Chaos and Cacophony from a Jumped-Up Country Boy

Friday, June 22, 2007

Crushed...And Then Some

He's gone. After a prolonged ego-waltz that eventually became as boring as it was drawn out, Henry has left Arsenal. And in doing so, he has broken hearts. Many, many hearts. On levels that I've yet to explore.

It's been a while since I posted, but this has crushed me. Any adult with any degree of education, in my opinion, will eventually become a cynic. Yet what makes the veil of cynicism all the more dignified is the occasional ray of hope and light that we allow to shine through. And for most of this century, Henry was a ray of elegant beauty and honour that I clung to however the winds of life blew. The pace, the vision, the sheer single-minded arrogance of a lion with a gazelle in his sights. The embarrasment he visited on Jamie Carragher on more than one occasion is probably enough to damn him for all eternity. Beauty, nay art, encapsulated in 6ft2 of Gallic genius. For almost a decade, he led us all on a merry sporting dance. And now he's taking it on tour. To Barcelona. Where his ego will mingle with many others.

When I look at a brilliant painting, like Hopper's Nighthawks, or listen to something as awe inspiring as Closing Time by Leonard Cohen, I'm struck by the achievement of perfection, of wholeness. I felt exactly the same last January when Henry began and ended a move against Blackburn that transcended the muddy Lancastrian awfulness of Jack Walker's dirty steelwork funded stadium and ascended to the vaunted platform of high art. Swaggering down the left flank, mesmerising the Blackburn defence, he swapped inch-perfect passes with Fabregas and sailed the ball past a helpless Brad Freidel from an angle that had the mathematicians reaching for their theodolites. It blew me away. Like his goal against United at Highbury. Like his hat-trick against Inter Milan. Like 99% of his 226 goals for the Gunners. Henry was an artist who splattered the canvas with works of genius that will be talked about in a hundred year's time. And he will continue to prosper wherever he goes. Part of me wishes him well in his future endeavours.

But most of me wonders where the famed Henry loyalty has gone. After the rigmarole of last year, it is a devastating blow that it was all figure skating, it was all an elongated flamenco manoeuvre. Like the cutest maiden at the crossroads in 1940s Ireland, after rejecting even the most ardous admirer again and again, Henry eventually showed his true colours; the colours of a cold, merciless, reptilian siren, ready willing and able to sell himself to the highest bidder. And that sickens me.

Of course Dein leaving had an impact. Of course he was disconcerted at the lack of silverware. But what of loyalty? What of his self-appointed role as the Good Shepherd, leading Arsenal's tender spring lambs through the dark night of transition that benighted Wenger and his team this season? All horseshit. I'm weary enough to see the Premiership, and indeed world football for what it is; a power-hungry, ego-fuelled corporate behemoth that takes no prisoners and treats the loyal fan with the same disdain afforded to a ten dollar Malaysian ladyboy by a Japanese businessman. But deep down, I honestly believed Henry to be different. But he wasn't. And he isn't. And that, my dear reader, is very troubling.

Yes, these are the ravings of a wizened old hag who's lost her favourite piece of jewellery. Yes there isn't an iota of objectivity in the words that have preceded these. Henry left because he knows Arsenal won't be a force for at least another season. But by his leaving, he has put Wenger's project on hold. Fabregas will now have one eye on the exit. Gallas will become even more disinterested. And who are we left with? Adebayor. The man who has made a name for himself as a calamity in front of goal, with a first touch that makes David fucking Connolly snigger. And crucially, the only team, Reading and Man U aside, hewn out of a desire to play football as it should be played, i.e., Brazil circa 1970, will become the laughing stock of Britain once more, a force once to be reckoned with, but now nothing but an interesting side show that can knock lumps out of Wigan but can only watch in silence as Bolton continue to know lumps out of them. While this is a terrible day for Gooners, its as bad a day for anyone who loves football on these here isles.

Fuck him. Why couldn't he have just stayed put?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Loss of a Great Man

"Equality is equality is equality. If we refuse any human being the entitlement to equality, we deny ourselves proper equality. It is either for everyone or for no one".

RIP David Ervine.

Amid all the posturing, self-serving political tit-for-tat that accompanies the northern peace process, Ervine always stood out for me as a guy that was prepared to sacrifice a lot for a progressive approach to the problems of his corner of the world. He was genuinely contrite about his terrorist past - a past that, given he lost a good friend to an IRA bombing campaign, could be understood if not condoned - and worked hard to bring about a semblance of unity in a province poisoned by prejudice and hatred.

It was a tragedy that he was taken so young. More on an extraordinary human being here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Books, Old and New!

Some day I'll compile a complete list of all the vague Black Books references contained on this site. The number will probably resemble a mobile telephone number.

Anyways, having been tagged by surfing queen Aunty Helpful Dictator, Here is a rundown on some of the most important books in my life.

One Book That Changed Your Life.

The Dalkey Archive by Flann O'Brien. The beginning of two things; my lifelong obsession with Dublin and its peculiarities, and my desire to write. Neither have abated with age. Not the great man's best book by any stretch of the imagination - Karl and I will be very, very old and grey before we reach agreement on that question - but unquestionably my favourite. In many ways it made me who I am today. And it's very very funny.

One Book You've Read More than Once

On the Road by Jack Kerouac. The bible of the hobo soul. The older you get the more you long to be the sixteen year old that read it and that made a solemn promise to himself never to settle down. Ah, the folly of youth! Personally I'm not the best at re-reading books, but I do think it's a good idea.

One Book That You Would Want On A Desert Island

Ulysses. Never, ever will I tire of the challenges that it throws at us. If I could bring two, probably Crime and Punishment or Lost Illusions, the latter being a very similar book to the former except without much redemption for the protagonist. Great book though.

One Book That Made Me Laugh

The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien. Raw comedy smothered in darkness. Some parts are so funny it's just plain wrong. It kind of bugs me that Lost is linked in many people's head with this book. For me, the comparison is like comparing the streets of Haussmann's Paris with the dogshit that can be found on it's pedestrian walkways

One Book That Made Me Cry

No book has ever made me cry. Many books have made my stomach churn - Maribou Stork Nightmares by Irvine Welch, Poor Souls by Joseph Connolly, Exodus by Leon Uris, while Lost Illusions made me collapse in a melancholy heap of despair. But no tears. I did cry as a child while watching Boxer being taken off to the knackers yard in the animated version of Animal Farm. Does that count?

One Book You Stayed Up All Night To Finish

The Barracks by John McGahern. When people think of existential Irish writers, Beckett always gets the nod. But McGaherns early work is rich in the tradition, questioning the subjectivity of human experience and churning at the mediocrity and sadness of it all. Great Book.

One Book That Took You Too Long To Read

Anything by Hemingway. Always worth it but always takes forever.

One Book You Are Currently Reading

Candide by Voltaire. The opening passage must have inspired the Four Yorkshiremen in Monty Python Such a catalogue of disasters!

I tag Shane. Every other blogger I know has already been tagged.

Outdated but Fun

While trawling the web looking for articles by Con Houlihan, I came across this gem of a site. It's a little old, but some of the ranting is so funny that at work yesterday and old women asked me what was wrong. The reason? My face was lost in a monsoon of tears. I haven't laughed so hard in years. I think it was Hatebomb #1 that finally caused the floodgates to open. Also good are the reviews of Hogans and especially Brogans. For anyone that's lived in Dublin, the characters are well drawn and the analysis in places is spot on. Flann O'Brien fans won't be disappointed, particularly with the review of Buskers. Please check it out

Nice to see you, to see you Nice

It's good to be back. Spent July in South America with A. and most of August feeling maudlin. What a continent. We were there for nearly a month and even then only sampled but a tiny glimpse of this awesome carnival of humanity and nature trapped in an endless tango with each other. I'm not really down with going into intense detail regarding holidays, but here are a few tips based on my own experiences south of the equator.

1. Eat lots and lots of steak. It's cheap and does things to your pallet that really, really should be against the law. The wrongly-beefed up(geddit??) Irish steak can go and fuck rrrrrrrrrrrright off. Had 9 in my 8 first days in Argentina, after which I apparently rolled around in bed approximating the actions of someone having a stroke mumbling 'No more steak, no more steak'. Am seeking help.

2. Learn to Tango. The exuberance of Riverdance delivered in a sleazy, arrogant dockside container. If Tom Waits was a dance, he would be a Tango; the dance of lost souls and tawny whores.

3. Bring your own music. Aside from attending a German folk festival - had me begging for the Hoff - the music in South America is possibly the worst I've ever experienced. Think Ricky Martin jammin' with the Gypsy Kings. Not a pretty sight.

4. GO TO RIO; Undoubtedly the most captivating city in the world. It's an urban carousel wrapped around a rainforest, protected by proud, incredible hills and worshipped by golden beaches and the beautiful people that fill them. And go to a match in the Maracana. I have an article appearing soon in the Mayo News on said subject which I'll link to when it's published. Truly unforgettable.

5. Read the Buenos Aires Quintet by Manuel Vasquez Montalban and Futebol; The Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos. Ideal pals for those night long buses. Also read At-Swim Two Birds again, Bound for Glory by Woodie Guthrie - if you ever want words to resemble the wispy freedom of the wind tumbling through your hair, then this is the book for you - and The Pavilion on the Links, a wonderfully atmospheric novella by Robert Louis Stevenson. To re-cap, bring lots of books, you'll be travelling over huge distances. And finally........

6. Go to Iguazu Falls. You'll know why when you get there.

In my absence, the obvious occurred. Inconsolable Royston lovers, incredulous that their leader would vanish into the murky tropics, organised themselves into a charming cult.
Based in Glasgow - I visited there a few years ago and delivered an inspiring performance from a soapbox on George Square that marked the beginning of a close relationship with the city, and my inevitable veneration - the cult is gaining in popularity and rightly so. Although I distance myself from the more extreme elements within the sect, in particular those bent on flaggelation, I must admit that I am touched that my views and spiritual candour have finally been recognised. And just for the record, despite the setback of someone having published in my area of historical investigation, research is proceeding apace. Rapture will come. You have been warned!!

Friday, June 16, 2006


Last August, as I embarked upon the second year of my thesis, I bumped into a fairly high-flying academic in the archive where we were both at work. He or she asked me what I was doing. I told her and was encouraged to 'keep up the good work'. This made Royston very happy, and he skipped off to tell all his friends.

I've just finished reading said academic's latest blockbuster. What is his/her last chapter, of roughly 100 pages, about?

a) The evolution of warts
b) A history of screaming (ten pounds to the lucky reader who guesses where this is stolen from)
c) Exactly what I told his/her I was doing last August

Ten months work down the drain. I'm screwed from a number of angles. Firstly, even if I go ahead with my research - I think I might be able to take a different approach with the material - my work, which is completely and unconditionally my own - it will look derivative. It might also be construed as plagiarism. Secondly, as this academic is a member of my department, I can't rip his/her findings to shreds because I won't be allowed to viva. Politics. Thirdly, if I go back to square one, I probably won't finish my thesis till approximately 2009.

I'm not the first person that this has happened to. I've heard horror stories of supervisors stealing entire research projects just as the student was about to publish. And I'm not even pissed off that I was beaten to it (although it is fairly gut-wrenching as the last 3 chapters are the only ones I've ever written that I'm proud of, and the last ten months have been prolific. Any budding academic reading this will now how bouts of industry might only actually come along once in a lifetime in this game) because that happens all the time too.

What does piss me off is that an established academic would willingly let me walk down a dark alley, that they would even encourage me to do so, while knowing that there was no way out. I've just wasted almost a year of my life because he/she hadn't the decency to steer me away from such a fruitless path.

Life sucks, doesn't it?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Great National Bastard? (RIP)

As I write the Angelus bell is ringing. Somehow fitting as I attempt to eulogise a life without parallel.

A few years back, the former Minister for Health and Supreme Court Judge, Thomas O'Higgins, passed away. O'Higgins was notable for two events; the establishment of the VHI in 1957 and a Supreme Court decision that upheld the illegality of homosexual relationships in 1982. Neither of these moments would have found favour with me had I been alive at the time, and I said so in numerous conversations with friend and foe alike, questioning the fawning adulation afforded to him by editorials in the national media. I was berated for criticising the dead before the warmth had left his veins. Many friends who I've known and loved for years were appalled that I could be so cold.

This morning I announced the death of Charles Haughey to a number of colleagues in the tea-station. Aroused from their World Cup musings, they laughed and hollered. Their response to the passing of another human being reminded me of John Cleese's eulogy at the funeral of his dear friend, Graham Chapman; 'Good riddance to him, the free-loading bastard, I hope he burns'. Unfortunately the savage irony present on that occasion made no appearance in the tea-station this morning.

Never has a man evinced such a mixed reaction. I can easily imagine staunch FFers on their knees today, shrouded in melancholy and grief, mourning the passing of great man. I can imagine other FFers dancing reels and jigs at the temporal demise of the man who tore their party's unity to shreds. I can imagine Garret being genuinely disappointed at the loss of his adversary, accompanying his sadness with an elongated sigh that the great legislator eventually failed to realise anything other than a flawed pedigree. I can imagine Mara laughing at memories of his master's acerbic wit on the backroads of Ireland as Haughey courted the Cumainn. I can imagine students and righteous indignants howling and hoping that his last hours were more painful than the cold winters visited upon O.A.P.s in the early eighties as the fuel allowance was cut. I can imagine more than a few nod and wink merchants leaned against fences across the land revelling in the romance of it all, the undeniable reality that their man never suffered for being a cute hoor, and neither would they. Most of all, I embrace a vision of Brian Lenihan, perched on a silver cloud, delighted that his partner in crime is coming home, brimming with aphorisms that he's been saving up since his own death, redolent of his wit the day Charlie retired from politics. Surveying the pandemonium that was playing itself out within the party, Lenihan jibed, 'Look at them, they haven't a clue what do to! The bland leading the bland!'

Haughey was a brilliant legislator. Free Travel for Over 65s. The Succession Act. While his tax exemptions for artists allow greedy bastards like U2 to avoid putting something back into the society that created them, it also allows marginal artists to scrape by, thus enriching our society. The favours for the bloodstock industry, while less easily defended, prevented that industry's collapse; we need only to look to what happened in France when incentives were withdrawn as evidence that treating Magner et al favourably was on the money. Furthermore, his presence in government in the sixties with O'Malley and Lenihan represented a changing of the guard and a new, proactive approach to the problems of the day. One can only wonder what he might have achieved if the Arms Trial - on which I am no expert, so I will refrain from comment - hadn't cut his career short.

And then there was the dark side. Fine living while the country starved. A man dressed in Charvet suits while pensioners wrapped themselves in moth-ridden blankets. Island life while his own native island ejaculated its children to the furthest reaches of the globe. And his relationship to Ben Dunne.

I find it difficult to become irate when commenting on those payments. Did Charles Haughey create corruption in Irish life, or did corruption in Irish life create Charles Haughey? His dedication to the country in the early years of his career cannot be denied. As time passed, he became corrupted by the allure of power. Which one of us doesn't. We tend to look at Haughey now and see a distant murky past that has been left behind along with emigration and bosco. That murky past lives on in three words. The Galway Races.

My main criticisms of his tenure relate to his clenched fist approach to the corridors of power. In 1981, he informed the country that it needed to rationalise. He subsequently awarded a MASSIVE pay rise to a bloated public sector that had bled the country dry throughout the late seventies. It was an act of wanton political cowardice. As was his sacking of Lenihan - although the latter was more understandable; it was what the party wanted, and what Lenihan himself wouuld have done had the roles been reversed. But the eighties are littered with events that compromised the onward march of Irish society, motivated by short-term political gain, and the man at the centre of it all was Charles Haughey.

But such is politics. And such intrigue did not begin or end with the Squire of Kinsealy. You have the IFSC. You have Government Buildings, one of Dublin's most awesome architectural sights. You have DIT and Limerick as modern universities, at the forefront of global research. And you have the Bert, who was blooded by Charlie.

A mixed legacy. Undoubtedly. But in many ways, a brilliant one.

When Haughey bid adieu to Leinster House in 1992, the scent of Shakespearean tragedy hung in the air. On this momentous day, the words of the bard ring true once more.

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;

Friday, June 02, 2006

Hi Diddle-de-dee, a journo's life for me

I've always wanted to be a journalist. A lenghty career on Fleet Street - or Tara Street as it soon shall be - followed by an eponymous novel documenting life in Ireland at our moment in time has always been the dream. But I've continuously found it hard to get started. Especially since I wasted my years at college being involved in something I shouldn't have been in involved in.

To remedy this, I entered a sports writing competition ran by my local paper. The winner was to be given a regular job and the freedom to graze his cattle on the town green. Well, not quite. Only Bono has been granted this privilege. My interest was nourished by the fact that Tom Humphries, Ireland's second greatest living sports hack, was one of the judges.

I didn't win. But I did come second. They'll publish my article on June 14th. For most readers, this is trivial, a minor triumph in a local rag. But for me, this is huge. Huger than huge. Words won't suffice.

Here it is.


In the Beginning there was the Word, and the Word became God. And God created Man, who then created Sport. In retribution, disgusted that Creation had thought of it before Him, God created Luck. And therein lies the key to Manchester United’s victory in the 1999 European Cup Final.

The English social commentator Francis Wheen, analysing the exaggerated orgy of national mourning that accompanied the death of Princess Diana in 1997, concluded that the only rational explanation was humanity’s desire to belong to something greater than itself. The British people had been deprived of the means of communicating with each other through the sustained atomisation of their society. Eager to connect with their neighbours and to invest in sumptuous social capital, they flocked to each other’s garden fences and grieved in unity.

Sport is one of the principal alembics within which community, an ideal that has lost some of its currency through the modernisation of Irish society, might be distilled once more. The traditional bulwarks of shared identity – Church, one-eyed nationalism, Gay Byrne – have either disintegrated or disappeared. Yet while Catholicism still seeks to address the fundamentals of modern living, nationalism has, to some extent and not before time, given way to a more multicultural social model, and Gaybo contents himself with sporadic televised jaunts down memory lane, thousands of us still congregate, week in week out, at sporting venues across the land to participate in glorious athletic communion. And so it was that a crowd of us tumbled along to Parnell Park last weekend, where down-and-out Dublin took high-fliers Mayo on a whistle-stop tour of the National League Division 1a dance floor.

The rain was wild, and the climate far from mild, as we rushed down from Elm Mount Road to Dublin’s home ground, the impressive floodlights towering over sullen Donnycarney Church luring us ever onwards. Late as usual, we arrived just as the teams were taking to the pitch, and the presence among the visitors’ convoy of Ciarán McDonald was duly, gleefully noted. He wasn’t togged out, but that day would inevitably come. Anticipation rising.

Eyes fixed on Mickey Moran, the man who had breathed new life into our county team. His trawl through the vast reservoir of eager talent that lay dormant across the Plain of the Yew had bore sumptuous fruit, and a new wave of optimism spread through the county that always dares to hope.

For those of us who live away from home, ensconced in this ever-enlarging capital, another away tie against the Dubs, following on from last years Round One stormer, was a great blessing as our pilgrimage was shortened considerably. The floodlit sheen of the venue belied the uncertainty of the playing surface, which had in recent times endured torrents unheard of since the era of plagues and locusts. As we stood – had we any choice on the terrace? – for Amhrán na bhFiann, the importance to the scattered Diaspora of events like these began once more to dawn upon our brows. Glances traded with old school pals. Knowing winks and awkward nods. Friends long forgotten emerging from the woodwork of the past to remind you of who you were, nay, who you are. The impressive crowd populated by many émigrés whose knowledge of the sport might be deemed questionable. It mattered not; they were there to feel part of something. To belong.
The ball was thrown in, and the visitors slid into a two point lead, with Austin O’Malley chalking up the first score, followed by a cool brace from the fresher, Alan Durcan. The signs were comforting for Mayo. Alas signs in Ireland never really paint the full picture. The surface contained all the certainties of a glacial summit, and Dublin closed their opponents down in a determined manner that gave rise to an indefinable, yet ultimately recognisable anxiety. Benighted since the early promise shown against Tyrone by charges of indifference and anonymity, they finally took charge of their own destiny.

The goal, in the end, came quickly. Mark Vaughan, reminiscent of Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, stole in between Higgins and Nallen to win the ball and begin a move that ended in rapture for the Dubs. Tomás Quinn ploughed the ball past John Healy, and the terrace erupted in a flow of navy and blue. Psychologically, the weight of the blow was tangible. A boisterous but apocalyptically cynical Mayo ‘fan’ behind us, bedecked in waves of green and red, cried “Game Over”, and promptly stormed off into the angry night. Such are the passions that these occasions excite.

No sooner had we rallied around the rationale that all was not lost, than our hopes were sullied once more. Dublin were awarded, or depending on your perspective gifted, a penalty. We steadied ourselves by sagely noting that penalties in Gaelic Football are notoriously difficult to convert. No such luck. Mossy drilled the ball home, and Dublin led by 2-2 to 0-3.

Behind the Mayo goal the chant rang out, ‘Come on you Boys in Blue, Come on you Boys in Blue’. We pinched ourselves, thinking for a moment that we had been wondrously transported to Stamford Bridge. The purists pursed their lips; we did not follow suit. Unsporting jeers and boos aside, the revelry added more than it took away from the occasion, and provided a stark contrast to our own fears and sense of self-pity.

Despite a Mayo rally late in the first half which narrowed the gap to three points at the interval, Paul Claffey’s half-time talk harnessed his men steadfastly to their task and they proceeded to tear through Mayo’s listless ranks. The visitors scored just one goal and four points to Dublin’s more assured tally of two goals and six. When Alan Brogan pounced to exploit a late backline error and scored Dublin’s final goal, it was all over bar the shouting. And oh how the faithful roared. Redemption was sought and assured.

Analysis? Dublin wanted it more. The dogs in the street had that for us as we descended once more onto Collins Avenue. All the hoary old clichés. The better team won out on the day. On top of them all, Mayo sorely missed Ronan McGarrity in the middle of the park, where they were duly annihilated, and of the senior players who did tog out, James Nallen and David Heaney were uncharacteristically guilty of prolific errors. Put simply, it was a bad day at the office. It seemed on this night the Dubs’ desire was greater.
It has been a wonderful league campaign – an institution that is rising like a phoenix from the ashes of irrelevance that plagued it in the past – so far for Mayo. From the euphoria of Round One, where the Kingdom finally witnessed a coup d’etat, to the drudgery of the contests with Fermanagh and Cork, the byword was regeneration. John Maughan’s era brought sustained success, but ultimate stumbles at the final hurdle. Mickey Moran’s task is to bring this talented team of gallant volunteers across the finish line. The result in Parnell Park was indeed a setback, but the Connacht Championship is still two months away. What’s more, it’s still all to play for in the NFL. Tyrone won’t be too worried. Then again, neither will Mayo.

As we walked out onto the Malahide Road and turned away from the ground, we were lost in thought. No floodlights guided us to our destination now, but the glow in our souls prevailed even in the wake of this most convincing and upsetting of losses. For over an hour, each of us had belonged to something greater than the sum of our parts, Dub and culchie alike. We were the faithful, concelebrants at an evangelical, ecumenical altar, where fortune favoured the brave, but also shone upon all who showed up. Our lives are so busy, and often so detached from our upbringing and those we cherish, that events such as these are solid gold. It was, as it always is, a privilege to witness these brave warriors do battle for their counties and for nothing else. There is a lesson in there somewhere. Sport enlivens and enriches national culture from the bottom up, from the under-10s kitted out each Saturday in Maypark, Burrishoole, Louisburgh, Portmarnock, to name but a few, through Derval O’Rourke hurdling towards History in Moscow, to the referee’s final whistle in the death-knell of September. It is to be cherished with the intensity the parent feels for the child, because it is ours. It is our heritage.

The West’s Awake. Even in Dublin 5.

Friday, May 26, 2006

No No No No NO!

RTE Radio 1 has decided to drop The Mystery Train.

I've been sitting at the computer screen, staring incomprehensibly, forlorn and bitter, for the last ten minutes trying to type that last sentence.

Ann Leddy, the new head honcho in Radio Centre, has stated that she was dedicated to a radical approach to revamping the ailing station.

Radical: The Mystery Train, the most explorative, experimental, wide-ranging aural journey currently available on this island. John Kelly thinks nothing of following up 'Sally McLennane' by the Pogues with a haunting number from Ladysmith Black Mambazo. A true music lover, he believed in reaching out to all of us who yearned for a qualitative approach, and never ever succumbed to the temptation of whoring himself out to the advertisers by adopting a more MOR approach. Like Tom 'Angular' Dunne.

Not Radical: Giving His Holiness Joe Duffy another fifteen minutes to poison our ears every day, while leaving Sean O'Rourke's untouchable News at One at a mere 45 minutes. Bringing Derek Mooney in for Rattlebag. DITCHING THE FUCKING MYSTERY TRAIN.

The bastards. The bad, bad bastards. I would understand this move if it was carried out by a commercial station. But every year, the licence revenues roll into Montrose like an avalanche of carte blanche, and this is supposed to allow them the freedom to pursue quality over mediocrity. You would think this would mean less 'salt-of-the-earth' shite from the listeners on Duffy's 'Fifth Estate' and more John Kelly. You would be gravely fucking mistaken.

I'm absolutely devastated, and anyone who considers themselves to be discerning musikos should understand. The Mystery Train was a place we could all go and feel comfortable in the knowledge that at least 1 and a half hours each day were safe from banality. Not anymore. How do I start a petition?

A year or two ago, I remember reading about a guy in England refusing to pay the TV licence because he disagreed, as a British citizen, with the direction his national broadcaster was heading in. Time to follow suit.

Blaine Talkin'

I've always considered David Blaine to be a bit of a talentless shite. But this interview with the Guardian has convinced me that there might be something in his 'masterly activity' approach to our hyperactive, celebrity-dominated world; especially now that SuperSimianSimpleton (SSS) Jade Goody now has TWO shows on television.

Perhaps she might be encouraged to hold her breath...indefinitely?