Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On the Road Again

1. Ferry from Dun Laoghaire at 13:15 - packed with returning English holidaymakers. As ugly an agglomeration of humankind as I’ve ever encountered. They gather at the fast food queues as the ferry casts off .
2. I run for cover to the upgrade lounge but a snooty factotum tells me it’s full. I buy a coffee and endure. It’s a two hour trip.
3. Road out of Holyhead much improved these days – get a flying start. I’ve my GPS set for the fastest route to Dover but I’m not sure about my subsequent traipsing across north eastern Wales. Maybe it’s avoiding traffic – another feature. And it does warn me of speed cameras. A feature that will be useful back in Ireland.
4. I’ve given myself a tight 6 hours for the journey and my GPS ETA suggest I’ll need every minute of it – presuming no stopping.
5. Yawn yawn M1 for miles and then get caught in the M25 debacle as I circumnavigate London in fits and starts.
6. Things loosen up after the Deptford tunnel and I hurtle towards Dover.
7. Make the ferry with 30 minutes to spare.
8. It’s a French vessel. All restaurants are shut but I butch my way into the truckers canteen (full of burly men in shorts!) and enjoy a cheap and serviceable meal. No wine.
9. In Calais at midnight and head diagonally across France – bound for Nice.
10. Get as far as the Arras turn off at 2:00 and decide that sleep is necessary. Find a dodgy hotel in an industrial estate and get 5 or 6 hours and an adequate breakfast.
11. On the road again at 9:30. Heading for Lyons and points south. Using the toll roads is expensive. I spend around €100 traversing France. Nice addition to the French GNP when you think of the volume of tourist traffic these routes attract.
12. Reach St. Raphael by 18:00 but monstrous traffic jams suggest I go elsewhere for a hotel. Nice itself is out but I reckon that Sophia Antipolis would be a good bet.
13. Find a perfectly adequate Novotel and settle down for my first decent meal in 2 days. There’s a live French version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire going on in restaurant. I’m impressed with the literary nature of a lot of the questions: Zola, Baudelaire and the films of Stanley Kubrick amongst others. Plus Greek myth.
14. Pick D. up at Nice airport – Terminal 1 for Aer Lingus a good guess.
15. Then a hairy, scary switchback ride through the tunnels and winding dual carriageways connecting southern France and Northern Italy. Not for the faint hearted.
16. We fetch up in the beautiful Tuscan town of Lucca – its old walls in perfect condition after all these centuries – suggesting amiable alliances through the ages. We dine in the old town and sip sambuca by the marvelous Gothic cathedral.
17. Stay in the outskirts in a Best Western which makes up for giving us an unmade up room by presenting us with a fine bottle of mine. Class.
18. Head towards Arezzo past the ravaged mountains of Carrara. What looks like snow is in fact the exposed white marble treasured around the world.
19. And then the green hills and golden fields of Tuscany. Through Arezzo and a winding mountain to our eyrie overlooking Caprese di Michelangelo.
20. Let the idyll begin.

More anon.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Letter to Irish Times Today

Dear Madam,

While I understand the need to edit letters I think it is a bit cheeky to rewrite them. In yesterday's Irish Times you ascribed usage to me that made me cringe and afforded my family a cheap laugh at my expense. I would never use "a chara" and "is mise. This is civil servants' patois - a pious and perfunctory nod towards the language.

Yours etc.

I don't expect publication. Confounded: published in full.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Shock Horror - Irish Times Edit Readers' Letters to their Detriment

Check out how the Irish Times edits letters without so much as by your leave. Outside occasional ironic usage I have never in my life used the phrases "a chara" and "is mise". Yet here I am sitting in my hotel in Nice fielding calls from my family wondering what's happened to me. I did however throw in a quote from Cill Cais which was omitted. Here's the corpus delecti. My original letter is first.

Dear Madam,

Every August we get the same old agonising about the poor Maths results in the Leaving Certificate. Maybe some year soon the whizz kids in the Department of Education will see some connection between the undue emphasis they put on our poor beautiful dead language and this phenomenon. Cad do dheanaimid feasta gan matamaitic.

Yours etc.

Here's what Geraldine published:

A Chara,

Every August we get the same old agonising about the poor maths results in the Leaving Certificate.Maybe some year soon the whizz kids in the Department of Education will see some connection between the undue emphasis they put on our poor beautiful dead language and this phenomenon.

Is mise,

Should I sue? Certainly the ridicule my family is already heaping on me demands some response. Where does that mouldy trollop Kennedy live?

Monday, August 16, 2010

This Sporting Life - August

Tipp are beginning to insinuate their way back into my affections. That Cork debacle was almost the end but I retained a vestige of interest and slowly they are winning me over anew. Wexford and Offaly were training sessions but the match against Galway, which I attended, showed an intestinal fortitude that I doubted they possessed. Then along came Waterford last Sunday all butched up from Davy Fitzgerald's midnight route marches and Spartan regime - and Tipp matched them physically and destroyed them with their superior skills. The open spaces of Croke Park suit this team. The Mahers are motoring, Lar Corbett is enjoying an Indian summer and the McGraths are bringing youth and fearlessness to the mix. Why even the notoriously inaccurate John O'Brien scored freely. Now dare we hope - of course we do.

Aren't you sick of Padraig Harrington and his endless gabbing about how he builds his season around the majors. He's only qualified for one of the four this year. He should practice silence, exile and cunning until he wins again. All the self-justifying guff is undignified. And I don't know why he's pitching for a Ryder Cup slot - in his heyday he didn't win a point in two Ryder Cups (two half points was his lot). His long game has disintegrated. And much as we admire the gloriously exuberant Rory McElroy (notwithstanding his role as a corporate shill for Jumeirah), the fatal flaw in his game was again evident as he threw away the USPGA at the weekend - hardly sinking a decent putt in his last round.

Doesn't your whole being recoil in horror at the avalanche of hype for the new football season in England. The hiatus between seasons seems especially short this year with the World Cup interlude. Do we care how many million City spend, or how Russian oligarchs affect Chelsea selections, or how furiously Ferguson chews his gum? The fact is that it's all about how much money you have to scoop up the best players. Chelsea or United will win, Arsenal will flatter to deceive, Liverpool will struggle to score, City will struggle for cohesiveness - the rest don't matter. The only thing more irrelevant is Scottish Football. The Irish scene is not discussed in polite company.

How can the English handicapper rate Harbinger superior to Sea the Stars on the basis of one, admittedly fabulous, performance in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stakes? Nonsense. And now of course that he's had to retire through injury a myth will be perpetrated. Sea the Stars won at all distances throughout the season culminating in a miraculous win the the Prix De L'Arc. Fie on't.

And Sharapova is back.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Glorious Goodwood

Betting on horses is of course a mug's game. But it's a game I've been playing since that fateful day in 1953 when my mother took me across the Curragh plains to watch the Irish Derby. That was the year that Vincent O'Brien's Chamier won on a disqualification and I had a shilling on him at 8-1. Being a pious little prick in those days I remember buying two plaster statues - the Sacred Heart and the Virgin Mary - with my winnings.

Since that auspicious day I've taken a keen interest in the horses and over the years have been to Ascot, Epsom, Cheltenham, Aintree, Goodwood and all the major Irish tracks. I've even owned a horse or two and spent quality time with Charlie Swan's mother. The key is to enjoy the racing and don't expect to make money. From time to time you win and that suffices. Don't depend on it.

One thing that's common to all gamblers is that you don't hear of their losses - which are often painful and persistent. They will talk up their successes though - so here goes. This is my betting diary for the 5 days of the Goodwood meeting last week.

Day 1: Indian Days: won at 14-1; Lord Shanakill: won at 13-2
Day 2: Ghimaar: won at 8-1
Day 3: Beachfire: won at 10-1
Day 4: Proponent: 4th at 25-1 Webbow: 3rd at 12-1
Day 5: Evens and Odds: won at 20-1; Midday: won at 15-8; Genki: unplaced

Five winning days in a row is unusual if not unprecedente