there was a madness in the air once 10pm hit that suggested only one thing: every burger joint east of the Shannon was experiencing their worst night of trading since the Mad Cow Disease scare’s peak and sales of the humble kebab were on the cusp of an all-time high, with interest in them showing no signs of yielding. A fever had swept the nation. I decided there was only one thing for it: get aZaytoon delivered to Trinity College.
Trinity College, admittedly, has a very mixed reputation in the city. Some walk by Front Arch countless times in their lives, thinking “Gosh, I wish I went there!” or “Do you remember the Ball of ‘97?” Another less sympathetic person might say “I know two or three people that go there, and I’ll be honest with you, they are all pretentious pricks, in my experience” or “Cunts, to a man, if you ask me”. But few delivery restaurants, I had naively assumed, would never have heard of the place.
Icalled up Zaytoon, Camden St, and immediately realised that this process was not going to be as easy as walking into the restaurant and ordering at the till. The man’s English was mediocre but enough to work with. I asked for a “Barg!” kebab, adding an exclamation mark where I hadn’t intended, and then came the part we’d all been waiting for, the elephant in the room, when he asked me my address. “Trinity College”, I said nonchalantly, even brazenly, even foolishly.
The poor man had just never come across the place in his life.
“Trinity College”, I repeated, seeing where this was going. “Which college?” he asked, as it just failed to register for him, and I repeated, repeated, incredulously. I felt like saying, “Do you want me to spell it out for you? Do you?” but he read my mind and asked me to do so. I could feel him typing it into Google Maps. “Trinity… Place?” he tried. “No! College! Book of Kells! Dublin University! You can’t miss it!” But no matter how hard Itried I could not present this man with a mental picture of where I was talking about. I heard him conferring with his colleagues away from the phone’s mouthpiece. They, too, seemed clueless.
Deciding to come at it from a new angle, he asked me if there were any landmarks nearby, any bone I could throw him to elucidate my location. Ambitiously I tried “Nassau St”, hardly Dublin’s most obscure thoroughfare but nevertheless too tricky for this man. He asked me to spell it and then seemed to find it on his computer but became frantic about the possibility of parking spaces. I calmly assured him it wouldn’t be a problem – this was National Kebab Day for god’s sake! He took the order and, relieved, I undertook to relax until the kebab arrived. I did not foresee my terrible fate.
A half an hour later, punctually, I received a phone call from the delivery driver, telling me he was outside. I was naturally very sceptical of this. Predictably (or unpredictably, as I failed to predict it), the Nassau St gate was closed, and as I stormed around through Front Arch I found myself hurrying to avoid keeping the man waiting. At the Nassau St gate, the mystery man was nowhere to be found. I called him. He sounded lost, panicked. He asked me for landmarks. I tried Read’s of Nassau St. Grafton St. The Molly Malone statue! They all seemed to ring a bell for him but he wasn’t sure. I said I’d wait at the bottom of Grafton St. 10 minutes passed. Four or five phone calls later, he still hadn’t shown. I had spent €8 in phone credit by now. But something inside me made me persevere.
Suddenly my mind became occupied by a curious dilemma. Did he deserve a tip for all the effort he had gone through or none at all for the immeasurably poor “delivery service”? 50c was all the tip I could afford in any case. I weighed up the moral decision in my mind but then the call came through that he had found the Nassau St gate that I had hoped for. I sprinted there and saw a car pulled over and an exhausted man standing gormlessly outside. I gestured to him and his eyes lit up. I handed him all the change in my hand and took the kebab which, mercifully, had been in a thermal bag.
It was unquestionably the worst National Kebab Day of my life. When I got back to the apartment I found the 50c in my pocket, forgotten in all the commotion, but maybe that was God’s way of telling me something. Or maybe it was Trinity’s way. I’ll never know whether the delivery man was the same man I spoke to when I ordered, but what does this say about Trinity’s place as a world-renowned institution of education excellence? Not very much. With rankings in the international university league tables slipping and further austerity measures being introduced to third-level education, how can Trinity be expected to survive in this climate not of uncertainty but of sheer anonymity? Patrick Prendergast has a lot to answer for. Would he even know what a Zaytoon was if it hit him in the face? Did he even know it was National Kebab Day?
It struck me that there were two very different worlds at play and maybe it was right that the two should never meet. National Kebab Day would come again next year, oh I was sure of that, but where would we be then? I decided, with no small measure of trepidation, that I would make sure to spend that 50c wisely, and never again attempt to get a kebab delivered to Ireland’s oldest university.
On a recent trip to America, I was struck by the natives’ contempt for “whole milk”, a harmless drink which has served as the very bedrock of Irish society since the foundation of the state (and before, I suspect). A passer-by, for example, was overheard obnoxiously announcing to her friend or partner or whatever it was, “I mean, he drinks whole milk! Who does that?” Well, I thought, who indeed. On mature reflection I realised that this problem was not merely “state-side”. It is already rife in our own culture. Even the 2 litre bottle of Tesco Full Fat Milk in my fridge today boasts in large writing “Less than 4% fat”, as if it’s something to be proud of. If you ask me, if that really is the fattest they can come up with, then maybe someone should be finding out what Tesco is doing with all that fat. Feeding it to their fatter English customers, no doubt. Every little helps.
A sign in the trendy wi-fi hotspot Insomnia informed me that they use low-fat milk in all their products unless specifically requested not to do so. In other words, if you really want to drink “full-fat milk” (or regular milk, as it used to be known), then you will have to let everyone else know. I decided to be this man. I could see a grown man ahead of me in the queue creepishly settling for low-fat, skimmed, no-fat, fatless, low-milk milk. Too much time spent with his overbearing wife. Uncomfortable with her own weight issues, I thought, she had banned him from his own simple pleasures. Even now, away from the dull chills of their home fridge’s Avonmore “Supermilk” (whatever the fuck that is), he couldn’t muster the heart, the joie de vivre, to order some old-fashioned Dark Blue. By this stage in his emasculating marriage he was probably lactose intolerant. I wondered if he could still look a cow in the eye. I decided to be this man, as I’ve said already, repeating myself now for effect.
“Full-fat milk please!” I yelled when I got to the till. The woman (predictably, as Insomnia doesn’t seem to hire the male sex) looked at me inquisitively, as if she hadn’t heard of the original Dark Blue blend. “Fat as a fool, please! Milk with nothing added, nothing taken away, please!” The queue was beginning to deepen and its members began to whisper among themselves. Some of them pointed while others used their iPhones to read the Wikipedia page about full-fat milk. As the foreign barista’s (a strong word, admittedly, to use for an Insomnia employee) look intensified, she asked “Coffee?” and I suddenly realised my mistake. I had ordered in the wrong order. Sheepishly, I asked for a black coffee, since I don’t like any of the fancy options, but this presented a problem: a black coffee, by definition, is served without milk, full-fat or otherwise, as you probably know. The name gives it away.
There was a pause here. Neither of us knew what to do. In the end I offered a truce: the black coffee, but with a small portion of full-fat milk in a separate cup. She seemed relieved that I was so keen to settle the situation and immediately accepted my offer. When the coffee was ready, I downed the milk in one, made an “Ah!” sound to illustrate my thirst being quenched, and left the shop with the coffee in my hand. For a moment, I felt I had achieved a moral victory of sorts, but this quickly subsided.
My own mother’s milk, which I consumed with relish for much of my early life, was not skimmed by some bald man in a factory, nor fortified with unknown quantities of vitamins by scientists, and what harm did that do me? Why this need to suck all the life out of natural goodness? Light cigarettes, light beer, sugarfree chewing-gum, fake butter, hot chocolate made with water… If you’re going to try, go all the way. Children are fatter than ever. Big fat gluttonous fools, the lot of them, the statistics said this week. The obese are a growing minority, infiltrating all strands of society. Let them have a Dark Blue childhood. When I sire my first child he will be forbidden from going anywhere near Supermilk. All the fortified wine he likes, but he can get his kicks from something less sinister than steroid-pumped milk. If he turns out to be a fat little child, I will make him run to the shop to buy the house milk and back again, twice if necessary, and he will have no shame or fear of persecution for asking for milk as fat as his mother’s arse.
Time was when the Central Bank was the preserve of emo kids. Given that their collective life outlook was one of ennui and contrived disaffection, it seems fitting that the latest group with too much time on its hands to take over the much-loved meeting place is one whose unofficial mission is to cure the Irish people of their “sickness of apathy”, a hangover of the Celtic Tiger. Since Saturday 8th, a predictably motley crew of cigarette-rolling men has taken residence on the street, purportedly intending to stay for as long as it takes to get shit done. Tents, tea, workshops, live music and loudhailers have all been employed to this end, as the suits walking past into the Bank look on in bemusement.
Did you know the Oireachtas was created under the Crown? So I was told by one of the many handwritten signs adorning the ground and gates. The word “under” was underlined, leading me to wonder which position they would have preferred. On top of the Crown? Taking it up the rear from the Crown? Such antipathy for one apparently harmless piece of headgear, I had always thought. “You don’t need a piece of paper to tell you your rights” read another, not worth the paper it was scrawled on, before listing a couple of my rights underneath. Michael McDowell’s denouncement of “the left, the hard left and the left-overs” was sounding more pertinent than ever.
I ostentatiously rolled a cigarette, did my best to make my beard a little more prominent, and gingerly approached a ginger-bearded man inexplicably clad in a high-vis jacket to ask if there was anyone to talk to around here. He seemed vaguely excited, or confused – his facial expressions had withered over the years to one of perpetual non-description - and said something about going to find someone a little more “erudite”, pronouncing the word as if it were in inverted commas.
There then appeared a man with a thick beard and long hair who looked not unlike a much smaller Andre the Giant. Sean was his name and he had not left since Saturday, although he did not smell, according to my best judgment. His right-thumb fingernail was almost two inches longer than his other nails and I suspected he played guitar or else used it for some other, more secretive activity. And, lo, he turned out to be erudite after all, in fact making a lot of sense and foregoing the usual “BUUURN DA BONDHOLDERZ!” mantra that is so often chanted emptily by those opposed to the IMF’s presence. He stressed the apolitical nature of the event, something which I would have readily doubted in the past, and how ideology really had nothing to do with it. He was not affiliated with any political party and had no agenda in that regard.
Sean was a reasonable man. He didn’t even show any signs of republican madness. His aims were mostly what you would imagine, in terms of a distrust of the IMF, anger at the public having to deal with private debt, and a move to participatory democracy which would more truly enfranchise voters. In a way I was disappointed that he wasn’t more mad.
Seeing a beautiful woman with big bouncing breasts out of the corner of my eye, my mind started to wander as I ogled. Before long I realised that, of course, she was not a protester but merely a house-dwelling observer like me, as I saw the notepad in her hand. It had been a while since I had seen the female form. I asked Sean why this was. He gave a knowing smile and said it was something to do with women not wanting to sleep on concrete, saying that he hoped he didn’t sound sexist. This was not Oxegen: there would be no moonlight romps in pop-up tents. But it was not Brokeback Mountain either. It was purely a lot of people sleeping in tents so that they could stay there indefinitely. Sean said they would have to make provisions for when the snowy winter comes. I agreed with him, saying he would want to wrap up well. Maybe they could burn the bondholders for warmth.
It was getting late. I had already narrowly avoided being seen by various vague friends and acquaintances who had passed by. It’s a shame to see such a legendary meeting point hijacked. I’d imagine ordinary people in 1916 were thinking the same thing when all that commotion was going on around the Spire. But who are the ordinary people anyway? Sean would say he is. But so would Enda Kenny, I’m sure, and you don’t see him smoking roll-ups down at the Central Bank, and more’s the pity!
It’s all well-intended, and it would be great if the protesters did effect some real change, but honestly I think they are not pissing in McDonald’s, as they claim, but rather into the wind. The reality is that, despite many people agreeing with their objectives, this sort of activism with its misspelled signs and lack of focus inevitably ends up coming across to many as fringe. I only wish I had a better idea.
Profile of randy Sinéad O’Connor for the first issue of college paper coming out next week.
I can honestly say that, in all my years in a school run by multiple members of the clergy, I never once encountered a priest so openly and unashamedly in search of cock as Sinéad O’Connor (who was ordained in the Latin Tridentine church in 1999). The singer, who once threatened to wrap her arms around every boy she saw in her legendary cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”, has revealed that she has had sex with no more than a banana in over seven months.
Of course, O’Connor, 44, has arguably gained as much media attention over the last two decades for her bizarre and controversial behaviour as she has for her music career. Known for her bald head and bare feet, she has long been a vociferous critic of the Catholic Church and its attitude to the child abuse scandals. Frank Sinatra once vowed to “kick her ass” when she refused to allow the playing of the USA’s national anthem before a concert. In 1992, she performed on Saturday Night Live and, much to the shock of everyone from the producers to the audience, ended her cover of Bob Marley’s “War” (whose lyrics she had re-appropriated to highlight the issue of child abuse) by tearing up a photo of the pope and storming off the stage.
Shortly after her last marriage (her third), she penned an astonishing polemic in the Sunday Independent in which she attacked the Irish media for bullying her, not despite but because of her “fantastic arse”, an arse which was, she wrote, “responsible for the conception of [her] four lovely children, by four lovely men.” It is unclear whether O’Connor believes that anal conception is biologically possible.
In August of this year, O’Connor managed to cause even more public bewilderment when she wrote another colourful article for the same paper, announcing her hopes to find a “very sweet sex-starved man” to more or less ride her senseless. Her criteria included a minimum age of 37 (alas), an absence of hair gel or after-shave, a love for his mother and, it seems, a proclivity for anal sex (or “the tradesman’s entrance”, as she eloquently puts it). She loves nothing better than talking about anal sex in public.
On September 2nd, she appeared on the Late Late Show after much humming and hawing. She has repeatedly professed her (unrequited and inexplicable) predatory love for the host Ryan Tubridy and in the week leading up to the show she spoke of her apparently genuine nerves regarding going on the show. She temporarily pulled out a few days before the show when she was hurt by an RTE researcher’s patronising questions about her “insane behaviour”. Indeed, one might question RTE’s motives in having her appear as a guest if they wanted her to show herself up as nothing more than a pathetic laughing stock. They were, no doubt, fully aware of her well-publicised mental health issues throughout the years and inviting her on could arguably be construed as nothing more than a cynical commercial publicity stunt. In fairness to O’Connor, her interview on the show (having been persuaded to change her mind again by Tubridy) was a gregarious and altogether amusing few minutes in which she joked with Tubridy and came across as relatively normal.
Having exhausted the avenue of cyber-dating, the nymphomaniac’s latest (at the time of writing) idea for finding love or something like it (sweaty sex, truth be told) is the almost-forgotten matchmaking orgy Lisdoonvarna. Attracting over 40,000 lonely hearts (it says here), the festival is traditionally more banal than anal, but O’Connor has reportedly been strongly encouraged to attend by the head matchmaker.
Once the disbelief of hearing O’Connor speak so brazenly about carnal matters subsides, one might admit that maybe she isn’t so risible after all. As her Late Late Show appearance demonstrates, she is doing all this half-jokingly; not in a cynical career-boosting way but to do whatever (or whomever) the fuck she likes and damn it if the boring Plain People of Ireland are going to try to stop her. Would Jim Corr and Mark Little be following her Twitter if she were a man? Probably not, but that is the gender divide for you. O’Connor doesn’t care, and more power to her, as they say.
There is no denying that O’Connor has at times been bullied by certain sections of the media and beyond as pathetic and mad, ripe for lampoon. The argument that she tends to court attention should not ignore the fact that she has spoken out (even if in occasionally ridiculous ways) for the voiceless at times when others spinelessly turned away. Her recent foray into prurience is just another bit of eccentricity. Let her be. Let’s keep listening to “Nothing Compare 2 U” when we feel sorry for ourselves. Let’s not bother with most of the rest of her music career. But let’s hope she gets a phenomenal pounding from the man of her dreams one of these days.
Drunkenly, at 2.30am, struck by The Palace’s extraordinary PR techniques:
[Me: italics; Palace: bold]
I wrote the review of the Palace for University Times. If the offer of VIP and champagne still stands, I wouldn’t mind popping in tomorrow night (Wednesday) if that’s okay, with a friend? Wouldn’t mind giving it another go.
Anyway let me know what you think,
++We only run thursdays luk ++
—Ah right fair enough. Don’t think I can make it on Paddy’s night but I might be in touch again! Thanks anyway. —
++No hassle, can i ask why you didnt like our venue? ++
—It was a joke basically. I know the Palace is good at what is does but I don’t know anyone who goes there and I don’t really listen to that kind of music or enjoy massive venues in general.. I was obviously (I hope) exaggerating for the laugh though. On a serious point, had a long time to get served at the bar (more than once, but I know that’s kind of par for the course in any very busy club).—
++A joke that messes with peoples jobs in a time of such uncertainty isn’t really that funny or appreciated to be honest, In terms of the bar situation we do take on all advice unlike other venues, and we have introduced a new cocktail and bottle bar and are in the process of getting new shot girls and a bottle bar outside in the upstairs smoking area.
Your saving grace was the fact that you were clearly O.T.T with the whole article and thats why we weren’t offended or angry.
Saying that, In future if your going to write a “joke” article maybe think whose job might be at risk.
If you are coming any Thursday Offer still stands…Maybe we might even get a positive review!
What are you talking about? Whose job did I “mess” with? I didn’t mention the staff once in the review, only the people in the venue and the general atmosphere of the place. And do you honestly believe anyone read the article and had their opinion very negatively changed or even for a second thought I was giving a genuine critique? I don’t think I need a “saving grace” to be honest. And I don’t really understand why you are taking such a hostile tone. Didn’t you Tweet it and put it on your FB wall?
I completely reject any suggestion that I put anyone’s job in risk and I think you are being silly.
But yeah I might come on a Thursday. —
++The Venue owners got hold of the article and weren’t impressed that the people we were targeting were writing negative reports about the people coming to the venue, The club as people employed to make sure those attending its venue are seen in a positive light. Your article however gives the reader a different view on that. ++
—Look, I have tried being reasonable and civil with here. I will now be honest, because I think you are being unreasonable.
I’m not going to begin harping on about free speech, etc, but the fact of the matter is that I can write whatever I want in this capacity. It is an opinion colour piece. I didn’t defame or libel you. I wrote a blatantly tongue-in-cheek article — a fact which I am sure your venue owners are not oblivious to.
Your club does extremely well and I would imagine it is probably one of the most profitable in the city. That is fine, and I don’t have a problem with that (although I do think the prices are a little extortionate). I am not the people you are targeting. In fact, you are very effective at appealing to the people you do target.
I honestly did not enjoy my time in the Palace, joke or not, but I don’t expect you to care, because why would you? Just keep doing what you do, making money and pleasing a large proportion of the club-going public. Stop acting like little girls while you go about it. I’d be happy to discuss with your venue owners whether I put anyone’s job at risk. —
++Wasnt looking for a massive article there Luk
Iv seen some of your reviews which i don’t agree with. Your 100% entitled to write what you want tho. Was just pointing out a slight criticism if you cant take that on board thats cool. Prices are cheap then any other premium venue tho so maybe a lil research would help :)
Are you always on the defence?
Any way big man we have offered you a nice vip deal, if you ever feel like popping in on a Thursday please do so but drop us a mail prior to coming :) That ok ++
—That’s ok, thanks. Glad to see you are following my work. Hope to see you soon.
P.S. Depends on your defintion of premium.
P.P.S. Just wondering (seriously) why you did post it on your Twitter and FB if you are so annoyed? I get the impression that multiple users of this account have opposing opinions. —
++Only one person who runs the online stuff luk, and we posted it to our FB page to lighten the mood of the article…. ++
Mustn’t have put anyone’s job at risk then.
Maybe in 10 years’ time, history will look back on Enda Kenny’s reign as Leader of the Free World and say, whatever about his Five Point Plan or his similarity to his predecessors, “by God did he make the buses run on time”. Like Mussolini before him, Kenny has single-handedly revolutionised public transport in his country’s capital city, seemingly immediately after taking office. Of course, the plan was initiated over a decade ago (a decade!) by Fianna Fáil, but one cannot deny how quickly Kenny has fast-tracked their erection.
With the ballot boxes barely emptied, 450 electronic signposts suddenly appeared all over the city overnight. “I will not rest until every bus stop from [Government Buildings] to Castlebar is fitted with a free-standing LED timetable,” Kenny is reported as saying to an excited journalist who asked him if he was exhausted following the rigorous campaign with the electorate.
But are they any good? Well, they certainly look magnificent and are finished with a sexy chrome pole which has been fashioned out of the material as the Spire. The screen itself is simple but eye-catching, employing attractive yellow lettering with a font that looks specifically tailored for timetabling, having previously been seen on those of Connolly and Heuston Stations.
In theory, the prospective busser is presented with a list of imminent buses, identified by their route number and terminal location (as is already written on the front display of every Dublin Bus). Also provided is a time (in minutes), heralding each bus’s arrival. This is apparently controlled by something called “GPS” (or magic) which pinpoints the bus’s exact coordinates in the world. This explanation has gone largely unexamined in the dominant media but, when briefly quizzed, a spokesman for the government said that it was “nothing to be worried about”.
In practice, thus far anyway, the signs do not seem to be functioning very efficiently. In my local Rathmines stop, the screen is gormlessly blank most of the time. One hopes that this is merely a teething problem that will be addressed presently in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Until then, we will just have to play the waiting game, which some people claim to enjoy, not knowing when their bus will come, in some kind of twisted thrill.
Some controversy has arisen over the absence of Irish language translations on the signposts. The Irish Language Commissioner has launched an inquiry following complaints under the Official Languages Act. Who are these people, you might ask? Morons with too much time on their hands who like to write about bus signage, obviously.
Sandwiched between The Boilerhouse (Google it, but not in the library) and a “private gentlemen’s club” is not somewhere one would imagine KFC opening a new outlet, but who are we to judge? And but this is not KFC. “Crackbird,” I thought to myself. “What a trendy name.” And I was right. Joe Macken’s new limited-edition restaurant in Temple Bar is as trendy as they come. It plans to remain open for no longer than 12 weeks apparently, more than likely because it’s arguably a novelty niche and man cannot live on chicken alone. Or maybe it is because hipsters will be extinct by then.
With the same manager as Rathmines’ superb Jo’Burger, it was never going to be a pipe of Popcorn Chicken that was on offer here. Much has been reported about the “#tweetseats”, where a large table is reserved for the self-obsessed users of Twitter who can dine for free if they are lucky. For everyone else, it’s standard restaurant procedure.
My co-diner, John, with whom, fate had decided, I would share a whole chicken that evening, for better or worse, until bone do us part, appropriately enough styles himself somewhat on King Henry VIII, with the kind of red hair that is an endangered species this side of the Shannon. I say appropriately because Henry famously loved southern-fried-chicken and even dressed sort of like a proto-hipster, if you stare at him long enough. John was literally drooling at the prospect of an expenses-paid bucket of chicken and luckily we didn’t have to wait at all to get a table. It would be easy to be mean about the decor and atmosphere about the place, but I won’t be, because it genuinely works and is refreshingly unpretentious. Also, it reportedly cost less than €15,000 in total to set up, and still looks great.
The menu is so spot-on that you wish every restaurant discarded 90% of their humdrum offerings. Quality over quantity, etc. If I want a smorgasbord of options of dishes that taste identical, I’ll go to my local Chinese. Here, the only real choices were half- and full-bird (for one or two people, respectively) chickens in two styles. We split a “Skillet fried buttermilk chicken” for €17.95 (the other option was “Super crisp soy garlic”) with a €1 “Burnt lemon and whipped feta” sauce. Wings by the dozen and “chicken-crunch” appetisers were also available, as well as €3.75 salad sides, and that was about it. The drinks menu was equally impressive, with very reasonably priced and attractive-sounding freshly made juices. I got a lime-ginger spritzer (€2.50) which it must have been well over the size of a pint. And it was fucking delicious.
Speaking of fucking delicious, our chicken arrived in a bucket not long afterwards, carved up and ready to be gnawed and sucked upon like hungry perverts. The lemon and feta sauce was gorgeous and the crispy batter made my mother’s roast chicken seem like a waste of time. It was a tremendously satisfying feed, altogether.
If I had to make one negative point, it would be the obvious one: why are there no chips on the menu? I can guess what their response would be. As Henry Ford said, “you can have any colour you like as long as it’s chicken”. It’s fair enough – you go to Crackbird to get chicken and, fuck me, they give you chicken.
For some, The Palace of Camden St seems to hold a curious Mecca-like status on Thursday nights. I had never been but was assured that it was a place of magic and intrigue, where anything could happen. It seemed to be a place where you paid money at the door to be guaranteed a sweaty shift or an encounter with friends of yore. It seemed truly “buzzing”.
And so, with a heavy heart, after the recent SU election count, as some sort of putative celebration for the successful Ents-to-be Chris O’Connor, The Palace’s bell finally tolled for me. But it was a terrible, soul-destroying bell. The kind of bell that accidentally goes off on your alarm clock at 5am, waking you up to the stark reality that you are alone. That you must go back to sleep, somehow, or lie there and take it on the chin. That in The Palace, no one can hear you scream and, even if they could, they would probably take that as a sign of your sheer euphoria at the greatness of it all.
Like hell itself, The Palace reaches out to its exterior with grotesque and infernal neon lights, like a nightmarish Marty Whelan vision of Las Vegas. There is a wailing heard from inside, the sound of a thousand fleeting and forgettable shifts, and a deep thumping that suggests the whole club is being date-raped by the devil.
I enter, clueless that I am stepping into a soulless funhouse with 2000 other glazed and craven individuals who know too well how this story ends. Or rather doesn’t end, repeating itself next week, and the week after, “and it goes on, and on, and on”, throwing their hands up in the air, sometimes.
It is beyond anything I could anticipate, in the way that Fade St was, but in this case there will be few to share the sadness and loneliness of the place with tomorrow. There will be no group rewatchings of this tale on the internet, and even if there were they could never relate the horror, the utter paucity of humanity, the so-obvious reality of this dancefloor full of knowns and unknowns and unknown unknowns bumping together violently and contorting animalistically, in some vain attempt at sharing the experience of what feels like it might be the end of the world, for one night only (or at least until next Thursday), and you just can’t afford to miss it.
And then, just when it all seems too much, as if the place might explode from all the contrived excitement, and from that fucking Rihanna, it ends, and I can leave, never to return. But it’s not the people that I flee from, who are all lovely and make a world-ending night become merely world-endangering. And it’s not the music, because I can handle, or even sort of enjoy, whatever it is that they play. It’s the venue, The Palace, a Hotel California kind of place where there is the constant feeling that once I check in I will never be allowed to leave. The exit takes me a long time to find. And the sign on the door says, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”