Thursday, September 20, 2018

If Ever You Go to Lubbock

On holiday in Austin to enjoy the music scene there, I take a detour to Lubbock to visit the Buddy Holly Center and his grave. Lubbock is deep in the heart of West Texas so it’s a flight rather than a drive from Austin. The cotton has just been harvested in the endless flat landscape that surrounds the town so we fly over a patchwork quilt of bare brown and green fields, many curiously circular. Lubbock is an agricultural city with a thriving Texas Tech campus. It’s very spread out and gives an impression of emptiness - there seems to be almost no street life. In the Depot area we walked around a series of  empty streets (including Buddy Holly Avenue) and encountered nobody except a postal delivery woman and a crazy lady collecting rubbish. An occasional car passed on the long wide streets. It’s as if a smart bomb had been detonated killing all the inhabitants but leaving the buildings intact.

The Buddy Holly Center is a neat one story building that once functioned as a railway depot. It’s very well organized and the creators have managed well to depict a life that didn’t last long enough to leave much tangible evidence, apart from the music. The most poignant exhibit is no doubt his trademark black-framed glasses that survived that stupid plane crash – where an inexperienced pilot flew them into the ground during a snow storm. There’s also his motor-bike bought after the first serious money arrived with the success of That’ll Be the Day. Other poignant exhibits included some early drawings and a couple of clay figurines he made for Echo McGuire, a high-school girl-friend. There are plenty of guitars also and numerous photographs. Well worth a visit. We took an Uber out to Lubbock cemetery to visit the grave. The graves are afforded as much space as the houses in this spread-out city. His grave is marked by a small rectangular metal plate with his name spelt correctly. He was born Holley but an early Decca contract got it wrong and so he stuck with Holly as his stage name. His father and mother are buried alongside. Both lived into their 80s – suggesting that longevity would have been part of his heritage.

On our walk that morning we passed an interesting looking Spanish bistro – La Diosa Cellars. Sick of the barbecues, burgers and fried chicken on offer elsewhere we made a reservation. It turned out to be a little gem. It was very creatively decorated declared with lots of decent art (lots of Frieda Kahlo portraits) and vintage furniture. The menu embraced a huge variety of Tapas (wild-mushroom risotto, l’escargot etc.) and best of all it bottled its own wines – so we got our first reasonably-priced bottle since we came to Texas (€19 for an earthy Rioja). I thought there was only one reason to go to Lubbock – now I know there are two.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Not Cool Chill

I’m off to the USA this week and knowing the financial consequences of needing medical treatment while I’m there I decided to take out some travel insurance. So I head to the Chill Insurance web site where there seems to be some reasonable deals. I start filling out my personal details and get an error message for using an apostrophe in my surname (O’Sullivan). It can only be entered without this character. Considering it’s operating in Ireland you’d imagine they’d make allowances for the very high number of apostrophied people living here. Bad form chaps I think and move on. Then I get to the payment section where I’m asked to enter my name as it appears on my credit card. My name on my credit card includes an apostrophe so naturally I include it. This too is rejected but works fine when I omit the apostrophe. Thus entering my name NOT as it appears my credit card. Chill are guilty of mortal sins against Usability and Localisation and someone should give its IT manger a good kick up the arse. Thus spake Zarathustra.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Rancid Ruminations - August 2018

The Presidential Election

What a waste. It’s clear the incumbent will get back in but we’ll have to endure months of guff in the meantime. A blessing for the media who will no doubt attempt to generate spurious drama from the foregone conclusion. I’ll certainly vote for Higgins again. It’s nice to have a literate, poetry-loving man representing us. He may be slightly effete and occasionally lapse into preciousness but he’s basically sound. Much will be made by his opponents of his praise for Castro on the latter’s death, but that’s a positive for me. Those who consider Castro a despot should bear in mind the almost universal sorrow in Cuba when he died. Batista’s followers and descendants may have rejoiced in Miami but genuine Cubans mourned. Some people value independence.

Pope Bashing

Now God knows I’m not a practicing Catholic and have no time for the whole “vast moth-eaten musical brocade of religion” (incidentally that phrase is from Philip Larkin’s Aubade – perhaps the most terrifying poem in the English language). However, the attacks on Pope Francis by the right-on brigade in the media seemed to miss the point. Of course the Church has behaved appallingly and protected criminals and perverts from the consequences of their actions. And of course it should be hounded for this. But an equally  important issue is how and why successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments handed over responsibility for health, education and unmarried mothers to an organization staffed by reluctant celibates with a belief in a glorious afterlife for those who suffer in this life. It was never going to end well. From Cosgrave and De Valera onwards the political establishment have been complicit in this and only now are we slowly beginning to disentangle ourselves.

The Summer’s Gone.

Is there anything more depressing than those back to school ads – that usually start in early August. They send an atavistic shudder through me. And yesterday to cement that dread I hear an ASTI apparatchik on the radio banging on about parity in pay for teachers. This is the union that not too long ago sold new hires down the Swanee so they could hang on to their own entitlements. No mention of parity back then. Once in a lifetime it would be nice to see teachers threatening a strike about something other than pay or an initiative that threatens their light work-load and comfortable routines.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

The Bulbous Busker of Dalkey

There are many advantages to living in Dalkey. It’s off the main roads and in close proximity to the sea and to the glories of Killiney Hill. It has its own DART station. It is a peaceful spot (generally) and is kept tidy by its civic-minded denizens.  It’s got a few decent restaurants (especially the classy Jaipur), a few good delicatessens, two fine wine shops (the Grapevine the better of the two), a bookshop, a bookies (Paddy Power), and six pubs. Above all, it still retains its village feel. What more could a man want.

However, there is one massive blot on the escutcheon of the place. It’s home to the most disgracefully inept busker in Dublin - nay in Ireland I’d vouchsafe. He is a small, perfectly spherical man who appears to be of Eastern European origins – Romanian I suspect. He waddles down every morning from the DART to his perch at the entrance to the car park by the church as you enter Dalkey – opposite the Queen’s pub. Occasionally, for reasons that are mysterious to me, he sits outside our now defunct Ulster Bank. He has been there for many years.  I’m not sure how many exactly but certainly long enough to learn how to play the harmonica that he ineffectually blows into whenever a punter approaches. His modus operandi is to sit mute and motionless until the punter appears. Then he raises his harmonica to his mouth and blows half-heartedly a couple of time. No recognizable music emerges from this action and he desists pretty much immediately the punter passes. Righteous citizens like me glare at him for intruding unpleasantly on the decorum of our daily round. However, he appears to have a standing army of fans amongst the little old lady population of Dalkey – a not inconsiderable number. They inevitably stop and drop a coin into his rancid cap. Perhaps they are deaf and don’t realize what they’re encouraging.

My beef with the guy is that if you’re sitting on your arse for eight hours a day you can surely muster up a tune or two. The time he has put in he could have trained up as a multi-instrumentalist. Or he could change his act to one of those human statues – his talents seem to lie in that direction.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Back to the Curragh

It’s a long time since I visited the Curragh – a racecourse I first encountered when my mother took me to Chamier’s eventful Irish Derby back in the mists of time. It was Oaks Day and I had a horsey friend visiting from the USA so off we went . No one had told me it was under renovation. The main stand, which overlooks the final furlong, was completely blocked off and the viewing area confined to a narrow strip along the rails that could fit only a couple of hundred. The alternative, temporary stand was set at an angle to the rails opposite the run off area – well beyond the winning post. Neither option, rails or stand, allowed you to follow the progress of the race until the final furlong or so. To do that you had to watch the big screen (a TV experience). It’s farcical that they ran an important race like the Oaks in such a ramshackle venue. It should have been switched to Leopardstown. In the UK they regularly switch venues for important races to facilitate renovation.

However, we made the best of it and my mood was certainly improved by getting a few decent priced winners. Also, a friend got us into the parade ring where we rubbed shoulders with all the players. We shamelessly sidled up to Aidan O’Brien’s huddle as he gave instructions to his three jockeys before the Oaks. A lot of good it did them as it transpired. Mainly it was good to get up close to the gorgeous horses, the lithe young fillies and the burly old sprinters. The usual personalities were around. Tracey Piggot is a dire presenter but I was impressed with her energy and enthusiasm as she dashed about. She’s certainly aging gracefully. Not so alas Ted Walsh and Robert Hall. Walsh’s atrophied shtick has grown wearisome. Check out the way he refers to jockeys by their first names, a familiarity those listening may not enjoy. Neither have the personality to front a show and their cosy insider demeanour lacks bite and insight. They should be put out to pasture - there’ll be no need to geld them. But getting out of RTÉ is far more difficult than getting into it so I suspect we’re lumbered with the old bores ‘til they’re hauled off to the knacker’s yard.

I also saw Pat Smullen in the parade ring. He was looking fine after his recent bout of cancer. His erstwhile boss Dermot Weld was also around – seemingly ageless apart from the dodgily-dyed black hair. A good egg. The main event was an exciting race. I fancied O’Brien’s Forever Together, in part because she had done me a favor in the English Oaks, but also because she had form over the O’Brien’s other runner, the favourite Magic Wand. Things worked out according to plan until about just before the line where my girl was grabbed by the William Haggas trained Sea of Class. Painful.