The Bolted Nut

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bring back Corney to The Cliffs Of Moher.

It’s nearly thirty years since I first set eyes on the Cliffs Of Moher. The, it was a windswept, natural place, pretty much unaltered since Cornelius O’Brien, M.P. for North Clare, of Birchfield, Liscannor, built O’Brien’s Tower in 1835 and erected long walls of flagstone on edge, to protect the public from accidentally falling over the cliffs.
For a man of his time, he did an awful lot of good it seems to me, notwithstanding that he had his detractors.

As the late Eamonn Kelly used to say, things rested so for a long time, then along came Clare County Council and their buddies in Shannon Development. Big brown signs went up at every cross for a hundred miles around. Backhanders were bandied about busdrivers, and the concept of visitor pressure was born. The paths on top of the bedded limestone are mere trackways in blue shale, and it duly ravelled and eroded from the countless feet that walked over it. To cope with it all, a visitor centre was built, with a very big gift shop and a very small jacks. You could buy socks with Guinness logos on them ‘til kingdom come, but you had to queue up to discharge your own denatured Guinness. They shot a few seagulls, stuffed them and put them on top of the presses, so that waddly oul’ yanks and long lanky Krauts could get the picture of what was going on outside, while they queued for the restrooms.

Next, some bastard got a really cunning brainwave. They erected a pay-as-you exit parking barrier, so you now had to pay to gaze at the Atlantic Ocean and breathe in the fresh air. The accounting system wasn’t exactly watertight according to some usually reliable accounts, and the car park attendant seemed prosperous. Let’s leave that story for another day. Anyway, the Clare people retaliated to the imposition of the parking charge, as Clare people do, and parked out on the road. Not to be outdone, the County Council then put double yellow lines on each side of the road, for a long distance on either side of the Cliffs. This must surely be the most blatant self-interested abuse of process ever perpetrated in North Clare using yellow paint. I am advised that maladministration in public office is the hardest thing of all to prove in Court, but it would be worth having a go over those same lines, only for the fact that they’re probably gone now.

However, things don’t stand still. Bowing to the visitor pressure they themselves created and nurtured, the powers that be next decided that the visitor centre was too small. In the interests of fairness, a public enquiry was held. In the interests of getting the result they wanted, it was chaired by a road-building civil engineer of some note, whose life’s motto was and remains ‘I’m pro-development’. A man with exceptionally poor eyesight, adjudicating on an area renowned for its exceptional beauty. An honest decent man, but he is what he is. It was decided to build a new centre. Wow. No surprise there for the cognoscenti.

Am I the only one who things that there is something fundamentally wrong and disturbing, if not even immoral, about demolishing a structurally sound and functional building when it is less that a hundred years old? A building should last for generations. A decision to build a structure is a profound one, nicely put by an architect I used to know when he said ‘a building in the wrong place is a mistake that takes us a hundred years to rectify’. I agree. And, why is it the public sector that seems to delight and revel in prematurely tearing down what it has built at our great expense, both ways?

Anyway, there have now been years of moil and toil on the site, tarmacadam has been torn up and relaid, men in shiny jackets to-ing and fro-ing and piddling in portacabins, and it seems they’re now nearly ready to go. I read in yesterday’s Sunday Times that the new centre is almost complete. I wonder how long it will be before the cycle repeats itself?

What they might have done. They could have said, ‘well, our visitor centre is overloaded. Let’s cut back on the promotions side, and fewer people will come. Then the Cliffs will be protected for future generations.’

What they could have done. They could have refrained from putting up all the bloody brown signs right from the start. Then the Cliffs Of Moher would be as Cornelius O’Brien left them. Fewer people would visit. Fewer pairs of Guinness socks would be sold. No seagulls need be stuffed.

It’s called sustainability. We’re supposed to be doing it.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Nothing to see in County Limerick

There is a widely held belief that County Limerick is a kind of Irish Holland – flat, uninteresting and basically serving to keep Kerry and Clare separated. Not so. County Limerick is a place to be appreciated subtly, like the better sort of wine. Just consider one typical journey, from Newcastlewest to Limerick on a Spring morning, and what you might see.

Leaving Newcastlewest, there’s two guys walking their greyhounds and ‘clearing’ them, before their trials on the track at the top of the hill. Next we see the crooked tree, used as a hanging tree in the bad old days. The County Council re-aligned the road in the 1970’s to take away a tight bend, leaving the tree in the island between the line of the old road and the new. There’s some tacky landscaping on the island, but the majesty of the old tree overcomes it.

A little bit further on, there’s Charlie feeding his horses a bit of hay from the back of the car. Wonder if Ballygowan Beauty is one of them?

On the left is John G’s big cornfield – and there’s a fine cock pheasant picking the field. Must come back for him at the weekend.

There’s Frankie Torrens walking around his cottage in his string vest with a mug of tea – a gentle giant, and a legendary truck driver in his time. Frankie used to drive his truck with two trailers up Bridge Street in Newcastlewest, and manage the two tight left-handers at the top, up on the footpaths outside Burke’s chipper. The amusements were an anti-climax after the spectacle of Frankie getting his wagons into the Square. He still has his old Diamond-T trucks at the back of the house, fair play to him.

On to Coolanoran, and glance right to see if the escaped deer can be seen. Look left, to the field where the green plover always wheel and land – there are only three fields in the locality where they will feed – it’s supposed to be a sign of liver fluke larvae being present. The plover eat the larvae, and that’s why they are preserved against shooting. If there has been rain, the fields further down will be flooded – maybe a flock of swans touched down overnight and may be seen feeding on drowned earthworms in the ponds. Maybe some teal will roost in the drains, if the wind has been high and the tide in down on the Estuary, there might be a mallard in amongst them – a great challenge for a shooter to pick out the one mallard amongst thirty or so teal. Away over on the right is Keating’s Castle, where Mackessy shot wild geese long ago – once in a blue moon a skein of them still head out there, whatever old and ancient instinct drives them.

Down the Rathkeale by-pass, and there’s John Flynn ploughing Paddy Bouchier’s field. The best ploughman in the County, in one of the best fields in the County. Check under the high trees for another pheasant, perhaps.

There’s the four spikes of the Protestant Church now showing above Mount Southwell, and shortly the single spire of the Catholic church dominates the whole landscape around it. Glance up towards the Hill, not many of the boys around now, but there was a big crowd last Christmas. Look left to see Paddy Sheridan’s fine herd of horses grazing in his field, and there’s Paddy’s Michael at the gate checking them.

Down into the Dohyle Hollow, over on the left is morning mist rising off the lake, the road ditch is another great place for a pheasant. Check for the white squad, three spots here that they like, keep a sharp lookout. On down the straight stretch, speed getting a bit high - maybe eighty-five or so, watch the sign at the bottom for any furtive movements, might be a ban garda lurking behind it with the car out of sight.

There’s the big ringfort on the left, right on the edge of the by-pass. Over on the right, the sun is just peeping over Knock Feirna, silhouetting the big elms and beeches in Captain Fitzgerald’s.

Down past Smithfield, there’s one of the oaks blown over in a winter storm, Jimmy is out now with his Land Rover sawing it into lengths for the mill – too good for firewood by far. On down to Graigue, and there’s Pat coming back from an early shot with his dogs, looks like a pheasant and two woodcock in his hand, gun broken on his arm so he must have used his side-by-side and he’ll be pleased with that bag.

Down the main street of Adare, couple of scrawny-looking Krauts mooching about, pop in for a haircut if there’s time, or even a full Irish in the visitor centre.

There’s John Shovlin at the door of the Hotel, missing nothing that passes. A tall young lad with his barefoot girl linking arms stroll down the street towards the Hotel in evening wear, she’s dangling her high-heeled shoes from her free hand, must have been a good bash in the hotel last night.

There’s Mikey in his jeep puffing his pipe and blathering into his two Portugal phones, heading for the park with a lawnmower up behind him on his trailer, loads of lights flashing and all business.

Out over the bridge, look left to see the egret at low tide, one of the few benefits of global warming. Speaking of benefits, look right to see the Desmond Castle OPW restoration – did they lay a stone this week yet?

On down to the Lantern Lodge, there’s Hourigan’s ‘box swinging left for the roundabout, there’s racing in Leopardstown today, maybe Beef Or Salmon is on board. Pass Mrs Clarke’s, beautiful flock of well-tended sheep grazing peacefully in their paddocks. Dead fox on the roadside, he must have been crossing from the Dunraven farm passage, and got killed overnight.

Under the Mount Earl overpass, and there’s Mattie McGuire’s magnificent bane of pedigree Charolais’ grazing on his farm on the right, a wonderful sight.

Here’s the blue squad minding the money wagon on a Tuesday morning, it doesn’t matter if you’re on your phone, they can’t break away from the convoy.

On down to the new bypass, really picking up speed now. Watch all the Cork fellas overshooting the up-ramp on their side and getting lost. Getting a bit too fast for looking around, but the odd kestrel hunting the roadside margins and the central median always delights. Check for the Federales under the three-phase power lines crossing below Patrickswell. Shoot up the off-ramp, and we’re there.
What else can the day offer?


The Angelus

The angelus

Do you know, I get a great kick out of the Angelus. Like repeats of Dad’s Army or Fawlty Towers, every time I watch it, I see something new and get a new laugh. By now you will have figured out that I mean of course the Angelus on RTE television – played on our plasma screens every day at 1800hrs, or six o’clock in the evening as most people I know say, just before the news and the weather. As distinct from the Angelus in an abstract, conceptual sense.

I have it on good authority that there is some sort of Media Skills Unit in Maynooth that looks after how religion is presented to us mere mortals on Irish television. It awards Masters’ to mumbling Monsignors in media matters, archdiplomas to archdeacons, and mere certificates to mere curates. It handed a lot of free ammunition to Dermot Morgan in his time, and lead to the creation of ‘Father Trendy’. And it seems, it has given us the Angelus. Isn’t it amazing how everything with no name in Ireland ends up being called a unit? Kitchen units, refrigeration units, kidney units and all kinds of units. There should be a units unit in Maynooth to keep track of them all. Anyway, back to the Angelus.

There’s a black fella who stops arranging flowers when he hears the first bong. He sets the scene for the whole act that follows. We are subliminally being fed a line that all black fellas are harmless flower arrangers, who are liable to become hypnotically entranced at any sort of repetitive bongs, which presumably remind them of the bongos of home. Nothing to be afraid of there. If you’re ever followed down a dark lane by a black fella, just stand still and say ‘BONG” and he’ll revert to being a flower arranger. As long as you go ‘Bong’ he won’t go ‘Bonk!’, basically. Presumably the fella who had his head cut off by his quare one in Dublin lately was watching the angelus and didn’t notice what was happening until he found himself buried in a flowerbed. Using ‘found himself ‘ very loosely there, because ‘himself’ turned up but the cranium is still out there someplace. Back again to the Angelus.

Next, there’s a Chinese girl, who also lets up on what she’s doing. I need hardly mention how enthusiastically the Irish have embraced the Chinese since we first met them. For God’s sake, there’s even a takeaway in Askeaton now, the last place God made before Ballyhahill and Carrigkerry. I think the reason we like them and the food they sell us a Chinese is because there’s probably little fear of them invading us. For a start, they’re a long way away, but principally the reason China doesn’t invade Ireland is that they wouldn’t all fit, and some of them would have to turn around and fuck off home again and it’s a very long way. The shaggin’ island is too small. Another good reason not to re-unite it – bejaysus, wasn’t Dev the cute hoor all along? Anyway, the Chinese girl cocks her head to one side at the second bong. Now it’s a well-known fact that the Chinese are notoriously inscrutable, so we’re kind of left sort of wondering what’s going on in her noodle at this critical juncture. Wonder no more. I rang her up and asked her, and she said ‘I was merely wondering was that a bong or a Wong?’. ‘Is that right?’, says I. ‘No’, she says, ‘not Light, Wong’. ‘So you’re Wong’, says I. ‘Light, Wong.’ Says she. And that settled that problem.

The next hoor had me baffled for quite a while. He’s the geeky-lookin’ dude playing the tin whistle who stops to say the angelus. Now, in my mis-spent youth, I passed many a fine week in McGann’s and Gussie O’Connor’s in Doolin, where they certainly know the correct protocols for traditional music. Nothing short of a large bullet to the back of the head would stop a proper Irishman playing his tin whistle once he started. There are fellas in Doolin who have grown long beards and fathered numerous children without as much as dropping a grace note in the Bucks of Oranmore, followed by Miss McCloud’s, the Maid Behind The Bar and the Blackbird. Mighty men entirely, and all thanks to the Russells, God rest them. So who is this hoor who stops playing to listen to the Angelus? He must be some sort of an Eastern European for sure. No Irishman, but assimilating himself into the culture. When in Rome, and all that. Very subtle, and top marks to Maynooth on that one. Someone should tell him about the exception to when in Rome. When in Ireland, never stop playing your tinwhistle for anything except to take on or discharge liquid cargos.

Finally though, we get to the best bit of the Angelus. Here’s this girlie, sitting at an angle of forty-five degrees on the edge of her fireside chair, in front of a tiled fire-place that silently screams ‘1968 Council House’ at you, as fast at you could say bale of briquettes. She has blonde hair and black eyebrows. Why is she sitting at that peculiar angle? There’s only one explanation – she must have piles. Why has she got golden hair and black eyebrows? To tell us something about her nationality. So, what race of people wear the colours of a tiger but have a shite health system for people living in Council houses? Y’all know the answer to that one.

She’s the embodiment of the Celtic Tiger. Take a bow, Maynooth. Black, gold and skint with a sore arse – you couldn’t have said it better in ten thousand words.

Monday, September 04, 2006


I was driving down O’Connell Street the other day, when something caught my eye. Now, on any given fine day, many a thing on O’Connell Street might indeed catch my eye but let’s leave that for another time. Clapton once said he was fifty-one when he stopped thinking like that so there’s not all that far to go, in percentage terms anyway. Maybe. Clapton had a lot higher mileage. Wouldn’t it be great if your libido had a little blue bar like scanner software to tell you how much is left?
Anyway, there I was in O’Connell Street, stopped in traffic, when a dress hire shop caught my eye. In the window were four male mannekins, wearing what the well-dressed Limerick groom apparently must now be seen in on his wedding day. There were three preposterous suits, looking like what a cross between a cheap undertaker and James Onedin might wear on a ship. All brass buttons and frilly fronts and lurid colours like mauve, and cerise, and lilac. Sweet Jesus, imagine getting married in mauve.

Now I know what mauve is. Five-foot sailor recently lost a garment on d’yacht. All the men searched high up and low down. “ Is it this fucken’ purple ting?” we asked, wiping the gearbox oil from our toil-worn fingers. Not a flash of recognition. But when the women searched, they found the same fucken purple ting and announced they had it. “S’not fucken purple, it’s mauve ye blind packa bastards’ they uttered sotto voce, or words to the like effect. Women are great like that. Men have a relatively limited vocabulary when it comes to colour – basically we have the one-colour-fits-all selection, like the form you use to tax your car. Red, green, blue, brown – that sort of thing. Modified by the variables of metallic, flat, bright and shitty. “Your man arrived on to collect my daughter for the debs in a shitty green Hi-ace pick-up” sort of thing. But women know the difference between cerise shoes and pink ones, so they do. And apparently it is a hugely significant difference.

Back to the dress hire window. What really irked me was the fourth mannekin. Jesus, it had a purple tartan kilt. A purple tartan kilt. Bejesus!

What sort of Irishman wants to get married in a purple tartan kilt? What sort of narcissistic git sees himself looking his pathetic ‘best’ in a purple tartan kilt? And what sort of girl thinks her big day will be nicely enhanced by standing alongside a git in a purple, tartan, shaggin kilt? “ Mammy and Daddy, I have big news – I’m engaged to Abdullah from Lagos and we’re getting married next week – he’ll be wearing a purple tartan kilt” – it doesn’t hang together really, does it? Imagine showing your wedding album to your grandchildren “There’s granddad the day he married yer granny” “Why is he wearing a kilt, oul’ lad? Are we Scottish?” “Aye, wee bairn, yer granddad was the last one of the grrrreat McGits of Limerick.”

The only Irishmen who should get married in kilts are those fully paid-up members of a hairy-arse military pipe band who decide to get married all together, They might, just might, get away with it. At least the wife will have fair notice that her bethrothed has a predilection for faffing about in a kilt, so she won’t be too surprised to come home early from work one evening and find him doing his knitting in her leather miniskirt, will she?

Did you ever wonder why the piddlers in posh hotels are never all in line? Did you even notice? The one at the end is always lower. University Of Limerick is another great place for the low one at the end, and it’s cheaper to get into than a posh hotel. Now I was always erroneously led to believe that this was plumbers’ provision for young fellas. A bit like believing in Santa Claus, it seems. I rationally moved on to Scenario B, which was that it was designed to cope with our burgeoning immigrant population from the dark continent. A plausible enough hypothesis, but as yet unverified by any other researcher in the field and therefore unconfirmed. But shag it – what about Scenario C – plumbers install one low piddler at the end of the line for daft Irish gits who want to get married in kilts?

Answers on a postcard etc….

Goodnight – Nuts.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Diver does his bird

It's a little-known fact that the titles to these rants are actually hyperlinks, and if you click on the title of this entry, it will take you to a story on RTE's website. This dude called Diver killed his wife, and got a life sentence, as you do. See here:

Apparently he 'had nothing left to give her', according to his lawyer, quoted here:

Son he gave her the chop. As you would further do, without much ado.

Now, due to some investigative bungling by the boys in bull's wool, out he comes again, a free man. Better that a hundred criminals should go free than one innocent man go to jail, say those who advocate a liberal justice system, and Diver is one of the hundred.

Now, here it gets beyond being just funny, and into the realm of the truly bonkers. Diver buys a catapult, and shoots things at his neighbour's shed. The neighbour being an average clever Dublin sort of chappie rigged up a DIY CCTV system and recorded the bould Diver with smoking gun, or the catapult version thereof. Note the complete lack of bulls wool in the evidence-gathering phase of this investigation. No-one dead, only a vexed neighbour. And what does Diver get?


He kills his wife and he walks, he fires things at a shed, and he gets jail. Thank God and the depressive democrats for our liberal justice system.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My Portugal phone

I promised some more on the matter of phones and cars.

The ban on using a phone whilst driving hits new depts of insanity. Driving carefully behind a squadcar today, what do I see? Crimestoppers - ring 1800 25 00 25. On a squad car, driving along a busy road. Now, If I was a painter, I'd have a script on my van. Nuts the painter, ring 1800 25 00 25 for a free quotation yadda yadda yadda. In the hope that some sad bugger would ring, based on the display of the info. Now, applying the same logic to the display of telephone numbers on a garda patrol car operated by the traffic corps, what I saw was an invitation to break the law.

Check this link and note the phone number:

I wonder if the drug squad cars drive about with a sign saying Go on, have a rollie?

And, on the roadside, are a whole bunch of signs also asking the honest joes of Ireland to report traffic violations on the wing. This in a country where the universally popular practise of flashing oncoming cars means there's a motorbike cop behind the next furze bush half a mile ahead of you. So what do you do? 'hello Sergeant, I want to report a serious crime. The fella in the car that just passed me was on the phone, so he was, the dangerous hoor. Where am I now? Well, I'm about five mile from where it happened. Well, I'm six mile from it now. Seven, maybe eight. Can you ring me back, Sergeant, my pipe is quenched and I must light it again. Thanks very much.'

What is honest joe supposed to do, even if he does see a mass murder being perpetrated in a Mini on the motorway? Wait until he sees a phone box?

It calls for joined-up thinking, which doesn't permeate decision taking in this green and pleasant land, not yet by a long shot.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Duality, double-chilled

This blog is back on the air again after routine maintenance, particularly a full lubrication service. I don’t think I got particularly drunk, but opinion on that point varies. I was sitting alongside Five-Foor Sailor in the pub and she sang Slievenamon four times. Or so I thought. The morning after, she denied ever singing it at all, or even knowing it. ‘Slievenamon? What the fuck is that? Don’t know it at all. I NEVER sing Slievenamon. You musta bin’ paralytic’’.That kind of an unconvincing line. Sloop John B maintained she sang six full renditions, and a few odd fragments. All I can say is that the pint in the west of Ireland is nearly as good as in my favourite hotel in Glin. Which is extremely good indeed. And the Black Bush is always good intransigent whiskey wherever you get it. Pure spirit of Drumcree.

Anyway, since I went to the new Doolin cave in Clare and saw all those phonographers in action, I’ve been pondering the dearth of truly successful dual-purpose devices that have ever been on the market. By that I mean things like clock-radios, Swiss Army penknives, and so forth. Except there’s no so forth. Once upon a time you could even buy a vacuum cleaner (no free product endorsements here, take note) that doubled up as a paint sprayer, so that you could clean the house and re-spray the car, if you really wanted to impress visiting relatives.

The sheer nonsensical ridiculousness of the camera-phone is matched only by the refrigerators with televisions in their doors. Now I could see some sense in having the television inside, so you could munch on a ham sandwich and slug a bottle of beer while you watched the Israelis shelling South Lebanon on Sky News. But what the fuck would you do with a television on the door? Invite you girlfriend round for a lobster and Chablis supper, and snuggle up watching the telly in front of a nice cold fridge? Not likely. ‘Fuck off’, she’d most likely say. ‘It’s the whole works – briquettes, doo-dah, de-doo music or nothin’.

You don’t believe me? Then Google for ‘fridge television’ and just see what you’ll get on one pull of the net. You’ll see all about this model, for a handy six grand:

And this is what it does, according to its maker:

Watch TV, listen to music or surf the internet using this titanium finish, state-of-the-art fridge freezer. It’s the ultimate in kitchen technology with a built-in MP3 player for downloading and playing music from the internet, e-mail and video mail using a built-in camera and microphone. It even has full internet access so you can re-stock the refrigerator on-line or check on the latest news and weather - all without leaving the kitchen. And it’s great for storing food too. It has a 506 litre capacity fridge and 310 litre capacity freezer, and a fully electronic temperature control system, which cools each compartment evenly. What’s more, it has a chilled water and ice dispenser, it diagnoses minor faults on-screen and has a contents page for entering and monitoring food content and expiry dates.

It diagnoses minor faults.Most merciful Jesus! What about when it develops major faults? Who’s diagnosing those? Some shagger in a dirty Citroen van charging the price of a full criminal defence? ‘I’ll tell you what’s wrong with the fridge. The minor fault diagnoser web interface module is bollixed, and that’s a major fault. The parts alone are fifteen grand.’ One of those lines. But look closer. It has a microphone, speakers and a camera. Remember Bill Shatner in Star Trek? ‘Computer – how many gigalightyears an hour are we doin’ at the moment?’ Well, you could say ‘Fridge, who drank all the fuckin’ Lidl cider in the yellow cans?’ , if you had a GRD267DTU. And the fridge is likely to say coolly, fuck off you sweaty bollix, you did.

If it were up to me, I’d be thinking along the lines of combining a ride-on lawnmower with a DVD player. You could drive hypnotically up and down the lawn, watching your favourite movies. If you had a few Playstation games, you could even try to get a teenager to do it. Go further, and combine a GPS, a SATNAV and a ride-on lawnmower, and you could really relax. You could programme in a waypoint wherever the barbecue is stashed. Now, the clever part would be to interface the ride-on with the talking fridge, so that you could stop off at the fridge for a can of cider after mowing the lawn. As you do.

Now I’m off to search the web for a fridge with a tap of draught cider and a cigar humidor. Could really use one of those.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

WTF is a Hasselblad Nut?

Since writing my few scattered thoughts here on Pol an Ionán, the Nut house has been bombarded with queries. What the fuck is a Hasselblad or words to the like effect. Mistake on my part, to assume that everybody has heard of the best Swedish camera in the world.

So, for the avoidance of all doubt, here is what a classic Hasselblad looks like, in case one falls out of the pocket of anyone walking in front of you going down a cave in Clare.

They are extremely good cameras, so good they were the ones chose by NASA for the moon trips way back when I was a younger nut. They were therefore the cameras used to take this picture, one of the most famous images ever made:

However, such is the way of the world that having been in the film camera business for a hundred years (literally) they have recently reduced their film camera production and are now mostly making digital cameras.

Just by way of a point of clarification.

There will be no posts for the next three days because I will be drunk. And that is a perfectly acceptable excuse in any Irish Court: see Bocktherobber’s blog.

Good evening.