Friday, January 29, 2010

The Road to Higan Pier

I think Higgins still goes there on solitary adventures for ice cream treats, the strange romantic fellow that he is...

So said Stephen Maurice Graham, author of the brilliant "Leftovers" and "400 Facts", when talking about Bangor. Bangor is a shite town near Belfast that's always cold. It's a windblown and seedy place by the sea. It has a pool where you can paddle about on giant swans. That isn't important though.

What is important is that Christopher J. Higgins goes there on solitary adventures for ice cream treats. Something about this sentence breaks my heart every time I read it, but in a good way. 

I know he likes to go there. He'll often suggest it as a nice day trip, something pleasant to do on a Spring afternoon. He fucking loves it. He is a good person. He'll watch the boats in Belfast Lough, and maybe chuckle at some seagulls fighting over a discarded hamburger. He might stroll along the promenade, if it's a nice day. He'll buy an ice cream in Maude's and gently, carefully wander the roads, alone and content.

Knowing he does this is wonderful. When I was very, very young, I had an illustrated book about a brother and sister who discovered a fairy in a forest. I can remember fuck all about the story, just that the sister was good and the brother a nasty wee cunt. Anyways, the fairy turned the boy's head into a donkey's head to teach the wee cunt a lesson. The picture on the page was of him, the wee boy, sobbing with his giant donkey's head in his hands, full of remorse for all the bad things he'd done. The fairy went "Aye, OK, I'm only joking, I'll turn your head back normal now, don't worry. But don't fucking bother people again, right, you've learned your lesson." And turned his head back to a normal boy's head.

The image of the sobbing donkey-headed boy always stayed with me, I felt so sorry for him.

The mental image of a bright faced Christopher enjoying his ice cream in Bangor affects me as much, yet for its tender, innocent beauty, rather than its sadness.

Truly, the only Christ the Wee deserve.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The red vest

When I was very, very young I had a red vest.

Vest is an ambiguous word. I call it a vest. It was sleeveless t-shirt. Like a muscle top for a tiny child. It was red and made by Lee. It said Lee on it, in white writing. I wore it when I was 5.

I got it at the Lee factory in Newtownards. I wore it a lot. I insisted on wearing it everywhere. I got my school photo taken in it in 1988. It was always summer. I can't remember there being any cold weather until I was much older.

I remember we were in the car with my dad, up at where my grandparents live. We were driving to the beach. My cousin was in the car too. We always were loads in the car, we didn't give a fuck about wearing seatbelts or any of that shite. My dad was telling us about all the cool things we were going to do that summer, like swimming at the sea and climbing up mountains. 

He mentioned a few things like this, and after every suggestion, I'd ask "Can we wear vests?". It was important. I wanted everyone to wear vests.

I think my ma probably threw it out when I was a bit bigger. It would have been class to have passed it on, like a small, smelly family heirloom.

-See that red vest, the wee one with the big fucking hole in it?


-It's three hundred years old

-Fuck me

It was a golden age.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Yet more precocious wee big men

Here is another fondly remembered, yet ultimately meaningless anecdote. 

One Spring day a few years ago, I was walking through Botanic Gardens in Belfast with my closest and dearest friend Christopher (a truly remarkable man, and a terrible one).

It was about three o'clock, so all these wee kids were walking back through the park, coming home from school. 

One wee girl walked toward us with her ma. Even today, as I ruminate on the tale, I can clearly remember the perfect fragment of their conversation that reached us. In the silence that ebbed between their noise and ours, we both heard her tell her mother "... And I have my own life now".

She was about 5. That's not normal talk for 5 year olds. I was mental when I was 5, obsessed with a red vest that I liked to wear. I remember being often fascinated by how tanned my arms were in the summer. That's the kind of stuff 5 year olds should be on about, not about having their own lives. My vocabulary at the time wouldn't even allow me to express such a sentiment.

So I often think about what she meant, or what she thought she meant. Maybe she did have her own life, now. She could have been a really clever wee child, too advanced for her childish playmates. She probably looked at us, at Christopher and I, and thought we were sad, puerile twats. She'd have been right, as well.

Wee Chub-Chub better not start any of that shite. 

I hope she has my accent.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

An habitual show of ostentatious piety

I went to Mass today.

It was a cross-community job. There was us Anglophonic Fenians, a bunch of french-speaking Taigs, a few Prods and some Romanian Orthodoxen.

We all knocked the shite out of each other for 45 minutes.

Only joking. We did a cross-community service. It'll be shown on CBC next week. It was dead nice. The Romanians did beautiful singing. Their altar boys wore wee blue Sergeant Pepper-style gilded outfits. A pony-tailed producer ran about telling people to fuck off.

Old women looked at me with Wee Chub-Chub and smiled. They pointed at her and crooned "Beau bebe... beau bebe! Il a quel age?". It's a wee girl, ya daft oul' hoors, I wished to say. Instead, I looked stoic and fatherly, and stared into the middle distance with a look of restrained religiosity and calm.

Wee Chub-Chub did a massive shite in the middle of Mass, and we had to change her. She did another one about twenty minutes later, so we changed her again. I didn't mind. I never mind. She could shite 400 times a day and I'd be happy to change her wee nappies. I love her.

It was nice. I might appear on TV. I didn't shave. I wore a stripy jumper. I should have made more of an effort. I had a hamburger and chips for lunch, after. It was in a Greek place. I really fucking enjoyed it. I finished mine first and took Chub-Chub for a dander about the restaurant.

Diners looked at me and cooed appropriately. Chub-Chub is a beautiful smiley wee girl, it has to be said. An elderly gentleman leaned toward me and said "Oh, beau bebe! Il a...".

He couldn't even finish his sentence as he winced from a Woody Woodpecker-esque series of headbutts. I dare say I even made Woody's famous "Cuh-Cuh-Cuh-Cuh-Cuuh!" as I gave them to him, but I can't be sure.

I fixed him with eyes of chipped granite as he lowered his gaze and nodded to himself, quietly assenting to what had happened. I returned to my place, and looked stoic and fatherly, staring into the middle distance with a look of restrained religiosity and calm.

PS- this is all true, except for the headbutt part. That didn't really happen.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Man on the Street

Walking back to work from lunch today, I saw a woman with a microphone and a man with a camera on the corner of "a busy street in downtown Montreal".

They were doing those wee vox pop interviews, where they ask some clueless bastard what he thinks about the weather or something.

Even though I've been here  a fair while, I know criminally little about politics, or local news in general. I'd come across as a right cunt. They usually ask pretty harmless questions and expect nice wee consensual answers. I'd definitely give them that, no bother. I'd sound like an arsehole though. 

The presenter would go "We asked people on Ste Catherine Street today what they thought about the city's snow removal. Look at what this stupid wee Irish cunt says. He has a lovable accent".

So I'm glad they didn't ask me. 

I could end up like this fucker, even:

It's a slippery slope.

He is a professional vox pop interviewee. He engineers it so that he'll be on hand to dish out wee nuggets of wisdom on any subject, by being first in line for some newsworthy event. Fair fucking play to him, the mad bastard. 

I wouldn't mind doing that.

Montreal sizzles in the summer

Montreal is enjoying its hottest weather for 3000 years.

Crowds lined the block today to buy ice-creams from the Ben and Jerry store.

In spite of the stifling heat, citizens are in surprisingly good humour.

The NCWC, whose face was fucking burned off him, said "It's not too bad. Better than the winter! And at least we can cool down with some delicious ice cream!"

See? I'd be amazing at it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Precocious wee big man

I'll relate a wee story that I'm sure you'll enjoy.

Many years ago it happened. 14 short years ago... Fuck me, where does time go? So fast, so fast it goes. 

And so it goes.

So 14 years ago, I was at school, and this one day in question was a Friday. 

On Friday morning we had HE, first thing. We sat at square desks with wee high stools, four stools around the desk. The desk had a sink in the middle. 

We sat 4 of us at the desk, and we were chatting to each other whilst washing dishes or something. I can't remember what we were talking about, but for some reason one of the boys at the desk (call him boy A) was telling of how his parents were continually fighting, and how annoying this was. 

I made sympathetic noises and commiserated. Another boy (B), whose parents were split up, leaned over and said "Aye, that's how it fucking starts. Fighting, arguing, all that shite... then they fucking divorce! I should know."

I made sympathetic noises and commiserated. But boy A didn't.  He grabbed the edge of the desk with both hands and roared "MY PARENTS LOVE EACH OTHER!'.

This has always remained with me.

PS- Happily, boy A was right. His parents continue to love each other and are still happily married at the time of writing. 

PPS- I was the precocious wee big man, if you're wondering. I continue to make sympathetic noises and commiserate, often several times daily.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thumbs up for STARS

Here is a really class band from Montreal.

I think they're from Montreal. Maybe they're blow-ins like me. I'm nearly sure they are. They're from Ontario, or something. Youse are on the internet, go and fucking check it out for yourselves, you lazy cunts.

Anyhow, they're dead good, they're fuckin' poptastic. Three hundred and fourteen thumbs up.

Speaking of thumbs up, there's this Indian fizzy pop drink called "Thums Up!". See that, they left the "b" out of thumbs. There's a picture of a "thumbs up" on the bottle, so I'm pretty sure it's the same idea as "thumbs up", just spelled differently. I reckon it's pronounced "tums up" though. Maybe that's how Indians would say "thumbs up" anyway. Tums up! I will ask your man next time I see him, and fucking probe him at length about what exactly is meant by "Thums Up!". Why is there no b? Why? He's a nice fella.

I've never tasted "Thums Up!'. I doubt I ever will. 

Monday, January 18, 2010


What a strange place it is.

I'm referring to the United States of America, of course, because, as many a pedant will tell you, America is a continent, and not a country ("and someone from Bwazil is as Amewican as someone fwom Kentucky, you know...").

Well, they can fuck aff, 'cos Paracelsus McBride and I know it as America.

Yep, America is weird. They have weird food- Tina's ma and da brought us back all these chocolate bars and stuff from Florida, and I'd never even heard of them. Sky Bar, there's one, it was full of stuff, like a fried Boost bar (lovely). Wild fucking bad for you. Full of shite. Had really old-looking packaging from the 1980s. It's like that for loads of stuff, like ads on TV. Even the ads showing now look really shite and outdated (the local ones, for car dealers and stuff like that). They wouldn't even be that bad at home.

It's mysterious as fuck, is America. Near the border here it's all trees and forests and wee towns. Everything is different- the accents, the stuff in shops, the language too (big fucking difference, that). Canada seems a wee bit more like home (even here, even though it's French). People seem very in tune with Europe and what happens there. Don't think they do in America. I obviously can't be sure, as this is a load of opinionated shite, but I don't think they do, and that'll do for the while.

Yet, from experience, I know that when it comes to making shrewd generalizations, I am a cretin. Things just seem strange because I am not used to them; and things appear familiar because I am used to them.

Don't listen to a fucking word I said.

Want to go to America this summer though, I'm out of fucking Sky Bars.

Incidentally, the photo has fuck all to do with any of the above, and appears a propos of nothing at all. Look at how much sun cream I have on- I look like a twat. The t-shirt is my favourite t-shirt, by the way. I love that t-shirt.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday is shite

Sunday is shite.

Sunday is shite because you have to go to work on a Monday. When you're a child it's shite because you have to go back to school on a Monday. Children also have to do homework on a Sunday, and go to Mass.

Sunday is shite.

It has a particular feel, does a Sunday. Quiet, and silent and grey, as Morrissey rightly sang. TV is shite, with boring, mediocre programmes., like fucking "Heartbeat". 

The streets are quiet and hushed on a Sunday. Everything is tempered with a low lying dread that prevents the full enjoyment of what should be another day to yourself. Even in the summer, the daylight seems weaker and more autumnal.

The Presbyterians had the right idea. Chain the fucking swings in the playpark on a Sunday! At least you were under no illusions that this was anything other than a dreadful day. But now you can kid yourself by going shopping, and eating out, and going to a pub (in reality, the only sensible solution). It's still fucking Sunday though. Even when you pretend it isn't, it still is. Everything suffused with unique, inexplicable Sunday silence.

Your soul protests against the Sunday, but nothing can beat the bastard. He'll roll round every week, and take you into the next 7 days the same as the week before.

I remember one Sunday going with my friend Ronan to buy cider. We were in somewhere in Basse-Normandie, coming back from a weekend in a wee place called Tourouvre. We were heading back to his student flat in Tours, and on the way out of the village where we had stayed, we stopped at a farm to buy cider (there was a sign on a tree outside that said "Cider for sale"). It was class, the farmer invited us to have dinner with him, in a wee small house, and we had loads of cider, and calvados and pommeau. It was a great meal, really lovely, and the whole event was such good craic. Yet when I stepped out of the house, and looked around, the Sundayness of it hit me like a cloud of steam. And I wondered, why do I feel like this? There is no work tomorrow, no school, no demands, no time, no anything to make me feel like this. And I couldn't answer. 

But now I know why. 

Sundays are lonely.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Why not go for a run?

I like running.

It's very enjoyable. It was hard at the start but then it gets easier. You can mull over shite when you're doing it. It's good for your health. It can be a social activity. You can run with your friends.

It gets you out of bed in the morning. You feel really good after it. It gives you a sense of achievement.

I did a race once and it felt great running with thousands of other people. It felt like the fucking New York marathon or something. One of those wee air horns went off and everybody started toddling off. I almost wept with excitement. It was a 10 km run around the park. Was fucked after it. Got my photo taken. My name was on a board. I did quite poorly for my age group. I didn't give a fuck.

I came back after it and Tina was in the park with her friend and her two youngsters. I pushed them about on the swing and it was good craic.

Tina ran me a bath and brought me beer in the bath. I felt great.

It was the 43rd best day of my life.

The TV bastard

There's an ad on TV for Intel, those cunts that make wee microchips for computers.

Anyway, there's this ad for Intel, and it goes on about how working at Intel is a fucking riot, and great craic, and they all have a brilliant laugh at work 'cos it's so quirky and innovative. The ads are what a twat would deem "humorous" ("We made the ads in a humorous vein"). At the end, a group of what are presumably Intel workers all hum the little Intel jingle at the end to close the ad and leave us gasping in jealousy and interest at how much fun it is to work in such a great environment. I won't write the jingle 'cos even thinking about it makes me physically ill. It's wild smug.

They also claim to sponsor tomorrow.

Well, fuck that.

It could well be class working there, I don't doubt it. And I am typing this tripe on a computer with bits in it crafted by their deft wee robotic hands. Intel makes all sorts of useful shite that we can't do without.

I hate that fucking ad though. Its unbearably self-satisfied. It says that they sponsor tomorrow. Ricky Roma from Glengarry Glenn Ross should storm onto the set and knock clean fuck out of all those bastards. He'd boot the shite out of them and they'd enjoy it. He'd scorn them for buying crumbcake from the store. He'd be nice to the meek and vicious to the haughty.

Modern life is rubbish, sometimes.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A tender moment

A tender moment, amidst the casual brutality of daily life.

Sarah is my wee girl. Wee Chub-Chub, Muggles, Chubby Girl, Babbie, Baba... Just some of the many names I lavish on her. Most seem to be linked to her fleshiness. She isn't hefty, though. Just a wee baby. With wee chubby cheeks. 

Amidst the casual brutality of daily life, where crazed bastards lurk to inflict limitless psychic damage on the 24 bus home, wee Chub-Chub is amazing.

Her face fairly lights up when she smiles. What pure goodness these little ones are. The sheer joy she derives from a wee plastic giraffe is heartbreaking, it's so beautiful.

Oh, when we were very, very young...

Paracelsus McBride is a terrible man

Paracelsus McBride is a terrible man. 

Do you know what a terrible man is? I once sat on a bus from Enniskillen to Belfast, for about 3 hours, with a man sitting behind me the whole way saying "You're a terrible man... You're a terrible man... You're a terrible man...". Over and over, for three hours, continuously. I don't think he was referring to me (but he wouldn't be fucking wrong if he was). I think he was talking to himself. I like to think that many years ago, someone told this man that he was "a terrible man". A bit like "Aw, you're a fucking terrible man, John!". A bit jovially, like that. And it just stuck with him. He was pretty old, anyway (about 70). I'm not sure if he was a terrible man or not. I don't think so. It was just a bit annoying for three hours.

But Paracelsus McBride is a terrible man, truly he is. An awful cunt, that fella. 

Only Christopher J. Higgins and I have ever met Paracelsus McBride. 

He's old (Paracelsus McBride, not Christopher). He's from the Mournes. He reads Ireland's Own and sometimes the Mourne Observer, but mostly Ireland's Own. He hates computers. He likes TV. He hates football and most other sports. He likes motorbikes. He wants to go to the Isle of Man in a vague way, but he never will. He never will.

He likes drinking vodka. He wears smart enough clothes. He has never been to the doctors. He likes Chineses. He doesn't cook. He likes kids. He has 4 uncles in America. He doesn't care much for music. He is generally respected in the community in a neutral sort of way. He's a harmless fucker.

He's a Catholic. He'll punch the fucking head off you if you say anything about Padre Pio. He likes Cemetery Sunday.

He's a terrible man. 

He has lovely skin. He looks like Bea Arthur from "The Golden Girls". He taught Christopher and I how to do CPR. Is it even proper CPR? I'd be afraid to use it. I don't think it would work, at all. I might end up killing someone.

I don't even know what CPR means. There's so many words it could mean. "Chest-Press-Resuscitate"? I really don't know. 

There's so many things in life that you don't know, but you just do and say anyway. Loads of stuff from Mass that you don't have a clue what it means (the double chest touch at certain points of the Mass, for example. What's all that about?). ATM is another one. I found out what that means though (Automated Teller Machine, I think).

Anyway, all this to say that Paracelsus McBride is a fuckin' terrible man.

And yet I miss him dreadfully. He's not such a bad fella. Who am I to castigate such a man? I'm not perfect. Nor are you. No-one is, except Jesus (and wee babies). Even then, I wouldn't want to think of Jesus as perfect. It'd make him less dead-on, like a dislikable wee shrill man who tells on you for doing bad shite. Like those Mormons who worked for Howard Hughes. That'd be fucking wrong. 

Aren't we all terrible men, then?  All on our own personal bus from Enniskillen to Belfast (3 hours)? You have to pass the time. You could write "FUCK OFF" on the back of the seat with a felt tip if you're so inclined. Or you could read a magazine, or listen to music (I can't do both). Or even sit and whisper that you're a terrible man for the entire journey. You could raise a family even (not on the fucking bus, that would be wrong, and impossible). You could eat a sandwich.

We are all terrible men. You, me, your Ma and Da and your wee sister. Bishop N. and N. Cecilia, Anastasia, and all the saints, and all the clergy, and all the people gathered here today. The lot of us. Batman. The Joker. Michael Fish. Beyonce. Sean Penn. Octomom. All terrible men.

So you shouldn't worry. It'd be worse not to be a terrible man. It'd be like not having ever lived at all. It'd be like you were dressed by your ma's cool fashionable friend and were really careful about everything and washed your hands compulsively. You wouldn't laugh at anything that was really funny, and you'd be a total knob. You'd be sensible. You'd talk like you were a fucking robot and listen to shite music and never scream for joy. You'd be an awful man. You'd know fuck all about living. You'd eat sensibly and think it's class. Paracelsus McBride would be disappointed in you.

And that would be the worst thing of all.

"O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Paracelsus McBride."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wee bullied-looking cunt and the bus

I hate getting the bus in the winter.

You're all stuffed in together, and you're wearing a coat and hat and squished against some other fuckers, and your nose is all running, and the bus is full of twats- schoolkids, working people, weird fuckers, old folks and scumbag anglophone student scum-of-the-earth bastards from hors du Quebec (in addition to a fair few hoors du Quebec, at the same time).

So you're on the bus, right, and it's fucking shite.

But lo! Amidst the madness, there's a wee island of tranquility and sadness: the wee bullied-looking cunt. He's so dignified, and quiet, and he's up there sitting beside a really nice looking girl, just sitting there aloof and sad while all the other wee schoolkids are chatting and gibbering and pushing each other about.

The look of quiet dignity on his face is heartbreaking, and it will stay with you for many minutes as you walk down the road to work.

I love that wee-bullied looking ballix. I often kid myself that he's really popular and good at karate or volleyball or something, and who knows, who knows, he might just be. But I doubt it.

I will protect you, youngster. 

You're probably an annoying wee shite, but I enjoy the sentimental notion of your nobility, and the nostalgic yearning it creates.

Fuckers are putting the fares up, soon.

Our wee human, or our wee dancer?

"Blogs are for arseholes" he said, whilst reading a The Dandy annual from 1987. 

This particularly Dandy annual was fuckin' class, it had all his favourites, like "The Jocks and the Geordies" and "Winker Watson". He liked "The Jocks and the Geordies" best. Even though he was 26, and many, many years past the appropriate age for enjoying such material, he loved it all the same. There is something, he mused, wonderfully comforting about the shite that was printed in those days. Kids nowadays are all into shite like fuckin' Ipods and Playstations and all that nonsense. Are they better? Are they better than me? Than I was and am? Happier?

I think not, he chortled, as he put down the book. Blogs are for arseholes, for them to write all the impressive shite that they did when they went on their holidays, or to show their stunningly original ideas about something while Jack Johnson plays in the background and a wee banner saying "Make Trade Fair" flashes on the fucking screen.

Worse is those cunts who write political blogs, where wee twats go on about Sinn Fein being class and not a bunch of arseholes, and how it's really good to be a Unionist who has never liked violence and is always fucking right and how their perfect logic beats the shite out of any argument you have because they did a fucking politics degree at Queens', so youse can all go fuck yourselves.

Yes sir, blogs are for arseholes. And arseholes are for blogs.

The title means fuck all, and has only the most tenuous link to anything that is going on anywhere in the world. I wrote it because I am a sad bastard who likes puns. I thought of "Mexican Stand-offish" too, but I couldn't use it, 'cos I'd no reason to.

Saying that, I'd no reason really to use the title either. I suppose I'm an arsehole as well.

But one who has a Dandy annual from 1987. Not many of you bastards could say that, could youse?